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The 100 best horror films

The best horror films and movies of all time, voted for by over 100 experts including Simon Pegg, Stephen King and Alice Cooper

Horror films don’t just frighten us. The best scary movies test our limits, challenge our preconceptions and smash the boundaries of cinema – all while sending an ice-cold shiver down our spines.

And there’s no more authoritative survey of the genre than Time Out’s list of the 100 best horror movies – a worthy companion to our existing celebrations of the best comedy, romantic, sci-fi and Bollywood movies. Voted by experts in the genre – from geek icon Simon Pegg and legendary director Guillermo Del Toro to rock monster Alice Cooper and world-famous novelist Stephen King – our list covers everything from silent movies to cutting-edge shockers, from the horror movies you love to the cult obscurities you never imagined existed. Why not step inside and check out the 100 best horror films? Don't be scared…

The 100 best horror films: 100-91

100

The Babadook (2014)

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

The mummy’s curse
The territory where scary movies overlap with social realism remains largely unexplored by filmmakers. Horror has traditionally been a genre bent on entertainment – however twisted – and so reminders of real-world tragedy tend to stifle the fun. So props to first-time filmmaker Jennifer Kent for never shying away from her central character’s predicament: yes, our heroine Amelia is being stalked by something supernatural, but we’re never sure if it’s made the life of this grieving single mother appreciably worse. And as women continue to be shut out of filmmaking roles, how satisfying that ‘The Babadook’ was one of the best-reviewed horror movies of the decade so far. Tom Huddleston

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99

The Mist (2007)

Director: Frank Darabont

Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones

Situation normal: all fogged up
Having tackled Stephen King twice already – in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and its inferior follow-up ‘The Green Mile’ – Darabont made his first out-and-out horror movie with this bleak, pointed adaptation of King’s novella about a mysterious fog which swamps a small town, forcing the inhabitants to take shelter in the local supermarket. On one level this is pure throwback, an old-school tentacles-and-all monster movie which really comes alive in its glittering monochrome DVD version. But it’s also a ferociously modern drama, picking apart the political and social threads which just about held America together under the Bush administration. Religious dogma, political division and – finally and devastatingly – military intervention all go under Darabont’s shakeycam microscope, resulting in perhaps the most intelligent, compelling and heartbreaking horror movie of the century so far. Tom Huddleston

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98

Martin (1976)

Director: George A Romero

Cast: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel

Cloak and dagger
Horror movies which encourage audiences to sympathise with the monster are nothing new, but that paradox has rarely been more intelligently explored than in Romero’s gritty anti-horror masterpiece, ‘Martin’. Amplas plays the title character, a lonely, wayward Pennsylvania teenager whose elderly, religious-maniac cousin is convinced that the boy is, in fact, Nosferatu. Much of the film’s power stems from its unfashionable ideas about teenage wish fulfilment and how young people respond to images of horror – Martin desperately wants to believe that he’s more than just another messed-up kid, his inner life depicted in a series of grandiose, hauntingly beautiful monochrome tableaux. As he did in his ‘Living Dead’ movies, Romero keeps the horror grounded in nasty, messy reality: this is also a film about American poverty, and its unexpected consequences. Tom Huddleston

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97

God Told Me To (1976)

Director: Larry Cohen

Cast: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin

Jesus loves you… a little too much
The horror game can be tough. Larry Cohen is without question one of the most inventive, idiosyncratic American writer-directors of the 1970s, his outstanding oeuvre spanning low-budget social commentary, low-rent blaxploitation and a handful of the most politically engaged horror films ever made. Yet here we are, 35 years later, and he manages to scrape one film into our Top 100. ‘God Told Me To’ is without question one of darkest, sharpest, oddest films on this list, a tale of serial murder, religious mania and alien abduction shot on some of mid-’70s New York’s least salubrious streets. Cohen deserves to be mentioned alongside Carpenter and Craven in the horror canon – and this might be his masterpiece, though ‘It’s Alive’, ‘Q: The Winged Serpent’ and ‘The Stuff’ all run it close. Tom Huddleston

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96

It Follows (2015)

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist

Virgin on the ridiculous
There’s nothing wrong with a messy horror movie – flying limbs, cardboard monsters, terrible acting. But there’s something uniquely pleasurable – and unsettling – about a scary movie where every shot, every line, every beat of music feels painstakingly composed to scare the bejesus out of you. ‘It Follows’ is a prime example: for every second of this sparse, precise story of supernatural stalkers in suburbia, you know that writer-director David Robert Mitchell has both hands firmly on the wheel. You’re just never sure where he’s driving you. Tom Huddleston

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95

Society (1989)

Director: Brian Yuzna

Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez

How the other half live
Every time a child of the aristocracy graduates from Oxford or Harvard, every time a law is passed to cut taxes for the rich at the expense of the rest of us, every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, this sledgehammer satire gets a little more relevant. Hitting the sweet spot on the Venn diagram between ‘Beverly Hills 90210’, the Communist Manifesto and Pasolini’s ‘Salo’, Brian Yuzna’s debut follows smug young Bill Whitney, the son of a powerful California family as he begins to realise that his peers and parents aren’t exactly who they claim to be. The setup is sly, sarcastic and subversive – and then the film really gets going, offering up one of the most radical, twisted and disgusting finales in all of cinema. If you’ve never laughed and thrown up at the same time, you’re missing out. Tom Huddleston

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94

Scream (1996)

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox 

Nudge nudge, wink wink
Wes Craven’s iconic, ironic slice-’em-up didn’t invent nudge-wink meta-horror – the director had dipped his own toe two years previously with the glorious ‘New Nightmare’ – but it certainly made this oh-so-’90s sub-genre massively popular. From the opening sequence in which a masked nerd terrorises Drew Barrymore with a slasher-flick pop quiz before splattering her guts all over the lawn, this was a new, fun, shallow-but-sharp breed of scary movie in which the sharing of movie lore between characters and audience somehow conspired to make everything feel more convincing – if never exactly ‘real’. Tom Huddleston

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93

Re-Animator (1985)

Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott

I am the resurrection
A kind of madcap blend of the original HP Lovecraft short story with ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’, ‘Re-Animator’ is horror as cartoon, combining gore and guffaws in a giddy parade of grotesque imagery. Jeffrey ‘the thinking man’s Bruce Campbell’ Combs plays disturbed anti-hero Herbert West (even the way he says his name is funny), the science graduate who stumbles across a glowing green resurrection serum and opts to try it out on the overbearing Dean and his nubile, leggy daughter. ‘Re-Animator’ is a prime example of the home video horror boom in action: it’s weird, wild, unpredictable and frequently very silly, the kind of imaginative but slickly constructed offbeat horror film which seems to have gone entirely out of fashion. Tom Huddleston

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92

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Director: John McNaughton

Cast: Henry Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Is it live, or is it Memorex?
Taking his cues from ‘Peeping Tom’ and snuff movies, first-time director John McNaughton delivers a self-mocking sideswipe against screen violence in this subversive 16mm shocker. It’s a film mired in degradation, as white trash lunatic Henry – played with thunderous force by the great Michael Rooker – and his fawning, subservient sidekick Otis slaughter their way through Chicago, filming their worst atrocities on a cheap video camera so they – and we – can relive it later. Like ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’, this is a movie so cheap and dirty that it almost feels real, with a sense of raw immediacy that no amount of budget could ever replicate. Tom Huddleston

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91

Braindead (1992)

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody

Abbott and Costello meet The Evil Dead
Before he got bogged down in endless Hobbitry, Peter Jackson was one of the world’s most ferociously inventive independent exploitation filmmakers, a worthy successor to the George Romero and Sam Raimi school of DIY gore. His first movie, ‘Bad Taste’, was filmed over four years of weekends with a band of enthusiastic mates, but by the time of ‘Braindead’ Jackson had a budget – of sorts – and a professional crew.

The result is one of the most relentlessly, gleefully nasty movies ever released, incorporating mutant monkeys, zombie flesh-eaters, death by lawnmower, kung-fu priests and jokes about ‘The Archers’. It also contains the queasiest dinner scene since ‘La Grande Bouffe’, involving spurting blood, dissolving flesh, human ears and bowls of claggy rice pudding. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 90-81

90

Dead Ringers (1988)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeremy Irons, Genevieve Bujold

The same, but different
More than any other Cronenberg film, ‘Dead Ringers’ tests the limits of what constitutes a horror movie. Yes it has blood, ‘tools for operating on mutant women’ and a general tone of deep disquiet, but it’s first and foremost a study of domestic psychosis under unique circumstances. It’s also an unparalleled acting showcase: using computer-controlled camera technology, Jeremy Irons was able to portray both lead characters, twin gynaecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle. What’s remarkable is how clearly he delineates between them: Elliot the steely, ‘masculine’ shark; Beverly the passive ‘feminine’ carer. As in ‘The Fly’ (see No 23), Cronenberg’s interest in the tenuous connections between body and mind is combined with an unexpectedly sensitive portrayal of romantic attachment, making the brothers’ inevitable psychological collapse all the more effectively disturbing. Tom Huddleston

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89

Day of the Dead (1985)

Director: George A Romero

Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander

All you need is Bub
There are many who view Romero’s conclusion to his original ‘Living Dead’ trilogy as something of a comedown, neither as groundbreaking as ‘Night’ or as satirical and entertaining as ‘Dawn’. And it’s true, Romero’s initial ambitions for the project – a wholesale attack on Reaganite inequality, with the zombies as a new disenfranchised underclass – were stymied by budgetary concerns, though many of those ideas found their way into the belated follow-up, ‘Land of the Dead’. But ‘Day of the Dead ’ is still an astonishing movie, an unrelenting attack on the senses fuelled by an unprecedented sense of despair and rampant nihilism. By this point, it’s hard to tell who we’re really rooting for, the hateful, bickering soldier ‘heroes’ or their shuffling, bloodthirsty zombie captives, personified by the ‘thinking zombie’, the oddly lovable Bub. Tom Huddleston

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88

The Unknown (1927)

Dirctor: Tod Browning

Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford

A farewell to arms
Five years before ‘Freaks’, Tod Browning directed another twisted tale of circus folk falling in and out of love, and doing hideous things to one another. Here, it’s the outwardly freakish who are inwardly twisted too (it could even be argued that ‘Freaks’ works as an apology for ‘The Unknown’), as a strangler with two thumbs poses as an armless knife-thrower to seduce a beautiful girl who has a morbid fear of men’s hands. That synopsis should offer some insight into the kind of boiling Freudian gumbo Browning serves up. This is a giddy, subversive, wonderfully watchable silent shocker.Tom Huddleston

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87

Session 9 (2001)

Director: Brad Anderson

Cast: Peter Mullan, David Caruso

It’s a madhouse!
This microbudget American indie was such a flop that it didn’t even get a cinema release in the UK. Which meant that those who heeded word of mouth and picked it up on DVD felt like they were making a genuine discovery: it’s a film so bleak, eerie and unsettling that it could never be embraced by a mainstream audience. Peter Mullan is superbly cast as Gordon, the boss of an asbestos removal company tasked with clearing out an abandoned mental hospital. One of the first movies to be shot on HD digital video, the film has an unearthly, real-but-not-real sheen that adds immeasurably to its heart-stopping atmosphere of impending doom. Tom Huddleston

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86

Saló (1975)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi

Don’t look now
Pasolini’s final film doesn’t belong to the horror genre in any traditional sense at all – but it’s hard to imagine any film on this list surpassing this 1944-set vision of despair for its sheer provocative transgression and devastatingly bleak and pessimistic view of humanity. Drawing on the writings of the Marquis de Sade and influenced by Dante’s ‘Inferno’, Pasolini imagined four fascist libertines taking a group of young men and women prisoner in a stately home in Italy and subjecting them to an unimaginable cycle of terror. Rape, torture, murder, the forced eating of shit – it’s all here. The film provoked outrage in many quarters, but, viewed now, any claims that it is pornographic seem ridiculous. It’s a complete absence of pleasure that Pasolini provokes in this disturbing portrait of a society gone to the dogs. Dave Calhoun

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85

Phantasm (1979)

Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm

In space, no one can eat ice cream
By the early ’80s, the home video boom had fuelled a tidal wave of American horror. But with proper financial backing and almost total creative freedom, these films were a world away from the cheapo grit of the grindhouse: directors like Stuart Gordon, Frank Henenlotter and Don Coscarelli had the funding to realise visions which would have been impossible a few years before, resulting in some of the most idiosyncratic movies in the horror canon. ‘Phantasm’ is the film that kickstarted it all, combining inventive DIY horror with a berserk plot involving homicidal space midgets, heroic ice-cream men, flying spheres which drill into the brain and of course the terrifying ‘Tall Man’. Over the course of three wild sequels, Coscarelli expanded his bizarre universe in a variety of imaginative and deliriously entertaining ways – but the original set the standard. Tom Huddleston

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84

The Orphanage (2007)

Director: JA Bayona

Cast: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep

Hide and Shriek
What could be more scary than a haunted house? A haunted orphanage, that’s what. ‘The Orphanage’ is classic creepy ghost story, full of creaking floorboards and things that go bump in the night – the kind that will give you the collywobbles. Guillermo Del Toro protégé JA Bayona has an intuitive sense of what’s scary. Laura (Belén Rueda) has bought the orphanage she spent part of her childhood living in, with her husband and seven-year-old son Simón (Roger Príncep). They haven’t told Simón that he’s adopted or that he is seriously ill. But one day, reading Peter Pan, Simón says matter-of-factly that he will never grow old. Has he been listening at doors? No, one of his imaginary friends told him, he says (imaginary friends or the spirits of the orphanage’s past residents?) And when Simón goes missing the ghost story begins. Cath Clarke

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83

Dracula (1958)

Director: Terence Fisher

Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough

Charm offensive
The British horror boom which ran from the late ’50s to the early ’70s receives short shrift in our top 100 – which is disappointing for fans of great films like ‘Curse of Frankenstein’, ‘Theatre of Blood’ and ‘Death Line’, but perhaps inevitable given the fact that so many films from the era now look decidedly creaky (and not in a creepy, mansion-house-door kind of way). But it’s no surprise to see a solid placing for the film which started it all, Hammer’s groundbreakingly savage and saucy take on Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Packed with frilly frocks and heaving cleavages, this was the film that clarified forever the link between vampires and eroticism, as embodied by Christopher Lee’s stately, stalking presence as Dracula himself – the ultimate gentleman sex fiend. Tom Huddleston

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82

Black Sabbath (1963)

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Michèle Mercier

Mario Bava's three-part portmanteau – originally titled 'I tre volti della paura', or 'The Three Faces of Fear' – didn't just inspire the greatest heavy metal band of all time (deal with it, AC/DC fans). This is also one of the keystones in the development of the giallo genre, with first story 'The Telephone' featuring most of that movement's central motifs: gloved killers, voyeurism, gender games and sexy, scantily clad and easily strangled women. And that's the weakest story: follow-up 'The Wurdulak' is a fine slice of Gothic grand guignol, and finale 'A Drop of Water' is a masterclass in outrageous technicolour tension. Special mention, too, to the wonderful, pomposity-pricking final shot, foolishly sliced out of the inferior American recut. Tom Huddleston

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81

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Director: Philip Kaufman

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy

Vote for the green party
It’s gratifying to see both ‘Body Snatchers’ movies on this list: Don Siegel’s 1956 original may be punchier and more bracing, but Philip ‘The Right Stuff’ Kaufman’s ’70s remake is funnier and more self-aware. While the original movie was (depending on who you believe) an examination of either McCarthyist conformity or encroaching communism, the remake takes things into weirder, more oblique territory, lampooning the fallout from the ’60s ideal with its lentils-and-beansprouts nature freaks and its bandwagon-jumping psychotherapy converts. Plus it’s an absolutely terrific horror movie: the scene where Sutherland smashes up a gestating pod-person with a rake is gruesome as hell, but it’s that famously devastating closing shot that really chills the blood. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 80-71

80

Wolf Creek (2005)

Director: Greg Mclean

Cast: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, John Jarratt

Chuck another limb on the barbie
This terrifying slice of Aussie torture porn taps into fears of being stranded in the wilderness and then proves all those fears right in the most grim fashion imaginable. Taking his cue from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, first-time filmmaker Greg Mclean gives us three tourists – one Aussie and two Brits – who set out to visit a remote meteor crater. Then – brace yourselves – their watches all stop and their car breaks down, leaving them to be rescued by a gruff local who tows them and their car to an abandoned old mine.

The film takes a sharp turn for the macabre in its later stages, pulling no punches and making especially creepy use of a digital video camera carried by one of the tourists. You’ll need a cold shower after this one. Dave Calhoun

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79

Angel Heart (1987)

Director: Alan Parker

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, Robert De Niro

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine
A film which treads the tightrope between horror, thriller and glossy MTV-friendly melodrama, Parker’s sizzling saucepan of spicy Southern Gothic gumbo heavily seasoned with Biblical mumbo-jumbo remains a hugely entertaining watch. It’s hardly subtle – did anyone over the age of 12 not guess the true identity of De Niro’s soul-eating dandy Louis Cyphre? – but it doesn’t really have to be: this is a movie filled with memorable images and strange sensations, from Rourke’s seductively shambolic private dick Harry Angel (geddit?) through a whole mess of cannibalistic voodoo rituals, Cajun clichés and dubious racial stereotypes to Lisa Bonet’s unforgettably gruesome fate. Laissez le mal temps roulez! Tom Huddleston

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78

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Director: John Fawcett

Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle

The best teenage werewolf movie, period Womens’ bodies have always been a prime source of fascination for horror cinema, from the animal sexuality of ‘Cat People’ to let’s-not-go-there modern shockers like ‘Teeth’. But the best of the bunch has to be this crafty Canadian werewolf movie, in which a teenage girl’s first period is swiftly followed by a wild dog attack – and a series of terrifying but strangely thrilling physical transformations. The film is also notable for its smart, ‘Buffy’-ish observations on teenage life, before the conflation of high school trauma and supernatural horror became a cliché. A word of warning, though: the unnecessary sequels are best avoided. Tom Huddleston

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77

The Fog (1979)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh

Play misty for me
If ‘Halloween’ was an urban legend come to life, its follow-up was John Carpenter’s stab at an old-fashioned campfire tale. It even begins, ‘Princess Bride’-style, with three kids bundled up by a roaring blaze as John Houseman’s salty sea-dog recounts the eerie tale of how, a century ago, a mysterious mist rolled into the town of Antonio Bay, sparking an act of shipwrecking criminality that will someday come back to haunt the townsfolk…

A critical flop on first release, ‘The Fog’ isn’t as bold or brutal as its predecessor – but it wasn’t meant to be. This is a film of lurking shadows and creeping gloom, unfashionably cosy in its dedication to the Victorian tradition of ghostly goings-on. It’s a film to be watched alone, lights out, with a mug of steaming cocoa. Tom Huddleston

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76

Come and See (1985)

Director: Elim Klimov

Cast: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius

The horror of war
It may not be a ‘horror film’ per se, but no other movie on our list is as horrifying in the literal sense as Elem Klimov’s loosely autobiographical account of one boy’s journey through rural Russia in the wake of the Nazi invasion. Anchored in a performance of almost preternatural depth and soulfulness by 14-year-old Aleksei Kravchenko, who seems to age lifetimes over the course of the movie, Klimov’s film is a howl into the void with no expectation of an answer. But what’s most disturbing is knowing that Klimov barely scratched the surface: everything you see here happened, and continues to happen, to millions of people. That’s horror. Tom Huddleston

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75

Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker

Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley

Skinless wonder
One of the great debuts in British film, ‘Hellraiser’ might also be the best movie ever to be adapted and directed by an author from his own material. Clive Barker’s sado-masochistic Books of Blood short-story series had made him the darling of the homegrown horror scene, but his sights had always been set on cinema. It was a risk – the release of Stephen King’s disastrous directorial debut ‘Maximum Overdrive’, the previous year must have given his financial backers pause – but Barker never looked back, channeling his subversive vision into a gruesome but surprisingly mainstream box-office hit.

The joy of ‘Hellraiser’ is in its gleeful clash of suburban drudgery and grand, Satanic psychodrama, as condemned pain-enthusiast Frank escapes from the dungeons of hell to a quiet corner of north London, only to be pursued by the Cenobites, the Devil’s own deviant dominators. An endless run of sequels – many of them written or directed by Barker himself – may have diluted the formula, but the first movie remains a hot blast of pure perverted pleasure. Tom Huddleston

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74

Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan, Revenge of the Vampire) (1960)

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson

Untempered Steele
For students of horror, 1960 is remembered as the year of ‘Peeping Tom’ and ‘Psycho’. But Bava’s monochrome masterpiece ‘Black Sunday’ fully deserves to be set alongside them: while Hitchcock and Powell were revolutionizing the genre by bringing the terror closer to home, Bava was doing almost the opposite, creating a boldly imaginative and dreamlike world inspired by the Universal classics, while at the same time using groundbreaking special effects to ensure that the horrors depicted on screen were more graphically disturbing than ever before. ‘Black Sunday’ is a film crammed with surreal and still shocking imagery: while it’s most famous for the opening scene in which a spiked mask is hammered onto the face of dark witch Barbara Steele, there are many more wonderfully nasty sights to behold, from an empty eye socket crawling with maggots to a walking corpse who looks suspiciously like Sonny Bono. Tom Huddleston

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73

Black Christmas (1974)

Director: Bob Clark

Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder

Sorority sisters in pre-slasher slay ride shocker
A low-budget Canadian precursor of the ‘seasonal slasher’ cycle that was kicked into gear by the success of ‘Halloween’ four years later, Clark’s imaginatively nasty film traps a group of college students in a snow-dusted sorority house, where they are terrorised by an obscene phone caller before being bumped off one by one. Anticipating many now familiar conventions, Clark cranks up the level of threat through his pioneering use of prowling shots from the psycho killer's point of view, reinforced here by a discordant sound design. A sparky, pre-’Superman’ Margot Kidder gives as good as she gets, but it’s hard to tell which, if any, of the girls will survive this Yuletide slay ride. Clark also pulls off a wicked plot twist near the end, a flourish that’s simple yet devastatingly effective. Nigel Floyd

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72

Aliens (1986)

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn 

God save the queen
James Cameron’s ferocious sequel to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining original has been called many things: a war epic, an action movie, but rarely a horror film. True, ‘Aliens’ has a bigger armoury than, say, ‘The Exorcist’, but this is still a film about creatures lurking in the dark. The Marines’ first survey of the abandoned living quarters on LV-426 is pure haunted-basement creepiness, and the facehugger attack rivals ‘The Thing’ for slimy invention. David Fincher would get back to horror basics with ‘Alien 3’, but the series would never regain this level of intensity. Tom Huddleston

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71

The Old Dark House (1932)

Director: James Whale

Cast: Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Charles Laughton

Perfect weather for ducks
Believed lost for over 30 years, they found ‘The Old Dark House’ in the Universal Studios vaults in 1968. Thank goodness! What a tragedy it would have been to lose this deliciously ghoulish comedy of manners. The film was adapted from JB Priestley’s novel ‘Benighted’, and sees a young couple, a chorus girl, a war veteran and a gruff self-made industrialist take shelter in a tumbledown Welsh mansion during a rainstorm. Its inmates, the Femm family, are quite frankly bonkers. Head of the household is Horace (a juicily camp turn by Thesiger: ‘It’s only gin. I like gin,’), who’s constantly bickering with his batty, deaf sister. Upstairs, their 101- year-old dad is bedridden and Saul their pyromaniac brother is locked in the attic, while Morgan the mad butler (Karloff) is getting fighting-drunk in the kitchen. Full of acid wit and howlingly funny, ‘The Old Dark House’ is one of the most giddily glorious films you’re ever likely to see. Cath Clarke

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The 100 best horror films: 70-61

70

Kill, Baby… Kill! (aka Operazione Paura, Curse of the Dead) (1966)

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc

The little death
Bava’s ghoulish small-town ghost story may feel a little tame following the explicit eeriness of his groundbreaking ‘Black Sunday’, but ‘Kill, Baby… Kill!’ is still a radical and unsettling work. When a coroner is called to a small town to inspect the corpse of a maid, he finds a silver coin inserted into her heart. The village is suffering under an ancient curse – and those who speak out about it meet bloody and untimely ends. Embracing the opportunity to shoot in full colour, Bava creates a lurid, entrancing dream-world which clearly informed the work of Argento and Fulci, and indeed any director interested in exploring otherworldly ideas: one scene, where the hero seems to pursue a vision of himself, is an almost shot-for-shot antecedent of David Lynch’s disturbing final episode of ‘Twin Peaks’. Tom Huddleston

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69

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

Director: Robert Wiene

Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt

Trapped in the closet There was no way director Robert Wiene could’ve known how disturbingly prescient his masterpiece of art-horror would turn out to be. A tale of hypnotism, hysteria and multiple murder set in a twisted, folksy German landscape filtered through the disturbed imagination of a madman, its fractured landscapes reflect the shattered psyche of a nation in defeat, but they also prefigure the greater horrors to come. And almost a century later, at least one sequence here remains genuinely frightening: the midnight attack on a helpless young woman by a shambling, somnambulant strangler. The ending, too, still shocks: the whole world is a madhouse, Wiene is saying, so who’s really sane? Tom Huddleston

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68

28 Days Later… (2002)

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Christopher Eccleston

Hate crime
If every generation gets the zombies its deserves, what would ours be like? Full of rage was the answer Danny Boyle came up with in ‘28 Days Later...’, in which a group of animal liberation militants free lab chimps infected with a fatal virus. The disease quickly spreads through the British population, turning people into berserk zombies. One month later, in a London hospital, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma, to find London cloaked in an unearthly silence. There are scenes here that will send a shiver down your spine, such as the swarm of rats running in terror from an approaching undead horde. But the real horror begins when Jim and his band of survivors reach the ‘safety’ of a group of soldiers barricaded in a stately mansion up north. Cath Clarke

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67

Night of the Demon (1957)

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Cast: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Devil in disguise
Proof positive that you don’t need a convincing monster to make a great monster movie, Jacques Tourneur’s tale of devil worship in the Home Counties features probably the silliest spectre ever seen on screen – a woolly, smoke-snorting dog-bear-pig demon that’s clearly being wheeled about on a trolley – but still manages to chill the blood with its tale of a professional debunker investigating the murder of a scientist. It helps that the film’s real villain, professional mystic Karswell, is a magnificent creation: somehow managing to be both sleazy and likeable at the same time, Niall McGinnis plays him as a brash, mother-fixated closet case (‘I always preferred sliding down the snakes to climbing up the ladders’) whose powers are beginning to spiral out of control. Tom Huddleston

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66

Switchblade Romance (2003)

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Cécile De France, Maïwenn Le Bosco, Philippe Nahon

Vive le difference!
The retro stylings of this Gallic shocker testify to a prodigious knowledge of old school slasher and giallo films, matched by a knowing, modern cinematic sensibility that gives an extra twist to the remorseless terrorising of De France and Le Besco’s holidaying students. One senses that things won’t end well when we first see Gaspar Noé’s favourite actor, Nahon, fellating himself with a woman’s severed head. The imaginatively gruesome killings and chase scenes come thick and fast and the nerve-jangling sound design exacerbates the tension, making it virtually unbearable. Then, with one staggeringly ill-judged and gob-smackingly offensive plot twist, the entire film falls apart. Aja’s tendency towards unreconstructed, old-school chauvinism surfaced again in his remakes of ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ and ‘Piranha’, though in a more humorous vein. Nigel Floyd

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65

Pulse (Kairo) (2001)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Kumiko Aso, Haruhiko Katô, Koyuki

Ghosts in the machine
Kurosawa’s cautionary philosophical tale uses the familiar tropes of dystopian sci-fi and supernatural horror to explore an internet-fixated world where online communication has eroded social cohesion, replacing personal relationships and human communication with alienated loneliness. Soul-sucking spectres appear online and spread like a virus. Seduced by cryptic messages asking, ‘Do you want to meet a ghost?’, obsessive internet users abandon friends, family and colleagues. Withdrawing from the world, they become lethargic, depressed and ultimately suicidal. Tokyo slides towards a state of spiritual decay and social entropy. Wes Craven had a writing credit on ad director Jim Sonzero’s 2006 remake, which retained the original’s morbid atmosphere and apocalyptic ending but precious little else. The original Japanese title, Kairo, means ‘circuit’. Nigel Floyd

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64

The Beyond (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Cast: Katherine MacColl, David Warbeck

All I have to do is dream
Outside the arthouse, horror is the only cinematic genre where pure surrealism is not only acceptable but expected – and there are few more graphic examples than Fulci’s bonkers bayou bloodbath ‘The Beyond’. There’s a plot of sorts, but it’s fairly standard: a young woman inherits a hotel which happens to have been built over a gateway to hell. But this is merely a loose framework within which Fulci goes all out to upset and horrify his audience: faces melt inexplicably, tarantulas rip out human tongues, zombies rise from the grave, eyes are repeatedly torn out. The result is more accurately nightmarish than almost any other film on this list, a true descent into the depths of meaningless, unpredictable, terrifyingly beautiful horror, with a scorpion-sharp sting in the tail. Tom Huddleston

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63

Lake Mungo (2008)

Director: Joel Anderson

Cast: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger

Non-schlock mock doc shock! A surprise entry on our list, this appallingly titled micro-budget Australian offering made waves at the SXSW film festival in 2006, then promptly vanished off the radar. But somebody was clearly paying attention, because it’s crashed into our top 100. Told in mock-doc style, the film recounts the eerie, possibly supernatural events that occurred in the remote Aussie town of Ararat following a tragic drowning at the local reservoir. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the photography is beautiful, the performances strong and the moments of unease are brilliantly handled and genuinely spooky. Listen hard, and you might just be able to hear ‘Paranormal Activity’ director Oren Peli frantically scribbling notes. Tom Huddleston

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62

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Director: Charles Laughton

Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish

British acting legend Charles Laughton’s sole work as a director may be haunting, but is it really a horror film? There are strong ties to the genre: Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a murderous preacher whose pursuit of hidden booty leads him to hunt a pair of orphaned children through a mystical Southern dreamscape. But more than half a century after it was made, ‘The Night of the Hunter’ continues to shrug off attempts at easy categorisation: if it’s a horror movie, it’s also an adventure story, a crime thriller, a coming-of-age tale and a fairy story. One thing remains certain, however: it’s a masterpiece. Tom Huddleston

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61

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Cast: Véra Clouzot, Simone Signoret

The classic French love triangle gets a sardonic, decidedly un-saucy twist in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s peerless thriller, as the tyrannical headmaster of a low-rent boarding school falls victim to an insurance scheme plotted by his wife and his lover. Recapturing the intensity of his earlier ‘The Wages of Fear’, albeit with the trucks of dynamite replaced by a pair of equally explosive women, Clouzot turns the screws til they squeak and piles on the black humour for good measure. Our tip is to stock up on deodorant before viewing, because you won’t be able to look at a bath for weeks afterwards. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 60-51

60

[Rec] (2007)

Directors: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, David Vert

Eight years on from ‘The Blair Witch Project’, the found-footage horror genre was already running out of steam when this Spanish entry barged in and put everyone else to shame. One of the few truly terrifying (as opposed to just unpleasant) horror movies of the century so far, ‘[Rec]’ follows an action news team embedded with a Barcelona fire crew whose investigation into a domestic disturbance at a city-centre townhouse goes horribly wrong, horribly fast. Essentially just a zombie movie with trimmings, ‘[REC]’ works thanks to its convincing performances and stunning direction, milking every ounce of blood, sweat and fear from a simple, unflashy concept. Several sequels and an American remake followed. Unsurprisingly, they’re all best avoided. Tom Huddleston

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59

Vampyr (1932)

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Cast: Julian West, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz

The first bite is the deepest
‘I had not any particular intention. I just wanted to make a film different from all other films.’ These were the modest ambitions of director Carl Theodor Dreyer as he embarked on his follow-up to 1928’s devastating ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’. And boy, did he succeed. Dismissed at the time as a folly, the influence of ‘Vampyr’ has spread like creeping mist into every corner of the horror universe: in its explosion of pure, surrealist dread we see the roots of everyone from Dario Argento to David Lynch. Crammed with indelible images – shadows detach from bodies and frolic beneath the moon; one man witnesses his own funeral; another drowns in white flour – this is a nightmare made (almost) real. Tom Huddleston

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58

Kwaidan (1964)

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama

Pack up your troubles
Not the scariest film on this list but probably the most visually sumptuous, Masaki Kobayashi's three-hour portmanteau marathon (portmarathon?) of four ghostly folk-tales feels like a Rosetta stone for Japanese horror cinema, its visions of creeping black-haired demon women, easily temptable men and fog-bound spirits – not to mention the eerie twang of the four-string biwa – prefiguring everything from 'Audition' to 'Ringu'. And it doesn't stop there: in the film's gorgeously lurid colour photography and washes of deep, almost Rothko-like watercolour you can see hints of everything from Dario Argento to Hayao Miyazaki. This might be the closest most us will come to experiencing synesthesia. Tom Huddleston

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57

The Vanishing (1988)

Director: George Sluizer

Cast: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets

Where did our love go?
No mainstream genre has such a propensity for downbeat or uncertain endings as horror – and the final scene of ‘The Vanishing’ might just top them all. Obviously we’re not going to reveal it here – that’d just be mean – but suffice it to say, you won’t see this one coming. The rest of the film is powerful stuff – Bervoets plays a young man whose girlfriend is snatched at French truck stop by serial murderer Donnadieu, an otherwise ordinary family man. Unwilling to let the love of his life slip away, the young man finally tracks down his nemesis… and is offered a terrifying choice. Frosty, bleak and grippingly direct, Sluizer’s remarkable feature is only let down by the fact that he remade it – horribly – in Hollywood five years later. Tom Huddleston

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56

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette

Shyamalanadingdong
Controversy still rages over M Night Shyamalan’s throat-grabbing twist: does it take this tale of a crumpled therapist and a disturbed kid who can ‘see dead people’ to new heights of skin-crawling brilliance, or does it fatally undermine the emotional resonance of all that went before? Either way, this is one of the most potent of all modern ghost stories – Haley Joel Osment’s wide-eyed stare is haunting enough on its own, before we get to the actual ghosts (that scene under the blanket is just plain freaky). And Bruce Willis, too, is uncommonly sensitive here – he doesn’t smirk more than twice in the entire movie, which has to be some kind of personal record. Tom Huddleston

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55

Repulsion (1965)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Catherine Deneuve

The girl can’t help it
Polanski once said in an interview that ‘Repulsion’ is one of the films he made as ‘matters of convenience’. In this case he was on his uppers – flat broke in London – and was offered the chance to make a horror film. Which doesn’t tell the half of it. Has there been a more dread-filled study of mental collapse? Catherine Deneuve plays a repressed young Belgian woman, Carole, who lives in London with her sister and works as a manicurist. ‘Give me Revlon’s fire and ice,’ says one of her dowager customers. Fire and ice: it could be a description of Deneuve’s on screen presence, her secretive and chilliness. All around Carole, London is upbeat, going places. The youth are about to quake. In her flat cracks appear in the walls and Carole drifts off into fugues and finally psychosis. The noise of everyday life is deafening, Polanski piercing the subconscious to poke at what lies beneath. Cath Clarke

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54

Eraserhead (1977)

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart

Father knows best
Most of David Lynch’s films were nominated at least once for this list, but only ‘Eraserhead’ actually made it (though ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’ came very close). Inspired by the birth of his own child Jennifer, Lynch creates a mood of near-unbearable, panicky fear, depicting the sprog in question as more a fleshy hot water bottle than an actual human baby. Shot over five years on a budget scraped together from university funding, art grants and odd jobs (Lynch even had a paper round at one point), ‘Eraserhead’ fits squarely within the tradition of American avant garde cinema, but like many of its fellows (the films of Kenneth Anger, for example) it flirts with horror imagery and has a tone of creeping dread which more than justifies its position in this list. Tom Huddleston

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53

Deep Red (1975)

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi

Spaghetti slasher
Argento fans have a tendency to divide into two camps: those who prefer his relatively straightforward, plot-driven early giallo thrillers and those who revel in the surrealistic beauty of his post-‘Suspiria’ dream-movies. ‘Deep Red’ is the film which unites the two camps, combining propulsive narrative intrigue with a series of kill scenes more elaborate and expressionistic than anything the director had yet attempted. Thanks in large part to two likeable lead performances – Hemmings and Nicolodi have a real rapport as the amateur sleuths on the trail of a serial murderer – it’s also Argento’s most breezily enjoyable film, chucking in a fistful of witty, satirical attacks on Italian masculinity and some of the finest prog-fusion freakouts ever committed to tape. Tom Huddleston

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52

The Devils (1971)

Director: Ken Russell

Cast: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave

Sister act
More than any other movie on this list, Ken Russell’s gloriously grotesque recounting of the true-ish incidents that took place in the French town of Loudun in the seventeenth century proves that horror doesn't need ghosts, ghouls and the undead – people are far more cruel, ugly, plague-ridden, corrupt and savage than any supernatural force we could invent. Oliver Reed plays the priapic Father Grandier, whose rock-star sex appeal drives unstable nun Vanessa Redgrave wild with desire – leading to accusations of witchcraft, hideous tortures and some truly unholy scenes involving a cathedral-full of rampaging nuns and (in the uncut version, at least) a life-size statue of the Saviour himself.

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51

The Descent (2005)

Director: Neil Marshall

Cast: Shauna Macdonald, MyAnna Buring, Natalie Mendoza

Subterranean nightmare blues
What might have been a routine ‘chicks with picks’ movie is lent extra emotional depth by the complex group dynamics of six young women who plunge into an Appalachian cave system and discover they are not alone. As well as the cold, the dark and the claustrophobia, they find ancient, blind and ferocious predators with a highly evolved sense of smell. As the women fight to survive, they must also cope with their own half-buried secrets: betrayals surface, tensions explode and loyalties disintegrate. Still grieving for her husband and daughter, Sarah (Macdonald) is driven to the edge of madness by this blend of terror and suspicion. A smarter, nastier big sister to the blokey ‘Dog Soldiers’. Nigel Floyd

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The 100 best horror films: 50-41

50

Peeping Tom (1960)

Director: Michael Powell

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey

The eye of the beholder
The film that all but ended the career of arguably the greatest British director of all time, Michael Powell’s lurid serial-killer thriller is often characterised as being too daring, too ahead of its time for our cosy little homegrown industry to handle. But look again, and there may be other factors in play. One of the most extreme cases in any artform of biting the hand that feeds, ‘Peeping Tom’ isn’t just a movie about a pent-up screwball who gets his kicks watching and murdering women – it’s a film about film, about how the consumption of graphic imagery leads us to demand more, and more, until just watching isn’t enough. No wonder that producers and critics reviled the film as it lays blame squarely at their feet. Not that Powell lets himself off the hook. In an act of still-shocking mea culpa, he appears as the killer’s twisted psychologist father, the true culprit for his son’s brutal crimes. Tom Huddleston

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49

Ring (Ringu) (1998)

Director: Hideo Nakata

Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani

Who’s that girl?
The American remake of ‘Ringu’ scored a fair few votes and came surprisingly close to making the final list – but wisely, our voters opted for this Japanese original, the film that made you glad VHS tapes were on the way out, and finally made teenage goth girls as creepy and disturbing as they always thought they were. The concept is brilliantly simple: if you watch the tape, you die in seven days – unless you manage to persuade someone else to take the curse off your shoulders. But the execution is something else entirely: the final scene, which we obviously won't spoil here, has gone down in legend, and we’re hard pressed to think of a more perfectly staged, brutally unforgettable hide-behind-the-sofa moment in horror cinema. Tom Huddleston

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48

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)

Director: Don Siegel

Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter

The pods next door
Is it a crafty satire of all-American consumerist conformity or a conservative parable about the creeping evils of Commie infiltration? It’s the open-endedness of Siegel’s masterful adaptation of Jack Finney’s bone-chilling novel about shape-shifting pod people that makes it so durable – it really is all things to all people (it’s also, lest we forget, a milestone in independent cinema, one of the biggest non-studio hits of all time). But none of this would mean a thing if it wasn’t also a massively entertaining and propulsive watch: that dynamite ending is still one of the bleakest in horror. Tom Huddleston

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47

Dead of Night (1945)

Directors: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer

Cast: Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Ralph Michael

Don’t be a dummy
Not every segment of this oh-so-British portmanteau piece is scary – there’s one about a ghost on a golf course that’s just plain daft (intentionally so, of course). But ‘Dead of Night’ is best known for its final tale of terror, a story about a ventriloquist and his (haunted? Possessed? Alive?) dummy that’ll leave you quivering. All four of the film’s credited directors were Ealing veterans, used to a spot of black comedy. But Alberto Cavalcanti, who shot the aforementioned sequence, had previous with fusing cosy quaintness with nasty shocks: his Nazi invasion flick ‘Went the Day Well’ is a masterpiece of rural subversion. And yet ‘The Ventriloquist’s Dummy’ might be his finest work: shadowy and intense, it’s the perfect short, sharp shock. Tom Huddleston

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46

The Silence of the Lambs (1990)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

Cordon bleugh
The talk around ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ has always centred on Jodie Foster’s tough-but-vulnerable FBI agent and Anthony Hopkins’s iconic Hannibal Lecter (surely the first time an actor snagged an Oscar for playing a character nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’). So spare a thought for director Jonathan Demme, who also took home a gold statuette but whose work on the film still feels underappreciated. A filmmaker whose last three films had included two indie comedies and a documentary, Demme delivered an old-school horror movie with the scope, gravity and style of a proper Hollywood prestige picture – the first time such a thing had been attempted since the ’70s heyday of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Omen’. Tom Huddleston

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45

The Others (2001)

Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston

Jersey devil
A film so drained of colour that it might as well be monochrome, ‘The Others’ makes the most of the contrast between its pitch-black manor-house interiors – kept permanently dark to avoid harming a pair of light-sensitive children – and the fog-drenched Jersey landscapes outside. Nicole Kidman plays the children’s mother, whose long wait for her husband to return from the war is made even more anxious by a lurking supernatural presence. Alejandro Amenábar’s film was a huge success on release, leading to talk of a Spanish horror renaissance – ironic, given that his influences, from Daphne Du Maurier to ghost stories like ‘The Innocents’, are uniformly British. Tom Huddleston

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44

The Tenant (1976)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani

Roman á clef
What is it about Polanski and confined spaces? With ‘Repulsion’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and finally this Paris-set film, the Polish director proved himself a master of turning the humble flat into frightening domestic terrain. Here, Polanski himself plays a man who moves into an empty apartment, previously occupied by a woman (Adjani) who attempted suicide, and finds himself at the centre of a paranoid storm in which his neighbours are increasingly accusing and vicious towards him – causing his mental state to worsen as it becomes less and less clear exactly what’s real and what’s not. ‘The Tenant’ may be set in the present, but it’s hard not to impose the horror of Polanski’s own childhood experiences in the Warsaw ghetto on to this story of the walls closing in on one man’s world. Dave Calhoun

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43

Hour of the Wolf (1967)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Cast: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann

It’s all in the mind
It’s hard to watch Swedish actor von Sydow as a tortured artist in Bergman’s portrait of a man in deep crisis without thinking of the same actor’s self-mocking act as a troubled painter in Woody Allen’s ‘Hannah and her Sisters’ (1986). This is deadly serious though: the real and imagined sit side by side and haunt each other as von Sydow’s demons take over the imagery and mood of the film as his wife (Ullman) recalls this terrible period in her life. Conceived alongside ‘Persona’, Bergman offers the full horror of an artist’s breakdown and crumbling of his marriage (and perhaps his wife’s mind too) – all of which is presented, at times, as a full-on Gothic nightmare, with characters walking on ceilings, men appearing in hallucinations as birds and a gruesome flashback in which Von Sydow’s character remembers attacking a young boy with a rock. Haunting – and even more so when you discover it emerged from Bergman’s own demons and nervous breakdown in the mid-1960s. Dave Calhoun

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42

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega

Ghosts of the civil dead
From its breathtaking opening shot from inside the bomb bay of a cruising warplane, you know you’re in the hands of a master with ‘The Devil’s Backbone’. Del Toro’s return to his native language following the disappointment of 1997’s heavily recut Hollywood horrorshow ‘Mimic’ proved conclusively that, working without interference, this Mexican up-and-comer was capable of remarkable cinema – a fact that has been reconfirmed time and again since. It’s odd but pleasing that ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ beat out its loose follow-up ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ on this list: it’s an odder, less showy but more complete work, depicting the trials endured by a group of boys living in a haunted orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. Cold, creepy and compelling, this is a small film from a massive talent. Tom Huddleston

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41

Possession (1981)

Director: Andrzej Zulawski

Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent

Down in the tube station at midnight
‘Unrelenting’ is a word often applied to horror movies, but it’s rarely appropriate: even the most extreme movies need the occasional moment of downtime to allow the audience to catch their breath. Not ‘Possession’. Zulawski’s film starts relatively quietly – an expat couple living in Berlin find their marriage falling apart – and builds through a series of arguments, betrayals, unexplained occurrences, bizarre satirical interruptions and scenes of extreme horror until the intensity is almost unbearable. The lead performances are remarkable – Isabelle Adjani’s explosive freakout in the metro station remains one of cinema’s most devastating kicks in the face – and the script is both politically bold and emotionally draining. The effect is quite simply unique, a window into a singular form of creative insanity: it’s not the characters who are possessed, but the film itself. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 40-31

40

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Director: Adrian Lyne

Cast: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello

One pill makes you larger…
A surprise entry on this list, Lyne’s psychedelic post-’Nam comedown thriller seems to have fallen from favour in recent years, but has evidently managed to stick in the minds of horror experts. In a decisive and unexpected break from his then-popular goofy-dweeb persona, Robbins plays Jacob, a worn-out war veteran whose mind begins to fragment once the conflict is over. Is he going crazy, or are there darker forces at work? Beautifully designed by ‘Fatal Attraction’ helmer Lyne, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ feels like an offbeat slice of post-hippy experimentation retooled for the MTV generation: what it lacks in depth and subtlety, it more than makes up for in shock tactics and woozy unpredictability, all anchored in Robbins’s wide-eyed and pitiable central turn. Tom Huddleston

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39

Cannibal Holocaust (1979)

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Cast: Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen

You found it here first
One of the few ‘Video Nasties’ that lives down to its provocative title and lurid cover art. Yet for all its crude excesses – a foetus is ripped from its mother’s womb, a tortoise is skinned alive, genitals are sliced off – ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ does achieve an undeniable visceral intensity. This is largely due to Deodato’s pioneering use of the faux-documentary technique now adopted by every ‘found footage’ horror film, from ‘Blair Witch’ onwards. After witnessing the barbaric practices of an Amazonian tribe, sensation-seeking American documentary filmmakers develop a taste for rape and murder. For all its graphic depictions of cruelty and torture, the most appalling thing about this cannibalistic carnage is the laughable way that it purports to condemn the exploitative violence that it so obviously delights in depicting. Nigel Floyd

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38

Eyes Without a Face (1959)

Director: Georges Franju

Cast: Edith Scob, Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

Flaying alive
If you’ve ever settled into an old-fashioned black and white horror movie safe in the knowledge that nothing here’s going to upset you too much, you need to see Georges Franju’s hideous tale of mad doctors and disfigured daughters. There’s a scene of facial transplant surgery here that’s as clinically graphic as anything Eli Roth could conjure up in his blunt little imagination – and you care about the characters too, which only makes things worse. The film adopts a drifting, dreamlike tone, making the sudden scenes of violence all the more jarring. Tom Huddleston

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37

Frankenstein (1931)

Director: James Whale

Cast: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke

Gods and monsters
Author Mary Shelley and director James Whale may have been separated by half a century, but they were a match made in artistic heaven: two creatively inspired English eccentrics, each of them openly defying adversity (she for her gender, he for his sexual orientation) to create works whose power and influence remains undimmed. Whale’s film truncates Shelley’s novel, shifting the focus away from scientific endeavour to a more empathetic, personally resonant tale of a monstrous outcast confused by an uncaring world and desperately seeking companionship. Tom Huddleston

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36

The Wicker Man (1973)

Director: Robin Hardy

Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

The ultimate sacrifice
One of the few horror movies that’s also a popular singalong classic (at least among London's hipper filmgoers), ‘The Wicker Man’ will scare your socks off and still send you out humming. Drawing on traditions of music, dance and performance from all across these isles – some centuries old, others the product of the ’60s folk boom – director Robin Hardy draws fashionable parallels between pre-Christian culture and hippy subversion. But none of it would work without Edward Woodward's magnificently stiff, controlled central performance: the ultimate sacrificial straw man, he's an anti-hero we can pity, despise and root for all at the same time. Tom Huddleston

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35

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Director: Herk Harvey

Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger

Haunted dancehall
This eerie slice of unintended outsider art is one of the most otherworldly films ever made. Director Herk Harvey was a corporate filmmaker schooled in advertising and public information films – previous works include ‘What About Juvenile Delinquency?’ and ‘Pork! The Meal with a Squeal’. His first and only dramatic feature, ‘Carnival of Souls’ follows a young woman haunted by demonic visions after surviving a car accident. With its shrill pipe-organ soundtrack, corpse-like performances and mounting sense of unease, the film feels like a broadcast from beyond the grave. Tom Huddleston

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34

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Director: James Whale

Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger

She’s alive!
Is ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ the best film inspired by Mary Frankenstein’s nineteenth-century bone-chiller? Time Out’s panel of experts voted it so. Director Whale tried to duck out of making a follow-up to his 1931 hit ‘Frankenstein’, but the studio turned the screws and Whale caved, declaring that if he must make another film, it would be a real ‘hoot’. But while ‘Bride’ is full of camp, sly humour, Karloff’s return as the lumbering monster is also incredibly moving. Dr Frankenstein has given up playing God and tinkering with cadavers, but his dastardly mentor Praetorious blackmails him into creating a mate (Lanchester) for the monster. Legendary make-up ace Jack Pierce’s look for the Bride – barbed wire scars, diva make-up, frizzed out hair streaked with lightening bolts – and Lanchester’s jolting movements, eerily innocent, make this an American gothic to remember. Cath Clarke

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33

Martyrs (2008)

Director: Pascal Laugier

Cast: Mylene Jampanoi, Morjana Alaoiu

The turn of the screw
No ‘Saw’. No ‘Hostel’. One of the biggest surprises thrown up by the Time Out horror poll is that none of the torture-porn horrors of the past decade crept into the list… except ‘Martyrs’. Pascal Laugier’s unrelenting, nastily effective film does, perhaps, show the Americans how to properly do torture (try watching metal screws being pulled out of a young woman’s skull). It opens with a terrifying scene: a girl of about 11, her hair hacked short, running out of an abandoned abattoir, soaked in dried blood. Cut to fifteen years later, and the girl is out for revenge against her torturers – who, it turns out, are members of a martyrdom cult. If that has you reaching for a bucket, wait for the American remake; it’s being produced by makers of Twilight and is likely to be a tad less nihilistic. Cath Clarke

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32

Cat People (1942)

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Cast: Simone Simon, Kent Smith

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up
The idea of horror as an act of political or cultural subversion may have gained traction in the ’70s, but it’s been there all along: what is Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ if not a satire on class? The message in Jacques Tourneur’s eerily beautiful ‘Cat People’ may be more subtle, but it’s equally persuasive: this is a study of the innate power of female sexuality, and how suppressing that power can force it to burst forth in unexpected and dangerous ways. Simone Simon plays Irena, A Serbian immigrant whose repressive childhood – involving, the film implies, sexual abuse – causes her to transform into a deadly panther in moments of arousal. The film’s power lies in the way Tourneur subtly explores these themes without ever crossing the line of taste, or losing sight of the emotional tragedy at the story’s core. Tom Huddleston

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31

Videodrome (1982)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Debbie Harry

Long live the new flesh
David Cronenberg was never a filmmaker in hock to popular trends or studio demands, but of all his movies ‘Videodrome’ feels like the most untethered, the deepest plunge into his squirming psyche. James Woods is the ruthless cable TV programmer who stumbles across a station showing nothing but S&M pornography, and finds not just his mind but his body altered by the experience. A film that simultaneously critiques and satisfies our desire for graphic violence and cheap sleaze, it rarely makes a great deal of direct sense but still seems to speak volumes. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 30-21

30

The Changeling (1979)

Director: Peter Medak

Cast: George C Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas

Did it just get cold in here...?
Old fashioned in the best sense of the phrase, Medak’s oft-neglected supernatural thriller uses pure cinematic technique to scare the hell out of us. The magisterial Scott plays a well known composer who, following the death of his wife and son in a road accident, takes up a teaching job in Seattle and moves into an eerie, haunted Victorian house. Even the most hackneyed scenes, such as a séance in which a scribbling medium attempts to contact the unquiet spirit of the murdered boy, are staged with consummate skill and emotional conviction. Guillermo del Toro maintains that the best ghost stories all have an undertow of melancholy. That’s certainly true here. Nigel Floyd

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29

The Birds (1963)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor

Our feathered friends
‘The Birds is Coming!’ screeched the posters, a grammatical convolution that must have had Alfred Hitchcock quaking with laughter. By this point Hitch was a household name, having a blast with the fact that he was finally as big (in both senses) as the pictures he made, and merrily playing on his reputation to toy with his audience like a cat with a mouse. And ‘The Birds’ is a bit of a black joke – until it isn’t. The special effects may look a tad creaky nowadays, but the key scenes – the murder of crows on the climbing frame, the attack in the attic – still carry a fierce charge. Tom Huddleston

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28

The Evil Dead (1981)

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss

You can make it on your own
Low-budget DIY horror was already a force by 1981 – the ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ folks had shown that you could make millions with an old camera, some enthusiastic friends and a few garden tools – but the movie which took the movement to new heights was Raimi’s astonishing debut. Adapting their own short ‘Within the Woods’, childhood friends Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and star Campbell secured funding from local businesses and traipsed off to the forest to make one of the most ferocious, original and unrelenting horror movies of all time. Sure, it looks a little rough around the edges now (and that still censored tree-rape scene is just unnecessarily vicious), but ‘The Evil Dead’ remains an inspiration for first-time filmmakers, a testament to the power of plasticine, glue and gumption. Tom Huddleston

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27

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez

Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C Williams, Joshua Leonard

A year later their footage was found...
Here’s a handy lifestyle tip: if you’re out on a first date and want to know if your prospective paramour has even a whiff of imagination, ask them if they liked ‘The Blair Witch Project’. Here is a film that splits the population perfectly in two: dullards will complain that ‘it’s boring, nothing happens’, as three (admittedly slightly irritating) young filmmakers trek off into the woods on the trail of a local legend, wander around a bit, get lost and freak out. But for those prone to dark dreams – for those able to envisage the terrors that hide in remote places – this is one of the most unsettling, effective horror movies ever made. Tom Huddleston

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26

Poltergeist (1982)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T Nelson

See you on the otherside
Do funfair haunted houses still exist, or are they obsolete in this era of torture porn and human centipedes? Either way, they’re the perfect comparison for ‘Poltergeist’, a film which draws you in, gooses you gleefully for two hours then spits you out the other side, quivering but happy. There’s nothing too nasty in this effects-packed ghost story – the odd face-rip, the occasional pop-up corpse – but the effect is more bracing and enjoyable than a hundred ‘Hostel’s.

The big question still surrounding the film, of course, is who really made the movie – credited director Tobe Hooper, or Steven Spielberg, the producer whose hands-on approach led some observers to cry foul. There’s no doubt that ‘Poltergeist’ looks and feels like a Spielberg movie, all suburban angst and shimmering God-light – but it has a wholly Hooper-ish ferocity at points as well. Let’s call it a happy collaboration. Tom Huddleston

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25

The Omen (1976)

Director: Richard Donner

Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick

One hell of a parents’ evening
Drawing on the greatest horror story ever written, The Bible, Richard Donner’s rattlingly good Satanic romp pitches itself expertly between the self-serious theological inquiry of ‘The Exorcist’ and the bellowing Grand Guignol of Hammer. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick play it absolutely straight as the adoptive parents of the Antichrist, leaving British character-acting legends like Billie Whitelaw, David Warner and Leo McKern to chew the scenery to their hearts’ content. Oh, and the kill scenes are magnificent: pity poor priestly Patrick Troughton, shish-kebabed by a church spire. Tom Huddleston

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24

Freaks (1932)

Director: Tod Browning

Cast: Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles

Pretty on the inside
There’s something slightly uncomfortable about including Tod Browning’s controversial circus story on a list of horror movies – but that’s the genre the film was designed to fit into, and the last few minutes more than justify its inclusion. For the most part, though, ‘Freaks’ is almost the opposite – a film about acceptance, about realising that however different and troubling people might look on the outside, under the skin we all have the same needs, dreams and desires. Of course, it all goes hideously wrong at the climax, but even here we’re never in any doubt where Browning’s sympathies lie. Tom Huddleston

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23

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

Director: FW Murnau

Cast: Max Schreck, Greta Schröder

Birth of a nation
If you think FW Murnau’s unauthorised riff on Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is disturbing now, just imagine how the film must have looked to a nation still reeling from the First World War. So much more than just a vampire movie, this is a story of madness and murder, degradation and disease – the latter personified by the black rats who swarm from Count Orlok’s ship as it docks in Wisborg harbour. It’s also ground zero for the horror movie: so many of the tricks Murnau employs here – coiled shadows, cowering virgins, hideous make-up, dark transformations, square-jawed heroes and the blackest humour – remain staples of the genre almost a century later. Tom Huddleston

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22

The Haunting (1963)

Director: Robert Wise

Cast: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson

Things that go bump in the night
With some horror movies, it’s all about context – watch ‘The Haunting’ on a well-lit afternoon and it’ll seem creaky, old-fashioned, even a bit silly. But watch it late at night, alone, and this might be the greatest ghost story of them all, in which the things going bump in the night aren’t out there in the dark, but right inside the room – or inside your mind. The use of wide angles is gorgeously unsettling – director Robert Wise is clearly a student of Orson Welles, whose off-kilter influence is all over the film. Wise would return to terrify us again four years later with ‘The Sound of Music’ – a jack of all trades, indeed. Tom Huddleston

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21

Audition (1999)

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura

Trust the pain
Who’s the real villain in Takashi Miike’s ice-cold thriller: the middle-aged widower who sets up a fake movie audition to lure unsuspecting single women and ends up opting for the most pliable, geisha-like applicant? Or the aforementioned young lady, whose meek and mild exterior hides a dark secret? Okay, okay, it’s her – Asami remains one of cinema’s most memorably twisted psychopaths. But Miike’s masterpiece never lets the hero off the hook either, transforming ‘Audition’ from a simple cautionary tale into a full-on autopsy of Japanese masculinity. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: 20-11

20

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon

Freddy’s coming for you
It’s arguably the single greatest set-up for a modern horror movie: a monster that invades your dreams, slashing away at your very psyche with his razor-fingered gloves. And while the franchise may have descended swiftly into self-parody – they marketed Freddy Krueger dolls to pre-teens, if you recall – the original remains one of the most daring, inventive and downright terrifying shockers of the last century. Wes Craven’s control over his material is absolute, and even a handful of low-rent, low-budget effects can’t undermine the mounting air of existential, avant-garde dread.

It’s also, lest we forget, the movie that made a studio: New Line Cinema were barely a glint in the indie scene’s eye when they forked out $1.8 million for Wes Craven to realise his delirious vision. Seven ‘Nightmare’ sequels and little more than a decade later, they funded the entire ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Cheers, Freddy. Tom Huddleston

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19

Let the Right One In (2008)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

Boy meets vampire
An instant classic? If its position in the top 100 is anything to go by, then yes. Tomas Alfredson’s creepy horror, whose snowy setting suits its sadness, is a coming of age story about falling in love for the first time. Twelve year-old Oskar (Hedebrant) falls for the girl next door Eli (Leandersson). He tells her she smells funny and lends her his Rubik’s cube (this is 1981). But the sweet he offers makes her violently sick. And her eyes bleed if she goes into his flat uninvited. Eli is a vampire: ‘I’ve been this age for a very long time.’ Director Alfredson didn’t want polished performances, so cast non-professional actors. Eli is spookily ageless, most memorably in a scene stroking the face of her devoted middle-aged minder/body-snatcher like he’s her wayward son. Cath Clarke

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18

The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis

Friends don’t let friends teleport
David Cronenberg’s delirious reimagining of that old story of a scientist whose experiments with teleportation lead to a nasty genetic mixup, ‘The Fly’ isn’t just one of the very finest horror movies, it’s also one of cinema’s great tragic romances. Charming, tentative and beautifully written, the initial relationship between leads Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis harks back to the screwball romances of old, which only makes Goldblum’s ensuing physical and mental degradation all the more horrifying to behold. In Cronenberg’s hands, this genetic disease becomes a forceful metaphor for everything bad you can imagine, from cancer, Aids and ageing to lost love and inexplicable heartbreak. Beautiful, sickening, exhilarating, savage, inspiring and inspired, ‘The Fly’ is humanist cinema at its most non-human, and a master filmmaker’s finest hour. Tom Huddleston

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17

Evil Dead II (1987)

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry

Hail to the king, baby
In which Bruce Campbell reveals himself to be the Fangoria generation’s answer to Buster Keaton. ‘The Evil Dead’ had humour but it was still, at heart, a video nasty: that tree-rape scene tended to kill the chuckles. But in ‘Evil Dead 2’, the fact that Raimi and Campbell had begun their career alternating between horror shorts and Three Stooges knockoffs paid massive dividends: this is without doubt the most successful blend of horror and comedy, and a classic in either field. The breakthrough moment comes midway, as Campbell’s own hand is possessed by an evil spirit, leading to some of the most jawdropping slapstick imaginable (and a peerless Hemingway gag). But Raimi never forgets to keep the blood flowing: limbs fly, eyeballs explode, and you don’t even want to know what goes on in that woodshed. Tom Huddleston

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16

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Director: John Landis

Cast: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

My, what big teeth you have
This outsider’s perspective on Britishness (we’re all either beer-swilling Yorkshire slobs or stiff-collared London snobs) might be offensive if it wasn’t so infuriatingly funny, clever, scary and brilliant. One of a very short list of films to combine horror with comedy and to hit both nails square on the head, John Landis’s film is dry, sly and endlessly quotable (‘a naked American man stole my balloons!’). As an added bonus, the special effects still look remarkable, even in the age of CGI: there’s something about the look of real latex skin stretching over metal-frame bones that no amount of processing power can possibly replicate. Tom Huddleston

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15

Carrie (1982)

Director: Brian De Palma

Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving

Don’t get mad, get even
She wasn’t the favourite to play ‘creepy Carrie’, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Sissy Spacek (looking like she’s stepped into the ‘70s from another time altogether) in the role. Stephen King got the idea for the novel, his first, in the girls’ locker room of a college where he was working as a caretaker. Teenage girls can be pure evil and it’s in a locker room that we meet Carrie, who’s just had her first period and is being told to ‘plug it up!’ by the mean girls. Carrie’s secret is that she has telekinetic powers, which are about to wreak an apocalypse at the school prom. As for the pig’s blood scene, it doesn’t matter how many times you watch it, you’re willing that bucket not to drop. Spacek gamely offered to be covered in real pig’s blood, but in the end was drenched with a mix of syrup and food colouring. Cath Clarke

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14

The Innocents (1961)

Director: Jack Clayton

Cast: Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Pamela Franklin

Suffer the little children
Kids are creepy enough in real life, with their pliable morals and tiny little hands. Still, the movies always manage to take it a step further. Arguably the most irksome spooky-child movie in existence, ‘The Innocents’ was adapted by no less a light than Truman Capote from Henry James’s novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’, about a governess hired to educate two aristocratic brats who might be hiding a dark, supernatural secret. Consciously attempting to place his film apart from the operatic antics of Hammer, director Jack Clayton created a masterwork of restraint, from Deborah Kerr’s lip-biting lead performance to the film’s groundbreaking but subtly employed electronic score. Tom Huddleston

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13

Don't Look Now (1973)

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie

Nothing is what it seems
Voted the best British film of all time in a 2010 Time Out poll of experts, Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s short story isn't just a masterpiece of terror, it’s also a work of bottomless empathy and slender, spectral beauty. This being a list of horror movies, we’ll skip over the film’s infamous marital sex scene – still, in this writer's opinion, the most convincing ever filmed – and go straight to the spooky bits: the shots of Venice in winter, all boarded up and lonesome; the two psychic sisters, imparting their impenetrable orphic knowledge; and most of all that hammer-blow of an ending, in which a child-sized crimson Mackintosh coat hides the worst of all possible fears. Tom Huddleston

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12

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director: George A Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman

The beginning of the end
The film that changed it all, that took horror out of the realm of creaky castles and mad science and into the harsh light of the modern day. Director George Romero insists that much of what made his debut so groundbreaking – the in-your-face documentary camerawork, the unadorned interiors and unpolished performances – were just the necessary result of zero-budget filmmaking. But that’s not the case for the film’s progressive race and gender politics, or its slam-bang editing, or its show-stopping violence: as the dead girl rises up to feed on her helpless mother, it’s still possible to feel the world shift a little on its axis. Tom Huddleston

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11

Suspiria (1976)

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci

An elegantly choreographed dance of death
‘Fear is a 370-degree centigrade body temperature. With “Suspiria” I wanted 400 degrees.’ Italian horror legend Dario Argento’s grasp of human body chemistry may be flawed, but his intentions are unmistakable: this was his attempt to make the scariest movie he could imagine, and hang all other considerations. Out the window go plot, character development and common sense; in the creaky-hinged front door come high style, visual splendour and an almost childlike anti-logic. The result might be the most beautiful horror movie ever made – and one that’ll haunt your dreams for weeks afterward. Tom Huddleston

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The 100 best horror films: top ten

10

Jaws (1975)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Live every week like it’s shark week
‘A perfect engine…’ These words, used by Richard Dreyfuss’s geeky ichthyologist to describe the merciless Great White Shark, could just as easily be used to describe Steven Spielberg’s peerless, relentless nature-horror masterpiece. ‘Jaws’ is a work of almost preternatural precision, a film where everything from the script to the performances to the photography to the special effects are just flawless, working in machine-like harmony to deliver the ultimate audience experience. Is it high art? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it is without doubt one of the pinnacles of cinematic craftsmanship.

Which is even more of a miracle when you consider the odds against it. Spielberg was 26 years old when he was hired, a veteran of a handful of TV shows and one moderately successful movie, ‘The Sugarland Express’. The production problems were legendary, the budget ballooning from $4 million to $9 million over months of rewrites, malfunctioning effects and natural disasters. Nonetheless, on release ‘Jaws’ swiftly became the biggest movie of all time, and the most commercially successful director in the history of cinema was up and running. Tom Huddleston

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9

Dawn of the Dead (1974)

Director: George A Romero

Cast: Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, David Emge

Supermarket sweep
Now that’s he’s become a one-man zombie factory (with steeply diminishing returns), it’s hard to remember that George Romero was, at first, dubious about the idea of making a sequel to his 1969 game-changer ‘Night of the Living Dead’. But with his most personal project (and, perhaps, his masterpiece), ‘Martin’ (see No. 87), failing miserably at the box office, Romero decided to bite the bullet – and reinvigorated his career in the process. Though ‘Night’ changed the face of horror, this is the film he’ll be remembered for: the wildest, most deliriously exciting zombie flick of them all, and the movie which pretty much defines the concept of socially aware, politically astute horror cinema. Its influence has been felt in every zombie film since (and even on TV in ‘The Walking Dead’), and it remains a near-flawless piece of fist-pumping ultraviolence. Tom Huddleston

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8

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis

Is that a carving knife in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?
Movie snobs always have to point out that Bob Clark’s ‘Black Christmas’ actually birthed the slasher subgenre, but it was the astonishing success of John Carpenter’s breakthrough indie ($70 million worldwide on a $300,000 budget) that really set things in motion. But forget all the masked wannabes and knife-wielding suburban loonies that came after, and marvel at the streamlined power of Carpenter’s film: the gliding camera, the concealing shadows, the single-minded presence of masked villain Michael Myers, as perfect a killer as the shark in ‘Jaws’. Almost four decades later, it’s still close to flawless. Tom Huddleston

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7

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

The hoof that rocks the cradle
It’s hard enough moving into a flat and trying to start a family without having to wrestle with the enveloping suspicion that your new neighbours might be satanists dead-set on parenting a demon child via you. This is the intelligent, subtle face of horror, as Polanski limits the specifics to a minimum and keeps us guessing as to how much is going on merely in the mind of Mia Farrow’s character as she comes to believe she’s been impregnated by a creepy bunch of well-to-do Manhattanites with a connection to the occult. There are some more explicit key scenes – a potential nighttime rape and a chilling climax – that serve to get right under our skin without making the whole premise seem ridiculous. Farrow and Cassavetes’s performances as a couple disintegrating serve Polanski well in his attempt to make the potential alienation of everyday family life feel horrific, and the faux-naive score, evoking lullabies, makes the whole affair feel doubly creepy in the most heady way possible. Dave Calhoun

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6

The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley

Change you can believe in
Time travel has many enticing possibilities, but one of the most enjoyable would be to travel back to 1982 and tell John Carpenter that his new movie would someday score sixth place in a list of the 100 best horror movies – even beating his own iconic ‘Halloween’. Like many future horror classics, ‘The Thing’ was hated on first release, dismissed as an ‘Alien’ clone more interested in pushing the boundaries of SFX than in character or tension. It was a disastrous flop, and threatened Carpenter’s once unassailable reputation as the king of the new horror. It’s hard to imagine now: with the benefit of hindsight (and, more importantly, repeat viewings), ‘The Thing’ has emerged as one of our most potent modern terrors, combining the icy-cold chill of suspicion and uncertainty with those magnificently imaginative, pre-CG effects blowouts. Tom Huddleston

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5

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh

What would mother think?

A few years back, David Thomson’s book ‘The Moment of Psycho’ argued that Alfred Hitchcock’s blackly comic serial killer masterpiece didn’t just change cinema, but society itself. By confronting audiences with everyday horrors; by knowingly manipulating them into sympathising with a murderer; by offering an amoral, adulterous heroine then bumping her off so savagely; by mocking Freudian psychology and the pompous stuffed-shirts who practice it; by pushing an image of America as a trap-laden labyrinth populated by creepy cops and nice-as-pie psychopaths; and by implying that women (brace yourself now) actually use the toilet sometimes, Hitch helped pave the way for all the cultural earthquakes and moral rebalancing acts that the coming decade had to offer. And he did it all with a wink and a smile. Now that’s showbusiness. Tom Huddleston

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4

Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm

The miracle of birth
Talk about above and beyond: Ridley Scott was hired by Twentieth Century Fox to make ‘“Jaws” in space’, and came back with one of the most stylish, subversive, downright beautiful films in either the horror or sci-fi genre. The masterstroke, of course, was hiring Swiss madman HR Giger as the film’s chief designer – his work brings a slippery, organic grotesquerie to what could’ve been a straight-up bug hunt (© ‘Aliens’). But let’s not overlook Dan O’Bannon’s script, which builds character without assigning age, race or even gender – plus one of the finest casts ever assembled. Tom Huddleston

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3

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns

Sounds like the neighbours are doing DIY again
‘Who will survive… and what will be left of them?’ It’s a question that applies as much to the audience for Tobe Hooper’s relentless stalk-and-saw shocker as to its doomed, hapless characters. Horror had never been this raw before, and it could be argued that it hasn’t since, the sheer grimy ugliness of the piece leading some to walk out, others to cry sadism and many more to acclaim the film as a modern masterpiece; horror in its purest, most unforgiving form. Sequels and remakes have come thick and fast, but nothing will ever match your first encounter with the original and its brutal, hammer-over-the-head power. Tom Huddleston

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2

The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Do not disturb

The scariest moments in ‘The Shining’ are so iconic they’ve become in-jokes: Jack Nicholson leering psychotically from posters on the walls of student bedrooms everywhere... ‘Here’s Johnny’. Even so, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of execution and claustrophobia still retains the power to frighten audiences out of their wits. Nicholson is Jack Torrance, a writer working as a caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado mountains over winter. Stephen King, on whose novel the film was based, was famously unimpressed. The problem, he said, was that ghost-sceptic Kubrick was ‘a man who thinks too much and feels too little’. He resented Kubrick for stripping out the supernatural elements of his story. Torrance is not tortured by ghosts but by inadequacy and alcoholism. And for many, it’s as a study of insanity and failure that ‘The Shining’ is so chilling. Cath Clarke

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1

The Exorcist

Director: William Friedkin

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow

Forty years of sucking cocks in hell
By the ’70s, horror had divided into two camps: on one hand, there were the ‘real life’ terrors of ‘Psycho’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’, films that brought horror into the realm of the everyday, making it all the more shocking. On the other, there were the more outrageous dream-horrors popular in Europe, the work of Hammer Studios in the UK and Mario Bava and Dario Argento in Italy, films that prized artistry, oddity and explicit gore over narrative logic. The first film to attempt to bring the two together was ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, but Polanski’s heart clearly belonged to the surreal. The first to achieve that blend with absolute certainty was ‘The Exorcist’ – which perhaps explains its position as the unassailable winner of this poll.

In cutting from the clanging bazaars of Iraq to the quiet streets of Georgetown, in blending dizzying dream sequences with starkly believable human drama, Friedkin created a horror movie like no other – both brutal and beautiful, artful and exploitative, exploring wacked-out religious concepts with the clinical precision of an agnostic scientist. And make no mistake: ‘The Exorcist’ is most definitely a horror film: though it may be filled with rigorously examined ideas and wonderfully observed character moments, its primary concern is with shocking, scaring and, yes, horrifying its audience out of their wits – does mainstream cinema contain a more upsetting image than the crucifix scene? That it still succeeds, almost four decades later, is testament to Friedkin’s remarkable vision. Tom Huddleston

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How many horror films have you seen?

The 100 best horror films checklist

We came up with a definitive list of the best horror films ever made. But how many have you seen? Take the test and discover your scary movie prowess.

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By: Cath Clarke

Who voted in our top 100 horror films countdown?

Comments

64 comments
Sarah I
Sarah I

I honestly cannot believe Spoorloos is so far down the list. I don't know anyone who has seen that film and isn't affected by it for years afterwards, it is truly a masterpiece. 

Also this list, any pretty much ever list like it, really suffers from omitting so many Asian horrors. Onibaba is one of the eeriest film I have ever seen. 

Alan C
Alan C

No room for The Haunting :-) I'm disappointed.

Hannah F
Hannah F

surely the picture for number 88 (the unknown) is wrong? no way is that a picture of a dude in a 1927 movie.

Kirk B
Kirk B

No "Maniac" Did I miss "Friday the 13th" No Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" No "Inside" But "Salo" is a horror movie.

amanda s
amanda s

All these Movie arent even scary no scary movie is to scared for me..........i love scary movie no scary movie is scary to me. Nothing scares be except spiders i hate those creep crawlers, but everyone has a fear of something. So who likes scary movies because i love horror movies.

Azor A
Azor A

Um. Not sure how old this is but I would include The Conjuring, Insidious, Sinister, Oculus, It Follows and not sure why this list does not include Friday the 13th, Scream, Candyman,Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, American Psycho, Stir of Echoes, 1408, Zombieland, Mothman Prophesies, Final Destination, Black Christmas, It, Pet Sematary, The Lost Boys, The Hills Have Eyes, Creepshow, Cujo


I would also move up Silence of the Lambs. I know this movie may not be seen as a traditional "horror" movie and could easily be categorized as a crime thriller but it has some very real and disturbing scenes particularly involving Buffalo Bill in his home. Although now spoofed and joked about in modern pop culture and movies and television shows, the scene where Buffalo Bill is dancing and his victim being held captive in the hole in his house is one of the most depraved, real, and disturbing scenes I have ever watched. There are movies I have watched with gore and intentional shock value that is cheap but this hits on a very real and deep level. 


Another movie I would include that some of my horror genre watching friends either dislike or just feel ok about is Rob Zombie's adaptation of Halloween. I understand it is a remake and may not belong on the list but it is worth a mention. One scene in particular when a young Michael Myers confronts his bully and bludgens him with a baseball bat is raw and hard to watch. In many movies it is usually a bit gratifying to see a bully brought to justice and at first you feel that in this scene, but then you begin to say enough is enough. The scene is long and disturbing and gives a glimpse of the relentless and remorseless evil that has grown within Michael. 

Terek B
Terek B

@Azor A 96. Scream, 73. Black Christmas....It...not a movie it's a mini series....Shaun of the Dead is a comedy not a horror, i agree on some movies you mentioned


James P
James P

I belive it was a tree limb and not a baseball bat he uses to bludgeon that bully to death.

Kayne Y
Kayne Y

this is the 5th time that i've read this list, just in slightly different orders and always number one is..... the exorcist. no surprises there. Im looking for something new... something fresh. i don't want to be watching the same movies over and over again. Any suggestions on something different?

Jason E
Jason E

@Kayne Y Great point your making there. Although it is an amazing horror, it would be good for a change to see someone have a different opinion. I mean, surely everyone doesn't think that it's #1?

Lanze L
Lanze L

@Kayne Y Try The Tunnel. Its an Australian made "found Footage" film. One of the best I've seen.

Rachael M
Rachael M

@Kayne Y I found the tale of two sisters very creepy if you don't mind subtitles

Lee G
Lee G

Friday the 13th should be on this list.

Akrat
Akrat

How The Hack Is Hellraiser At 80? It Should Be In Top 25.

Souza
Souza

Waiting for Brazilian Slasher , Condado Macabro.

Ryan
Ryan

The Exorcist... Are you fucking kidding me? This is a joke.

Kirk B
Kirk B

@Ryan Name another Horror Film that had people running for the doors. If they released it today people would still be running for the exits. Name a scene more horrifying then a 12 year old and that cross.

danadon
danadon

a nightmare on elm street is scary

Alli
Alli

Fantastic!! I loved not only the list but reading the explanations as well. I wish all the movies had reviewer quotes, not just the top 10. I am a little surprised not to see It on the list as that movie made me fear clowns, but perhaps because it was technically a mini-series? Seven was also pretty terrifying. As a horror genre fan I think it is so important to appreciate the movies that came first as they influence the movies that we have now. I thought it was perfectly fair to skip many modern movies in favor of older ones. Given the technology and blood and gore, etc that we have now, we forget that some of the older movies were once nightmare inducing in our world. We laugh at the special effects and trade appreciation for a desire to see violence. It's a real shame. Bravo! Thank you for acknowledging old favorites and giving me new movies to seek out!

Rachael M
Rachael M

@Alli Yes! It, one of the scariest films I've ever seen. Totally should be on there

Tim
Tim

Ok thats enough wasting my time, this is a joke. Lets compare modern movies with movies filmed with a baked patato, thats useful. I searched the "internet" for great horror films, ok , im not looking for a list of black and white classics, if you want make a list of them but call it what it is. Not "Best horror Films." Thank you.

anirudh
anirudh

better have latest movies also............

muhammad shaban
muhammad shaban

i was saw one movie but don't remember that movie name.some people cuts patrs of human body with saw. they sel human heart and other part.hero runaway from there but his finger cut down .he take finger and run away.plz tel me the name of movie.tks

Ryan Morgan
Ryan Morgan

@muhammad shaban That sounds like the first Hostel film. Here's the selected quote I've taken from the synopsis "He then continues his torture with the chainsaw, but inadvertently saws off Paxton's handcuffs along with his ring and pinky finger before slipping on the ball-gag which he just threw on the floor." Also the plot, in short: "Three backpackers, two Americans and one Icelander, does Europe by train with two major goals: To get high and nail as many women as possible... In Amsterdam they accidentally learn of a hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia where sex-mad women thirst for men in general, and American men i particular. They of course decide to go there and at first it seems the rumors were true. But they soon learn that the hostel is nothing more than a front for a bizarre club, where people can pay a huge fee to get to perform unspeakable acts." I hope that's helped.. (If correct of course lol)

Mkumara
Mkumara

Sir i was saw one movie but don't remember that movie name. This movie story is that some people stay in house one guy play a game in house who alive go out they'll get prize one girl make it out there but she goes to 2 round.. Pls confirm me this is which movie name pls

Mkumara
Mkumara

Sir i was saw one movie but don't remember that movie name. This movie story is that some people stay in house one guy play a game in house who alive go out they'll get prize one girl make it out there but she goes to 2 round.. Pls confirm me this is which movie name pls

Justin L
Justin L

@Mkumara house on haunted hill :-)

jams
jams

good to watch from 20yrs to above

Anon
Anon

Stop making us click a thousand different pages just to increase your click count and force those without adblock to see more and more advertisements. While it may increase your revenue over the short term, many viewers will eventually migrate toward sites that offer them better treatment.

Chuck Elstob
Chuck Elstob

Ever since I have been watching horror movies and started with the classics they always keep you on the edge of my seat.

daniel
daniel

halloween is scary

Jaime
Jaime

DOG SOLDIERS

mmm
mmm

house of 1000 corpses, devils rejects, i am legend, nightmare on elm st(s), any of the friday the 13th, hellraise(s), stephen king movies, clive barker movies.

willyupshaw
willyupshaw

It's easy to criticize these lists, but still, sub-standard in my opinion. The Hills Have Eyes, and Amityville Horror are major omissions, (dated, sure, but so's half this list,) and leaving off Friday the 13th is criminal, and probably due to snobbery and not bothering to distinguish the original from the sequels. And I couldn't find the date, but if this was made after 2009, the biggest omission of all, (and in the comments left by people,) is Antichrist. Maybe people haven't seen it. They should. The best horror film of the era, top ten of all time easy, if not top three. And what about Saw? That's a no-brainer.

Ryan Morgan
Ryan Morgan

@willyupshaw Antichrist is so beautifully shot! Dare I say it but that one scene at the beginning was so haunting that after buying the film on iTunes I also realised I had to buy the soundtrack. It still gives me chills! Specifically this track >> "Lascia Ch'io Pianga Prologue 5:21 Lars von Trier Antichrist Soundtrack"  


Hollybuggy
Hollybuggy

Any one who says jaws is scary is a friggen baby!

johnathan
johnathan

The one that I always notice is never on any of these lists and i still think is easily one of the best horror movies of all time.. castle freak. How in the hell is that never on any top horror list???? that is the only movie that still makes me crawl up the back of the coucha nd look through my fingers.

fangloria
fangloria

Given the rather loose definition of horror put forth by this list, I think Battle Royale was unfairly omitted. As others have said though, not nearly enough representation from the Eastern hemisphere.