Creating a list of the finest horror movies is a fantastic method to separate seasoned horror movie fans from those easily frightened by the genre. You’ll be able to recognize them whenever there is a sudden scare, a devil-possessed girl crab goes upstairs, or an extraterrestrial missile shoots out of the chest of some unfortunate sap.
Okay, so as we worked on this list, we were more afraid than not scared. Sue us! We compiled a list of films using overall movie quality, impact on the genre, legacy potential, the fright/creepy factor, and that mysterious quality known as Editor’s Choice. If you watch any of these films, you can rest assured that you will want the lights on in your bedroom while you sleep.
Some of these films are more typical examples of the horror genre, while others are demented and unsettling in a “you’ll be severely scarred for life” way (e.g., The Silence of the Lambs). However, every one of them is going to give you the creeps. Have fun, and don’t forget to leave your recommendations and favorite songs in the comments below!
The Shining might be Stephen King’s most famous horror novel. Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation is almost certainly the most popular Stephen King film. The project was an unusually commercially-focused one for Kubrick. Still, the same stylistic elements that defined his earlier films were on full display, and the film remains a haunting and unsettling chronicle of a family man’s psychological breakdown.
Jack Nicholson is iconic as Jack Torrance, the struggling writer who accepts a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Mountains. The knowledge that the previous caretaker had gone insane and murdered his family fails to scare Jack away.
But when Jack and his psychically attuned son begin communing with the many spirits haunting the Overlook, things quickly worsen. Deadly hedge mazes, elevators full of blood, and the terrifying Room 237 are only some of the horrors that await viewers.
Aside from being a genuinely scary film, The Shining has left its mark on modern pop culture. Who doesn’t recognize the image of Nicholson poking his head through a doorway and shouting, “Here’s Johnny!”? The Shining also served as fodder for one of the best “Treehouse of Horror” segments in the history of The Simpsons.
The film is required viewing for any horror fan — don’t expect to sleep easily that night — and our pick for the best horror movie ever made.
The blood usually gets off on the third floor.” May we also suggest the Room 237 scene. Beware of women in bathtubs that are Overlook corpses.
This is the scariest piece of music ever composed. As soon as we hear it, we’re like Pavlov’s dog, trembling with fear.
Even as written, the movie’s premise of a little girl being possessed by a demon is chilling. In addition to proving that he has a strong (or frighteningly off) constitution for this sort of thing, director William Friedkin treats the extraordinary as if it were happening right in front of our eyes.
Faith-based scares come from a place where Heaven and Hell are as accurate as your beliefs in their desire to be. Science can’t define or strategize faith, despite all the documentation on the subject.
In The Exorcist’s interpretation of that idea, the demon is more potent than Freddy or Jason. Weapons or explosives that can’t be used against it.
First, the demon must be believed in, even if it’s terrifying and soul-threatening to the young priest and the old priest who must perform the exorcism. In this third act, Fathers Karras and Merrin wage a battle against the devil for the soul of young Regan. Karra’s faith in the only true good he knows is reaffirmed through this sacrifice, despite his doubts throughout most of the film.
Film-school This film can be studied further if desired. In the end, it’s the best horror film ever made about the perils of blind faith.
Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho is widely regarded as one of the best thrillers of all time and as one of the best entries in the iconic director’s filmography. As with many other excellent horror films, Psycho’s horrors are much more intense than the film’s actual scale would indicate. A gAs is a case with many other fantastic horror films, Psycho’s blemishes are much lower than the film’s accurate scale would indicate. A genuine master of suspense and tension, Hitchcock devised a terrifying experience despite having a small cast and a smaller budget. This experience will live in infamy forever.
The film portrays the story of an insane older adult named Norman Bates and his much more insane mother. Before the real mystery about the Bates family can be uncovered, several more people lose their lives. At the isolated Bates Motel, a young woman who was on the run from the cops meets her untimely end at the hands of a murderer wielding a knife.
The events depicted in Psycho are not nearly as alarming today as they were when the film was first released in 1960. After all, in contemporary horror movies, there are a lot of scenes in which female protagonists suffer gruesome injuries while showering.
The fact that watching Psycho is still a tense and nerve-wracking experience, despite its age, is a credit to the directing prowess of Alfred Hitchcock. One of the most iconic moments in Hollywood’s history is when the character played by Janet Leigh is murdered, and the score that Bernard Herrmann composed to accompany the event is a significant component.
Because it is such a landmark in the horror film canon, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was the impetus for a faithful recreation released in 1998. In addition to that, there have been sequels to the story and a television show based on it.
The film Psycho is generally credited with being the one that gave rise to the slasher subgenre. At the same time, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was an essential part of the genre’s evolution, making things more visceral. But the 1978 film Halloween established this type of horror and became the model for many subsequent films, as well as rip-offs, imitations, and homages. You get Halloween… and of course, all the movies that came after it; if you start with an easily recognizable holiday, add in a chillingly silent, unstoppable masked killer, and add in a feisty, resourceful heroine.
But John Carpenter brought a sense of tension and suspense to the slasher film that few others could match. As we watched Michael Myers stalk Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from a distance before going on his inevitable killing spree, Carpenter created a sense of tension and suspense that few others could match.
Michael is an excellent example of a villain; he wears a face mask that is blank and emotionless, which perfectly captures the dark soul of a person who kills repeatedly and appears to be unable to be stopped, no matter what you do to him. Michael is an excellent example of a villain. It is not surprising that Michael became a horror icon, nor are fans protesting when he was left out of Halloween III. After all, Michael Myers and Halloween, both the movie and the holiday itself, will be inextricably linked together for the foreseeable future.
The Bride of Frankenstein
There is no question that several of us here at IGN believed that this James Whale classic ought to have been placed higher on our list; some of us even said that it should have been number one. Due to the nature of compromise, however, director James Whale, actor Colin Clive, actors Boris Karloff and the rest of the cast had little choice but to settle for fifth place.
In terms of its overall quality, the movie represents the pinnacle of the classic monster movies produced by Universal. Whale decided to, ahem, fill out the story and characters of the first Frankenstein movie rather than merely regurgitating a cheap variant on the first Frankenstein movie (which is basically what many of the Universal sequels would go on to do), which is why he made the decision (which he also directed).
In his second performance as the Monster, Boris Karloff bestowed upon his most renowned creation the ability to communicate and the gifts of friendship and even love. In terms of comedy, the movie Bride of Frankenstein is just as much of a horror movie as it is a comedy.
This book is a treasure trove full of wonderful ancillary characters (oh, Doctor Pretorius, how we miss you) and imagery that may be somewhat scary (Jesus Christ, did they crucify the Monster?).
Even though it was made more than 80 years ago, we still adore this movie and talk about it. To quote Doctor Pretorius: “It is our only weakness.”
It is common knowledge that the genre of science fiction is where one should look for the Alien film series. Nevertheless, at least in its first iteration, Alien was a horror thriller in addition to being a science fiction movie.
Alien was very different from other popular Hollywood franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek since it featured a relatively small ensemble pursued by a single horrific creature.
Several millennia into the future, the story takes place when humankind has already begun to colonize other star systems. The crew of the mining spaceship Nostromo unknowingly become hosts to a violent alien lifeform.
They are eliminated by an adversary that lurks in the darkness and emerges from the ceiling. Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is the only character capable of surviving the invasion of the aliens. It’s very terrible that this was just the first round for her.
Alien is not like many other science fiction films released around the same period. H.R. Giger, an artist, conceived of a universe replete with twisted tubes, icy corridors, and pervasive darkness. Before the release of Alien, popular culture did not forewarn us of how unclean, dark, and terrifying the depths of space were.
Ridley Scott, who directed the film, took a “less is more” approach. Unfortunately, he abandoned it in subsequent sequels. Current directors can pack as many Xenomorphs, Alien, Predator androids (and Michael Fassbender androids) into their movies. Still, none can match the sheer claustrophobic terror generated in the first film.
The first-ever blockbuster and a terrifying film (possibly even the best one?) that Steven Spielberg has ever produced, Jaws is both a monster movie and a character piece. It is centered on an island called Amity that is preyed upon by something that leaves teeth the size of shot glasses in the hulls of boats and turns the owners of those boats into headless flotsam.
The late Roy Scheider offers a career-defining performance as Chief Brody, the local sheriff with a dread of water which is put in charge of tracking down the murder fish. Scheider’s arrangement was delivered before Scheider passed away.
On the Orca with him during the search are Richard Dreyfuss’ character, Hooper, and Robert “Find ‘im for three, catch ‘im and kill ‘im for 10,” played by Robert Duvall. Shaw knows the most common killer of marine organisms as Quint.
You’ve probably given some thought to the possibility of using John Williams’ theme as your phone’s ring tone. But you are aware of that already. It would be best if you had watched this movie at least ten times because it is available on cable, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming services. It possesses cinematic power that compels viewers to watch it more than once.
The Silence of the Lambs
Best Picture Oscar winner uses a serial-killer cannibal with a Ph.D. to catch another serial murderer. But it’s much more. It’s the scariest movie based on psychology and deduction as crime-solving and murder tactics. It handed us one of the screen’s all-time iconic villains and Anthony Hopkins the role of his career.
Jodie Foster shines as FBI Agent Clarice Starling on the trail of Buffalo “It Puts the Lotion in the Basket” Bill. Director Jonathan Demme is seamless and unrelenting with his intensity, keeping Lecter more of a believable monster than in Ridley Scott’s 2001 sequel, Hannibal.
With fava beans and chianti, watch Silence of the Lambs.
Evil Dead II
Though more of a “remix” than a sequel, Evil Dead II improves on its predecessor. Gore, comedy, more, more, more…
Director Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (and Ash!) returned to the woods six years later for Evil Dead II, which ups the horrific excess of the first (an eyeball flies into a person’s open mouth). Though Evil Dead II didn’t develop a splat-stick, it perfected it and influenced many later comic gross-outs.
Raimi manages to relax and terrify his audience with stylish shenanigans despite all the delightful grotesqueries. Examples are Henrietta’s basement peeping or Ash’s brief stint as a Deadite (before he’s redeemed by a rising sun). Groovy.
Night of the Living Dead
In 1968, George Romero took the scary idea of “zombification,” which had been confined to voodoo tales and Lovecraftian fiction, and created the zombie apocalypse picture. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” is the first official “I’ll be back” of horror as Judith O’Dea flees a graveyard because the dead have come back to life and seek human flesh.
Hitchcock realized with 1963’s The Birds that “not knowing” the cause of a global evil spread may be terrifying. “Zombocalypse” is still popular today (hello, Walking Dead fans…). Some films have their zombies run fast and explain the dead-alive thing with a virus, and that’s fine. Basics are unbeatable.
Romero’s film touches on many fears: death, desecration of the flesh, cannibalism, brainwashing, sickness, and hopelessness. There’s also a societal message about racism, media, and paranoia that shows viewers they may be just as dangerous and vicious as the mindless zombies they were fleeing.