5 best horror movies to watch (and 1 to skip) on Fourth of July 2024

This year we are going old school on recommended movies for your July 4th horror binge.
I Know What You Did Last Summer 25th Anniversary Blu-ray -- Courtesy of Sony Pictures
I Know What You Did Last Summer 25th Anniversary Blu-ray -- Courtesy of Sony Pictures /

July 4th is a chill holiday in America, as most celebrations consist of weekends at the lake, cookouts, and fireworks. The holiday also calls for a substantial amount of downtime to relax in the air conditioning and escape the heat expected from a holiday celebrated in July. This year, you can unwind with our list of old-school horror.

While researching this topic, I found several noteworthy movies considered a great watch during the Fourth of July holiday. Five are highlighted below, and several other titles should also be considered, such as the horror comedies The Return of the Living Dead and Re-Elected, the mockumentary horror The Bay, and the eco-horror Frogs (1972).

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Unsurprisingly, I Know What You Did Last Summer is included on this list. The slasher film, directed by Jim Gillespie and written by the Scream franchise creator, Kevin Williamson, celebrates the holiday twice.

Loosely based on the same-titled novel by Lois Duncan (who hated the movie) and inspired by the urban legend of "The Hook," the film follows four friends who are stalked by a hook-handed killer after they try to cover up a car accident in which they believe they killed a man.

Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr., the film appeals to diehard slasher fans with its campy, somewhat predictable story. But its secondary story of how the lives of the friends disintegrate due to their involvement and the aftermath elevates this movie beyond pure slasher. It is an excellent film for fans of 80s slashers.

Where to watch: available to rent or buy on digital platforms

Cape Fear (1991)

Martin Scorsese's award-winning psychological thriller Cape Fear is considered a horror movie due to the outstanding performance by Robert De Niro as convicted child rapist Max Cady, who is downright frightening. The story, based on John D. MacDonald's novel The Executioners, is also a remake of the 1962 film.

Set during the July 4th holiday, the story tells of Cady's plot for revenge against his former attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) and his family, wife Leigh (Jessica Lange) and 15-year-old daughter Danny (Juliette Lewis). This is one movie that is a diversion from traditional horror that will likely scare the pants off you.

Where to watch: available to rent or buy on digital platforms

Independence Day (1996)

I know Independence Day isn't necessarily a horror film, but it does take place on the Fourth of July holiday, and it has horror elements. That's why I included it on the list.

Independence Day is a sci-fi action movie directed by Roland Emmerich with an all-star cast consisting of Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Vivica A. Fox, and Harvey Fierstein.

Under threat of extraterrestrial attack, the film follows several different stories which, in the aftermath of the attack, come together in a counterattack on July 4. The movie received mixed critical reviews but is considered one of the best disaster films that paved the way for more to come in the mid to late 90s. It is a thrilling story, full of action, that moviegoers thoroughly enjoyed.

Where to watch: Hulu, available to rent or buy on digital platforms

Silver Bullet (1985)

Based on the novella Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, Silver Bullet is a horror film that sees a quiet town terrorized by a killer. The residents believe a madman lives among them and cancels the annual 4th of July celebration. Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim), a 13-year-old wheelchair-bound child, believes the killer is half man/half beast and enlists the help of his Uncle Red (Gary Busey) to stop the werewolf before he strikes again under the next full moon.

The movie was criticized for its werewolf, but diehard fans of the movie love everything about the film, which also stars Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Terry O'Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill Smitrovich, Kent Broadhurst, David Hart, and James Gammon with Tovah Feldshuh as narrator. It is a great scary movie that has gained a cult following, with many fans ranking it among their top 5 werewolf movies.

Where to watch: Pluto TV for free, available to rent or buy on digital platforms

Jaws (1975)

Many horror fans consider Jaws a summer must-watch. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the acclaimed horror thriller is based on Peter Benchley's novel and has, over the years, caused many viewers to fear going into the ocean.

The story follows police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist, Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and a professional shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw), as they hunt down a man-eating great white shark that is attacking beachgoers at a summer resort town. Jaws has won a long list of awards, and before Star Wars was released, it was the highest-grossing film of all time.

Where to watch: Peacock, available to rent or buy on digital platforms

One Fourth of July horror you can skip

Uncle Sam (1996)

The 1996 black comedy slasher Uncle Sam tells of a Gulf War veteran, Sam Harper (David Fralick), who was killed in combat in Kuwait. His body is delivered to his hometown of Twin Rivers during the Fourth of July celebrations, where he rises from the dead, dons an Uncle Sam costume, and terrorizes the residents. While it is always fun to watch a campy, even sloppy, slasher film, there are many more titles in the genre that are a much better watch.

Where to watch: Tubi for free, Amazon Prime Video, AMC+, available to rent or buy on digital platforms

The beginning of July brings with it a handful of new horror films and shows to watch, including one of the year's biggest releases, Ti West's latest MaXXXine, a direct sequel to the 2022 slasher X. Mia Goth returns in the title role as Maxine Minx.. dark. Next. 3 new horror movies releasing this week, including MaXXXine

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