Baby Names to Reclaim From Scary Movies (and Make Sweet Again)
Choosing a name for your baby girl or boy is a big job for parents-to-be. You find yourself carefully considering every name (first, middle and last) in the family and scouring list after list on the baby name websites. But have you considered watching horror films to find a name? If not, you’re missing out!
Whether or not you’re a fan of horror movies or scary, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, the best of these film genres certainly bring to mind some unforgettable characters with terrific names. It’s almost as if you can’t make a scary movie without a great name.
So, if you’re in the market for a Halloween baby name that’s sure to bring on the screams (of joy, of course), check out our list of the best baby names from horror and thrillers that have stood the test of time.
Warning: There are some plot spoilers ahead.
Clarice From “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
Poor Clarice Starling. The FBI agent with the gut-wrenchingly beautiful name tried to stand up, stone faced, to serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Even though she failed (but Jodie Foster totally succeeded at playing her), her name must live on.
The name Clarice had its best years in the last century when it ranked at No. 272 in both 1918 and 1925. It fell off the top 1,000 list after 1976, but let’s bring it back!
Michael From "Halloween" (1978)
Michael Myers might be the scariest movie villain ever. He did, after all, murder his sister, then break out of a psychiatric hospital 15 years later and go on a mad killing spree, targeting his own family members in particular.
One of the scariest parts is how very average his name sounds. Michael is a very common name, currently ranked the 12th most popular in the U.S. It also comes from the Hebrew name Mikha'el, meaning "who is like God?" The question implies that no human being is God-like, emphasizing humility. Michael is also the name of an archangel in the Bible. See? Not all Michael's are creepy. It's even the name of a craft store.
Regan From “The Exorcist” (1973)
Young Regan MacNeil never asked to be possessed by a demon. And Linda Blair — the then 13-year-old actress who played Regan and won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe — probably didn’t asked to be turned into the scariest, head-spinning-est, rotten-faced protagonist ever seen on the big screen.
The name Regan hit the top 1,000 at No. 750 in 1974, the year after “The Exorcist” hit theaters, and we’re willing to bet there’s a connection. The name then fell off the chart after 1981, the same year Ronald Reagan (spelled with an “a”) became President. In 2001, though, Regan had its best year ever.
Freddy From "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
Before you judge Frederick "Freddy" Krueger too much, the antagonist of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was burned to death. Anyone would be peeved about meeting such an untimely end, admittedly, but most of us wouldn't come back as a spirit to kill all of the town's children. That's exactly what Freddy did, however, haunting the dreams of kids with his melted face before killing them.
The actual meaning of the name Freddy is pretty ironic; it means "peaceful ruler." The German name isn't dark at all, and the sweet name has plenty of less homicidal owners as well. Freddy from the "iCarly" TV series was about as nice as any boy can be, and a great friend.
Adora From “Sharp Objects” (2018)
The name Adora is nothing short of gorgeous. But anyone who read “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn or watched the HBO series based on the book and got to know the beautiful yet stingingly poisonous mother Adora Crellin (masterfully played by Patricia Clarkson) might feel pretty skittish about giving the name to their baby girl now.
But let’s look on the bright side. The gal can wear a silk nightgown while drinking an Amaretto sour like a boss. That counts for something, right?
(We wanted to include Adora’s daughter’s name, Amma, on this list, too — it’s so pretty! — but we’re still too freaked out by that finale. Give us a year, OK?)
Jason From "Friday the 13th" (1980)
Jason Voorhees was the son of a cook-turned murderer named Mrs. Voorhees. He originally wasn't supposed to be the main antagonist of "Friday the 13th," but the suit fit perfectly. He went on to haunt numerous books, video games and even a crossover film with Freddy Krueger.
The name Jason, however, isn't inherently evil in the slightest. An English name with Latin and Greek roots, Jason translates to "healer." Jason was also the leader of the Argonauts in Greek mythology.
Samara From “The Ring” (2002)
The name Samara hit the top 1,000 in 1997, but it really took off in 2003, the year after the horror movie, “The Ring,” came out. Sure, the character Samara Morgan (played by Daveigh Chase) was a vindictive girl ghost in bad need of a hairbrush and some detangler, but wow, such an exquisite name.
In 2018, Samara had its most popular year yet ranking at No. 256. We’re thinking there’s still plenty of room for this name to grow in popularity.
Cole From "The Sixth Sense" (1999)
Cole, an 11-year-old boy played by Haley Joel Osment, has a mysterious sixth sense that allows him to see ghosts. While his character is known for coining the creepy phrase, "I see dead people," he's not an evil character at all.
The name Cole refers to nothing more than ordinary charcoal — nothing mysterious or supernatural there. But we think this one-syllable name is sweet, reaching its peak in popularity at No. 69 in the early 2000s and was still No. 131 as of 2020.
Rose From “Get Out” (2017)
Who can remember a year when the fetching flower name, Rose, wasn’t a beloved favorite. But then last year, Allison Williams played Rose Armitage, that creepy, two-faced psychopath in the thriller film “Get Out,” and we wondered if the name would hit full wilt.
The name Rose isn’t as popular a first name as it once was. In 1918, it was in the top 25 names for girls, but by the end of last year, it was only in the top 150. Let’s not let Rose be demoted to mostly middle name status, OK?
Jack From "The Shining" (1980)
Heeeere's Johnny! John Daniel Edward "Jack" Torrance, known best for that famous, petrifying line, is the main antagonist of Steven King's "The Shining." When the well-meaning yet troubled father takes his family to stay as the off-season keeper of the haunted Overlook Hotel, he's driven mad. While the tortured man eventually regains his sanity, it returns too late to save him.
Jack is a nickname for the English name John, which means "God is gracious." It's such a common name that its horror movie ties haven't impacted its popularity much at all.
Alex From “Fatal Attraction” (1987)
In 1987, the same year as “Fatal Attraction” was in theaters and that bunny-cooking wench Alex Forrest (played brilliantly by Glenn Close) scared the pants back ON philanderers everywhere, the name Alex hit the top 1,000 chart.
But the cool and carefree name has been off the top 1,000 chart now since 2004. Sometimes, the female version of the name Alex is short for Alexandra, Alexis or Alexa, but we like the short, takes-no-crap version: Alex. And by “takes no crap,” we do not mean “boils your bunny” either.
Henry From "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931)
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been made into a movie more than once, but the 1931 American horror film version was without a doubt the best. The film follows the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist whose experimental potions transform him into a blood-thirsty murderer.
The name Henry has nothing to do with the mad scientist's homicidal tendencies, however. It comes from the German name Henrik, meaning "ruler of the home." It has many variations, including the French Henri and nicknames like Hank and Harry. Henry is also the name of a sweet little boy in the children's book "Ramona the Pest."
Annie From “Misery” (1990)
The name Annie wants to be freckle-faced and light, but women with the name seem to carry a badass underlayer of feistiness, edginess and power. Think about it — Annie Lennox, Annie Oakley, Annie Leibovitz, Annie Potts, Annie Sprinkle, even Little Orphan Annie — and then there’s Annie Wilkes. She's the nightmarish nurse-turned-serial-killer from “Misery,” the Stephen King book and its film adaptation (in which actress Kathy Bates, eh em, murders the role!).
The name Annie is a classic. It has lingered on top 500 girls’ names lists for the last century, and there’s simply no running her off — and we don’t suggest you try.
Danny From "The Shining" (1980)
We already covered the insane antagonist of "The Shining," Jack Torrance, but his son, Danny, is also worth mentioning. While he's not an evil character, the little boy does have the "shining," an unnerving ability to see and hear spirits. The malevolent inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel target him, inspiring disturbing visions.
Danny is commonly used as a nickname for Daniel or Danielle, meaning "God is my judge."
Peyton From “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” (1992)
The name Peyton hit the top 1,000 girls’ names in 1992 at No. 583. And perhaps we owe a big thank you to the movie “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and its ruthless, revenge-seeking imposter nanny Peyton Flanders (played by Rebecca De Mornay and her infamous ice-blue eyes).
Parents-to-be haven’t shied away from giving this name to their baby girls though. In fact, the name Peyton has only been growing in popularity. It’s been in the top 100 since 2008.
Damien From "The Omen" (1976)
Damien Thorn I is about as evil as it gets. He's the literal Antichrist and the Son of Satan, who was unknowingly adopted by Robert and Katherine Thorn. He ended up becoming the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, wreaking havoc with his newfound power. When Damien is finally killed, legend says he gets reincarnated in the body of his son, Alexander.
The name Damien, also spelled Damian, has roots with some slightly sinister meanings. It means "to subdue" or "to conquer." Power and leadership can be a positive thing, however, and the name is also tied to the much more uplifting Greek goddess of fertility, Damia.
Star From “The Lost Boys” (1987)
Every ’80s girl who saw “The Lost Boys” secretly wanted to be Star (played by Jami Gertz) — you know, a girl with impeccable boho fashion sense, lots of hot vampire boyfriends and a name that actually twinkles. But she was kind of a villain, right? The way she helped the vampires lure in Michael by flirting with him at the boardwalk beach party.
Anyway, the name Star has made the occasional blips on the top 1,000 list of girls’ names, but it remains a unique pick that we, too, would follow just about anywhere.
Victor From "Victor Frankenstein" (2015)
The story of Frankenstein is one of the most familiar horror stories in history. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, however, you might have missed that Frankenstein's first name is Victor. Victor begins as a brilliant scientist, but he goes mad when his daring experiment with death goes a step too far.
The name Victor itself is a great one. Victor comes from the Latin word meaning "conqueror." It's also a common name of Christian saints, referring to Christ's victory over evil and is especially popular in France.
Carrie From “Carrie” (1976)
The name Carrie had a good 100-year run — from 1908 to 2008 — staying solid in the top 1,000 girls’ names. But then what happened? It had its most popular year in 1977, and then it was downhill after that. I’m sure it had NOTHING to do with all the “Carrie” movie posters depicting a horrifying blood-drenched Carrie White (aka, actress Sissy Spacek).
But we think it’s time the name Carrie made a comeback. After all, Carrie White was just an earnest, misunderstood telekinetic and a victim of school bullies and her cruel mom. It’s not her fault she burned them all and her school and her house to the ground.
Billy From "Scream" (1996)
Billy Loomis, the villain from the "Scream" franchise, is almost relatable at first. He's a horror film fanatic, much like those watching from behind the screen. But that's where the similarities between Billy and scary movie fans end. He's so entranced by horror films that he decides to follow their lead, pushing his friend to join him in a killing spree.
Interestingly, the contrast between his actions and the meaning of his name is stark. Billy isn't an evil name in the slightest, meaning "resolute protector." There are many famous Billys of both genders, including singer-songwriter Billie Eilish.
Margaret From “Carrie” (1976)
We don’t know everything that happened to the raving, fanatically religious Margaret White (played by actress Piper Laurie) before we met her in the movie “Carrie.” But man, she was off her rocker. It’s just a period, Margaret! It’s not a curse!
Still, we shall not let one nutty Margaret sully the glorious name. The name Margaret was the No. 4 name 100 years ago, and it still remained at No. 126 in 2020. That’s a darn good track record. Plus, it has a lot of good nicknames, including Maggie, Margie, Madge, Marg (with a hard “g”) and Peggy. For a more creative shortened moniker, try Meg, Maisie, Margo or Margot, or even Greta.
Ben From "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997)
When Ben Willis is run over by a car in "I Know What You Did Last Summer," he could elect to move on with his life, but no. That would be too easy. Instead, he goes after the teenagers who left him for dead. While they definitely deserve jail time for a reckless hit and run, his revenge is much harsher than jail.
That said, Ben is a common Hebrew word meaning "son." It's part of many Hebrew surnames and appears often in the Bible. Despite it's horror movie ties, Ben is perfectly good name for a baby boy.
Ivy From “Poison Ivy” (1992)
The 1992 movie “Poison Ivy” isn’t a film that holds up in the #MeToo era, if it ever held up. But lots of us know better now that street-smart teenage girls like Ivy (played by Drew Barrymore) aren’t walking around seducing perfectly innocent, powerless dads named Darryl (played not that innocently by Tom Skerritt).
Ridiculous ’90s movies aside, the name Ivy ranked No. 108 in 2017, its most popular year in the past century. Clearly, there’s no lasting poison on this name.
Norman From "Psycho" (1960)
Norman Bates, the owner of the Bates Motel, wasn't always evil. After he snapped and killed his abusive mother, however, his personality split into three. While Norman was still good, one of his other personalities, Norma, had other plans. The villainous Norma pushed Norman to the brink, inspiring a brutal killing spree.
The name Norman, however, is perfectly benign. It means nothing more than "man from the north," referring to the Scandinavians who once conquered Normandy.
Rosemary From “Rosemary's Baby” (1968)
Not once have we slept through the night since watching “Rosemary’s Baby” years ago. The horror film made women everywhere distrust “nice” overbearing neighbors, “vitamin drinks” and, well, husbands. The character of Rosemary Woodhouse (played by Mia Farrow) quite possibly endured every horrific crime against women, not the least of which was being told she was “hysterical.”
After that nightmarish portrayal, the name deserves atonement and rebirth. Rosemary has remained on the top 1,000 for the last century, and in both 2016 and 2017, it was in the top 500 names for girls. We believe in you, Rosemary.
Larry From "The Wolf Man" (1941)
Larry Talbot is on a journey to his family home in Wales to attend his brother's funeral. There, he makes a regrettable purchase: a walking stick with a silver wolf head on it. As it turns out, it represents a werewolf. That night, he protects a young woman from a wolf attack using the staff, but he's bitten in the process. Predictably, he becomes a werewolf himself on the night of the next full moon and goes on a killing spree. He feels terrible once he regains his human form, but each time the full moon hits, he becomes an unstoppable killing machine.
Larry means "of the laurel tree," and also sometimes refers to a place in Italy called Laurentum. It's often used as a nickname for Lawrence, which we particularly love.
Elle From “Kill Bill” (2003)
Who can forget the ruthless and vengeful Elle Driver (played by Daryl Hannah), also known as California Mountain Snake and the arch enemy of Beatrix Kiddo, aka The Bride (played by Uma Thurman). Elle is a savage and a well-dressed bombshell, but she can’t keep an eye in her skull to save her life, having one plucked out right after the other.
Of course, we still see you, Elle. The name Elle hit the top 1,000 chart in 2002 at No. 613, and in 2019, it hit peak popularity at No. 353.
Mitch From "The Birds" (1963)
"The Birds" is a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie that'll make you think twice the next time a pigeon tries to steal your lunch. Lawyer Mitch Brenner meets socialite Melanie Daniels at a pet store in San Francisco, California, before they decide to head north to the quieter (read: bird-infested) town of Bodega Bay. These gulls are out for blood, Mitch and Melanie, luckily, get out alive, but not everyone is so lucky.
The name Mitch, or Mitchell, is a variation of Michael and also means "who is like God?" We like this equally sweet version because it's much more unique, only ranking at No. 722 in 2020.
Cora From “The Sinner” (2017)
The character Cora Tannetti (played by Jessica Biel) in Season 1 of the USA Network series “The Sinner” was no stranger to trauma even before she (very convincingly) stabbed and killed that guy on the beach while her husband and young son looked on. Detective Harry Ambrose (played by Bill Pullman) saw there was more to Cora than her knife-wielding ways, and you can, too!
The name Cora has been on the rise since the end of the 1990s. In 2017, it ranked at No. 83.
Charles From "Child's Play" (1988)
Charles Lee Ray, better known as Chucky, is the fictional antagonist of the "Child's Play" slasher series. Chucky begins as an infamous serial killer. When he's finally shot, however, he pours his soul into a creepy doll instead of dying. For the rest of the movie, he tries to possess a human body instead.
While the image of an evil doll is hard to forget, the name Chucky has some positive associations as well. It's a variation of the name Charles, meaning simply "man." Ten different French kings were named Charles, along with several members of British royalty. One of the toddlers in the Nickelodeon show "Rugrats" was also named Chucky.