For many actors, horror films are just a means to an end. Of all the movie genres, horror is one of the cheapest to produce and most likely to recoup its budget, and it can be a great way for budding actors to get some much-needed exposure. For a select few actors, however, the horror genre is home.
In the list below, we’ve assembled a team of the greatest actors to ever commit their careers to providing thrills and chills to audiences everywhere. To make the list, the actor must have starred in at least 10 horror flicks!
10 Tom Atkins
Tom Atkins Has Starred in 13 Horror Movies
Tom Atkins is a staple of the horror and thriller genres, and has been since the early ‘70s. The prolific actor has starred in many of the most iconic horror films of the last several decades, and has elevated many cheesy B-pictures with his rugged good looks and commitment to delivering serious and highly convincing performances.
Atkins has acted in 13 feature-length horror movies in his career, and has appeared in a number of scary shorts and television episodes as well. He is probably best remembered for his unforgettable roles in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) and Night of the Creeps (1986) – two bonkers cult classics that made the actor into a hero for hardcore fans of the horror genre.
9 Brad Dourif
Brad Dourif Has Appeared in Almost 30 Horror Movies!
Brad Dourif is a phenomenal actor, known for his intense performances and iconic voice. Over the years, he’s made many stellar contributions to the horror genre, but has also acted in such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Dourif has starred in nearly 30 horror movies throughout his career, with many of them being considered essential classics of the genre. From small parts in films like Urban Legend and Dario Argento’s Trauma, to lead roles in horror classics such as The Exorcist III(1990), Dourif has made an indelible mark on the horror genre. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the horror scene is his long association with the Child’s Play franchise, for which he has provided the voice of Chucky seven times since 1988.
8 Linnea Quigley
Linnea Quigley Has Been in Almost 40 Horror Movies
One of the greatest “scream queens” of all time, Linnea Quigley earned her hallowed spot in the castle of horror royalty with her enduring commitment to making B-movie schlock and sleaze for all to enjoy. The multi-talented actress, author, singer, model, and producer is one of the ultimate examples of a “horror actor,” as her career has essentially been dedicated to the genre for the last 40-plus years.
Over the years, Quigley has acted in nearly 40 horror films. Some of her most famous work includes the hilarious zombie comedy The Return of the Living Dead(1985), the holiday horror favorite Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and the salaciously sleazy Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988).
7 Barbara Crampton
Barbra Crampton Is a Certified Horror Staple and Has Been in 20 Horror Films
An undisputed legend in the horror genre, Barbara Crampton is another of cinema’s most important “women in horror.” The award-winning actress and producer debuted in Brian De Palma’s 1984 thriller Body Double and quickly made a career out of playing powerful ladies in all sorts of wild, violent, and downright weird movies.
Crampton has made 20 feature-length horror films so far. Of these, the best known are Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), as well as the delightfully delirious Chopping Mall (1986). Most recently, Crampton both acted in and produced the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, Suitable Flesh (2023), which was made as a loving tribute to the late Stuart Gordon.
6 Bela Lugosi
40 Horror Films Strong, Including Dracula and The Wolf Man
Star of the original Universal Monsters Dracula (1931) (and the best, in the eyes of many), Bela Lugosi will forever be remembered as the quintessential debonair doyen of the macabre.
Over the course of his storied career, Lugosi starred in 40 fantastic horror movies. In addition to playing Dracula, Lugosi made notable appearances in films such as The Wolf Man (1941),White Zombie (1932), and the art-deco terror masterpiece, The Black Cat (1934). He also famously (or infamously) starred in Ed Wood’s iconic trashterpiece, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959).
5 Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff Is a Horror God – 50 Films!
Just as Bela Lugosi made a cinematic icon out of Dracula, so too did one Boris Karloff for Mary Shelley’s undead literary creation, Frankenstein’s monster. Irrefutably the most iconic actor to ever portray the terrifying tyrant, Karloff took on many other horror roles as well.
Karloff starred in about 50 horror features in total, with many of them being remembered today as defining classics of the genre. Some of his most noteworthy work includes Frankenstein(1931) and its many sequels, The Mummy (1932), The Raven (1963), and The Old Dark House (1932).
4 Peter Cushing
One of the Faces of Hammer Horror – 40 Movies
Another legendary actor who helped to cement Frankenstein’s status as an icon of horror cinema is Peter Cushing. Many of Cushing’s most memorable roles came out of his long and storied stint playing Dr. Frankenstein and other memorable mad doctors for Hammer Film Productions.
Cushing became a horror staple by starring in 40 memorable shockers throughout his career. A whopping 22 of those horror films were made for the venerable Hammer Film Productions, and include the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Brides of Dracula (1960), and The Mummy (1959).
3 Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee Has Been in More Than 50 Horror Movies
Speaking of the delightful films of Hammer Film Productions, many of them wouldn’t be remembered as they are today without Christopher Lee. Lee had an amazing career and built up a repertoire of incredible performances – most of which belonged to the horror genre.
Lee starred in over 50 horror flicks in his day, with many of them being Dracula films. Indeed, other than the aforementioned Bela Lugosi, Lee is the only other viable contender for the title of “Ultimate Dracula”; the actor dedicated a tremendous chunk of his career to fine-tuning his performance as the blood-sucking baron of Transylvania.
2 Barbara Steele
The Queen of Scream Queens – 18 Films
Barbara Steele is, without a shadow of a doubt, the queen of the scream queens. She did it first, and she did it best – starting with Italian horror maestro Mario Bava’s breakthrough hitBlack Sunday (1960), and going on to become an icon of gothic horror.
Steele has made 18 horror films in her career thus far. That’s considerably less than some of the above-mentioned actors, but every single one of them is a worthwhile gothic gem that has left a tremendous impact on the genre at large. Besides Black Sunday, Steele shined on the screen in such chilling favorites as Shivers (1975), Nightmare Castle (1965), and The Long Hair of Death (1964). She also co-starred alongside our final pick for this list in the film The Pit and the Pendulum (1961).
1 Vincent Price
Vincent Price Was an Ultimate Horror Actor
In many ways, Vincent Price is the face (and voice!) of cinematic horror. The list of his memorable horror hits goes on and on, and includes everything from elegant Edgar Allan Poe adaptations to lovable low-budget schlock. Despite the wide disparity in the production standards of the projects he worked on, Price always elevated the material to classic status with his signature devilish charm.
Price starred in 36 horror films and many more gothic thrillers and noirs throughout his long and illustrious career. Some of his most important work in horror includes House of Wax (1953), The Fly (1958), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and a slew of stunning, Technicolor Poe adaptations made with Roger Corman.