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20 Best Masked Killers In Movies, Ranked

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20 Best Masked Killers In Movies, Ranked

Summary

  • The popularity of masked killers in horror movies, from classic villains like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers to modern ones like The Grabber in
    The Black Phone,
    reveals that viewers find them captivating.
  • Masks give horror movie villains an inhuman quality, turning them into remorseless monsters that cannot be reasoned with, adding to their effectiveness as terrifying characters.
  • The masks worn by iconic masked killers, whether they are a permanent fixture or briefly appear, make them unforgettable and contribute to their status as memorable horror movie villains.

One of the most effective tropes in the horror genre is masked killers, and the success of franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th proves audiences can’t get enough of faceless murderers stalking terrified victims. Horror movie history is littered with unsettling killers who hide their faces behind masks, dating back to the earliest scary films such as Rupert Julian’s 1925 adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. Many horror movie villains show their faces, but the popularity of classic terrors like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers as well as modern villains like The Grabber in 2021’s The Black Phone reveals there’s something viewers find captivating about masked killers.

There are many reasons horror movie villains wearing masks become so iconic if their franchise does well. An unmoving mask gives these killers an inhuman quality, turning them from rational beings into remorseless monsters that cannot be reasoned with. While many horror movie villains have tried to pull off the masked look, there are only some who managed to strike a balance between frightening and memorable. Whether they only appear briefly or are a permanent fixture, the masks of the most iconic masked killers in horror movies make them almost impossible to forget.

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20 The Hooded Ax Killer In Urban Legend (2000)

A Murderer In An Outfit Unfit For The Weather

Urban Legend movie masked killer holding an axe behind some glass

Urban Legend is often regarded as a Scream knockoff that does not come anywhere close to reaching the heights of that classic slasher. However, it remains popular decades later thanks to an interesting premise and a memorable killer. The movie follows a group of college students who are targeted by a killer who takes out their victims based on famous urban legends. In carrying out these kills, the killer doesn’t actually wear a mask but rather conceals their face under a parka hood.

Reportedly, the look came from an early version of the film that would have been set in a snowy climate. While the production decided to go with a warmer vibe, the look was effective enough to be kept. Even though there is no explanation for it, it is a memorable look that calls to mind the hooded figure in the iconic poster for The Thing. Interestingly, Urban Legend is one of the few horror franchises in which the killer has a different mask in the sequel

19 The Predator In Predator (1987)

The Armored Helmet Of The Alien Hunter

One of the best scenes in a Predator movie is the reveal of the alien hunter finally taking off his mask and showing his grotesque face underneath to a stunned Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger). However, as memorable as that creature’s design is, there is no denying that the iconic and slick mask worn by the sci-fi monster is also extremely cool.

Unlike most masked horror movie killers, the mask worn by the Predator actually has a purpose and is not meant to simply intimidate its prey. It is part of the hunter’s armor and gives it the ability to see heat signatures when it is monitoring its prey. The look of the armor adds to the extraterrestrial nature of the creature while also showing that this is a warrior culture that takes its hunting very seriously.

18 Leslie Vernon In Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

A Chilling Child-Like Visage

Leslie Vernon wears a creepy mask in The Rise Of Leslie Vernon

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an underrated horror movie with comedic elements that comment on the tropes of the genre, including the masked killer. The film is mostly a mockumentary-style story set in a world in which killers like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are real. A camera crew follows a man named Leslie Vernon who strives to become a killer as iconic as those legends by following the rules that made them so memorable.

While Leslie is most seen in the movie without a mask, he dons it for his killing spree. Much like the protagonist himself, the mask is a combination of being funny and unsettling. It is a large, pale, child-like face that gives the feel of the victims being stalked by some murderous adolescent.

His mask is explained via a childhood trauma that set Leslie on his path to being a murderer. However, that origin story is hilariously revealed to be a lie as Leslie just thought it sounded good, which is even more unsettling.

17 The Three Animals In You’re Next (2011)

The Tiger, The Wolf And The Lamb

The Tiger Mask and the Lamb Mask standing outside in You’re Next

You’re Next is an underrated horror movie that delights in throwing some unexpected elements at the audience while also bringing in some effective masked killers. The movie follows a wealthy family enjoying a dinner together in their isolated country estate only to be descended on by a trio of killers wearing animal masks: a fox, a lamb, and a tiger.

The masks are memorable for the somewhat innocent look of the animals turning creepy as the violent assailants begin to rack up a high body count. However, the movie has a fun surprise as one of the would-be victims, Erin, proves to have pretty excellent survival instincts and turns the tables on the killers. While horror movie masks usually give the appearance of emotionless and inhuman killers, they become even more memorable as they turn into the frightened targets of Erin’s rage.

16 The Soldier In The Prowler (1981)

The Sadistic Veteran

The Prowler holding a rose

The Prowler is a largely forgotten slasher flick from the 1980s that features an underrated masked killer. The movie feels very close in story and style to the previous year’s My Bloody Valentine, which includes a similar famous killer. The Prowler himself is dressed in an old World War II uniform with a helmet and a sack over his head which looks very similar to My Blood Valentine’s masked assailant known as The Miner.

While it might not be the most original-looking killer outfit, it is in keeping with the storyline of the killer who is a war veteran out for revenge when his girlfriend broke up with him while he was fighting overseas. Though the movie is mostly remembered for its impressive gore effects from the legendary Tom Savini, the film is pretty interesting for its subtle commentary on the trauma soldiers experience with the masked killer adding to that idea.

15 The Man In Hush (2016)

The Smirking White Face Mask

Masked killer at the glass door in Hush

Hush is one of the realistic horror movies that gets its scares from a premise that puts audiences in an unflinchingly plausible and relatable nightmare. From modern horror master Mike Flanagan, the movie follows Maddie (Kate Siegel), a deaf-mute woman stalked in her remote home by a masked man who plays mind games with her, amplifying her feeling of helplessness before striking.

The creepy smiling mask of the character known simply as The Man is a fairly straightforward design, suggesting the twisted glee that the killer is getting from stalking his victim. However, a good mask can also make it even more effective the moment themask is removed. Such is the case here with the chilling reveal that the horrific mental torment was carried out by an ordinary man committing homicide simply for the fun of it.

14 The Phantom Killer In The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Dusty Bag Mask

The Phantom Killer wears a burlap mask in The Town That Dreaded Sundown

One of the great slasher movies to pre-date the hugely influential Halloween, 1976’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown is loosely based on the real-life 1946 Texarkana Moonlight Murders by a serial killer known as the Phantom Killer. The movie is set in a small town celebrating the end of World War II only to be terrorized by a killer who lurks in the night. The dirty bag with makeshift eyeholes worn by the killer is similar to the early versions of Jason Voorhees’ mask.

It adds to the phantom aspect of the character, feeling like a ghost emerging from the shadows, yet also feeds into the small-town feel, adding to the shock of such a gruesome killer operating in such a small community. The killer is not looking for anything elaborate and is fine with donning a makeshift mask like this so long as it helps them carry out their murders.

13 The Babyface Killer In Happy Death Day (2017)

The Smiling Baby Mask

The Babyface Killer in a parking garage in Happy Death Day

While Happy Death Day is most remembered as a clever time loop movie, it also features a memorable masked killer as well. The horror movie follows a young woman named Tree (Jessica Rothe) who is killed by the Babyface Killer on her birthday. She then wakes up the same morning to repeat the same day over and over as she tries to learn the identity of the killer. Having a savage serial killer wear a smiling baby mask while they kill Tree dozens of times is certainly a disturbing visual.

However, it is also hard to fully take as seriously as other masked killers, which works in favor of the comedic energy of Happy Death Day. There is a creepiness to the mask but it is also goofy enough that the audience is not put off by it. The lighter tone of the movie is able to shine through while still allowing the horror elements to be effective. It is a tough balance to strike but an ideal mask to achieve it.

12 The Miner In My Bloody Valentine (1981)

The Mining Equipment Mask

The miner standing with a pickaxe in My Bloody Valentine

While many masked killers in horror movies simply don a mask that makes them look scary, My Blood Valentine’s The Miner deserves special praise for having a thematic reason behind his memorable attire. The movie takes place in a small Canadian mining community where a group of teens celebrating Valentine’s Day are terrorized by a killer wielding a pickaxe and hidden behind black mining gear.

It is a memorable ensemble with the mask giving The Miner an appearance like a slasher movie version of Darth Vader. Along with looking great, his deadly pickaxe is a unique weapon that his creative kills utilize to great effect. In fact, the look for the killer is so effective, that when it came time for the remake in 2009, they chose not to update it at all and basically used the same design.

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11 The Grabber In The Black Phone (2021)

The Ever-Changing Devil Mask

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber with a smiling mask in The Black Phone

The Black Phone‘s villainous The Grabber is a rare masked horror movie killer because he specifically targets young minors — a surprisingly rare trait for a violent slasher film, as victims in the genre are usually adults or late teens. Ethan Hawke plays the disturbing child killer who abducts kids and keeps them in his basement until he’s ready to end their lives.

The movie wisely doesn’t give The Grabber much backstory, but his various masks offer some insight, projecting the various emotions of the disturbing killer. The Grabber’s mask hints at his twisted psyche, and Hawke is still able to deliver a memorable performance with his face concealed. While there are plans for a sequel to The Black Phone, it is hard to imagine how the movie will ever top the unforgettable look of this villain.

10 Hannibal Lecter In The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

The Muzzle Mask

Hannibal Lecter wearing a mizzle mask in The Silence of the Lambs

Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest movie villains of all time and a prime example of how a mask can become iconic even if it is not very prominent. For most of the movie, the audience sees Anthony Hopkins’ full face with his chilling, unblinking eyes. The iconic Hannibal Lecter appearance with his arms bound appears at a specific point of the story, but the one scene in which he is seen with a mask has become an unforgettable look for the Anthony Hopkins character.

After being behind bars for the entire movie, Hannibal is brought out to share his knowledge in the hopes it will lead to catching Buffalo Bill. In an image that communicates just how dangerous this man is, he is placed in a straight jacket and is seen wearing a muzzle of sorts that makes him appear like some kind of animal who could attack at any moment — which he inevitably does.

9 Tomás In The Orphanage (2007)

The Hand-Sewn Sack Mask

Tomas standing in a hallway in The Orphanage

There have been a lot of creepy children characters in horror movies, but there aren’t many of them seen in masks. However, Tomás manages to be just as unsettling as many of the masked adult killers in horror movies with his appearance in the Spanish horror movie The Orphanage. The silent little boy wearing a crudely made sack mask is chilling.

However, Tomás is also a more tragic figure than the typical masked characters in horror movies and his clumsy mask is fitting for his backstory. As terrifying as Tomás is, he’s also not a slasher killer, and he wore his mask in life to hide his deformed face from others. The Orphanage was highly acclaimed for the elevated nature of the story and the complexity it brought to the genre. This is reflected in the look of Tomás which is terrifying but hides a deeper truth.

8 Sam In Trick ‘R Treat (2007)

The Burlap And Button Eye Mask

Sam sitting by a pumpkin in Trick 'r Treat.

Sam is another youngster in the horror movie genre and wears a burlap sack mask similar to the one Tomás sports. However, Sam is much more bloodthirsty as he indulges in some Halloween fun. Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology horror movie with various ghoulish tales all set and interconnected on the same Halloween night. Watching over it all is the mysterious Sam, a masked trick-or-treater who is enforcing the Halloween spirit on everyone through sometimes brutal means.

His mask looks like a childlike selection as well but is strange enough to suggest there might be something more lurking underneath. Choosing a great mask for a Halloween-related horror movie killer is a daunting task but one Trick ‘r Treat pulls off expertly. Sam is able to blend in with the look of another child who is trick-or-treating, but it is an odd enough costume that it stands out and is appropriately ominous.

7 Jigsaw In The Saw Franchise (2004-2023)

The Sickly Pig Mask

Pig mask from Saw

While the creepy puppet is what most people remember from the Saw movies, the inventive Jigsaw killer has also used a very effective mask at times as well. Usually seen in scenes in which Jigsaw’s victims are abducted, he or his apprentices hide their faces behind a terrifying pig mask. As the series went on and the mythology of the Saw franchise grew, flashbacks revealed that there were a number of different characters who wore the mask at various times, mostly by Jigsaw’s various apprentices.

As deadly as Jigsaw’s traps are, the pig mask is one of the scarier elements in the movies and also brings to mind the grotesque tone of the franchise. The fact that there was so much excitement for Saw X bringing back the famous mask shows how much it has become a beloved aspect of this long-running horror franchise.

6 The Strangers In The Strangers (2008)

The Sack Mask And Doll-Face Masks

Kristen and James are tied up and tormented in their cabin by three masked intruders in The Strangers

It can be particularly unsettling when masked killers are used in movies that are more grounded such as in the intense home invasion horror The Strangers. The 2008 movie doesn’t do anything complex with its plot, and simply follows a couple staying in an isolated cabin who are stalked and tormented by a group of silent masked assailants. The ghostly masks of the killers make them appear more inhuman in this harrowingly relatable setting, which adds to the chilling nature of the movie.

Their silent staring behind their eerie masks and the fact that they have no motivation make them among the most disturbing masked horror movie killers. One of the creepiest elements of the movie is when they remove their masks at the end. The audience doesn’t see their faces, but when they run into some young boys, there is an implication that there is nothing unusual about their appearance. it reinforces the idea that it could be anyone under the mask.

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5 The Collector In The Collector (2009)

The Warped Leather Face Mask

The Collector tying up his mask.

The Collector is not nearly as iconic or acclaimed as some of these other horror movies, but the titular killer has certainly made an impression on viewers, as the cult film is widely discussed in horror movie fan communities online. The movie focuses on a killer wearing a leather mask who collects people to turn into living art exhibits for his disturbing gallery — a process that always includes a borderline incomprehensible amount of torture and suffering.

The mask itself looks like a face warped in pain which is fitting given the torture The Collector inflicts on his victims. While the movies have shown that the killer is human and has human weaknesses – even having the tables turned on him by a past victim – the mask gives a feeling of something more monstrous lurking underneath.

4 Ghostface In The Scream Franchise (1996-2023)

The Screaming Ghost Mask

Though the Scream franchise often has a lot of fun playing around with horror movie tropes, it stuck to the idea of a masked killer and managed to deliver its own iconic take. Ghostface’s mask is unique, terrifying, and something that could plausibly be worn by a masked serial killer. Ghostface’s mask and accompanying black robe hide the killer’s identity effectively, which feeds into the whodunnit aspect of the franchise.

The Ghostface mask is known and iconic in the universe of the Scream movies too, with each version of the killer taking it up. It’s even a popular Halloween costume in the films, just like in real life. The fact that it becomes a symbol that continues to inspire other aspiring and copycat killers throughout the universe of the movie adds to the meta-commentary of the franchise as Ghostface has become a prominent face in the horror genre itself.

3 Leatherface In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise (1974-2022)

The Human Skin Mask

As one of the oldest masked killers in horror movie history, Leatherface has cemented his status as a legend of the genre. He also could boast of having the most gruesome mask out of all of his peers. The fact that Leatherface wields a roaring chainsaw as he goes after his victims is even less intimidating than the fact that he wears a mask made out of human skin, stitched together as a ghastly visage that both no longer resembles anything human and is a reminder of his past victims.

It’s truly frightening to behold, and arty of why the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre managed to spawn so many sequels. The fact that Leatherface and his gruesome tactics in Texas Chainsaw Massacre are inspired by a real-life killer makes it all the more haunting how the mask looks and the idea behind it.

2 Jason Voorhees In Friday The 13th Franchise (1980-2009)

The Hockey Mask

Jason Voorhees has been an integral part of the Friday the 13th franchise since the very beginning. However, Jason wasn’t the killer in the first movie and didn’t even get his iconic hockey mask until the third movie, first wearing a creepy but far less iconic sack over his head. However, once he did pick up that hockey mask and decided to put it on, it quickly became an unforgettable image in horror movies.

Jason Voorhees’s mask throughout the Friday the 13th movies ranges from pristine to quite grungy and even gets a sci-fi redesign in Jason X. But even with his grotesque face underneath the mask, the simple look is more effective as it gives the immediate impression that Jason is ready to wreak bloody mayhem. Despite the fact that it was once a widely used mask in hockey, it is hard to look at it now and not think of Jason Voorhees.

1 Michael Myers In The Halloween Franchise (1978-2022)

The White “Shape” Mask

Long before Sam in Trick r’ Treat, Michael Myers got into the Halloween spirit by donning a mask and trying to kill some teens on October 31st. The ghostly white Michael Myers mask is very effective (even though the Halloween mask’s behind-the-scenes origins as a repurposed Captain Kirk mask rob it of some of its power). Though Myers is something seen as a mindless killing machine, the fact that he puts on the mask so he can freely walk around on Halloween night proves there is a method to his murder spree.

Interestingly, the mask seemed to be randomly adopted by Michael in the first movie, but it has now become something that is directly tied to his existence, especially in the new Halloween movies. The blank, expressionless face and dark eyes also add to Michael’s reputation as a mindless killer and the embodiment of evil.

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