The 100 best horror films: the list

The best horror films, as voted for by more than 100 experts including Simon Pegg and Roger Corman

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By Derek Adams, Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Sarah Cohen, Nigel Floyd and Tom Huddleston, with the generous support of everyone at FrightFest and Cine-Excess. Explore the individual top tens of every contributor.

6

The Thing

Dir John Carpenter (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. TH

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What the experts said

‘John Carpenter presents us with a cast of completely real, believable men dealing with an extraordinary situation. The special effects are still jaw dropping, but once again (as with all the great films that affect you), it’s the finely drawn characters that really matter. If you don't care about the people, then nothing is at stake. Here we are rooting for them to come out alive, as they battle an alien being, then themselves. A nerve shredding ride.’


Reece Shearsmith


Users say

177 comments
NateinDetroit
NateinDetroit

I'm not a fan of slasher movies and gore.  Hate them, to be frank.  Predictable and boring.  The Halloween difference is suspense - Carpenter's ability to tap into our collective insecurities, and then the score ropes you in like a noose around your neck.  Examples of great moments... the scene where the Dr. is driving to the institution, sound of rain and wiper blades on the windshield, and then you see the patients wandering around in the dark in their white gowns.  Truly, creepy.  It's unpredictable, yet not beyond our comprehension.  Then of course there are all the scenes where Michael appears, then disappears - car outside school, hedges, clothesline.  Less believable, but adds that necessary ghostly quality of stealth and super-human abilities.  Ranks up there for me with Rear Window, The Shining, and Silence of the Lambs.  Wife and I watch it every year on Halloween.  I think I also love the non-tech 1970's quality.  Nowadays, they can do anything on film, but that is always in my head the movie loses something as a result.  For example - look at all those creatures attacking the castle in Lord of the Rings... I start wondering how long it took the graphics team to design that because it's so incredibly unbelievable (yep, my mind unfortunately goes there!). I would be fine if I never have to watch another movie with fictitious creatures or dragons or vampires.  I had given up on zombies until The Walking Dead redeemed that genre.  Good suspense has some foundation in reality.  The fact is the film industry had to work harder to scare people before Jurassic Park's CGI.  That's the treat of Halloween.  And this is my totally subjective opinion.  Incidentally, not a fan of the Halloween sequels.  One Halloween was all we needed.  

Steven R
Steven R

Friday the 13th??? Where is it? Spawned many sequels and the iconic Jason Vorhees who is one of the biggest icons in horror... I would have to put the original on there as well as part 2 in which Jason is first introduced and doesn't even rock the hockey mask yet... Part 2 is probably my favorite as Jason sports a one-holed nap sack and even runs after his victims... Not to mention a really cool cat and mouse chase seen that concludes what I would say is a cheesy but classic horror movie. One of the movies is got to be in the top 100 is all I'm saying. No Child's Play either? Your list is okay but merely a drastic opinion I would say... Brad Dourif's chilling vocals portrayed through a killer doll post CGI is a horror classic. This list has some great movies no doubt but misses a few I can think of off the top of my head... Just saying it could have been done better and honestly if given the time I could do better myself. And the original Frankenstein not in the top 5 is disappointing... Boris Karloff is the classic monster in a truly original horror story that is one of the greatest movies of the horror genre of all time. You get 2 stars... A little disappointed

Daniel G
Daniel G

Not a bad list, but a pretty predictable top 10.  And what about Near Dark, Basket Case, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Island of Lost Souls, The Wolf man, The Howling, The Last Man on Earth, Let Sleeping Corpses Die, From Beyond, Zombi 2, Fright Night, Night of The Demons, Candyman, Dog Soldiers, May, Shutter.

Zelda S
Zelda S

I like the movie "Burn witch Burn." It's not your classic jump scare movie but has some good scares about witchcraft and a killer ending.

Simon A
Simon A

If Chronos was made in 1943 then how come the screen shot is in colour?

Gghj H
Gghj H

This list is amateur. No Martyrs.

Henry d
Henry d

Whilst I do regard this as a good film, I agree with King that it missed the point. A pity really.

Henry d
Henry d

Alien, a great movie on many levels, spoilt only by the advent of Hollywood PC...

Henry d
Henry d

Newton once said "If I have seen far it is because I stand on shoulders of giants", and whilst I agree with the rating of Carpenter's "The Thing", to applaud it without a nod and a wink to the original movie and the author of the story (John Campbell Jr.) is, at least, careless.

Martin K
Martin K

I've never thought The Exorcist scary because it requires a religious belief I don't have. I do, however, accept crazed, evil people and zombies.

72trailsofsmoke
72trailsofsmoke

do you have to use the tired old myth about the cast of 'Alien' not knowing what was going to happen to John Hurt? How do you think they filmed it? -  With Hurt in a body cast with fx crew there to perform the effect. Oh and the scene used in the film was a retake so the cast had seen it all before anyway... You don't have to know any of this for common sense to tell you that the alien didn't just burst out of his chest without some serious preparation. Lazy, poorly-researched journalism really hacks me off...

Rhiannon H
Rhiannon H

"Dawn of the Dead", came out in 1978, not 1974. That is my all time favorite horror film.

mjer90
mjer90

i  dont understand all the genre nuts losing their minds over certain "non-horror" films on the list.  horror is horror.  if you want to fine-tooth comb the genre and only accept "strict" definition films aka ghost stories, monsters, gore, etc, then you're missing out on a whole range of disturbing material that elicit the same emotional responses.  kudos to time out for listing films like come and see and jacob's ladder, that are just as horrifying (probably more so, even) than most horror films.  


this is a great list - very comprehensive, both in terms of eras and sub-genres.  i personally would have liked to have seen capenter's prince of darkness and burial ground: nights of terror.  though, the former definitely gets a mixed reaction from the masses as far as john carpenter films go.  and the latter, totally niche and terrible in a lot of respects.  but i still see it as the ultimate atmospheric zombie flick.  


dont look now almost breaking the top 10?  awesome.

Fil M
Fil M

Session 9, very underrated but creepy as hell, made in a real haunted asylum called Danvers (unfortunately not standing anymore)

Michael S
Michael S

Although I respect this list and all of its original choices, I believe the following three films must be included:

(1) The Eclipse (2009)

(2) Sinister (2012)

(3) The Conjuring (2013)

Terminator
Terminator

Personally I believe people saying all old horror movies are bad and likewise those claiming all new horror movies are bad are wrong. I did like many older titles on this list including The Thing, Alien, Jaws etc and I am delighted it has at least one new good horror movie The Descent(2005).


Since An American Werewolf movies was mentioned in this list I have 3 werewolf movies that I like much better. The Howling(1981) the original the rest of Howling movies are more or less B budget movies. Ginger Snaps(2000) was great and I also like the Action/Horror movie Dog Soldiers(2002). The classic Action/Horror movie for me is Aliens(1986).

Matt
Matt

One of the best horror lists I have ever seen. Tired of seeing movies considered "horror" and scary when they don't belong. There is a strong difference between disturbing and scary ( if disturbing was accounted for then you would see Saw on this list probably,The Girl Next Door, and Wicker Man , which I love, would be higher). I do have to agree with a previous post. Insidious should have a spot. Even more so for Conjuring. Otherwise the list was perfect.

Hugh
Hugh

Halloween in my opinion is the granddaddy of them all, a true masterpiece. I appreciate slow burn horror films as much as the next person but sometimes I want a horror movie to punch me in the gut from the opening frame and not let up. Martyrs is that type of movie.

Jay
Jay

Oops, just reviewed the list again REC is included, my bad still The Stepfather should have been included even if at 100 also the series of Eye films by the Pang Brothers were not too shabby, especially the first.

Jay
Jay

What no Stepfather (1987)? Also where is REC (2007)?.. now there's a horror film.

tom
tom

Good list, I found alot of new films here, but the last 5 were actually in a good order of how scary, finishing on the exorcist which is in my opinion the most scariest film ever created. So 5 stars from me. :)

Lars
Lars

Rosemary's Baby. One of the worst horror films of all-time. Boring as it gets. No suspense or scares whatsoever. The Exorcist yes, great film. The Shining as well. Overall a good list.

Buggs
Buggs

no insidious? no sinister or paranormal activity? they may not be for everyone but one cannot deny the impact they have had on the modern horror genre, look at the conjuring, fantastic movie. where is the changeling from 1981? or 1982, not sure of the year, and how does dont look now, a drama with a slightly shocking ending make it into this list when the prince of darkness doesnt? that film made me feel dirty all over with its literally unrelenting feel of oppression, forcing you deeper into your seat with each passing moment, forcing you to wonder if anyone will actually make it out alive, some poor decisions on what made this list, especially as ive always found movies like the ring(both countries versions) literally knock-me-to-sleep boring and the original grudge i found awful too, although i like the american remakes, which is unusual

Thomas
Thomas

You really had to put the last 10 as single items? I found they took just as long to load as the 10 per page ones. I had to stop at 6. The loading is unbearable and there seems to be many script errors on this site. I'd rather deal with those sites that make you click the link 5-10 times than this. At least they load fast.

William
William

Scream isn't scary enough to be in the top 100 scary horror movies. The movie was based off of suspense and drama based on the massacres and not enough fear by the audience.

john
john

considering this film is based on a true story, i think its pretty frightening , those of you who think its not frightening . i suggest you work your tiny little brains into action and think ,,,,, this scenario actually took place !!

SimpleFacts
SimpleFacts

I agree with AshS. What a lame, p'whipped list of crap. The title is Horror movies, and few of these elicit any feelings of ill ease, much less horror. Listing the Exorcist as No. 1? Are you kidding or just a limp-wristed theater critic?

AshS
AshS

Trash list, don't put movies if you think they are not actually scary movies. So many explanations like that are in so many of the movies you put. Useless.

Jay
Jay

First thing where is scream?? it may not be a top 10 contender but come on to not make the top 100 Is silly. Also hellraiser 3 has got to be in any top 100 list. I also think Woman in black and the strangers deserve a place in this list. Overall not that impressed with this list I mean A nightmare on Elm Street number 30 ish pffft

João Paulo Calvet
João Paulo Calvet

To the reviewer of "The Tenant" Did you even saw the movie or just searched in the web like a kid today would have in this wikipedia generation? Adjani played the character of Simone Choule??? You must have seen some other Tenant other than the one i saw... Really guys, and you are paid to do this job. Its scary the ignorance of a Time Out employee... If you don't know about something don't write about it, or just give it to someone who does.

marko
marko

Is it just me who thinks Ju-on needs to be on this list...?

craig
craig

not really impressed with this list, silence of the lambs 59??? come on, its not even a horror movie, its a psychological thriller.

Keegan Cahoon
Keegan Cahoon

Anybody who puts The Exorcist higher on their list than The Shining doesn't deserve to review horror movies. Kubrick is God. Remember that. Kubrick is God.

Rehcal Parker
Rehcal Parker

I didn't actually watch the film.. But I think its sounds like it could be quite a good film. Merry Christmas everyone ! Rechal

exo
exo

Rec should been higher. Ending in rec 5mins is more intense than watching 1hour shitty oldies in top10.

john b
john b

@Steven R Original Frankenstein is great, but Friday the 13th?  Yes it spawned a bunch of sequels and they are all just as terrible as the original.  Friday the 13th is just a real bad movie.

damzyl27
damzyl27

@Martin K wow you must feel so proud announcing that you don't have a religious affiliation....I wonder if you'll be as quick to deny God in judgment day, just before you get tossed into the lake of fire! 

_Monkey_Boy_
_Monkey_Boy_

Except that's not a myth, it's true. The shot of Veronica Cartwright falling over is a real. They knew that SOMETHING was going to happen, just not WHAT or WHEN. Stop calling it a myth when it isn't.

Henry d
Henry d

@mjer90 There is a difference between horror and horrible

Terminator
Terminator

@Matt  Yeah this is my intake on this list. First of all I am NOT young. However I do eat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnosine

and everyone believes I am like 10 year younger when they meet me. I also tested online dating and if I put myself 10 years younger they believe me. In addition I do like NEW horror movies. I am happy that The Descent made it to top 100 it really deserves its place. I do like many of the old movies in this list like Alien, The Thing, Jaws the first of these were all good. That said this list represent taste of old people voting what are the best movies. Many youngsters say horror fans 20-25 years old would laugh at this list at least some titles. Personally I think those people who laugh saying all old horror movies are bad and likewise those who say all new horror movies are bad are very wrong or they are stuck in their own subjective timeline what is best.


I am not saying all new horror movies are good. That said 2000+ era has brought great horror movies. 3 Werewolf movies that I like more then then An American Werewolf in London. The Howling(1981 the original the first of them rest are low budget B movies) and YES I do like Ginger Snaps(2000) and Dog Soldiers(2002). Ok Dog Soldiers(2002) is more like Action/Horror, but Aliens(1986) the second Alien movie was also a great Action Horror movie.

john b
john b

@Lars Rosemary's Baby  builds suspense from the very beginning.  You must not have been paying attention.

john b
john b

@Keegan Cahoon Spewing hyperbole about Kubrick only makes you seem ignorant.

gracelandtm .
gracelandtm .

@damzyl27 @Martin K 

Wow if you think your a  christian and the bible is true than i will see you on the 2nd resurrection. If your trolling  LOL.  Anyway...


Exorcist being number 1 is so done its boring.

stu g
stu g

@damzyl27 @Martin K If there is no god, there is no lake of fire. The godless literally can get away with murder. :)