Best Horror Movies All-Time List (10 Horror Films Every Horror Fan Should Watch)January 11, 2019
Do you enjoy watching spine tingling tales unfold right before your eyes? Do you love the hair raising tension a drop of water makes in an abandoned house? How about the slow, creaking sound old doors make when opened by an innocent group of friends, just wanting to have fun? If so, then you are a horror fan through and through, one of the brave (and the rare) few!
Halloween might be over, but horror movies are never out of season! With newer movies like Get Out, Hereditary, and A Quiet Place paving the way for the younger generation of horror fans, one might be tempted to ask “Well, what other horror movies should I watch in order to fully grasp the genre?” And to that, we have created a list to guide you through the must-watch movies of the dark world that is horror. Here are 10 horror films every horror fan should watch! Let’s start.
Best Horror Movies: All-Time List #10: Saw (franchise)
This movie franchise is known even to those who are not into the horror genre at all, and that pretty much says something. Making quite a stir during the early parts of the 2000s, this movie gave the world a glimpse to the makings of the infamous “torture porn” subgenre of movies, with each movie promising a different kind of brutality as the series grew. In the first one, we see two people waking up on what seems like an abandoned bathroom , dirty and disgusting.
Later on we learn that they are oncologist Cary Elwes and photographer Adam Faulkner, and they seemingly have no idea how they got there, and why they are chained to a couple of metal pipes with no way of walking out. Soon enough, they discover that they are merely puppets to the twisted games from the criminal mastermind and notorious serial killer Jigsaw, and they are in for a hell of a night.
Director James Wan and Saw movie actor James Whannel wrote the script for this movie, and shot it right out of film school. Asked how it all began, both talked about having only a small budget to work with, they could only afford one room for a debut film. This gave them the idea to challenge themselves and create a movie which occurs only in limited space, and thus, Saw was born.
Saw opened the doors for many people to actually watch horror movies not just for the scares and the gore, but also for the more chilling and terrifying sense of reality in the characters. You watch it for the brutality, but you leave with a deeper understanding of human nature.
Here’s a compilation of all Saw movies, including the latest one, Jigsaw. If you’re interested in watching them all, Amazon has the entire set.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #9: The Blair Witch Project
The 9th place in this list goes to the cult classic independent film, The Blair Witch Project. In this supernatural horror film, three filmmaking students that set out to learn about the Blair Witch urban legend that took them to the place of its origin, the town of Burkittsville in Maryland. There they interviewed several locals, most of them warning them about the doom that comes with the legend. Determined, these students journey to the town’s haunted forests in search of the answers they seek, not realizing that they will eventually come face to face with the unseen evil that lurks in the woods.
With a measly budget of just $60,000, this independent film went on to have a loyal following and a cult base in the underground movie scene, and it is mostly due to the fact that the movie has showcased something new. It is one of the most prominent ancestors of the “found footage” genre, and although many movies featured this particular technique, this late 90s movie is one of the earliest to fully use the genre’s maximum potential.
Filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez conjured the myth of Blair Witch in 1993 and eventually made a 35-page manuscript for it. They gave it tons of room for improvisation in order to add a certain sense of ‘reality’ in the movie, and gave the actors handheld cameras as they actually trek the woods and spend days there. The footage they shot were used to complete a majority of the final edit. With a fresh take on the genre, the movie has paved the way for films like Quarantine, Paranormal Activity, and Cloverfield, among others.
With such a small budget, it earned about $250 million dollars worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent movies ever.
You can buy a DVD or Blu-Ray copy, or you can just rent Blair Witch Project for less than two dollars in Amazon.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #8: Cannibal Holocaust
If you like your horror movies gory, surely you heard of this classic. In 1980, Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato and writer Gianfranco Clerici decided to show the rest of the world a rare glimpse into the workings of the Italian genre ‘giallo’, and this was a perfect introduction.
It tells the story of Harold Monroe, a New York University resident anthropologist, as they venture in to the deep Amazon rainforest to rescue a group of filmmakers that might have violently encountered a cannibalistic native tribe in their attempt to take a look at their everyday life. What Harold and his team uncover is something that terrified them to the core, more than the dangerous presence of hungry cannibals in their midst.
Cannibal Holocaust, as early as 1980, has utilized the use of ‘found footage’ elements heavily in this film, although they did not use it all the way. During its hay day, it made several controversies regarding the depiction of some scenes, including ritualistic animal sacrifice and severe tribal punishment. In fact, the movie was so well-made that the court summoned its director to answer for the rumors of actual human murder, referring to the death scenes of some of the movie’s characters. Eventually of course the charges were dropped and the rumors ceased, but not before elevating this movie in its cult status.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #7: Halloween
In 1978, John Carpenter elevated what seemed like a stagnant genre and made possibly one of the most influential movies of the genre, Halloween. One of the best originators of the ‘slasher’ horror genre, it featured actress Jamie Lee Curtis in her onscreen performance, and redefined suspense thrillers as we know it.
It tells the story of Michael Myers, a notorious serial killer, who escaped on Halloween night and decided to pay his old town a visit. While being pursued by his psychiatrist Samuel Loomis, Myers stalks a teen babysitter named Laurie Strode and her group of friends. What followed was a night of gut-wrenching suspense and hair-raising chases.
Having such critical and box-office success, the film spawned a movie franchise, several novels, and even extending its reach to comic books and video games.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #6: Scream
Wes Craven was a genius when it comes to making horror films, particularly the ‘slasher’ kind. You could only imagine his delight as he read the treatment that was written by Kevin Williamson, a self-admitted longtime fan of the 1978 classic Halloween, that tells a story of a horror story set in the real world. How ‘real’ is this real world? Well the characters in it are aware of the horror movie cliches that are happening around them, that kind of real!
The movie starred the likes of David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore, and was immediately hailed as a horror movie classic upon its release. It also featured one of the most iconic horror movie scenes of all time. In it, Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), alone at night, answers a random phone call. “What’s your favorite horror movie?” the man on the other line asks. After a calm back and forth, the man goes on to berserk and starts threatening Casey. He revealed that he is keeping Casey’s boyfriend hostage and would not kill him as long as she answers the quizzes correctly.
One wrong answer prompted the man to murder Casey’s boyfriend, and then proceeded to murder Casey in her own house too. With an opening sequence like that, it has cemented it place in many Top 10 horror movie lists.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #5: Audition
Released in Japan early 2000, Audition (or Odishon), is a Japanese psycho horror movie that greatly introduced some to the horrifying Asian –type of horror. It follows a man named Shigeharu Aoyama, a recent widower, who ventures into finding another partner by the suggestion of his own son. And so he and his friend create a fake audition in order to find an endless selection of women and from there choose one to start a relationship with.
She finds a mysterious girl named Asami here, and chooses to be with her. However, as their relationship gets deeper, he is slowly learning the dark past behind the woman, and he descends further down to a pit with seemingly no bottom.
This movie was based on the book Audition written by Ryu Murakami, purchased by Japanese movie company Omega Project. And of course, who better helm this movie than legendary Japanese film director Takashi Miike, who specializes in the brutal and wicked. Received critically in the West because of its fresh take in the genre, Audition has made a mark in the scene and is influential even to directors Eli Roth and the Soska Sisters.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #4: The Shining
In 1980, one of the greatest visionaries cinema has ever seen conceived a horror movie masterpiece that is appreciated both by horror fans and non-horror fans, the Shining. Written originally as a novel by Stephen King and then adapted to the silver screen, The Shining is evidently influenced by a number of horror movie styles, from supernatural to slasher, from psycho to thriller. Its epic one liner “Danny’s not here Mrs. Torrence,” terrorized many childhood nights for those who saw it.
It tells us the story of Jack Torrence, a writer with the surfacing alcohol troubles, his wife Wendy, and their son Danny as they agree to be the off-season caretakers of the iconic and isolated Overlook Hotel for the winter. As they try to grasp the grandness of the hotel, they soon find themselves going deeper and deeper into the violent repercussions of total isolation.
With each frame carefully crafted by the cinema legend that is Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is an amazing movie enjoyed both by film afficionados and the fans of the horror genre. King and Kubrick? You could not ask for a better combination (unless of course you count that Stephen King did not really like this movie).
Here’s a short clip of one of the most iconic scenes in the movie (and here’s a link to Amazon if you’d like to watch it):
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #3: The Night of the Living Dead
George Romero did what no one else was able to do during the 60s, present people with a socially relevant and oddly horrifying movie in the form of a zombie movie. Written, directed, edited, and even photographed by Romero himself, the movie was known to be the earliest pioneers of the zombie and apocalypse subgenre, effectively mixing up both into the zombie apocalypse subgenre that is rampant in today’s age.
It opens as siblings Barbara and Johnny drive to visit the grave of their parents, when all of a sudden a seemingly ill man attacks them. Johnny was knocked over a tombstone and Barbara barely escapes the attack. As she continues to flee, she meets a man named Ben and joins him as they barricaded themselves inside an abandoned house and desperately tries to survive the night of attack of the “living dead”.
Completed with a budget of $114,000, the film went on to earn $18 million internationally, making it a huge box-office hit with earnings more than 200 times its budget. Although initially criticized by the viewers of its time for its gory theme, it was eventually hailed as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected to be included for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #2: Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock is a in the Top 5 of your favorite directors Top 5 favorite directors, and rightfully so. Pumping out classic after classic, Psycho might be the legendary director’s best-known achievement.
Psycho tells us the story of Lila, a worried sister, trying to find the last whereabouts of her missing sibling Marion. She traces the steps her sister made and ends up in Bates Motel, the same hotel where her sister was apparently killed. The motel was managed by a man named Norman, who lives with his sick mother. As Lila’s own investigation draws her closer to her sister’s unknown killer, she unknowingly puts her own life at risk, too.
Although the plot is overly played out nowadays, Hitchcock’s masterpiece remains relevant due to the fact that it is one of the earliest examples of the slasher genre, as well as the psycho thriller movies. It’s so relevant that Psycho is even available in Amazon.
Initially, viewers of its time were reluctant about the movie’s theme and spoke against it. However, its major success in the box-office led to a movement in support of this new take on cinema and eventually it etched its indelible mark in cinema history. Now known as one of Hitchcock’s best works, it has set a standard in the genre and was eventually selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as well.
Best Horror Movies All-Time List #1: The Exorcist
In 1973, William Friedkin helmed what is probably one of the greatest horror movies of all time. William Peter Blatty, who adapted the movie from his own novel, wrote the story inspired by the stories surrounding the true-to-life exorcisms done to a boy called Roland Doe in 1949. From there, Blatty and Friedkin created an undeniable classic, a movie that still terrifies viewers up to this day.
The film revolves around the events of a case of demonic possession, with a certain veteran priest named Lankester Merrin selected to helm the procedure. Assisting him is a fellow priest named Damien Karras, and together they try to fight off the invisible assailant trying to ruin the life of the teenage girl Regan.
Today, The Exorcist is present in numerous Top 10 horror lists around and is still widely acclaimed. What got people interested in it, more than the movie itself, are the weird events and creepy coincidences surrounding its production, including frequently malfunctioning equipment and accidents involving the actors and their families, with people saying that the film itself is “cursed”.