Best Horror Movies Of All Time

The Exorcist (1973)

Horror films display a spectrum of fear, from visceral slasher flicks sparking basic survival instincts, to mind-twisting narratives mining our innate anxieties. Some push the boundaries of gory horror. Others cleverly tease with barely-there shadows or suggestive hints, rattling your nerves. Expert film critics confirm that these films stand peerless in their use of fear as an art form, creating suspense that keeps you riveted. Experience the benefits of this masterfully-crafted tension, and discover the genre’s top films.

1. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist’s blend of real and visceral horror underpins its acclaimed status. Its marriage of eerie dream sequences with realistic human turmoil culminates in a spectacular horror film.

Memorable scenes such as the crucifix incident demonstrate its eloquent graphic horror. The timeless resonance of the film years after its release attests to Friedkin’s lasting horror masterpiece.

2. The Shining (1980)

Famous scenes from The Shining, like Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” line, are emblematic of horror. Despite the prevalence of parodies, Stanley Kubrick’s expert blend of suspense and claustrophobia still chills viewers. Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance, the caretaker of an isolated Colorado hotel, remains iconic.

Author Stephen King didn’t approve of The Shining’s adaptation, finding its real-world focus on protagonist Jack Torrance’s internal struggles and alcoholism too distant from his supernatural novel. Yet, this shift towards exploring human frailty and madness contributes to the film’s chilling impact, as many critics and viewers find.

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s horror thriller asks a chilling question about survival. For the first time, horror was this graphic, and some believe it hasn’t been that visceral since. Some viewers found it too gory, while others praised its raw fearfulness.

Many sequels appeared, but none match the original’s unyielding intensity.

4. Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott took Twentieth Century Fox’s brief for a ‘Jaws in space’ experience and surpassed it, crafting a spectacular film in both horror and sci-fi realms. The masterstroke was bringing on Swiss designer HR Giger, whose work added a uniquely repellent yet organic feel to the classic monster chase.

Another standout deserves mention—Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay. It excelled in character development without specifying age, race, or gender and was fully realized by a phenomenal cast.

5. Psycho (1960)

In ‘The Moment of Psycho, David Thomson proposes that Hitchcock’s Psycho profoundly influenced both cinema and society. Hitchcock confronted audiences with terrifying reality, made them sympathize with a killer, and shockingly murdered an immoral heroine.

He critiqued Freudian psychology, depicted America as a perilous place, and ended comfortable assumptions about women. Hitchcock’s film set the stage for the next decade’s significant cultural and ethical shifts, all delivered with a knowing smile. That’s the true essence of show business.

6. The Thing (1982)

On its release, John Carpenter’s The Thing was largely dismissed. Today, it stands as a sci-fi and horror classic, but in 1982, it was seen as an Alien imitation. Critics overlooked its expert balance of horrifying scenes and tension filled narrow escapes in an Antarctic research post.

Today, we recognize it as Carpenter’s masterpiece. It’s a testament to how perceptions can evolve over time.

7. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Moving and starting a family becomes even more daunting in Polanski’s horror film, with the protagonist suspecting her neighbors are satanists. In this subtle horror, it’s unclear if the events are real or imagined by Mia Farrow’s character. Key scenes add reality without appearing ridiculous.

The portrayals of failing relationships, the potential isolation of family life, and a creepily innocent score heighten the unease. Polanski demonstrates that the everyday can be terrifying.

8. Halloween (1978)

While Bob Clark’s Black Christmas pioneered the slasher genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween brought it to the mainstream. This independent hit earned $70 million on a modest budget, setting a high bar for its successors.

Carpenter’s craft shines in smooth camera work, atmospheric darkness, and the terrifying Michael Myers – as iconic as Jaws’ shark. After nearly forty years, its excellence persists.

9. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

George Romero, initially reluctant to follow up his 1969 hit, Night of the Living Dead, took a leap after the failure of his personal work, Martin. His sequel, Dawn of the Dead, revitalized his career and remains his indelible contribution to the horror genre.

This film set the bar for thrilling, conscious zombie horrors and inspired countless successors including The Walking Dead. It continues to impress with its masterful blend of intense action and horror.

10. Jaws (1975)

Consider a teenage beach party setting in Jaws, which broke box office records despite numerous production issues that led the crew to humorously call it “Flaws.” Spielberg turned these issues into strengths, focusing on the cast’s reactions rather than faulty effects.

Particularly in a scene of a crowded beach attack which portrayed the sheer terror of a mother. Many believe this iconic Spielberg hit unknowingly ushered in the era of big popcorn blockbusters.

11. Suspiria (1977)

Diaro Argento once made a famous statement regarding his film, Suspiria, that he wanted it to push beyond the standard limits of fear. To accomplish this, he abandoned reason for a vivid, fevered fantasy where character motivations are secondary. Set within a mysterious dance academy, this film showcases a striking display of stylized brutality, living up to Argento’s ambitious vision.

Goblin’s terrifying score guides viewers through Suspiria’s vast, labyrinthine estate, where danger lurks around every corner. Argento envisioned the film as a children’s story, but the studio disagreed. Despite this, the movie maintains a macabre fairytale vibe, making it a uniquely disorienting yet immersive cinematic experience. It breaks the norms of ‘overkill,’ with graphic scenes of intense gore, resulting in a truly unique viewing experience.

12. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George Romero’s groundbreaking debut, Night of the Living Dead, revolutionized the horror genre by trading gothic castles and mad scientists for a contemporary setting. While Romero attributes the film’s raw documentary-style camerawork, minimalist interiors, and unrefined performances to its shoestring budget, there’s more to it than that.

The movie’s forward-thinking approach to race and gender, as well as its sharp editing and shocking violence, set it apart. Even today, as we watch a young girl feast on her defenseless mother, it’s hard not to feel the earth tremble beneath our feet.

13. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Ranked as the greatest British film ever in a 2010 Time Out survey of experts, Nicolas Roeg’s interpretation of Daphne Du Maurier’s short story is not only a masterclass in dread, but also a piece filled with immense compassion and delicate, ghostly charm.

Since this is a horror movie list, we’ll bypass the movie’s notorious intimate scene between the married couple – which, according to this critic, remains the most authentic ever captured on film – and head straight to the eerie parts: the haunting visuals of Venice during winter, desolate and boarded up; the enigmatic psychic sisters, sharing their cryptic wisdom; and most importantly, the ending’s devastating impact, where a child-sized, blood-red Mackintosh coat conceals the most terrifying fear imaginable.

14. The Innocents (1961)

Children can be quite unsettling in reality, with their flexible ethics and miniature hands. However, cinema always manages to amplify this eeriness. One could argue that the most unnerving film featuring sinister kids is The Innocents, masterfully adapted by Truman Capote from Henry James’s novella, The Turn of the Screw.

The story revolves around a governess employed to teach two aristocratic youngsters who may be harboring a dark, otherworldly secret. Intentionally distancing his work from the melodramatic flair of Hammer, director Jack Clayton crafted a masterpiece of restraint, showcasing Deborah Kerr’s restrained lead performance and the film’s revolutionary yet subtly utilized electronic soundtrack.

15. Carrie (1976)

Although she wasn’t the top choice for the eerie character of Carrie, it’s hard to envision anyone other than Sissy Spacek (appearing as if she’s time-traveled straight from another era) taking on the role. The inspiration for Stephen King’s debut novel came from the girls’ locker room at a college where he held a caretaker job. Teenage girls can be downright wicked, and it’s in this very locker room where we first encounter Carrie, who has just experienced her inaugural period and is cruelly instructed to “plug it up” by her nasty classmates.

Carrie’s hidden talent is her telekinetic prowess, which is about to unleash chaos at the school prom. Regarding the infamous pig’s blood scene, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you can’t help but hope the bucket stays put. Spacek bravely volunteered to be doused in actual pig’s blood, but ultimately, she was soaked in a concoction of syrup and food coloring.

16. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

John Landis’s take on British stereotypes in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) could have been insulting, but it’s just too hilariously smart, terrifying, and brilliant. This film is one of the rare gems that masterfully blends horror and comedy, delivering a dry, cunning, and infinitely memorable experience (“a naked American man stole my balloons!”).

What’s more, the special effects hold up impressively even in today’s CGI era – there’s just something irreplaceable about the sight of genuine latex skin stretching over metal-frame bones that can’t be achieved with modern technology.

17. Evil Dead II (1987)

Enter Bruce Campbell, who establishes himself as the Fangoria generation’s equivalent to Buster Keaton. While the original Evil Dead had its humorous moments, it was primarily a Video Nasty – the infamous tree-rape scene being a prime example. However, Evil Dead 2 showcases the perfect combination of horror and comedy, thanks to Raimi and Campbell’s background in both genres, creating a beloved classic in both fields.

The film’s defining moment occurs when Campbell’s own hand becomes possessed, leading to some of the most astonishing slapstick you could ever witness (not to mention a top-notch Hemingway gag). Yet, Raimi never neglects the importance of gore: limbs are severed, eyeballs burst, and the happenings in that woodshed are best left unmentioned.

18. The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg’s exhilarating reinterpretation of the classic tale about a scientist whose teleportation experiments result in a terrifying genetic mishap, The Fly, stands out not only as a top-tier horror film but also as one of the most poignant love stories in cinema. The delightful, cautious, and exquisitely penned budding romance between lead actors Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis is reminiscent of old-school screwball comedies, which makes Goldblum’s subsequent physical and psychological deterioration all the more gut-wrenching.

Under Cronenberg’s direction, this genetic affliction transforms into a powerful allegory for an array of life’s dark aspects, ranging from cancer, AIDS, and aging to lost love and incomprehensible heartache. The Fly is a prime example of humanist filmmaking at its most non-human, showcasing the pinnacle of a master director’s work.

19. Let the Right One In (2008)

A modern-day masterpiece? Judging by its ranking in the top 100, one could certainly argue for it. Tomas Alfredson’s spine-chilling horror film, set amidst a snowy backdrop that enhances its melancholic tone, explores the themes of coming of age and experiencing love for the first time. Our protagonist, twelve-year-old Oskar (Hedebrant), finds himself enamored with his enigmatic neighbor Eli (Leandersson). Despite telling her she has an odd scent and lending her his Rubik’s cube (since the story takes place in 1981), the candy he gives her causes a violent reaction, and her eyes begin to bleed upon entering his apartment uninvited.

It’s soon revealed that Eli is a vampire who has remained the same age for an eternity. Director Alfredson, seeking raw and authentic performances, opted for non-professional actors in his casting. Eli’s eerily timeless nature is most striking in a scene where she tenderly caresses the face of her loyal middle-aged caretaker/body-snatcher as if he were her wayward child.

20.  A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Arguably, the ultimate premise for a contemporary horror flick is a creature that infiltrates your dreams, attacking your innermost psyche with razor-sharp, glove-clad fingers. Though the franchise may have quickly devolved into self-parody – remember the Freddy Krueger dolls marketed to pre-teens? – the original film stands as one of the most audacious, imaginative, and genuinely horrifying shockers of the previous century. Wes Craven’s mastery over his content is unparalleled, and even a smattering of low-budget, low-quality effects can’t diminish the escalating atmosphere of existential, avant-garde terror.

It’s worth noting that this film singlehandedly built a movie studio: New Line Cinema was barely a blip on the indie scene radar when they shelled out $1.8 million for Wes Craven to bring his feverish vision to life. Seven Nightmare sequels and just over a decade later, they bankrolled the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. So, raise a glass to Freddy.

21. Audition (1999)

It’s a masterful cinematic deception, truly one for the ages. If you’re not familiar with the twisted brilliance of Takashi Miike, or even if you are, for much of Audition‘s duration, you could be forgiven for believing you’re watching a subdued romantic comedy-drama about a widower seeking a new spouse through a bogus audition process.

Heck, given the slow, unassuming, and frankly, dull nature of the film’s first half, you might even consider it an anomaly within the repertoire of a man known for such gruesome spectacles as Ichi the Killer and The Happiness of the Katakuris.

22. The Haunting (1963)

Some horror flicks rely heavily on context, and The Haunting is a prime example. If you watch it on a bright afternoon, it might feel dated, even laughable. But if you dare to view it late at night, all by yourself, it could easily become the most spine-chilling ghost story you’ve ever experienced. In this film, the eerie sounds aren’t coming from some distant darkness, but rather right within the room—or even your own psyche.

Director Robert Wise masterfully employs wide-angle shots to create a beautifully disconcerting atmosphere, his style clearly influenced by the legendary Orson Welles. Wise would go on to spook us once more four years later with The Sound of Music, proving his versatility as a filmmaker.

23. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

F.W. Murnau’s loose, unofficial take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula in Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror may not have been the first horror film ever made (that title likely belongs to George Meliés’s Le Manoir du Diable), but its impact on the genre is undeniable. This 1922 classic introduced so many essential elements of horror: the interplay of light and shadow, a palpable sense of threat and tension, the contrast of beauty and repulsiveness, and the unforgettable image of a grotesquely made-up man menacing an innocent young woman.

What’s truly remarkable is that the film continues to be deeply unsettling even today. Max Schreck’s twisted performance, coupled with his horrifying, bat-like makeup, may be the film’s most iconic aspect, but the sequence involving a swarm of rats is just as chilling. One can only imagine how such a scene would have affected viewers emerging from the horrors of World War I.

24. Freaks (1932)

Tod Browning’s groundbreaking pre-Code film, Freaks, is simultaneously ahead of its time and seemingly unfathomable for a major studio to embrace today. The story revolves around a circus troupe that is infiltrated by a greedy, opportunistic “normie.” Browning made the daring choice to cast actual sideshow performers in his film, including Siamese twins, a man without limbs, and a “pinhead.”

Its release was met with shock and disgust, angering MGM head Irving Thalberg and tarnishing Browning’s reputation. One can easily picture contemporary critics labeling the film as “exploitative” if it were made today.

25. The Omen (1976)

Kids can sometimes seem like little demons, but in the case of Damien Thorn, he genuinely is the Antichrist. Chaos ensues as The Devil’s Offspring celebrates his fifth birthday. Director Richard Donner’s thrilling, scripture-laden horror masterpiece doesn’t rely on green bile or rotating craniums for its terror. Instead, ravens and rottweilers inexplicably gravitate toward the cherubic Damien, and anyone who dares to probe deeper – be it a naive nanny, a zealous priest, or a doubtful reporter – meets a gruesome end.

The film’s production was beset by a myriad of issues, including fires, accidents, and illnesses, spawning the infamous “Omen curse” legend. While not quite reaching the heights of The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby during the satanic movie frenzy of the late ’60s and ’70s, The Omen still sends shivers down your spine.

26. Poltergeist (1982)

Do you recall those thrilling haunted houses at funfairs, or have they become relics in our modern age of gruesome horror and twisted creatures? Regardless, they serve as an apt analogy for Poltergeist, a movie that lures you in, tickles your nerves with glee for two hours, and then leaves you trembling yet satisfied. This effects-laden ghost tale doesn’t delve into excessive gore – just the occasional face-peeling or sudden cadaver appearance – but it provides a far more invigorating and enjoyable experience than a multitude of Hostel-like films.

The major lingering question regarding the film is who truly helmed its creation – the credited director Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg, the producer whose hands-on style led some to question the official narrative. There’s no denying that Poltergeist bears the hallmarks of a Spielberg film, with its suburban unease and ethereal divine light – yet it also possesses a fierceness characteristic of Hooper’s work. Let’s consider it a fruitful partnership.

27. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

While the supposed anthropological footage of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) came before Myrick and Sánchez’s spine-chilling fake documentary by almost twenty years, it was this film that crowned them the pioneers of contemporary ‘found footage’ horror. Filmed with a tight budget of $50,000 in a mere eight days, it claims to present a revised version of the grainy, handheld video recorded by the now-lost film students Heather, Josh, and Michael as they explored the Blair Witch myth surrounding Burkittsville, Maryland.

The footage showcases interviews with residents, the threesome’s disoriented wanderings in the forest, and progressively frantic disputes. At nighttime, within their fragile tent, they are tormented by unsettling rustling and spine-chilling cries. Importantly, as neither director was a horror aficionado, they forged a highly inventive route through the shadowy woods of our minds.

28. The Evil Dead (1981)

By 1981, low-budget DIY horror had already established itself as a formidable genre – thanks to films like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which demonstrated that old cameras, passionate friends, and some garden tools could rake in millions. However, it was Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking debut that truly elevated the movement.

Raimi, along with producer Robert Tapert and star Bruce Campbell, adapted their own short, Within the Woods, and secured funding from local businesses to create one of the most savage, innovative, and relentless horror films ever made.

29. The Birds (1963)

With The Birds, Hitchcock ventured into the realm of horror alongside his other notable work, Psycho. This adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novella follows a San Francisco city girl, played by Tippi Hedren, as she ventures into a quiet coastal town, only to be relentlessly pursued by malevolent bird flocks.

The master of suspense employs a mix of suggestive terror, with ominous crows gathering on telegraph wires and the sound of their cawing growing ever more unnerving, as well as explicit, shocking aerial assaults that remain impactful even today thanks to enduring special effects.

30. The Changeling (1980)

Embodying the essence of a classic, Medak’s often-overlooked supernatural thriller masterfully employs pure cinematic techniques to send chills down our spines. Featuring the commanding Scott as a renowned composer, the story follows his journey after the tragic loss of his wife and son in a car crash. He takes up a teaching position in Seattle and moves into a chilling, haunted Victorian mansion.

Even the most clichéd scenes, like a séance where a medium scribbles frantically to communicate with the restless spirit of a murdered child, are executed with impeccable skill and heartfelt conviction. As Guillermo del Toro asserts, the best ghost stories possess an underlying sense of melancholy, which is undeniably present in this film.

31. Videodrome (1983)

In Cronenberg’s eerily prophetic film, we delve into the hazardous realm envisioned by censors through the perspective of Max Renn (James Woods), a seedy cable TV programmer with a media-warped psyche. This world suggests that exposure to extreme imagery annihilates the viewer’s capacity to differentiate between artificial reality and twisted fantasy. As Max’s perception is contorted by the late-night Videodrome channel’s brutal visuals, we are compelled to adopt his subjective viewpoint.

Consequently, we cannot confidently determine if his sadomasochistic affair with Nicki Brand (played by Blondie singer Harry) holds more authenticity than the peculiar, vagina-esque cavity that has manifested in his abdomen. When Max inserts a video tape into this bodily aperture, the lines between flesh and technology blur. “You have to learn to live with a strange new reality,” proclaims the self-appointed media guru, Brian O’Blivion. Truer words have never been spoken.

32. Cat People (1942)

While the concept of horror as a means of political or cultural subversion may have gained popularity in the ’70s, it has always been present: consider Shelley’s Frankenstein as a satire on class, for example. Jacques Tourneur’s hauntingly stunning Cat People is no exception, albeit with a more understated message: the film examines the inherent potency of female sexuality and the potential consequences of suppressing it. In this case, it can manifest in unexpected and perilous ways.

Simone Simon portrays Irena, a Serbian immigrant whose oppressive upbringing – which the movie insinuates included sexual abuse – triggers her transformation into a lethal panther during moments of arousal. What makes this film truly powerful is Tourneur’s ability to delicately investigate these themes without ever overstepping the boundaries of decency, all while maintaining focus on the emotional tragedy at the heart of the narrative.

33. Hereditary (2018)

Similar to The Babadook, Hereditary, a debut film by writer-director Ari Aster, delves into the unsettling disruption of family life and the trauma it brings. Toni Collette portrays Annie, an artist who creates eerily lifelike dioramas – miniature rooms that symbolize the movie’s theme of a larger, sinister force manipulating human playthings. Her family teeters on the edge, as Peter (Alex Wolff), her teenage stoner son, and the unnerving daughter Charlie (brilliantly played by Milly Shapiro) grow increasingly disturbed throughout the film.

Following a disastrous and gut-wrenching incident, the movie takes an unexpected turn, challenging the audience to accept the blending of a mother’s sorrow with supernatural elements. Fortunately, Aster’s masterful camera work and unhurried pacing not only evoke a Kubrickian chill but also offer empathy.

34. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Could Bride of Frankenstein be the finest adaptation of Mary Shelley’s spine-tingling 19th-century classic? Time Out’s esteemed panel of connoisseurs certainly think so. Director James Whale initially resisted making a sequel to his 1931 smash-hit Frankenstein, but eventually succumbed to studio pressure. He vowed, however, to make the follow-up a genuine “hoot”. While Bride certainly boasts its fair share of campy, wry humor, Boris Karloff’s reprisal of his role as the lumbering creature is undeniably touching.

Dr. Frankenstein has abandoned his godlike ambitions and ceased experimenting with corpses, but his nefarious mentor Praetorious forces him to create a companion (portrayed by Elsa Lanchester) for the monster. Famed makeup artist Jack Pierce’s design for the Bride – featuring barbed wire scars, dramatic makeup, and electrified, frizzed-out hair – coupled with Lanchester’s jerky, unsettlingly innocent movements, make this a truly unforgettable entry in American gothic cinema.

35. Carnival of Souls (1962)

While Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls might not be the most terrifying film in existence, it definitely ranks high on the list of spine-chilling cinema. This insidiously low-budget nightmare-inducer feels as though it’s being beamed straight from your darkest dreams, with its eerie realism enhanced by Harvey’s use of an Arriflex camera—more commonly associated with newsreels.

The film centers on a woman who ends up careening off a bridge and into a river during a drag race, only to survive the crash with no recollection of the events. That’s when things take a turn for the surreal. Harvey casts himself as the embodiment of unexplained malevolence, gradually dismantling all rationality and trapping the audience in a purgatory where every twist and turn only leads further into the abyss. In doing so, he laid the groundwork for groundbreaking, low-budget horror films such as Eraserhead and other experimental fright-fests.

36. The Wicker Man (1973)

At first glance, Robin Hardy’s folk horror flick ‘The Wicker Man’ may seem innocuous, with its playful scenes of rumpy-pumpy and romping in the shrubs on a secluded Scottish isle. Toss in horror legend Christopher Lee and some kitschy music, and you might think you’re in for a “Carry On Up the Maypole” type of experience.

However, beneath the surface lies a chilling nightmare as a stern Presbyterian detective (Woodward) comes to the island to probe the vanishing of a 12-year-old girl. The pagan revelry doesn’t sit well with him, though he finds himself enamored with the sultry innkeeper’s daughter, Willow (Ekland). With Lee’s commanding presence as the lord and master of ceremonies (for which he received no payment), the film transcends its initial B-movie status, evolving into a bona fide cult classic of British horror.

37. Frankenstein (1931)

The door creaks open and the creature stumbles forward, taking its first shaky, infant-like strides. It’s alive! As it turns to face the camera, however, a chilling emptiness can be seen in its eyes. Our image of Frankenstein’s monster is forever shaped by the incredible makeup artistry of Jack Pierce: the unmistakable neck bolts, the flat head, and the hollow eyes.

Back in 1932, audiences were anticipating Bela Lugosi to play the Monster, but he was let go by the studio (and Lugosi himself wasn’t pleased with the script’s transformation of Mary Shelley’s philosophical creation into a silent role). Instead, the relatively unknown Boris Karloff was chosen by the up-and-coming director James Whale, who also infused Frankenstein with his signature sardonic humor. That’s not to say the film is without its frights; a scene in which a farmer carries his lifeless daughter through a village celebrating Frankenstein’s nuptials remains profoundly unsettling.

38. Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Inspired partly by Franju’s cold, black-and-white film, Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In tells the tale of an obsessive plastic surgery professor. Professeur Génessier (Brasseur) enlists the aid of his lover and assistant, Louise (Valli), to kidnap young women and remove their faces. He then transfers the stripped visage onto his daughter Christiane’s disfigured face, concealing it behind a plain plastic mask in the meantime.

Held captive by her guilt-ridden father, who blames himself for the car accident that caused her disfigurement, Christiane resembles a trapped fledgling yearning for freedom. The facial surgery scenes reportedly caused some viewers to faint, but Franju saw this as a story of torment rather than a pure horror film.

39. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Unexpectedly appearing on this list, Lyne’s mind-bending post-Vietnam war thriller has seemingly lost traction in recent times, yet has clearly left a mark on the minds of horror aficionados. Taking a bold and unforeseen departure from his previously popular quirky-nerd image, Robbins portrays Jacob, a weary war veteran whose psyche starts to crumble after the fighting stops. Is he losing his sanity, or are more sinister forces at play?

Masterfully crafted by Fatal Attraction’s director Lyne, Jacob’s Ladder comes across as an unconventional piece of post-hippie experimentation revamped for the MTV era: while it may lack depth and nuance, it compensates with startling tactics and disorienting unpredictability, all grounded in Robbins’s expressive and empathetic lead performance.

40. Possession (1981)

An unsettling portrayal of the mental turmoil caused by divorce, combined with a touch of Cronenberg-style body horror, Andrzej Zulawski’s intensely disquieting film appears to be the one afflicted by a demonic possession. The Polish director masterfully manipulates his camera, constantly circling around Mark (Neill) and Anna (Adjani), the collapsing couple at the heart of the movie, effectively depicting their mutual insanity through increasingly claustrophobic close-ups.

Adjani, especially, genuinely unnerves as a spouse on the verge of collapse, wailing and weeping à la Shelley Duvall in The Shining with a hint of Diamanda Galas. In a memorable subway station scene, Adjani propels herself into an agitated ballet before crumpling to the floor amidst a puddle of blood and other bodily fluids. Much like the film itself, the scene is daringly unhinged.

41. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

An unsettling portrayal of the mental turmoil caused by divorce, combined with a touch of Cronenberg-style body horror, Andrzej Zulawski’s intensely disquieting film appears to be the one afflicted by a demonic possession. The Polish director masterfully manipulates his camera, constantly circling around Mark (Neill) and Anna (Adjani), the collapsing couple at the heart of the movie, effectively depicting their mutual insanity through increasingly claustrophobic close-ups.

Adjani, especially, genuinely unnerves as a spouse on the verge of collapse, wailing and weeping à la Shelley Duvall in The Shining with a hint of Diamanda Galas. In a memorable subway station scene, Adjani propels herself into an agitated ballet before crumpling to the floor amidst a puddle of blood and other bodily fluids. Much like the film itself, the scene is daringly unhinged.

42. Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Witnessing Swedish actor von Sydow portray a tormented artist in Bergman’s depiction of a man grappling with a profound crisis inevitably brings to mind his self-ridiculing performance as a distressed painter in Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters (1986). However, this film is gravely earnest: reality and imagination coexist and haunt each other as von Sydow’s inner demons dominate the film’s visuals and atmosphere while his wife (Ullman) reflects on this dreadful chapter of her life.

Developed alongside Persona, Bergman delivers the full terror of an artist’s collapse and the disintegration of his marriage (and possibly his wife’s sanity as well) – occasionally presented as an intense Gothic horror, featuring characters walking on ceilings, men materializing in phantasmagoric avian forms, and a chilling flashback of von Sydow’s character assaulting a young boy with a stone. This chilling tale becomes even more poignant upon learning that it stemmed from Bergman’s own personal demons and his nervous breakdown during the mid-1960s.

43. The Tenant (1976)

What is it with Polanski and his fascination for confined spaces? Through films like Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and ultimately this Paris-based movie, the Polish director has brilliantly demonstrated his ability to transform ordinary apartments into terrifying domestic landscapes. In The Tenant, Polanski himself portrays a man who moves into a vacant flat, previously inhabited by a woman who tried to take her own life, and soon finds himself at the epicenter of a growing paranoid storm.

His neighbors become increasingly accusatory and hostile towards him, causing his mental state to deteriorate as the lines between reality and delusion blur. Although set in the present, it’s difficult not to project the horrors of Polanski’s own childhood experiences in the Warsaw ghetto onto this tale of a man’s world being encroached upon by closing walls.

44. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“Don’t let him in your head. Keep your personal life to yourself.” That’s the advice given to FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) before her encounter with notorious serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in a high-security prison. Yet, both Clarice and the audience can’t help but be drawn to the enigmatic Hannibal the Cannibal.

Sure, he’s not someone you’d want as your therapist, but he’s like a malevolent version of Sherlock Holmes, leaving everyone else in the dust. The 1991 film, based on Thomas Harris’s novel from 1988, masterfully blends elements of thriller and horror, creating a tense atmosphere punctuated by dark humor. It’s nearly impossible to picture anyone other than Hopkins in the role, but it’s interesting to learn that director Jonathan Demme also considered Daniel Day-Lewis for the part of Dr. Lecter.

45. The Others (2001)

In 2001’s ‘The Others’, Nicole Kidman portrays a mother of two photosensitive children, who must remain indoors, set on the island of Jersey in 1945. This sophisticated ghost tale, with undertones of 1951’s ‘The Innocents’ (based on Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’), is crafted by Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenabar.

The story’s balance is disrupted as the lives of the family are turned upside down by the arrival of three new servants, including a gardener played by Eric Sykes, and a series of subtle, yet unsettling supernatural occurrences. The fear elicited in this film is not from blatant horror but rather from self-closing doors and self-playing pianos. This is an intelligently designed psychological thriller, relying on a strong foundation of traditional craftsmanship for its allure.

46. Dead of Night (1945)

Redgrave’s portrayal of a ventriloquist controlled by his own dummy is the standout element in this Ealing Studios horror anthology, which revolves around a series of stories narrated by guests at a secluded cottage tea party. While the individual tales vary in quality, the top-notch Ealing talent involved never fails to impress.

In this eerie narrative, a husband (Michael) becomes possessed, pulled into the mirror, and driven to attempt murder on his wife (Withers). This film marked the horror genre’s revival on the big screen, as it had been noticeably absent during the war.

47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

It’s a delight to find both Body Snatchers films on this list: Don Siegel’s 1956 original may be more concise and invigorating, yet Philip “The Right Stuff” Kaufman’s ’70s adaptation offers humor and self-awareness

Additionally, it’s an outstanding horror film: the sequence where Sutherland demolishes a developing pod-person using a rake is horrifyingly graphic, but it’s the infamously heart-wrenching final shot that genuinely sends shivers down your spine.

48. Ring (Ringu) (1998)

There’s a scene that could very well be the most terrifying moment in film history: (beware of spoilers!) a man witnesses a chilling sight on a video, where a ghostly figure dressed in white, her long black hair concealing her face, crawls inhumanly out of a well and proceeds to emerge from his TV into the real world… Ring is a brilliant display of spine-chilling fear and eerie atmosphere.

Following the story of a journalist (Nanako Matsushima) who’s investigating a rumor spreading rapidly among teenagers involving a creepy VHS tape. As the legend goes, anyone who watches this video will die within seven days. The relentless, slow-building terror in Hideo Nakata’s film will freeze your gut in fear – it’s no wonder that Ring is the highest-grossing horror film in Japan’s cinematic history.

49. Peeping Tom (1960)

Released in the same year as Psycho, another movie centered on a disturbed loner, this film became the one that prematurely ended Powell’s career due to the shock and outrage it caused among his peers. The plot revolves around a young photographer and filmmaker who cunningly disguises a murder weapon as a camera to capture and kill women.

Looking back, the character of Mark Lewis (portrayed by Böhm) remains unsettling, and his on-screen murders possess a deeply personal viciousness – Shearer’s death in an abandoned film studio is particularly gruesome. However, it’s likely that the film’s most contemporary aspects – the suggestion that the camera itself is so intrusive and predatory that it can ‘kill’, and the notion that Lewis is enacting a childhood trauma – were what alienated audiences in the early 1960s, leading Powell’s critics to complain instead about the portrayal of scantily-clad prostitutes. This is an excellent horror film that delves into the terror of cinema itself.

50. The Descent (2005)

Even without taking the plunge into the realm of monster-movie horror, Neil Marshall could have easily created a classic survivalist suspense with The Descent. By placing his lovable ensemble of bickering, thrill-seeking women in a precarious Appalachian cave system, the Dog Soldiers director manages to construct one of the most suffocating films ever made.

However, when the creatures—pale, blind, and hungry for warm flesh—finally reveal themselves in one of cinema’s most unforgettable jump scares, The Descent demonstrates that our deepest fears can be overshadowed by the horrors hiding in the dark.

51. The Devils (1971)

In the hands of a less skilled director, the wild theatrics and camp stylings of Ken Russell’s tale of religious persecution and demonic possession in 17th-century France could have reduced The Devils to a mere fleshy, hysterical romp. However, Russell masterfully creates an authentic sense of fear and claustrophobia alongside the abundant lunacy in The Devils.

This is partly due to Oliver Reed’s restrained performance – a stark contrast to the surrounding madness – which ensures that when his character, Father Grandier, is ultimately tortured, we feel the full horror of the corrupt government and misguided religious zeal directed towards him. That being said, The Devils is also hugely entertaining, from Derek Jarman’s colossal, awe-inspiring set design to Vanessa Redgrave’s vulnerable, possessed portrayal of Sister Jeanne. In March 2012, the BFI finally released The Devils on DVD as part of an impressive two-disc package, serving as a fitting tribute to Russell, who passed away in November 2011.

52. Deep Red (1975)

There’s often a divide among Argento enthusiasts: some favor his early giallo thrillers with their linear, plot-driven narratives, while others delight in the mesmerizing allure of his post-Suspiria surreal films. Deep Red, however, bridges the gap between these two factions, blending gripping storytelling with a collection of murder sequences more intricate and artistic than anything the director had previously conceived.

The film’s appeal is further bolstered by the charismatic lead duo – Hemmings and Nicolodi share a genuine chemistry as the novice detectives pursuing a serial killer. Moreover, Deep Red is Argento’s most effortlessly entertaining work, sprinkling in a dash of clever, satirical jabs at Italian machismo and some of the most exceptional prog-fusion jams ever recorded.

53. Eraserhead (1977)

While several of David Lynch’s films received consideration for this list, only Eraserhead secured a spot, with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me coming in as a close contender. Drawing inspiration from the birth of his daughter Jennifer, Lynch masterfully crafts an atmosphere of intense, anxiety-ridden apprehension, portraying the infant as something akin to a fleshy hot water bottle rather than an actual human child.

Filmed over a span of five years on a shoestring budget cobbled together from university funding, art grants, and various odd jobs (Lynch even delivered newspapers at one point), Eraserhead firmly belongs to the American avant-garde cinema tradition. However, much like its counterparts (such as Kenneth Anger’s films), it dabbles in horror imagery and exudes a sense of lurking unease, which more than justifies its place on this list.

54. Repulsion (1965)

Polanski once mentioned in an interview that Repulsion was among the films he created as a ‘matter of convenience’. In this instance, he found himself financially strapped in London and was presented with the opportunity to make a horror movie. But that barely scratches the surface of this masterful work. Has there ever been a more chilling portrayal of mental deterioration? Catherine Deneuve stars as Carole, a repressed young Belgian woman living in London with her sister and working as a manicurist.

One of her older clients requests Revlon’s ‘fire and ice’ nail polish – an apt metaphor for Deneuve’s enigmatic and icy on-screen persona. While London buzzes with excitement and the youth prepare to make their mark, Carole’s reality begins to fracture. Cracks materialize in the walls of her apartment, and she slips into a series of fugues before ultimately descending into psychosis. The cacophony of daily life is overwhelming, as Polanski expertly delves into the depths of the subconscious to uncover the hidden horrors that lurk below.

55. The Wailing (2016)

In this one-of-a-kind demon-ghost-possession-cop-folklore-zombie comedy-thriller, The Wailing masterfully blends South Korean cinema staples like bumbling cops and stifling bureaucracy with the tension between modern law enforcement and ancient evil. Director Na Hong-jin, who previously dazzled audiences with his skillful subversion of expectations in the underrated serial-killer flick The Chaser, outdoes himself in this genre-defying masterpiece.

The Wailing is a captivating mix of folk-horror, chilling demonic-possession, and darkly humorous procedural comedy that unfolds over a sprawling 156 minutes of meticulously crafted detail and spine-tingling suspense. It’s best to go in knowing as little as possible, as the film’s mesmerizing beauty lures you in before leaving you with images that will sear into your memory.

56. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Despite countless parodies and a subsequent decline in director M. Night Shyamalan’s career, The Sixth Sense remains a beloved supernatural thriller that captivated audiences with its chilling yet non-gory approach to horror. To this day, it feels inappropriate to spoil the film’s pivotal twist, so we’ll simply say that its strength lies in its eerie and profound exploration of grief and its aftermath.

Young actor Haley Joel Osment (where is he now?) portrays a boy with the ability to communicate with the deceased (his famous line, “I see dead people,” now rivals “I’ll have what she’s having” in the pantheon of iconic movie quotes), while Bruce Willis plays the psychologist trying to understand his peculiar condition. Shyamalan’s skill in concealing the truth until the final moments and, more importantly, making it believable when revealed, is what makes this film a resounding success.

57. The Vanishing (1988)

The setup is straightforward: a man’s girlfriend vanishes without a trace from a rest area, and the enigma of her disappearance drives him to the brink of insanity. What makes George Sluizer’s Dutch psychological thriller so effectively chilling is its ability to push us to the edge of madness, making it all too easy to envision ourselves in the same terrifying predicament.

This leads to a perilous pact and one of the most unforgettable, don’t-even-think-about-ruining-it finales in cinematic history. The fact that Sluizer later remade the film in America, altering his own ingenious ending, is yet another display of madness.

58. Kwaidan (1964)

Drawing inspiration from classic Japanese folklore and featuring breathtaking wide-screen visuals on handcrafted sets, these four tales – involving dark-haired damsels, enchanting female apparitions, sightless chanting monks, and eerie samurai spirits – established a foundation for much of the native supernatural cinema that came after.

The ageless spouse in The Black Hair, particularly, anticipates the numerous dark-haired women with shadowy ivory visages seen in contemporary J-horror films such as Ringu. Kobayashi’s masterful use of color leans more towards symbolism than realism, and when combined with the innovative electronic soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu, which also includes sampled nature sounds, it conjures a spine-tingling ambiance and delivers some understated supernatural shivers.

59. Vampyr (1932)

Drawing inspiration from classic Japanese folklore and featuring breathtaking wide-screen visuals on handcrafted sets, these four tales – involving dark-haired damsels, enchanting female apparitions, sightless chanting monks, and eerie samurai spirits – established a foundation for much of the native supernatural cinema that came after.

The ageless spouse in The Black Hair, particularly, anticipates the numerous dark-haired women with shadowy ivory visages seen in contemporary J-horror films such as Ringu. Kobayashi’s masterful use of color leans more towards symbolism than realism, and when combined with the innovative electronic soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu, which also includes sampled nature sounds, it conjures a spine-tingling ambiance and delivers some understated supernatural shivers.

60. [Rec] (2007)

As a standout entry in the found-footage genre, the Spanish film [Rec] masterfully crafts a chilling tale of firefighters and a news team trapped in a quarantined apartment building. From the very beginning, the sense of foreboding is tangible, and as the enigmatically infected residents start to show their monstrous nature, the movie grips the audience in a way that most contemporary zombie flicks fail to do.

Drawing inspiration from the legendary George A Romero, [Rec] expertly extracts relentless tension from its singular setting, escalating the horror (and grisly deaths) with a touch of religious terror as it races towards an adrenaline-pumping conclusion.

61. Les Diaboliques (1955)

French director Clouzot’s 1955 boarding school mystery, Les Diaboliques, offers a delightful blend of suspenseful comedy and chilling moments. The grotesque characters, ranging from the detestable headmaster (Paul Meurisse) to his anxious wife (Vera Clouzot) and domineering mistress (Signoret), each contribute to the film’s unique charm.

Clouzot has earned the title of ‘French Hitchcock,’ and it’s an apt comparison: like the British master of suspense, Clouzot expertly weaves playfulness into his thrilling narrative. The film’s inclusion in this list is well-deserved, as it keeps viewers engaged until the very last frame. The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the aftermath of the headmaster’s murder, and an unexpected scare towards the end, showcase Clouzot’s ability to constantly keep us on our toes.

62. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Is Charles Laughton’s sole directorial venture, The Night of the Hunter, truly a horror film, or is it something more? Its ambiguous nature likely contributes to its lower position on this list, yet there’s no denying the film’s brilliance – a nearly flawless display of cinematic artistry. With firm connections to the horror genre, Robert Mitchum portrays the sinister preacher Harry Powell, whose quest for buried treasure drives him to relentlessly pursue two unfortunate orphaned siblings across a surreal Southern landscape.

Over half a century since its creation, The Night of the Hunter resists simple classification: it’s not only a horror flick but also an adventure tale, crime thriller, coming-of-age drama, and even a fairy tale. One fact remains indisputable, though: it’s an absolute masterpiece.

63. Lake Mungo (2008)

Unexpectedly making its way onto our list, this terribly named, low-budget Australian gem caught attention at the SXSW film festival back in 2006 before disappearing from the scene. However, someone must have been watching closely as it has now stormed into our top 100. Presented in a mockumentary format, the film narrates the creepy, potentially otherworldly events that transpired in the isolated Aussie town of Ararat after a heartbreaking drowning incident at the nearby reservoir.

While not groundbreaking, the movie boasts stunning cinematography, powerful performances, and masterfully executed, genuinely spine-chilling moments of unease. Pay close attention, and you might just catch Paranormal Activity’s director Oren Peli hastily taking notes.

64. The Beyond (1981)

Away from the realm of arthouse, horror stands as the sole film genre where unadulterated surrealism is not only embraced but anticipated – and Fulci’s wildly absurd swamp massacre, The Beyond, serves as one of the most vivid illustrations. Sure, there’s a semblance of a storyline: a young lady inherits a hotel, conveniently constructed above a portal to the underworld.

However, this merely provides a flimsy structure for Fulci to unleash his full potential in shocking and horrifying viewers: faces liquefy without reason, tarantulas tear out human tongues, undead creatures emerge from their graves, and eyeballs are relentlessly ripped out. The outcome is a piece more genuinely nightmarish than almost any other film in this category – a genuine plunge into the abyss of senseless, erratic, and petrifyingly stunning terror, with a razor-sharp, scorpion-like sting at the end.

65. Pulse (Kairo) (2001)

Kurosawa delivers a warning through his philosophical narrative, skillfully combining dystopian sci-fi and supernatural horror elements to examine a society obsessed with the internet, where digital interactions have slowly eroded social bonds, leaving behind a void of isolated despair. The story revolves around ghostly entities that manifest online and spread virally, luring internet addicts with enigmatic messages that ask, “Do you want to meet a ghost?”.

These individuals then forsake their friends, family, and coworkers, retreating from reality and falling into a state of lethargy, depression, and ultimately, self-destruction. Tokyo spirals into a realm of spiritual disintegration and societal chaos. Notably, Wes Craven contributed to the writing for director Jim Sonzero’s 2006 American adaptation, which kept the original’s grim ambiance and catastrophic conclusion, but regrettably, little else. The Japanese title, Kairo, translates to “circuit”.

66. Switchblade Romance (2003)

The vintage flair of this French thriller demonstrates a remarkable understanding of classic slasher and giallo movies, complemented by a savvy, contemporary film style that adds an extra layer to the relentless torment suffered by De France and Le Besco’s vacationing students. From the moment we witness Gaspar Noé’s favorite actor, Nahon, performing fellatio on himself using a severed female head, it’s clear that things won’t end well.

The creatively brutal murders and pursuit sequences occur rapidly, while the anxiety-inducing sound design intensifies the tension to near-unbearable levels. However, a shockingly misguided and outrageously offensive plot twist causes the entire film to collapse. Aja’s penchant for unrepentant, old-fashioned misogyny reemerged in his remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha, albeit with a more comedic tone.

67. The Witch (2015)

With The Lighthouse director Robert Eggers’ phenomenal first foray into film, The Witch masterfully lures viewers into a mesmerizing whirlwind of religious fanaticism, colonial arrogance, and dark sorcery. Illuminated by the ethereal glow of oil lamps and often resembling ancient woodcut prints, this film is a testament to exceptional craftsmanship, showcasing authentic period-appropriate dialogue and rustic set designs.

The terrifying experience is anchored by standout performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and young Harvey Scrimshaw, who skillfully portray the harrowing descent into paranoia of exiled settlers. As the movie spirals towards a demented climax, a chilling voice tempts, “wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” Considering the unspeakable horrors that have transpired, it’s a tantalizing offer indeed.

68. Night of the Demon (1957)

In Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon, the director originally had no plans to reveal the monstrous creature that terrorizes the night. However, producer Hal E Chester demanded that the fiery beast make two appearances to frame the story of Dr. Holden (Andrews), a famous American psychologist and paranormal skeptic.

Visiting London to expose a devil-worshipping cult, he underestimates the seemingly genial leader, Dr. Julian Karswell (MacGinnis), dismissing him as a harmless fraud (though he should have taken note of Karswell’s sinister goatee). Tourneur’s instincts were correct about the demon – its appearance borders on B-movie absurdity. However, the French-born director’s expertise shines through as he masterfully spooks viewers with subtle gestures, like a hand placed on a banister. Screenwriter Charles Bennett was equally frustrated with the demon’s inclusion, stating that he would shoot the producer dead if he appeared on his driveway.

69. The Babadook (2014)

The intersection of horror films and social realism is a largely uncharted domain for movie creators. Typically, the horror genre focuses on providing twisted entertainment, with real-world tragedies often dampening the enjoyment factor. Therefore, it’s commendable that debut director Jennifer Kent doesn’t shy away from the protagonist’s plight in The Babadook.

While Amelia, our leading lady, is haunted by a supernatural entity, it’s uncertain if her already troubled life as a grieving single mother has worsened. Furthermore, it’s gratifying that The Babadook has been one of the most highly praised horror flicks in recent years, especially given the ongoing marginalization of women in the filmmaking industry.

70. Get Out (2017)

When horror movies derive their scares from the human experience itself, they truly shine. That’s what makes Jordan Peele’s Get Out an indispensable piece of cinema in recent years. Featuring British actor Daniel Kaluuya (yes, that guy from Skins) as Chris, a photographer who joins his white girlfriend (Williams) for a weekend trip to meet her parents, the film’s fright factor comes from the way it reflects society’s ongoing menace of racism.

By leveraging the horror cliché of secluded suburbs, Peele brilliantly challenges expectations and creates a unique blend of horror, comedy, and social critique. The chilling concept of the ‘sunken place’ has made such an impact that it’s now ingrained in our cultural vocabulary. What’s particularly unnerving about Peele’s movie, however, is how relevant it remains even four years after its release.

71. 28 Days Later… (2002)

Every generation receives its own unique portrayal of zombies, but what would the current generation’s look like? Director Danny Boyle answers this question in 28 Days Later…, where animal liberation activists inadvertently release laboratory chimpanzees infected with a deadly virus. This virus rapidly spreads across the UK, transforming people into frenzied zombies.

A month later, bicycle courier Jim (played by Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma in a London hospital, only to discover the city eerily quiet. The film contains spine-chilling moments, such as the sight of rats fleeing in terror from an oncoming horde of the undead. However, the true horror unfolds when Jim and his group of survivors arrive at the so-called ‘safe haven’ of a stately mansion up north, where they encounter a group of soldiers barricaded within.

72. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

Director Robert Wiene could never have anticipated how eerily prophetic his art-horror masterpiece would become. A story of hypnotism, hysteria, and multiple homicides set against a warped, Germanic backdrop filtered through the deranged mind of a lunatic, its fragmented landscapes mirror the broken psyche of a defeated nation while also foreshadowing even greater terrors to come.

Nearly a century later, a particular scene continues to terrify: a defenseless young woman attacked at midnight by a lumbering, sleepwalking strangler. The conclusion, too, remains startling: the entire world is an asylum, Wiene suggests, so who can truly be considered sane?

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

Although Bava’s spooky tale of a haunted small town may seem somewhat subdued compared to the chilling boldness of his revolutionary Black Sunday, Kill, Baby… Kill! remains a groundbreaking and deeply disconcerting piece. As a coroner arrives in a remote village to examine a maid’s lifeless body, he discovers a silver coin embedded in her heart.

The town is plagued by an age-old curse, and those who dare to speak of it meet grisly and premature deaths. Seizing the chance to film in vibrant color, Bava conjures an intense, mesmerizing dream-like realm that undoubtedly inspired the works of Argento, Fulci, and any other filmmaker keen on delving into supernatural concepts. One particular scene, where the protagonist appears to chase an apparition of himself, bears an uncanny resemblance to David Lynch’s unsettling finale of Twin Peaks, almost replicating it shot-for-shot.

74. The Old Dark House (1932)

Long considered lost, the 1932 classic The Old Dark House was thankfully rediscovered in the Universal Studios vaults in 1968. It would have been a real shame if this wickedly entertaining dark comedy had been lost forever.

Based on JB Priestley’s novel  a war veteran, and a rough-around-the-edges industrialist as they seek refuge in a dilapidated Welsh mansion during a heavy rainstorm. They soon discover that the mansion’s residents, theBenighted, the story follows a young couple, a chorus girl, eccentric Femm family, are a wild bunch.

75. Black Christmas (1974)

Horace (played by Thesiger in a delightfully campy performance) is the head of the family and constantly argues with his batty, deaf sister. Meanwhile, their 101-year-old father lies bedridden upstairs, their pyromaniac brother Saul is locked in the attic, and their insane butler Morgan (portrayed by Karloff) gets increasingly intoxicated in the kitchen.

Brimming with sharp wit and uproarious humor, The Old Dark House is one of the most gleefully enjoyable films you’ll ever have the pleasure of watching.

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

Horror aficionados often recall 1960 as the year of Peeping Tom and Psycho. However, Black Sunday, Bava’s monochrome masterpiece, undoubtedly deserves equal recognition alongside these classics. While Hitchcock and Powell were transforming the genre by bringing terror closer to home, Bava took a different approach, crafting a vividly imaginative and dreamlike world reminiscent of the Universal classics. Simultaneously, he employed cutting-edge special effects to ensure the horrors portrayed on screen were more graphically unsettling than ever before.

Black Sunday is a film brimming with bizarre and shocking imagery that remains impactful today. Although it is most famous for its opening scene, where a spiked mask is brutally hammered onto the face of the sinister witch Barbara Steele, there are plenty more delightfully gruesome sights to witness, such as an empty eye socket teeming with maggots or a walking corpse bearing a striking resemblance to Sonny Bono.

77. Hellraiser (1987)

Horror aficionados often recall 1960 as the year of Peeping Tom and Psycho. However, Black Sunday, Bava’s monochrome masterpiece, undoubtedly deserves equal recognition alongside these classics. While Hitchcock and Powell were transforming the genre by bringing terror closer to home, Bava took a different approach, crafting a vividly imaginative and dreamlike world reminiscent of the Universal classics. Simultaneously, he employed cutting-edge special effects to ensure the horrors portrayed on screen were more graphically unsettling than ever before.

Black Sunday is a film brimming with bizarre and shocking imagery that remains impactful today. Although it is most famous for its opening scene, where a spiked mask is brutally hammered onto the face of the sinister witch Barbara Steele, there are plenty more delightfully gruesome sights to witness, such as an empty eye socket teeming with maggots or a walking corpse bearing a striking resemblance to Sonny Bono.

78. The Fog (1980)

While Halloween brought an urban legend to life, The Fog (1980) was John Carpenter’s attempt at an old-school campfire story. The film starts with a Princess Bride-esque scene, featuring three children gathered around a blazing fire as John Houseman’s grizzled sailor narrates the spine-chilling tale of a mysterious fog that enveloped the town of Antonio Bay a hundred years prior, leading to a shipwreck and a crime that would eventually return to haunt the residents.

Initially a critical failure, The Fog may not be as daring or harsh as its forerunner, but it was never intended to be. This movie revels in the tradition of Victorian ghost stories, with an atmosphere of lurking shadows and encroaching darkness. It’s the perfect film to enjoy solo, with the lights off and a warm cup of cocoa in hand.

79. It Follows (2014)

There’s a certain charm to chaotic horror films with flying body parts, cheesy creatures, and atrocious acting. However, the distinct pleasure and unease that comes from a horror movie where every scene, line, and musical note is meticulously crafted to terrify you is unparalleled.

It Follows exemplifies this perfectly: throughout the lean, exact narrative of supernatural pursuers in the suburbs, you can sense writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s unwavering control. The only mystery is where he’s taking you.

80. Ginger Snaps (2000)

Undoubtedly the finest adolescent werewolf flick in existence. Horror cinema has long been captivated by women’s bodies, from the primal sensuality of Cat People to modern-day shockers that push the boundaries, such as Teeth. However, this clever Canadian werewolf film tops them all, as a young girl’s initial menstruation is promptly followed by a savage canine assault – resulting in a sequence of horrifying yet oddly exhilarating bodily metamorphoses.

The movie also stands out for its astute, Buffy-esque commentary on adolescent experiences, predating the overused trope of melding high school drama with paranormal terror. Be forewarned, though: it’s best to steer clear of the superfluous sequels.

81. A Quiet Place (2018)

It’s not often that you see Michael Bay’s name associated with ‘greatest films’, but as a producer, he deserves some kudos for bringing this monster-movie masterpiece to life. A Quiet Place chronicles a family’s struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by sound-sensitive extraterrestrial predators, akin to demonic terrestrial dolphins. In many respects, this film is the polar opposite of a typical Michael Bay production: silence replaces noise, and stillness supplants frenetic action.

This only makes the experience all the more spine-chilling. As an actor-turned-debut-director, John Krasinski demonstrates an almost Hitchcockian mastery of suspense, where even the smallest creak or spill can unleash ravenous beasts from the nearby countryside. In front of the camera, Emily Blunt steals the spotlight, with the unforgettable childbirth scene leaving an indelible mark on viewers.

82. Midsommar (2019)

Ari Aster, the visionary behind Hereditary, once dubbed Midsommar as ‘The Wizard of Oz for perverts,’ though it could also be likened to ‘The Wicker Man on a psychedelic trip.’ Despite its horrifying elements, Midsommar delves deeper into its mushroom-induced consciousness, exploring more than just crushed skulls and mutilated bodies (although those are present too).

The film serves up an unexpectedly humorous take on the arrogance of American tourists, a strangely empowering feminist break-up narrative, and a thought-provoking analysis of the clash between contemporary society and age-old customs. Florence Pugh shines in a role that defines her career, masterfully portraying a complex mix of grief, bewilderment, heartache, fury, and hope. Throughout the film, terror lurks in plain sight, not merely to startle viewers, but to drive the twisted fairy tale towards its blazing, bear-costumed finale.

83. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Though not explicitly labeled as a zombie flick, Don Siegel’s spine-chilling tale of alien incursion, enforced conformity, and ominous flora can now be seen as a horrifying allegory for the dangers of unchecked populism. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter star as a romantic pair in a fictitious Californian town who uncover a plot to replace the populace with unfeeling pod creatures.

As the duo attempts to flee and the conspiracy thriller morphs into a sweat-drenched escape saga, Invasion of the Body Snatchers emanates a raw, pressing sense of paranoia that prompts reflection on the world at large. This unsettling classic received a post-Watergate update in the form of Philip Kaufman’s 1978 masterpiece. Though it might be considered blasphemous, perhaps the post-truth era we find ourselves in warrants a new adaptation as well?

84. Scream (1996)

Over two decades and a plethora of imitations, as well as four sequels (and still going strong), it’s easy to overlook how groundbreaking Scream was when Ghostface made his iconic entrance into the world of pop culture.

Despite the abundance of humor, clever references, and nods, people often fail to remember how truly terrifying Scream is—a gruesome Agatha Christie-style mystery where the characters’ self-awareness doesn’t serve as a shield once the knives start shining.

85. Black Sabbath (1963)

While it’s notoriously challenging to execute anthology horror films successfully, Bava’s original Italian version of “Black Sabbath” (1963) manages to maintain a stylistic coherence across its three distinct stories, thanks to his daring and expressionistic use of color and lighting. This is in stark contrast to the muddled, restructured, and re-scored version released in the US. Boris Karloff’s captivating introduction and conclusion also contribute to the film’s cohesion.

In “The Telephone,” we’re plunged into a world of perverse sensuality as a Parisian prostitute (Mercier) finds herself terrorized by menacing phone calls from her vengeful former pimp. “The Wurdalak” delves into Russian vampire mythology, beginning with the grisly discovery of a decapitated and stabbed body before descending into chilling, atmospheric scenes of bloodthirsty creatures. In “The Drop of Water,” a nurse is tormented by guilt after stealing a valuable ring from a corpse. The powerful visual impact of this film on Argento’s “Suspiria” and “Inferno” is unmistakable.

86. Dracula (1958)

During the subdued Vincent Price era of the late ’50s and ’60s, Hammer Film Productions provided a haven for horror aficionados, revitalizing the weary genre with vivid blood-soaked colors, startling brutality, and the remarkable acting partnership of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. While 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein cracked open the casket, this film – a hugely influential worldwide triumph – drove the stake deep.

The fact that Lee was able to emerge from Bela Lugosi’s immortal shadow is admirable, creating a Count who was virile, alluring, and ferocious. However, the true impact of Dracula is best appreciated in hindsight: Has there ever been another Bram Stoker adaptation as enthralling as this? Numerous directors have attempted it, but none have made it through the night.

87. Candyman (1992)

Bernard Rose’s creative take on Clive Barker’s The Forbidden has only gained more recognition as time passes. It’s fitting for a dark tale focused on hushed urban myths, following Virginia Madsen’s doubtful white scholar as she delves into Chicago’s underbelly to research the legend of a wrathful, hook-handed specter (Tony Todd, menacing with a mouthful of bees).

Accompanied by a chilling piano-based Philip Glass soundtrack, Candyman emerges as a strangely predictive movie that has only become stronger with time, skillfully blending gory frights with motifs of gentrification, white entitlement, and violence against the Black community. The fact that Nia DaCosta grappled with the same equilibrium in a recent reimagining is less a critique of the Jordan Peele-produced film and more a tribute to Rose’s elaborate, macabre vision. Much like the amorous phantom at its core, the film’s reputation grows stronger as the years pass.

88. Phantasm (1979)

During the early 1980s, the flourishing home video market sparked a massive surge in American horror cinema. However, unlike the low-budget grittiness of grindhouse flicks, movies during this time had the advantage of proper financial support and nearly unlimited creative liberty. This allowed directors like Stuart Gordon, Frank Henenlotter, and Don Coscarelli to bring their unique visions to life, resulting in some of the most distinctive horror films ever made.

Phantasm was the groundbreaking movie that ignited this movement, masterfully blending resourceful DIY horror techniques with an outlandish storyline featuring murderous alien dwarfs, valiant ice-cream vendors, brain-drilling flying orbs, and the spine-chilling ‘Tall Man’. Over the course of three exhilarating sequels, Coscarelli continued to develop his peculiar universe in various imaginative and wildly enjoyable ways – but it was the original Phantasm that set the benchmark.

89. Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Pasolini’s final film isn’t a conventional horror movie by any stretch – yet it’s difficult to envision any movie on this list outdoing this 1944-set tale of despair for its utter provocative defiance and intensely grim, pessimistic outlook on humanity. Inspired by the works of Marquis de Sade and Dante’s Inferno, Pasolini concocts a story of four fascist libertines who imprison a group of young men and women in an Italian mansion, subjecting them to an unspeakable cycle of terror.

Rape, torture, murder, and the coerced consumption of feces – it’s all here. The film sparked controversy in many circles, but any current assertions that it’s pornographic seem ludicrous. Pasolini masterfully evokes a total lack of pleasure in this unsettling depiction of a society that has gone to the dogs.

90. Session 9 (2001)

This ultra-low-budget American indie was such a disaster that it never even saw a theatrical release in the UK. As a result, those who took notice of the buzz and snagged it on DVD felt like they had stumbled upon a hidden gem: it’s a movie so dark, creepy, and disquieting that it could never find favor with the masses.

Peter Mullan is flawlessly cast as Gordon, the head of an asbestos removal company charged with cleaning up a deserted mental institution. As one of the first films shot on HD digital video, it possesses an otherworldly, surreal-yet-authentic quality that greatly enhances its pulse-pounding aura of looming catastrophe.

91. The Unknown (1927)

Half a decade before the creation of Freaks, filmmaker Tod Browning masterfully crafted another bizarre narrative involving circus performers navigating the complexities of love and inflicting unspeakable acts upon each other. In The Unknown, it’s not just the outwardly grotesque characters who harbor inner darkness; a double-thumbed strangler disguises himself as an armless knife-thrower to woo a stunning woman with a deep-seated fear of men’s hands.

This brief plot outline offers a mere glimpse into the seething, Freudian concoction that Browning has cooked up. A thrilling, subversive, and immensely enjoyable silent horror experience awaits.

92. Day of the Dead (1985)

Many people see Romero’s finale to his original Living Dead trilogy as a bit of a letdown, lacking the groundbreaking impact of Night and the satirical entertainment value of Dawn. It’s true that Romero’s initial goals for the project – a full-on assault on Reagan-era inequality, with zombies as a newly dispossessed underclass – were hindered by budget constraints. Nevertheless, many of those concepts made their way into the delayed sequel, Land of the Dead.

Day of the Dead, however, remains a remarkable film, an unyielding sensory onslaught powered by an unparalleled atmosphere of despair and unchecked nihilism. At this stage in the trilogy, it’s difficult to determine who we’re genuinely rooting for – the spiteful, quarreling military ‘heroes’ or their lumbering, ravenous zombie prisoners, embodied by the ‘thinking zombie,’ the oddly endearing Bub.

93. Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers, perhaps more than any other Cronenberg film, truly pushes the boundaries of the horror genre. While it features blood, unsettling ‘instruments for operating on mutated women,’ and an overall sense of unease, the film primarily delves into the intricacies of domestic psychosis under extraordinary conditions. It also serves as a remarkable platform for Jeremy Irons to showcase his acting prowess, portraying both twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle using computer-controlled camera technology.

Irons masterfully distinguishes between the two characters: Elliot as the hardened, ‘masculine’ predator, and Beverly as the gentle, ‘feminine’ caretaker. Much like in The Fly (see No 23), Cronenberg’s fascination with the fragile links between body and mind blends with a surprisingly tender depiction of romantic involvement, making the brothers’ eventual psychological breakdown all the more unsettling and effective.

94. Braindead (1992)

Before Peter Jackson became entangled in the never-ending world of Hobbits, he was a fiercely creative independent exploitation filmmaker, following in the footsteps of George Romero and Sam Raimi’s DIY gore style. His debut film, Bad Taste, was shot over four years’ worth of weekends with a group of eager friends.

However, when Braindead (also known as Dead Alive) came around, Jackson had a modest budget and a professional team. The outcome is one of the most unyielding and delightfully repulsive films ever made, featuring mutant monkeys, flesh-eating zombies, death by lawnmower, kung-fu priests, and even jokes about ‘The Archers’. The movie also showcases the most stomach-churning dinner scene since La Grande Bouffe, complete with gushing blood, melting flesh, human ears, and gloopy bowls of rice pudding.

95. Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator is a wildly entertaining fusion of HP Lovecraft’s original short story and the zany humor of National Lampoon’s Animal House, presenting horror in a cartoonish manner that seamlessly marries gore and laughter through a cavalcade of bizarre visuals. Jeffrey Combs, often referred to as ‘the intellectual’s Bruce Campbell,’ portrays the eccentric anti-hero Herbert West, whose peculiar manner of introducing himself is amusing in itself.

As a science graduate, West discovers a luminescent green reanimation elixir and decides to test it on the domineering Dean and his attractive, long-legged daughter. Re-Animator stands as a quintessential representation of the home video horror craze, boasting a peculiar, untamed, and frequently absurd nature. This type of inventive yet polished unconventional horror film appears to have fallen out of vogue in recent years.

96. Saint Maud (2020)

Rose Glass’s strikingly eerie debut, Saint Maud, descends upon a mundane English seaside town, bringing with it an intense mix of religious fanaticism, psychological mind games, and occasional spine-chilling grotesqueness. Morfydd Clark delivers a phenomenal performance as the devout Maud, a live-in nurse who takes on her first private job in the home of Jennifer Ehle’s terminally ill and prickly former dancer.

The resulting interplay between tormented ascetic and cigarette-puffing hedonist evokes shades of Persona’s psychological tensions, a significant influence on Saint Maud, and things only spiral downward from there. Ehle is fantastic, and in a fair world, Clark would be receiving accolades for her extraordinary physical acting. The outcome is the finest British horror since Under the Skin.

97. God Told Me To (1976)

Navigating the horror genre can be challenging, but Larry Cohen is undeniably one of the most creative and unique American writer-directors of the 1970s. His remarkable work encompasses low-budget social commentary, affordable blaxploitation, and some of the most politically charged horror films ever created.

Fast forward 35 years, and he has managed to secure one film in our Top 100 list. God Told Me To is unquestionably one of the darkest, cleverest, and strangest films on this list. It’s a story of serial killings, religious frenzy, and alien abduction filmed on some of the grittiest streets of mid-1970s New York. Cohen deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carpenter and Craven in the horror hall of fame – and this might just be his magnum opus, although It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, and The Stuff all give it a run for its money.

98. The Mist (2007)

After previously taking on Stephen King’s works with The Shawshank Redemption and its less impressive successor, The Green Mile, Frank Darabont ventured into the realm of pure horror with his dark and thought-provoking adaptation of King’s novella, The Mist. The story revolves around a small town enveloped by a mysterious fog, causing residents to seek refuge in the local supermarket. On the surface, it’s a nostalgic homage to classic monster movies, with its tentacles and all, and truly shines when viewed in its striking black-and-white DVD edition.

However, it also serves as a fiercely contemporary drama, dissecting the delicate political and social fabric that barely sustained America during the Bush era. Darabont’s unsteady camera scrutinizes themes of religious zealotry, political discord, and ultimately, the crushing impact of military action. The outcome is arguably the most insightful, riveting, and heart-wrenching horror film of the century so far.

99. The Invisible Man (2020)

In this clever adaptation of HG Wells’s classic sci-fi tale, Leigh Whannell delivers a biting commentary on toxic masculinity and the manipulative nature of gaslighting. Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, an architect haunted by her abusive relationship with tech mogul husband Griffin, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. When Griffin supposedly commits suicide, questions arise as strange occurrences begin to unfold.

Whannell’s take on the iconic Universal monster film pays homage to the original, even including a nod to the signature bandages, but it’s far from a mere imitation. The film delves into the suffocating nature of abusive relationships, creating a truly chilling experience. Moss’s performance as a scream queen is, as expected, nothing short of fantastic.