Top 100 Horror Movies of All Time
Hello, horror fans! Grab your popcorn and join me as I count down the Top 100 Horror Movies of All Time. For the sake of this list, I have not included kaiju/giant monster adventure-thrillers such as Gojira (1954) and King Kong (1933) or musicals with horror elements such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) as such films would be fitting for other genre lists. However, films that operate as both horror and thriller do count, so there is a little bit of genre mixing since not every horror film always just lands into the one genre only. Also, I’m not just judging films on scariness, but rather a mix of factors like scares, influence, and craftsmanship.
Honorable Mentions that nearly cracked the 100 (alphabetical):
The Beyond (1981), The Brood (1979), Candyman (1992), Child’s Play (1988), The Conjuring (2013), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Grindhouse (2007), High Tension (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Hostel (2005), The Howling (1981), Insidious (2010), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), It Follows (2014), Martyrs (2008), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Mummy (1932), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), 28 Weeks Later (2007), Vampyr (1932), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), You’re Next (2011)
“What’s the matter, kid? Don’t ya like clowns?”
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley
IMDB Plot: The murderous, backwoods Firefly family take to the road to escape a vengeful police force which is not afraid of being as ruthless as their target.
Rock musician-turned-director Zombie has been hit-and-miss with his horror efforts thus far. By far his best film to date is The Devil’s Rejects, which keeps getting better with age. The film was a surprise to most film buffs, especially since many didn’t appreciate House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – myself included. With Rejects, Zombie made his three central Firefly Family characters from Corpses more interesting and placed them in a plot that has more to walk away with. Some of his writing and music choices are spot-on in their nodding to 1970s gritty horror, and the three lead actors (especially Moseley) turn in memorable performances. Rejects is an intense, graphic ride into the underbelly of the South.
“Tell somebody who gives a shit.”
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart
IMDB Plot: A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.
Only out for a few months as of now, Saulnier’s Green Room already stands out as a superb genre film. It’s a fine blend of siege thriller and backwoods survival horror, throwing in punk rockers, skinheads, attack dogs, box cutters, and Sir Patrick Stewart into its mix. If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is. Saulnier’s film features tight wire suspense and realistic moments of non-violent people caught in awkwardly violent situations. Plus it has the late Yelchin delivering an excellent lead performance, unfortunately one of his last.
“We have such sights to show you!”
Director: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Doug Bradley
IMDB Plot: An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; demons are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.
Barker’s directorial debut is a nasty bit of business, though some of it is hokier and less effective in recent years. The film takes a bit to get going, but once the iconic Pinhead (Bradley) and his Cenobites appear there are a few show-stopping moments – including an unforgettable one involving hooked chains.
“I just don’t want to become the devil’s bitch.”
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
IMDB Plot: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.
Let’s face it: most modern horror remakes are disappointing throwaways. One of the rare exceptions is Evil Dead. Handpicked by Sam Raimi himself, Alvarez proved himself a true talent of the genre in his directorial debut – and has since made another strong horror film, Don’t Breathe (2016). This Dead manages to inject new ideas (the cold turkey story element makes sense) — and creative new death scenarios – while also paying fine tribute to the original classic. Plus some of the cinematography in unexpectedly gorgeous. Also, duct tape.
“It just got cold in here.”
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh
IMDB Plot: Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers, which no one believes. On the eve of the town’s centennial, many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.
Carpenter and Debra Hill’s screenplay for The Fog is silly in a number of ways – and features thin characters. What makes the film so damn good though is Carpenter’s direction. He delivers with tense and shocking moments, expert camerawork, and brilliant uses of blue and red color tones. It’s 89 quick minutes of ghostly fun.
“Howdy. I’m gonna separate your head from your shoulders. Hope you don’t mind none.”
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton
IMDB Plot: A small-town farmer’s son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is turned by a beautiful drifter.
I considered a few mid-80s vampire flicks for this list, including Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987). But better than those in my opinion is Near Dark, a low-key but fascinating film about bloodsuckers that Bigelow made long before collecting Oscars for The Hurt Locker (2008). It features a young vampire romance that’s actually interesting (step aside, Twilight (2008)) and has Paxton turning in a memorable performance as a badass named Severen.
“I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.”
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Salma Hayek
IMDB Plot: Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires, with chaotic results.
From Dusk Till Dawn is trashy, flashy fun from beginning to end. Featuring a snappy screenplay by Tarantino and colorful direction by Rodriguez, the film never takes itself too seriously as it shifts between gangster pic and survival horror. The whole cast is game, with Clooney turning in one of his first standout lead performances and Hayek performing a sexual dance involving alcohol and a snake that still manages to silence audiences upon its arrival in the movie. Rodriguez and Tarantino tackled horror again with Grindhouse in 2007, and while that film was entertaining From Dusk Till Dawn is much more re-watchable.
“It wasn’t me, Mum! The Babadook did it!”
Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
IMDB Plot: A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
In her feature debut as writer-director, Kent crafted a haunting and complex portrait of grief with The Babadook. On the surface the film is about a spooky boogeyman called the Babadook. Dive underneath and relish the layers of Davis and Wiseman’s performances and you’ll find much more there.
“This howling is the most exciting thing I have ever heard.”
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi
IMDB Plot: Four fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture.
One of the most stomach-churning films on this entire list, Salò is a film that features excessive rape, eyeball-tearing, the forced eating of feces, and other lovely story elements. The film would rank higher on this list if it weren’t so repetitive with its alternating between scenes of torture and stories about the anus. No, I’m not joking. Despite its constant visceral punches, Pasolini’s film (his last before dying) does make one think about the hells that men were willing to dive into in war settings – even outside the battlefields.
“I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I’m the maker of my own evil.”
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill
IMDB Plot: A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.
Possession is a film that starts slowly but then never shifts down to breathe once it gets going. The characters are constantly frantic and running around, but more often in scenes of domestic arguments than in horror elements. The film is metaphoric for the deterioration of a marriage, featuring fantastic, lived-in performances by Adjani and Neill. Also, someone has sex with an octopus creature in this film, so, yeah…