The Best Horror Movies Of All Time: Part 1
An Often Neglected Genre of Movies
Horror movies are often ignored, neglected or looked down-upon. Critics, more often than not, pan the movies in favor of "sensitive dramas" or "culturally relevant" movies. Well, I think that horror movies are culturally relevant, and sometimes, even sensitive (not often, but every once in a while). What they are is insightful, relevant, exciting, and reveal so much about our culture and fears. They are often allegories that speak of other fears we all hold inside.
Horror movies tap into a darker part of ourselves. Some are cautionary tales, some are movies that take a look into the unknown. They search out our deepest fears. Fears of the unknown and fears of death are fairly common. Horror movies take a poke at those fears, explore them, and sometimes, make fun of them. Sometimes, they even make fun of themselves. I won't get into a great psychological debate on the issue of horror movies. That is not what I wanted to do with this hub, maybe another time.
This hub is a look at some of the best horror movies of all time. It will be presented in two hubs. They are in alphabetical order. I hate rating things, or putting them in order from lowest to highest, because I love all of these movies, and for very different reasons. This list was a joint effort between me and my sister. She loves horror movies as much as I do, and we often recommend movies to each other that we have seen. I asked her for her list of favorites, put that with mine, removed some lesser known horror movies for another list, and put it all together. This is our list of the best horror movies. Of course, this is all a matter of our opinions. You may disagree, and your suggestions are welcome. We may have missed something, or you may know of a movie we have never seen. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or suggestions!
#1: Alien (1979)
A classic movie in the sci-fi/horror genre. Alien stars Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, a member of a team sent to investigate a distress call on a far away planet. What they find is more frightening than anyone could imagine.
I absolutely love this movie! There is darkness, suspense and a little gore. I am sure everyone can recall images of the scene where an alien burst out of one guy's chest. Strangely enough, this reminds me of being pregnant.
The aliens in this movie have become legendary, spurning sequels, and of course, Alien vs Predator. I am not as big a fan of the Predator movies, though. And, of course, there is the tag line for the movie, "In space, no one can hear you scream." How can you not get chills after reading that?
#2: The Amityville Horror (1979)
Another selection from 1979, is the disturbing Amityville Horror. A tale of a family who moves into what is supposed to be their dream house, but it turns out to be their worst nightmare, as terrible things begin to happen. The father seems to descend into madness, as the house takes control over him.
Another classic in the horror genre. Close your eyes, you can see the house, can't you? With it's windows that look like eyes. It's as if the house is staring at you, watching you. An image like that, of just a house, that can stay with you, can become a part of pop culture, is why this movie is on my list. The remake was also pretty good, but nothing beats the original.
#3: Army of Darkness (1992)
While this movie is totally, and ridiculously campy, silly and just a little stupid, I love it just the same. Mostly because it is campy, silly and a little stupid. Army of Darkness, a sequel of sorts to the Evil Dead movies, stars the wonderful B-Movie hero, Bruce Campbell, as Ash, an egotistical, misogynistic, coward as the reluctant hero. Transported back in time, he has to battle an army of the undead.
It is a classic, campy, silly movie. It pokes fun at itself, and that's why I love it. It isn't meant to be scary or to be taken seriously. When you have a movie where tiny, evil versions of the hero, band together and attack the hero of the movie, you know you can't be watching anything that is meant to be serious. It's just a lot of fun!
#4: Carrie (1976)
The first Stephen King based movie on my list, and the first one made, ironically enough. Carrie is an awesome movie that launched Sissy Spacek's and John Travolta's careers.
Carrie is the story of a shy girl who has some super scary powers. She is often picked on, and often the butt of the jokes of others. After being set up for a good laugh, all hell breaks loose as Carrie unleashes her powers on her tormentors. This movie is a real warning to bullies everywhere.
I loved the book, and I loved the movie. There was a remake of Carrie for television in 2002, that was very good, as well! Stephen King actually had a hand in writing the screenplay for that one, so it's worth a watch, as well. As far as the sequel, The Rage:Carrie 2...don't bother. It was stupid. It seems that they have done yet another remake of Carrie starring Chloe Grace Moretz. I am curious to see how it stacks up against the original.
#5: Dawn of the Dead (1978 & 2004)
I decided to include both versions in one listing. They are both great movies and both worthy of recognition. The 1978 version was written and directed by horror legend, George A. Romero, and is the first sequel to the also great, Night of the Living Dead. It is a classic zombie horror movie set in a shopping mall, of all places. Why? Maybe the zombies were looking for some semblance of their former life. What says suburban American normal-ness more than a shopping mall? And, what better place to hold up against the invading horde of zombies? Plenty of food and space, and very few windows.
The 2004 version is updated, more gory, and just as great! It follows the same plot, and the same concept as the original without being too much of a shot-for-shot remake. It stands alone as its own movie.
Both movies are great, and leave you with a disquieting, uncomfortable feeling.
#6 The Exorcist (1973)
A timeless horror classic! I cannot stress enough how much this movie affected me, or how much of an influence it has had on popular culture. A must see! Disturbing, gripping, and emotional.
I can't imagine what a parent would feel in a situation like this. It is the story of a young girl possessed by evil spirits, and the battle for her life and her very soul. It is an amazing story that weaves together the lives of a young girl and her mother with that of a young priest who is questioning his faith, and an older priest, determined to defeat the demon he has faced in the past. This is a great movie. It is what horror movies should be. It has stood the test of time as one of the best horror movies ever.
#7: Halloween (1978 & 2007)
Again, I included the original and the remake. Both are excellent, for different reasons. Halloween is a classic slasher flick! The original version and the remake (done by Rob Zombie) differ a little, but the same basic feel is carried through.
Halloween is the story of Michael Meyers, a crazed killer who was locked up after killing his family, only to escape from his physical prison in search of more victims. The original stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the focus for Michael Meyers attentions. The music is chilling, the murders are gruesome, and the movie is one of the best ever! The remake by Rob Zombie does the movie incredible justice. It was an excellent movie that delved deeper into the psyche of Michael Meyers, giving you a glimpse at what life was like for young Michael Meyers, and what led him to where he ended up.
#8: Halloween II (1981 & 2009)
The sequel to Halloween is just as good as the first. Both of them are!! In fact, it is more a continuation of the first movie than a real sequel. Sequels usually involve a furthering of a story, sometimes in different settings, at a later time. These just picks right up where the first movies left off.
In this continuation, we learn that Michael Meyers is virtually indestructible. How do you kill a killer who can't be killed? Of course, this is true to most horror movie franchises, the fact that the killer can't be killed. How could you have sequels if he could die?
#9: Hide & Seek (2005)
Robert De Niro in a horror movie? What?? Has the world gone mad? Nope! Not at all! This movie is more of a psychological thriller, than a horror movie, in the classic sense, but it does have elements of a great horror movie.
De Niro stars as a father of a young girl, played by Dakota Fanning, with a strange imaginary friend. Is this friend really imaginary? Or is something more going on? I can't tell you more than that. I really can't. Watch it and see for yourself! This movie, while good, wasn't on my list, but my sister rated it highly, so it was included. It is one of those movies that sticks with you.
#10: The Hills Have Eyes (1977 & 2006)
I do prefer the classic by one of the true masters of horror, Wes Craven, but both movies are great examples of creepy horror movies. Granted, there have been a lot of movies made about creepy, deformed psychos that live on the fringes of America, but The Hills Have Eyes was one of the best, and one of the first! The original is also better because it starred Michael Berryman! He is terrifying!!
It is a very basic horror movie formula, but one that works wonderfully. A family gets misdirected,lost, and stranded, only to be attacked by a group of deformed psychos who pick them off one by one. This one is high up on the gore/disturbing scale. Neither of these is safe for the under 16 crowd, even though I saw the original when I was a kid.
#11: Hostel (2005)
Hostel gave new life to the horror genre, as well as redefining it by creating a new sub-genre known, maybe not so affectionately, as torture porn. Hostel embarked on new territory, while still holding true to classic horror ideas.
Hostel follows three men as they backpack across Europe. They end up in a strange hostel in Eastern Europe, that seems like a dream come true...at first. Cast with basically unknown actors, it lends a sense of honesty to the movie. Hostel is full of disgusting gore, and I loved every minute of it, even though there were a few parts that made even me want to turn away. If you have a weak stomach, this is not a movie you should see. If you love violence and gore, it's a must see.
#12: House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
My sister and I took my mom to see this movie on Mother's Day. Strange present, I know. She is part of the reason I love horror movies as much as I do. I grew up watching Poltergeist and terrible movies like Motel Hell. House of 1,000 Corpses pays tribute to classic horror movies of the 1970s. Another selection by musician turned film maker, Rob Zombie. He did a great job with this movie.
The movie follows four teens as they actually search out the truth behind the legends of a serial killers and murderers. After being sidetracked by a strange roadside attraction, they find themselves amongst some even stranger company. Captain Spaulding still creeps me out. Third creepiest clown ever behind Pennywise from It, and Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story.
#13: IT (1990)
IT is the second Stephen King movie to make the list, and the second movie with a creepy clown. Made as a mini-series for TV, IT is an amazing journey through our childhood fears.
It follows a group of losers, The Losers Club, that become friends in the midst of bullies and the mysterious disappearances of some of the town's children. The movie stars Tim Curry as the ever creepy Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Of course, this is no ordinary creepy clown. He is an ancient being that takes on the shape of your deepest fears, and feeds off of those fears. I read this book when I was twelve. I hate clowns to this day. It's fitting that one creepy clown should follow another on my list. I love this movie more for the characters than for the scares. You see this group of kids change as they deal with the evil that is living deep within the bowels of their town, and you follow them into adulthood when the terror returns.
A remake is in the works, but has hit some snags along the way. I am really curious and excited to see what they can do with the movie on the big screen!!!
#14: Jacob's Ladder (1990)
It has been quite a few years since I have seen this movie. I should really watch it again. Another movie that is more of a psychological thriller, it follows Jacob Singer, a Vietnam Vet, as he struggles to maintain a grasp on his sanity. Visions of his dead son, and his times in Vietnam plague him, leaving him questioning what is real and what is in his head.
This movie disturbed me in ways a lot of horror movies just can't. Part of the reason for that is that it isn't about ghosts or monsters, except that it is. It's about the ghosts inside our head, and the monsters that are in our real lives, not the ones under our beds. It is cerebral, disquieting, and strange.
#15: The Lost Boys (1987)
While not a critically acclaimed, Oscar worthy movie, I have included The Lost Boys, partly for nostalgia sake. It was a favorite of mine growing up, and I still love it to this day.
It is a great vampire movie that takes a creepy spin off the classic story of Peter Pan, without taking itself too seriously. Yep, Peter Pan with vampires. It really does make sense. I never got that connection when I was a kid, I just loved the movie. I admit, I was a huge fan of "The Coreys" when I was a kid. Corey Haim will be missed.
The movie follows a family who moves out to a small California town that is plagued by deaths and disappearances. The reason? "All the damn vampires".
#16: The Mist (2007)
The Mist is yet another Stephen King movie. I love Stephen King, what can I say?
I love this movie for it's honest look at human behavior. One of my favorite lines from the movie does a great job of summing up the heart of the movie; "As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?" That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
The movie follows residents of a small town that congregate in the local grocery store, as a strange mist fills the town. The mist is filled with horrifying monsters, most of which, you don't see more than a glimpse of. The real horror of this movie isn't the monsters in the mist, though. It's the way the people behave in light of this terrifying situation; the monsters inside us all, if you will. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, and enthralled right to the end. The end...wow...the end. The ending to this movie, I don't want to give it away, but it is haunting.
#17: A Nightmare on Elm Street Series (1984-1994)
I have included the entire series of movies, aside from the remakes. Some are better than others, but they are all classic, sometimes silly, horror movies.
All of the movies follow the same basic formula; a group of teens start having strange dreams about a deformed killer with a hand full of sharp knives. Freddy Krueger is a timeless horror movie villain. The series follows along as Freddy seeks out more, and more victims. The first movie launched the career of one of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp. That is reason enough to love the movie.
I have loved watching Freddy haunt the dreams of teens since I was a kid, and was sad to learn that Robert Englund would not be staring as Freddy in the recent remake. I am unsure if I even want to see it. In my opinion, Robert Englund will always be Freddy Krueger, no matter who takes on the role, or what Englund goes on to do in his career. He is a legendary actor in the horror genre, and will always be a favorite of mine.
#18: Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu is a silent movie that is close to a century old, yet it is still just as disturbing as it was back then. None of the fancy special effects of today, and without any spoken dialogue, it lends a seriously creepy quality to the movie. Max Schreck is amazingly scary as Nosferatu. Without spoken dialogue, he portrays a disturbing creepiness through his expressive eyes and facial expressions. Not many people would consider an "ancient" vampire movie in their lists of best horror movies, but it was the first of it's kind. Nosferatu gave birth to the horror movie. This is the great-granddaddy of all horror movies. It is a take off of the book, Dracula, written by Bram Stoker. Of course, many movie versions have been made based on the book, but nothing compares with the original.
Check Out the Second Part of This List of the Best Horror Movies of All Time
So, this is the first half of my list of the best horror movies. It is by no means complete. I am always looking for the next great scary movie, and I tend to watch more horror movies than is probably healthy for me. My husband would probably agree. If you have suggestions, please, send them along! I would love to hear the opinions of others, and maybe even discover another horror gem that I have missed along the way.
Also, check out the second part of this list in Some of the Best Horror Movies of All Time Part 2!
© 2010 Anna Marie Bowman
More by this Author
Countless hours of research has led me to these 20 awesome horror movies from just the past few years. All of them are well worth watching.
Horror movies are often bad, some really bad. Some are good. The movies on this list are the worst of the worst. A list of some of the worst horror movies of all time.
A list of some great, lesser-known horror movies. Some of the best horror movies are from smaller, independent studios that are willing to take risks.