Below you’ll find a list of my favorite Horror Movies. These are the movies that transcend the genre and best exemplifies this dark realm of film’s potential. Happy Halloween!
-Bone Tomahawk: This movie is intense as all hell. Never before has a western been nearly as scary as this one. The film also gets a nod for having one of the greatest Kurt Russell performances ever.
-The Evil Dead: The series got goofier with each sequel. Those movies are a blast, but don’t match the grit and terror of the original. This is top-tier low-budget horror.
-Green Room: This modern take on the Straw Dogs format really surprised me. I would say it’s one of my favorite movies in general to come out in the last few years. There is something so real and gripping about the relationship director Jeremy Saulnier captures between this group of kids in over their heads and the neo-Nazis who are all too familiar the types of situations on display in this film.
-Nosferatu the Vampyre: Werner Herzog’s remake is both beautiful and incredibly unsettling. Klaus Kinski’s work is much more subdued than in their other collaborations and the result is absolutely chilling.
(Note to readers: the trailers in this post were an aesthetic choice and if you haven’t seen the movie I would HIGHLY recommend taking a pass as its best to go in blind)
Top Ten Horror Movies
It was difficult to not put Green Room in this slot, but I had to give it to Hereditary as it’s the most terrifying movie that has come out in decades. A lot of great horror movies are often referred to as “slow burn”. The original Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would be good examples for me while another more modern example would be The Witch. It’s what I was expecting from Hereditary but was instead treated to one unsettling/horrifying moment after another, yet it didn’t feel like the film was stuffing the scares down your throat and instead found a way to subtlety raise the stacks and lead you to one of the greatest finales in horror.
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This and another movie that’s coming up a little further down the list (spoiler alert: Halloween) stand outside the sub-genre they are associated with and instead are nothing short of horror masterpieces. Whereas other “slasher” movies desensitize you with absurd amounts of gore and high kill counts, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are instead filled to the brim with a feeling of dread throughout and the kind of palpable atmosphere I judge all other horror movies by. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre particularly gets under my skin in an agonizing dinner scene between an innocent protagonist and a family of cannibals.
8. The Vanishing
Not to be confused with the American remake from 1993, The Vanishing is an impeccably crafted film that burrowed into my soul and it has stuck with me ever since. It may be the horror movie that pops into my head most often and that can be unfortunate, to be honest, but its a testament to how truly terrifying this film is. The Vanishing’s villain, Raymond Lemorne, would have to be in the running for the most horrifying/greatest horror villain right along side the iconic Michael Myers for opposite reasons. While Michael (or more appropriately referred to as the Bogeyman or the Shape) is more of an elemental and unstoppable force of pure evil, Raymond feels like one of the most down to earth and realistic villains ever portrayed. It’s a disturbing truth realized in this movie, people like him do exist and who knows where they’re lurking.
Halloween is a timeless horror classic that is as bloodcurdling and scary today as it was 40 years ago. It helps to have such a great lead performance, a villain that is the stuff of your worst nightmares and what is arguably the greatest horror score of all time. Few horror movies match its intensity and of course the countless rip-offs and sequels don’t even come close. There’s something magical to how effective the film is in its beautiful simplicity. The Shape will go on to haunt us for generations to come, but few villains are as haunting as the Bogeyman in Carpenter’s original.
6. The Thing
This is where the list gets really hard to order as The Thing belongs right at the top of any list of not just the best horror movies but also the best sci-fi movies. Modern CGI has nothing on the practical effects in John Carpenter’s masterpiece and one aspect that makes this Carpenter’s greatest achievement is that those effects helped give us the best monster in film, an alien that’s been frozen in Antarctica for years and has been unearthed by a team of researchers. The Thing adapts to survive and can be any one of them. Carpenter makes the most of this premise and then some. The film is a perfect exercise in paranoia that doesn’t let up and lingers long after.
5. Wake in Fright
This is nothing short of one of the most unbelievably unique experiences I’ve ever had with a film. Sweat, booze and violence just oozes out of the screen in this fish out of water story of a vacation gone awry. A mild-mannered schoolteacher, John Grant, finds himself deep in the arid Outback, a town called Bundanyabba, where he surrenders to the mayhem facilitated by “the Yabba’s” distinct brand of locals. The film flawlessly manages to make you feel less like your watching his unravelling and more like you’ve been embroiled in the upheaval yourself. Wake in Fright dynamically and to an astonishing degree conveys the truth of horror in that it doesn’t come from bumps in the night, it can be found in us.
4. Throne of Blood
This meticulously realized epic is one of Kurosawa’s best. It’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with samurai and it may not be what the average viewer considers horror, but I couldn’t help myself as it features two of the most frightening sequences in cinema. I’m referring to the scene displayed above where two friends come upon a spirit in the woods and a moment later on in the film where the friend that has been betrayed by Toshiro Mifune’s samurai lord (Washizu), appears to Lord Washizu as a sinister spirit himself. While those moments offer horror atmosphere at its best, the moral degradation at the heart of the film is equally as horrifying.
3. The Shining
And now we come to this, the greatest haunted house story cinema will likely ever offer (sure it’s a hotel, but you know what I mean and I stand by the statement). The Shining, like all my favorite movies by great auteurs, just gets better with repeat viewings. I always appreciate the lack of subtly when it comes to Nicholson’s shift from loving father to deranged killer as a commentary on the Overlook Hotel’s choice of him as vessel to spread its unremitting malevolence. The Overlook may just be my favorite setting in all of film for how it ceases to be inanimate as Kubrick, on a subconscious level, breathes such life and personality into its desolate halls. I am in awe of Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre but The Shining has always been my favorite by him.
I always find myself laughing at a multitude of scenes in David Lynch’s movies (does that meant there’s something wrong with me?!). This can be due to his deliberately divisive decisions as a director, the often off-putting exchanges between his characters or sometimes from nervousness or the shear absurdity. Other times I extensively laugh at movies (and I’ve found this to especially be the case with Lynch) just due to being enamored by the cinematic bliss. In Eraserhead, Lynch finds a way to splice between these feelings of jubilation and some of the most horrific imagery in all of film and it’s this juxtaposition that helps makes Eraserhead one of the most unnerving experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve often heard Eraserhead referred to as, in some way or another, an excursion into a realm of nightmares. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but it also feels like something so much more and what more could you ask for from horror cinema?
1. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks as a whole is the pinnacle of story, cinema, and art. This is in no small part due to Twin Peaks’ only movie: a sometimes visceral, shocking and awe-inspiring dive back into an ever-growing epic Lynch had every intention to build upon. Leave it to David Lynch to top and offer an experience even more harrowing than Eraserhead. The film is dazzling and utterly foundational in its establishment of a certain blue rose and a glimpse into the cosmic horror elements with a meeting above a convenience store. And then we come to the true horror of the piece, getting a deeper understanding of the reason this mystery came about, Laura Palmer and the events leading up to her death. We become entangled in her being and in what really happened to her. The result is a film that becomes ingrained in you and is nothing short of the greatest horror in cinema.