Defining what constitutes “goth movies” is a complex and somewhat subjective task. However, there are certain recurring themes, stylistic elements, and cultural references that are often associated with gothic subculture and that can be used to identify a movie as goth.
Defining Goth Movies
In general, goth movies and movies about goth culture tend to be dark, moody, and atmospheric, with a focus on the macabre, the supernatural, and the romantic. They often feature melancholic, alienated, and introspective protagonists who struggle with issues of identity, mortality, and the search for meaning in a world that is seen as bleak and hostile.
One of the most distinctive features of goth movies is their use of visual and stylistic tropes that are often associated with gothic art, literature, architecture, and goth fashion. For example, goth movies may employ imagery of crumbling mansions, misty graveyards, and shadowy alleyways to create a sense of foreboding and unease. They may also use high-contrast lighting, desaturated colors, and stylized camera angles (be it high or low angle) to create a sense of otherworldliness and detachment.
Another important element of goth movies or movies about goth culture is their use of music and sound. Goth music, which emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a subgenre of post-punk, is characterized by its dark, brooding, and introspective lyrics, its moody and atmospheric melodies, and its use of electronic and industrial sounds. Many goth movies use music from goth bands or other dark and moody genres, such as darkwave, shoegaze, and ethereal wave, to create a sense of atmosphere and emotional depth.
Goth movies often deal with themes of death, decay, and the supernatural. They may feature vampires, ghosts, witches, or other supernatural beings as central characters or plot devices. They may also explore the darker side of human psychology, including themes of madness, obsession, and despair. Often, the protagonists in goth movies are outcasts or misfits who are marginalized by mainstream society, and who find solace and belonging in the dark and subversive world of gothic subculture.
In contrast to other subcultures, such as emo or punk, goth is characterized by a more romantic and introspective worldview. While emo and punk may share some of the dark and rebellious elements of goth, they tend to be more focused on social and political issues, and less on personal identity and in some cases less about emotional expression. Emo, in particular, is associated with a more confessional and emotionally vulnerable style of music and fashion, while punk is known for its anti-authoritarian and DIY ethos.
While scouring opinions online about goth movies and what people tended to think about when wanting movies about goth culture, many films were mentioned again and again.
Here is meant to be the definitive list of goth movies.
The Addams Family (1991)
Based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams, The Addams Family is a gothic comedy released in 1991. The movie follows the story of Gomez and Morticia Addams, a wealthy and eccentric couple who live in a spooky mansion with their children Wednesday and Pugsley, and Uncle Fester. The Addams Family is known for their dark sense of humor, macabre interests, and unique family values.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 psychological thriller film based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. The film follows journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander as they investigate a decades-old disappearance case involving a wealthy family.
The Craft (1996)
Released in 1996, The Craft is a classic goth movie that follows the story of Sarah, a teenager who moves to Los Angeles and enrolls in a Catholic school. She befriends a group of outcast girls, who are practicing witchcraft, and soon realizes that their powers are more dangerous than she initially thought. The movie explores themes of power, friendship, and the consequences of using magic for personal gain. In addition, Fairuza Balk is often considered one of the most iconic actors or actresses of the goth movement.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Released in 1985, Return of the Living Dead is a cult classic that has become a favorite among horror fans. The movie follows a group of employees at a medical supply warehouse who accidentally release a deadly gas that reanimates the dead. The movie features punk rock music, dark humor, and graphic violence. While a list of movies about goth culture does not have to include a movie such as Return of the Living Dead, the characters and the 80s style they have certainly lends itself to having a mention.
The Crow (1994)
Based on the comic book series by James O’Barr, The Crow is a dark and visually stunning movie released in 1994. The story follows Eric Draven, a musician who is brutally murdered along with his fiancée by a gang of thugs. A year later, he is resurrected by a crow to seek revenge on his killers. The movie explores themes of love, loss, and the power of redemption.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is a 2001 American science fiction film about a troubled teenager who begins to have strange visions of a man in a rabbit suit. As he navigates through his surreal and bizarre experiences, he becomes increasingly obsessed with time travel and the end of the world.
Hellraiser is a 1987 British horror film about a man who discovers a mysterious puzzle box that opens a portal to a demonic dimension. As the demons begin to invade the man’s life, he must find a way to stop them before it’s too late.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Released in 2000, Ginger Snaps is a Canadian horror movie that tells the story of two teenage sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, who are obsessed with death and the occult. After Ginger is attacked by a werewolf, the sisters try to find a cure before she turns into a monster. The movie explores themes of puberty, sisterhood, and the fear of growing up.
Released in 2002, May is a psychological horror movie that tells the story of a lonely and socially awkward woman who is obsessed with creating the perfect friend. After a series of failed relationships, she decides to use body parts from her victims to create a patchwork friend named “Amy”. The movie explores themes of isolation, loneliness, and the human desire for companionship.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Jennifer’s Body is a 2009 American supernatural horror film about a high school cheerleader who becomes possessed by a demon and starts preying on her male classmates.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark, is a cult figure in the goth subculture, and her eponymous movie is no different. The film follows the voluptuous horror hostess as she quits her job at a TV station and heads to a small town in Massachusetts to claim her inheritance. There she is met with resistance from the conservative townspeople who are not fond of her goth lifestyle. But Elvira is not one to back down easily and soon finds herself caught up in a battle against the forces of evil. As far as movies about goth culture, this is one of the more light-hearted and comical.
The Hunger (1983)
This dark and erotic film stars Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as a vampire couple living in New York City. When Bowie’s character begins to age rapidly and Deneuve’s character grows tired of him, she sets her sights on a new lover played by Susan Sarandon. The film is a visually stunning exploration of love, mortality, and the hunger for eternal youth.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical is a gothic masterpiece. Johnny Depp stars as Sweeney Todd, a barber seeking revenge against the corrupt judge who wronged him. With the help of his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, played by Helena Bonham Carter, Todd begins to serve up his victims as meat pies. The film is dark, violent, and filled with haunting musical numbers.
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Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This Tim Burton classic tells the story of a young man named Edward, played by Johnny Depp, who has scissors for hands. Living alone in a gothic castle, Edward is discovered by a suburban family and quickly becomes a part of their lives. But as he struggles to fit in with the world around him, his unconventional appearance and behavior draw the ire of the townspeople. In some ways it can be seen as a fairy tale and a movie about goth culture as depicted as a fairy tale. The film is a poignant commentary on conformity and acceptance.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
This horror comedy follows a group of vampire flatmates living in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand. The film is shot in a mockumentary style and is both hilarious and genuinely spooky. The gothic aesthetic is present throughout, with the vampires donning Victorian garb and living in a creepy old mansion. The film is a must-see for fans of the goth subculture.
The Lost Boys (1987)
This horror comedy is a quintessential 80s goth movie. The film follows a family who moves to the California town of Santa Carla, only to discover that it is overrun with vampires. The gothic aesthetic is present in the film’s dark, moody lighting and the vampires’ leather jackets and black clothing. The film is also notable for its killer soundtrack featuring artists like Echo and the Bunnymen and INXS.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
This horror comedy is the fourth installment in the Child’s Play series and is a favorite among goth movie fans. The film follows the titular doll and his bride, who are brought to life by voodoo magic. The couple embark on a killing spree, leaving a trail of blood and mayhem in their wake. The gothic aesthetic is present in the film’s macabre sense of humor and Chucky’s signature punk rock look.
Last Updated on May 7, 2023.