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 Charles Laughton (Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish)
Sleep, little ones, sleep.
Charles Laughton’s only work as a director may be terrifying, but is it really a horror film? That uncertainty is doubtless the reason for its low placing in this list, because there’s no question about the film’s quality: this is a near-perfect example of pure cinema. There are strong ties to the genre: Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a murderous preacher whose pursuit of hidden booty leads him to hunt down a pair of hapless 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, then it’s also an adventure story, a crime thriller, a coming-of-age drama and a fairy tale. One thing remains certain, however: it’s a masterpiece. TH
Dir Jonathan Demme (Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins)
You know your film has made an impact when even animated kids films start making comical references to it. We’re talking, of course, about Anthony Hopkins’s infamous ‘Chianti’ line – a scene so memorably repulsive and yet played with such overegged, psychotic glee that it’s become a bit of a running joke. Based on Thomas Harris’s second novel, Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-conquering monster feasts on our primal fears by presenting us with a gothic smorgasbord of blood and offal and some clever sleights of hand. Hopkins’s portrayal of prolific man-muncher Hannibal Lecter is barnstorming but rather thickly sliced (it’s not quite up there with Brian Cox’s earlier Lecter representation in Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’), and yet ‘Silence…’ fully justifies its Oscar haul: it’s expertly written, superbly performed and scary, tense and stomach-churning by turns. DA
Dir Tobe Hooper (JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T Nelson)
See you on the otherside.
Although Steven Spielberg is credited as the co-writer and producer of this 1982 frightfest, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he wasn’t just sitting behind a desk. His directorial influence is evident everywhere, from the cosy suburban milieu to the ‘Close Encounters’-like shafts of ghostly light that permeate so many scenes. Spielberg claimed that the ‘named’ director, ‘Texas Chain Saw’ maverick Tobe Hooper wasn’t ‘a take-charge sort of guy’ – though he has always stuaunchly defended Hooper’s creative contribution. Whatever the reality, the film is memorably scary, at times feeling almost like a checklist of horror iconography: spooky kids, creepy clowns, skeletons, ghosts, gore, Indian burial grounds... Shot in pre-CG times, one can only wonder how much invisible string they used for all the flying furniture. DA
Dir James Whale (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. CC
Dir Mario Bava (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’. TH
Dir Robin Hardy (Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland)
'The ultimate sacrifice.'
Robin Hardy’s folk horror looks so harmless – all that rumpy-pumpy and frolicking in the bushes on a remote Scottish island. Throw in Hammer grandee Christopher Lee and some campy tunes, and the whole thing could have ended up as a kind of ‘Carry On up the Maypole’. But something nightmarish lurks beneath the surface, as a dour Presbyterian policeman (Woodward) arrives to investigate a 12-year-old girl’s disappearance. He is not impressed by the pagan bacchanalia, though is rather smitten with lusty landlord's daughter Willow (Ekland). The magnificent Lee (who was paid nothing to act in the film) is laird of the manor and master of ceremonies. Released as a B-movie and neglected for years, ‘The Wicker Man’, vintage British horror, is now a gold-seal cult classic. CC
Dir Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza (Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, David Vert)
Whatever you witness... never stop recording.
Its title derived from the record button on a video camera, [REC] is still the best of the ‘found footage’, shaky-cam films inspired by ‘The Blair Witch Project’. For a late-night reality TV show, perky presenter Ángela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo follow a firefighting crew on a routine call to a Barcelona apartment block. Inside, they are attacked by a shrieking old woman wearing a blood-stained nightdress. Suddenly, the building is locked down by megaphone-wielding cops squawking something about a public health threat. Trapped inside with the panicking neighbours, Ángela maintains a running commentary as all hell breaks loose. A so-so sequel will soon be joined by Plaza’s comedy-horror ‘[REC] Génesis’ and Balagueró’s bleaker ‘[REC] Apocalypse’. NF
Dir Alejandro Amenábar (Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston)
I said it in our ‘50 Terrifying Movie Moments’ poll and I’ll say it again: nothing makes the follicles stand on end like a creepy psychological chiller. Especially when it involves spooky kids humming nursery rhymes. Alejandro Amenábar’s ghost story is steeped in hair-raising menace, even though nothing violent ever occurs. The tension is palpable as we watch Nicole Kidman’s mother of two photosensitive children slowly go doolally when things start going bump in the night. The scene of her daughter dressed in white lace, playing with a wooden mobile while singing a childish tune is still one of the most spine-chilling of all time. DA
Dir Jacques Tourneur (Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis)
Devil in disguise.
Jacques Tourneur never intended to show the audience the demon that terrorises his ‘Night of the Demon’. But producer Hal E Chester insisted the flaming beast make two personal appearances to bookend this tale of an American psychologist, Dr Holden (Andrews), a world-renowned paranormal sceptic. He’s in London to debunk a devil cult, whose apparently avuncular leader, Dr. Julian Karswell (MacGinnis), he takes for a harmless fake (he should really be paying more attention to Karswell’s devilish goatee). Tourneur was right about the monster – it’s B-movie silly. But the French-born director knew his business and elsewhere gives an object lesson in frightening the audience out their seats with the mere placing of a hand on a banister. Scriptwriter Charles Bennett was likewise enraged by the demon: "If [Chester, the producer] walked up my driveway right now, I'd shoot him dead.’ CC
Dir Alexandre Aja (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. 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.
This is easily, by far, the best of the series! This movie is the only horror movie that ever kept me up at night.
I was going through the list, surprised by how many movies that I have always felt deserved more recognition (I Walked With A Zombie, Vampyr, etc) were put here... Yes, there was some dreck as well, but for the most part I was happier than I usually am with these lists (I am so sick of some many horror lists only featuring crummy slasher movies)... Then I came to the final 10... This is where I was most let down. Why are Halloween and The Exorcist among others always at the top of lists like these? It always annoys me that everyone seems to be choosing the same films to put in the very top. Clearly the hype is having an effect on their minds. People need to think for themselves and not always be so hugely persuaded by critics. I am not saying that the top ten here are all bad movies, but some of them are massively, ridiculously overrated (Texas Chainsaw Massacre... Seriously?!).
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.