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
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.
Dir Clive Barker (Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley)
From the disturbed imagination of gifted British fabulist Clive Barker comes a Faustian pact with a difference, involving a mysterious puzzle-box, a painful rebirth and the diet of human flesh needed to put the skin back on the flayed muscle of jaded sensualist Frank’s resurrected body. By solving the puzzle, Frank enters the world of exquisite cruelty presided over by Pinhead (Bradley) and his fellow Cenobites – glamorous sadists with a penchant for ripped flesh and transcendent pain. Despite Barker’s determination to ‘embrace the monstrous’, the fetishistic appeal of the Cenobites goes hand in hand with an atmosphere of clammy, mind-warping dread. The unsettling moral ambiguities of Frank’s relationship with his ex-lover Julia (now his brother’s wife) resonate far more than the conventional sub-plot involving his teenage niece Kirsty. NF
Dir David Cronenberg (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.TH
Dir Brian Yuzna (Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez)
How the other half live.
There’s no country in the world where ‘Society’ means more than here in the UK, and no era in living memory when it has been more painfully relevant – it even opens with a rewrite of the ‘Eton Boating Song’. This is a story of how the aristocratic rich don’t just suck the poor dry economically, spiritually and politically, but physically too. The tone may be slick – there are times when it feels like ‘The OC’ with added goop – but the intention is deadly serious, and first-timer Yuzna’s slow reveal of information is wonderfully sly and subversive. Then there’s that epic finale, still one of the most shocking in cinema, a kind of ‘La Grand Bouffe’ for SFX nerds with added fart gags and death-by-fisting. The make-up technician was called Screaming Mad George. Says it all, really. TH
Dir Pier Paolo Pasolini (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. DC
Dir JA Bayona (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. CC
Dir Don Coscarelli (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. TH
Dir Terence Fisher (Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough)
The British horror boom which ran from the late ’50s until the early ’70s received short shrift on this list – which is disappointing for great films like ‘Curse of Frankenstein’, ‘Theatre of Blood’ and ‘Death Line’, but perhaps inevitable given the fact that so many films of the period have aged so poorly. But it’s no surprise to see a solid placing for the film which started it all, Hammer’s (for the time) groundbreakingly savage and saucy take on Stoker’s classic novel, and one of the key works in the modernisation of horror. All those frilly frocks, heaving cleavages and creaky sets don’t look especially modern now, but this was the film which clarified forever the link between vampires and eroticism, as embodied by Lee’s stately, stalking presence as the ultimate gentleman sex fiend. TH
Dir Mario Bava (Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Michèle Mercier)
Tale of the unexpected.
Although anthology horror films are fiendishly difficult to pull off, in its original Italian version (as opposed to the reshuffled, re-scored travesty released in the US), Bava’s bold, expressionistic use of colour and lighting imposes a stylistic consistency on this disparate trio of tales. Boris Karloff’s sonorous intro and epilogue also help. ‘The Telephone’ seethes with twisted eroticism, as a Parisian prostitute (Mercier) is terrified by threatening phone calls from her vengeful ex-pimp. Russian vampire lore informs ‘The Wurdalak’, which starts with the discovery of a stabbed and headless corpse, then progresses to ghoulish, atmospheric scenes of blood-sucking. A nurse who steals a valuable ring from a dead body is haunted by guilt in ‘The Drop of Water’. The visual debt owed by Argento’s ‘Suspiria’ and ‘Inferno’ is abundantly clear. NF
Dir Danny Boyle (Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Christopher Eccleston)
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. CC
Dir Kiyoshi Kurosawa (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’. NF
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.
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.
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...
the Conjuring is best of all for me. http://www.flipkart.com/the-conjuring/p/itmdn3dnwdxyxadq?affid=sandeepsem
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.
Session 9, very underrated but creepy as hell, made in a real haunted asylum called Danvers (unfortunately not standing anymore)
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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
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.
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.
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 !!
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?
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.
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
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.
not really impressed with this list, silence of the lambs 59??? come on, its not even a horror movie, its a psychological thriller.
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.
I didn't actually watch the film.. But I think its sounds like it could be quite a good film. Merry Christmas everyone ! Rechal
Rec should been higher. Ending in rec 5mins is more intense than watching 1hour shitty oldies in top10.
Where the flip is ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS. nearly every horror critic would have this in the top 5 horror let alone the top 100?? sixth sense??? thats not horror. thats kids stuff. also evil dead one is so much better than number 2. 2 is lost between comedy and being serious, plus is mega over produced and doesnt have the orignal atomosphere, not even close. But thats me, but then i do rate hellraiser a lot higher than 80. top ten at the very very least, so i think i know a lot more than this list. you cant be serious. WHERES HELLRAISER 3??????:?
I really don't see how 'The Exorcist' ALWAYS makes the top choice?! I didn't find it scary whatsoever, more like funny, and that's coming from someone who always hides behind a pillow watching horrors. There are sooo many other movies that should really replace that film in the top rank.
Same old, same old. I sometimes think the voters are not even trying. Check imdb, pick up some mainstream titles, randomize it as you wish and voila, you got another brand new list. It's just boring, guys.
@Gghj H try #31
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.
@mjer90 There is a difference between horror and horrible
@Matt Yeah this is my intake on this list. First of all I am NOT young. However I do eat
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.
@jed Gee, Jed. You call this list "the worst... list on the internet." So, tell us (we're all listening): where is *your* own top 100 list? Not the one you like the best, but one you personally put together. Point us to it, on the internet, and we'll go see. We won't be any more critical of it than we can help. Honest.