Freddy Krueger

Freddy Krueger (Photo by Enrique Guzmán Egas on Unsplash)

NEW YORK — In time for Halloween, Freddy Krueger is slaying one more victim — the list of the “most iconic” horror film antagonists in history. A poll of 2,000 Americans with streaming subscriptions finds the nightmare-jumping maniac is the favorite for 54 percent of respondents. Other spooky icons people love include Chucky (39%), Ghostface (34%), and Jack Torrance (31%).

Despite stealing people’s hearts and dreams, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is NOT the most iconic horror movie. That title belongs to “Friday the 13th” (41%), followed by “Carrie” (35%) and “An American Werewolf in London” (33%). For less scary and more “spooky” picks, the most iconic family-friendly films are “Coraline” (40%), “Casper” (37%), and “Ghostbusters” (37%).

The survey also pinpointed specific eras of horror. Any horror films pre-1988 are considered “classics,” while anything from 1995 onwards can be considered “modern.”

Commissioned by global streaming platform Plex and conducted by OnePoll, the study also reveals people’s preferences for “spooky” or “scary” content and how it affects other aspects of their lives.

Six in 10 say they like spooky movies, not designed with the goal of scaring but instead are eerie and sinister. By contrast, only 27 percent prefer truly scary movies designed to frighten people.

Spooky content lovers are also found to be more likely to create a new friendship over a shared interest in the genre (57%), compared to scary content lovers (39%).

While over half of Americans (51%) are fans of true crime, both spooky and scary content enthusiasts overwhelmingly agree that fictional horror films and shows are scarier than true crime content (78% and 76%, respectively). For those in relationships (60%), 63 percent of couples said they prefer watching spooky content together over scary content (53%).

“Regardless if someone prefers spooky over scary or vice versa, there’s a clear, universal appreciation for the world of Halloween-esque content,” says Product Director at Plex, Jason Williams, in a statement. “We’re drawn to storylines that give us a ‘rush,’ even when that comes at the cost of heart-pounding fright.”

For many, loving horror is a generational tradition. For over half (59%) of respondents who are parents, 68 percent of them have had their kid ask to watch a scary movie.

The rite of passage seemed to follow the popularity trends. The movies kids ask to watch the most often are “Friday the 13th” (51%), “Halloween” (51%), “An American Werewolf in London” (46%), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (36%), and “Insidious” (34%).

“It’s clear that the horror genre has become more of a family tradition and a rite of passage from parent to child,” adds Williams. “From family-friendly spooky fun to the truly terrifying, we hope to see film lovers and families bond over classic to new Halloween movies this year.”

Two in three parents say they are fine with their kids watching scary movies as long as they are present. Spooky movie lovers are more likely to let their kids watch the genre than their scary movie counterparts (71% compared to 59%).

Seventy-five percent of Americans were age 13 or under when they watched their first horror film. A majority (53%) also remember watching their first horror movie without getting their parent’s permission beforehand.

Nearly half (48%) say they still have adverse, visceral reactions to their first horror movie. Almost as many (47%) now believe they were probably too young to be watching the genre at the time.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans who subscribe to a streaming service was commissioned by Plex between August 16 and August 18, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds' Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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