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)
“Just room for one inside, sir.”
Director: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer
Cast: Mervyn Johns, Michael Redgrave, Roland Culver
IMDB Plot: An architect senses impending doom as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality. The guests at the country house encourage him to stay as they take turns telling supernatural tales.
Perhaps the ultimate horror anthology film, Dead of Night features a number of fantastic supernatural stories – all framed together by an interesting story in the country house setting. Two of the segments, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” by Cavalcanti and “The Haunted Mirror” by Hamer, are masterpieces of craft. “Dummy” also features an unforgettable turn by Redgrave as Maxwell Frere. If you want a set of classic shorts that are mysterious, amusing, and highly entertaining, Dead of Night is the way to go.
“For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you’re a wise man, Van Helsing.”
Director: Tod Browning
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners
IMDB Plot: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
The model American version of the most famous of big screen vampires, Dracula is still a marvelous treat to this day. Lugosi was one of the treasured greats of horror in the Golden Age, and Dracula is his quintessential film for viewing. A few moments are a bit stiff nowadays, but Browning’s film still packs its share of classically creepy moments.
“Red. I might have known it would be red.”
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta
IMDB Plot: Carrie White, a shy, friendless 17 year-old girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
De Palma’s slick and stylish adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, was the first film based on any of King’s work – and it remains one of the finest. It’s one of the prime horror films in depicting teen angst and bullying and parental overprotection. Spacek is simply phenomenal in the title role, and it’s easy to see how the movie boosted her and her co-stars’ careers. The prom sequence is still a knockout as well.
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
IMDB Plot: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
What The Evil Dead lacks in its low-budget look (it was made cheaply by college students), it makes up for that ten-fold in its filmmaking creativity and energy. Gross and eye-opening but also highly amusing, Raimi’s Dead has developed legions of new young adult followers every decade. And for good reason. The movie is a blast of horror insanity from start to finish, from the POV “Raimi Cam” shots to the infamous “tree rape” to the introduction of horror icon Ash Williams (Campbell) and so much more.
“Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
Director: James Whale
Cast: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff
IMDB Plot: An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.
The champion of all the classic Universal Monster movies, Frankenstein is a 71-minute near-masterwork. Karloff is nothing short of legendary as The Monster and Clive is equally as good as the scientist Frankenstein. The ghostly atmosphere is created through triumphant makeup, lighting, production design, and cinematography, some of it still causing chills to this day. The scene involving the girl with the flowers by the lake will be ingrained in my memory forever. Only fault: It’s a bit creaky sometimes in terms of its use of music.
“Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”
Director: George A. Romero
Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger
IMDB Plot: Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.
The second of Romero’s Dead series, Dawn of the Dead is an exciting masterpiece of the zombie sub-genre. Teaming with Italian filmmaker Dario Argento and his music collaboration group Goblin — of Suspiria (1977) – and other experts like makeup artist Tom Savini, Romero and his team fashioned one hell of a film. It’s a vividly brutal satirical jab at the consumerist lifestyle of America, turning gore into a colorful art form on the screen. In some ways I even prefer the film to Night of the Living Dead (1968), especially in its broader action sequences.
“Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.”
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
IMDB Plot: A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.
While the entire film is incredible, it’s one steady-framed, patiently-paced, and utterly terrifying 10-minute scene in Audition that makes it really stand out. You’ll know it when you see it, but I don’t want to spoil what happens here. Let’s just say the sound effects and visuals of it will stick in your mind forever. Miike has had a very prolific and stunning career, and Audition ranks among his finest achievements; it also might be the quintessential Japanese horror film.
“I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.”
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
IMDB Plot: Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl.
Poetic, quiet, moody, and beautiful, Let the Right One In is a standout vampire film. The direction and cinematography have a carefully artistic touch throughout, though neither distract from the story, characters, or themes — which revolve around bullying, romance, and loneliness. Snowy settings have perhaps never looked better in a horror film, and Leandersson’s mesmerizing performance as Eli makes the character rank among the most memorable in vampire history.
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks
IMDB Plot: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.
Evil Dead II is the pinnacle of horror movie sequels. Though it’s a semi-remake of the lower-budget first film (see number 27), Evil Dead II is still zany and original in ways that no other film has captured. It also transformed the character of Ash from whiny survivor into wise-cracking badass, sporting his famous chainsaw arm and “boomstick.” The sound design and cinematography work overtime in the movie, with Raimi pushing uniquely gory and slapstick horror touches to the limits. The scene involving Ash’s own hand getting possessed is pure gold.
“What’s your favorite scary movie?”
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard
IMDB Plot: A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.
Scream might be my favorite horror film in terms of sheer re-watchability. Kevin Williamson’s meta, ultra-smart screenplay features well-developed characters, surprising twists, and some of the snappiest dialogue in all of horror. And Craven gives it all a brilliant touch with his direction, some of his best. From the dynamite opening scene (with Drew Barrymore) onward, Scream both scares and winks at the audience in equal measures. It changed the future of the slasher sub-genre forever.