The Best Creepy Dolls in Horror

I’ve only received a traditional doll once as a gift, from a distant relative who I had never met before, or since. I think she just bought an assortment of gifts for all the kids to be polite, so no shade. The doll itself was a young girl with long, wavy brown hair wearing a flowy yellow dress. It was also one of those “do not take out of the box” dolls, which is utterly baffling to an eight-year-old. I stuck it in my open-face closet and forgot about it—except for late at night when I’d accidentally lock eyes with the doll from across the room. I eventually rotated the box so it couldn’t look at me.

You know this is just a toy, an object. Or is it?! There’s an inherent creepiness to dolls that directors have been milking for decades because it just works. The unblinking eyes, plastic mouth grinning forever, judging you. Here are a few standout films featuring creepy dolls.

Dead Silence

Jamie holds Billy, a ventriloquist doll in a black suit and red bowtie

Looking back, I think I was a bit harsh on Dead Silence when it was released in 2007. Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, the Saw duo themselves, it’s about a man named Jamie going back home to the ominously named Raven’s Fair after his wife was mysteriously and brutally murdered, her tongue cut out in the process. He remembers more about the town and learns the legend of Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist who sought revenge on the town after they executed her. Using scary puppets, Shaw’s modus operandi is to make her victims scream so she can cut out their tongues—the same method the townsfolk used before lynching Shaw.

The fun bit for me is after Jamie and Detective Jim (Donnie Wahlberg) figure this out, they try to stop themselves from yelling out, even when they’re faced with some freaky human-doll hybrids and my favourite: Mary Shaw’s mega tongue, made from the spoils of her victims. Gross!

The Boy

Greta sits across the table from Brahms, a porcelain doll of a boy in a suit

Not to be confused with The Boy (2015), which is about a budding serial killer, The Boy (2016) follows Greta, an American nanny who’s relocated to the UK where an elderly couple wants her to care for a doll resembling their dead son, which may or may not be haunted. They are very clear about how she should treat the doll, including reading to him and playing music.

Realistically, there are worse jobs, although Greta starts to question both the doll and her sanity after she’s locked in the attic and her belongings go missing. Director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, Wer) returned to helm a sequel titled Brahms: The Boy II in 2020 was met with less than stellar results, only making a third of its budget back. Maybe just stick with the first one, in this case.


Judy holding Mr. Punch, a jester doll

I was a bit late to the party on this Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) classic, but by all accounts, it’s quite good. A group of strangers takes refuge in a huge house during a storm with the only residents being an old dollmaker, his wife, and a huge assortment of dolls. They use every trick in the book here from low camera angles, to stop-motion animation, to the eyes of the dolls subtly turning, to whispers and giggling in the background to make a genuinely creepy experience. 

The young Judy loses her beloved teddy during the storm and is given a doll named Mr. Punch (shown above), which is a nice reference to the traditional Punch and Judy puppet show. I also love that the poster came before the movie (a doll holding an eyeball in each hand) and a script was penned based on that initial idea. TerrorVision was also made using this method.


The Annabelle doll dits in a chair wearing a white dress with red ribbons

Annabelle is based on a supposedly real case of a haunted doll and has now become a part of The Conjuring universe. The actual doll is a Raggedy Ann that now lives in the Warren’s Occult Museum—changed for the film partially due to copyright, and the fact that a porcelain doll is much, much creepier. The first Annabelle film was hugely successful, grossing over $257 million against its $6.5 million production budget. It’s now a trilogy with Annabelle: Creation serving as a prequel and Annabelle Comes Home, a sequel.

James Wan seems to love sneaking the Annabelle doll into his other films. You can see her in The Conjuring 2 and the DC Universe film Aquaman, as well as Michael Chaves’s The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and even Shazam! Added together, that’s more revenue than any of the other dolls on this list!

Puppet Master Series

Blade the puppet stands in the shadows, wearing a trenchcoat and jacket

Several years after Dolls, producer Charles Band returned with more puppets and more murder! Even though the puppets only appear for five minutes during the first movie, it did well enough to spawn ten sequels, a few spin-offs and a video game slated for next year. Part of this is definitely due to the iconic appearance of each puppet, with Blade’s trademark trenchcoat, hat and combo blade-hook hands. The creation and reanimation method of the puppets varies throughout the series from Egyptian spells to alchemy.

Some of the other puppets include Pinhead (not to be confused with our lead cenobite friend) who’s the muscleman of the group; Leech woman, a seductive lady, vomiting leeches; Six-Shooter, a gun in each hand; or the Tunneler, sporting a military uniform and giant drill on his head.

Child’s Play Series

Chucky stands ready with a knife. Blood drips from his nose. He is surrounded by boxes of Good Guy dolls.

Don’t worry—I saved the best for last: the man, the doll, the legend…Chucky! Voiced by the legendary Brad Dourif (and Mark Hamill in the reboot), Child’s Play is your average “serial killer voodoo soul transfer into a Good Guy doll” series. I’m joking of course, but the potty-mouthed Chucky has become one of the most recognizable horror characters ever. From straight-up horror to comedy horror and back again, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s also a dedicated husband to superstar Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) and father of Glen(da) (Billy Boyd), considered to be non-binary by many fans! We love this happy family.

Chucky’s never fully faded from popular culture and is even making a comeback with a new series on SyFy airing on October 12th. So if you’re new to Child’s Play, now’s the perfect time to catch up. (Also did you know Chucky appeared on WWE once? Amazing.)

While I know I focused on big titles here, there are plenty of other creepy doll movies out there including Magic (1978) starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Pin, a skinless anatomy doll with an extremely unsettling voice, Asylum, an anthology featuring some horrifying homemade dolls, and The Hole, where fears manifest into reality.

Looking for more on creepy dolls? We’ve got you covered:

“Victorian Automaton Dolls”

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Written by Lor Gislason

Lor is a body horror enthusiast from Vancouver Island, Canada who can be found chilling with their two cats and playing farming simulators. Find them on Twitter: @lorelli_

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