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)
“This one who’s blind. She’s the one that can see.”
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Cast: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason
IMDB Plot: A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.
Roeg’s artsy and meticulous Don’t Look Now comes across more as drama than horror for the most part today. Some call this a masterpiece and would rank it much higher than I have, but its snail pacing and occasional repetition drop it down a bit for me. Even so, the film has a few magnificent and chilling scenes — mainly in the first and third acts – and Sutherland and Christie paint grief as horror is spellbinding ways.
“Knowledge is more important than life.”
Director: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Cast: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, James Arness
IMDB Plot: Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.
The first of four film adaptations of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?,” The Thing from Another World is one of the best horror movies of the 50s. It mashes together the paranoia horror film and monster horror film styles of the decade in a balanced fashion, building up its setting and characters before diving into survival picture mode. It lacks the mysterious element that John Carpenter’s 1982 version has (as the creature in this one doesn’t imitate others), but in return it gives us a central relationship between Tobey and Sheridan’s characters that is palpable.
“The devil’s backbone. Children who should never have been born.”
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi
IMDB Plot: After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy’s orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.
Before striking it big with the fantasy drama Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), del Toro tackled an adolescent ghost story with The Devil’s Backbone. The film has some of his more interesting characters in his filmography, with each of them building believable relationships with one another. Noriega — who curiously looks like a Spanish version of Eli Roth — turns in a delicious performance as Jacinto. The beautiful cinematography by Guillermo Navarro is also a highlight.
“I’m an English teacher, not fucking Tomb Raider.”
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid
IMDB Plot: A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.
The Descent did for spelunking what Jaws (1975) did for swimming. Marshall expertly uses his cave environment in order to build maximum tension and atmosphere – and to deliver some truly terrifying and claustrophobic moments. The film also refreshingly goes against conventions in having an all-female cast, with everyone giving excellent performances. If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping, shock-and-awe terror to watch in the dark, The Descent is one of the best choices you could select.
“I want to play a game.”
Director: James Wan
Cast: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover
IMDB Plot: Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there or why, and soon discover they are pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.
Saw was only Wan’s second feature as director (following the little-seen Stygian (2000)) but is still his best film in my opinion. Featuring one of the most amazing endings in all of horror, Saw is an ingenious blend of mystery and brutality in the tonal vein of Se7en (1995). The many sequels and imitators could never match the skillfulness of this original, with quality across the board from the prop of Billy the Puppet to the exciting music score by Charlie Clouser.
“You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?”
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
IMDB Plot: A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
Speaking of great endings to horror movies, The Mist also has one – though it’s depressing and controversial. The film is a gripping and immersive piece of horror cinema, examining the deterioration of societal norms once the shit hits the fan. The scariest thing in the film is not the monstrous things in the mist, but rather Harden’s cult leader-like character. She’s terrific in the role, and the whole cast matches her level. Darabont’s film is also graced with top-notch visual effects, music, and cinematography.
“That’s the dawn breeze…”
Director: Lewis Allen
Cast: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Gail Russell
IMDB Plot: A composer and his sister discover that the reason they are able to purchase a beautiful gothic seacoast mansion very cheaply is the house’s unsavory past.
Stunning black-and-white cinematography and a sweet romantic relationship are just two of the standout elements of The Uninvited. Milland and Russell’s rich performances drive the film forward, with impressive effects and plot twists aiding the story as well. Bonus: this is the film that spawned the beautiful tune “Stella by Starlight.”
Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
IMDB Plot: Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.
The year 1999 had a few game-changing horror movies. The first one to hit this list is The Blair Witch Project, a landmark piece of filmmaking that changed the future of found footage films and viral marketing; the fact that some people actually thought the horror on-screen was real is a testament to this. Project is all about atmosphere and suspense built on minimalist things such as fear of the dark and the woods. And it leads to an ambiguous ending that pleased some and pissed off others. The film is often imitated but has rarely been matched in both style and influence.
“Separation can be a… terrifying thing.”
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske
IMDB Plot: Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.
How Irons wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for Dead Ringers is beyond me. The actor plays the twins Beverly and Elliot to perfection, managing to translate two distinctly different personalities. What’s more, the film also features some of Cronenberg’s most subtle and remarkable touches in horror, mostly setting aside his fascination with body horror and instead focusing on psychological meltdowns. Ringers is a powerful piece of work and is among Cronenberg’s best films.
“I suggest you leave, Mr. Winthrop. No? Then perish with us.”
Director: Roger Corman
Cast: Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey, Harry Ellerbe
IMDB Plot: Upon entering his fiancée’s family mansion, a man discovers a savage family curse and fears that his future brother-in-law has entombed his bride-to-be prematurely.
The first of a run of Corman films based on works by Edgar Allan Poe, House of Usher is among the director’s finest efforts. The film takes some creative liberties in its adaptation, but most of them pay off terrifically. Usher features one of Price’s prime performances, intelligent dialogue, vivid production design, and incredible camerawork. It’s a near-perfect “family curse” movie that holds up even by today’s technical standards.