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.

20

The Omen (1976)

Dir Richard Donner (Gregory Peck, Lee Remick)

One hell of a parents’ evening.

Films about Satan and his minions remain popular for a number of reasons, but a key one must be the fact that, when depicting the infinite power of the Devil, filmmakers can get away with just about anything. ‘The Omen’ is chock full of creepy business: the weird nanny and her rottweiler sidekick, the zoo animals behaving erratically, the young lad on his tricycle bumping his mother over the banister, the church lightning rod spearing the priest where he stands, and of course cinema’s most iconic beheading scene, shown from multiple angles in juicily slow motion. Like many classics of the genre, Donner’s first feature wasn’t especially well received by critics at the time, but it’s remained a mainstay on late-night TV and ‘best of horror’ lists.DA

19
Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II (1987)

Dir Sam Raimi (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. TH

18

Audition (1999)

Dir Takashi Miike (Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura)

'Trust the pain.'

The best Japanese horror film of the modern era, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and John Landis have all confessed to being freaked out by ‘Audition’. Encouraged by his teenage son and best friend, a film producer stages a fake casting session, interviewing beautiful young woman for the imaginary role of his new wife. Smitten with the modest, mysterious Asami (Eihi Shiina), he later discovers that she is a disturbed victim of childhood abuse, with some serious trust issues. The textured relationships are subtly convincing, as the film builds inexorably towards its unbearably painful climax, which involves skilfully deployed acupuncture needles (‘Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri’) and a limb-sawing wire. An astonishing achievement, particularly as it succeeds in preserving a degree of empathy for its beautiful but sadistic femme fatale. NF

17

The Haunting (1963)

Dir Robert Wise (Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson)

'Things that go bump in the night.'

‘The Haunting’ is the quintessential haunted house movie: Martin Scorsese even rated it his number one scariest film. Anthropologist Dr Markway (Richard Johnson) is investigating paranormal activity at a tombstone of a gothic pile in New England. The house was born bad, so the story goes – the wife of its first owner dropped dead moments before setting foot in it. The doctor has brought along two young psychic women, boho free-spirit Theo (who has one of the choicest wardrobes ever, designed by Mary Quant) and repressed Nell, who is the main attraction as far as the ghosts are concerned. Director Robert Wise executes a masterpiece of the power of suggestion. We never see a ghost, but the face of the devil Wise’s camera makes out in the ornate carving of a wooden door is more scary than anything make-up or effect could rustle up. CC

16

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Dir John Landis (David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne)

'My, what big teeth you have.'

What’s always been most striking about John Landis’s lycanthropic thriller is the brilliant way it veers from comedy to gruesome terror and back again, in the blink of an eye. Figure in the services of make-up supremo Rick Baker, some of the most inventive shocks imaginable (those zombie Nazis!) and a dynamite selection of moon-related FM radio classics (not to mention Jenny Agutter’s face), and there’s no wonder it placed so high on this list. Horror parody was always going to be a doozy for Landis, given that he’d previously made such classic funnies as ‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’, ‘Animal House’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’ – but there’s no doubt that ‘American Werewolf’ is his crowning achievement. DA

15

Carrie (1976)

Dir Brian De Palma (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. CC

14

The Innocents (1961)

Dir Jack Clayton (Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Pamela Franklin)

'Suffer the little children.'

It has been pipped to the honour of best British horror (only just, mind) by ‘Don’t Look Now’. But ‘The Innocents’ has still got friends in high places. Martin Scorsese called it ‘beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot…and very scary.’ The story is adapted from Henry James’s 1898 novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’. Deborah Kerr plays governess Miss Giddens, employed to look after the orphaned niece and nephew of a wealthy man (Michael Redgrave). The children behave like little angels. But why has Miles been expelled from boarding school for being a bad influence? Miss Giddens becomes convinces that the children are possessed by the spirits of dead lovers, the former governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop), and ex valet Quint (Peter Wyngarde). Are they? Or are these the fantasies of a never-been-kissed governess? Films rarely pull off the ambiguous ending anything like as satisfyingly. Little wonder Truffaut called it ‘the best English film’ after Hitchcock left for America. CC

13

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Dir George A Romero (Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman)

'The beginning of the end.'

Modern horror cinema started here. Romero’s low-budget nightmare movie blazed a trail for all those to follow, including Wes Craven (‘The Last House on the Left’), David Cronenberg (‘Shivers’), Tobe Hooper (‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’) and Sam Raimi (‘The Evil Dead’). With its radically subversive approach to generic conventions, uncompromisingly nihilistic social vision and Vietnam War-inspired political anger, this groundbreaking zombie movie broke the rules and trampled on taboos. Holed up in an isolated farmhouse, Barbara and a small group of fellow survivors are besieged by an ever-swelling tide of shambling undead flesheaters, whose dietary habits are portrayed in gory, visceral detail. Romero later expanded his apocalyptic world view with ‘Dawn’, ‘Day’ and ‘Land of the Dead’; but these sequels never matched the gut-wrenching, nerve-shredding intensity of this game-changing début. NF

12

Don't Look Now (1973)

Dir Nicolas Roeg (Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie)

'Nothing is what it seems.'

It’s the flirtation with the supernatural and, of course, that startling ending (when the mysterious little figure in the red coat finally – outrageously – shows its true face) that have propelled Nicolas Roeg’s ghostly, beautifully photographed and tenderly acted adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s short story to a place so high on this list. But however much Roeg leans on signs and suggestions of occult behaviour, the real horror of his film is the deeply felt horror of grief and how it warps our perceptions of the world. It’s there from the very beginning when Donald Sutherland discovers his young daughter drowned in a lake in his garden, and it’s there as Sutherland and his wife (Julie Christie) travel to Venice and try to keep even a loose grip on life and their relationship. Disturbing and brilliant. DC

11

Jaws (1975)

Dir Steven Spielberg (Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss)

Live every week like it's shark week.

It starts like any other let’s-get-it-on teen movie, at a late night beach party. Boy meets girl. They slink off to skinny dip. She runs ahead, throwing off her clothes, splashing into the water... only to be pulled under screaming. Welcome to the tourist island of Amity. ‘Jaws’ broke box office records, but the production had been such a disaster the crew renamed it ‘Flaws’. The shark looked fake, the effects were terrible. Spielberg made a virtue out of necessity in the edit, switching the focus to the actors’ reactions: most chillingly after the shark strikes on a crowded beach. Parents have scooped up their children, all but one mother, a look of blind terror on her face. For some cinema lovers, the biggest horror story of all is that with his game-changing big hit, Spielberg inadvertently invented the popcorn blockbuster.CC


Users say

150 comments
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.

Matt
Matt

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??????:?

Emma
Emma

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.

max
max

no one will like this lis everyone has there own opinion u dum peop

max
max

no one will like this lis everyone has there own opinion u dum peop

max
max

no one will like this lis everyone has there own opinion u dum peop

jed
jed

This is the WORST top 100 list on the internet. Some of these titles are not even Horror. Aweful.

jed
jed

This is the WORST 100 list on the internet. Poorly ranked.

max
max

what a fail.......

max
max

i see nothing wrong with this movie at all... its a good movie.

billy
billy

this movie fucken sux

Cole
Cole

The fact that Evil Dead isn't in the top 3 discredits this entire list

cipher
cipher

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.

John Felix Koziol
John Felix Koziol

This is easily, by far, the best of the series! This movie is the only horror movie that ever kept me up at night.

Nai
Nai

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?!).

AG
AG

Okay JD but one thing you have to remember is that these movies aren't made to show the kids as they get scared from watching scooby doo and Doctor Who, these films are made for adults and are suppose to scare adults. It's not terribly hard to scare a child, all you need to do with them is turn the lights out and watch them freak out over shadows, so with that in mind I agree completely with Tricia. The problem with so called experts is they all have the same opinions and ALWAYS pick the same rubbish for these lists time and time again. I'm so sick of going to sites like this and IMDB and seeing all of the old rubbish and foreign films voted the highest just so they can appear as though they know what they're talking about with each other which brings me neatly to your closing statement "The majority of the world has agreed that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies we've ever seen", maybe the scariest you've seen or maybe it's that "the majority" are easily led sheep who are too scared to have an original thought, but by far in today's world and not the world of the 70s, it is not the best horror film out there, it was just wonderfully hyped and totally boring to watch. It's time the majority of the world started to catch up with the rest of the world and stop voting for things like a 1931 copy of Dracula as being sooooo great and "artistic" because in today's world it's just boring and unentertaining. We're looking to be entertained, not bored to death. 1 out of 5 for the exorcist (and has been since I watched it originally) and 0 out of 5 for this list. Oh and as for Simon Pegg, his last film was ridiculously rubbish and a big let down.

Frank
Frank

This is my favorite horror film I always feel the same sinking feeling when leatherface slams that steel door after pulling the guy through it. It primiered as a double feature with The taking of the Pelham 123 I wish I was there to see how people reacted that were there for the first movie.

AG
AG

What a crock, when will all the old so called "experts" die already and the fresh blood grow some balls and stop voting the same old crap as "the best" just so they can look like they know what they're talking about in front of the other "experts". This movie is a total yawn fest and typical "Christianity can save all" rubbish. I remember when I watched it, all the hype about it being the "scariest movie ever" and found it to be such a disappointment. Too many people living in the past, it's the 21st century now guys and your "expert opinion" is nothing but BS.

Adam
Adam

Any list of top horror movies that places Halloween under the top two is wrong to begin with.

JD
JD

First of all let me say that tricia is a dang fool. Corny with no scary moments at all? Get outta here tricia. Go show it to your kids then for some good family entertainment, for I fail to see any movie you've put out that's any better. Now that's out of the way, this movie is disturbing on so many levels. It's absolutely creepy and well done. The majority of the world has agreed that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies we've ever seen, that's why it's on this list and most every list on the web.

tera baap
tera baap

bhen k lodo teri maa ki chut lund dravni thi muvie bhenchodo dali k bij bakdlund bhodi k

tk
tk

Did I miss The Lost Boys (1987) and The Howling (1981) on the list?

TK
TK

Was a 14 year old babysitter when I saw this the first time. It scared the beejeez out of me. Hard to sleep at night and would nap after school for a couple of weeks. Michael Myers is the boogeyman to me.

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.

Phil D
Phil D

@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.