The horror genre is likely the hardest to achieve correctly if one is trying for scares. Horror filmmakers must not only master the art of pace and developing tension, but they frequently need to identify something which sets them unique, which is much harder than trying to get laughs in comedy films. Knowing their audience in relation to the numerous horror subgenres and really focusing on one of them, reflecting the neuroses and fears at the core of the human subject through allegory, or—perhaps most importantly—having their finger on the pulse of current sociopolitical issues and commentary, whether timeless or topical—could all contribute to this. The latter category is frequently what gives horror films their true significance.
Updated June 16, 2023: This article has been updated to accurately represent the best horror films ever made and now includes the opinions and input of various MovieWeb writers. We’ve also added more material and entries to keep this topic current.
Horror audiences are extremely well-informed and frequently unduly critical of genre clichés, whether they are seeing slasher, supernatural, psychological, or body horror films. Along with this, special effects technology, politics, morals, and society are all continually evolving. As a result, horror constantly needs to reinvent itself for both its audience and the times. Some films have done a fantastic job of navigating this continual volatility, become not only frightening but completely significant in the process. These are some of not only the best horror films ever made, but also some of the most significant ones, whether for their cultural impact, their allegorical meanings and ideas, or just for being dreadfully horrifying and artistically gorgeous.
Table Of Content
- 1 Alien (1979)
- 2 Black Christmas (1974)
- 3 Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
- 4 Carnival of Souls (1962)
- 5 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
- 6 Dead of Night (1945)
- 7 Don’t Look Now (1973)
- 8 Eyes Without a Face (1960)
- 9 Freaks (1932)
- 10 Get Out (2017)
- 11 Halloween (1978)
- 12 Hereditary (2018)
- 13 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
- 14 It (2017)
- 15 Jaws (1975)
- 16 Let the Right One In (2008)
- 17 Nosferatu (1922)
- 18 Peeping Tom (1960)
- 19 Poltergeist (1982)
- 20 Possession (1981)
- 21 Psycho (1960)
- 22 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
- 23 Scream (1996)
- 24 Suspiria (1977)
- 25 The Blair Witch Project (1999)
- 26 The Descent (2005)
- 27 The Exorcist (1973)
- 28 The Ring (1998)
- 29 The Shining (1980)
- 30 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
- 31 The Thing (1982)
- 32 The Wicker Man (1973)
- 33 The Witch (2015)
- 34 Vampyr (1932)
- 35 Videodrome (1983)
Due to its simplicity, science fiction undertones, and the fact that it takes place entirely in space, Ridley Scott’s Alien isn’t your typical horror movie. It’s even possible to say that it’s more of a science fiction movie than a horror movie. But that doesn’t lessen the overwhelming feeling of dread that permeates the whole 117-minute film. It is a masterclass in producing body terror, amazing jump scares, and gradually developing suspense. The government-approved mining crew clearly gets more than they bargained for when they find the perfect killing machine in the horrifying Xenomorph in the film’s opening sequence of lonely space flight, which is accompanied by a piercing quiet that creates a real sense of suspense.
It’s not just a parable for how the American government treats its military personnel abroad; it’s also a parable for assault, albeit this time it’s women attacking men as’retaliation’ for the overabundance of male-on-female assault scenes in horror movies before to the movie’s release. According to scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon, the “face-hugger” capitalises on the cisgender male’s fear in this instance. A simple, allegorical masterpiece, Alien.
Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas, which came out four years before Halloween, is often cited as the origin of the modern slasher genre. It established the formula for the genre, in which a group of young people, typically women, are killed off one at a time until the last girl is left with no choice but to confront the killer.
In addition to being one of the first, Black Christmas is notable for having a fantastic cast (Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Lynne Gryphon, John Saxon), for utilising the neon haze of Christmastime before countless other horror films would, and for having excellent direction from Bob Clark (who would later create the timeless A Christmas Story, a very different holiday classic).
As a sorority home is overrun by an unidentified killer from the get-go, the Canadian slasher movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. Threatening phone calls, the possibility that someone is residing in the attic, and a beautifully off-kilter performance by Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) put this deal to bed. One of the most frightening scenes ever is the famous phone scenario where the operator and cops try to track down a call.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Bride of Frankenstein is among the many excellent Universal monster films, including The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, Dracula, House of Frankenstein, and yes, even the original Frankenstein. The movie is weirder, sadder, more ambitious, and funnier than virtually any of the others, and it even has a superb dramatised sequence with Mary Shelley, the author of the original Frankenstein, to subtly establish its main themes of atheism, industrialisation, and ethics.
The movie picks up immediately after Frankenstein’s relatively hurried conclusion and elaborates on it to the point that it improves the original movie. As the titular bride, Elsa Lanchester is absolutely excellent. She contrasts Bors Karloff’s renowned Frankenstein with a subtle yet visceral and feline portrayal. After being restored to health by his fiance, Dr. Frankenstein is inspired to carry out more research in the hopes that the Monster’s mate will make everything better (mirror his own relationship). Again, everything ends in tears, but this time the Monster is heartbreakingly humanised, and the idea that humanity will eventually replace God is given catastrophic proportions.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
In Carnival of Souls, a woman who has suffered a mental breakdown due to a vehicle accident attempts to settle down in a new community but is terrorised by shadowy characters and intimidated by intimidating males. The movie is significant for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was one of the first horror films to be from a woman’s perspective and follow a female protagonist, a woman who operates resolutely against social norms and is constantly battling the male gaze that surrounds her; it is also one of the first purely independent mainstream movies, and not just in the horror genre.
Carnival of Souls is an almost DIY art film, but one that is influenced by and devoted to classic horror. It was made for just $33,000 by Harold ‘Herk’ Harvey, who had previously worked primarily on commissioned educational and industrial short films. Everything comes together flawlessly to create a hallucinatory nightmare that would go on to influence George Romero, David Lynch, and countless low-budget horror filmmakers (creepy organ music score, high-contrast black and white visuals, use of Arriflex cameras to film motion, minimalist but eerie makeup).
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
It’s undeniably true that Night of the Living Dead is among the greatest horror pictures ever made and that it was this movie that popularised the zombie genre. That movie is a masterpiece because of its harsh black-and-white photography, perceptive racial politics, eerie imagery, and pessimistic conclusion. However, it may be argued that Dawn of the Dead is not just a better movie, but also one that is scarier and more significant. Dawn of the Dead was able to run (slowly) because Night of the Living Dead was walking.
For the first time, George Romero fully exploits the zombie as a metaphor in his sequel, something he would use in several of his later works. Dawn of the Dead is almost a Marxist polemic, pitting the proletariat heroes (a motley crew that includes the incredible Ken Foree) against the bourgeois zombies (wandering a shopping plaza, dazed consumers addicted to capitalism, cursed to shop for eternity). The colour in Dawn of the Dead is extremely vibrant, the screen bursting with the colourful brightness of branding and fluorescence, and the blood a memorable, perfect crimson. While the black and white of Night of the Living Dead was stunning, Dawn of the Dead’s colour is brilliantly vibrant.
Dawn of the Dead is significant for not just allegorizing the zombie but also for popularising horror comedy by infusing much of the movie with a horrific humour that has influenced horror comedy for decades. Dawn of the Dead is fundamental to horror and to filmmaking in general because of the gore, the performances, the editing, the suspense, and the incredibly powerful, heart-pounding conclusion.
Dead of Night (1945)
The terrifying British horror film Dead of Night, one of the first and best anthology pictures, mastered the genre even before series like V/H/S. The framing concept of Dead of Night is tight and fantastic, with a group of people conversing and testing one of their own purported psychic skills in an English rural hamlet. The stories will finally overlap in a startling and eerie conclusion, but they stand on their own as brilliant pieces that contain dark humour and some chilling imagery that has influenced British horror ever since.
With evil puppets, murderous adulterers, bloodshed at Christmas, and wandering ghosts, Dead of Night seems to foreshadow European horror of the 20th century and many of the tropes that have now become required for the genre. Dead of Night is arguably the first horror film to premiere after England banned the genre during the war. It feels like a direct result of the collective traumas experienced by the British during World War II.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
One of the horror films from the 1970s that contributed to giving the genre a “highbrow” polish was Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Don’t Look Now takes a measured, methodical, and yet nevertheless profoundly unnerving approach to frightening audiences rather than playing into pulpy cliches or relying on shock value. Here, Roeg’s signature dreamlike editing and photography are constantly present and employed to great effect.
Following a married couple that moved to Venice after losing their daughter in an accident, our story follows them. The two appear to glimpse their daughter in passing flashes throughout the city, but nothing is as it seems. It’s a brilliant exploration of loss and one of the scariest films of the 1970s, but it’s also a startlingly candid look at marriage and, given its subject matter, an extremely sensual film. As a result, it almost analyses how sex and violence interacted to give birth to a new genre of horror film in 1960 with Psycho and Peeping Tom.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Les Diaboliques by Clouzot and Georges Franju’s masterpiece, Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans visage), two of the greatest horror films ever made, were both made in France between 1955 and 1960. While French horror films didn’t really start to become popular until the horrifying (or just disgusting) New French Extremity movement of the 2000s, they did produce two of the best horror films ever made.
In the strangely poetic movie, a famous doctor tries to fix his daughter’s face after a terrible tragedy, turning the “mad scientist” cliché into something more lovely, dreamy, and depressing. The doctor secretly abducts women while she is assumed to be dead and makes a failed attempt to transplant their faces onto his daughter’s.
It occasionally transitions into pure cinematic poetry while simultaneously being graphically distressing (calling to mind Franju’s traumatising short documentary on slaughterhouses, Blood of the Beasts). One of the most captivating and enduring horror films ever created is Eyes Without a Face because of the limitless ethereal quality of this haunting movie about addiction, guilt, and identity.
The year after his Bela Lugosi masterpiece, Freaks, the brilliant Tod Browning created another movie that was far more politically wrong, unsettling, and scary. Dracula may still be his most well-known movie. It’s a challenging movie to talk about because so many cast members experienced discrimination, in addition to the potentially exploitative ways in which it portrays various characters.
Browning and his casting director spent a lot of time searching for the perfect cast because they wanted the movie, which is about a jealous and ultimately violent love affair among sideshow artists, to be as real as possible. The heads of MGM were so appalled by the actors’ appearances that they forbade them from entering the studio and confined them to a flimsy tent set up separate from the ‘regular’ staff, despite the fact that they filled the movie with marvellously original funfair professionals.
The casting was effective, and despite the fact that Freaks humanised these characters (who, for the most part, gave amazing, unforgettable performances), people protested the movie because it upset them. One woman nearly filed a lawsuit against MGM, making the absurd argument that Freaks led to her miscarriage. Years later, the movie would gain a cult following through late-night TV airings and be hailed as one of the best films ever produced. It serves as a terrifying, Boschian vision of the outcasts, reminding us that we are all “one of them.”
Get Out (2017)
There isn’t much to say about this Blumhouse classic that hasn’t already been spoken. Get Out, a straightforward Oscar candidate, was a crash course in low-budget filmmaking; it was shot over the course of 23 days on a meagre $5 million budget. However, spectators didn’t appear to care. In actuality, it brought in close to $250 million globally. Jordan Peele, who also worked as the movie’s writer and producer, made more than $100,000 in his first picture as a director, making him the first African-American to hold those positions. Not only that, but in the process, he also won the 2018 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
The underlying atmosphere of uneasiness throughout is what distinguishes this as a wonderful atmospheric horror film. Even though meeting the parents can be challenging, this is perhaps the worst consequence conceivable. Its capacity to socially critique and spark discussions on race relations, which was inspired by films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, will eternally solidify its status as a must-see movie.
In Halloween, John Carpenter popularised the first-person, knife-wielding approach of Italian Giallo flicks for American viewers, or, in Michael Meyers’ case, strolled ominously slowly with it. The movie, which was originally titled The Babysitter Murders, depicts Michael Meyers preying on teenage girls on the holiday in question until he runs across Laurie Strode, the innocent victim-turned-hero.
The movie established (and transcended) numerous horror cinema conventions, including the ‘final girl’ horror stereotype and the unkillable monster. It also helped establish one of the most significant series in horror history. The surviving virgin of the final girl cliché has been an unwritten “rule” in the slasher subgenre for decades, and it was a key component of the “moral conservative” sociopolitical effect on the horror genre in the late ’70s and ’80s.
Ari Aster quickly established himself in the huge horror film archives with Hereditary, a melancholy film about the dissolution of a suburban family (a common horror topic) and a possession thriller that stood out from the innumerable Exorcist ripoffs. He shows a family gradually disintegrating as a result of loss, grief, rage, and supernatural intervention with the help of Toni Collette’s Oscar-worthy performance.
Hereditary may be one of the horror genre films that has the most situations that are dramatic, unexpected, and psychologically traumatic. Although it may have been overrated, there is no denying that it contributed to the current new wave in “elevated horror,” which has seen the genre produce some of the most thrilling, original works in all of film. Your mind will be plagued by the horrifying visions it creates.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The horror genre has never seen another creation like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Since its legendary start in the 1950s, the movie has been made in almost every decade, but what makes them all so fascinating is how they all address significant societal concerns related to the time of their release. The 1970s version was an allegory for Watergate and public distrust; Abel Ferrara’s brilliant Body Snatchers was a commentary on both the American military and AIDS; and the 2007 film The Invasion, which starred Nicole Kidman, addressed the Iraq War and international terrorism. Even yet, the creation of a new version is progressing slowly.
The 1978 version, directed by Philip Kaufman, might be the best, as it mixes excellent acting, amazing graphics, repulsive gore, and a masterfully unsettling finale that will haunt viewers for a long time after the movie has ended. It may have been one of the best horror films of the 1970s because of its political and cultural undertone, but its aesthetic, desolation, and resolution make it one of the most significant scary pictures ever made.
When it debuted in 2017, this adaptation of It revived a Stephen King classic (and the frightening clown that went along with it) in the unlikely event that the pupil surpasses the teacher. The terrifying Pennywise, brought back from his watery death by Bill Skarsgrd, encountered a new group of outcasts. Tim Curry’s legacy was undoubtedly difficult to complete, but Skarsgrd’s portrayal of The Dancing Clown could not be topped. This ferociously terrifying homage to the 1990 original single-handedly revived the reputation of the made-up town of Derry, Maine, spurring a wave of cosplay in its aftermath.
A whole generation of spectators was drawn to the theatre by this Spielberg classic. Even though Jaws’ production was plagued by mechanical issues with its famous shark, it still managed to dominate the box office and win three Oscars. This picture put the audience in the character’s perspective, illustrating unequivocally that there are occasions when what an audience can’t see is much worse than anything a character can. It featured cutting-edge cinematography and an iconic original score by John Williams.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Beware of bullies! When it was released in 2008, the Swedish horror movie Let the Right One In revitalised the stale vampire genre. In it, a young bullied boy befriends a weird female who tells him her secret, which may or may not have something to do with one or more dead townspeople. Will this cause him to become her Renfield?
John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also functioned as the film’s only screenwriter, wrote the 2004 novel on which this movie is based. The language barrier doesn’t affect how scary this film is—or perhaps it does. This movie is quite disturbing to see since it focuses on the dark aspect of humanity as told through simple “children.”
The original Nosferatu, the vampire movie to end all vampire movies, must be honoured while discussing the best and most important horror flicks. Although a Robert Eggers-directed version of the same name is forthcoming, F.W. The genre’s earliest high point is still Murnau’s silent version. Nosferatu, on the other hand, is over a century old and visibly antiquated. As a result, it continues to be regarded as one of the best horror films ever made thanks to its expressionistic filmmaking and creative imagery.
This early, unofficial Dracula adaptation (in which a vampire uses a real estate agent as a means of travelling to a more populous area where he stalks the man’s partner) is somehow made better by being silent; the gloomy, stilted filmmaking ups the spook factor and creates a particularly chilling atmosphere. The only other vampire that might be scarier than Max Schreck’s iconic performance as the title character is Reggie Nalder in Salem’s Lot. Don’t trust us? Try watching it by yourself in a pitch-black, deserted home. Your shadow will be the one you are avoiding.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Cinephiles have been debating which movie is the superior and most significant for nearly 60 years: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or Powell & Pressburger’s Peeping Tom? Both films were released in 1960, but for whatever reason, Psycho became more popular than Peeping Tom. It was undoubtedly the graphic nature of the Psycho shower scene and the flushing toilet, as well as the way Peeping Tom purposefully incriminates the viewer by placing them in the killer’s shoes.
The movie, which follows a cameraman who literally kills with his camera (after attaching a blade to it so that he can record his victims), is one of the first great meta-commentsaries on media consumption and our society’s addiction to violence. Peeping Tom, a real outlier in Powell & Pressburger’s collective filmography (which featured masterpieces like The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus), still embodies their aesthetic thanks to its stunning colour palettes, which makes this early example of slasher horror all the more unsettling.
With stunning graphics and a Spielbergian sense of wonder, Poltergeist addresses traditional horror genre worries including the supernatural, clowns, broken technology, and the loss of family. The movie, which is another horror critique of the suburbs, can be interpreted as an allegory for the most extreme and capitalistic form of relocating the nuclear family to the suburbs in the Reagan era (first in the 1950s, then in the 1980s), with no regard for the working class or people of colour who are trampled on in the process. After all, the house was possessed because it was purposefully constructed over an indigenous peoples’ graveyard.
To make a quick cash, the real estate purchase was completed without even giving thought to the deceased. The results were disastrous: their daughter was held captive by the ghosts of the deceased buried under the house, their son was attacked by a toy clown and nearly eaten by a living tree, and their pool was filled with the coffins used to build the house. Poltergeist is a superb example of how to elicit frights without resorting to gratuitous violence or gore, and it surpasses nearly every R-rated horror movie ever made for a family film with a PG rating.
One thing is certain, however: Isabelle Adjani’s performance in Possession is possibly the best in all of horror cinema. Possession is a strange movie, and some viewers could be perplexed by it while others might be extremely upset. Here, she is acting like a lunatic who is fully out of control, completely exposed, and who alternates between intimidating eroticism and violently aggressive lunacy. The 1981 film by Andrzej Uawski resembles a Cold War thriller and a sinister love story that have been blasted with horrific horror.
Sam Neill believes his wife Adjani is having an extramarital affair, and after doing some investigating he learns that she has hooked up with a repulsive monster. Possession is a crazy jumble of cinematic genius that is political allegorically charged, profoundly psychological, and horrifyingly visually.
Without Psycho, an Alfred Hitchcock film about a man’s (Anthony Perkins) frightening fixation with his mother and the Freudian dangers of parents forbidding their children from being independent adults out of concern about empty nest syndrome, the American slasher subgenre would not exist. The movie is notorious for its unexpected nihilism, its choice to stop following the lead actor midway through the movie, and its unsettling atmosphere, which served as the impetus for an entirely new genre of atmospheric horror.
Let’s not forget the iconic shower scene, which featured the first-person stabbing perspective cut between obscene sexual imagery that would later become a hallmark in great Giallo horror films and the following slasher flicks of the 1980s. Psycho is Hitchcock’s most perfect distillation of tension and sexuality, and it gave rise to a new era in horror. Psycho was initially extensively restricted due to its brutality and commentary about gender and sexuality.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Without the fabled Rosemary’s Baby, no list of this nature would be complete. Although Polanski’s other horror masterpieces, Repulsion and especially The Tenant, might easily be included here, it is an enduring classic of the genre and one of the most paranoia-inspiring films ever made. A young couple settles into a lovely new flat; they become friends with their neighbours, and eventually become parents for the first time. But what ought to be a joyful turn of events instead turns into a nightmare.
You should watch Rosemary’s Baby if Satanic cults give you the creeps. Rosemary’s Baby perfectly portrayed the evil that was simmering below the surface, ready to burst, as a cinematic counterpoint to the hippy movement and the peace and love that was being broadcast across media.
Near the turn of the century (and millennium), the film Scream made the meta subgenre popular. Of course, the first movie in a series is usually the finest one—especially in this instance. Still, the series succeeded, with the fifth and most recent entry being so successful that even Scream VI has performed exceptionally well. Meanwhile, Wes Craven’s debut feature is deservedly regarded as a classic that helped pave the way for meta-commentary films and the sardonic, almost Brechtian distanciation that would dominate cinema in the 1990s.
The plot follows a high school that is being tormented by a mystery Ghostface killer who is silently filming his own movie with each murder. The scenario is set in the fictional town of Woodsboro. The original movie, which has the tagline “Someone has taken their love of scary films one step too far!” set the stage for a brilliant sequel and a surprisingly strong franchise. It also delivered some of the same shocks that Psycho did three decades earlier by being willing to kill off important characters and subvert audience expectations.
One of the most original and clever horror films ever created is Suspiria, which is also possibly Dario Argento’s best Giallo movie. Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), an American ballet student with high career expectations, transfers to a famous dancing institution in Germany only to learn later that the school is actually run by a homicidal coven of witches. Suspiria moved into the vividly coloured occult with an iconic ’70s film score and repetitively hypnogogic music from Goblin blasting over scenes that mostly shy away from the usual single-person murder mystery plot.
One of the scariest films ever made, the movie masterfully builds tension and features a murder scene so graphic that eight minutes had to be taken out of the American version to make it pass for an R-rated movie. The Halloween films, which naturally spurred the revival of the slasher horror subgenre, were directly influenced by Suspiria. Numerous horror directors have since been influenced by Argento’s preference for style over content.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Although the earliest found-footage movie is thought to be Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project revived the subgenre in 1999 and, for better or worse, mastered it at the same time. Audiences were frightened when the movie, about a group of student filmmakers who travel into the enigmatic Black Hills to look into an urban legend, was released. The film skillfully improvised much of the language from its 35-page script while using largely novice actors, giving the impression of a genuine home movie.
The movie’s exceptional critical and financial success—it made $250 million worldwide on a budget of just $400,000—revived the horror genre for the impending 21st century. The Blair Witch Project continues to be the most significant found-footage horror film, despite having contributed to both the greatest and the worst.
The Descent (2005)
Six buddies gather in an instant classic following a terrible tragedy involving the protagonist’s family. The group of young women chooses to travel to the isolated Western Appalachians and go cave diving even though she is still recovering and grieving a lot. The group sets out on what they thought would be a fun bonding excursion, but when they encounter savage animals, their descend into the shadowy depths of the ground takes a claustrophobic and horrifying turn.
Strong female characters that are simultaneously messy and greedy, as we all occasionally are, are exciting to watch, and the film’s metaphoric framework allows for a wide range of interpretations. The movie is a literal journey into the psyches of feminist politics and 21st-century liberty, with numerous neuroses and cultural difficulties practically showing themselves in horrifying scenarios. Additionally, the books’ magnificent fake-out finale in The Descent still gives us the goosebumps years later.
The Exorcist (1973)
The 1973 release of The Exorcist served as the model for countless more lesser-known possession films that would follow. Regan (Linda Blair), a sweet 12-year-old girl, is possessed after an elderly priest unintentionally lets out a demon in the movie, which might have seemed like typical B-movie fare, but it showed how well-made horror can be both critically praised and financially successful. As is frequently the case with scary movies (which may be indicative of our collective preoccupation with the horror genre), spectators at the time were both horrified and strangely captivated to the movie.
Freaks brought horror cinema full circle as fans puked, collapsed, and one lady in New York reportedly miscarried following a screening of The Exorcist, which at the time was more intense than most theatres had ever seen. Extreme crowd reactions sparked protests (which increased interest even more), and theatres hired ambulances to wait outside their doors in case any additional health problems among their patrons developed. Although special effects and storytelling skills have advanced over the past 50 years and nothing like it has been seen since, for many people The Exorcist remains the most frightful film they have ever seen. Up until 2017’s It, the movie had the most R-rated box office earnings, largely because of its ability to shock and disgust viewers while still managing to be artistic. Because of its creativity and appeal, the horror movie as we know it now has been transformed.
The Ring (1998)
Japanese supernatural horror film The Ring, often known as Ringu to North American viewers, is based on the Koji Suzuki novel. This movie’s three main actors were Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, and Hiroyuki Sanada, not Naomi Watts, as in the 2002 version.
This movie (and, technically, its remakes) is exceptional in that it created terror before people even turned on the television to watch. The idea was straightforward: watch this cursed movie and get yourself cursed. Not just cursed, but also destined to pass away within the next week. This raised the question of whether watching this haunted VHS might cause its viewers to pass away, even vicariously. Thankfully, the response was a categorical no. Nevertheless, it got a whole new generation of found footage viewers anxiously counting down the days on their analogue calendars.
The Shining (1980)
The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, a movie about a writer’s journey into madness at a haunted hotel during its off-season, is a masterful adaptation of Stephen King’s eponymous novel. Every frame of the movie, which is frequently cited in popular culture, shows how intensely isolated Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is. Fans frequently recite the catchphrases “Redrum!” and “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
With a dash of cabin fever and demonic haunting thrown in, the movie depicts a severe example of family dysfunction in the context of an unhealthily balanced work-life schedule, the stresses society and patriarchy place on the working class. The film’s creativity is renowned, and audiences will always remember its memorable images and scary situations. The Library of Congress selected The Shining to be conserved in the United States National Film Registry because it was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant, like several other major movies in this list.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Tobe Hooper is an investigation into the odd macabre, using the predatory killings of a group of young people in the 1970s as a springboard for something very significant and horrific. Released five years after the Manson murders in 1969 and one year before the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the movie investigates the most extreme interpretation of American freedom and the essence of cult, drawing inspiration from Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left from 1972.
The idea of democratising or forcibly imposing one’s ideas upon others to the point of causing them harm was repeated in Hooper’s distortion of the nuclear family as well as in the appeal of cults among Americans at home and the senseless, cruel carnage of imperialistic endeavours abroad. If the cult is the horrifying pinnacle of expressive freedom, then imperialism overseas is its polar opposite. The fact that Hooper choose hippies as his victims—who opposed the Vietnam War and made up a sizable component of the extended Manson family—underlines the frequently contradictory nature of both the “American way” and “new age” individuality.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an American masterpiece that inspired a plethora of sequels and reboots. It is one of the most startling, brutal, artistic, and thought-provoking horror movies of all time.
The Thing (1982)
Few people’s minds are as vast as John Carpenter’s when it comes to horror. He is unquestionably a maestro of the horror genre, and The Thing is one of his finest works. The movie is a hybrid between a creature feature and Ridley Scott’s Alien, taking place in a remote Antarctic research facility. Change the Nostromo spaceship for a base in the planet’s coldest region; given how remote it is from civilization, this location might as well be in deep space.
All hell breaks loose when a mutated assimilatory bacterium enters the station. It can mimic other living forms perfectly, take in almost everything, and, if allowed to go wild, could theoretically consume all life on Earth. The chances are stacked against R.J. Be prepared for some palpable tension as MacReady (Kurt Russell) battles this unknown “thing.”
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man, the best of a curious trend of British folk horror films, isn’t particularly frightful or intimidating, but that’s actually part of its distinctive appeal. It’s a cheery, upbeat film that serves as a reminder of all the horrifying philosophies, attitudes, and acts of violence that exist right in our own neighbourhoods. It serves as a predecessor to Midsommar, another fantastic horror film, as well as to all the frightful films that play on our shared fear of “the other.”
In The Wicker Man, “the other” has two meanings. Sergeant Neil Howie, a reclusive man, shows himself on a small island that is primarily populated by women. He is obviously an outsider in this odd place, but he is searching for a missing young girl. The Celtic paganism and feminism of this group anger his orthodox Christian religion and strict patriarchal tendencies, and each side feels threatened by the other. His research just drives him further into the island’s sinister reality. The Wicker Man is a timeless film with significant cultural significance. It is a weird, dreamy film with one of the best horror endings.
The Witch (2015)
The Witch by Robert Eggers is one of the ten most spooky films ever made in addition to being a masterful portrayal of early America. The story revolves around a Puritan family who fled their early American town due to an unspecified religious heresy and relocated to a section of undeveloped wilderness. They quickly learn, to their dismay, that witches prowl the nearby woods where their house is located.
The Witch has a terrifyingly creepy opening scene and gradually gets more insane as it progresses to a genuinely disturbing conclusion. The entire film is a fascinating, cerebral examination of the ways in which women challenged patriarchal and religious ideals and how, even 400 years ago, America could not be reinvented. The Witch should particularly appeal to you if you like historical horror.
Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered one of the greatest transcendental directors of all time. He was the visionary behind some of the greatest films ever made and is known for his harsh but spiritual style and persistent reflections on faith. His early masterpiece Vampyr, an unusual outlier in his filmography (which also includes the flawless religious film Ordet and the silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc), contains many of his themes. Horror films typically come the closest to directly tackling spiritual and supernatural issues in a way that has some degree of mass appeal.
The outstanding Danish movie (with an international flair), which was released a year after Dracula, is probably an even better vampire story. Vampyr features eerie, classic imagery that is impossible to forget, from the overall washed-out aesthetic to particular scenes like the ones with the roaming shadows and flour mill scenes. The story centres on a traveller whose stay at an inn is disturbed by paranormal activity, a murder, and the demonic realm.
The horror in David Cronenberg’s career is abundant, although he is not primarily a horror director. He has directed a few horror films (Rabid, Shivers), but his work is generally uncategorizable and visually horrifying. Even though he frequently makes sci-fi, drama, or thriller classics (Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, Crash, Scanners, A History of Violence, etc.), he is the king of “body horror.”
Up until this year’s Crimes of the Future, Videodrome is perhaps his darkest and most unsettling film, but Videodrome is unquestionably superior. The movie centres on a sleazy TV executive who discovers a shady channel that shows brutal BDSM, torture, and other ominous deeds. He attempts to obtain the signal and broadcast it on his own network, but viewers are experiencing a sequence of terrifying hallucinations as a result of the signal’s apparent impact on their minds.
The unsettling satire on the media, violence, and technology in Videodrome, which stars the brilliant Deborah Harry (of the band Blondie) and James Woods in one of his best performances, feels like a direct translation of Marshall McLuhan’s writing. It provokes thought incessantly and is brilliant, disgusting, visually magnificent, and moving.
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