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The Top Five Most Influential Horror Movies of All Time

Updated on February 12, 2008

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

1. Dracula (1931)

Dracula came out only four years after the first talking picture. Many of these first movies weren't very good because the film studios didn't yet have a grasp on how to pair sound with the visual element. Dracula did a great job with this. Bela Lugosi starred as the title character. His interesting accent still gives chills to movie goers today.

While Frankenstein came out in the same year, Dracula can still be attributed with starting the new monster movie craze. The Mummy (1932) and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) were soon to follow. This movie was also the first of many movies based on the novel, Dracula, written by Bram Stoker.

Opening Scene from Night of the Living Dead

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. This single movie spurred many great zombie movies after it. George Romero himself created Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985). Others made Return of the Living Dead (1985) and similar movies.

There has also been a resurgence of the zombie horror subgenre in recent years with Resident Evil (2002) and 28 Days Later (2002). There was even a successful remake of the original Night of the Living Dead in 1990 that gained popularity as well. While it may not have been the first zombie movie, it was definitely the most influential.

Original Halloween Trailer

3. Halloween (1978)

Up until this time, movies have mostly been about monsters, zombies, or ghosts. Halloween presented the general movie-going public with a new subgenre of horror: slasher. Instead of an obvious villain with a large on-screen presence, Halloween showed Michael Meyers, a man of no words. Instead, we watch his destruction unfold as he slaughters numerous horny teenagers. This movie started the large slasher trend that continued into the 1980s. We wouldn't have Friday the 13th (1980) without it. This was also Jamie Lee Curtis' first feature film. From this and other slasher horror films, including Prom Night (1980), she became known as the 'Scream Queen'.

Original Nightmare on Elm Street Trailer

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

While it can be considered a slasher film, influenced by Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street is influential in its own regard. Before this, horror movies were an acquired taste for many. They weren't really in the mainstream. That changed with this movie and its many sequels. Now the general public was loving slasher horror. They especially liked the villain, Freddy Krueger. In fact, children at the time, who were some of the movie's biggest fans, would refer to them not by the real name but by the villain's name. "Let's watch Freddy!" Horror movies got a lot more attention after the release of these movies. The first in this series was also Johnny Depp's first on-screen role.

Original Scream Trailer

5. Scream (1996)

The 1980s were full of great horror movies. In some ways, people got burnt out on these movies, and the popularity of the horror genre bottomed out at the end of the decade. People wanted happy or dramatic movies, and horror was left on the wayside. After a few years, the genre need a jumpstart. That's where Scream comes in. This movie brought back the popularity of horror. Many other horror movies came after it, including I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Urban Legend (1998). The renewed popularity of horror in the 1990s can be attributed to Scream.

Honorable Mentions

  • Frankenstein (1931): This came out at the same time as Dracula and helped to popularize the monster horror movies of the time.

  • The Sixth Sense (1999): This movie blew up the world of ghost horror. It had immense popularity. Some people don't consider it a horror movie, calling it a thriller or drama instead.
  • The Ring (2002): Japan has a huge horror movie culture. The Ring remade one of their best horror movies to appeal to American audiences. Others were to follow, including The Grudge (2004).
  • Saw (2004): This movie started the trend of what I call 'torture' horror movies. There have been many imitators since it came out, as well as many Saw sequels.


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    • Nat Amaral profile image

      Nat Amaral 

      8 years ago from BC Canada

      Excellent work! You definitely did your homework with these movies! I also enjoyed the original Halloween (no can produce them like John Carpenter), but if you want to know how Micheal Myers became the way he did, watch the remake. You can ALMOST feel sorry for him.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I dont get how Scream makes a list of most influencial but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes dont. Chainsaw and Hills are pretty much responsible for every single horror movie with weird rednecks, inbreds, broken down car, stranded in the middle of nowhere type horror movies and there are hundreds of movies like that. Scream was influenced by the slasher greats but didn't really influence any others.

    • Glimmer515 profile image


      8 years ago from Never Never Land

      I couldnt agree more about SCREAM! It really brought the horror genre back to life! I mentioned it in one of my hubs as well and so glad to see it here!!

    • VeraDestler profile image


      9 years ago

      I LOVE the original Dracula film :D Bela Lugosi was absolutely amaizing! His manerism and accent, all stayed with us till this day in any Dracula film.

    • kimback08 profile image


      9 years ago from Barbourville, KY

      you actually have a pretty decent list there. i am a little biased tho...halloween is my all-time fav. i def. think that "psycho" should have been up there...but maybe another time and another list? lol. i am really glad to see "scream" up there. many don't give that film much credit, but that film spawned a renewed interest in horror.

    • jim10 profile image


      10 years ago from ma

      Great choices for horror movies. I'm saddened that my favorite, The Texas Chaisaw Massacre didn't make the list. I would put it in and take out Scream. I didn't like Scream. I couldn't figure why it did so well. Obviously lots of other people liked it.

    • diabloknight profile image

      Joey Parsons 

      10 years ago

      This is a great hub! Surprised that I'm just now getting to read it. I, for one, find that Halloween is the most influential of the genre. Sure, old classics such as Dracula and such have influenced many of the horror writers and directors of the past, but nothing can withstand the everlasting affect that John Carpenter's Halloween has had on the genre... As far as Rob Zombie's version, it is in no way a torture flick. It is straight cut slasher. The only difference is that it's Zombie's opinion on what should've happened. He dedicated a decent chunk to kind of develop the mental state of Myers. The only thing he done different than Carpenter intended for the film, other than give it a down-home white trash feel, was turn Myers into a cold hearted and vengeful victim instead of a possessed babysitter stalker.

    • profile image

      harry raines 

      10 years ago

      i think texas chainsaw massacre isnt that scary. the scariest movie of all time is the exorsist.

    • adeshwar profile image


      10 years ago

      great hub, for me i think each one has something catchy in it , although i really liked nightmare on elm street. And of recent times , 'saw' was good and i just watched 'Hostel' yesterday , i think it was also good.

      great hub

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Thanks Adam B. The cool thing about movies in general, not just horror movies, is that what we like and how we feel about them is all a matter of opinion. I like the suggestions you gave. Rosemary's baby and Silence of the Lambs were very influencial.

      I'll still stick to my list, though. You should make one, too! You're qualified, for sure.

    • profile image

      Adam B 

      10 years ago

      Hello everyone posting comments and the writer to this hub. I think you have a pretty solid list going for you of infulential horro films. As one person stated Nosferatu was the first, but as I look at the films and thier origin of influence, I think the Halloween / NIghtmare on Elm street films are of the same genre, so they can't both be in the top five. Both are slasher films and fit into the same genre as Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massecre. Althought TCM was released in 1974, before Halloween, I think Haloween was the more influential film becasue that was directly responsible for spawing the F13th and NOES franchises.

      In my opinion, number 3 on your list should be Rosemary's Baby because that was the catylist for religious themed horror films such as The Exorcist, The Omen & Amittyville Horror. All the religious based horro stems from Rosemary's Baby.

      lastly, I don't think Scream has any sort of influece on the genre with the exception if you wanted to put a film that influenced other horrible fims that you mentioned.

      I think the number five spot should belong to a film that either influenced a sub genre of horro such as Alien did for the sci-fi horro genre or a film like Silence of the Lambs that brought out the sub-genre of psychological thrillers like Seven, Frailty, Along Came a Spider, 8mm etc.

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Great to know! Thanks ipnomad!

    • ipnomad profile image


      10 years ago

      Actually the movie Nosferatu (1929) was the first movie to be based on the Bram Stoker novel but there was some kinda controversy over the whole thing where they changed the name of the characters and stuff like that and they wanted to destroy the movie and all. I've seen both movies.

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      If I had to pick a favorite of these, it would be Nightmare on Elm Street. However, that is not my favorite of the series. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is the best by far.

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Bonnie: Yeah, Psycho was great. It had one of those surpise endings that people really love. Twist endings are great.

      Reagu: I didn't see the remake. I heard it was pretty good, but I didn't like how it looked like Rob Zombie changed. Above, you see I mention slasher movies and torture movies. There's a big difference between the two. It seems from the trailers that Rob Zombie turned Halloween from a slasher to a torture, and I don't like that.

    • reagu profile image


      10 years ago from Los Angeles

      Any thoughts on Rob Zombie's Halloween? The day before it was shown, I rented John Carpenter's Halloween and it was only available on video tape. I understand why people are pissed that Rob Zombie re-imagined this classic. But IMHO, Zombie did a spectacular job. Not saying that it's better than Carpenter's.

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile image

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Great list! If I have to choose a favorite from this list it would have to be "Night of the Living Dead". However, I think you missed one, which, to me, should be #1 as it has been one that has stuck with me through childhood and beyond and that is "Psycho". To me, this was the best because of the believability of it. It just adds more to the horror if it is something that is believable. Good list!

      Bonnie Ramsey

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Fotochikk: You're right, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was influential. It was the first 'torture' movie. Saw wouldn't be on the honorable mentions without it, I think.

      Shawn, I actually put them in chronilogical order, so Dracula will beat it every time. And Dawn of the Dead is amazing, but I don't know about influential.

    • profile image

      Shawn of the Dead 

      10 years ago

      Awesome list! I am a little dismayed that "Night of the Living Dead" was not #1 and " Dawn of the Dead 1978" didnt even make the list! Otherwise tops all around!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      halloween was the scariest for me . how about texas chainsaw masacre? what do you think of that one. I think it was one of the goriest in its day.enjoyed your article.

    • tbartle profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Thanks funride!

      I love that series. My favorite was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      Great hub! For me "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is the best one in the top five I think it is because of my age when I saw it for the first time, Wooooooh! LOL.


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