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 Herk Harvey (Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger)
It’s impossible to experience the monochrome weirdness of David Lynch’s first feature, ‘Eraserhead’, or the ghoulish zombie nightmare that is George Romero’s ‘The Night of the Living Dead’ without recalling the eerie atmospherics, off-kilter images and disorientating dream sequences found in this influential cult movie. Emerging from a river sodden and somnambulant, Mary Henry (Hilligoss), is the sole survivor of a drag race crash, but her mental disorientation and a mysterious white-faced man later draw her to an abandoned carnival pavilion in Salt Lake City. Mary’s sense of dislocation is exacerbated by episodes in which she seems to become invisible and inaudible to those around her. Shot in three weeks for a paltry $33,000, it features a creepy organ score. NF
Dir Neil Marshall (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’. NF
Dir Andrzej Zulawski (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. TH
Dir Don Siegel (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 which makes it so durable – it really is all things to all people. But none of this would mean a thing if it wasn’t also a massively entertaining and propulsive watch: sure, the whole stiff-collar, white-picket-fence ’50s thing looks a little creaky nowadays, particularly when the pipe-smoking boffins get involved, but that only adds to the otherworldliness of Siegel’s vision. Then, of course, there’s that dynamite ending, one of the bleakest in horror, and bold as hell for the time. TH
Dir Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard)
'A year later their footage was found...'
Although the alleged anthropological footage of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ (1980) pre-dated Myrick and Sánchez's terrifying faux documentary by nearly two decades, this film made them the founding fathers of modern ‘found footage’ horror. Shot for $50,000 in just eight days, it purports to show an edited version of the grainy, hand-held videotape shot by missing film students Heather, Josh and Michael, while investigating the Blair Witch legend in and around Burkittsville, Maryland. There are interviews with locals, footage of the trio getting hopelessly lost in the woods, and increasingly hysterical arguments. At night, inside their flimsy tent, they are assailed by creepy scuffling and eerie screams. Crucially, since neither director was a horror nerd, they cut a highly original path through the dark woods of our imagination. NF
Dirs Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer (Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Ralph Michael)
It’s Redgrave as a ventriloquist possessed by his own dummy that most people rightly remember about this Ealing Studios anthology of horror yarns, woven together as a series of tales told by guests at a tea party at a remote cottage. The tales themselves vary in quality, but the talent involved – the cream of Ealing – remains impressive. As well as the ventriloquist’s episode, the other strong segment is directed by Robert Hamer (‘It Always Rains on Sunday’) and features a mirror that reflects another time and place. For this story, a husband (Michael) is possessed, dragged into the mirror and inspired to try and kill his wife (Withers). Horror disappeared from cinemas during the war, so this marked a return to screens for the genre.DC
- Don't be a dummy
Dir Georges Franju (Edith Scob, Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel)
Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘The Skin I Live In’ was inspired in part by Franju’s clinical, monochrome movie about an obsessive professor of plastic surgery. With the help of his lover/assistant, Louise (Valli), Professeur Génessier (Brasseur) abducts and peels the faces off young women. He then grafts the victims’ flayed visage on his daughter Christiane’s badly scarred face, which in the meantime is hidden and protected by a featureless plastic mask. Effectively imprisoned by her father, who feels responsible for the car accident in which she was disfigured, the infantilised Christiane is like a caged baby bird waiting to find its wings. There were reports of audience members fainting during the facial surgery scenes, but for Franju this was a tale of anguish rather than a horror movie per se. NF
Dir Wes Craven (Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon)
'Freddy’s coming for you.'
In 1996, Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’ – a knowing, post modern riff on the teen slasher movie – revived the jaded cycle for a new, cine-literate generation of horror fans. Twelve years earlier, Craven had done the same, his dream-invading Freddy Krueger revitalising the tired ‘kids to the slaughter cycle’ that was kick-started by ‘Friday the 13th’. With his ragged, stripy sweater, battered hat and finger-knives, Old Pizza Face sliced his way into the Elm Street teens’ dreams, visiting the sins of the fathers upon a new generation, and becoming an instant horror icon. Ignore the dumb ending imposed by crass New Line executives, but look out for the scene where Nancy (Langenkamp) warns her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp), ‘Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.’ NF
Dir Ruggero Deodato (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. NF
Dir Pascal Laugier (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. CC
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.