10 Toxic Relationships in Horror Movies RANKED

10 Toxic Relationships In Horror Movies Ranked Cover

Welcome to Knockout Horror. Love is a very common theme in horror movies. Be it killer couples taking on the world or lovers on the run from maniacal killers. It is a subject that forms the basis of many of the most popular horror stories. We have already covered some of the best relationships in horror in our list of 10 Romantic Horror Movies For Valentine’s Day RANKED. So why not turn that topic on its head a little and look at some of the worst? Today we are checking out, and ranking, 10 Toxic Relationships in Horror Movies.

When we talk about toxic relationships, we aren’t purely discussing those of a romantic nature, of course. If we focused entirely on couples and lovers, we would miss one or two of the more intriguing toxic relationships in horror history. So, with that in mind, this list will focus on other types of toxic relationships as well as those that are purely romantic. The one thing all of these movies have in common is a relationship between two people that proves to be incredibly detrimental to one or both of them.

I try to mix things up in my lists and offer up a few movies that are lesser known. Most places tend to only focus on big name, obvious, titles whereas I like to shine a light on movies that may have flown under your radar. With that in mind, don’t expect to see the same movies here that you may have seen in other similar lists though there is bound to be some cross over. Without further ado, let’s take a look.


The Rental (2020)

We are kicking off this list with one that I am not a huge fan of, to be honest, but seems fairly popular. Directed and written by James Franco’s brother and former Scrubs and The Disaster Artist star Dave Franco. The Rental follows two couples who head out to a vacation home for a weekend away. Completely unaware that secrets and revelations will be the least of their worries as someone seems to be spying on their every move.

The Rental (2020) Horror Movie Review

This movie balances themes of toxic relationships between supposed friends and lovers with a fairly traditional slasher. All while throwing a tiny hint of voyeurism into the pot. It’s an uneasy marriage, much like those of the characters here and those issues will lead them deeper and deeper into trouble. There’s bags of relationship turmoil here if that is what you are looking for. We awarded The Rental 2.5/5 and deemed it to be an average slasher with a ton of relationship drama shoehorned in. Give it a try if you like the sound of that.


Hidden Exposure (2023)

More of a thriller than a horror here but this is a movie that deserves mention. Tubi Original Hidden Exposure, from 2023, follows dancer Sabina (Liana Liberato) as she follows her ex-boyfriend to his new home. Interjecting herself in to his relationship after he unceremoniously dumps her over a trivial argument. Reading the synopsis, it seems as though this is a sort of Fatal Attraction style affair but Hidden Exposure is quite different from that.

Hidden Exposure (2023) Movie Review

It plays heavily on themes of narcissism, gas lighting and mental abuse. Placing a sympathetic character, who has given up everything to try to please a person who cares only for himself, front and centre. And taking the viewer on a journey that might not go the way you expect. Liana Liberato is fantastic and the movie is beautifully filmed. The ending is a bit stupid but Hidden Exposure fits the toxic relationship theme perfectly. We awarded Hidden Exposure 3/5 in our review.


Unseen (2023)

This is a fun little movie that comes by way of director Yoko Okumura. Unseen follows the story of clinically blind medical student Emily as she attempts to escape her murderous ex who has her locked up in a cabin in the woods. Without her glasses and unable to see, Emily contacts the first person on her missed calls list who just so happens to be down on her luck gas station clerk Sam. Sam now has to be Emily’s eyes to help her survive against tremendous odds.

Unseen Horror Movie Review

So this one is more of a movie focused on the results of a toxic relationship. As Emily is relentlessly pursued by her ex-boyfriend who is hell bent on murdering her. But it’s also a nice example of girls working together in horror as Emily and Sam make an unlikely team in what turns out to be a genuinely enjoyable thrill ride. Unseen is funny, tense, and fairly light hearted given the theme. I’d consider this to be a fairly underrated horror and I awarded it 3.5/5 in my review.


Bug (2006)

This is a movie that seriously flies under the radar in the horror world. Directed by the late, Oscar winning, director William Friedkin and starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. Bug follows the story of a lonely Gulf War veteran who stays in a dingy motel room with an equally lonely barmaid. With the pair becoming increasingly paranoid and convinced that their room is infested with bugs.

Bug (2006) - 10 Toxic Relationships in Horror

It sounds stupid but this is one of those psychological horror movies that really manages to get into your head. It plays heavily on themes of grief and paranoia while locking the viewer in a claustrophobic room with two people who seem to be losing their minds. Few films capture the feeling of looming insanity quite the way Bug does and the toxic relationship between the lead characters takes you on a harrowing journey of Folie à deux with a shocking end. It might not be for everyone and it is more than a little strange but Bug is a movie that stayed with me from the first time I watched it over a decade ago.


Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism (2023)

Grim, unrelenting and fairly brutal. You can probably already tell that I am talking about an Australian horror movie, right? Well Tubi Original Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism is all of those things. Based on the tragic true story of Joan Vollmer. Godless follows the story of Lara. A schizoaffective disorder suffering woman who recently lost her child and has been suffering episodes of paranoia and mania. Convinced that she is possessed, her husband, Ron, arranges for her to undergo an exorcism. Despite her reluctance, the people around Lara force her to go along with the process. Leading to a tragic outcome.

Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism (2023) Horror Review

This movie is a great example of toxic relationships that go beyond simply romantic partners and stretch to extended families and even communities. With Lara having virtually no say in what happens to her due to the manipulation and controlling nature of her husband and his family. Truly tragic and brutal in parts. Godless is something of a different take on the traditional possession/exorcism horror format. A great movie but not for everyone, we awarded Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism 4/5 in our review and you can read all about the harrowing true life story the movie is based on in our Godless Ending Explained article. Be warned that the article does contain movie spoilers, however.


Hellraiser (1987)

There aren’t many relationships in horror more toxic than that of Julia and Frank in Clive Barker’s 1987 classic Hellraiser. Following the story of married couple Julia and Larry moving into the house of Larry’s deceased brother Frank. Only for Julia to find Frank, or what remains of him, still living in the attic. Hellraiser sees Julia bringing men to the attic to murder so that Frank can become whole once again. Much to the objection of the group of demons known as Cenobites who he managed to previously escape.

The Cenobites from Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser has created some truly iconic characters in the Cenobites. With their leader, Pinhead, in particular, becoming a horror favourite. The movie’s slow paced, morbid, S&M themed story was daring at the time and felt extremely different to many of the other horror films doing the rounds. It has stood the test of time well and is still effective to this day. It’s the relationship between Julia and Frank that stands out in this list, however, as the pair lead each other down an increasingly tight spiral straight into hell. We awarded Hellraiser 4/5 in our review.


The Invisible Man (2020)

Holy shit did I not see this movie coming. Talk about unexpected. When I saw that they were making a new Invisible Man with a horror bent I was expecting something akin to The Hollow Man only even shitter. Little did I know that we would actually be getting a genuinely scary and genuinely great movie. After Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes from the clutches of her viciously abusive boyfriend. She is in disbelief when told that he committed suicide. When a series of bizarre events begin to happen, Cecilia becomes convinced that her ex is not dead and, instead, he has used his genius to continue haunting her in a way that everyone else can’t see.

The Invisible Man 2020 - 10 Toxic Relationships in Horror

Director Leigh Whannell decides to do something quite unexpected with The Invisible Man and that is to make it feel real. The subject of abuse in relationships is approached in a respectful way and portrayed in a manner that is horrific in its own right. When the movie really gets into the meat of it there are some genuinely tense moments and some legitimately effective scares. All while the subject of gas lighting and ostracising is blended in seamlessly with the key trope of invisibility. It is honestly fascinating stuff and while it does get lost a little bit towards the end. The Invisible Man is way better than it has any right to be.


Midsommar (2019)

Midsommar is Ari Aster’s hit follow up to the movie Hereditary. It follows a couple heading to a small Swedish community for their Midsommar festival. Only to find themselves the subject of bizarre Pagan rituals. Everyone knows about this movie and there isn’t a whole lot to be said that hasn’t already been said. Much like with Hereditary, I am not as big of a fan of Midsommar as most though I can appreciate the things it does right.

Dani, Pelle, and Christian from Midsommar

The main focus here, for our list, is the relationship between the main characters Dani and Christian (played by Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor respectively). Christian is an inattentive partner and the grieving Dani is all too keen to put up with his shortcomings. Those shortcomings will come to light more than ever as the pair’s issues are brought to light amidst the strange goings on in the small community. Leading to an ending that is both horrific and shocking. I wouldn’t say Midsommar is scary so much as it is impactful in its scares. It perfectly fits the theme of this list, however, and it is a well loved movie. We awarded Midsommar 3.5/5 in our review.


The Lighthouse (2019)

I did say that not all of the relationships on this list would be romantic but all of them are definitely toxic. The Lighthouse is Robert Eggers’ 2019 follow up to The Witch and is equally as strange of a movie. Starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse follows the story of two lighthouse keepers in the 1890s trying their best to not go completely insane as they are stranded on an island due to a storm.

This one works as both a character study and a psychological horror movie but it also has a few moments of subtle black comedy. The relationship between the new wickie Ephraim Winslow and his older supervisor Thomas Wake ranges from hostile to friendly to tense and to completely bizarre. With the pair seemingly losing their minds due to the isolation of the island and tormenting each other over the duration of the movie.

The Lighthouse (2019) Movie Review

Dafoe and Pattinson are both on perfect form and the chemistry between the pair keeps the movie chugging along nicely. The Lighthouse is filmed in black and white and with the beyond obsolete 1.19 : 1 aspect ratio so it looks like nothing else around recently. It’s also deliberately muffled and difficult to follow so might not be for everyone. But horror fans with a desire for something different should check this one out for one of the most interesting toxic relationships in the genre. We awarded The Lighthouse 4/5 in our review.


Audition (1999)

There are few relationships in horror as toxic as the one between Audition’s Aoyama Shigeharu and Asami Yamazaki. Takashi Miike’s disturbing horror hit follows the story of the recently widowed Aoyama Shigeharu. Finally ready to get back into the dating scene after devoting his life to raising his son and working. Aoyama’s friend sets up a series of auditions for a fake show to find the perfect woman. After becoming enamoured with one of the women who auditioned, a former dancer called Asami, Aoyama sets up a date. Little does he realise that Asami may not be all she seems.

Audition (1999) Review

Audition has become one of those horror movies that is notorious for one scene but that ignores what a fantastic film it is. Frequently imitated and often parodied by other films, media, and music videos alike. This is a movie that is worth more than the sum of its parts. Audition goes deep into an exploration of Japan’s patriarchal society and domestic abuse within the familial setting, and explores the effects it has on women. All while slowly building up to one of the most disturbing finales in horror history.

Audition is one of the shining lights of the 90s – 2000s J-Horror scene and is worth a watch for so many reasons. But it is also one of the best examples of just what can happen as the result of a toxic relationship. Fantastic stuff, we awarded Audition 4/5 in our review and highly recommend it.

Thanks for Reading!

So that is 10 Toxic Relationships in Horror Movies RANKED. I think I can probably put together another list similar to this with another bunch of movies that I have missed. If you are aching for more horror toxicity, though. Why not check out our Toxic friendship lists?

Thank you so much for coming along to Knockout Horror and checking out this list. Full disclosure, this site has been absolutely hammered by Google’s recent algorithm changes. Google has taken a huge dump on small sites like mine and now promotes much bigger sites, reddit and sites that are completely unrelated to horror, above independent blogs like this. Only last year my content would stand up on its own purely due to the quality. Now, that simply isn’t the case. I went from Knockout Horror appearing on Google’s search engine tens of thousands of times a day to literal hundreds.

I don’t use AI to generate lists like a lot of sites do and I don’t use AI to assist me in writing ending explained articles or reviews. I am one person sitting down to write horror content for horror fans. It is time consuming and expensive so knowing that less and less people are seeing it every day is kind of heart breaking. I am not sure how long I can continue working on the site but I want to try and ride the wave. People like you visiting and reading make all the difference in the world. Oh and Bing, Bing still loves me. If you want to stick around, why not check out some horror reviews, some horror ending explained articles or some horror lists? Take care and I will, hopefully, see you again soon.