Top 50 Horror Films of All-Time
(The Most In-Depth Reviews In The World On Each Can Be Found In The ‘Horror’ Genre)
1. The Shining (1980)
The Shining is a masterpiece of medium-shattering proportions. It might be the most game-changing entry in the genre since 1960’s Psycho starting the slasher boom and 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari starting horror as a genre – this one setting off the chain reaction of psychological horror that’s still rocking and defining the genre to this day. What’s more is that the film is so complex in classic Kubrickian signature stylism, people are still trying to piece together all the hidden messages and nuances to this day: was it a film about Native American genocide, spousal/child abuse, the Holocaust, Gold Rush, alcoholism, Apollo 11 Moon landings, haunted hotels, or a mixture? As with 2001, A Clockwork Orange, & the rest of his filmography, that is up to the interpretation of the viewer and will beguile audiences and filmmakers for centures, but what’s for certain is that it’s one of the most complex & striking films ever made. A magnum opus of slowly-hypnotic cabin fever tragically underappreciated in its time, Kubrick’s The Shining is *unparalleled* psychological horror and perhaps the greatest horror film of All-Time – with easily the greatest scores, atmosphere, & lead performance in genre history.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
Drawing on a primordial current of mankind’s most powerful fear with aggressive horror, wildly-disturbing imagery, and religious combat as iconic as its Georgetown steps & demon-walk, T.E. is groundbreaking & the scariest movie ever made.
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1975)
Physically-overwhelming, paralyzingly nerve-slicing, nighmarishly realistic, twisted in slaughterhouse/vegetarianism themes deconstructing American history and life, & unflinchingly-brutal w.o excessive gore or cheap tricks; the wildest genre picture.
A beautifully crafted tale of suspense, horror, and science-fiction, Alien earns its status in the pantheon of Sci-Fi and moviemaking history. The chestburster scene alone will mess you up for life, but it manages to weave a narrative full of wonder, existential curiosity, and spectacular performances around it. One of the most influential & scariest movies ever made, the Xenomorph personifies humanity’s fears of the unknown lurking out there in the vast primordial atmospheric nothingness of space – where the film’s slogan rings true: No One Can Hear You Scream. A magnum opus of biological horror & sci-fi expedition with an Odysseic score, Promethean world-building, pitch-black omen tone, parenthood/sex metaphysical themes, groundbreaking genre blends, & best movie monster ever created, Alien is one of the greatest films of All-Time.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1982)
A surrealistic, malevolently-aggressive nightmare on how to find horror in everyday life and twist it with knives in the most sadistic ways possible, ANOES assaults the shared, inescapable, sacred human experience of sleep with hyperstylized serial killer moxie for one of the scariest movies ever made – and the type of imagination exemplifying why we go to them in the first place.
6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the most revolutionary and groundbreaking pieces of filmmaking ever made. It can be credited as the first horror picture, a painting-in-motion, an avant-garde dreamscape or nightmare whose events are open to interpretation, a plot twist ending shaking the foundations and norms of storytelling on-screen, a masterpiece of set/production design and powerful acting without resources or technological cruxes, and the beginning of the cult film, arthouse, and film-noir movements over a century before you’re reading this article. A visual masterpiece jolting postwar masses & changing history launching the German Expressionist movement, Wiene’s nightmarish, disturbing, metaphoric, silence-set psychological dreamscape is one of the greatest films of All-Time.
7. The Witch (2016)
Showcasing chilling atmospheric build-up & high-realism suspense escalation with equally as-unsettling visuals, period authenticity, & crescendoed scoring, The Witch is old-world colonial darkness as never-before realized for the ultimate black magic experience.
8. Psycho (1960)
Few films and filmmakers have ever changed the entire institution of cinema for generations to come like Alfred Hitchcock did with Psycho – through a small-budget lens of a female embezzler on the run and shy proprietor of an old motel twisted into an Academy Award-meriting, avant-garde innovation of the artform from its foundations. The film set a new benchmark of violence, deviant behavior, and sexuality’s acceptance on-screen while expanding the medium by showing it could be so much more through voyeurism and no more denial of cinematic sin, but embrasure of it. Impressionistically, it twisted pure themes of water and light into instruments of torture and false-security – ironically swirling events by a cruel fate such that its main themes of birds, gender dynamics, predators, psychoanalysis, and slashers can run wild. One of the most groundbreaking films of All-Time jumpstarting horror and creating the slasher genres with a Shower Scene that changed the entire trajectory of cinematic history, Hitchcock’s Psycho is a masterpiece horror/thriller/noir/detective film with unparalleled directorial elegance, hot escalation of suspense, iconic performances, psychological sin and gender dynamic analysis, irony, and bone-chilling slasher sequences brought to life by one of the greatest scores ever made.
8. Halloween (1978)
Viscerally-thrilling with slow tension-building & a “show not tell” motif taking horror & (chillingly-masked, perfect final-girl) slasher thrills to an unconscionable location: the suburbs, John Carpenter’s Halloween set the bar for modern horror films.
10. Frankenstein (1931)
The most iconic Monster movie from Universal’s Glorious ’30’s Dark Universe still electrifying audiences with deep creation analysis and reflection on man’s limits/curiosity trying to play God, 1931’s Frankenstein (complete with an imitable lead by Karloff as the cadaver/corpse-mangled man-of-the-hour and jaw-dropping cinematography & set pieces) is a timeless, parabolic allegorical piece.
A new Pennywise straight out your nightmares, skillfully developed/characterized Losers’ Club, stylish direction + wild scares from architect Muschietti, and elegant tonal blending make the new IT a horror/pop culture phenomenon.
13. Night of The Living Dead (1968)
A revolutionary idea that shocked audiences and changed the history of cinema taking cues from Frankenstein to reanimate dead corpses with a more insidious and bloodthirsty agenda, Romero’s NOTLD is a tightly-edited, realistically-gory, scary, politically-sly, trope-establishing icon of genre history – that established one of American horror’s greatest legacies: zombies.
Filled with wildly-disturbing imagery that will mess you up from its chiaroscuric opening flicker, ghost horror’s thickest atmospherics in slow-burning majesty, & one of 2000’s most intriguing, complex avant-garde plot structures.
15. Scream (1996)
Reinventing & reinvigorating the horror genre with perhaps the greatest slasher scene ever recorded in the history of filmmaking to open, Wes Craven’s subversive bone-chiller Scream changed the rules of the game as sharply as its killer’s sadistic traps/games.
7. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Twisted, dark, & as unforgettable as its H(c)annibalistic face restraints, The Silence of The Lambs earns its status amongst the most psychologically-complex scary films ever popularizing the now-widespread genre norm of realism-steeped serial killers. 9.7/10.
16. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Overall, F.F. Coppola’s reimagination Of Dracula is a masterpiece by a late-age maestro of cinematic genius that blends genres and creates a dark, thought-provoking fantasy it’s difficult to ascertain except by pure experience. Forget most original horror films: it might be one of the most idiosyncratic, innovative, and avant-garde films I’ve ever seen – of any kind. The film transcends the iconic Lugosi 1931 version and decades of Laemme-monster lore/serials to shockingly take the crown of not only the best film on the character, but best vampire film (of a subgenre loaded with competitors.) Bram Stoker can rest in peace knowing his 1897’s novel vision of the ultimate vision-accurate bloodsucker finally got its near-perfect iteration – one boasting some of the most twisted, beautiful, wild, complex, diverse, intricate, and unforgettable thematization, storytelling, visuals, humanity, macabre, and romance I’ve ever seen to-date: a true craftsman one-of-a-kind. An evil, wildly-aggressive evolution of Dracula with detailed novel-accuracy, brutal/twisted horror escalation, inexorably-dark religious themes, poetry in bizarre avant-garde cinematography style amongst the most striking ever, & poignant romance backstory exposition by mythical performances led by a herculean Academy Award-worthy Oldman showcase-of-range, Coppola has delivered the most powerful vampire film and a canvas of brilliance that showcases the magic that happens when cinematic legends take a trip to the dark side. 9.5/10.
‘What if there was a zombie movie that was actually.. good, intellectual cinema?’ Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle set out to answer that herculean call in the early-2000’s with jolting viscerality, bludgeoning ~realism, and slicing political allegory; a post-apocalyptica tour-de-force that’s as ghastly in 28-day societal-collapse and complex in social-commentary as it is unforgettable in the complete devolution of social order – with a haunting empty-London streets backdrop & zombies that don’t walk.. they RUN after you. Adjusted ~9.4/10.
18. The Thing (1982)
Attacking through anonymity & claustrophobic paranoia, albeit with some admittedly-shoddy CGI by today’s standards, Carpenter’s The Thing is still a horror/sci-fi genre staple that haunts you psychologically long after the credits roll. 9.4/10.
19. Jaws (1975)
Forever changing how we look at the sea (likely ruining it for most beachgoers to this day) while boasting perhaps the most iconic orchestral theme and score in moviemaking history, Spielberg’s Jaws redefined what blockbusters could be. 9.3/10.
Aggressively disturbing as a cult/splatter genre piece stoking paranoia in thrilling fog-set low-budget indie ways, The Evil Dead is a striking exposition of talent-over-resources with starmaking macabre by Raimi & Bruce Cambell’s Ash. 9.3/10.
Intricate in wildly sharp-cutting camerawork, paranoia-atmospheric, and with phenomenally chilly turns led by Dakota Johnson and Swinton, Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake is a slow-simmering, hypnotic descent into madness. 9.2/10.
Midsommar is one of the most breathtakingly original, messed-up, *wild* films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like The Wicker Man meets The Sound Of Music – on crack, assaulting our senses in the best way possible for a cinematic acid-trip unlike any other of the 21st-century. Aster has proven that he, along with Peele and Eggers, are three of the best modern horror directors of our time. A masterclass of folk horror with some of most psychologically-disturbing macabre I’ve *ever* witnessed brilliantly juxtaposing a bright nature motif with fantasticism in daylit xenophobic bases, Midsommar is a visually-wondrous auteurist rococo presage and one of the best horror films of the 2000’s. 9.2/10.
A brilliant and original breath of fresh air for the increasingly-tired Horror that will hopefully signal a market shift to greenlighting more indie/independent idea-over-budget filmmaking, Get Out is the antidote to modern scares. Amazing performances, complex symbolism, racial messages, plot structure, and some of the best psychological/body horror this millennium are just some of the masterpiece achievements it boasts. The only flaw being the darker alternate ending that would’ve made the film even better and a huge disappointment they sold themselves short by going safer with the one we got, regardless, it’s safe to say: Peele has (triumphantly) arrived. A breath of fresh air for the Horror genre establishing a directorial talent-to-watch in Jordan Peele, Get Out explores the psychological and motivating undertones of racism in thrilling and intensely thought-provoking fashion. 9.1/10.
24. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Overall, Mamoulian’s 1931 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is a masterwork of macabre and duality exposition. A film decades or even a century ahead of its time, it still remains a striking and scary product nearly 100 years later – thanks to its magnificence of intangibles stemming from a lovingly-crafted script authentic to the original while highlighting its biggest horror potential in the psychology of abuse as much as its green-faced murderous madman running around on the streets of London, and Frederic March’s iconic Oscar-winning performance as both Jekyll AND Hyde – one of the greatest performances in horror history. A psychologically-rich & VFX-groundbreaking analysis of the duality of mankind catalyzing gothic horror, aristocratic romance, and science-fiction with phenomenal screenwriting, macabre, twists, cinematography, and performances, Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is cinema’s definitive version of the literature and pure Golden Monster-Movie Age. 9.1/10.
25. Train To Busan (2015)
A South-Korean firecracker of zombie brilliance loaded with palpable social commentary on traditional Asian themes of hyper-cleanliness and order twisted into a heavy metal ballad of velocity and carnage, Train To Busan is a high-octane ride of pathos, prolific characterization / screenwriting, impossible cinematography stunts staging its pulse-rattling action sequences in a finite cabin space, some of the scariest zombies the genre’s ever seen, and breathtaking performances. Perhaps the best and most-complete zombie film EVER – a statement on the pure talent of the international film community taking America’s most sacred pop culture phenomenon and ~outdoing us.. on the their first attempt in the genre. Adjusted ~9/10.
Intricacy in camerawork with a synth-arpeggiated score, fine central performance, and dark, original, (needed) metaphoric reflection of the consequences of teen sex with plot holes but a slow-creeping burn paralleling its titular being. 9/10.
A masterstroke of identity horror, racial experience, and dark reflection on America’s past with effectively-chilly atmospherics, unparalleled originality for its time, shocking psychological twists, old-world suspense-building, and one of the best/most innovative orchestral scorings in any Horror film post-2000, Peele has further established himself as one of the most provocative new directorial talents in the game with this sophomore tour-de-force steeped in fresh, dark imagination & sociological injustice. 9/10.
Overall, The Wolf-Man is one of the best Universal Monster movies. The film exemplifies ’30’s/’40’s Golden Age-Horror at its finest: pure escapism of dark tales told in fantastically-shot and searched locations, compelling storytelling, influential narrative constructions, deeper themes analytical of mankind’s primal questions, and killer lead performances that cement their creations as pop culture icons for generations-to-follow. The werewolf tale painted by Richard Waggner and Lou Chaney Jr. is one with ancient roots, brought to life by era-cinematic wizardry to impressively create an entire world & script this good without any literary predecession like Dracula or Wolfman – one that captivates the imagination while loaded with social-commentary, atmosphere, VFX, and scares.. impossibly in a mere 1 hour 9 minutes. Despite the creepiness of Larry Talbot’s introduction to what would become a nice end-romance arc with Gwen, the film ironizes and projects a scary-but-thematically-resonant take on the animalism natural roots of boy-meets-girl, majestically-paints a macabric picture of a nightmare fairy tale village, and packs plenty of horror punch in a finely-acted morality parable that plays on our fear of non-control or hurting the ones we love most. Completing the Trinity Of Universal’s Classic Monsters, 1941’s The Wolf Man is a lyncanthropic fantasy parable amongst the franchise’s best movies – boasting incredible fogset supernatural aesthetics & Wales village setting, exotic and compelling proto-mystery-thrill narrative, humorous ironicization, predatory/sex/fate themes, and career-definitive handsome-and-affable Lou Chaney, Jr. lead performance. 9/10.
29. Insidious (2010)
2010’s Insidious is one of the best supernatural horror films post-2000 – as well as one of the scariest movies I’ve seen of this new millennium. A treasure-trove of slow-simmering, burning atmospheric darkness that takes an ostensibly-normal family and puts them through Hitchcockian trauma, the terror that follows is modern filmmaking and pedigreed-Wan direction at their finest. A wild, sadistic reimagination of the haunted house-film that subverts its norms – with phenomenal set & spectral design, a shrieking violin score, brutal/epic twist-ending, & some of modern-horror’s best supernatural terror in eons, Insidious purely exemplifies the macabric implications of its title in a red-faced, purgatorial imprint that will remain in your psyche like the ghouls of the Further. 8.3/10.
30. Sinister (2012)
Overall, Sinister is one of the scariest modern horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. Scott Derrickson has concocted an old school-meets-new school ghost thriller in every way possible: the film-spliced projector found-footage sequences, the genre clichés like attics/ghost-stories/child-horror/haunted-houses reimagined into a plot filled with diabolical and effective plot twists that subvert each nicely, dark ages iconography brought into the 21st century, clever intellectually-weighty themes like the drug of fame and legacy vs. sustenance, atmospheric escalation in supernatural scares, and character we *gasp* actually care about infused with life by strong Hawke-led performances. The quick-cut pacing and sharply-edited royal-blue-tinted camerawork adds modern edge, film within a film motif adds palpable bludgeoning scares through juxtaposition of golden-hued happy family moments and brutalized serial kills, demonic Babylonian child-eater antagonist design aptly-terrifying, and crime