10 Genuinely Great Horror Movie Performances

The genre's not exactly known for great acting - perhaps unfairly.

Out this week on Blu-ray, and just in time for Halloween, William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III is much more than your standard cash-in horror sequel – thanks in no small part to Oscar winner George C. Scott, who turns in a lead performance of real strength and skill. It’s a reminder that, with the occasional exceptions – the stars of Silence of the Lambs and Carrie, for example – critics and awards-givers seldom recognize horror movie acting, and its difficult balance of credibility, empathy, and self-awareness. So with that prejudice in mind, here are a few genuinely great scary movie performances.


George C. Scott, The Exorcist III

Blatty’s follow-up to his original book and film (ignoring the events of Exorcist II entirely, and wisely) finds Scott stepping into the role of police detective Kinderman for the late Lee J. Cobb, and the focus on that character makes this as much a cop thriller as a horror movie. But it’s one where the solution to the crime requires a giant leap of supernatural faith, and Scott masterfully embodies the weary, seen-it-all cop who must wrestle with the illogical conclusions he keeps reaching, as well as the grief and fear that drives him.