[Editor’s Note: this list was originally published in October 2023. It has since been updated with new entries.]

Valentine’s Day may be a day of love, but there’s something about fear and murder that really gets the heart racing. Forget the countless Christmas rom-coms or Technicolor musical romances out there; sometimes, the most swoon-worthy romance is one between a human and a literal monster.

On the surface, horror and romance are two genres that shouldn’t mix well together; one exposes the worst and most disturbing cruelty humanity has to offer, while the other is meant to show the most tender and beautiful feelings we have. But as long as horror has been a genre, it’s been mixed with romance to frequently stellar results. Some of the earliest horror monsters, like vampires, are inherently sexual beings: their powers clear metaphors for intercourse and their ability to allure and entice humans with their beauty a key part of what makes them dangerous. Sex and romance isn’t always the same thing, of course, but with fear and desire already intertwined in the horror genre, romances that used gothic trappings and creatures of the night as their villains were inevitable. Love and terror are, after all, two emotions that get the heart racing — albeit for two very different reasons.

If there’s a film that can be regarded as the first horror romance, one might need to look at “Bride of Frankenstein.” The original 1931 “Frankenstein” was a massive success, though one that only loosely adapted the Mary Shelley novel. But with “Bride,” Universal Pictures and director James Whale incorporated many elements of the original that were left out, including the lab-created monster’s desire for a female companion. Boris Karloff’s monster doesn’t quite get the results he wants in the film, but “Bride of Frankenstein” still helped to establish the two questions that would define spooky romances for decades to come: Can a monster truly love? And, more importantly, can anyone ever learn to love them in return?

Since then, many, many movies have tackled that question, in their own ways. There have been adaptations of “Beauty and the Beast,” the original monster love story. There have been riffs on “Bride of Frankenstein” — like “Bride of Chucky” and “Bride of Re-Animator” — and original spooky romances, like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Only Lovers Left Alive.” These films and their love stories resonate because, frequently, they have higher stakes than your straightforward, regular-human-on-regular-human romances, asking questions about the nature of love and true devotion that strike deep in the heart.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, we decided to gather some of the spookiest romance films of the horror canon. Entries are unranked and listed in chronological order, and we limited ourselves to one film per director (sorry Guillermo del Toro, and remember that Tim Burton did not direct “The Nightmare Before Christmas”). There are plenty of honorable mentions, including: “An American Werewolf in London,” “Warm Bodies,” “Let the Right One In,” “Bones and All,” and many more.

Read on for the 18 greatest spooky romances in cinematic history.

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