17 Highest-Rated Horror Movies, According to IMDb

Focusing on movies that have had 25,000 or more votes, here's a look at a few of the highest-rated horror movies according to IMDb user ratings.

With over 38,000 horror titles on IMDb , it can be difficult to choose which horror movies to watch. However, IMDb has made it easier by compiling the highest-rated horror films by user rating. These movies all have at least 25,000 user votes on the platform, making them among some of the most popular horror films ever made, according to IMDb users. From great psychological thrillers to slasher classics, here are the top seventeen highest-rated horror movies by users on IMDb.

Updated on September 23rd, 2023, by Angela Campbell: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new Westerns.

17 Evil Dead Rise (2023)

Imdb rating: 6.6.

Evil Dead Rise

One of the most recent films to grace the list, Lee Cronin's 2023 psychological horror hit, Evil Dead Rise , is the fifth installment of Sam Raimi's beloved horror franchise that centers on the strained relationship between sisters Beth and Ellie (Lily Sullivan & Alyssa Sutherland) as they fight to protect their family from demonic creatures after they discover a nefarious book containing unfathomable evil. The estranged duo must put aside their issues and battle against flesh-possessing demons while confronting terrifying nightmares if they have any hopes of surviving the horror.

Evil Dead Rise was a knockout with both critics and longtime fans of the series, nabbing an 8.1 IMDb rating as well as a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. Deadline Hollywood declared in their review that the film "feels like a real return to form. It’s funny, absurd, gory, bleak, and will keep viewers on edge–just how the fans like it."

16 Talk to Me (2022)

Imdb rating: 7.2.

Talk to Me-3

The newest entry on this list, Talk to Me is an Australian horror film that became a box office hit in 2023, thanks to its original premise, practical effects, and terrifying sound design. A group of teens discovers they can communicate with the dead using an embalmed hand, but one of them breaks the rules, allowing a malevolent force to torment them.

This creepy movie currently has a 7.2 rating on IMBd's list of top horror movies and holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Plus, the movie already has both a prequel and a sequel in the works.

15 I Am Legend (2007)

Will Smith and Abbey the dog in I Am Legend.

Let's all agree on one thing — I Am Legend contains one of the most heart-wrenching and traumatizing scenes in cinema if you love animals. Whether that's the reason it ranks high on IMDb's horror movies list is unclear, but regardless, this Will Smith-led post-apocalyptic thriller is set to get a sequel nearly 20 years after its initial release.

Following a virus outbreak that turned most survivors into cannibalistic mutants, Smith played a loner trying to find a cure for the disease while he also searched for other survivors. I Am Legend blends genres, including science fiction and action, but IMDb users give it high marks for its horror elements. It holds a 7.2 rating from almost 800,000 votes on the site.

14 The Conjuring (2013)

Imdb rating: 7.5.

Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring

The Conjuring universe has spawned several top-rated horror films, and it's all thanks to the 2013 movie that kick-started the franchise. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, this terrifying horror film from director James Wan drew inspiration from the supposed real-life haunting of a family terrorized by an unknown presence in their farmhouse.

Using old-school scares and visceral storytelling, Wan managed to create an entertaining and creepy movie in the vein of classics such as The Amityville Horror. IMDb users have also deemed The Conjuring to be one of the best horror movies on the site, ranking it within the top 15 horror movies. With even more entries in the franchise planned it'll be interesting to see if any future franchise entries can top the original.

13 Get Out (2017)

Imdb rating: 7.8.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out

A modern entry for this list, the critically acclaimed horror hit Get Out proved that social issues can be terrifying when presented under the guise of entertainment. When a Black man accompanies his white girlfriend to meet her family, he discovers a conspiracy in which middle-class white liberals transplant people's brains into others' bodies. While some consider this movie to be more thought-provoking than scary, many critics felt its layered themes of racism created an unsettling atmosphere.

Get Out wasn't only a box office success in 2017, but remains one of the best-rated horror movies of the last decade. It earned four Academy Award nominations and has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with numerous reviews calling it funny, scary, and thought-provoking. With an IMDb rating of 7.8 from approximately 655,000 users, this one proves that original horror can still have a deep impact on viewers.

Related: 19 Oscar-Winning Horror Movies That Shocked and Surprised

12 The Blue Elephant (2014)

Imdb rating: 8.0.

Scene from The Blue Elephant 2014

One of the newer horror films on the list, The Blue Elephant was first released in 2014 and hit audiences with its unique approach to the horror genre. It is an Egyptian film that follows a psychiatrist who is trying to transition back to work after a personal tragedy. Dealing with his own inner demons, finding out one of his friends is a patient in the criminal mental institution where he works sets off a series of events that viewers need to watch to get the full experience of The Blue Elephant .

Also holding an 8.0 user rating on IMDb, this movie is a visually stunning adaptation of the 2012 novel of the same name. It's a perfect balance of suspense and intrigue and an excellent addition to the highest-rated horror movies.

11 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

The 1962 psychological horror thriller Whatever Happened To Baby Jane

This 1962 classic starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis tells the story of two aging sisters who live together. "Baby" Jane Hudson (Davis) is a former child star slowly spiraling into madness while her sister Blanche (Crawford) is confined to a wheelchair after an accident. The two are terrorized by each other in a gripping rivalry that touches on themes of jealousy, loneliness, and mental illness.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane holds an 8.0 rating on IMDb and was nominated for numerous awards, crossing over from the horror genre and into the mainstream thanks to the film's major stars. Overall, the film has become one of the most iconic psychological thrillers in film history.

10 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The 1920 German silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Widely regarded as the first true horror film in history, the 1920 German silent horror picture The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari tells the chilling tale of the titular unhinged hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who manipulates the somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) to carry out a series of gruesome murders. The groundbreaking movie helped pave the way for German cinema and also served as a stepping stone for arthouse films, and was noteworthy for its dramatic and gothic aesthetic and revolutionary and chaotic cinematography.

The highly influential picture currently has an 8.0 IMDb rating and during its worldwide release, women in the audience reportedly screamed and even fainted when Cesare made his spine-tingling reveal. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is considered a classic picture and one of the most lauded and famous German pictures of the silent era.

9 Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Mia Farrow gasps at the horror in Rosemary's Baby

Another psychological horror film on the list is the 1968 Roman Polanski classic Rosemary's Baby . The movie follows a young pregnant woman, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), who moves into a New York City apartment building with her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes). It's clear that the other occupants of the building are not exactly normal, but that's just the beginning of the horror Rosemary will face.

With an 8.0 user rating and several awards, this thriller is an excellent example of how danger can lurk in the most unexpected places. If you're looking for a subtle, suspenseful horror movie with an unnerving and escalating atmosphere , this is the one to watch.

8 Les Diaboliques (1955)

Imdb rating: 8.1.

Les Diaboliques

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques , also referred to as Diabolique , is a 1955 French horror film that has influenced thrillers in countless ways. The film follows two women, Christina Delasalle (Véra Clouzot) and Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), who conspire to murder their mutual lover, Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse).

They try to plan the perfect crime, but they find that things are not as easy as they had planned when Michel's body disappears. This classic thriller has an 8.1 user rating on IMDb and is one that viewers need to watch until the end. If you're looking for a suspenseful, dramatic horror movie with unexpected twists, this is a must-watch.

Related: Modern Horror Classics That Are Great for Any Time of Year

7 The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

The Exorcist is one of the most well-known and highly-regarded horror films of all time. The 1973 classic follows a young girl, Regan (Linda Blair), who becomes possessed by the devil after playing with an Ouija board. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and two priests, Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), are determined to save Regan from the evil forces that have taken over her body.

The Exorcist has an 8.1 user rating on IMDb and won two Academy Awards, as well as four Golden Globes. It has been praised for its iconic '70s soundtrack , acting, and special effects, helping to make it one of the most iconic horror films ever made.

6 Tumbbad (2018)

Imdb rating: 8.2.

Tumbbad movie

Another recent horror movie, Tumbbad is an Indian horror-fantasy film released in 2018. It follows Vinayak (Sohum Shah), a man who is obsessed with discovering the source of wealth said to be hidden in an ancestral home. He ends up traveling to the home with his son, Pandurang, and together they become entangled in a web of deceit, greed, and danger as they try to uncover the mythological secrets of the property.

The cinematography and atmosphere of Tumbbad make it truly unique. It has an 8.2 user rating on IMDb, holding 17 awards and over 22 nominations. It's a fantastic movie for anyone who loves international horror and fantasy.

5 The Thing (1982)

The Thing

Horror icon John Carpenter directed the 1982 classic The Thing , a loose remake that follows a group of scientists in Antarctica who discover an alien life form that can take the shape and form of its victims. The alien is able to spread rapidly, and the group must figure out how to fight it before it's too late. The tension and suspense in this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the grotesque special effects are nothing short of amazing for the 80s.

The Thing has an 8.2 user rating and has incredible performances from Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David. It's a great example of how horror remakes can be done right, and is considered to be a masterpiece by fans of science fiction and horror.

4 The Shining (1980)

Imdb rating: 8.4.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)

The Shining , directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, is a horror movie that follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family as they move into an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Jack is responsible for the Overlook Hotel as the winter caretaker, but his sanity begins to slip away the longer he is there. On the surface, The Shining looks like a standard thriller, but the deeper themes of evil and family tragedy (not to mention the many conspiracy theories about the film ) make it a classic.

The Shining has an 8.4 user rating on IMDb and has earned awards and nominations from both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. It's another horror movie that is guaranteed to linger in the back of your mind long after you've finished watching it and one that has stuck in the cultural lexicon for nearly half a century.

3 Psycho (1960)

Imdb rating: 8.5.

Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960)

One of Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic films, Psycho is a 1960 classic that follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she steals money and flees town, eventually ending up at the Bates Motel. She is greeted by the creepy owner of the motel (Anthony Perkins), who is hiding a dark secret. It doesn't take long for things to take a dark turn for both Marion and her sister (Vera Miles), who also finds herself in danger.

Psycho is a thrilling horror movie that can still hold up today, thanks to how revolutionary and ahead of its time the filmmaking was. It has an 8.5 user rating on IMDb and also won the Best Motion Picture award at the 1961 Edgar Allan Poe Awards. It is full of suspense and great performances, making it clear why it's often referred to as the blueprint for modern horror.

Related: 10 Best A24 Movies, According to IMDb

2 Alien (1979)

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Ridley Scott's 1979 classic, Alien , lands close to the top of IMDb's list of horror movies by user rating with an 8.5. It follows the crew of a spaceship who are sent to explore an unknown planet, only to be attacked by a terrifying alien creature. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is one of the few survivors and must battle against a creature that is relentless in its pursuit.

Alien has since become a classic sci-fi horror movie, and it's no surprise as to why. The combination of suspense and special effects creates a fantastic environment, and the performances of Weaver and her fellow crew members keep you invested throughout. Ripley has become an iconic female character, making this a movie that any fan of horror and feminism alike should watch at least once.

1 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Imdb rating: 8.6.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) hannibal lecter

Revered as one of the greatest and most influential cinematic releases of all time, Jonathan Demme's 1991 psychological horror masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs famously follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she is forced to seek the expertise of the deranged, cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to catch a murderer terrorizing the country.

The acclaimed picture became one of just three films in history to win the five major categories at the Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress for Hopkins and Foster, respectively; 1934's It Happened One Night and 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are the other two that achieved the feat. With an IMDb rating of 8.6 from nearly 1.5 million users, the horror hit is without a doubt one of the most respected and decorated films of its genre.

Screen Rant

10 best horror movies of 2021 so far, according to imdb.

2021 has given horror movie fans blockbuster sequels such as Candyman, independent films like Lamb, and new original concepts such as Malignant

Few genres foster as strong of a fan base as horror does. With a wide range of subgenres and approaches, 2021 has already produced many interesting and, most importantly, scary films for fans of the genre to enjoy.

RELATED: 10 Best Horror Movie Introductions To The Genre

Overall, 2021 has given fans plenty of solid and consistent viewing options that cover everything from blockbuster franchise entries such as Candyman and The Conjuring , smaller independent options like Lamb and Titane , and adaptations of beloved horror literature in the Fear Street trilogy. This diversity of options and range of subgenres ensure that horror fans of all different tastes and preferences will find something to love from this year in film.

Candyman (6.0) - Rent On Apple TV

Anthony stands in the middle of the street in Candyman

The supernatural horror film Candyman is a direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name and follows Anthony as he returns to the now-gentrified Cabrini neighborhood, where he discovers the truth about Candyman.

The sequel makes some innovative changes to the original Candyman , such as turning Candyman into a sort of local hero, while updating the classic for the modern day. By tapping into the social commentary elements from the original, the sequel is able to tell a relevant and timely story.

Don't Breathe 2 (6.1) - Buy On Vudu

The Blind Man wields a gun in Don't Breathe 2

The horror sequel Don't Breathe 2 picks up years after the original and follows Norman as he attempts to live a quiet life with a girl he claims to have adopted. But his ruse is disrupted when the girl is kidnapped, forcing him to leave his home to find her.

While the sequel left fans with many unanswered questions and was not as well-received as the original, it does make some interesting choices and takes the franchise in a completely different direction by changing the setting and injecting more action into the movie.

Blood Red Sky (6.1) - Stream On Netflix

Nadja shields her son in Blood Red Sky

The British-German Netflix movie Blood Red Sky follows a woman with a severe illness who is aboard an airplane that gets hijacked by terrorists. However, the hijackers quickly realize that her illness is not what it seems.

Blood Red Sky is a great airplane thriller that makes use of its claustrophobic setting to maximize the thrills. It is an effective single location film that executes a simple but inventive premise on a high level. It features a great twist that cleverly uses a horror subgenre to set this film apart from other similar movies.

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (6.2) - Stream On Netflix

Sam and Deena looking scared in Fear Street 1994

Netflix launched the ambitious and uniquely released Fear Street trilogy with Fear Street Part One: 1994 , a throwback '90s slasher that follows a group of teens who try to find a way to break an ancient curse before they are killed by seemingly unstoppable murderers.

As the first part of the trilogy, the film does an effective job of introducing the great Fear Street characters and world that the later entries further flesh out. With a nostalgic feel and fun slasher tone, the film is an entertaining start to the Fear Street trilogy. While many fans consider it the weakest of the three movies, it is still one of the better horror films of the year.

Malignant (6.3) - Rent On Apple TV

Annabelle Wallis in Malignant

From fan-favorite horror director James Wan, Malignant is about a woman who sees vivid visions of horrific murders that turn out to be real. Her attempt to figure out why she is seeing these violent crimes leads her to confront dark secrets from her past.

RELATED: 10 Horror Movies Starring The Cast Of The DCEU

Because Malignant 's off-the-wall twist that intentionally sends the movie into B-movie territory is so divisive, some consider the film to be too ridiculous while others loved the bold story choices. The film is undeniably interesting and bound to elicit an emotional response from the viewer.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (6.3) - Stream On HBO Max

Aarne is possessed on a street in The Conjuring The Devil Made Me Do It

Inspired by a true story, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It continues the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren's case files as they encounter a man who claims to have committed murder as a result of demonic possession.

The film is a bit uneven, featuring some genuinely effective and haunting sequences but suffering from some pacing issues. The movie does not fully maximize the potential of its premise, but the presence of the Warrens and some strong moments help elevate the film over other 2021 horror films.

Lamb (6.6) - Not Available To Stream Yet

Maria kisses Ada in Lamb

A24 has recently developed a reputation for releasing slow-burn, thoughtful horror movies and its latest release, Lamb , is no exception. The film tells the story of a child-less couple that discovers a mysterious human-sheep hybrid that they begin raising as their own child.

RELATED: 10 Oscar Nominated Performances In Horror Movies

While the film may not be as traditionally scary as other films, it is an effective psychological horror movie that uses its striking premise and haunting atmosphere to deliver a stirring and emotional metaphor about grief and loss. For those looking to be challenged and stimulated by a horror movie, Lamb is a film worth watching.

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (6.6) - Stream On Netflix

Hannah Miller and Sarah Fier stare into each other's eyes in Fear Street Part Three: 1666

As the conclusion of the Fear Street trilogy, Fear Street Part Three: 1666 brings the story to a climax by exploring Sarah Fier's origin and revealing how the town's history holds the key to stopping the curse in present-day 1994.

1666 does an effective job of balancing the different tones of storylines of the subplots in 1666 and 1994, bringing it all together to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the saga. The film uses a strong atmosphere and an emotional story to communicate the final piece of the puzzle that brings the trilogy to a thrilling end.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (6.7) - Stream On Netflix

Every Jump Scare & Kill In Fear Street 1978 Tommy

Picking up where the previous film left off, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 continues to chronicle the curse that haunts Shadyside, this time following a group of teens in 1978 who attempt to survive a massacre at a summer camp.

While many middle chapters of a trilogy can struggle to live up to the introduction and conclusion, Fear Street manages to deliver its strongest entry in the middle. 1978 does not feel like filler or mere setup for the finale, but instead successfully captures the spirit of classic teen slashers such as Friday the 13th .

Titane (6.9) - Rent On Vudu

Adrien walks down the street in Titane

The French horror film Titane follows a young woman who had a metal plate implanted in her head after a childhood car accident as she grows up to become a serial killer who gets impregnated by a car.

Few films are as visceral or shocking as Titane as director Julia Ducournau continues to push the envelope and use striking body horror imagery to communicate her allegorical stories. The movie is provocative and at times disturbing, but certainly thought-provoking and fascinating, making Titane the best horror movie of 2021 thus far.

NEXT: 10 Cutest Horror Movie Monsters, Ranked

The 10 Highest Rated Horror Movies On IMDb

top rated movies horror imdb

Horror is the country music of movies. Most of them suck, the rest are tolerable, but a few are brilliant—so good that they transcend the tired conventions of an oversimplified genre. This is not meant to be demeaning; it’s simply a fact supported by rating sites like the Internet Movie Database.

Of IMDb’s top 250 films, 181 are in the drama category. Crime has 56 adherents; adventure: 54. Forty-four films are comedies, 36 are thrillers, 33 are mysteries, and 30 are action. Science fiction and fantasy round out the major genres with 24 and 21 films, respectively, while secondary genres like biography, romance, animation, war, and history have 25, 21, 20, 18, and 18 representatives. Even the family genre has 14 disciples.

Horror has just five representatives on IMDb’s list, the least of any genre. Western, horror’s equally finicky and more country-music-analogous counterpart, has more entries, as does the mostly obsolete film-noir genre, with six films a piece.

Despite horror’s oversaturation, this is a clear underrepresentation of the genre, explained not by lack of qualified options but by stigma. Even if a horror movie is, by all stylistic and thematic standards, good, people may give it a bad rating because they were frightened or disturbed. This puts such deserving titles as Let the Right One In (7.9 rating), The Innocents (7.9), 28 Days Later (7.6) and Suspiria (7.5) at a disadvantage. If these films were judged on their merit and not their effect, would they be in the top 250?

Also, IMDb’s list contains movies that are universally considered to be horror, but not by IMDb’s idiosyncratic classification system. Jaws, The Sixth Sense, Aliens, and The Silence of the Lambs are all in the top 250 but are not listed as horror. Unfortunately, since we’re going by IMDb’s ratings, we have to go by their genre classification, and will not include the aforementioned films on this list.

To complete this list of the best horror movies on IMDb, we had to look past the top 250 and find those with high ratings and at least 25,000 votes. This was not a difficult undertaking but a disheartening one: When horror is bad, it’s really bad. But when it’s good, it’s a profound experience not matched in film, and it’s hard to see it marginalized.

10. Rosemary’s Baby (8.0/10)

top rated movies horror imdb

Select movies elicit fear from just the utterance of its name. Rosemary’s Baby is one of those films; a name so outwardly innocent that’s its attachment with horror creates a battery in which both work to power an emotion larger than themselves. The result is not pleasant, and, if this did not deter you, neither is the film.

Directed by the inimitable and incorrigible Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby is about a young married couple, Rosemary and Guy, who move into an apartment building populated with a group of cult-like neighbors. The neighbors quickly implant themselves in the couple’s life, even on the night they plan to conceive a child.

On that night, one neighbor, Minnie, gives Rosemary chocolate mousse, which Rosemary tries and finds repulsive. She passes out and, in one of the most shocking scenes of sacrilegious horror, she “dreams” she is raped by the devil. Much of the film revolves around Rosemary’s ensuing and inexplicable pregnancy, and the final reveal—or lack of reveal, since it’s described not shown—is that the titular baby is the son of the devil. Possibly the scariest part is that Rosemary still loves it.

Rosemary’s Baby predated Jaws with the “imply, don’t show” ideal, cementing its status as a benchmark of suspense, rather than the gory monster movie into which it could have devolved. Polanski would never allow that, of course. The director made a movie about the devil a legitimate cinematic masterpiece. Unusual for horror, Rosemary’s Baby was nominated for two Academy Awards: one for adapted screenplay and the other for supporting actress (Ruth Gordon, who won).

9. The Exorcist (8.0)

top rated movies horror imdb

Rosemary’s Baby may have set the stage for mainstream religious horror, but The Exorcist burned it to the ground. No film shattered viewers’ minds like The Exorcist did in 1973. It wasn’t simply a movie for some people; it was a true demonic visitation.

The story is well established. A 12-year-old girl named Reagan is possessed by a demon and it’s up to two priests to remove the succubus through an old fashioned exorcism. During this process, the demon-controlled Reagan does all sorts of horrific things, like contort her body in unsettling ways, curse worse than the most seasoned sailor, and even violently masturbate with a crucifix.

Since this was done by a 12-year-old girl, and compelled by a demon, viewers were stunned by both the vulgarity and blasphemy, and left the theaters in droves. Not only that, but people wept, fainted, and even puked, forcing some theaters to supply barf bags.

But with the obscenity came a stellar script, inspiring acting, wonderfully dark cinematography—including one of the best uses of subliminal imagery on film—and sophisticated themes, all orchestrated by director William Friedkin. Like with Rosemary’s Baby, the director was not known for horror. Maybe that’s the key to the genre’s artistic legitimacy: get a non-horror director to direct horror scripts. Also like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist was nominated for Oscars, winning two and even being nominated for best picture.

8. Shaun of the Dead (8.0)

shaun-of-the-dead-run

It’s the only comedy on this list, but the comedy comes from the horror. Shaun of the Dead is maybe the best marriage of these disparate genres in film. IMDb thinks so.

Obviously a play off the name of the George A. Romero classic, Shaun of the Dead is about Shaun, a retail employee who just wants to travel to his favorite pub and relax, but a zombie apocalypse hinders this pursuit. It’s up to Shaun, his best friend Ed, and a few other friends and family members to fight through the zombies, reach the pub, and hopefully wash down the arduous day with a cold beer. What ensues is hilarity the likes of which a zombie movie has never seen.

Shaun of the Dead was the first of Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy, along with Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. Wright also directed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Baby Driver. His unique style, which would distinguish his films from most other directors, can be seen in Shaun of the Dead—quick cuts, nuanced dialogue, over-the-top violence. As we can see from Shaun of the Dead’s universal appeal, Wright’s quirks made perfect use in the medium of horror.

7. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (8.1)

a what ever happened to baby jane davis crawford

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane started the psycho-biddy subgenre of horror where old women are the villains. The film, about two washed up entertainers, is a powerful critique of celebrity and a psychological horror staple before the genre was known by name. The titular Jane was a child star under the name of “Baby,” but her star burned out and her younger sister Blanche found the fame that she lost. Blanches loses that too, however, as a car accident paralyzes the starlet from the waist down.

Fast forward a few decades and Jane and Blanche are living together in a mansion. Jane is still resentful of Blanche’s usurping, so she treats her wheelchair-bound sister horribly, and eventually criminally, as Blanche becomes a prisoner of Jane’s delusion. Jane believes that the can reclaim her stardom, but only if Blanche is out of the way. This propels the story through a psychotic thrillride that only sisterly jealousy can facilitate.

The 1962 Oscar winner is a scintillating amalgam of horror, suspense, dark comedy, and gross-out horror. It even contains a few gruesome scenes bordering on body horror. Regardless of classification, it’s unarguably a disturbing movie, and even when weighed against the disturbing-for-disturbing’s sake films of today, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane stands its ground.

6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (8.1)

cabinet-du-dr-caligari

This is said to be the first true horror movie ever made. 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 74-minute German silent film that basically established many of the horror tropes that we love and hate. They weren’t tropes at the time, however, but extremely original and innovative techniques of filmmaking and storytelling, hence its high placement on this list.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari concerns the eponymous doctor whose eponymous cabinet is exhibited in a fair. In this exhibit he displays a sleepwalker whom the good doctor—a hypnotist in actuality—can control on command. When a man is mysteriously murdered after visiting the cabinet, his friend investigates the strange hypnotist and his subject, and discovers a sinister partnership that goes beyond imagination. That’s as much as we want to reveal. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has a twist ending considered one of the first and finest in cinema.

But The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is not just the first horror movie, it’s considered by many to be the first arthouse movie. The warped visuals and disjointed narrative, now arthouse staples, were used for horrific effect in Dr. Caligari, but used now for the subversion of filmic conventions for artistic expression.

9 Replies to “The 10 Highest Rated Horror Movies On IMDb”

[…] By Shane Fraser […]

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‘The Shining’ haters will be here soon in full swing…

‘The Exorcist’ needs to be in top 5 also.

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Do you like The Shining?

Yep. And Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in it. It seems that’s not very popular opinion on this site but I’m not ashamed of it.

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IMDb doesn’t like obscure arthouse movies that only pretentious film students like, therefore their opinion is invalid.

Your ignorance baffles me

thank you for perfectly illustrating my point. Only a true pseudo-contrarian ass like yourself could have done it so well.

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Crawl / back / to / your / hole.

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101 Best Horror Movies of All Time

Do you like scary movies?

Of course you do! Freaking out with your fellow audience member when something shocking happens, or jolting together as one during a primo jump scare, is one of the great pleasures of going to the movies. And over the past 100-plus years, the art form has figured out almost every possible way to frighten us, unnerve us, make our hair stand on us, chill us, thrill us and touch upon our most primal of fears. Then, just when you think it’s safe to go back to the theater, something else comes along that reminds us that there are always new ways to come us screaming in the dark. If you can count on the movies for anything, it’s that there seems to be an exhaustible supply of scares. Naturally, everyone who helped cobble together the 101 best horror films of all time like scary movies. A lot. So we’ve gathered all of the old-school monster movies and modern serial-killer thrillers, the creature features and the slasher flicks, the canon-worthy creepfests from Universal and Hammer and A24, and come up this definitive list (or our definitive list, at least) of the greatest the genre has to offer. Just remember, as you read this list: It’s only a movie. Say that 101 times in a row, and you may just it make through this list… alive!

‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Part The Phantom of the Opera , part The Ten Commandments , this revenge fantasy follows a disfigured concert organist (the inimitable Vincent Price) as he exacts biblical vengeance on the doctors he thinks killed his wife by reenacting Egypt’s Old Testament plagues. Playing opposite Joseph Cotten, Price gives a memorably sinister performance, since for most of the movie Phibes is wearing a mask to look like his face so he can’t move his lips — and when he takes the mask off, he’s a fleshless ghoul … with Vincent Price’s unforgettable voice. A rare horror movie aware of its own camp value, The Abominable Dr. Phibes was marketed with an anti- Love Story tagline: “Love means never having to say you’re ugly.” —K.G.

‘Ganja & Hess’

Ganja & Hess

Long before Black horror became the primary conduit for Black folks to interrogate the daily traumas associated with organized religion, identity and assimilation, writer-director Bill Gunn dared to fit these weighty subjects in one extremely alluring, ahead-of-its-time film. Dr. Hess (Duane Jones) is an anthropologist who becomes a vampire after his assistant, George Meda (Gunn), stabs him with an ancient African dagger. Hess ultimately murders his assistant and takes Meda’s widow, Ganja (Marlene Clark), as a lover. The pair embark on steamy, sticky sex scenes lathered in blood, and some lusty killing sprees. Nearly 50 years since its release, it still feels strikingly modern. —R.D.

‘Cronos’

Cronos

There’s is a device — a sort of clockwork scarab — that, should you unlock it and its spindly, metal legs clamp onto you, may give you the gift of immortality. There’s a catch, however, as the antique store owner (Federico Luppi) who’s stumbled across this ancient artifact soon finds out. It involves the regular consumption of blood. A unique spin on the vampire movie (something you would have thought near-impossible by this point), Guillermo del Toro’s debut movie plays fast and loose with religious iconography, horror-movie tropes, pulp-lit tales of mystery and imagination, and mythology in the most exciting of ways. It’s a perfect introduction to his mix-and-match sense of the macabre, as well as proof that nobody plays a genre-movie heavy better than Ron Perlman. —D.F.

‘Blood and Black Lace’

Blood and Black Lace

Mario Bava has given the world the prototype for the giallo movie in 1963, with his black-and-white thriller The Girl Who Knew Too Much. The next year, he’d give the subgenre it’s first bona fide masterpiece. After a female model is murdered, her bosses and peers begin to fret over a diary the woman kept, and that detailed everyone’s most sordid secrets. Everyone is trying to find the book before its revelations are discovered — including her killer, who is more than willing to slay everyone at the modeling agency in the process. The mix of graphic violence with lurid, eye-popping color and an abundance of stylish touches (the killer’s outfit of fedora, trenchcoat and eerie faceless mask is tres slasher chic) would become staples of these pulpy Italian horror movies into the 1970s, but Bava got there first. And, many would argue, did it best. —D.F.

‘Martin’

Martin

Martin believes he’s an 84-year-old vampire, though he looks 25. He swears he needs to drink blood to survive, but is he just another psycho killer? Much as his victims try, garlic and crucifixes just don’t keep him away. Throughout the movie, Martin asks for help and understanding but receives little, driving him to kill more often — and thus making a statement about mental health a time when people would say, “get over it” to people with problems. “What I’m trying to show in Martin is that we can’t expect the monster to be predictable,” filmmaker George A. Romero once said . That uncertainty, coupled with gory scenes of Martin sedating people and imbibing their blood, engineered by special-effects wiz Tom Savini, is what made the low-budget film an instant cult hit. —K.G.

‘The Blob’

The Blob

Director Irvin Yeaworth’s kitschy, low-budget creature feature about an amorphous, man-eating hunk of Jello from outer space is pure B-movie heaven. A romping teen flick with beach movie vibes — there’s even a catchy theme song by Burt Bacharach and Mack David — it kicks off with Steve Andrews (a still very green Steve McQueen) and his girlfriend Jane (Aneta Corseaut) cruising the Pennsylvania countryside. Then they see a comet streak across the sky, at which point the title “character” emerges to consume a man in front of them,. Despite their pleas to the town’s jaded adults, they aren’t believed until it’s too late. Similar to most 1950s movies, the air of the Cold War hangs heavy above this one. (So it’s a force that keeps spreading and consuming everything in its path? Hmm.). Even more chilling to modern audiences, however, is the dire ecological ending: The blob can be contained if Antarctica remains frozen and intact. Uh-oh. —R.D.

‘The Black Cat’

the black cat

Having already made horror-movie stars out of Bela “Dracula” Lugosi and Boris “Frankenstein’s Monster” Karloff, Universal decided: Why not pair these icons together for double the shrieks? Like its unofficial companion piece The Raven (1935), this inaugural team-up is based loosely — very loosely — on an Edgar Allan Poe work, and finds Lugosi accompanying newlyweds David Manners and Julie Bishop to a castle in Hungary, owned by his old “friend” Karloff. It seems the latter sent his thick-accented buddy to a Siberian gulag after World War I and married the man’s wife; the estate’s master may also dabble in what Manners dubs “supernatural baloney” in his spare time. (“Supernatural, perhaps,” intones Lugosi. “Baloney…perhaps not!”) Revenge, black masses, a homoerotic skin-flaying sequence and some of the most Expressionistic set design this side of Doc Caligari’s office are on deck, with director Edgar G. Ulmer finding exactly the right blend of campiness and creepiness. —D.F.

‘The Descent’

The Descent

As a rule, no good ever comes from trekking out into nature in a horror movie. But writer-director Neil Marshall’s second feature took that truism to disturbing new depths, sending his all-female ensemble down into a cave far beneath the earth’s surface. Long before modern horror fixated on the notion that a film’s terrors ought to be a reflection of the main character’s hidden trauma, The Descent gave the idea teeth, casting Shauna Macdonald as an emotionally scarred widow mourning the tragic deaths of her husband and child — she processes that pain by trying to outwit and outrun the hideous creatures that dwell underground, hungry to feast on her and her friends. Brutally effective and mercilessly paced, the film boasts the funhouse frights of an expert midnight movie. Yet it’s constantly accentuated by the pathos undergirding the scares: Even if this woman makes it out alive, she’ll never get back the part of herself she’s lost forever. —T.G.

‘Trouble Every Day’

Trouble Every Day

Ostensibly, Claire Denis’ 2001 movie is about a newly married couple, Shane (Vincent Gallo) and June (Tricia Vessey), on their honeymoon in Paris. But a growing body count and almost sickening quantities of blood hint at the film’s dark heart, intertwining romance with cannibalism as Shane’s secret reason for visiting the City of Lights is eventually revealed. Despised upon its release and (inaccurately) accused of inspiring audience members to faint from the severity of the onscreen violence, Trouble Every Day is a mesmerizing, grisly meditation on passion and commitment in an age of sexually transmitted diseases. Beneath its gruesome imagery and fixation on pulverized human flesh, however, this horror film comes bearing a touching message: Even monsters need love. Just be careful not to get too close, lest they sink their teeth into you. —T.G.

‘Friday the 13th’

FRIDAY THE 13TH, Kevin Bacon, 1980, (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Two years after Halloween rewrote the rules for teen terror, Friday the 13th upped the ante (and the body count) with a slasher whodunnit. As counselors (including Kevin Bacon) arrive at Camp Crystal Lake, they ignore well-intentioned warnings from Crazy Ralph, and go about carousing and [ gasp! ] having sex on the campground. That’s when the bodies start piling up. When the murderer finally appears, it’s not who any of the counselors thought it would be. And no, in the original Friday the 13th , it wasn’t Jason Voorhees. Unlike the rip-offs ( Sleepaway Camp , The Burning ), which revel solely in bloody kills, or the later Jason flicks, Friday the 13th played up suspense as much as the blood. It’s a shame how a hockey mask made people lose sight of that. —K.G.

‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’

Henry portrait of a serial killer

Henry (Michael Rooker) has a routine: wake up, go to work, murder a woman, pound some beers, repeat. This drifter in the Henry Lee Lucas mold soon introduces his roommate/accomplice, Otis (Tom Towles), to his homicidal lifestyle. Set in a Chicago redolent of John Wayne Gacy, the Chicago Rippers and unspeakable violence behind wholesome Midwestern facades, director John McNaughton’s debut is sometimes a depraved buddy comedy, sometimes a perverse domestic drama, and 100-percent a nightmare. All of its modes are unrelentingly bleak, however, as this movie reveals the banal face of a real multiple murderer. Serial killers are not semi-supernatural evil geniuses — they’re dangerous, dim-witted losers, like these two jagoffs. —K.R.

‘Pet Sematary’

pet sematary

Nestled by the most dangerous road in America — where semi-trucks zoom at seemingly supersonic speeds and turn animals into road kill – lies a most peculiar burial ground. Louis (Dale Midkiff), his wife, Rachel (Denise Crosby), and their young family are recent arrivals to a country home located uncomfortably close to that perilous stretch of asphalt. When their cat dies, their neighbor (Fred Gwynne), however, tells Louis of another site, founded by Indigeous people where things have a tendency to return to life. A Frankenstein myth mixed with zombie-movie tropes and blessed with stunning practical effects and gruesome makeup, director Mary Lambert’s film of Stephen King’s novel isn’t just one of the best of the legendary author’s works. It instinctively understands what makes his work such endlessly potent nightmare fuel: Find a relatable story, add one bit of the fantastic (and maybe three bits of the ironic), notch up the dread to an unbearable level…then find a pressure point and push hard . —R.D.

‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’

the creature from the black lagoon

Long before Jaws made folks think twice about swimming in open water, there was Jack Arnold’s ’50s favorite about a scientific expedition in the Amazon that comes across the skeletal remains of a primitive half-man, half-fish creature. What they don’t realize is that there’s also a very-much-alive “Gill-Man” swimming beneath those same murky rivers and lagoons, and he’s got his eyes on ichthyologist Julie Adams. It’s the scenes of Adams swimming while the Creature hovers right below her kicking legs, ready to pounce, that set the movie’s original audiences on edge (what was going on beneath us when we obliviously doing the backstroke?). Yet it’s the iconic design of the Creature, courtesy of former Disney artist Milicent Patrick and Chris Mueller (he sculpted the mask), that’s kept this drive-in classic permanently in the Famous Monsters of Filmland pantheon. —D.F.

‘The House of the Devil’

The House of the Devil

Ti West’s slow-simmering “Beware of Satanists!” cautionary tale looks and feels like an artifact from the early 1980s, found in a dusty corner of an abandoned video store. A naive college student takes a babysitting job at a creaky Victorian house, working for a couple of shady characters (played by veteran cult movie weirdos Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov). Before the literal all-hell-breaks-loose third act, The House of the Devil plays up the spooky atmosphere and retro style — right down to a scene involving a cranked-up Walkman, a song by the Fixx, and our sick fear that everything’s about to go very wrong. —N.M.

‘Black Christmas’

Black christmas

Four years before Halloween hit the screens, a mysterious murderer terrorized a sorority in Bob Clark’s proto-slasher. Far more upsetting than any of this homicidal maniac’s kills? The misogynistic invective he spouts over the phone. It would be easy for Black Christmas itself to become an outgrowth of its villain’s lurid, predatory gaze, but instead the movie (from the director of Porky’s, of all things) is a surprisingly progressive tale of what happens when women aren’t listened to and their choices aren’t respected. The bonus? The assembled cast including Olivia Hussey, Andrea Martin, and Margot Kidder.  —E.Z.

‘Saint Maud’

saint maud

A born-again Christian named Maud (Morfydd Clark) pines for a mission — and for her sins, she’s given one, in the form of a being a caretaker for a terminally ill choreographer (Jennifer Ehle). The longer she tends to her sick employer, the more she worries about saving this woman’s soul. But is Maud capable of offering salvation to the sick? Does this pious heroine really have a direct line to divinity? Or perhaps that voice in her head belongs to some other, less heavenly messenger? Director Rose Glass’ feature debut can be savored as a welcome, disquieting new addition to that old time religious-horror canon. (There will be back-bending levitation shots.) Or you can look at it as a portrait of young woman finding a warped sense of empowerment in her madness… which makes this “possession” story twice as unnerving. —D.F.

‘The Wolf Man’

the wolf man

“Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night/May be become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.” Universal had already dabbled with those fated to get a little harrier and toothier during full moons with 1935’s The Werewolf of London, featuring Henry Hull as the title character. But it was Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of doomed sad sack Lawrence Talbot, who returns to his ancestral home in Wales only to be bitten by a you-know-what, that would help sell these mythical half-man, half-animal creatures as horror-movie staples. Say “werewolf,” and several generations immediately imagined Jack Pierce’s make-up on Chaney’s face. He’d play many victims and monsters over the years, including several other Universal horror legends, but the wolf-man remains the cornerstone of his legacy. And the rest of this subcategory’s mythology, from folkloric curses to silver bullets, gets minted right here as well. —D.F.

‘Us’

Us

For his follow-up to Get Out, Jordan Peele pierces deeper into questions of racial and cultural identity, coming up with something terrifying both in a “monsters jumping out of the dark” way and a “man, the entire social order is messed up” way. Lupita Nyong’o gives an all-time great horror performance in a dual role: as an anxious middle class wife and mother; and as the leader of an army of murderous doppelgängers. The movie doesn’t hammer too hard on any particular political point, rather, it’s more a succession of well-staged scenes of freaky tension and explosive violence, all riffing on the idea that whenever one group of people are living well, there’s almost always another group suffering in their shadow. —N.M.

‘The Strangers’

The Strangers

This stripped-down shocker rewrites the rules for home invasion thrillers, dispensing with any kind of motivation or backstory for the masked killers at the door. Instead, writer-director Bryan Bertino focuses tightly on the victims: a young couple (played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) on the brink of breaking up before their already miserable night at a house deep in the woods gets interrupted by three blade-wielding sadists. The Strangers plucks away at the audience’s rawest nerves for 85 minutes, always keeping us aware of who might be lurking around any darkened corner or outside any window, waiting to torment these nice people when they’re at their most vulnerable. —N.M.

‘Final Destination’

final destination

It’s difficult to think of a more decidedly pre-9/11 text than this teen horror flick from director James Wong, which kicked off a franchise that’s become something like the Mission: Impossible series of the horror world. It opens on airport security pulling a group of high schoolers off a plane bound for Italy when their classmates experience a premonition of the plane crashing. The jet explodes. The teens have somehow managed to cheat death — only for an extremely angry Grim Reaper to then elaborately kill them off one-by-one. What makes Final Destination so unforgettable is the way it stages its murders around a perfect storm of mundane events: One person dies by slipping in the bathroom, another by a kitchen knife. It’s the type of endlessly inventive horror flick that, by the end, makes you want to accident-proof your entire house. —R.D.

‘God Told Me To’

god told me to

It’s starts as a Horror City NYC thriller, with Tony Lo Bianco’s world-weary detective investigating a wave of murders sweeping the city; the crimes are connected because every perpetrator claimed they committed the homicides when “God told me to.” It ends deep in horror-movie territory, with the cop and a half-alien messiah fighting for the soul of humanity. Director Larry Cohen never met a crazy premise he could not make a thousand times nuttier, and his blend of Christian iconography, supernatural scares, urban paranoia, Chariots of the God -style origin stories and exploitation-cinema griminess is arguably the best example of the madness behind his methods. It’s truly a rough-cut gem of ’70s genre-movie insanity, made all the more disturbing by the fact that so many people would be driven to violence simply because a charismatic blond gentleman who claimed to be divine commanded them. —D.F.

‘Poltergeist’

poltergeist

Co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist arrived in theaters a few weeks before E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial — and it now plays like a dark counterpoint to that film’s twinkly suburbia. There’s something rotten, literally and figuratively, beneath the surface of the idyllic, newly constructed sprawl that’s home to Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams). Which may be why their seemingly ordinary ranch house becomes a site of wonder and terror after malevolent spirit kidnaps their young daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Directed by Tobe Hooper (with some unmistakably Spielbergian touches), the film is filled with one scary moment after another as everything from trees to toys turn against the Freelings. But it’s just as rich in subtly biting commentary: The parents are ’60s dreamers-turned-Reagan era achievers raising their kids in a world that now looks less like than a dream come true than a materialistic nightmare. —K.P.

‘Martyrs’

martyers

Within the first 15 minutes of Martyrs, someone kicks in the front door of a cozy upper-middle-class home in the French suburbs and blows away two people with a shotgun. Spoiler: It doesn’t let up from there. The film follows two women, both seeking revenge for the psychological and physical torture inflicted on one of them by a secretive, moneyed cult. The group believes that the secret of immortality can be found at the intersection of religious ecstasy and extreme suffering, and the pain endured by its unwilling martyrs — all of them young women — is almost beyond human comprehension. Pascal Laugier’s 2008 New French Extremity shocker has more on its mind than mere sadism, however: The discomfort of sitting through the film’s intense violence eventually gives way to a more profound, but equally nihilistic, statement on religion. —K.R.

‘House of Wax’

house of wax

When a new wax museum opens up in turn-of-the-century New York, patrons are amazed at how lifelike so many of the exhibits are. Too lifelike, in fact. We’re sure it has nothing to do with the recent spate of murders, or the mysterious man in the black hat and cloak who’s been stalking Phyllis Kirk. The fact that this attraction is run by Vincent Price — in his first horror movie — suggests that something highly unsavory is going on, even if you’re not familiar with Charles Belden’s short story “Wax Works” (the same source material for the equally great 1932 film Mystery of the Wax Museum ). It was one of the first scary movies to effectively utilize 3-D (watch out, that corpse is falling right toward you!), and the big reveal scene remains highly unsettling. You won’t believe the sight of wax melting off a statue’s face could be so eerie. —D.F.

‘Haxan’

Haxan

Horror filmmakers have been innovating and experimenting since the very beginning of the genre, as firmly evidenced by this 100-year-old Swedish groundbreaker. The title translates to “The Witch,” and it is, per the opening credits, “a cultural and historical presentation in moving pictures in six parts.” Documentary cinema may have been in its infancy (this was the same year as Nanook of the North ), but writer-director-star Benjamin Christensen was already aware of the value of its appropriation, opening the film with background, acknowledgements, and history, wrapping his dramatizations of the history of witchcraft within a genuine scholarly framework. Christensen understood that the prism of fact would give his narrative fictions extra punch. And if there’s any doubt that he was right, it’s worth noting that the directors of The Blair Witch Project named their production company Haxan Films. —J.B.

‘Candyman’

Candyman

You need only say his name five times in a mirror for him to appear, or so the legend goes. Candyman gives us the legend of Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd) — a wealthy Black artist whose right hand was severed, his body smeared with honey for bees to feast on, and his corpse burned on a pyre for falling in love with a white woman — that initially draws graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) to the Chicago housing projects known as Cabrini Green, where rumor says his spirit still lurks. An adaptation of a Clive Barker short story from writer-director Bernard Rose, Candyman is generational trauma. Candyman is racism, over-policing and the affordable housing crisis. Candyman is systematic inequality. And this gory, sociopolitical slasher is equal parts menacing and introspective, causing viewers who’ve just finished watching Candyman to quickly look in their own mirror and pray that there isn’t someone with a hook for a hand, standing right behind them…. —R.D.

‘The Last House on the Left’

Last House on the Left

The elevator pitch reads like every parent’s worst nightmare: A kid goes with a friend to a concert in the city where depraved hippies abduct and torture them, eventually driving them back near where the parents live. But courtesy of a twist, by the end the film has become every parent’s greatest revenge fantasy leading up to a bloody climax. Half a century since it came out, Wes Craven’s ultraviolent film (written by Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham) is still one of the most unsettling movies ever made, as well as one of the greatest exploitation flicks ever, right down to its goofy bluegrass soundtrack recorded by the film’s actor who plays the main creep. —K.G.

‘A Girl Walks Home at Night’

A Girl Walks Home at Night

As spellbinding and visionary a first feature as you’re likely to see, Ana Lily Armipour’s melding of spaghetti Westerns, John Hughes teen-misfit odes, black-and-white art movies and vampire stories definitely announced a major new talent. But the fact that horror is but one of the film’s many flavors doesn’t dilute the thrills or chills at all; you can swoon to its Type-O–craving heroine dancing with her crush one second and then shudder as she goes fangs-first ballistic on someone several scenes later. Consider this the punk-rock, girl-power Twilight you didn’t know you needed. —D.F.

‘Scream’

Scream

Has any horror movie nailed its opening sequence like the original Scream ? Look, we know you like scary movies, because you’re reading this list. So don’t answer that. But Kevin Williamson’s cheeky screenplay is the perfect match for Wes Craven’s finely tuned understanding of how to manufacture scares. The Scream movies run the gamut from pretty fun to very fun, but none match the first with its sheer meta-ingenuity about the way slasher flicks work and the people who love them. When Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her pals start to be terrorized by horror hall-of-famer Ghostface, they realize exactly what kind of story they are in — and try to use the wits of their genre knowledge to outsmart the killer. It’s funny. It’s silly. It’s bloody as hell. —E.Z.

‘Night of the Demon’

Curse of the Demon

Whether you think the giant hellspawn at the center of Jacques Tourneur’s haunting noble-doctor-versus-devil-worshipping-cult procedural should have remained hidden in the shadows, or that its appearance adds to the uncanny flavor of this ’50s horror flick, is a matter of opinion. (It’s a debate that’s raged for years.) What we do know is that this seemingly normal movie drops Dana Andrews and Gun Crazy ‘s Peggy Cummins right into the middle of a landscape in which evil wears a perfectly respectable face, which only makes the things they conjure out of the shadows that much more sickening. It’s the constant detouring into the weird that keeps you on your toes, not to mention the film’s balance of the paranormal and the slightly perverse. And for the record, we’re definitely Team Show-the-Demon. —D.F.

‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage’

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

“It seems very clear to me that there is a dangerous maniac at large in this city.” Dario Argento wasn’t just launching his feature directorial career with this story of an American in Italy who witnesses a brutal murder and tries to solve it. He was injecting a new sense of style and danger into the Italian giallo . Building off the innovations that Blood and Black Lace ‘s Mario Bava built, he took the main ingredients of the subgenre — the black-gloved killer, the sharp (and often phallic) knives penetrating skin, the deliriously overwrought score, the ruthless, chilling “kills” — and quickly proved he was a master of the form. One movie in, and you can already tell Argento’s staging is precise and his set pieces are ingenious, particularly the inciting incident, in which our hero can’t help the victim…but he can’t look away either. —J.B.

‘Let the Right One In’

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, (aka LAT DEN RATTE KOMMA IN), Lina Leandersson, 2008.

This quiet tale — about Eli (Lina Leandersson), a decades-old vampire child, and Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), the human boy she falls in love with — is, on its surface, as chilly as the Swedish landscapes. But there’s sweetness underneath all the neck biting and mutilation, and ultimately, the admittedly blood-soaked story is about what people, be they mortal or otherwise, will do to protect one another. You can see why American filmmakers and TV showrunners have gravitated toward to Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film, as well as trying to recapture its spirit. The fact that it’s so brutal is what keeps it from sliding into the saccharine.  —E.Z.

‘Repulsion’

Repulsion

Glassy-eyed manicurist Catherine Deneuve navigates London’s Swinging-Sixties suitors with stone-faced indifference, then stolen-kiss disgust, followed by harrowing delusions and an unnerving knack for murder. Carnal aggression triggers mental derangement in Roman Polanski’s shivery psychological portrait, made even more unnerving with his deft mix of subjective surrealism and deadpan verisimilitude. It’s a chronicle of ravaged innocence, and the kind of horror that can emerge from even the most banal places. Sidewalk cracks, apartment fissures, overheard carnal moans, that relentlessly tick-tick-ticking clock, and a rotting rabbit corpse are the external expressions of a troubled mind, the debilitating deficiencies of an on-the-spectrum woman surrounded by lusty pigs blind to her feelings—and to their own doom. —S.G.

‘Midsommar’

midsommar

Day-lit dread abounds as a band of opportunistic anthropology-major broheims fly to Sweden for a remote village’s nine-day summer pageant. Fifth-wheel girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh), struggling with devastating, and still-very-fresh deaths in her family, turns to passive-aggressive lover Christian (Jack Reynor) for solace, but all he can offer her is weak boyfriend vibes and a craven interest in exploiting ritual life for a good grade. No worries: Scandinavian folk horror will soon give them ample relationship clarity. Emotional torture artist Ari Aster’s follow-up to his supernatural domestic trauma-drama Hereditary mines some shocking pagan rites and disturbingly illustrated tapestries, framing a Midnight Sun community’s sacred life-cycle beliefs right next to its with its veiled xenophobia and clan-sanctioned sacrifices. The ultimate in cult-ish impulses, or a beautiful expression of dark devotion? Exactly. —S.G.

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Within the heart of every man lurks a beast — and Dr. Henry Jekyll has the potion to prove it. There have been numerous adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella over the years, starring everyone from John Barrymore to Spencer Tracy to Michael Caine. Yet it’s this 1932 Paramount version, trying to hone in on Universal’s monster-movie territory, that everyone remembers the most vividly. It’s partially because of Frederic March’s Oscar-winning performance as both Jekyll and his brutish, animalistic counterpart Mr. Hyde, played as the personification of maniacal toxic masculinity decades before the term was coined. It’s partially because of Rouben Mamoulian’s inspired direction (no horror movie would use P.O.V. shots better until Halloween ) and his ability to take advantage of pre-Code salaciousness. And it’s largely because of the transformation scene , which is still astounding to watch even once you know how the trick was done. —D.F.

‘Black Sunday’

Black Sunday

With his background in special effects and cinematography, Mario Bava’s horror films are among the most breathtaking the genre has ever seen. And although he’s well known for his use of color, his 1960 debut feature accomplishes startling beauty in high-contrast black and white, filing Gothic atmosphere with rolling fog and inky darkness. Star Barbara Steele brings a ferocity to her dual role as a defiant 17th-century Moldavian witch and her naive 19th-century descendant; her witch creeps out of her tomb like Freud’s return of the repressed, eyes burning and cheeks pierced where inquisitors once strapped the “Mask of Satan” to her face. It’s bombastic, ghastly, a little kinky, and metal as hell. —K.R.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Slashing teens was bloody good business by 1984, when filmmaker Wes Craven conjured the original Nightmare . His villain was Freddy Krueger, a lascivious (and often hilarious) deceased school janitor hellbent on exacting revenge, one razor-tipped finger at a time, in the dreams of the children of Elm St. Actor Robert Englund, who played the fedora-sporting burn victim, was a natural ham — but it’s the way Krueger united the kids (including a young Johnny Depp) against him that made the original work. Less schticky than the sequels, the original Nightmare feels genuinely scary and its special effects, like a bed gushing blood up to the ceiling and a slimy tongue phone, rival Dalí for surrealism. —K.G.

‘The Masque of Red Death’

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Vincent Price, 1964

The seventh (and best) of the eight films in Roger Corman’s drive-in horror movies based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe, this retelling of the author’s 1842 short story casts his rep-company regular Vincent Price as Prince Prospero, a 12th century Satanist. After burning a village during a plague, this arrogant royal throws a masked ball for his fellow aristocrats in defiance of the pandemic. Things quickly take a turn for the macabre. It’s a perfect blend of high-culture ambition and low-culture accessibility, along with a presciently psychedelic color palette from cinematographer Nicolas Roeg that is so radiant it practically vibrates. And the film’s timeless feeling of a fable gained chilling new resonance when COVID-19 brought America its own Prince Prospero in the form of Donald Trump.  —K.R.

‘The Innocents’

The Innocents

The most exquisite of all cinematic ghost stories, this adaptation of the Henry James story “The Turn of the Screw” stars Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens, a dutiful, inexperienced governess who starts to suspect something sinister is inhabiting the bodies of the children she’s been hired to safeguard. Where other horror directors seek to shock or petrify, filmmaker Jack Clayton very meticulously chills your blood, crafting an atmosphere of perpetual clammy unease inside the film’s central locale, a supremely spooky castle. Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens give uncommonly good child performances, but it’s Kerr as the overwhelmed governess who brings intelligence and grownup gravitas to the proceedings. Though set in the 19th century, this shimmering black-and-white classic feels timeless, residing in its own elegantly crafted universe — one in which every shadow hums with menace and the spirits of the dead never let go of the living. —T.G.

‘Possession’

Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in the 1981 movie 'Possession.'

Welcome to the body-horror answer to Kramer vs. Kramer. Long-estranged couple Isabelle Adjani and Sam O’Neil have decided to end their marriage once and for all, yet before they can part ways, they must scream, display fits of rage, and physically attack each other in the streets of Berlin. And then Polish director Andrzej Zulawski psychodrama takes a hard left into psychotronic territory. Electric carving knives are put to self-harming use. A private detective meets a grisly end. Both characters get their own doppelgängers. Some 40-plus years later, it’s still impossible to tell whether the tentacled creature who shows up, courtesy of Alien and E.T. ‘s special effects guru Carlo Rambaldi, is a real manifestation of one woman’s torment or merely a product of a warped imagination. What we can say is that Adjani’s freak-out in a subway station — the scene that gives this film its name — lives up to its reputation as one of the most visceral, go-for-broke moments of acting ever committed to film. —D.F.

‘The Birds’

The Birds

A metaphor for the then-prevalent fear of nuclear holocaust? A commentary on the myopia of human beings and the primacy of Mother Nature? Just a fun excuse to freak out moviegoers? Whatever your interpretation of this Alfred Hitchcock thriller, it’s a stunningly efficient delivery device for escalating terror. An aborted meet-cute between Mitch (Rod Taylor) and Melanie (Tippi Hedren) leading to a potentially romantic rendezvous in picturesque Bodega Bay. Then their tentative love affair quickly takes a backseat to some sinister happenings within the town’s bird population. Soon enough, chaos reigns as the winged creatures start wreaking havoc, their lethal attacks as inexplicable as they are frightening. In his unparalleled career, the Master of Suspense gave us plenty of things to be afraid of, but The Birds fiendishly weaponized nature itself, suggesting that, any moment, our fine feathered friends might turn against us. Never again would the sound of seagulls be considered soothing. —T.G.

‘The Mummy’

THE MUMMY

The third of Universal’s quartet of horror O.G.s (Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Wolf Man wouldn’t join the gang until 1941), Boris Karloff’s ancient, walking-dead Egyptian is only seen in the classic mummy-bandage get-up briefly; he spends most of the film unwrapped and playing Imhotep, the resurrected high priest in search in the Scroll of Thoth. Luckily, resident handsome square David Manners and Edward Van Sloan, a.k.a. Dracula ‘s Van Helsing, put a stop to him sacrificing Zita Johann, a dead ringer for the priest’s long-deceased love. And while some have complained that this monster movie is as slow as its title character, German director Karl Freund’s addition to the canon contains what may be the single most chilling sequence in any Universal horror film: As Van Sloan’s assistant translates the scrolls, we see Karloff’s mummy gradually open his eyes and silently comes to life. When the man realizes what’s happening, he screams — and then begins uncontrollably laughing in a fit of hysteria and madness. —D.F.

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’

invasion of the body snatchers

The ultimate paranoid ’70s thriller is the one that says you really can’t trust anyone: Even your nearest and dearest could be one of them . In moving Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers out of the Red Scare era and into the San Francisco of the post-Nixon years, this terrifying remake shifts the allegorical function of the emotionless alien imposters, who this time represent nothing less than the sea change of America’s soul — an overnight transformation of hippies into yuppies. Yet the true horror of Philip Kaufman’s pod people, newly equipped with a bloodcurdling, ear-splitting vocal alarm, runs past topical anxiety to the existential variety, writ large across the changing facial expressions of Donald Sutherland. It’ll make you afraid to sleep, though after that pitiless ending, you won’t be able to anyway. —A.A.D.

‘Eyes Without a Face’

Eyes without a face

You could approach Georges Franju’s arty serial-killer thriller purely as an intellectual exercise, meant to make an argument against the shallowness of beauty standards and the callousness of scientists, via a story about a surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) who kidnaps women and slices off their faces to transplant onto his disfigured daughter (Edith Skob). But to be fair, it’s hard to take that view when said doctor is calmly peeling off a young lady’s skin. This is a surprisingly graphic film for 1960, about a man so icily obsessed with righting wrongs that he makes appalling choices, shown to the audience in such detail that it jolts the gut as well as the mind. —N.M.

‘The Curse of Frankenstein’

The Curse of Frankenstein

From the vibrant and lush hues of the technicolor compositions to the mutilated green face of Christopher Lee’s monster — stirringly revealed in one jagged jackknife of a zoom — director Terence Fisher’s reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel didn’t just set it apart from Hollywood. This was the movie that set the standard for future Hammer Horror retellings of classic horror I.P. like Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959) as well as establishing the British studio as the place to go for garish, gore-soaked Goth-terror. It also gave us the pairing of Lee and Peter Cushing, who played the cold-blooded Baron Victor Frankenstein with a Godlike complex and, later, a guilty conscience. Before Hammer released this shot across the bow, Shelley’s groaning creature was strictly the purview of Universal Pictures. By the end, it was all theirs.—R.D.

‘Freaks’

Freaks

“Offend one and you offend them all,” cautions a carnival barker as he describes his menagerie of misfits: Half Boy, Bird Girl, Human Skeleton, the Living Torso. Society’s outcasts and ostracized medical marvels find home in a traveling circus — from the he/she gender dysmorphia of the half-man/half-woman to the Siamese twin sisters and the bearded lady. Legless guys and armless ladies happily coexist, until a comely gold-digging trapeze artist seduces a secretly wealthy little person and incurs the group’s wrath. The so-called “mangy freaks” are director Tod Browning’s beautiful people, othered and repelled in life’s circles; despite the controversial reputation of this legendary cult classic, his film is unexpectedly tender proof that the true horror show really comes from the normies. One of us, one of us! —S.G.

‘Carnival of Souls’

Carnival of Souls

The sole feature directed by Herk Harvey is a one-of-a-kind low-budget thriller that plays like a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and a piece of outsider art. Candace Hilligoss stars as Mary, a woman who escapes a car accident and tries to start a new life in a new city, only to encounter everything from a sexually threatening neighbor to terrifying otherworldly visions. A Kansas-based filmmaker who otherwise worked in educational and industrial films, Hervey shot the film while on an extended leave from his day job. He made a virtue of his limited budget, using atmospheric lighting and a creepy organ score to make everyday locations like a department store feel haunted and dangerous, as well as turning an abandoned resort on the shores of Utah’s Great Salt Lake into a nightmare within a nightmare. It’s one of movies’ great one-offs. Hervey might have understood he could never have topped it. —K.P.

‘Village of the Damned’

Village of the Damned

One afternoon, in a quiet town in the English countryside, everyone suddenly loses consciousness. When the population awakes several hours later, a series of mass “immaculate conceptions” appear to have occurred. Years later, these children have grown up to be near-identical blond, blue-eyed kids who have a penchant for being extremely quiet, very well-mannered, super-intelligent and able to communicate telepathically. Oh, and they’re also willing to kill anyone who might do them harm or threaten their quest for world domination. An absolutely top-shelf adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos, director Wolf Rilla’s movie starts off as pure science fiction (with the military attempting to penetrate the town’s perimeters and not fall under its spell) and ends up in a hybrid SF/horror sweet spot, especially once these moppets’ eyes start glowing and some unfortunate townspeople learn the extent of the brood’s powers. A great reminder to never, ever trust anyone under the age of 12. —D.F.

‘It Follows’

it follows

Writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s ingenious supernatural thriller centers around a mysterious force that relentlessly stalks its intended victims until they either die or pass the curse along by having sex. The viral evil common to J-horror films like The Ring is mutated here into something that’s like a combination STD and chain letter. The malevolence infects a group of undeserving youngsters, who slowly and sickeningly realize they’re dealing with something they may just have to endure — and never conquer. —N.M.

‘Audition’

audition

A lonely, middle-aged widower holds fake auditions for a fake television show, hoping to surreptitiously meet the new woman of his dreams. If that sounds like the setup for a whimsical romantic comedy, then you’re already stepping right into the bear trap laid by prolific Japanese genre madman Takashi Miike. To even include his notorious shocker on this list is to let the cat (or mute, mutilated prisoner) out of the bag; part of the movie’s brilliance lies in the way its horror erupts suddenly from its tranquility, shattering expectations to make a point as sharp as acupuncture needles. The ending is unforgettable — for the outrageous extremity of the violence, yes, but also for its tricky ambivalence. Miike was ahead of his time on both counts, simultaneously anticipating “torture porn” and Time’s Up. —A.A.D.

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The 25 Best Horror Movies of All Time

Top classic horror films to watch right now..

IGN Staff Avatar

Coming up with a list of the best horror movies of all time is a good way to weed out the scary movie veterans from the scaredy cats. You can spot 'em every time a jump scare happens, or a devil-possessed girl crab walks upstairs, or an alien missiles out of some poor sucker's chest.

Okay, so we were more scared than not when working on this list. Sue us! Using overall movie quality, impact on the genre, legacy potential, fright/creepy factor and that mysterious quality known as Editor's Choice, we assembled a list of movies that guarantee you'll want to sleep with the lights on.

Some of the movies here are more traditional horror fare, while others are just twisted and creepy in a "permanently scarred for life" sorta way (e.g. The Silence of the Lambs). But all of them will scare the living heck out of you. So enjoy, and fire off your own suggestions and faves in the comments!

The 25 Best Horror Movies

Read on for IGN's picks for the top 25 horror movies ever!

25. Scream (1996)

top rated movies horror imdb

Both director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson have plenty of successes in their career, but Scream remains a big highlight for both men. Williamson's script managed to deftly be so many things -- it was a sly meta/self-parody about the horror genre that didn't cross the line into goofiness, while also playing as a successful whodunit and, most importantly, an effective horror film in and of itself.

Finally a group of horror movie characters made it clear that yes, they'd seen all the same movies we had, and were aware of the rules and clichés that come with the genre. But no one was more knowledgeable than the killer (or is that killers?), who toyed with the victims by asking them horror movie trivia that plenty of us in the audience could have fun playing along with.

But when the killer actually showed himself, it was terrifying, with several extremely well-executed suspense scenes by Craven, which proved again just how good he was with this sort of material. A movie that set out to simultaneously make the audience laugh, cheer and yes, scream, Scream deserves a lot of credit for pulling off all these elements so well.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Scream's opening scene is incredibly strong and scary, instantly grabbing the audience by the throat. Watching a high school girl (Drew Barrymore) get a series of increasingly ominous phone calls, we (and she) begin to realize just how vulnerable she is. And that's when the guy with the ghost-faced mask shows up...

24. Nosferatu (1922)

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Count Orlok is moving to Germany, and he’s bringing pestilence and shadows with him. F.W. Murnau’s shameless rip-off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula does away with the sensuality that many associate with the undead monster, revealing the vampire to be a sad and rat-like creature, tormented by isolation and completely wrong for the modern world.

Murnau seems to have a queasy fixation on Orlok and his eery appetites, and his movie paints them out with thick shadows and grotesque imagery. Max Schreck’s performance as the Count is so bizarre and hypnotic that, years later, he stills ranks as one of the most iconic horror monsters . Indeed, the horror genre is still using the language that Murnau helped invent with Nosferatu, and his film feels as deliriously creepy today as it ever did.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Count Orlok’s last hurrah as he approaches a beautiful, sleeping victim is an oft-imitated and, almost 100 years later, still very creepy moment.

See more of the best vampire movies of all time.

23. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The movie that gave birth to the widespread "horror movie as faux-documentary" trend and that inspired such films as Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project is quite an effective scare fest in retrospect.

Some of its then-inspired choices in the realm of "is it or isn't real" seem dated and obvious now, given the fact that the Internet seemingly sets out to reveal spoilers that surround projects like this. (Also, we know it's all fiction at this point.) But Blair Witch came out in 1999, when the Internet was in its infancy and could be used as a tool to successfully convince audiences that maybe the story of a three-person documentary crew going snipe hunting for what turns out to be pure evil is in fact real.

Blame the gift/curse of the shaky cam on this movie, but give it credit for delivering scares in such a way that changed the way we like to be scared... and that changed the way Hollywood goes about making the things that scare us.

Scene to watch with the lights on: A night in the woods full of tent shaking and lots of screaming leads to a morning where one character discovers a nice gift-wrap of anatomy no longer attached to its person.

22. Dracula (1931)

top rated movies horror imdb

All of today's mega-popular vampire franchises owe a debt of gratitude to Count Dracula. And as much as Bram Stoker's original novel helped popularize the vampire story, it was Universal's 1931 adaptation that cemented the image of Dracula in the minds of most moviegoers.

Dracula condenses and combines many of the main characters from the novel, opening with the poor Mr. Renfield's arrival in Transylvania. After falling victim to Dracula's influence, the pair head to London so Dracula can feast on the city's inhabitants. Only the courageous Dr. Seward, his ally Professor Van Helsing, and their friends can prevent Dracula from slaughtering innocents and making the fair Mina his newest bride.

Dracula isn't the scariest film by modern standards (though the alternate Spanish cut is superior in that regard). What it does have is plenty of atmosphere and a very memorable take on the lead villain. This adaptation diverged from the source by making Dracula a handsome, charismatic figure, and Bela Lugosi captured the imaginations of millions with his performance as Dracula. For better or worse, it was a role that would follow him for the rest of his life. And it remains the definitive portrayal of this classic villain for many.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Renfield's midnight ride is full of dramatic tension as he meets the world's creepiest carriage driver. By the time he finally arrives at the castle and is introduced to its master, he and the viewer are much worse for wear.

21. 28 Days Later (2002)

top rated movies horror imdb

The zombie genre is bigger than ever now, and you have 28 Days Later to thank for it. The genre was practically dead by the time Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland gave zombies a much needed shot of adrenaline with this film. Seriously, this movie is pumped up on adrenaline. The zombies -- er, sorry, “infected” -- sprint through the movie, spawning endless debates about whether “fast zombies” are scarier than “slow zombies.” As if that’s the important thing.

What mattered most is that 28 Days Later was more than a visceral horror experience. A great cast and a smart script treated the concept with sincerity and severity, and Boyle’s digital cinematography gave the film an immediacy that hadn’t been matched at that time. If zombies -- sigh, “infected” -- did take over the Earth, this is surely what it would look and feel like. And it would be terrifying.

Scene to watch with the lights on: When Cillian Murphy finds his way into a church and starts to realize what’s really been going on since he woke up.

20. The Fly (1986)

top rated movies horror imdb

David Cronenberg's very R-rated, very intense and very excellent remake of The Fly puts Jeff Goldblum in the role of Seth Brundle, a scientist who invents telepods meant to change the world. Instead, they change him into a man-fly monster when a fly accidentally gets trapped in one of the machines as Seth teleports from one pod to the other.

The script, performances and Howard Shore's tremendous score work together to create a horror opera, one full of dark twists and practical creature effects scares. Once all the gore and vomiting-on-food-to-eat-it settles, we realize we've just watched a tragedy about a scientist who accounted for everything save nature finding a way to remind man not to play God. (Kind of fitting that Goldblum learned this lesson here and again in Jurassic Park, no?)

Scene to watch with the lights on: Brundlefly inspecting a medicine cabinet-turned-museum of pieces of the man-fly that his new insect body doesn't need anymore. (Give yourself a gold star if you can spot his mason-jarred junk or if you don't wince at the moment before this scene, where Seth peels off his fingernails.)

19. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

top rated movies horror imdb

It rarely hurts to merge horror with a tinge of comedy, and John Landis' An American Werewolf in London is one of the finer examples of that combination. It's also one of several iconic werewolf movies that hit theaters in 1981. Of the trio, American Werewolf remains the most popular and well-loved.

The film begins with two backpackers traveling the English countryside. When only one survives an attack by a vicious wolf, he becomes convinced he's been infected by the werewolf's curse. And it wouldn't be much of a werewolf movie if he turned out to be wrong.

An American Werewolf in London stood out at the time thanks to its amazing makeup and special effects work; never had the werewolf transformation seemed so convincing. The humor didn't hurt either. And then there’s the brilliantly demented nightmare sequences. But American Werewolf was ultimately a tragic horror film, and one certainly deserving of remembrance today.

Scene to watch with the lights on: American Werewolf's iconic transformation scene is a showcase for just how grotesque and painful the werewolf curse can be. When David wolfs out, what ensues is a graphic transformation of man into werewolf. This all-too convincing display of special effects and makeup work from 1981 still holds up today.

18. Let the Right One In (2008)

top rated movies horror imdb

Can you believe that there's a movie on our list that got its title from a Morrissey song? This most unusual of love stories is a Swedish film which hit it big internationally with its tale of a 12-year-old boy and his centuries-old vampire... who looks like a 12-year-old girl (but most certainly isn't).

Whether or not Oskar and Eli's relationship is an equal partnership, or Oskar is doomed to become the vampire's next Hakan (the old and ill-fated human who takes care of Eli early in the film) isn't clear. But it's an engrossing story from start to finish.

Though chock-full of bloody good horror moments, director Tomas Alfredson's film works so well because it is acutely interested in its two lead characters: Oskar, the boy who is bullied at school and finds a protector in his new, nocturnal neighbor; and Eli, a beautiful little cherub who's actually not even a girl and certainly not a cherub. Weird, right? But so good.

Scene to watch with the lights on: This may be a controversial pick (and a spoilery one), but we'd have to go with the closing moments of the film, as Oskar and Eli head off for a new life together as friends and/or love interests. Or as master and slave? You decide, but it is creepy either way.

17. Suspiria (1977)

top rated movies horror imdb

Of course we're including a giallo film on this list, though the question did come up as to which of the Italian horror masters was most deserving to represent this distinctive genre. In the end, we had to give it to Dario Argento and his Suspiria -- a supernatural shocker that is an experience in style as well as terror.

The film is about an American ballerina who travels to Germany to attend a dance academy, but instead gets a tutu full of trouble when she comes to realize that the place is home to a coven of witches who are brewing up all kinds of deadly mischief.

The picture might seem over the top in some ways, but Argento proves masterful at creating an environment and a world that is uniquely its own thing. The gruesome, convoluted killings, the garish color design, the freaked-out sound (including a haunting score by Goblin)... this is the stuff that nightmares are made of and one of the best witch movies ever made.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Don't even bother turning the lights off, since the film gets right to it with a double murder early on that sees one young lady staring out a window into the dark, only to suddenly realize that a pair of eyes are staring back. This leads to stabbings, a hanging and, finally, impalement by stained glass for her and her friend.

16. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

top rated movies horror imdb

George Romero practically created the zombie movie genre single-handedly in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. Ten years later he refined the formula with Dawn of the Dead . Far bigger, gorier, and funnier than its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead remains Romero's definitive work.

Whereas Night featured a small cast of survivors holed up in a remote farmhouse, Dawn opens with a glimpse of a major metropolitan area falling to chaos during the zombie outbreak. It isn't long before our four heroes are forced to leave town and barricade themselves inside a shopping mall. But as it turns out, the undead hordes still retain enough of their old selves to feel the need to shop and consume.

The true brilliance of Dawn is how it combined straight-up zombie carnage with a healthy dose of satire and social commentary. At the end of the day, are modern Americans really so different from the shambling undead? They crave warm flesh; we crave iPhones.

Scene to watch with the lights on: When Roger finally succumbs to his bite wounds, it’s a tragic moment that really drives home what our characters have lost in this world.

15. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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By 1984, the slasher movies had been done to death (excuse the pun). Just how many masked killers could you see before fatigue set in? But Wes Craven had a brilliant twist on these types of films. First, he created a killer, Freddy Krueger, who instantly stood out from the rest of the pack. His face was burned beyond recognition, but Freddy wore no mask and didn't stay silent.

In fact, he had plenty of cruel taunts for his victims. More importantly, his domain was the dream world, where he could stalk and terrorize without any rules to bind him -- if you ran away from him, he could just as easily be waiting for you as you approached. There was nowhere to hide from Freddy because we all have to sleep sometime, right?

Featuring a more down to Earth and relatable group of young characters than most slasher films, A Nightmare on Elm Street made a huge impact upon its release, thanks to its excellent conceit and amazing villain, and Craven's talent at building tension and delivering the goods in his murder scenes. And with Freddy, Craven gave us one of the most popular, durable and recognizable horror movie villains of all time.

Scene to watch with the lights on: When Freddy gets a hold of Tina in her dream, we suddenly realize just how big the stakes are, as her sleeping body is pulled up into the air, and four fatal cuts rip into her. The fact that she's dragged along the ceiling, screaming, before she dies, as her boyfriend looks on in horror, only adds to the shock of the scene.

See our guide to the Nightmare on Elm Street movies in order .

14. Poltergeist (1982)

top rated movies horror imdb

After Poltergeist , all of a sudden quaint cookie-cutter houses everywhere became haunted death-traps, ravaged by violent Native American ghosts who weren't too pleased about their current state of "unrest."

Director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg created a veritable masterwork that took the ghost story out of ancient castles and haunted mansions and shoved it, without apology, into the happy suburban track home.

Almost every single part of this movie is so full of devastating win -- from Carol Ann's warbled white-noise voice to freakin' angry trees that bust through your window to grab you -- that one is almost able to forgive the less-than-warranted sequels. This house may now be "clean," but your pants are going to need changing.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Man. Just pick anything. How about the guy who tears his own face apart or the malicious clown doll that loves to strangle or the vengeful zombies coming out of the swimming pool? This movie will hit you from every direction and leave you cowering in the corner.

13. The Thing (1982)

top rated movies horror imdb

An alien with the ability to take the form of any life that it absorbs infiltrates an Antarctic research base, and soon the 12-man team is up to their eyeballs in slaughter, suspicion and paranoia. John Carpenter's film has itself planted on either side of the horror and sci-fi movie lines.

The Thing plays fair within both genres, but leans more toward horror. The movie takes its time setting up the rules of the creature living amongst our heroes, while more importantly establishing each character -- from Windows to MacReady to MacReady's beard -- as people we actually worry about.

The practical special effects hold up better than you'd think, and Kurt Russell gives one of his best performances as team leader MacReady. But really, the entire ensemble is excellent as each character comes to realize that all is not what it seems in their camp. And that ending! We’re still arguing about what it really means all these years later.

Scene to watch with the lights on: The scariest bit involves the Thing assimilating dogs and revealing a mouth (best described as a flower made out of tongue petals) moments before it slime-claws its way out of sight.

12. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

top rated movies horror imdb

Like your films bleak, bloody and full of brutality? Tobe Hooper's gruesome 1974 indie flick took the nefarious inbred mountain folk that we all cringed at in 1972's Deliverance and turned them into an aggressively insane backwoods clan of cannibals. Take a van full of "young adults" on their way to, let’s say, smoke weed and hang out at a cemetery, and let them run out of gas in the wrong part of Texas. Then throw in the skin-suited Leatherface and some meat-hooks and you've got yourself a film that barely found a distributor because of its extreme levels of graphic violence.

Psycho might have been the first "slasher" film per se, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre simultaneously elevated and de-elevated the genre with its disturbing levels of sadism.

Scene to watch with the lights on: It might not be the moment you immediately think of, but the two-minute-long scene where poor Sally is forced to "dine" with Leatherface's family where she's tied to a chair made out of human parts and they all just laugh at her screaming is pretty disturbing!

11. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

top rated movies horror imdb

Get over Mia Farrow's bad haircut and watch this movie. You'll be surprised how much this unsettling creepshow from 1968 gets away with for, you know, being in 1968. Roman Polanski's most "conventional" film outside of Chinatown is one of his best, telling the slow-burn story of a young New York couple who move into an apartment building... which happens to be home to several Satan worshipers who want to use Rosemary's spawn as a means for Mr. Devil McBrimstone to enter our mortal realm.

Farrow is perfect in the role of Rosemary, as she slowly unravels the more she discovers what shady cult dealings are happening all around her. The entire world seems to be conspiring against the most innocent of people here, as the devil watches from the wings and Rosemary breaks down.

Polanski's lean approach to delivering chills further supports the storytelling rule that the more kept off screen, the more the audience has to imagine, and hence, the scarier.

Scene to watch with the lights on: When Rosemary finally gets to meet her baby.

10. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

top rated movies horror imdb

In 1968, director George Romero took the frightening idea of "zombification," which up until that point had been relegated to creepy voodoo tales and extra-dimensional Lovecraft-ian lore, and created a terrifying new genre of horror: the zombie apocalypse film. "They're coming to get you Barbara" became the first official "I'll be back" of horror, as poor Judith O'Dea has to flee a cemetery because the dead have inexplicably come back to life and started walking the Earth in search of human flesh.

Hitchcock discovered, with 1963's The Birds, that the sheer terror of "not knowing" the reasons behind the sweeping global outbreak of evil can be the most horrifying part of the entire story. The "Zombocalypse" genre is so enduring that it's still going strong today (hello, Walking Dead fans...). Sure, some films have made their zombies run fast and tried to explain the whole dead-alive deal with a virus, and that's all fine. But nothing will ever beat the basics.

With this one film, Romero was able to tap into so many things we're afraid of: death, desecration of the flesh, cannibalism, brainwashing, disease and hopelessness. There's also a stinging underlying social message about racism, media and paranoia where viewers got to learn that they could be just as dangerous and cruel as the mindless hordes of undead they were hiding from.

Scene to watch with the lights on: The end, when our hero Ben finally makes it out of the farmhouse.

9. Evil Dead II (1987)

top rated movies horror imdb

Though more of a "remix" than a sequel, Evil Dead II improves on its predecessor in almost every way. More gore, more comedy, more, more, more…

Director Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (and Ash!) returned to the woods after six years for Evil Dead II, which leans into the gruesome excess of the first but ups the ante to a ridiculous degree (this was the one where an eyeball flies into a person’s open mouth). Though Evil Dead II didn't invent splat-stick, it sure did perfect it, and went on to influence countless other comedy gross-outs. (Also see 16 Things You May Not Know About Evil Dead ).

And yet, for all the fun grotesqueries on display, Raimi still manages to chill and scare his audience plenty with stylish and over-the-top antics. Check out Henrietta peeping in on things from the basement, or Ash’s brief turn as a Deadite himself (before he’s saved by a fortuitously timed rising sun). Groovy.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Ash’s farewell to his girlfriend Linda will have you in pieces. Or her, anyway.

8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

top rated movies horror imdb

Using a serial-killer cannibal with a doctorate to help catch another serial killer is as bare bones as you can get with this Best Picture Oscar winner. But the movie is much more than that. It's the scariest movie ever made built around psychology and deduction, with both used as crime-solving tools and murder weapons. Yes, blame this movie all you want for your friend's bad Hannibal Lecter impersonation that never seems to get better, but it gave us one of the screen's all-time iconic villains and Anthony Hopkins the role of his career.

Jodie Foster is also exceptional as FBI Agent Clarice Starling, on the trail of Buffalo "It Puts the Lotion in the Basket" Bill. Director Jonathan Demme is effortless and relentless with his tension here, succeeding where Ridley Scott failed in his 2001 sequel, Hannibal, by keeping Lecter more of a believable monster and less of a monstrous caricature.

We suggest watching The Silence of the Lambs with some fava beans and a nice chianti. Check out our list of the best 90s horror movies for more like this.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Lecter's first encounter with Clarice -- his crazy and her virtue are separated only by safety glass.

7. Jaws (1975)

top rated movies horror imdb

The first blockbuster ever and the scariest movie (maybe even the best one?) Spielberg's ever made, Jaws is equal parts shark movie and character piece, centered on an island called Amity that's preyed upon by something that leaves teeth the size of shot glasses in the hulls of boats and turns their owners into decapitated flotsam. The late Roy Scheider gives a career-defining performance as Chief Brody, the local sheriff with a fear of water who is put in charge of taking down the murder fish.

Joining him on the Orca for the hunt are Richard Dreyfuss' Hooper and Robert "Find 'im for three, catch 'im and kill 'im for 10" Shaw as Quint, the number one cause of death for just about any marine life.

But you already know that. You should have seen this movie at least 10 times by now, thanks to cable and VHS and DVD and Blu-ray and streaming. You've probably contemplated making John Williams' theme your ring tone. It's made out of the type of movie magic that warrants repeat viewings.

Scene to watch with the lights on: It's a tie! When the shark turns Alex Kintner into a human chew toy… or when Bad Hat Harry stands before Brody, wearing a bathing suit and shaking his saggy gym-sock moobs.

6. Alien (1979)

top rated movies horror imdb

Alien movies are generally thought of as being planted in the science fiction realm. However, with the original at least, Alien was as much a horror film as a sci-fi one. With a small cast being hunted by a lone, terrifying creature, Alien was a long way removed from the Star Wars and Star Treks of Hollywood.

The film is set several centuries in the future when humanity has ventured into the stars. The crew of the mining vessel Nostromo become unwitting hosts to a bloodthirsty alien lifeform, and one by one they fall to an enemy that hides in the shadows and springs from above. Only Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is savvy enough to survive the alien's onslaught. Too bad for her it was only the first round.

Alien doesn't resemble many sci-fi movies of the time. Artist H.R. Giger designed a world full of twisted tubes, cold hallways, and pervasive darkness. Before Alien, pop culture never warned us how dark, dirty and scary the cold depths of space were. Director Ridley Scott adopted a "less is more" approach that later sequels sadly abandoned; modern directors can cram all the Aliens and Predators (and Michael Fassbender androids) they want into their films, but none can match the sheer claustrophobic terror generated in the original film.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Dinner with Kane and the crew of the Nostromo, fresh after Kane wakes up from his facehugger coma, ends with Kane disagreeing with something that ate its way out of his chest. They don't get much better than this, movie fans.

See our guide on how to watch the Alien movies in order .

5. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

top rated movies horror imdb

Certainly there were those of us on the IGN staff who argued that this James Whale classic should've been higher on our list -- perhaps even number one. But compromise being what it is, director James Whale, Colin Clive, Boris Karloff and the rest have had to settle for fifth place.

The film is the apex of the Universal cycle of classic monster pictures in terms of quality. Rather than simply regurgitating a cheap variation on the first Frankenstein (which is basically what many of the Universal sequels would go on to do), Whale opted to, ahem, flesh out the story and characters of the original (which he also directed). Karloff, in his second turn as the Monster, granted his most famous creation the gift of speech here, and of friendship, and even love. Also, of humor -- Bride of Frankenstein is a comedy as much as it is a horror film.

Brimming with wonderful side characters (oh, Doctor Pretorius, how we miss you) and often unsettling imagery (Jesus H. Christ, did they just crucify the Monster?), the film is over 80 years old and we're still talking about it -- and loving it. To paraphrase Doctor Pretorius, "It is our only weakness"

Scene to watch with the lights on: The finale, when the Bride is finally created only to spurn the Monster, which is a very bad thing to do for anyone who values not getting blown up in an exploding mountainside laboratory.

4. Halloween (1978)

top rated movies horror imdb

Psycho can be seen as the film that birthed the slasher genre, and Texas Chain Saw Massacre was an integral step in its progress, making things more visceral. But it was Halloween that truly defined this subgenre in horror, inspiring a million sequels, rip-offs, imitations and homages. Take an instantly identifiable holiday, add in a chillingly silent, unstoppable masked killer and a feisty, resourceful heroine and you have Halloween... and of course all the films that came after it.

But John Carpenter brought a sense of tension and suspense few others could match in a slasher film, as we watched Michael Myers stalk Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from afar, before going on his inevitable killing spree.

Michael himself is an excellent villain, wearing a blank, emotionless mask that perfectly captured the black soul of someone who simply killed and killed, and seemingly couldn't be stopped, no matter what you did to him. It's no wonder Michael became a horror icon and that fans rebelled when he didn't appear in Halloween III. After all, Michael Myers and Halloween -- both the film and the actual holiday -- are now forever intertwined.

Scene to watch with the lights on: Laurie Strode is trying to hide from Michael Myers, and crouches down inside a closet. She manages to tie the door shut, but that's not going to stop Michael, who begins smashing the door in, causing light to shine in and for Michael's spooky mask to come into plain view of the understandably terrified Laurie.

See our guide to the Halloween movies in order .

3. Psycho (1960)

top rated movies horror imdb

Psycho is both one of the greatest thrillers of all time and one of the greatest entries in Alfred Hitchcock's legendary resume. A true master of suspense and tension, Hitchcock crafted a memorable horror experience with a limited cast and even more limited budget. Like so many great horror movies, Psycho's scares far exceed its limited scale.

The film tells the story of crazy old Norman Bates and his even crazier mother. When a young woman on the run from the law arrives at the remote Bates Motel, she falls victim to a knife-wielding killer. Several more victims are claimed before the true secret of the Bates family stands revealed.

The content of Psycho isn't as shocking as it was way back in 1960. After all, girls get stabbed in the shower all the time in modern horror cinema. However, it's a testament to Hitchcock's skill as a director that Psycho remains a tense and nerve-wracking experience. The killing of Janet Leigh's character and the accompanying musical key by Bernard Herrmann is one of the most famous scenes in Hollywood history.

Psycho is such a classic of the genre that it inspired a shot-for-shot remake in 1998. It's also had sequels and a TV show based on the tale.

Scene to watch with the lights on: What scene could we pick but the quintessential shower slaying? Coupled with that amazing music cue, it remains a horror classic almost 60 years later.

2. The Exorcist (1973)

top rated movies horror imdb

"Tubular Bells" is the scariest music arrangement ever made. We hear it and we're the shaking-in-our-boots equivalent of Pavlov's Dog.

The movie's premise -- a little girl possessed by a demon -- is scary enough as words on paper. But what director William Friedkin does with it, aside from prove that he has a seriously strong (or frightfully off) constitution for this sort of stuff, is treat the extraordinary of it all as if it were really happening next door to us.

The scares come from a place based in faith, where Heaven and hell are as real as your beliefs in them care to be. Faith, for all the documentation on the subject, is tethered to the intangible; it's not something science can define or strategize. The demon that comes from The Exorcist's interpretation of that idea is something more powerful than a Freddy or a Jason. Something that can't be shot or stabbed or detonated.

Before it can be attacked, let alone defeated, it has to first be believed in -- as terrible and soul-threatening as this may be to the young priest and old priest charged with delivering the climatic exorcism. Fathers Karras and Merrin spend the third act of the movie fighting back the devil for control of young Regan's soul. And in doing so, Karras, a man of wavering faith throughout most of the movie, finally believes in the only true good he knows by sacrificing himself to save that little girl.

Film-school analyze this movie more if you want. Bottom line: It is the best horror movie about the consequences of belief ever made.

Scene to watch with the lights on: All of it. No no no, trust us. Watch it at mid-day, with the blinds open and the lights on. And then get used to the fact that you may never, ever sleep again.

1. The Shining (1980)

top rated movies horror imdb

The Shining might just be Stephen King's most popular horror novel. Stanley Kubrick's movie adaptation is almost certainly the most popular Stephen King movie . The project was an unusually commercially-focused one for Kubrick, but the same stylistic elements that defined his earlier films were on full display, and the film remains a haunting and unsettling chronicle of a family man's psychological breakdown.

Jack Nicholson is iconic as Jack Torrance, the struggling writer who accepts a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Mountains. The knowledge that the previous caretaker had gone insane and murdered his family fails to scare Jack away. But when both Jack and his psychically attuned son begin communing with the many spirits haunting the Overlook, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Deadly hedge mazes, elevators full of blood and the terrifying Room 237 are only some of the horrors that await viewers.

Aside from being a genuinely scary film, The Shining has left its mark on modern pop culture. Who doesn't recognize the image of Nicholson poking his head through a doorway and shouting "Here's Johnny!"? The Shining also served as fodder for one of the best "Treehouse of Horror" segments in the history of The Simpsons.

The film is required viewing for any horror aficionado -- just don't expect to sleep easily that night -- and our pick for the best horror movie ever made.

Scene to watch with the lights on: "The blood usually gets off on the third floor." May we also suggest the Room 237 scene. Beware of women in bathtubs that are really Overlook corpses!

Upcoming Horror Movies in 2023

Horror movies are in a great place right now. There have already been a ton of great horror films to arrive in 2023, with franchises like The Conjuring and Saw getting new movies. But even if that's not enough to quench your taste for the macabre, there are plenty of horror films coming out in the next few months that are sure to get your blood pumping.

  • Night Swim - January 5, 2024
  • Imaginary - March 8, 2024
  • The First Omen - April 5, 2024
  • Terrifier 3 - October 25, 2024
  • Nosferatu - December 25, 2024
  • Salem's Lot - TBD

Note: This list was updated on 09/18/2023 to add more information about upcoming horror movies.

In This Article

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The 30 best horror movies that will haunt you long after the credits roll

From monsters and slashers to haunted hotels, here are the best horror movies to watch right now

The best horror movies of all time, unsurprisingly, are created by some of the best horror filmmakers of all time. Iconic names in the genre who loom large over the haunted landscape and influence cinema with their dark direction, terrifying and heart-rending performances, jaw-dropping special effects, and evocative music.

The films in our list below feature some of the best talent in the business when it comes to provoking thrills and chills for the audience, often making their mark on horror beyond their contributions to a single movie whether in front of or behind the camera.

We have directors whose names are now synonymous with horror from the old masters like Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, to the new(er) kids in town such as James Wan, Jordan Peele and Ari Aster.

Composers and musicians like Goblin, Bernard Hermann, John Williams and Philip Glass have all added their vital contribution with horror scores and musical motifs that give us goosebumps even as we’re humming them on the way out of the cinema.

The practical effects of geniuses like Rick Baker and Rob Bottin have brought monsters to life in front of our eyes, turning our worst nightmares into reality.

And scream queens like Heather Langenkamp, Jamie Lee Curtis and Maika Monroe have all put themselves through the ringer time and again as we root for characters to defeat the iconic horror villains so perfectly portrayed by actors we love to fear - from Robert Englund to Tony Todd and the inimitable Christopher Lee.

What would the best horror movies of all time be without these incredible creators all putting their unique stamp on the genre? Here’s our list of the films that come out of the minds and bodies of the best in the biz.

Read more: New horror movies | Best Netflix horror movies | Best witch movies | Best haunted house movies | Best horror movie remakes | Best horror movie sequels | Best vampire movies | Best horror comedies | Best horror movies for scaredy cats | Best zombie movies | Cheap tricks horror movies use to scare you | Best Shudder movies | The best movie drinking games

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30. Near Dark (1987)

The movie: Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s Southern Gothic vampire flick follows Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), a young man forced to join a travelling band of bloodsuckers after he’s bitten by one of their crew - his beautiful and brutal love interest, Mae (Jenny Wright). Bill Paxton, Lance Henrickson, and Jenette Goldstein add to the fray, with stellar performances across the board bringing the neck-tearing terror to life. It’s a tale of vampires as family, told in a neo-Western style that breathes fresh life (or death) into the ubiquitous subgenre and which has garnered a cult following over the years thanks to its striking visuals and set pieces.

Why it’s scary: The unpredictability and savagery of the vampires in Near Dark leaves a lasting impression. These are blood-soaked killers on the rampage, killing to feed but also apparently for fun, and the group includes not only unhinged immortals as you’d expect them but also an unsettling vampire child in Joshua Miller’s Homer. It’s made very, terrifyingly clear that once the sun goes down there’s no escape, so you had better pray for daylight. 

29. Saw (2004)

The movie: It might have reignited the so-called torture porn genre with its (mostly) truly disgusting sequels but - and this is a huge 'but' - the original Saw is nowhere near as gross-gusting as you think it is and happens to be brilliant horror. Yes, the title is about an implement that a depraved killer suggests someone takes their leg off with rather than use a key to unlock a cuff, but Saw is actually remarkably restrained. The ideas at work here are significantly more grisly in your own mind than what you see on screen. Made on a shoestring budget by Leigh Whannell and James Wan, this tale of two men waking up in a bathroom, a corpse between them, is twisted but constantly intriguing. 

Why it’s scary: Put simply, we all play Jigsaw’s game along with our heroes. What would we be willing to do to save our own miserable lives? Would we be Amanda, ready to go into a stomach to find a key, or would we sit and wait for an ultra gruesome fate? Throw in the genuine terror of ‘Billy’, Jigsaw’s painted cycling doll, and one of the most terrifying extended jump-scare sequences potentially ever, and Saw still manages to pack a barbed-wire-covered punch. 

Read more: Here's how Saw became one of the biggest names in horror

28. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The movie: Just like a certain dungaree-clad possessed doll, Freddy Krueger fell firmly into killer clown territory as the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise evolved over the years. Sure, he’ll spray your organs all over the walls but you’ll die laughing, right? Look back at Wes Craven’s original movie, though, and Freddy isn’t to be trifled with. Our selective memories mean we often forget that this serial child killer’s burns come from him being incinerated by an angry mob of parents. Living eternally through their fear and guilt, Freddy becomes the ultimate boogeyman when he dons his favorite murder glove and goes after a whole new generation of Springwood spawn while they slumber.    

Why it’s scary: Bed is meant to be safe. Secure. Free of razor-sharp blades ready to plunge through your chest at any given moment... Robert Englund’s Freddy might be horrible to look at but it’s the very idea of falling asleep and never waking up again that’s the true terrifying kicker here. The desperation of Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy and her friends as they strive to stay awake to stay alive. No amount of caffeine or loud music can save you now, dreams are waiting and that’s where a maniac lurks menacingly in the dark to end your life. Yes, the whole movie is worth it alone for Johnny Depp’s spectacularly splattery death scene, but A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t one to press the snooze button on. 

27. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

The movie: So many Evil Dead 2 questions, so little time. Is it a remake? Is it a sequel? Would it actually be physically possible to switch out your missing (presumed possessed) hand for a chainsaw with relative ease? Well, thankfully, Bruce Campbell himself has answered the first two and explained that Sam Raimi’s cabin-based comedy horror is, in fact, a 'requel.' Whereas the original Evil Dead followed a group of twenty-somethings to a holiday house from hell, the sequel revolves exclusively around Campbell’s Ash and his girlfriend Linda as they attempt to survive after playing a reading of the Necronomicon aloud. I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you about someone being beheaded with a garden tool post-reading.

Why it’s scary: Evil Dead 2 is perfect comedy horror. While it might not send you shrieking away from your screen, there’s a delightfully depraved viscerality to proceedings. Eyes in mouths, wall to wall gore, chainsaws feeling like the only option. It’s worth noting here, too, that if you do want something a little less punctuated with the word ‘groovy,’ then the Evil Dead remake from Fede Alvarez is truly something that can get under your skin. Where Evil Dead 2’s grim is played for much-appreciated laughs and you’ll embrace the physical effects, Alvarez’s reboot errs distinctly on the unnerving side, making them a perfect double bill. 

26. The Babadook (2014) 

The movie: On release, Jennifer Kent’s haunted pop-up book became a whole generation’s boogeyman seemingly overnight. "Have you seen The Babadook? I didn’t sleep all night," was hissed gleefully across offices and pubs. And for good reason. The Babadook is scary. The tale of a young grieving widow trying to look after her young son, this is a movie that sneaks under your skin and stays there. It also makes you ask yourself a lot of questions. What would you do with a pop-up book about a creepy black-clad figure in a top hat? Would you read it to your already traumatized young son? What if he begged? And how would you deal with the ‘haunting’ that follows…?  

Why it’s scary: Like the best horror movies on this list, the Babadook isn’t just about scaring its audience. The parallels between grief and depression are no accident and it’s interesting to note that one of the most disturbing sequences in the movie has nothing to do with a monster, but everything to do with a young mother losing control of her son while she tries to drive. On the surface, you might mistake The Babadook for something from The Conjuring universe but delve in and this is an intelligent, grueling fright-fest with a knowledge of exactly what you’re afraid of. Even if you didn’t know it when you sat down to watch. 

25. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The movie: By 2011, we were having a self-referential horror crisis. Scream 4 was out and had an intro multiple layers deep, smashing the fourth wall into pieces with horror-ception as character after character quipped about the masked slasher genre. But where could comedy horror go next? How many times could a leading actress say “I saw this in a movie once” without us wanting to remove our own eyes and never watch horror again? Well, it turns out that there was still some life in the reanimated corpse yet.  The Cabin in the Woods manages to pin not just one horror trope but every single one, like someone armed with a laser sight and Final Destination 3’s nail gun. When this lot of attractive twenty-somethings head to the titular spot, they get significantly more than they bargained for. Oh, and Chris Hemsworth is one of them. Now you’re interested…  

Why it’s scary: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s creation is no mere comedy escapade. I’m staying spoiler-free here because it’s too good, but just like the It movie and its monster’s multiple faces, The Cabin in the Woods will tackle plenty of your phobias. This is a creature feature like you’ve never seen before with gallons of gore and every monster you could ever imagine lurking in the dark. Like Buffy before it, this has the ability to make you laugh one minute and scream the next. Go in blind and this trip to the forest is a delightfully gory surprise. 

24. Paranormal Activity (2007)

The movie: While The Blair Witch Project revved found footage horror back into action like a haunted motorbike back in 1999, Paranormal Activity is where things got, err, dead serious. The first movie from now horror staple Oren Peli, it introduces us to Katie and Micah who have been experiencing some odd goings-on in their LA home. Ever the keen filmmaker, Micah sets up a camera at the foot of their bed to keep an eye on things while they sleep. The bumps in the night that follow are enough to make you never want to see another bed again, let alone lie on one.    

Why it's scary: The reason why Paranormal Activity is so nerve-janglingly effective is simple. Regardless of your favorite snoozing position or habits, we all lie down in a dark room, switch off, and become perfect prey for whatever lurks in the gloom. The now infamous shot from the bottom of Katie and Micah’s bed is a masterclass in slow-burn terror. Every simple extended shot as the clock ticks forward becomes an agonizingly tense eye test. What’s going to move? Was that a shadow? Lingering footage of nothing actually happening has never been this nail-biting as the days and nights roll on. The sequels have been relentless and a mixed bag in terms of scares but, like a slamming door in the middle of the night, the pure terror of the original Paranormal Activity just can’t be ignored.

23. Suspiria (1977)

The movie: Less a movie and more an assault on your senses, not to mention your stomach, Dario Argento’s Suspiria follows young dancer Suzy as she arrives at a famous ballet school. Unfortunately, she doesn’t heed the girl running in the other direction and finds herself surrounded by horrific murder as young women are picked off artfully one by one. Still a gory cut above the remake, Argento’s original faced multiple cuts around violence on release and was one of the films at the bloody center of the 1980s video nasty panic. It doesn’t take long to see why.    

Why it’s scary: Nothing about Suspiria is easy to experience. Every color forcing its way into your eyeballs like technicolor violence, every murder intent on you watching each moment in agonizing detail from angles only a madman would select, and a soundtrack so disturbing that you’ll feel like you might have accidentally found Hell’s playlist on Spotify. Depraved, stylish, and beautiful, Suspiria is an experience not to be missed. You don’t have to like it, but even after all these years, this is a true nightmare of a horror movie waiting patiently to sneak into your brain.  

Read more: The Suspiria remake is beautiful, brutal, and shocking

22. The Descent (2005)

The movie: If there was a dip in caving and bouldering trip attendance back in the mid-noughties, it’s probably the fault of Neil Marshall’s truly terrifying claustrophobic creature feature. Sarah’s friends want to make her feel better after the tragic death of her family so, instead of y’know, buying her some gin , they take her on a caving trip. Unfortunately, the movie wouldn’t be on this list if the six women were there to have a heartwarming, gently comedic adventure where they all grow as people. From the moment this lot lower themselves into the darkness below the Appalachian mountains, it’s very clear that getting back out into the light again isn’t going to be likely. 

Why it’s scary: The claustrophobia of The Descent is horribly real. Before you even discover what’s lurking down there - with a night vision reveal so spectacular that it goes down in jump scare history - this cave system is stone horror. The women are experienced explorers but every shot of squeezing through tiny spaces as rubble gently falls, every huge cavern only lit in one tiny corner by their flares, and every step they take further into the abyss is heart-racing stuff. And this isn’t an unlikable crew of barely fleshed out American teens, pun intended, these characters and their complex relationships truly matter. This is beautifully grueling, not to mention empowering, filmmaking. Witness the UK ending of this cult classic and you’ll need more than a cheeky G&T to cheer you up afterward. 

21. It Follows (2015) 

The movie: Infection in horror movies is spread in many ways. A bite here, an injection of a transformational virus there. Hell, we’ve even had watching a video tape and having a ghost in real need of some conditioner come and get you seven days later. To add a new spin to things, the grim plodding nasty of It Follows comes to get you if you literally, well, do the nasty. While a 21st Century horror about a sexually transmitted horrific curse sounds like it should be driven off a cliff, It Follows is a truly terrifying experience. The horror is real as teenager Jay is plagued by ghosts no one else can see, slowly, endlessly walking towards her unless she ‘passes it on’. Proving just how good Jay’s friends are, they club together to take on the supernatural entity. 

Why it’s scary: It Follows isn’t just scary. It’s chilling with jump scares that might mean you’ll need to remove yourself from your ceiling with a spatula. With an unsettlingly brilliant synth score from Disasterpiece - seriously, let’s put that in your headphones all day and see how it feels - Jay’s battle against those following her is shot in a way that never feels like you can settle. Like Jay, we can never relax, and while a scene might look peaceful, it never is. The most effective scares come from the relentlessness of these pursuers, dead-eyed, and unblinking with one mission.  It Follows is a modern masterpiece.

20. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

The movie: Comedy horror is nothing new. The best horror movies have been walking that bloodied tightrope between making us laugh and making us scream for decades. An American Werewolf in London, from legendary comedy director John Landis, is a masterclass in this particular circus trick. David and Jack, two American backpackers - don’t worry, it’ll be one in a minute - find themselves wandering the Yorkshire moors after dark, and instead of staying safe in The Slaughtered Lamb pub, decide to continue their journey. The locals even tell them they’ll be fine if they just stick to the path… 

Why it’s scary: When two become one and Jack brutally falls to a mysterious lupine predator on the moors, a bitten David is taken to hospital in London. Regardless of what this says about the NHS’s ability to deal with werewolf wounds, it means that when David sheds his human skin to become a creature of the night, there are plenty of iconic places for him to gorily slaughter his way through. Once you get over the first transformation sequence - a true CGI-free agonizing marvel of lengthening bones, hewing muscle, and popping joints - this human canine’s tensely directed jaunt through the London Underground will absolutely ruin your late-night travel plans. And, while you’ll get to stop to laugh at Jack’s zombified ghost repeatedly rocking up to tell David to end his own life, the horror here is very real as his relationship with his nurse girlfriend threatens to have the heart, quite literally, ripped out of it. A masterwork.

19. The Witch (2015)

The movie: Self-described as a 'New England folk tale' – although it’s more like a fairy tale from hell - Robert Eggers’ terrifying period drama follows a Puritan family after they are ejected from their colony. Screaming 'don’t do it' at the screen just doesn’t work as William (Ralph Ineson) takes his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and his five children into the deep, dark woods to survive alone on a farm. It’s not spoiling anything to say that it doesn’t go particularly well. Following Thomasin, the eldest daughter of the family played by Anya Taylor-Joy in her first credited role, we witness the tense unraveling of a dysfunctional family faced with the horrific prospect of an outside force staring out at them from the trees. 

Why it’s scary: It’s love or hate time with this divisive movie, but lose yourself to The Witch and suddenly everything is scary and you can’t put your shaking finger on exactly why. Every perfectly constructed shot of the family attempting to survive in the wilderness is cranked into fear-ville with a constantly surprising hellish score of strings and vocals. This means that when true horror eventually does hit after a torturous slow burn of tension, it’s like Eggers has masterfully wired you in for shocks and you didn’t notice. From the unnerving skip and shrill voices of the young twins to the monstrous goat known only as Black Phillip, there is unique horror lurking in The Witch that just doesn't go away. 

18. 28 Days Later (2002)

The movie: Let’s get the undead elephant out of the room first. Danny Boyle’s horror is a zombie movie. Yes, they can run, but it’s important to think of this horrible lot as part of the same family tree as Romero’s finest. Maybe they wouldn’t have Christmas dinner together but they’d at least send cards and maybe some gift cards for the necrotic kids. The important thing is, regardless of their speed, these zombies are still the destroyers of worlds. When Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed - a lot like our friend Rick in The Walking Dead - he staggers out into an apocalyptic London that will never be the same again. 

Why it’s scary: 28 Days Later feels like a nightmare. Complete with a quite often heartbreaking as well as heart-pounding soundtrack, this feels like the truest glimpse at the modern British apocalypse as Jim and his fellow survivors quest for safety in Scotland. The Infected are truly horrifying, survivors are suspicious, and the fallen British landscape is an impressive feat of cinematography. Throw in excellent performances from everyone involved and 28 Days Later is a gory feast for the eyes and the heart. 

17. Candyman (1992)

The movie: The original Candyman film, based on horror writer Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden, was a success upon release and subsequently gained a loyal following throughout the '90s thanks to its regular appearance at teen sleepovers as a VHS rental. Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and her study buddy Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) are researching folk tales and urban myths in Chicago, and land themselves in the midst of the Candyman legend - the only-too-real tale of a murdered enslaved man who haunts and terrorises the residents of a housing project with his hooked hand. Helen’s tenacity, slight white-saviour complex and likeness to Candyman’s old love see her become his new obsession… and then his victim.

Why it’s scary: Tony Todd’s titular Candyman lurks in the shadows and the subconscious of the project Cabrini-Green, and his imposing stature and deep lyrical voice catapulted him into modern horror monster cult status. The film is renowned for its beauty and its brutality, with evocative direction from Bernard Rose, a stunning score from Philip Glass, and visceral kills from its central character. Candyman is scary in all the best ways: it delivers gore and jump scares to test the most seasoned of horror fans, and the kind of tension that comes from a feeling of grim relentlessness and inevitability. In short, dare to say his name five times into a mirror and you and the people you love are doomed to die a horrible hooky death.

16. Get Out (2017)

The movie:  Mid-20's photographer Chris is driving out to rural New York to meet his girlfriend's parents for the first time, but he's a little nervous. "Do they know I'm Black?" he tentatively asks Rose, but she's having none of it: "My Dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have!". Phew! What could possibly go wrong? Everything. Everything can go wrong, Chris. Turn back now. This isn't just going to be slightly socially awkward. 

Why it's scary: Bubbling with resonant social commentary, layered with hard-hitting goosebumps, and sprinkled with uncompromising humor, Get Out is a modern horror masterpiece in every sense of the word. Not content with scaring you just for its 90-minute run-time, director Jordan Peele wants to draw your attention to the real frightening truths rooted deep in the identity politics of contemporary America, and his grand reveal is more horrific than any jump scare could ever hope to be. 

15. The Wicker Man (1973)

The movie: If the above image doesn’t strike a sense of menace into your heart, it’s time to mainline Robin Hardy’s folk horror directly into your eyes. No, The Wicker Man isn’t just about reaction gifs and mocking the bee-packed Nicolas Cage remake. If nothing else, watching Edward Woodward’s journey to Summerisle is essential background reading for the 21st Century spate of rural scary movies. The ideal accompaniment for the modern nastiness of Ari Aster’s Midsommar or Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, The Wickerman’s appeal is in its sheer terrifying simplicity. Policeman goes to island on the hunt for a missing girl. Policeman discovers all is not what it seems. Oh, and indeed, dear.  

Why it’s scary: It’s a horror message that we’re all quite used to by now but humans being the real monsters never seems to get old. The inhabitants of Summerisle might seem somewhat comedic and there are more than a few moments of genuine humor in here, but The Wicker Man is fuel for your trust issues. Why should you truly believe what anyone says?  How can you actually go to sleep in a world full of human beings? The fear of the unknown is potent as Woodward’s Neil Howie blunders into a world with its own set of rules and beliefs. And, if you have managed to somehow not know how it ends, the reveal is still absolutely devastating.  

14. Psycho (1960)

The movie: Alfred Hitchcock’s proto-slasher classic is now over 60 years old and still packs the sort of punch that elevates horror films into the realms of cinematic legend. In case you don’t know, Psycho follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she goes on the run after stealing a shedload of money from her boss, ending up at a motel run by the unassuming Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his domineering mother. What unfolds is a shocking story of identity and murder, with some of the most iconic sequences in film history playing out in beautiful black and white under Hitchcock’s inspired watchful eye.

Why it’s scary: Well… there’s that shower scene for starters. Not to mention the sort of tension only Alfred Hitchcock - the Master of Suspense - can conjure in that certain way he did, making it look so easy but which was actually the kind of illusive genius that made him a household name. Scenes of voyeurism are characteristically played out for both Norman and the audience, creating an atmosphere of impending doom, and genuinely chilling moments of frenzied stabbing from the movie’s killer (no spoilers here, no matter how long it’s been around) make the blood run cold... especially down a certain famous plughole. Set all this to Bernard Herrmann’s sublime score of screeching strings, and you’ve got something truly special that’s not to be missed by any fan of horror or cinema. 

13. Halloween (1978)

The movie: Who'd have thought an old Star Trek mask could be so terrifying? Director John Carpenter created a modern classic when he gave his villain a blank William Shatner mask to wear while he stalks babysitters around the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois. The movie created another icon, too, in Jamie-Leigh Curtis, who'd become both a scream queen in her own right, and the template for all final girls to follow. Who cares if the first scene makes no sense? This is a movie that starts with a child-murdering his sister while wearing a clown mask and if that's not scary, you need your horror fan status revoked immediately.

Why it's scary: Pretty much the original stalk-and-slash, Halloween set standards that have rarely been matched. Carpenter composes his shots to keep you constantly guessing, blending both claustrophobia and fearful exposure, often at the same time, to create a deeply uneasy sense of vulnerability wherever you are and whatever is happening. Also, that soundtrack. Composed by Carpenter himself. There is a reason that pounding doom-synth is still the soundtrack for oppressive horror. As a great follow up too, get the 2018 sequel into your eyes. The new Halloween removes all those messy other sequels and does a perfect job of showing the real trauma of growing up as a victim of The Shape himself. 

Read more: The best Halloween movies rewatched, reviewed, and ranked

12. Alien (1979)

The movie: Arguably one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made also just happens to be one of the greatest horror movies too. It doesn't seem fair, does it? The original Alien from Ridley Scott sends the crew of the Nostromo to investigate a distress call from an abandoned alien spaceship as innocently as any gang of hormonal teenagers headed off to a remote cabin in the woods. And, just like those teenagers, not many of them are going to survive to tell the tale. Sigourney Weaver makes for the ultimate Final Girl here. 

Why it's scary: There's nowhere more horribly isolated than a spaceship light years away from home and Giger's alien is as terrifying a monster as you could wish for. The dread goes much deeper than teeth and claws though. This creature represents a multilayered, bottomless pit of psychosexual horror, its very form praying on a raft of primal terrors. Plus, the visual ambiguity of Scott's direction during the final act is an absolute masterclass in 'What's that in the shadows?' tension. Ignore the recent xenomorph-packed movies, turn off the lights and watch this and Aliens to reignite your passion for the true horror of Scott's vision. 

11. The Omen (1976)

The movie: At the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month (get it?), a certain baby was born who would change the world forever. And not just within the world of The Omen. Damian is the ultimate evil kid - the spawn of Satan himself - and he’s here to wreak havoc on the lives of his ‘adoptive’ parents, the Thorns (played masterfully by Gregory Peck and Lee Remick) and everyone around them, including David Warner’s photographer-cum-buddy-cop Jennings. So exemplary is this creepy child that he has become the go-to reference for all little “Damians” going forward. 

Why it’s scary: Richard Donner’s The Omen is a masterclass in quality horror filmmaking but don’t let that put you off, horror fans - there’s plenty of shock and schlock to be had here too. As Damian unleashes his dastardly plans on the world around him, people are hanged, shot, decapitated, defenestrated, impaled, savaged by rottweilers and a sinister nanny - the lot. But perhaps what is most scary about this occult offering is the sense of inescapability that runs through the frightening deaths that pepper the film - if Damian has you in his sights, there’s very little you can do to outrun your fate.

10. Hereditary (2018)

The movie: Home is where the heart is. It’s also where the worst horror lives, hiding just beneath the surface of the perfect family life. A harrowed Toni Collette leads Ari Aster’s very first (!) feature film as the mother of a grieving family. The death of her own mother has sent shockwaves through their home and, to keep this review spoiler-free, the future isn’t looking exactly, errr, bright either. 

Why it’s scary: It’s fair to say that at no point does Hereditary feel safe. Nowhere during its two-hour run time do you feel like you can stop and take a breath, or even make a guess as to what’s coming next. Is this a supernatural movie? Is this an exercise in grief, similar to the Babadook? Is there even a difference between these two ideas? Every shot of Collette’s artist painstakingly creating miniature dioramas feels like a threat and every awkward conversation between the two teenagers of the family leaves a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach. Why? There's no putting your finger on the exact reason. It might have split cinema audiences but Hereditary is a tour de force of modern horror that will leave you reeling long after its grueling third act. We’re just not going to tell you why .

Read more: Intelligent, emotional, and terrifying, Hereditary is near-perfect horror.

9. Scream (1996)

The movie: By the late '90s, horror was looking a little tired. The masked slasher trope was staggering along in a dire need of a cup of very strong espresso. What it got instead was Wes Craven’s Scream which, despite being parodied into Inception levels of postmodern irony since, reinvigorated the genre with its perfect blend of knowing comedy and scares. Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, and Drew Barrymore as teenagers talking fluent horror movie while being picked off by a genre-obsessed serial killer? Oh, go on… Add in Courtney Cox - at the giddy heights of Friends fame - as intrepid news reporter Gale Weathers and Scream is a modern horror classic.

Why it’s scary: Just because something is self-referential doesn’t mean it can’t be truly terrifying. The Scream mask, based on Munch’s painting, might have been twisted into stoned bliss by Scary Movie , but it still manages to unsettle and thrill. Scream’s scares remain unpredictable too. Victims fall to this slasher’s knife with disturbing regularity and as we grow attached to our genuinely likable quipping heroes, the end game becomes all the more stressful as we wonder who will survive to the credits. Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street scare talents guarantee terror all the way to the end. Why don't you, liver alone , eh?

8. Jaws (1975)

The movie: Before Jurassic Park , before ET , and an eternity before the majority of the cast of Ready Player One were brought screaming into existence, there was Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s toothy horror. And yes, this is a horror movie. Jaws, one of the original blockbusters on account of the number of people literally queuing round the block only to flee the cinema in terror, is horrifying. It doesn’t matter that the shark looks a little ropey now when he gets up close and personal, the story of Amity Island’s gory summer season as Chief Brody desperately tries to keep swimmers out of the water is the stuff of horror legend. And, let’s face it, you’re already humming the score.    

Why it’s scary: The reason that Jaws haunts you long after the credits roll is simple. One viewing and this particularly vindictive shark can potentially ruin every trip to the seaside. Every gentle paddle as waves lap at your toes. Every skinny dip. Every precarious trip out onto the ocean wave on anything smaller than the Titanic. Spielberg doesn’t pull any punches either. Dogs die, children die, heads float out of sunken boats. No one is guaranteed to see the credits here, especially not the three men who head out to sea to slay the beast. With legendary performances and a monster that will never leave you, Jaws is the ultimate creature feature. 

Read more: 11 big dumb shark movies to guarantee you'll never go swimming again

7. Ringu (1998)

The movie: In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, a rash of J-horror films came out of Japan to scare the bejeezus out of audiences, and perhaps none so notable or influential as Hideo Nakata’s Ringu. Journalist Reiko Asakawa and her ex-husband Ryuji investigate the mysterious death of Reiko’s niece, a highschooler who died one week after watching a notorious video tape linked to an urban legend that appears to be petrifyingly true and now threatens the couple’s son. They uncover the story of Sadako, a young girl with deadly psychic powers and her unfortunate demise, and seek to bring peace to her memory before it’s too late. The VHS technology may seem a little dated in the age of digital streaming, but there’s nothing out-of-touch about the fear generated by Nakata’s incendiary horror filmmaking.

Why it’s scary: Oh we don’t know. Maybe there’s nothing scary about the relentless ringing of a telephone that means you’ve only got seven days to live, haunted video tapes showing surreal footage that leads to people being literally terrified to death, the idea that you have to pass on the curse to someone else or die, or lank black haired ghost girls crawling their way out of deserted wells… maybe it’s just us.  

6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The movie: Ever wondered why no one’s out camping in the woods these days? It’s not that millennials really need to be within one hundred feet of a charging point at all times, it’s just the fact that a full generation of us saw The Blair Witch Project in our early teens and we just really like to sleep inside now. This now almost mythical, found footage horror follows three young documentary makers as they journey to Burkittsville in Maryland. Heather, Mike, and Josh start off interviewing the locals about the local legend of The Blair Witch, a particularly nasty tale you’d hope was just to keep children eating their veggies, before heading into the woods where the witch apparently resides. Given that all that’s ever been found are these tapes, there's not exactly a happy ending. 

Why it’s scary: What’s waiting for Heather and co in the woods is terrifying enough, as strange noises drift through the trees and they descend into a directionless spiral of madness and anger, but what’s equally scary about The Blair Witch Project is the perfect blurring of reality and fiction. This is Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard. These actors were sent out into the woods and their horrifying ordeal is thanks to the filmmaker's insistence on mentally torturing them every night. Released in 1999 and reigniting the popularity of the now horror staple found footage genre, the movie’s marketing even touted it as real. Every wobbly shot, every scream, and every stick figure that the three find are there to tell your brain that these people really went into the woods and never came back. Oh, and the ending is like being punched in the gut by nightmares. 

5. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

The movie: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins star in this horror - yes horror - film about a young FBI agent hunting serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) and the incarcerated cannibal brought on to assist her. Jonathan Demme’s film won ‘the big five’ prizes at that year’s Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and gave licence to an audience who wouldn’t normally gravitate towards horror movies to delve into the scary underbelly of cinema’s darker side. In turn, novelist Robert Harris’ character of Hannibal Lector became one of film’s most recognisable villains under the assured - and deliciously camp - steer of Hopkins’ teeth-gnashing performance, and we were given one of our strongest and most compelling female leads with Foster’s Clarice Starling.

Why it’s scary: Moments of sickening violence intersperse with strong procedural storytelling to create a truly nail biting experience. Lector is a man beyond us - a genius who can outthink, outfight and outrun those entrusted with keeping us safe. Add in Levine’s Buffalo Bill, a beast of a man intent on making himself a human suit, and characters we care about not becoming bloated corpses with their skin flayed off, and you’ve got a serial killer shocker for the ages. Not to mention that to this day, a denouement in a pitch black basement, soundtracked by the desperate cries of a kidnapped woman, is one of the most terror-stricken - and cathartic - sequences in horror cinema. 

4. The Shining (1980)

The movie: Even if you haven’t watched Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, you’ll know of The Shining. You’ll know Jack Nicholson’s (apparently ad-libbed) "Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny" and you might even be aware that if you’re handed the keys to room 237 in a hotel, you might want to switch it for another suite. But what if you haven’t? What if you have been snowed up in a mysterious hotel with only hedge animals for company? Well, The Shining follows a man and his family as he takes on the role of winter caretaker at a resort hotel known as The Overlook. Given that this is a Stephen King adaptation (albeit one that that horror author hates so much that he made his own movie), the winter months don’t go well. The Overlook Hotel, it turns out, doesn’t really like people.

Why it’s scary: There's a reason that this is the top of this veritable pile of screams. The Shining feels evil. From Jack Nicholson’s deranged performance as a man descending into murderous insanity to Kubrick’s relentless direction as we hypnotically follow Danny navigating the hotel corridors on his trike, this is a movie that never lets you feel safe. Like Hereditary earlier in this list, The Shining is like being driven by a drunk mad man. What’s coming next? Lifts of blood? Chopped up little girls? The terror that lurks in the bath of room 237? This is not a horror movie made of boo scares or cheap tricks, Kubrick’s film is a lurking, dangerous beast that stays with you long after your TV has gone dark. 

3. The Thing (1982)

The movie: Perhaps you’ve been buried in snow and have missed John Carpenter’s ultimate creature feature. Entirely understandable. Why don’t you come closer to the fire and defrost? The title might sound hokey but The Thing remains one of the most gloriously splattery and tense horrors of all time as a group of Americans at an Antarctic research station - including Kurt Russell’s R.J MacReady - take on an alien, well, thing that infects blood . It might start off taking out the canine companions,  but it really doesn’t stop there.

Why it’s scary: The Thing is a movie of physicality. There’s intense paranoia and horror sprinkled in as the party begins to fall apart as the infection spreads but it’s the very real, oh-so-touchable nature of the nasties at work here that’s so disturbing. The practical effects - the responsibility of a young Rob Bottin and uncredited Stan Winston - are the true stars as arms are eaten by chests, decapitated heads sprout legs, and bodies are elongated and stretched. The macabre vision of these murderous monsters at work is never anything less than true nightmare fuel.

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The movie: Some movie titles are vague, letting you gradually work out their meaning as the narrative slowly unfurls in front of your eyes like a delicate flower in tea. Then there’s Tobe Hooper’s grim, sweaty horror movie. There is nothing delicate here. Its titular weapon needs to be sharp but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a blunt instrument of horror. This is a tour de force of violence as five young people leave the safety of the world behind and journey into dusty Americana. What they find in one house when they innocently enter looking for gas is such death and depravity that the movie is still, decades on, a disturbing endurance test. 

Why it’s scary: The funny - and there is humor here, it’s just not there on the first watch - thing about the Texas Chain Saw Massacre is that there’s actually very little blood. There’s the iconic Leatherface, inspired by Ed Gein in his fleshy face covering, and a death scene involving a hook that will make you look down and check your body is still there, but very little viscera. Gore is something that your brain mentally splashes everywhere to try and deal with the horror on screen here, to cope with the screams of pure terror and iconic disturbing soundtrack. It’s suffered plenty of clones over the years, not to mention a Michael Bay-produced glossy cash cow remake, but nothing can replicate the sheer desperation and violent honesty of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It would almost be dangerous to try.  

Read more: The real Texas Chain Saw Massacre – how a '50s grave-robber inspired a horror classic

1. The Exorcist (1973)

The movie: And here we are. It almost feels predictable that William Friedkin’s masterpiece, now in its 50th year, is still looming near the top of so many horror features. But watch The Exorcist and you’ll understand why. This is the tale of Regan, the daughter of a successful movie actress who one day occupies herself in the basement by playing with an ouija board. If you have ever wondered why your parents don’t want you playing with this innocuous-looking toy, a young Linda Blair probably has something to do with it. Using the ouija board as gateway, an unwelcome guest takes root in the little girl and the rest, as the titular exorcist arrives, is cinema history. 

Why it’s scary: Much like The Shining, The Exorcist is not safe. Unpredictable, visceral, and primeval, this is a movie based on the simplest of premises but even in its happiest moments, is absolutely anxiety-inducing. With a now near-mythical production, William Friedkin’s relentlessness for ‘authenticity’ meant his actors were frozen in a refrigerated bedroom, physically pulled across sets to replicate the demon’s physical prowess, and, of course, splattered with warm pea soup. The result is a horror movie that you’ll probably never say you actively enjoy, but will find yourself rewatching, just to feel the sheer terror of Friedkin’s battle of good vs evil in all its disturbing glory once again.

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Becky Darke

Becky Darke is a London-based podcaster and writer, with her sights on film, horror and 90s pop-culture. She is a regular contributor to Arrow Video, Empire, The Evolution of Horror and The Final Girls.

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The 50 Best Horror Movies Ever, According to Rotten Tomatoes

By ellen gutoskey | oct 25, 2021.

Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook (2014).

On the road to becoming a horror film buff, you’ll encounter zombies, vampires , serial killers , lots of jump scares, no shortage of psychological thrills, a few cults, a little parody here and there, and more than one invisible man. And if you’re charting your own course, you’ll probably spend a not insignificant amount of time with characters and stories that are boring, bad, or simply not scary .

To help streamline your journey, Rotten Tomatoes has sifted through a century’s worth of horror movies and compiled a list of the best ones, based on a formula that factored in release date and number of reviews (any movie with fewer than 20 Fresh reviews failed to qualify at all).

Topping the list was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho , whose terrifying shower scene is infamous even among people who’ve never actually seen the film. It’s not the only Hitchcock creation to make the top 50: 1963’s The Birds , starring Tippi Hedren, came in 38th place.

Hitchcock isn’t the only director with two movies in the top 50. Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) took second and fourth place, respectively; Robert Eggers earned the 15th spot with 2019’s The Lighthouse and the 31st spot with 2015’s The Witch ; and Boris Karloff’s portrayal of Frankenstein's monster helped land James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and its 1935 sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein , in 14th and 11th places. Roman Polanski and Ari Aster both charted twice, too.

Frankenstein was one of just three films in the top 50 with a perfect 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and the only one released in the 20th century. The other two, Host and His House , both premiered last year.

See how many horror masterpieces you’ve seen below, and check out the full list of 200 here .

  • Psycho (1960) // 96 percent
  • Get Out (2017) // 98 percent
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) // 99 percent
  • Us (2019) // 93 percent
  • Alien (1979) // 98 percent
  • King Kong (1933) // 98 percent
  • Nosferatu (1922) // 97 percent
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955) // 95 percent
  • The Invisible Man (2020) // 91 percent
  • A Quiet Place (2018) // 96 percent
  • The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) // 98 percent
  • Jaws (1975) // 98 percent
  • The Babadook (2014) // 98 percent
  • Frankenstein (1931) // 100 percent
  • The Lighthouse (2019) // 90 percent
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) // 98 percent
  • Vampyr (1932) // 97 percent
  • Hereditary (2018) // 89 percent
  • Let the Right One In (2008) // 98 percent
  • It Follows (2014) // 96 percent
  • Freaks (1932) // 95 percent
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) // 96 percent
  • Aliens (1986) // 97 percent
  • The Invisible Man (1933) // 94 percent
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) // 96 percent
  • Halloween (1978) // 96 percent
  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968) // 96 percent
  • Eyes Without a Face (1959) // 98 percent
  • Repulsion (1965) // 95 percent
  • The Cabin in the Woods (2011) // 92 percent
  • The Witch (2015) // 90 percent
  • Peeping Tom (1960) // 96 percent
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) // 90 percent
  • Host (2020) // 100 percent
  • Under the Shadow (2016) // 99 percent
  • Dead of Night (1945) // 93 percent
  • The Wailing (2016) // 99 percent
  • The Birds (1963) // 95 percent
  • Cat People (1942) // 91 percent
  • Don’t Look Now (1973) // 95 percent
  • It (2017) // 86 percent
  • Mandy (2018) // 90 percent
  • Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) // 97 percent
  • Ready or Not (2019) // 88 percent
  • His House (2020) // 100 percent
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) // 96 percent
  • Drag Me to Hell (2009) // 92 percent
  • House of Wax (1953) // 95 percent
  • The Fly (1958) // 95 percent
  • Midsommar (2019) // 83 percent

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Best Horror Movies of 2019 Ranked by Tomatometer

2019 closes out an uncommonly strong decade for horror movies with some potential future classics of its own, and we took all of the Fresh and Certified Fresh hits with critics to give you the full list of the 32 Best Horror Movies of 2019.

Happy Death Day 2U was the first 2019 horror movie to connect with critics, even if its Tomatometer score didn’t approach the original’s high mark. In fact, virtually all of this year’s sequels all fell around in the same area: You’ll see Annabelle Comes Home , It Chapter Two , and Zombieland Double Tap all clumped together in this guide. An exception: Doctor Sleep , the three-decades later sequel that actually falls only slightly behind The Shining ‘s Tomatometer score.

Original scary stories was the way to go this year, the most obvious example being Us , Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out . Midsommar stranded us in the Swedish sunlight. Ready or Not turned a hide-and-seek game into a literal bloodbath. And even unabashed genre offering Crawl clawed its way into critics’ hearts and jugulars. And, of course, The Lighthouse , a black-and-white hybrid headtrip that reminds us to always compliment the chef. And there’s Tigers Are Not Afraid from Mexico, which gives new perspective into the dark.

To qualify for this list, the horror movie simply had to be Fresh or Certified Fresh after at least 20 reviews – whether it was a theatrical or streaming release was not a factor. Ready for some stories to watch in the dark? Then enter The 32 Best Horror Movies of 2019 Ranked! — Alex Vo

100 Best ’70s Horror Movies | 84 Best ’80s Horror Movies | 40 Best ’90s Horror Movies 80 Best 2000s Horror Movies | Best & Worst Horror Movies of 2018 | 150 Best Horror Movies Ever

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Satanic Panic (2019) 63%

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St. Agatha (2018) 63%

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Child's Play (2019) 63%

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It: Chapter Two (2019) 62%

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Annabelle Comes Home (2019) 64%

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Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) 68%

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Happy Death Day 2U (2019) 71%

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Haunt (2019) 70%

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Gwen (2018) 72%

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Piercing (2018) 73%

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I Trapped the Devil (2019) 74%

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Pledge (2018) 77%

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Doctor Sleep (2019) 78%

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Nightmare Cinema (2018) 76%

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) 77%

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Girl on the Third Floor (2019) 82%

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The Wind (2018) 81%

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Crawl (2019) 84%

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Midsommar (2019) 83%

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Luz (2018) 87%

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The Hole in the Ground (2019) 83%

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The 10 Highest-Rated Horror Movies of All Time, Ranked

From iconic classics like Psycho to modern thrillers like Get Out, these horror movies impressed fans and critics alike to earn the highest ratings.

For many cinephiles, there are few more cathartic emotions to experience than fear, which has taken audiences to some deep, dark, and terrifying places for over a century. Whether it's German expressionism, a monster picture, a creature feature, a slasher, or a tale of psychological torture, every successful horror movie knows how to delve deeply into the audience's subconscious, take root, and stay there.

Over the years, horror fans of all types have championed certain films, claiming their favorite is the genre's best. Usually, these are bonafide classics like The Exorcist , The Shining , and John Carpenter's The Thing, but as good as those movies are, none qualify for this particular list. When the IMDb, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the scariest films ever are averaged out and given equal weight, it results in the following list of the ten highest-rated horror movies of all time.

a split image of black swan, funny games, se7en, the french connection, memento, an oldboy

Top 25 Best Thriller Suspense Movies of All Time, Ranked

10 let the right one in was the horror hit no one saw coming.

Let The Right One In movie poster

Let the Right One In

Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl.

Based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist and directed by former comedian Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In redefined the vampire film with the story of Oskar, a 12-year-old schoolboy who befriends Eli, a pale-skinned youngster who has been 12 for a "very long time." More than just a tale of hunter and prey, light versus dark, and good versus evil, this film was a morality tale that provided the perfect counterbalance to what was then the Twilight craze.

Before Let the Right One In , vampire tales had begun to lose some of their bite. This film is equal parts tender and terrifying while also managing to be funny and sad. That's a whole range of emotions that most horror films simply can't claim to draw out of their audience in quite the same way. No wonder critics and audiences alike championed this movie from its release.

9 Get Out Proved That Modern Filmmakers Can Still Scare The Pants Off an Audience

Get Out movie poster

A young African-American man visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.

Get Out combined the popular horror tropes of body-snatching and alternate dimensions with compelling social commentary, turning the film into a massive success at award festivals and the box office. What makes Get Out work so darn well is how effective it is at being both witty and creepy, and the film is an absolute masterclass in creating a sense of tension in an audience, something that all the best horror films master.

Director Jordan Peele took every lesson he learned on timing from sketch comedy and applied it to Get Out , altering the modern horror movie formula and creating a wholly personal style. Moreover, Get Out's monumental success led to a reinvigoration around the conversation of Black horror and, by doing so, became the rare type of horror movie that wasn't just effective but also important.

Chris being hypnotized in Get Out.

8 Halloween Proved That Horror Can Be Faceless

Halloween franchise poster

Halloween (1978)

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.

A split image of the masks from Saw, The Black Phone, and Tourist Trap horror movies

10 Horror Movie Masks Better Than Michael Myers’

Looking back at it now, it's incredible it took so long for Hollywood to create a horror movie centered around the night of Halloween. Before filming Halloween , John Carpenter had written a first draft of the story called "The Babysitter Murders" when producer Irwin Yablans suggested setting the story on All Hallow's Eve. The rest became horror movie history.

For such a well-known horror movie, there's a surprising lack of blood in Halloween . That's because Carpenter doesn't rely on gore to create a sense of tension; he does more than well enough with a dime-store William Shatner mask spraypainted white to give the bogeyman, Michael Myers, the impression of "faceless" terror. Halloween grabs the audience's attention by the neck from the beginning and never lets it go.

Laurie cries as Michael Myers closes in in Halloween 1978

7 Repulsion Became The Pinnacle of Psychological Horror Movies

Catherine Denueve appears multiple times with varying expressions on the Repulsion poster

A sex-repulsed woman who disapproves of her sister's boyfriend sinks into depression and has horrific visions of rape and violence.

Despite being over half a century old, Repulsion remains one of the most disturbing portraits of psychological horror ever created. In the first entry in his "Apartment Trilogy," Roman Polanski crafted a metaphysical torture chamber for his heroine, Carole, to traverse. What starts as a slow and somewhat benign exploration of a seemingly characterless woman becomes completely unnerving as Carole unravels while confronting her many emotional traumas.

As impressive as Polanski's exploration of a woman's fear regarding unwanted male desire is, what truly sets this film apart is the performance given by Catherine Deneuve. The actress creates one of the most extraordinary renderings of paranoia ever recorded for the screen, and the hallucinatory practical effects make this film unforgettable.

Arms reach through walls in Roman Polanski's Repulsion

6 Invasion of the Body Snatchers Mixed Horror and Sci-Fi Perfectly

Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter run from various people on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 poster

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

The 50s were an era in which horror movies were chockful of giant bugs, lizards, dinosaurs, and other unusual mutations. That's why a horror film set in that same decade in which the monsters looked just like everyday civilians has left such a lasting impact. Invasion of The Body Snatchers rises slowly from its real-world paranoia parallels to communism and crescendos with memorable end-of-the-world hysterics.

Starring Kevin McCarthy as the doctor who suspects his community is threatening to be replaced by invaders from outer space, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was initially overlooked by critics upon its release but has since come to be regarded as one of the best films the horror genre offers. So much so that the film was chosen for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry in 1994, making it one of a little over two dozen horror films to earn that honor.

Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter running for their lives from Body Snatchers

5 Alien Launched Horror Into Outer Space

Alien 1979 Film Poster

Alien (1979)

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission.

Alien Chestburster Scene

Ridley Scott Recalls Surprising Phone Call From Stanley Kubrick After Watching Alien

Two years after 20th Century Fox amazed audiences with Star Wars , they decided to terrify them instead with the release of the groundbreaking classic Alien . It's hard to remember now, but before this film, no one had seen anything like it. Director Ridley Scott and his effects team doubled down on a recognizable and gritty space-trucker aesthetic that only increased the terror whenever something horrifying happened. Like, say, a parasitic alien organism bursting out of a human being's chest while they were doing nothing more dangerous than enjoying a bowl of cereal.

Alien became so influential that it's impossible to think of a time before it. Since its release more than 40 years ago, Alien has seen multiple sequels, prequels, and even an upcoming television series, making it one of the most successful franchises on this list. All of this franchise's entries have pros and cons, but none of them, not even Aliens , recaptured the anxiety and dread of Ridley Scott's original.

4 King Kong Defined What Horror Films Were Capable Of

In an illustrated image, King Kong holds onto Fay Wray while destroying a plane.

King Kong (1933)

A film crew goes to a tropical island for a location shoot, where they capture a colossal ape who takes a shine to their blonde starlet, and bring him back to New York City.

Long before Star Wars came around, King Kong offered the most significant watershed moment in the history of cinematic visual effects when released in 1933. As impressive a feat as that is, it's still just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what makes King Kong a horror movie classic.

Sure, there had been creature features before King Kong , but none set the bar for special effects like this one. Much of that credit belonged to the pioneering stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien, who invented new techniques on the set almost daily. More than just an unparalleled achievement for its time, King Kong proved that an exciting adventure film could incorporate horror elements with an endearing sense of empathy and still come off as scary as all hell.

King Kong (1933) stands atop a New York City skyscraper.

3 The Bride Of Frankenstein Was Way Ahead of Its Time

The Bride of Frankenstein movie poster

The Bride of Frankenstein

Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived, and Dr. Frankenstein builds his monster a mate.

The only sequel on this list, The Bride of Frankenstein , took everything that worked about the 1931 original and upped the ante by adding in some good old-fashioned satire, blending elements of social parody with horror and fantasy. Even though it was released almost a century ago, the film remains a wild ride, flipping back and forth between campiness and pure horror with the grace of a professional dancer.

What's most memorable about The Bride of Frankenstein is hard to pin down. It could be the return of Boris Karloff as the monster, this time complete with actual dialogue. Or it could be Colin Clive's return as the Doctor, brought back by filmmaker James Whale due to Clive's one-of-a-kind "hysterical quality." And who could forget Elsa Lanchester's turn as the Bride, complete with her vertical hairdo complimented by bleached lightning bolts? It's a design that's instantly recognizable today, just like the movie itself.

cbr - frankenstein's monster and bride of frankenstein

2 Rosemary's Baby Showed Atmosphere in Horror Was King

Rosemarys Baby Film Poster

Rosemary's Baby

A young couple trying for a baby moves into an aging, ornate apartment building on Central Park West, where they find themselves surrounded by peculiar neighbors.

top rated movies horror imdb

Rosemary's Baby and Hereditary Make the Perfect Demonic Double Feature

In 1969, Roman Polanski created a truly terrifying horror movie without any of the violence or gore people expect from the genre. Instead, Rosemary's Baby relied heavily on a chilling atmosphere, a sense of dread, and the vulnerability of the human mind. Mia Farrow gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance as Rosemary, a young woman slowly succumbing to the idea that her unborn child is part of a master plan regarding her potentially Satanist neighbors.

Rosemary's Baby is a true classic because it works on many levels. To some, it's a supernatural thriller. To others, it's a psychological exploration of a pregnant woman who imagines herself at the center of a horrendous conspiracy. Are the events unfolding on-screen genuinely happening, or are they just figments of Rosemary's crumbling sense of reality? Polanski never directly answers those questions, and that restraint resulted in a horror movie masterpiece.

Movies rosemary's baby

1 Psycho Invented the Slasher Genre

Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in Psycho

A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Alfred Hitchcock created many timeless classics throughout his illustrious career, but none were quite as memorable as the one and only Psycho . Hitch's flair for the dramatic made the film a hit, from the unforgettable campy trailer to his much-publicized decree that no one was allowed to enter the theater once a showing had begun. Moreover, Hitch's use of an edgy, exploitive aesthetic and willingness to break several previously unspoken taboos (most of which involving the bathroom) enabled Psycho to construct a formula still being used by slasher films today.

What's most impressive of all is how the film came to be. Hitch crafted Psycho on a shoestring budget of $800,000 and used the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television crew to shoot it as quickly as possible. He also insisted on shooting in black-and-white to give the film a real-life news footage feel. Despite that artistic decision, many viewers still insist that the blood running down the tub after the film's most infamous murder is bright red, but it's only their imagination that makes them think so. No other horror film ever released has left such an indelible mark on critics and audiences alike.

The 10 Best 'Chicago P.D.' Episodes, Ranked by IMDb

Don't mess with the Intelligence Unit.

Chicago P.D. has been airing on NBC since November 2014. Its ensemble cast has been providing fans with drama, lighthearted comedy, and downright emotion for over a decade. From gang shootings to kidnappings and everything in between, the Chicago Police Department's specialist Intelligence Unit has been at the forefront of it all, never afraid to charge straight into danger if it means protecting someone.

The show's tenth season culminated in May 2023, and was set to return the following September; but after the SAG -AFTRA strikes halted filming across the industry, production was put on hold. The series, along with its sister shows Chicago Fire and Chicago Med , returned on January 17th after the end of the strikes marked a welcome back for Wednesday's most-watched dramas, leaving many fans excited about seeing their favorite police procedural return. Chicago P.D. has had many incredible episodes during its run, and there will undoubtedly be more to come in the eleventh season , but these ten are some of the best so far.

Chicago P.D. TV Show Poster

Chicago P.D.

10 "a shot heard around the world" - season 4, episode 8, imdb rating: 8.8.

two police officers eating in a cafe

The season four episode, "A Shot Heard Around The World," saw the Chicago Police Department under fire when a military-trained sniper began taking shots at them while on patrol. It took all but two minutes for chaos to ensue after fan favorites Jay Halstead ( Jesse Lee Soffer ) and Erin Lindsey ( Sophia Bush ) were having breakfast with her mom, just as a panicked call for backup came over the radio.

The episode explores the tremendous efforts taken to catch the person responsible for murdering a cop just two months out of the academy. As it progresses, the sniper keeps targeting police officers, as the Intelligence Unit makes it their mission to catch the person behind the senseless killings. Further investigation leads them to confide in Chicago Med's Dr. Charles ( Oliver Platt ), who tells them a man with a delusionary disorder that makes him believe killing cops is the right thing to do, is behind the crimes. This episode's intensity had viewers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

9 "Justice" - Season 3, Episode 21

A man in a suit leaning against a window

The appropriately named "Justice" wasn't your typical episode of Chicago P.D . It was an introduction to the newest series in the One Chicago universe. Backdoor pilot episodes are essentially a make or break for the beginning of a new series, and in this case, it would determine how fans would react to Chicago Justice . Fans either loved or hated the idea of another addition to Dick Wolf 's Chicago franchise. But it ultimately didn't hold up, proving less popular than the action-packed scenes in the other three, as NBC canceled it after one season.

The twenty-first episode of P.D. 's third season may have acted as a sneak peek into a different show. But it focused on the popular character Kim Burgess ( Marina Squerciati ) as she stood trial for the shooting of a seventeen-year-old boy. Suspecting he shot her partner, Sean Roman ( Brian Geraghty ), she faced the consequences that arose in the aftermath of the shooting in the presence of the newest One Chicago members.

8 "You and Me" - Season 9, Episode 22

There's nothing like an explosion to immediately grab an audience's attention, is there? The teaser for the penultimate episode of Chicago P.D .'s ninth season saw multiple lives seemingly in peril when an explosion sent someone flying. The aftermath of the explosive events was covered in the season finale entitled "You and Me," in which Voight was determined to get his informant out of trouble.

A large part of this season centered on bringing down drug kingpin Javier Escano (played by José Zúñiga ). He and his underground drug ring had been a constant throughout season nine, and by the end of the season, Intelligence was running on fumes and thin patience when it came to the human thorn in their side. Episode twenty-two's goal was to end his reign, and it made for an intense watch to see how it would ultimately end.

7 "Emotional Proximity" - Season 4, Episode 16

Imdb rating: 8.9.

Two men standing face to face

The One Chicago shows love their crossover events . It's common for characters to help out occasionally when their friends from their sister shows need a hand with something. They've been a way to connect the universe since before P.D. started airing. Characters that would become regulars in future shows or episodes were often introduced in early Fire or P.D. episodes, with each show's backdoor pilot being part of the previous.

From 2015, it became an annual tradition to have the shows crossover in one way or another. And while season three of P.D. featured Justice 's backdoor pilot, their season four crossover ended in their official pilot episode. "Emotional Proximity" is the middle part of the three-way crossover. It follows the aftermath of Fire 's "Deathtrap" and the repercussions of a deadly fire that claims the life of the daughter of one of P.D. 's Intelligence Unit detectives.

6 "In the Dark" - Season 9, Episode 4

 Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton in Chicago PD Season 11

Emotions can weigh heavily on a person's mental health. Whether they're feelings of good or bad, excitement or dread, they can have a detrimental effect on how someone copes in certain situations. For Hailey Upton ( Tracy Spiridakos ), her recent on-the-down-low deeds with her boss, Hank Voight ( Jason Beghe ), were now negatively impacting her day-to-day life.

"In the Dark" does a fantastic job of accurately portraying how keeping something bottled up inside can badly affect someone, both mentally and physically. The performances of the cast are what make this episode stand out, specifically, Tracy Spiridakos' Hailey , whose simmering internal demons are a focal point throughout the entire episode. If there's one thing to take away from this one, it always helps to talk to someone.

5 "I Was Here" - Season 7, Episode 13

ruzek and burgess after finding out they lost their baby

Being a 911 dispatcher is no easy task . TV shows often portray the emotionally draining aspects of working as a frontline first responder, and that can often mean the people first to hear those potentially heartbreaking scenarios over the phone aren't thought about as much. In the thirteenth episode of season seven, Burgess saw firsthand how difficult it can be to listen to these people in need and not be able to do anything about it.

In arguably one of the most emotional Burzek moments of the entire series, the midseason episode "I Was Here" saw Kim's gut instincts take control as she pushed her light duty aside to help a 911 caller she couldn't get out of her head. Kim's no stranger to running headfirst into danger if it means helping a potential victim, only this time, it ended in the most devastating way it could for her and Ruzek ( Patrick John Flueger ) when she was beaten in the abdomen. Ruzek rushed her to the hospital, but it was sadly too late to save their baby.

4 "Reckoning" - Season 6, Episode 22

Imdb rating - 9.0.

Intelligence is at risk in the season six finale, and everybody's emotions are on high alert as Keaton's election is seemingly foolproof. Voight and his intelligence team are more than used to doing things a little unorthodox compared to typical police procedures, so much so that it often seems like this specialist unit can get away with anything .

When the moment calls for it, they can be pretty persuasive in getting things to swing in their favor. Voight isn't someone many people want to mess with, and if it means saving his team, he's typically not opposed to a little rule-bending. "Reckoning" showed what happens when the higher-ups flag something suspicious, but if there's one thing abundantly clear about this unit, they're not going down without a fight.

3 "Start Digging" - Season 3, Episode 23

Imdb rating: 9.1.

Chicago PD Season 3

"Start Digging" is an ominously named season three episode that puts Voight and his family in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It opens with a sweet family gathering for Justin's (played by the Arrowverse 's Josh Segarra) son's first birthday, lulling viewers into a false sense of security as it quickly becomes obvious that everything is not as okay as it seems.

Voight's softer emotions don't surface all that often, but when they do, it's typically his anger that takes control above the rest. But when he finds Justin in the trunk of a car, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck, his first reaction is to break down and cradle his dying son. Justin's character wasn't a prominent one, but he did not deserve to go out the way he did, and his death made for one of Chicago P.D .'s most heartbreaking episodes .

2 "The Other Side" - Season 8, Episode 16

Marina Squerciati as Kim Burgess in Chicago PD Season 11

This episode sees Kim Burgess in the firing line once more as her kidnapping ordeal comes to a stressful culmination in the season eight finale. In the previous episode, Intelligence and the rest of the 21st District worked together to bring down a major criminal organization, resulting in a cliffhanger to the first part, with Burgess knocked unconscious and an infuriating "To be continued..." plastered across the screen.

Punched, kicked, and beaten multiple times throughout "The Other Side" meant Kim's life was constantly on the line. But as her ordeal neared an end, she was shot twice in the abdomen, leaving fans fearing the worst for the long-time cast member. Thankfully, Jay and Kevin found her just in time and rushed her to Med as Ruzek and the rest of the team waited anxiously. But as usual with the Chicago shows, her fate remained unknown until the show returned for season nine, four months later.

1 "Homecoming" - Season 5, Episode 22

Imdb rating: 9.2.

Alvin Olinsky in Prison uniform in chicago pd

Voight and Olinsky are one of One Chicago's best friendships . No matter what, they were with each other to the end, always had the others' back, and would do absolutely anything to protect one another, so when the series waved farewell to Elias Koteas as Alvin Olisnky in 2018, it was one of the hardest goodbyes in the entire franchise.

There wasn't a dry eye by the end of the season five finale. "Homecoming" was the last appearance of the beloved character after he was stabbed in one of Chicago P.D .'s most vicious scenes to date. The sheer brutality left viewers hiding behind their hands, watching through parted fingers as they struggled to grasp what had just happened. Whether someone was a fan of the character or not, the death of Alvin Olinksy left a massive hole in the One Chicago family.

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NEXT: 'Chicago Med:' 10 Best Episodes, According to IMDb

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COMMENTS

  1. TOP HORROR MOVIES: 2000-2024

    Rate 63 Metascore After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday. Director: Eli Roth | Stars: Patrick Dempsey, Ty Olsson, Gina Gershon, Lynne Griffin Votes: 38,482 2. When Evil Lurks (2023) Not Rated | 99 min | Horror 7 Rate

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    1. A Quiet Place (2018) PG-13 | 90 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi 7.5 Rate 82 Metascore A family struggles for survival in a world where most humans have been killed by blind but noise-sensitive creatures. They are forced to communicate in sign language to keep the creatures at bay.

  3. Top 100 Horror Films of All Time

    The Scariest Things crew assembled a committee of 30 horror movie experts from all over the industry with some of the biggest horror fans we know, to assemble a comprehensive list of films to serve as a gateway guide for people looking for a good path into the horror genre, or to uncover a hidden gem that you may not have been aware of.

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    Horror 1-50 of 40,672 Sort by Popularity 1. Lisa Frankenstein 2024 1h 41m PG-13 6.6 (3.7K) Rate 47 Metascore A coming of RAGE love story about a teenager and her crush, who happens to be a corpse. After a set of horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a journey to find love, happiness - and a few missing body parts.

  5. Horror Movies

    1. The Thing (1982) R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi 8.2 Rate 57 Metascore A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur Votes: 461,578 | Gross: $13.78M 2. The Shining (1980)

  6. Highest-Rated Horror Movies, According to IMDb

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  8. The Top 50 Horror Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To IMDb)

    The Top 50 Horror Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To IMDb) By Val Barone Published Oct 2, 2020 It's hard to find a good horror movie, so here's a list with some of the best ones of all time! Horror movies are a great way to pass the time with friends, or for those who are really brave, alone. But it's difficult to find good ones.

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    By Colin McCormick Published Jun 29, 2019 Horror may be one of the most popular genres in film, and these ten movies are the highest rated on IMDb. There is a very good reason why horror movies never go out of fashion. Sure, the films change and take on new trends over the years, the genre remains strong because audiences always want a good scare.

  10. 200 Best Horror Movies of All Time

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    By Shane Redding Published Oct 25, 2021 2021 has given horror movie fans blockbuster sequels such as Candyman, independent films like Lamb, and new original concepts such as Malignant Few genres foster as strong of a fan base as horror does.

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    Also like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist was nominated for Oscars, winning two and even being nominated for best picture. 8. Shaun of the Dead (8.0) It's the only comedy on this list, but the comedy comes from the horror. Shaun of the Dead is maybe the best marriage of these disparate genres in film. IMDb thinks so.

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    (Photo by A24/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection) Every Horror Movie of 2022 Ranked Best to Worst. We're ranking all the new horror movies of 2022 by Tomatometer, like Scream, X, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more. (To recap 2021, see our best horror movies of 2021 list, or the Golden Tomato Awards, where A Quiet Place Part II took home the Best Horror ...

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    Directed By: John Krasinski My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To #2 Unsettling and compelling in equal measure, My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To casts a visually striking and...

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    97% #2 Critics Consensus: A bone-chilling body horror, Huesera offers genre fans a twisted take on What to Expect When You're Expecting. Synopsis: Valeria's joy at becoming a first-time mother is...

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    The Silence of the Lambs). But all of them will scare the living heck out of you. So enjoy, and fire off your own suggestions and faves in the comments! The 25 Best Horror Movies 26 Images...

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