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.
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Dir Elim Klimov (Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius)
The horror of war.
Inspired in part by ‘I Come from the Burning Village’, a collection of interviews with survivors of the Nazi atrocities committed against the peasant farmers of Belarus in the early 1940s, Klimov’s savage masterpiece influenced Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’, and Malick’s ‘The Thin Red Line’, though neither deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. Separated from the partisan soldiers he joined after leaving behind his mother and two sisters, 12-year-old Florya (Kravchenko), together with pretty teenage peasant girl Glasya (Miranova), wanders aimlessly and struggles merely to survive. Deafened by an explosion, Florya bears silent, wide-eyed witness to the genocidal near-annihilation of the civilian population. Cinematographer Alexei Rodionov’s fluid Steadicam draws us into the black heart of the horror, which is also painted on Florya’s increasingly haggard face. J G Ballard called it ‘one of the greatest war films ever made’, and indeed it topped Time Out's top 50 WW2 films list. NF
Dir Peter Jackson (Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody)
Abbott and Costello meet The Evil Dead.
At the time, Jackson’s satirical splatterfest was by far the goriest movie ever made (at least in the English language), yet the tone is gruesomely funny rather than violent or cruel. The innocent love affair between 25-year-old virgin Lionel (Timothy Balme) and the lovely Paquita (Diana Peñalver) is interrupted when his domineering mother is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey and transforms – through several putrescent stages – into a hideous zombie with a craving for human flesh. Most of the laugh-out-loud humour derives from the hilarious incongruity between the sedate suburban setting, with its polite ladies who lunch, and the blood-drenched spectacle of the loving couple fending off a slavering horde of flesh-eaters with household and garden implements – most iconically and most effectively, that great Kiwi invention, the fly-mo. NF
Dir Paul Morrissey (Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier)
They’re alive! And they’re at it!
Andy Warhol was a producer on this camp, incredibly gory and oh-so-loose spin on Mary Shelley’s creation. Kier plays a Serbian version of Baron Frankenstein, the creator of a new ‘Adam and Eve’ who are dead set on procreating furiously in order to produce a whole new human race. The Factory’s favourite boy, Dallesandro, steps up to satisfy the baron’s over-sexed sister and increase the film’s flesh quotient. It’s one of those films the midnight-movie slot was made for. It was initially released in 3D after being cut to secure even an ‘R’ rating in the US, and the 3D effects mainly consist of people’s innards swimming in pools of blood. Memorable line: ‘You can’t say that you know life until you’ve fucked death in the gall bladder.’ DC
Dir Jacques Tourneur (Francis Dee, Tom Conway, Christine Gordon, James Ellison)
That voodoo that you do.
Set on a West Indian island, Tourneur’s follow-up to ‘Cat People (1942)’ (see number 29) offers a febrile mix of Caribbean superstition, family secrets and women in white nightgowns sleepwalking in moonlight. Brought from Canada to care for a plantation manager’s invalid wife, impressionable young nurse Betsy (Dee) is baffled by her patient’s vague demeanour and nocturnal wanderings. Although aware that a secret is being kept from her, Betsy determines to snap the woman out of her catatonia, if necessary by secretly taking her to a voodoo ceremony. To the incessant, rhythmic sound of drums, Tourneur stages a series of elegant, fluid set pieces charged with sickly fear and moral ambivalence. NF
Dir Guillermo del Toro (Federico Luppi, Margarita Isabel, Ron Perlman)
To eternity and beyond.
Del Toro’s first feature is steeped in the lifeblood of Gothic lore, yet utterly modern in its horror sensibility. When an ageing Mexican junk shop owner, Jesus Gris (Luppi), stoops to lick a drop of blood from the pure white marble floor of a toilet – a scene at once elegant, shocking and pitiable – we know we are in the hands of a true original. Gris is rejuvenated by an ancient mechanical device which, in return for regular transfusions of his blood, promises eternal life. More time, therefore, to spend with his beloved granddaughter, Mercedes (Isabel). But terminally ill industrialist Angel De la Guardia (Perlman) also covets the vampiric device. Even more impressive than Del Toro’s fertile imagination and consummate technique is the film’s heartfelt compassion. NF
Dir Philip Kaufman (Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy)
Vote for the green party.
It’s gratifying to see both ‘Body Snatchers’ movies on this list: Don Siegel’s 1956 original may be punchier and more bracing, but Philip ‘The Right Stuff’ Kaufman’s ’70s remake is funnier and more self-aware. While the original movie was (depending on who you believe) an examination of either McCarthyist conformity or encroaching communism, the remake takes things into weirder, more oblique territory, lampooning the fallout from the ’60s ideal with its lentils-and-beansprouts nature freaks and its bandwagon-jumping psychotherapy converts. Plus it’s an absolutely terrific horror movie: the scene where Sutherland smashes up a gestating pod-person with a rake is gruesome as hell, but it’s that famously devastating closing shot that really chills the blood. TH
Dir Larry Cohen (Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin)
Jesus loves you… a little too much.
The horror game can be tough. Larry Cohen is without question one of the most inventive, idiosyncratic American writer-directors of the 1970s, his outstanding oeuvre spanning low-budget social commentary, low-rent blaxploitation and a handful of the most politically engaged horror films ever made. Yet here we are, 35 years later, and he manages to scrape one film into our Top 100. ‘God Told Me To’ is without question one of darkest, sharpest, oddest films on this list, a tale of serial murder, religious mania and alien abduction shot on some of mid-’70s New York’s least salubrious streets. Cohen deserves to be mentioned alongside Carpenter and Craven in the horror canon – and this might be his masterpiece, though ‘It’s Alive’, ‘Q: The Winged Serpent’ and ‘The Stuff’ all run it close. TH
Dir Mick Jackson (Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale, David Brierly)
Duck and cover.
Originally aired on British TV during the mid ‘80s, Mick Jackson’s docudrama is a sobering, scary and highly realistic hypothetical account of what might happen following a breakdown of society perpetrated, in this instance, by a nuclear strike on Sheffield. The sense of impending doom is palpable as the city’s citizens watch TV news reports about the collapse in relations between Russia and the West. Panic buying becomes looting as humanity begins to adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality. Then the obliteration begins – and it’s pretty ghastly. Small wonder ‘Threads’ is in this list; while not strictly part of the horror genre, it provokes a raft of similar emotions – only here you’re aware that this can really happen. Powerful, thought-provoking stuff. DA
Dir Dario Argento (Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Alida Valli, Daria Nicolodi)
Burn that mother down.
Horror cinema at its most baroque: a simple libretto is embroidered with elaborate, flowing camera movements, abstract blocks of colour, unsettling sound effects and soundtrack composer Keith Emerson’s thunderous rock variations on Verdi. Drawing, like ‘Suspiria’ before it, on Thomas de Quincey’s mythology of The Three Mothers, it explores the long-distance relationship between Rose (Miracle) and her brother Mark (McClosky), who inhabit apartment houses in New York and Rome. These buildings were built to house The Mother of Darkness and The Mother of Tears. Miracle’s early dip into the muffled world of a flooded sub-basement immediately immerses us in the dreamlike narrative, one that replicates the free associative fluidity of the unconscious. Argento’s best work is far behind him, but this alone justifies his cult reputation.NF
Dir John Carpenter (Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh)
Play misty for me.
A couple of years after scaring the bejesus out of us with ‘Halloween’, John Carpenter collaborated with regular screenwriting partner Debra Hill for this classic chiller about a mysterious bank of glowing fog that sweeps over a Californian seaside town, unleashing a torrent of frights perpetrated by the zombified ghosts of some rather miffed, vengeful mariners who perished just off the coast some 100 years earlier. No horror film worth its salt would be fulfilling its duty without a suitably scary location and here, of course, it’s the big white solitary lighthouse where Carpenter’s former wife Barbeau (playing a radio DJ) is so thoroughly terrorised. You really must check out the original trailer for this film; the voice-over is classically bad. DA
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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.
@Gghj H try #31
@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!
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.