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The 100 best horror films comped tile

The 100 best horror movies

The best horror films and movies of all time, voted for by over 100 experts including Simon Pegg, Stephen King and Alice Cooper

By Cath Clarke, Dave Calhoun, Tom Huddleston and Nigel Floyd

Horror cinema is a monster. Mistreated, misunderstood and subjected to vicious critical attacks, somehow it keeps lumbering forward, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. For some, horror films are little better than pornography, focused purely on evoking a reaction – be it terror, disquiet or disgust – with little thought for 'higher' aspirations. For others, they're just a bit of fun: a chance to shriek and snigger at someone's second-hand nightmare.

But look again, and the story of horror is also the story of innovation and non-conformity in cinema, a place where dangerous ideas can be expressed, radical techniques can be explored, and filmmakers outside the mainstream can still make a big cultural splash. If cinema itself has an unconscious, a dark little corner from which new ideas emerge, blinking and malformed, it must be horror. The question is – which are the best horror films?

Time Out proudly presents the 100 best horror films, as chosen by those who write in, direct, star in and celebrate the genre. For more, check out our guides to the best comedy, rom coms, family and animated movies.

The 100 best horror films: 100-91

100. The Babadook (2014)

Film Horror

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

The mummy’s curse
The territory where scary movies overlap with social realism remains largely unexplored by filmmakers. Horror has traditionally been a genre bent on entertainment – however twisted – and so reminders of real-world tragedy tend to stifle the fun. So props to first-time filmmaker Jennifer Kent for never shying away from her central character’s predicament: yes, our heroine Amelia is being stalked by something supernatural, but we’re never sure if it’s made the life of this grieving single mother appreciably worse. And as women continue to be shut out of filmmaking roles, how satisfying that The Babadook was one of the best-reviewed horror movies of the decade so far. Tom Huddleston

99. The Mist (2007)

Film Horror

Director: Frank Darabont

Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones

Situation normal: all fogged up
Having tackled Stephen King twice already – in The Shawshank Redemption and its inferior follow-up The Green Mile – Darabont made his first out-and-out horror movie with this bleak, pointed adaptation of King’s novella about a mysterious fog which swamps a small town, forcing the inhabitants to take shelter in the local supermarket. On one level this is pure throwback, an old-school tentacles-and-all monster movie which really comes alive in its glittering monochrome DVD version. But it’s also a ferociously modern drama, picking apart the political and social threads which just about held America together under the Bush administration. Religious dogma, political division and – finally and devastatingly – military intervention all go under Darabont’s shakeycam microscope, resulting in perhaps the most intelligent, compelling and heartbreaking horror movie of the century so far. Tom Huddleston


98. Martin (1976)


Director: George A Romero

Cast: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel

Cloak and dagger
Horror movies which encourage audiences to sympathise with the monster are nothing new, but that paradox has rarely been more intelligently explored than in Romero’s gritty anti-horror masterpiece, Martin. Amplas plays the title character, a lonely, wayward Pennsylvania teenager whose elderly, religious-maniac cousin is convinced that the boy is, in fact, Nosferatu. Much of the film’s power stems from its unfashionable ideas about teenage wish fulfilment and how young people respond to images of horror – Martin desperately wants to believe that he’s more than just another messed-up kid, his inner life depicted in a series of grandiose, hauntingly beautiful monochrome tableaux. As he did in his Living Dead movies, Romero keeps the horror grounded in nasty, messy reality: this is also a film about American poverty, and its unexpected consequences. Tom Huddleston

97. God Told Me To (1976)

Film Horror

Director: Larry Cohen

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston


96. It Follows (2015)

Film Horror

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist

Virgin on the ridiculous
There’s nothing wrong with a messy horror movie – flying limbs, cardboard monsters, terrible acting. But there’s something uniquely pleasurable – and unsettling – about a scary movie where every shot, every line, every beat of music feels painstakingly composed to scare the bejesus out of you. It Follows is a prime example: for every second of this sparse, precise story of supernatural stalkers in suburbia, you know that writer-director David Robert Mitchell has both hands firmly on the wheel. You’re just never sure where he’s driving you. Tom Huddleston

95. Society (1989)

Film Horror

Director: Brian Yuzna

Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez

How the other half live
Every time a child of the aristocracy graduates from Oxford or Harvard, every time a law is passed to cut taxes for the rich at the expense of the rest of us, every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, this sledgehammer satire gets a little more relevant. Hitting the sweet spot on the Venn diagram between Beverly Hills 90210, the Communist Manifesto and Pasolini’s Salo, Brian Yuzna’s debut follows smug young Bill Whitney, the son of a powerful California family as he begins to realise that his peers and parents aren’t exactly who they claim to be. The setup is sly, sarcastic and subversive – and then the film really gets going, offering up one of the most radical, twisted and disgusting finales in all of cinema. If you’ve never laughed and thrown up at the same time, you’re missing out. Tom Huddleston


94. Scream (1996)

Film Horror

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox

Nudge nudge, wink wink
Wes Craven’s iconic, ironic slice-’em-up didn’t invent nudge-wink meta-horror – the director had dipped his own toe two years previously with the glorious New Nightmare – but it certainly made this oh-so-’90s sub-genre massively popular. From the opening sequence in which a masked nerd terrorises Drew Barrymore with a slasher-flick pop quiz before splattering her guts all over the lawn, this was a new, fun, shallow-but-sharp breed of scary movie in which the sharing of movie lore between characters and audience somehow conspired to make everything feel more convincing – if never exactly ‘real’. Tom Huddleston

93. Re-Animator (1985)

Film Horror

Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott

I am the resurrection
A kind of madcap blend of the original HP Lovecraft short story with National Lampoon’s Animal House, Re-Animator is horror as cartoon, combining gore and guffaws in a giddy parade of grotesque imagery. Jeffrey ‘the thinking man’s Bruce Campbell’ Combs plays disturbed anti-hero Herbert West (even the way he says his name is funny), the science graduate who stumbles across a glowing green resurrection serum and opts to try it out on the overbearing Dean and his nubile, leggy daughter. Re-Animator is a prime example of the home video horror boom in action: it’s weird, wild, unpredictable and frequently very silly, the kind of imaginative but slickly constructed offbeat horror film which seems to have gone entirely out of fashion. Tom Huddleston


92. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)


Director: John McNaughton

Cast: Henry Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Is it live, or is it Memorex?
Taking his cues from Peeping Tom and snuff movies, first-time director John McNaughton delivers a self-mocking sideswipe against screen violence in this subversive 16mm shocker. It’s a film mired in degradation, as white trash lunatic Henry – played with thunderous force by the great Michael Rooker – and his fawning, subservient sidekick Otis slaughter their way through Chicago, filming their worst atrocities on a cheap video camera so they – and we – can relive it later. Like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this is a movie so cheap and dirty that it almost feels real, with a sense of raw immediacy that no amount of budget could ever replicate. Tom Huddleston

91. Braindead (1992)

Film Comedy

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody

Abbott and Costello meet The Evil Dead
Before he got bogged down in endless Hobbitry, Peter Jackson was one of the world’s most ferociously inventive independent exploitation filmmakers, a worthy successor to the George Romero and Sam Raimi school of DIY gore. His first movie, Bad Taste, was filmed over four years of weekends with a band of enthusiastic mates, but by the time of Braindead Jackson had a budget – of sorts – and a professional crew.

The result is one of the most relentlessly, gleefully nasty movies ever released, incorporating mutant monkeys, zombie flesh-eaters, death by lawnmower, kung-fu priests and jokes about The Archers. It also contains the queasiest dinner scene since La Grande Bouffe, involving spurting blood, dissolving flesh, human ears and bowls of claggy rice pudding. Tom Huddleston

The 100 best horror films: 90-81

90. Dead Ringers (1988)

Film Horror

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston

89. Day of the Dead (1985)

Film Horror

Director: George A Romero

Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander

All you need is Bub
There are many who view Romero’s conclusion to his original Living Dead trilogy as something of a comedown, neither as groundbreaking as Night or as satirical and entertaining as Dawn. And it’s true, Romero’s initial ambitions for the project – a wholesale attack on Reaganite inequality, with the zombies as a new disenfranchised underclass – were stymied by budgetary concerns, though many of those ideas found their way into the belated follow-up, Land of the Dead. But Day of the Dead is still an astonishing movie, an unrelenting attack on the senses fuelled by an unprecedented sense of despair and rampant nihilism. By this point, it’s hard to tell who we’re really rooting for, the hateful, bickering soldier ‘heroes’ or their shuffling, bloodthirsty zombie captives, personified by the ‘thinking zombie’, the oddly lovable Bub. Tom Huddleston


88. The Unknown (1927)

Film Horror

Dirctor: Tod Browning

Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford

A farewell to arms
Five years before Freaks, Tod Browning directed another twisted tale of circus folk falling in and out of love, and doing hideous things to one another. Here, it’s the outwardly freakish who are inwardly twisted too (it could even be argued that Freaks works as an apology for The Unknown), as a strangler with two thumbs poses as an armless knife-thrower to seduce a beautiful girl who has a morbid fear of men’s hands. That synopsis should offer some insight into the kind of boiling Freudian gumbo Browning serves up. This is a giddy, subversive, wonderfully watchable silent shocker. Tom Huddleston

87. Session 9 (2001)

Film Horror
Director: Brad Anderson 

Cast: Peter Mullan, David Caruso

It’s a madhouse!
This microbudget American indie was such a flop that it didn’t even get a cinema release in the UK. Which meant that those who heeded word of mouth and picked it up on DVD felt like they were making a genuine discovery: it’s a film so bleak, eerie and unsettling that it could never be embraced by a mainstream audience. Peter Mullan is superbly cast as Gordon, the boss of an asbestos removal company tasked with clearing out an abandoned mental hospital. One of the first movies to be shot on HD digital video, the film has an unearthly, real-but-not-real sheen that adds immeasurably to its heart-stopping atmosphere of impending doom. Tom Huddleston

86. SalĂ³ (1975)


Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Cast: 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. Dave Calhoun

85. Phantasm (1979)

Film Sci-Fi

Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston


84. The Orphanage (2007)


Director: JA Bayona

Cast: 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. Cath Clarke

83. Dracula (1958)

Film Horror

Director: Terence Fisher

Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough

Charm offensive
A horror fan’s sanctuary during the tame Vincent Prince era of the late ’50s and ‘60s, Hammer Film Productions injected the tired genre with garish bloody colour, shocking violence and the remarkably committed acting duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. If 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein pried open the coffin, this one – a massively influential global success – plunged the stake home. It’s impressive enough that Lee managed to step out of the shadow of the immortal Bela Lugosi, crafting a Count who was virile, sexy and vicious. But the real impact of Dracula is best felt in retrospect: Has there been another Bram Stoker adaptation that’s been this captivating? Several directors have tried; none have survived the night. Joshua Rothkopf


82. Black Sabbath (1963)

Film Horror

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: 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. Nigel Floyd

81. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Film Sci-Fi

Director: Philip Kaufman

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy

The pods next door
It’s time to get beyond the tired political allegories always trotted out for this classic – is it red-baiting or stealth anti-McCarthyism? – and recast it as the bold proto-indie it actually was. In a year dominated by monolithic Hollywood entertainments like The Ten Commandments and Around the World in 80 Days (much admired, cold to the touch), Don Siegel’s low-budget thriller was a cry of real emotion. And emotion is exactly what’s at stake in the plot itself: A small California town finds itself overrun by pod people who get the surfaces right – the skin, the hair, the walk – but not the insides. That anxiety resonates with anyone stifled by conformity, not just Ike-era suburbanites but the makers of movies and art. Years ahead of its time, it’s a hint of the free-spirited decade to come. Joshua Rothkopf

The 100 best horror films: 80-71

80. Wolf Creek (2005)

Film Horror

Director: Greg Mclean

Cast: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, John Jarratt

Chuck another limb on the barbie
This terrifying slice of Aussie torture porn taps into fears of being stranded in the wilderness and then proves all those fears right in the most grim fashion imaginable. Taking his cue from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, first-time filmmaker Greg Mclean gives us three tourists – one Aussie and two Brits – who set out to visit a remote meteor crater. Then – brace yourselves – their watches all stop and their car breaks down, leaving them to be rescued by a gruff local who tows them and their car to an abandoned old mine.

The film takes a sharp turn for the macabre in its later stages, pulling no punches and making especially creepy use of a digital video camera carried by one of the tourists. You’ll need a cold shower after this one. Dave Calhoun

79. Angel Heart (1987)

Film Horror

Director: Alan Parker

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, Robert De Niro

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine
A film which treads the tightrope between horror, thriller and glossy MTV-friendly melodrama, Parker’s sizzling saucepan of spicy Southern Gothic gumbo heavily seasoned with Biblical mumbo-jumbo remains a hugely entertaining watch. It’s hardly subtle – did anyone over the age of 12 not guess the true identity of De Niro’s soul-eating dandy Louis Cyphre? – but it doesn’t really have to be: this is a movie filled with memorable images and strange sensations, from Rourke’s seductively shambolic private dick Harry Angel (geddit?) through a whole mess of cannibalistic voodoo rituals, Cajun clichés and dubious racial stereotypes to Lisa Bonet’s unforgettably gruesome fate. Laissez le mal temps roulez! Tom Huddleston


78. Ginger Snaps (2000)

Film Horror

Director: John Fawcett

Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle

The best teenage werewolf movie, period
Womens’ bodies have always been a prime source of fascination for horror cinema, from the animal sexuality of Cat People to let’s-not-go-there modern shockers like Teeth. But the best of the bunch has to be this crafty Canadian werewolf movie, in which a teenage girl’s first period is swiftly followed by a wild dog attack – and a series of terrifying but strangely thrilling physical transformations. The film is also notable for its smart, Buffy-ish observations on teenage life, before the conflation of high school trauma and supernatural horror became a cliché. A word of warning, though: the unnecessary sequels are best avoided. Tom Huddleston

77. The Fog (1979)

Film Horror

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh

Play misty for me
If Halloween was an urban legend come to life, its follow-up was John Carpenter’s stab at an old-fashioned campfire tale. It even begins, Princess Bride-style, with three kids bundled up by a roaring blaze as John Houseman’s salty sea-dog recounts the eerie tale of how, a century ago, a mysterious mist rolled into the town of Antonio Bay, sparking an act of shipwrecking criminality that will someday come back to haunt the townsfolk…

A critical flop on first release, The Fog isn’t as bold or brutal as its predecessor – but it wasn’t meant to be. This is a film of lurking shadows and creeping gloom, unfashionably cosy in its dedication to the Victorian tradition of ghostly goings-on. It’s a film to be watched alone, lights out, with a mug of steaming cocoa. Tom Huddleston


76. Come and See (1985)

Film Drama

Director: Elim Klimov

Cast: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius

The horror of war
It may not be a ‘horror film’ per se, but no other movie on our list is as horrifying in the literal sense as Elem Klimov’s loosely autobiographical account of one boy’s journey through rural Russia in the wake of the Nazi invasion. Anchored in a performance of almost preternatural depth and soulfulness by 14-year-old Aleksei Kravchenko, who seems to age lifetimes over the course of the movie, Klimov’s film is a howl into the void with no expectation of an answer. But what’s most disturbing is knowing that Klimov barely scratched the surface: everything you see here happened, and continues to happen, to millions of people. That’s horror. Tom Huddleston

75. Hellraiser (1987)

Film Horror

Director: Clive Barker

Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, Doug Bradley

Skinless wonder
One of the great debuts in British film, Hellraiser might also be the best movie ever to be adapted and directed by an author from his own material. Clive Barker’s sado-masochistic Books of Blood short-story series had made him the darling of the homegrown horror scene, but his sights had always been set on cinema. It was a risk – the release of Stephen King’s disastrous directorial debut Maximum Overdrive, the previous year must have given his financial backers pause – but Barker never looked back, channeling his subversive vision into a gruesome but surprisingly mainstream box-office hit.

The joy of Hellraiser is in its gleeful clash of suburban drudgery and grand, Satanic psychodrama, as condemned pain-enthusiast Frank escapes from the dungeons of hell to a quiet corner of north London, only to be pursued by the Cenobites, the Devil’s own deviant dominators. An endless run of sequels – many of them written or directed by Barker himself – may have diluted the formula, but the first movie remains a hot blast of pure perverted pleasure. Tom Huddleston


74. Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan, Revenge of the Vampire) (1960)

Film Horror

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson

Untempered Steele
For students of horror, 1960 is remembered as the year of Peeping Tom and Psycho. But Bava’s monochrome masterpiece ‘Black Sunday’ fully deserves to be set alongside them: while Hitchcock and Powell were revolutionizing the genre by bringing the terror closer to home, Bava was doing almost the opposite, creating a boldly imaginative and dreamlike world inspired by the Universal classics, while at the same time using groundbreaking special effects to ensure that the horrors depicted on screen were more graphically disturbing than ever before. Black Sunday is a film crammed with surreal and still shocking imagery: while it’s most famous for the opening scene in which a spiked mask is hammered onto the face of dark witch Barbara Steele, there are many more wonderfully nasty sights to behold, from an empty eye socket crawling with maggots to a walking corpse who looks suspiciously like Sonny Bono. Tom Huddleston

73. Black Christmas (1974)

Film Thriller

Director: Bob Clark

Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder

Sorority sisters in pre-slasher slay ride shocker
A low-budget Canadian precursor of the ‘seasonal slasher’ cycle that was kicked into gear by the success of Halloween four years later, Clark’s imaginatively nasty film traps a group of college students in a snow-dusted sorority house, where they are terrorised by an obscene phone caller before being bumped off one by one. Anticipating many now familiar conventions, Clark cranks up the level of threat through his pioneering use of prowling shots from the psycho killer's point of view, reinforced here by a discordant sound design. A sparky, pre-Superman Margot Kidder gives as good as she gets, but it’s hard to tell which, if any, of the girls will survive this Yuletide slay ride. Clark also pulls off a wicked plot twist near the end, a flourish that’s simple yet devastatingly effective. Nigel Floyd


72. Aliens (1986)

Film Sci-Fi

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn

God save the queen
James Cameron’s ferocious sequel to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining original has been called many things: a war epic, an action movie, but rarely a horror film. True, Aliens has a bigger armoury than, say, The Exorcist, but this is still a film about creatures lurking in the dark. The Marines’ first survey of the abandoned living quarters on LV-426 is pure haunted-basement creepiness, and the facehugger attack rivals The Thing for slimy invention. David Fincher would get back to horror basics with Alien 3, but the series would never regain this level of intensity. Tom Huddleston

71. The Old Dark House (1932)

Film Horror

Director: James Whale

Cast: 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. Cath Clarke

The 100 best horror films: 70-61

70. Kill, Baby… Kill! (aka Operazione Paura, Curse of the Dead) (1966)

Film Horror

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: 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 PeaksTom Huddleston

69. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

Director: Robert Wiene

Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt

Trapped in the closet 
There was no way director Robert Wiene could’ve known how disturbingly prescient his masterpiece of art-horror would turn out to be. A tale of hypnotism, hysteria and multiple murder set in a twisted, folksy German landscape filtered through the disturbed imagination of a madman, its fractured landscapes reflect the shattered psyche of a nation in defeat, but they also prefigure the greater horrors to come. And almost a century later, at least one sequence here remains genuinely frightening: the midnight attack on a helpless young woman by a shambling, somnambulant strangler. The ending, too, still shocks: the whole world is a madhouse, Wiene is saying, so who’s really sane? Tom Huddleston

68. 28 Days Later… (2002)

Film Horror

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Christopher Eccleston

Hate crime
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. Cath Clarke

67. Night of the Demon (1957)

Film Thriller

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Cast: 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.’ Cath Clarke


66. Switchblade Romance (2003)

Film Horror

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: 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. Nigel Floyd

65. Pulse (Kairo) (2001)

Film Horror

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: 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’. Nigel Floyd


64. The Beyond (1981)

Film Horror

Director: Lucio Fulci

Cast: Katherine MacColl, David Warbeck

All I have to do is dream
Outside the arthouse, horror is the only cinematic genre where pure surrealism is not only acceptable but expected – and there are few more graphic examples than Fulci’s bonkers bayou bloodbath The Beyond. There’s a plot of sorts, but it’s fairly standard: a young woman inherits a hotel which happens to have been built over a gateway to hell. But this is merely a loose framework within which Fulci goes all out to upset and horrify his audience: faces melt inexplicably, tarantulas rip out human tongues, zombies rise from the grave, eyes are repeatedly torn out. The result is more accurately nightmarish than almost any other film on this list, a true descent into the depths of meaningless, unpredictable, terrifyingly beautiful horror, with a scorpion-sharp sting in the tail. Tom Huddleston

63. Lake Mungo (2008)

Director: Joel Anderson 

Cast: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger 

Non-schlock mock doc shock! 
A surprise entry on our list, this appallingly titled micro-budget Australian offering made waves at the SXSW film festival in 2006, then promptly vanished off the radar. But somebody was clearly paying attention, because it’s crashed into our top 100. Told in mock-doc style, the film recounts the eerie, possibly supernatural events that occurred in the remote Aussie town of Ararat following a tragic drowning at the local reservoir. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the photography is beautiful, the performances strong and the moments of unease are brilliantly handled and genuinely spooky. Listen hard, and you might just be able to hear Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli frantically scribbling notes. Tom Huddleston

62. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Film Drama

Director: Charles Laughton

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston

61. Les Diaboliques (1955)

Film Drama

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Cast: Véra Clouzot, Simone Signoret

Schools out forever 
There’s much fun to be had with French filmmaker Clouzot’s boarding school-set puzzler from 1955, a suspenseful comic tease with added frights. First, there are the grotesque characters, each horrific enough in their own way, from the boo-hiss headmaster (Paul Meurisse) to his nervy wife (Vera Clouzot) and bullish mistress (Signoret). Clouzot has been tagged the ‘French Hitchcock’, and it’s a fair enough comparison: like his British counterpart, he allows for ample playfulness amid the scares. Apart from being compelling right to the final frame, the main reason why Les Diaboliques deserves a place in this list is the way that Clouzot continually upends us with the ambiguous aftermath of the headmaster’s murder – as well as how he pulls off an unforeseeable scare late in the day. Dave Calhoun 

The 100 best horror films: 60-51

60. [Rec] (2007)

Film Horror

Directors: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, David Vert

Whatever you witness... never stop recording 
Few great horror movies spill so little blood, but end up with so much blood on their hands. If The Blair Witch Project was the real watershed moment for the found-footage genre, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s 2007 shaky-cam zombie nightmare is the film that brought the mode into the digital age and showed a generation of lesser directors that first-person stories about people running for their lives in the dark are a great way to scare up success. Following one hellish night in the life of a Barcelona TV reporter as she and her cameraman accompany some firemen on a call to a suspiciously quiet apartment building, [REC] didn’t just open the doors to a franchise, it jumpstarted a movement. The jolts on offer are up there with the best of them, and lesser filmmakers are still trying to mimic the chilling last shot. David Ehrlich

59. Vampyr (1932)

Film Fantasy

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Cast: Julian West, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz

The first bite is the deepest 
In 1932, the New York Times’s film critic was not impressed. Vampyr, he declared, was ‘one of the worst films’ he’d ever seen, but added grudgingly that director Carl Dreyer could always be relied upon to be ‘different’. And Vampyr is different, a film like no other. Dreyer spun his cinematic nightmare from two stories from a Sheridan Le Fanu collection. It stars Nicolas de Gunzburg (a Russian aristocrat who bankrolled the film, appearing under the alias Julian West) as an occult-obsessed young man who visits a French village haunted by a vampire. The lord of the manor dies and his young daughter is gravely ill, bite wounds to her neck. His intention, said Dreyer was ‘to create a daydream on the screen and to show that the horrific is not to be found around us, but in our own unconscious mind.’ And Vampyr is often compared to a waking dream, full of strange hallucinatoryimages that strike dread in audiences even today. Cath Clarke


58. Kwaidan (1964)

Film Horror

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama

Pack up your troubles 
Based on traditional Japanese folk tales and filmed in ravishing wide-screen on hand-painted sets, these four stories – of raven-haired women, beautiful female spectres, blind singing monks and ghostly samurai warriors – created a template for much of the indigenous supernatural cinema that would follow. The eternally youthful wife in The Black Hair, in particular, prefigures the many raven-haired women with shadowed ivory faces found in modern J-horror movies such as Ringu. Kobayashi’s stylised use of colour is more symbolic than naturalistic, and coupled with the avant garde electronic score by Toru Takemitsu, which also incorporates sampled natural sounds, it generates both a haunting atmosphere and some subtle supernatural chills. Nigel Floyd

57. The Vanishing (1988)


Director: George Sluizer

Cast: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets

Where did our love go?
No mainstream genre has such a propensity for downbeat or uncertain endings as horror – and the final scene of The Vanishing might just top them all. Obviously we’re not going to reveal it here – that’d just be mean – but suffice it to say, you won’t see this one coming. The rest of the film is powerful stuff – Bervoets plays a young man whose girlfriend is snatched at French truck stop by serial murderer Donnadieu, an otherwise ordinary family man. Unwilling to let the love of his life slip away, the young man finally tracks down his nemesis… and is offered a terrifying choice. Frosty, bleak and grippingly direct, Sluizer’s remarkable feature is only let down by the fact that he remade it – horribly – in Hollywood five years later. Tom Huddleston


56. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Film Horror

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette

It’s been endlessly parodied and director M Night Shyalaman’s career has gone seriously off the boil since. But The Sixth Sense brought ghostly chills (this is far from the gory end of horror) to an approving mass audience. Even now it feels wrong to reveal the twist on which the film is built, so we won’t. Suffice to say that the film’s power derives from ultimately being an acute and acutely strange study of grief and its fallout. Child star Haley Joel Osment (what happened to him?) plays a young boy who can see and talk to the dead (‘I see dead people’ now up there with ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ in the movie-quote pantheon), while Bruce Willis plays the psychologist who attempts to diagnose his condition. It’s so effective because Shyalaman manages not to reveal the truth until very late on and, crucially, make it feel credible when he does. Dave Calhoun

55. Repulsion (1965)

Film Horror

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Catherine Deneuve

The girl can’t help it
Polanski once said in an interview that Repulsion is one of the films he made as ‘matters of convenience’. In this case he was on his uppers – flat broke in London – and was offered the chance to make a horror film. Which doesn’t tell the half of it. Has there been a more dread-filled study of mental collapse? Catherine Deneuve plays a repressed young Belgian woman, Carole, who lives in London with her sister and works as a manicurist. ‘Give me Revlon’s fire and ice,’ says one of her dowager customers. Fire and ice: it could be a description of Deneuve’s on screen presence, her secretive and chilliness. All around Carole, London is upbeat, going places. The youth are about to quake. In her flat cracks appear in the walls and Carole drifts off into fugues and finally psychosis. The noise of everyday life is deafening, Polanski piercing the subconscious to poke at what lies beneath. Cath Clarke


54. Eraserhead (1977)

Film Fantasy

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart

Father knows best
Most of David Lynch’s films were nominated at least once for this list, but only Eraserhead actually made it (though Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me came very close). Inspired by the birth of his own child Jennifer, Lynch creates a mood of near-unbearable, panicky fear, depicting the sprog in question as more a fleshy hot water bottle than an actual human baby. Shot over five years on a budget scraped together from university funding, art grants and odd jobs (Lynch even had a paper round at one point), Eraserhead fits squarely within the tradition of American avant garde cinema, but like many of its fellows (the films of Kenneth Anger, for example) it flirts with horror imagery and has a tone of creeping dread which more than justifies its position in this list. Tom Huddleston

53. Deep Red (1975)


Director: Dario Argento

Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi

Spaghetti slasher
Argento fans have a tendency to divide into two camps: those who prefer his relatively straightforward, plot-driven early giallo thrillers and those who revel in the surrealistic beauty of his post-Suspiria dream-movies. Deep Red is the film which unites the two camps, combining propulsive narrative intrigue with a series of kill scenes more elaborate and expressionistic than anything the director had yet attempted. Thanks in large part to two likeable lead performances – Hemmings and Nicolodi have a real rapport as the amateur sleuths on the trail of a serial murderer – it’s also Argento’s most breezily enjoyable film, chucking in a fistful of witty, satirical attacks on Italian masculinity and some of the finest prog-fusion freakouts ever committed to tape. Tom Huddleston


52. The Devils (1971)


Director: Ken Russell

Cast: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave

Sister act
In lesser hands, the wild theatrics and camp stylings of Ken Russell’s story of religious persecution and demonic possession in seventeenth-century France would turn The Devils into no more than a fleshy, hysterical romp. But what’s brilliant about The Devils is that Russell achieves a real, serious sense of fear and claustrophobia alongside the ample lunacy. Partly that’s down to Reed's reserved performance – compared, at least, to the madness around him – which means that when his character, Father Grandier, is finally tortured we feel the full horror of corrupt government and wayward religious fervour directed towards him. That said, The Devils is also hugely fun, from Derek Jarman’s immense, overwhelming set design to Vanessa Redgrave’s vulnerable, possessed performance as Sister Jeanne. In March 2012, the BFI finally released The Devils on DVD as part of an impressive two-disc package: a fitting tribute to Russell, who died in November 2011. Dave Calhoun

51. The Descent (2005)

Film Horror

Director: Neil Marshall

Cast: 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 SoldiersNigel Floyd

The 100 best horror films: 50-41

50. Peeping Tom (1960)

Film Thriller

Director: Michael Powell

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey

The eye of the beholder
Made the same year as Psycho – another film about a deranged single man – this was the film that brought Powell’s career to a premature halt, so upsetting did his contemporaries find the story of a young photographer and filmmaker who disguises a murder weapon as a camera in order to trap and kill women. In retrospect, Mark Lewis (Böhm) remains a disturbing figure and his screen murders have an intimate cruelty to them – Shearer’s demise in an empty film studio is especially horrible. But surely it was the most modern elements of the film – the suggestion that the camera itself is so invasive and predatory as to ‘kill’ and the idea that Lewis is playing out a childhood trauma – that alienated viewers in the early 1960s and caused Powell’s critics to grumble instead about its portrayal of semi-naked prostitutes? This is a great horror film about the horror of cinema itself. Dave Calhoun

49. Ring (Ringu) (1998)

Film Horror

Director: Hideo Nakata

Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani

Who’s that girl?
It is possibly the scariest scene in cinema history: (spoiler alert!) a man watches a video in which a ghostly figure in white, long black hair pulled witchily over her face, crawls like nothing human out of a well and then just keeps coming, out of his TV and into the real world... The Ring is a masterpiece of fear and atmospheric terror. A journalist (Nanako Matsushima) is investigating a rumour that’s spreading like wildfire among teenagers about a spooky VHS. Everyone who has watched the video, so the story goes, dies seven days later. The drip, drip, drip of dread of Hideo Nakata’s film will turn your stomach to ice – it’s not for nothing that Ring is highest grossing horror in Japanese film history. Cath Clarke


48. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)

Film Fantasy

Director: Don Siegel

Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter

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 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. Tom Huddleston

47. Dead of Night (1945)

Film Horror

Directors: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer

Cast: Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Ralph Michael

Don’t be a dummy 
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. Dave Calhoun


46. The Silence of the Lambs (1990)

Film Thriller

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

Cordon bleugh 
‘Don't tell him anything personal. You don't want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.’ That’s the warning FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is given before meeting serial killer Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in a maximum-security facility. But of course Clarice can’t resist Hannibal the Cannibal – and neither can we. No, you wouldn’t want him as your psychiatrist. But like Sherlock Holmes’s evil shadow, Dr Lecter makes everyone else look so dull. Based on Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel, The Silence of the Lambs is part thriller and part horror – stomach-knotting tensely with a cruel streak of black humour. It’s hard to imagine another actor taking Hopkins’s place, but it’s fascinating to note that director Jonathan Demme also considered Daniel Day-Lewis for the role of Dr Lecter. Cath Clarke

45. The Others (2001)


Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston

Jersey devil 
Nicole Kidman plays the mother of two young children who have a photo-sensitive disorder that forces them to stay indoors in this distinctly grown-up ghost story set on the island of Jersey in 1945. With hints of 1951’s The Innocents (itself based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw), Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenabar upsets the equilibrium of this family’s prim, proper lives by introducing a trio of new servants to the house (Eric Sykes plays a gardener) with whom arrive a series of low-key but upending supernatural goings-on. The scares here are incremental and subtle, driven not by outright terror but by doors that close themselves or pianos that play on their own. This is mature psychological horror, built on intelligence and an alluring, solid foundation of old-fashioned craft. Dave Calhoun


44. The Tenant (1976)

Film Thriller

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani

Roman á clef
What is it about Polanski and confined spaces? With Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and finally this Paris-set film, the Polish director proved himself a master of turning the humble flat into frightening domestic terrain. Here, Polanski himself plays a man who moves into an empty apartment, previously occupied by a woman (Adjani) who attempted suicide, and finds himself at the centre of a paranoid storm in which his neighbours are increasingly accusing and vicious towards him – causing his mental state to worsen as it becomes less and less clear exactly what’s real and what’s not. The Tenant may be set in the present, but it’s hard not to impose the horror of Polanski’s own childhood experiences in the Warsaw ghetto on to this story of the walls closing in on one man’s world. Dave Calhoun

43. Hour of the Wolf (1967)


Director: Ingmar Bergman

Cast: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann

It’s all in the mind
It’s hard to watch Swedish actor von Sydow as a tortured artist in Bergman’s portrait of a man in deep crisis without thinking of the same actor’s self-mocking act as a troubled painter in Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters (1986). This is deadly serious though: the real and imagined sit side by side and haunt each other as von Sydow’s demons take over the imagery and mood of the film as his wife (Ullman) recalls this terrible period in her life. Conceived alongside Persona, Bergman offers the full horror of an artist’s breakdown and crumbling of his marriage (and perhaps his wife’s mind too) – all of which is presented, at times, as a full-on Gothic nightmare, with characters walking on ceilings, men appearing in hallucinations as birds and a gruesome flashback in which Von Sydow’s character remembers attacking a young boy with a rock. Haunting – and even more so when you discover it emerged from Bergman’s own demons and nervous breakdown in the mid-1960s. Dave Calhoun


42. The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Film Horror

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega

Ghosts of the civil dead
From its breathtaking opening shot from inside the bomb bay of a cruising warplane, you know you’re in the hands of a master with The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro’s return to his native language following the disappointment of 1997’s heavily recut Hollywood horrorshow Mimic proved conclusively that, working without interference, this Mexican up-and-comer was capable of remarkable cinema – a fact that has been reconfirmed time and again since. It’s odd but pleasing that The Devil’s Backbone beat out its loose follow-up Pan’s Labyrinth on this list: it’s an odder, less showy but more complete work, depicting the trials endured by a group of boys living in a haunted orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. Cold, creepy and compelling, this is a small film from a massive talent. Tom Huddleston

41. Possession (1981)

Film Fantasy

Director: Andrzej Zulawski

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston

The 100 best horror films: 40-31

40. Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Film Horror

Director: Adrian Lyne

Cast: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello

One pill makes you larger…
A surprise entry on this list, Lyne’s psychedelic post-’Nam comedown thriller seems to have fallen from favour in recent years, but has evidently managed to stick in the minds of horror experts. In a decisive and unexpected break from his then-popular goofy-dweeb persona, Robbins plays Jacob, a worn-out war veteran whose mind begins to fragment once the conflict is over. Is he going crazy, or are there darker forces at work? Beautifully designed by Fatal Attraction helmer Lyne, Jacob’s Ladder feels like an offbeat slice of post-hippy experimentation retooled for the MTV generation: what it lacks in depth and subtlety, it more than makes up for in shock tactics and woozy unpredictability, all anchored in Robbins’s wide-eyed and pitiable central turn. Tom Huddleston

39. Cannibal Holocaust (1979)

Film Horror

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Cast: 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. Nigel Floyd


38. Eyes Without a Face (1959)

Film Horror

Director: Georges Franju

Cast: Edith Scob, Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

Flaying alive
If you’ve ever settled into an old-fashioned black and white horror movie safe in the knowledge that nothing here’s going to upset you too much, you need to see Georges Franju’s hideous tale of mad doctors and disfigured daughters. There’s a scene of facial transplant surgery here that’s as clinically graphic as anything Eli Roth could conjure up in his blunt little imagination – and you care about the characters too, which only makes things worse. The film adopts a drifting, dreamlike tone, making the sudden scenes of violence all the more jarring. Tom Huddleston

37. Frankenstein (1931)

Film Horror

Director: James Whale

Cast: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke

Gods and monsters
Author Mary Shelley and director James Whale may have been separated by half a century, but they were a match made in artistic heaven: two creatively inspired English eccentrics, each of them openly defying adversity (she for her gender, he for his sexual orientation) to create works whose power and influence remains undimmed. Whale’s film truncates Shelley’s novel, shifting the focus away from scientific endeavour to a more empathetic, personally resonant tale of a monstrous outcast confused by an uncaring world and desperately seeking companionship. Tom Huddleston


36. The Wicker Man (1973)

Film Thriller

Director: Robin Hardy

Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

The ultimate sacrifice
One of the few horror movies that’s also a popular singalong classic (at least among London's hipper filmgoers), The Wicker Man will scare your socks off and still send you out humming. Drawing on traditions of music, dance and performance from all across these isles – some centuries old, others the product of the ’60s folk boom – director Robin Hardy draws fashionable parallels between pre-Christian culture and hippy subversion. But none of it would work without Edward Woodward's magnificently stiff, controlled central performance: the ultimate sacrificial straw man, he's an anti-hero we can pity, despise and root for all at the same time. Tom Huddleston

35. Carnival of Souls (1962)

Film Horror

Director: Herk Harvey

Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger

Haunted dancehall
This eerie slice of unintended outsider art is one of the most otherworldly films ever made. Director Herk Harvey was a corporate filmmaker schooled in advertising and public information films – previous works include What About Juvenile Delinquency? and Pork! The Meal with a Squeal. His first and only dramatic feature, Carnival of Souls follows a young woman haunted by demonic visions after surviving a car accident. With its shrill pipe-organ soundtrack, corpse-like performances and mounting sense of unease, the film feels like a broadcast from beyond the grave. Tom Huddleston


34. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Film Horror

Director: James Whale

Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger

She’s alive!
Is Bride of Frankenstein the best film inspired by Mary Frankenstein’s nineteenth-century bone-chiller? Time Out’s panel of experts voted it so. Director Whale tried to duck out of making a follow-up to his 1931 hit Frankenstein, but the studio turned the screws and Whale caved, declaring that if he must make another film, it would be a real ‘hoot’. But while Bride is full of camp, sly humour, Karloff’s return as the lumbering monster is also incredibly moving. Dr Frankenstein has given up playing God and tinkering with cadavers, but his dastardly mentor Praetorious blackmails him into creating a mate (Lanchester) for the monster. Legendary make-up ace Jack Pierce’s look for the Bride – barbed wire scars, diva make-up, frizzed out hair streaked with lightening bolts – and Lanchester’s jolting movements, eerily innocent, make this an American gothic to remember. Cath Clarke

33. Martyrs (2008)

Film Horror

Director: Pascal Laugier

Cast: 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. Cath Clarke


32. Cat People (1942)

Film Horror

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Cast: Simone Simon, Kent Smith

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up
The idea of horror as an act of political or cultural subversion may have gained traction in the ’70s, but it’s been there all along: what is Shelley’s Frankenstein if not a satire on class? The message in Jacques Tourneur’s eerily beautiful Cat People may be more subtle, but it’s equally persuasive: this is a study of the innate power of female sexuality, and how suppressing that power can force it to burst forth in unexpected and dangerous ways. Simone Simon plays Irena, A Serbian immigrant whose repressive childhood – involving, the film implies, sexual abuse – causes her to transform into a deadly panther in moments of arousal. The film’s power lies in the way Tourneur subtly explores these themes without ever crossing the line of taste, or losing sight of the emotional tragedy at the story’s core. Tom Huddleston

31. Videodrome (1982)

Film Horror

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Debbie Harry

Long live the new flesh
David Cronenberg was never a filmmaker in hock to popular trends or studio demands, but of all his movies Videodrome feels like the most untethered, the deepest plunge into his squirming psyche. James Woods is the ruthless cable TV programmer who stumbles across a station showing nothing but S&M pornography, and finds not just his mind but his body altered by the experience. A film that simultaneously critiques and satisfies our desire for graphic violence and cheap sleaze, it rarely makes a great deal of direct sense but still seems to speak volumes. Tom Huddleston

The 100 best horror films: 30-21

30. The Changeling (1979)

Film Horror

Director: Peter Medak

Cast: George C Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas

Did it just get cold in here...?
Old fashioned in the best sense of the phrase, Medak’s oft-neglected supernatural thriller uses pure cinematic technique to scare the hell out of us. The magisterial Scott plays a well known composer who, following the death of his wife and son in a road accident, takes up a teaching job in Seattle and moves into an eerie, haunted Victorian house. Even the most hackneyed scenes, such as a séance in which a scribbling medium attempts to contact the unquiet spirit of the murdered boy, are staged with consummate skill and emotional conviction. Guillermo del Toro maintains that the best ghost stories all have an undertow of melancholy. That’s certainly true here. Nigel Floyd

29. The Birds (1963)

Film Horror

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor

Our feathered friends
‘The Birds is Coming!’ screeched the posters, a grammatical convolution that must have had Alfred Hitchcock quaking with laughter. By this point Hitch was a household name, having a blast with the fact that he was finally as big (in both senses) as the pictures he made, and merrily playing on his reputation to toy with his audience like a cat with a mouse. And The Birds is a bit of a black joke – until it isn’t. The special effects may look a tad creaky nowadays, but the key scenes – the murder of crows on the climbing frame, the attack in the attic – still carry a fierce charge. Tom Huddleston


28. The Evil Dead (1981)

Film Horror

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss

You can make it on your own
Low-budget DIY horror was already a force by 1981 – the Texas Chain Saw Massacre folks had shown that you could make millions with an old camera, some enthusiastic friends and a few garden tools – but the movie which took the movement to new heights was Raimi’s astonishing debut. Adapting their own short Within the Woods, childhood friends Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and star Campbell secured funding from local businesses and traipsed off to the forest to make one of the most ferocious, original and unrelenting horror movies of all time. Sure, it looks a little rough around the edges now (and that still censored tree-rape scene is just unnecessarily vicious), but The Evil Dead remains an inspiration for first-time filmmakers, a testament to the power of plasticine, glue and gumption. Tom Huddleston

27. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Film Horror

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez

Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C Williams, Joshua Leonard

A year later their footage was found...
Here’s a handy lifestyle tip: if you’re out on a first date and want to know if your prospective paramour has even a whiff of imagination, ask them if they liked The Blair Witch Project. Here is a film that splits the population perfectly in two: dullards will complain that ‘it’s boring, nothing happens’, as three (admittedly slightly irritating) young filmmakers trek off into the woods on the trail of a local legend, wander around a bit, get lost and freak out. But for those prone to dark dreams – for those able to envisage the terrors that hide in remote places – this is one of the most unsettling, effective horror movies ever made. Tom Huddleston


26. Poltergeist (1982)

Film Horror

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T Nelson

See you on the otherside
Do funfair haunted houses still exist, or are they obsolete in this era of torture porn and human centipedes? Either way, they’re the perfect comparison for Poltergeist, a film which draws you in, gooses you gleefully for two hours then spits you out the other side, quivering but happy. There’s nothing too nasty in this effects-packed ghost story – the odd face-rip, the occasional pop-up corpse – but the effect is more bracing and enjoyable than a hundred Hostel's.

The big question still surrounding the film, of course, is who really made the movie – credited director Tobe Hooper, or Steven Spielberg, the producer whose hands-on approach led some observers to cry foul. There’s no doubt that Poltergeist looks and feels like a Spielberg movie, all suburban angst and shimmering God-light – but it has a wholly Hooper-ish ferocity at points as well. Let’s call it a happy collaboration. Tom Huddleston

25. The Omen (1976)

Film Horror

Director: Richard Donner

Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick

One hell of a parents’ evening
Drawing on the greatest horror story ever written, The Bible, Richard Donner’s rattlingly good Satanic romp pitches itself expertly between the self-serious theological inquiry of The Exorcist and the bellowing Grand Guignol of Hammer. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick play it absolutely straight as the adoptive parents of the Antichrist, leaving British character-acting legends like Billie Whitelaw, David Warner and Leo McKern to chew the scenery to their hearts’ content. Oh, and the kill scenes are magnificent: pity poor priestly Patrick Troughton, shish-kebabed by a church spire. Tom Huddleston


24. Freaks (1932)

Film Horror

Director: Tod Browning

Cast: Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles

Pretty on the inside
There’s something slightly uncomfortable about including Tod Browning’s controversial circus story on a list of horror movies – but that’s the genre the film was designed to fit into, and the last few minutes more than justify its inclusion. For the most part, though, Freaks is almost the opposite – a film about acceptance, about realising that however different and troubling people might look on the outside, under the skin we all have the same needs, dreams and desires. Of course, it all goes hideously wrong at the climax, but even here we’re never in any doubt where Browning’s sympathies lie. Tom Huddleston

23. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

Film Horror

Director: FW Murnau

Cast: Max Schreck, Greta Schröder

Birth of a nation
If you think FW Murnau’s unauthorised riff on Bram Stoker’s Dracula is disturbing now, just imagine how the film must have looked to a nation still reeling from the First World War. So much more than just a vampire movie, this is a story of madness and murder, degradation and disease – the latter personified by the black rats who swarm from Count Orlok’s ship as it docks in Wisborg harbour. It’s also ground zero for the horror movie: so many of the tricks Murnau employs here – coiled shadows, cowering virgins, hideous make-up, dark transformations, square-jawed heroes and the blackest humour – remain staples of the genre almost a century later. Tom Huddleston


22. The Haunting (1963)

Film Horror

Director: Robert Wise

Cast: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson

Things that go bump in the night
With some horror movies, it’s all about context – watch The Haunting on a well-lit afternoon and it’ll seem creaky, old-fashioned, even a bit silly. But watch it late at night, alone, and this might be the greatest ghost story of them all, in which the things going bump in the night aren’t out there in the dark, but right inside the room – or inside your mind. The use of wide angles is gorgeously unsettling – director Robert Wise is clearly a student of Orson Welles, whose off-kilter influence is all over the film. Wise would return to terrify us again four years later with The Sound of Music – a jack of all trades, indeed. Tom Huddleston

21. Audition (1999)


Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura

Trust the pain
Who’s the real villain in Takashi Miike’s ice-cold thriller: the middle-aged widower who sets up a fake movie audition to lure unsuspecting single women and ends up opting for the most pliable, geisha-like applicant? Or the aforementioned young lady, whose meek and mild exterior hides a dark secret? Okay, okay, it’s her – Asami remains one of cinema’s most memorably twisted psychopaths. But Miike’s masterpiece never lets the hero off the hook either, transforming Audition from a simple cautionary tale into a full-on autopsy of Japanese masculinity. Tom Huddleston

The 100 best horror films: 20-11

20. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Film Horror

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon

Freddy’s coming for you
It’s arguably the single greatest set-up for a modern horror movie: a monster that invades your dreams, slashing away at your very psyche with his razor-fingered gloves. And while the franchise may have descended swiftly into self-parody – they marketed Freddy Krueger dolls to pre-teens, if you recall – the original remains one of the most daring, inventive and downright terrifying shockers of the last century. Wes Craven’s control over his material is absolute, and even a handful of low-rent, low-budget effects can’t undermine the mounting air of existential, avant-garde dread.

It’s also, lest we forget, the movie that made a studio: New Line Cinema were barely a glint in the indie scene’s eye when they forked out $1.8 million for Wes Craven to realise his delirious vision. Seven Nightmare sequels and little more than a decade later, they funded the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Cheers, Freddy. Tom Huddleston

19. Let the Right One In (2008)


Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

Boy meets vampire
An instant classic? If its position in the top 100 is anything to go by, then yes. Tomas Alfredson’s creepy horror, whose snowy setting suits its sadness, is a coming of age story about falling in love for the first time. Twelve year-old Oskar (Hedebrant) falls for the girl next door Eli (Leandersson). He tells her she smells funny and lends her his Rubik’s cube (this is 1981). But the sweet he offers makes her violently sick. And her eyes bleed if she goes into his flat uninvited. Eli is a vampire: ‘I’ve been this age for a very long time.’ Director Alfredson didn’t want polished performances, so cast non-professional actors. Eli is spookily ageless, most memorably in a scene stroking the face of her devoted middle-aged minder/body-snatcher like he’s her wayward son. Cath Clarke


18. The Fly (1986)

Film Horror

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis

Friends don’t let friends teleport
David Cronenberg’s delirious reimagining of that old story of a scientist whose experiments with teleportation lead to a nasty genetic mixup, The Fly isn’t just one of the very finest horror movies, it’s also one of cinema’s great tragic romances. Charming, tentative and beautifully written, the initial relationship between leads Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis harks back to the screwball romances of old, which only makes Goldblum’s ensuing physical and mental degradation all the more horrifying to behold. In Cronenberg’s hands, this genetic disease becomes a forceful metaphor for everything bad you can imagine, from cancer, Aids and ageing to lost love and inexplicable heartbreak. Beautiful, sickening, exhilarating, savage, inspiring and inspired, The Fly is humanist cinema at its most non-human, and a master filmmaker’s finest hour. Tom Huddleston

17. Evil Dead II (1987)

Film Horror

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: 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. Tom Huddleston


16. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Film Comedy

Director: John Landis

Cast: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

My, what big teeth you have
This outsider’s perspective on Britishness (we’re all either beer-swilling Yorkshire slobs or stiff-collared London snobs) might be offensive if it wasn’t so infuriatingly funny, clever, scary and brilliant. One of a very short list of films to combine horror with comedy and to hit both nails square on the head, John Landis’s film is dry, sly and endlessly quotable (‘a naked American man stole my balloons!’). As an added bonus, the special effects still look remarkable, even in the age of CGI: there’s something about the look of real latex skin stretching over metal-frame bones that no amount of processing power can possibly replicate. Tom Huddleston

15. Carrie (1976)

Film Horror

Director: Brian De Palma

Cast: 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. Cath Clarke