These Are The Best Made-For-TV Horror Movies Of All Time

By Brian Myers | Updated

best made for TV horror

Horror fans didn’t always have to cram into theaters to see the latest slasher movie or story of demonic possession. Since the earliest days of the small screen, there have been scores of made-for-TV entries that were made exclusively for network television. They might be lacking in A-list star power and have stricter censorship rules to abide by, but there have been a number of equally terrifying movies released to this medium. Here’s our top five.

Bad Ronald (1974)

best made for TV horror

Starring Scott Jacoby, Pippa Scott, John Larch, and Dabney Coleman.

Based on Jack Vance’s novel, Bad Ronald follows the socially awkward Ronald Wilby and his domineering mother, Elaine. After Ronald accidentally causes the death of a neighbor girl who’s taunting him, his mother seals off a small section of their large home for him to live in hiding.

Though it’s equipped with hidden entrances and portals to see the outside world, teenage Ronald goes even crazier from the lack of social interaction.

This movie is on the best of made-for-TV horror list because of the twist it takes partway through when Ronald’s mother dies unexpectedly during a routine surgery at the hospital.

The house is sold to a family of five, with creepy Ronald hiding in the wings. Driven absolutely bananas by his living situation, Ronald is about to unleash a reign of terror on those who occupy the rest of his house.

Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981)

dark night of the scarecrow

Starring Larry Drake, Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, and Jocelyn Brando.

This best made for tv horror contender is the story of a mentally disabled man who is falsely accused of injuring a young girl in a farming community. His mother dresses him as a scarecrow and has him hide in plain site in a field. But the ruse doesn’t foil the local lynch mob, who spot him and open fire with their rifles.

But the vigilante justice is repaid by the murdered man returning from the grave and stalking his killers one by one, all while dressed in the scarecrow garb he was shot in. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and marks the first time that audiences likely ever cheered for a scarecrow to off the cast members.

When Michael Calls (1972)

Starring Ben Gazzara, Elizabeth Ashley, Michael Douglas, and Al Waxman.

This psychological thriller still gives audiences the chills. When Helen Connelly begins receiving phone calls from a young boy that claims to be her nephew Michael, the housewife understandably freaks out. Michael disappeared 15 years before and everyone had presumed that the boy had somehow perished.

The best made for tv horror entry takes audiences on a series of twists and turns as the phone calls keep coming and the people that Michael blames during the calls start dying. You’ll question whether or not dear Aunt Helen is losing her grip on her sanity, or if there is a sinister family secret that is about to become unearthed.

The Haunted (1991)

best made for TV horror

Starring Sally Kirkland, Jeffrey DeMunn, Stephen Markle, and Diane Baker.

More than 20 years before Ed and Lorraine Warren became household names after The Conjuring was released in 2013, one of the best made-for-TV horror movies chronicled a series of incidents from their massive case file. The Haunted follows the Smurls, a working class family of five that begins to experience odd events in their home that they cannot logically explain.

After these bumps in the night grew in ferocity to include the father, Jack, being sexually assaulted by a succubus, and their teenaged daughter Dawn being attacked by demonic hands in the shower, the Smurls turn to the Catholic church. The church sends in famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren to bust some ghosts. The film has some pretty terrifying scenes with all of the entities involved and will certainly give viewers some great chills.

Trilogy Of Terror (1975)

Starring Karen Black, Jim Storm, and Robert Burton.

Trilogy of Terror is the only anthology that made the list for best made-for-TV horror, and it’s a real doozy. Based on the works of horror and science fiction writer Richard Matteson, each unrelated vignette starred Karen Black as a woman in different sorts of terrible peril.

One story revolves around a teacher being sexually blackmailed by a vindictive student, only to have the tables turned on him in the most sinister of ways. Another concerns twins Millicent and Therese, siblings at odds with each other to the point that one of them is planning on using a voodoo doll for vengeance. Finally, the third tale shows how much violence can be wrought by a small wooden doll that’s inhabited by the spirit of a long-dead Zuni warrior.

Readers might note that there are a good number of entries conspicuously left off of this list, namely any title from horror legend Stephen King. For the purposes of this article, only singular films were considered and not any television mini-series.