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)
“Mr. Parker, do you know what it means to feel like God?”
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Cast: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen, Kathleen Burke
IMDB Plot: An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.
Laughton gives a tour de force as a mad scientist obsessed with vivisection in Island of Lost Souls – based on H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). The real scene-stealer though is Burke, making her screen debut as Lota the “Panther Woman.” The finale of the film still manages to be unsettling to this day, leaving me thinking about it long after the film had ended.
“Who died and made you fucking king of the zombies?”
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Bill Nighy
IMDB Plot: A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.
Shaun of the Dead is a super clever comedy, but first and foremost it is a full-on zombie film – and an occasionally brutal one at that. The whip-smart dialogue, interesting characters, and nods to Romero and other icons make this a blast from beginning to end. I considered similar films like Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014) for this list, but this film took the edge. It was easily the top horror-comedy of the 2000s.
“Oh, why don’t you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it, that’ll give you a charge.”
Director: Bob Clark
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder
IMDB Plot: During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
Four years before playing Lois Lane in Superman (1978), Kidder stole the show as a loud-mouth in this edge-of-your-seat slasher movie. Halloween may have popularized the slasher sub-genre in 1978, but Black Christmas deserves credit for laying some groundwork. It’s filled with skin-crawling moments, a lot of them unique at the time for often using the point of view of the killer.
“I kick ass for the Lord!”
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody
IMDB Plot: A young man’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.
Ever want to see a scene of an ass-kicking priest killing zombies by using karate? Enter Braindead, an insanely over-the-top 90s mix of slapstick and splatter film in the vein of Evil Dead II (1987). Long before collecting tons of Oscars for his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson focused his sights on low-budget horror gems — the best of them being Braindead. This film is gleefully bloody and a lot of fun for horror fans.
“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.”
Director: Robin Hardy
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento
IMDB Plot: A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.
Years before we got the unintentionally hilarious remake with Nicolas Cage, there was just the original, fascinating Wicker Man. Lee is unforgettable as the cult leader Lord Summerisle, and the actor himself considered it his best film. I’m not sure I would agree, but the movie is unsettling, entertaining, and full of mystery as it examines theology and Celtic paganism.
“It’s sort of a shock to see your head detached that way.”
Director: André De Toth
Cast: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk
IMDB Plot: An associate burns down a wax museum with the owner inside, but he survives only to become vengeful and murderous.
One of the first films to popularize 3-D, House of Wax features an excellent and suitably creepy performance by Price – one that revitalized his career. The whole film presents an uncomfortable vibe, culminating in a chilling and thrilling climax. Wax also features terrific set decoration, with the wax museum feeling alive (wink wink).
“That house is not fit to live in. No one’s been able to live in it.”
Director: Peter Medak
Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
IMDB Plot: A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds himself being haunted by the presence of a spectre.
One of the best haunted house movies of the 1980s, The Changeling comes with a superb performance by Scott as a grief-stricken character. Medak’s film offers both affecting and scary surprises, all set in a house full of terrific production design. There’s also a moment involving a wheelchair that I won’t soon forget.
“There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man.”
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall
IMDB Plot: A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.
One of the most mixed-up blends of genres in all of movies, Predator is horror, sci-fi, action, war, and thriller all in one, also boiled down as a slasher movie and monster movie hybrid. It probably ranks among my twenty-five personal favorite films because it’s able to make that blend work so seamlessly and entertainingly. The film is full of suspense, memorable and badass characters, bloody action, and endlessly quotable lines. It only ranks at number 63 on here and not higher because it stacks a bit better in its action classification and there are some movies that work better as straight-up horror. Still, Predator is one hell of a film.
“Sleep well, Mr. Harker.”
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough
IMDB Plot: Jonathan Harker begets the ire of Count Dracula after he accepts a job at the vampire’s castle under false pretenses.
Remember at number 66 when I argued that The Wicker Man may not feature Lee’s best film role? That’s because it goes to Dracula. Lee, tall and menacing, fashioned a performance here to rival Bela Lugosi’s. The actor went on to become an icon of 50s and 60s horror, starring in numerous productions for Hammer Films – including this one. Lee was one of the greatest actors of all time, and this is one of the films he will long be remembered for.
“So, who will you bet with?”
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch
IMDB Plot: Two violent young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.
Funny Games is brilliant and terrifyingly believable in its depiction of violence; it’s also superior to the 2007 American remake, also by Haneke. The film is full of smart jabs at the tropes of American horror movies, with Frisch (excellent here) occasionally breaking the fourth wall and even rewinding a scene to have it play out differently. There is a bit of a lull in the middle, but everything else is hair-raising and thought-provoking.