1. The Exorcist (1973)
Drawing on a primordial current of our most engrained fear, with aggressive horror, wildly-disturbing imagery, & religious combat as iconic as its Georgetown steps and demon-walk, The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made. Adjusted ~10/10.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1982)
A surrealist attack on the shared, sacred human experience of dreams that hits genre fans hardest in what its films inspire: lack of sleep, horror icon Wes Craven delivers a film that will haunt your nightmares for decades to come. 9.7/10.
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1975)
Physically overwhelming & twisted beyond compare, while doing so without even the need for gore or cheap tricks + budgetary inflation, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is slasher movies on acid & the wildest horror movie ever made. 9.7/10.
4. Insidious (2010)
2010’s Insidious is one of the best supernatural horror film I’ve seen 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.
5. 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 scene investigation plot far more ambitious in misdirection-riddled storytelling prowess far above almost all other ghost movies. If there are a couple of vexations, besides the everpresent hallmarks of horror every junkie and newcomer will immediately recognize (although they’re reinvented so they get a pass from us), it’s the ‘shh’ constanality, miscast girl child actress, and final frame being a exploitable jump-scare when the film does so well without the need for them beforehand – especially in that asylum-white blood-red painted walls legendary horror aesthetic sequence right before it. This is, of course, nitpicking a new age scarefest far above most of its genre-kin today. A collection of blood-curdling old-school-meets-new-school Blumhouse scares like Exorcist-meets-The-Shining-meets-Children-Of-The-Corn-meets-Ju-On earning the crown of (physiologically)-scariest movie ever made given by Science – with a classicism framework in plot-resonant old projector film splices, dark ages iconography, crime mystery investigation, meta-genre juxtapositions, and Hawke-led performances/characters to care about. 9/10.
Absolutely twisted with brutal demonic horror, crisp cult/splatter direction by Alvarez, strong characterization, & chilling forest visuals, although lacking Bruce’s Ash, this is the ultra-dark reboot fans deserve and rare original-level reboot. 7.5/10.
5. Alien (1979)
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. 9.9/10.
6. 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. Adjusted ~9.8/10.
10. 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. Adjusted ~9.7/10.
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. 9.5/10.
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. Adjusted ~9.5/10.
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.
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.
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.
32. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Disturbingly twisting the joyous occasion of expectant motherhood with a paranoia of the one’s you loved in elaborate chess-like motif undertonally, Rosemary’s Baby is a meticulously crafted & executed, albeit ~tame by today’s standards, scarefest. 8.5/10.
33. Friday the 13th (1980)
With an iconic backdrop of Camp Crystal Lake arguably still the best slasher setting to date, effective scares archetyping many now-genre norms, & shocking final reveal, the original F13 is one of the definitive and entertaining ’80’s golden-age slasher flicks – as well as one of the most influential films in genre history exploding the slasher genre in pop culture and setting a trend (for sometimes better, sometimes worse) of sequels with the most-ever to its name. 8.7/10.
A chilling concept meta-invoking fear of the horror movie you’re watching with undertonal analysis of the man’s mortality & fear of lives-unlived through a lost-tape, supernatural mystery unsettling-motif that bewilders and bludgeoningly-scares to this day. Adjusted 8.7/10.
38. [REC]/Quarantine (2007)
A wild found-footage outbreak that unfolds from patient zero in real time, [REC] & Quarantine (being the same film in Spanish/American motifs) have delivered one of the most pulse-rattling, creative, crescendoing visceral jolts of limewire electricity the modern pandemic genre and biological sci-fi/horror has seen in Quarantine. Blair Witch Project x 28 Days Later with a hint of The Shining and Paranormal Activity. 8.4/10.
A complex, massively-influential slasher film blackening a joyous time of year as the first-ever holiday horror movie – with groundbreaking POV-transposition into the eyes of the killer, bone-chilling horror sequences, prognostic mental health cogitation, a fascinating central mystery, and wild twist-ending. 8.4/10.
Much scarier, better cinematographed, clever in its lore-expansion, and stronger than 1999’s original in every cinematic aspect except found-footage reinvigorized originality, Blair Witch shows what BWP’s vision could’ve been at maximum execution. 7.6/10.
42. The Conjuring (2013)
Slow-simmering in scares anchored by frightening true background inklings and progressive escalation bolstered by Wan’s painstaking direction and attention to detail, but hindered by a slow start & ill-cast family members. 8.5/10.
45. The Babadook (2014)
With atmospheric tension-building & old-fashioned scares, as well as a respectably unique concept & artistic direction, The Babadook is Indie horror at its finest. 8.2/10.
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. 10/10.
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