Top Ten Horror Movies

This is a list I made a long time ago and looking back over it, I realized it definitely needed some touching up. I truthfully believe that I’ve matured not only as a movie viewer, but as a horror movie viewer since my last attempt at this list and it took me a long time to figure every finite detail of the list out, but I finally did it and right in time for October too.

There is a lot to take into account when it comes to Horror. Like any top ten list, I looked at the films not only for their entertainment value, but also from the view point of the filmmaking and the artistic aspects. With horror though you also have to look at how well the film succeeds in exactly what its trying to do, not just be a great movie, but be a great horror movie. That’s why you might find a movie like The Silence of the Lambs not exactly at the spot you’d expect because it may be one of the best movies on the list, it most certainly isn’t the best horror movie.

One last thing before I get into the list; I have a few honorable mentions. I was  displeased with the fact that I was not able to include four movies onto my list of “Top Ten Horror Movies”. After much moral and discomfiting debate I finally decided on ten films and these four just happened to unfortunately missed the mark. This is of course just one mans opinion and I could completely see why someone could put these films not only on a top ten list, but among the top three.

The first film is just a personal favorite of mine, “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon”. This is the best example of combining both the horror genre and the comedy and it just barely missed my list. The other three are the ones I’ll get the most ridicule for. Three films that are amazing and just missed the mark for me are Jaws, Psycho and The Exorcist. All are great films that just list my list of “Top Ten Horror Movies”. I’ve been rambling long enough though so with out further ado here’s a list of my favorite horror movies…

10. The Hitcher

The Hitcher is an often overlooked and under appreciated horror and I’m oblivious to the reason because I love this movie. This is the slasher movie that should be praised over “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” because behind the despicable antagonist you find a weathered villain looking for a way to go out in glory and in the films protagonist you’ll find a brilliant transformation from innocence to courageous.

9. 28 Days Later

Whether you want to call 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not, no director has ever executed a similar idea with such intensity, artistic flair and overall respect for the exact story they were trying to tell. And yes, by similar idea, I mean zombie movie. 28 Days Later fantastic in the way it never strays from its decrypted path and keeps you involved and craving more until its pitch-perfect ending. It truly is an unbelievably fascinating movie.

8. Insidious

Yes, Insidious, the movie that just came out months ago made it onto my list of the greatest horror movies of all time. The reason is simple, Insidious is a relentless journey into the dark and one that attempts to scare you not by showing a man chopping off someones leg with a chainsaw, but by showing you the things that go bump in the night. Insidious is a spectacular and enthralling roller coaster ride that shows truly great horror can still exist today.

7. Saw

It’s unfortunate that the original Saw may very well be the movie that instituted the idea that in order to make a horror movie now, it must include torture and disturbing gore. That’s strange because the original Saw, aside from the leg sawing, wasn’t nearly as brutal, not too mention awful, as its sequels. Unlike  its  sequels and the films it may have inspired, the original Saw is phenomenal. Where it has its moments of twisted terror it never fails to entertain. It is a staple in the genre of horror.

6. The Silence of the Lambs

While writing a review I usually save this word till the end, but I want to make this as clear as possible; The Silence of the Lambs is masterpiece. It has so much on its palette and has so much to offer and not all of it pertains to the genre of horror, so it barely misses the top five because it’s probably the second of third best movie on this list, but that’s not to say it’s among the best horror movies on this list. The Silence of the Lambs is however amazing in its portrayal of real characters in a horrifying story.

5. Halloween

To put it as bluntly as possible, Halloween is the greatest slasher movie ever created. The sub genre of the horror genre, slashers, as of lately has become some what of a joke with the overly sexualized main characters and the outlandish gore. Halloween is not the first slasher movie of all time, but this original horror masterpiece isa large part of the reason the sub genre, slasher, is so well known today. All other slasher movies should’ve taken note, because this slasher, with the amazing tension, the claustrophobic suburban atmosphere, the villain, is magnificent.

4. Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity is an unflinching excursion into the heart of terror and though modern it is justifiably one of the greatest horror movies ever created. Paranormal Activity is the most realistically executed ghost story ever put on screen and it works. It’s the little things that are the scariest, the door moving, a shadow in the form of a man, something falling in another room, etc. The film is brilliant in the way that it builds and builds, intensifying with each coming night, until the film comes to an end and it’s clear that you’ve just watched a masterfully crafted horror film  in every way imaginable.

3. The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project is incredible, unequivocal in its craft, and unquestionably one of the greatest horror films in existence. If this was a list of top ten scariest horror movies, there would be no doubt in my mind that The Blair Witch Project would be number one. A horror movie might make you jump, it might make you squeamish from the gore, but rarely will a horror movie, just due to the events that transpire, instill the idea of actual fear and stay with you long after. Incredibly and terrifyingly, The Blair Witch Project is able to do just that. There is no other horror film that is as unsettling in its realism, beautiful in its simplicity and distinguishable in its terror. The Blair Witch Project is simply magnificent.

2. The Thing

The Thing is an unbelievably remarkable horror film that combines isolation, fear, paranoia, extraterrestrial terror, flame throwers, a hero who belongs in an action movie, and much more. The Thing for these reasons, among many others, easily finds its way into the top two of my favorite horror films ever made. The Thing, though being a remake (widely considered one of the greatest remakes in existence), manages to be completely original in the way that it’s a monster movie, only the thing of it is, this monster or “The Thing” has the ability to morph into its prey after killing it.

Once this idea sets in for both the characters in the film and the audience you slowly begin to realize that no one can be trusted and you have to expect the unexpected. These ideas are utilized flawlessly because the story is respected, yet told with such zest. Even though this is film about an alien that transforms into humans, it finds a way to be as real as possible. The characters have purpose yet can’t be called caricatures, the transformations, instead of happening in the blink of an eye, seem grotesque and mutilating, and the plot follows a well-thought out path that fits into the events that transpire before your eyes. John Carpenter is quite possibly the greatest director in regards to the horror genre and this is his masterpiece.

1. The Shining

Stanley Kubrick is unmistakably one of the greatest directors to ever work in cinema. He’s put his uniques spin on so many genres whether that be comedy, war, period piece, sci-fi, drama, heist and I could go on. It was with in one of the most under appreciated genres in film, that he made has magnum opus. Kubrick made so many amazing movies and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find films like A Clockwork Orange or 2001: A Space Odyssey at the top of a list in regards to Kubrick movies, but for me it’s by far The Shining. The Shining is Kubrick’s best and not only the best horror movie ever made, but one of the greatest movies ever made.

Whether you’re looking at The Shining from the view point of a young boy dealing with the consuming darkness at hand, a man’s decay into madness in part due to isolation and writer’s block, but it also might have something to do with the ghosts, or your looking at the film as a simple haunted house story set in the perfect location, you really can’t go wrong. The Shining, like no other film, epitomizes the very idea of horror. The film is epic, it’s beautiful, it’s compelling, yet behind all that it is quintessentially nightmarish.

You don’t even have to be a lover of horror films when it comes to The Shining either. Yes, The Shining is first and foremost a horror movie, but all and all, fundamentally, it is an extraordinary movie through and through. I mean, at the end of the day, isn’t The Shining just a masterpiece about a father and son trying to connect? No, not at all. I did get one part of that statement right though, The Shining is a masterpiece. I love every aspect of The Shining and there was never a single question as to whether or not it would find a place right here as my favorite horror movie of all time.

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Top Ten Movie Deaths

I pondered for a while about how to preface this list, but its pretty self-explanatory. Death is a pretty beautiful thing when it comes to cinema. There are deaths in film that, when due to great performances, direction and writing, you get unbearably powerful moments. This is a list of those deaths. This is a list dedicated to my favorite deaths in film because of their meaning and power, not necessarily the ones that are remembered in cinema history as classics, such as the shower scene in Psycho or King Kong falling off the Empire State Building. While those are amazing moments in film, they just didn’t affect me like the deaths in this list.

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

 

!!!IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ONE OF THE MOVIES LISTED, DON’T READ INTO IT!!!

 

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

10. John Doe (SE7EN)

There aren’t many moments that you can truly say, based on their content, leave you gasping for air. The death of the villain, John Doe, in SE7EN is undoubtedly one of those moments. We never see this character until the end of the movie, but nevertheless, we fear him. We get to know the detectives on the case and we keep guessing what the end could be. What we do get is fantastically dark and real. If you’re looking for a prime example of a villain winning, this is it.

9. Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

The death of Bruce Wayne’s mentor and eventual enemy is an undeniably memorable one. What makes this death such a spectacular one is in the way that the wise leader of the league of shadows attempts to gain dignity from his death with the line “Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?” He’s trying to show that he’s actually taught the man known as Batman very well. Batman shows the true colors of both characters with his reply, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.”

8. Lester Burnhum (American Beauty)

What makes Lester Burnhum’s death so awesome isn’t the actual death itself. Lester’s death is made significant based on the events before and the magnificent final monologue of the movie. You find out right in the beginning that this character we’re being introduced to is going to die by the end. It’s not the “what” that we’re interested in because we know what’s going to happen, what we are concerned about are the “who” and the “why”. We get the answers we need and few things in film are as pleasing.

7. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Fight Club is one of my favorite films in general so it was really a no-brainer when it came to putting the stunning death of one the greatest characters in film on this list. The relationship between the Narrator and Tyler Durden is one of the most special and interesting ever filmed. Throughout Fight Club we get to know these characters and know them well. By the end we know what has to happen and the death of the final scene which results in the death of Tyler Durden completely blows me away  every single time.

6. Frank (Once Upon a Time in the West)

It seems that because of Sergio Leone’s brilliant film, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, his other masterpiece, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, is often overlooked. I do slightly prefer “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, but there is one aspect of “Once Upon a Time in the West” that is better and that is in the black-hearted villain, Frank. He’s one of the most despicable villains ever filmed and there are few moments in film that are as satisfying as the realization of the extent of his wrath and his immediate death right afterwards. Truly breathtaking cinema.

5. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)

At the heart of the epic film Gladiator is a tale of well-deserved revenge. We fall in love with the protagonist Maximus and we grow to hate the villainous basterd he’s aiming to kill. Now that begs the question, why wouldn’t I put the satisfying death of the villain Commodus on this list? The reason is because the more emotionally powerful death belongs to Maximus Decimus Meridius. Yes, Commodus needs to die and burn in hell, but now Maximus’ mission is complete. His death was necessary because now he can go live in peace with his son and daughter in the afterlife.

4. Little Bill Daggett (Unforgiven)

Unforgiven is a western centered on the two characters William Munny and Little Bill Daggett. Throughout this masterfully crafted film we learn the true natures of both characters and learn that the line between right and wrong isn’t always clear. Not till the very end of the film do the two characters finally meet and the better man is established. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with pure honesty and hate in his eyes and before William Munny fires the final fatal bullet into Little Bill’s head, he replies with a sorrowful, “Yeah”. It’s one of those moments in film that make movies worth watching.

3. Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” is the start of one of the greatest movie quotes ever put one screen and the beginning of the final words of the character Roy Batty. Blade Runner is a film that asks many of life’s big questions, but those questions don’t come to true and beautiful light until the final encounter between protagonist Rick Deckard and philosophical replicant Roy Batty. It’s the most powerful scenes in film.

First, Roy just toys with his advisory and when Rick tries to escape by hopping to another rooftop he isn’t able to make it and nearly dies. The true nature of the character Roy is shown when he is able to make the jump easily and save Rick, but not before he puts Deckard’s mission in life into perspective, with the line “Quite an experience to live in fear isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave. Then he utters his memorable final words and reaches the end of his time.

2. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

Apocalypse Now is, without a shred of doubt, a staple in the art of filmmaking. While, the death of Col. Walter E. Kurtz is a triumph all its own. The main character, Captain Willard, is sent on a mission deep into cambodia in order to find and terminate a renegade Colonel who has taken command over the locals. We are taken on a journey into the true meaning of madness and on the way our anticipation grows like Captain Willard and all we want to do is finally meet Col. Kurtz.

Because of a truly brilliant performance by Marlon Brando, every single line Kurtz utters is memorable and resonant. That goes especially for one of my favorite movie quotes, his powerful last words, “The horror, the horror.” On my first viewing of the film, right at that moment I thought to myself, “this is one of the greatest films ever made”. And it truly is. From the beginning, Apocalypse Now promises an amazing climax and gives you just that. It was difficult for me not to put this in the number one slot.

1. Bill (Kill Bill)

Look back at numbers 3 and 2 of this list and you’ll notice that they share something with number 1. All three movies have generally simple tales, sure like all great filmmakers they establish deeper meanings, but the structure is simple. Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner is sent on a mission to kill four replicants (androids) led by Roy Batty, Captain Benjamin Willard is sent into Cambodia to kill Col. Kurtz and Beatrix Kiddo is out for revenge against her former boss and lover Bill.

From the beginning, we know, if we are to be satisfied that is, that Roy Batty, Col. Kurtz and Bill will die. There are many examples of films where we know what might happen at the end, but we want to know how our hero will get there and how exactly they’ll do the deed, whether its Frodo throwing the ring of power into Mt. Doom or Batman saving Gotham from the evil clutches of the Joker. In this case, we’re talking about deaths in film and no death is as magnificent and significant as the death of Bill in the 4-hour-epic Kill Bill.

What makes Bill’s death profound, innovative and beautiful is the unconditional love shared between the two warriors. Their fight is inevitable and both, Bill and Beatrix, realize that one is going to die, while the other will live on, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t care for one another. And in the end, Bill isn’t stabbed or shot, no, that wouldn’t satisfy. Instead Beatrix perform’s something called the five point palm exploding heart technique, which makes your heart explode from the inside after you take five steps. This allows him to have a few words with the love of his life, take a deep breath, button his coat and walk with dignity to the greatest movie death in film history.