To get ready for the Halloween season, I decided to construct a list of the best horror films. I Googled away and found twenty different lists ranging from 11 Top 10 lists, 2 top 25 lists and 1 of each: top 12, top13, top 15, top 20, top 26, top 31, and one was even a top 50 list of the best horror films (and you’ll see a lot of one-vote films that came from these longer lists).
I wrote down the 20 lists and added up the number of times a film was listed, and then I came up with an overall list of the best horror films. Now I’m not saying that this is an all-encompassing list; I’m sure there are some great horror films left off (and I would like to hear your thoughts about that). Below, I list them in order from most votes (17 votes from these 20 lists, on down to 1 vote films) down to the least votes.
And after this list, I’m including my own list of best horror films/my favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy, and please feel free to comment with your favorite film or films for the Halloween season.
LIST OF BEST HORROR FILMS
- The Exorcist 1973 (17 votes) – This was the winner by far. It was number one on ten out of twenty of the lists, and I agree it should be #1 (see my list below).
- The Shining 1980 (15 votes) – I’ve always heard that Stephen King disliked the film version of his book, but there’s no doubt that it’s considered a masterpiece of horror. Even though this film is tied with Alien below, I listed it higher because it consistently ranked higher on all of the lists.
- Alien 1979 (15 votes) – Although this is more of a sci-fi film, it’s still a gripping and scary film.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 (15 votes) – A gritty movie that has the look and feel of real film footage.
- Halloween 1978 (14 votes) – A classic for Halloween by legendary director John Carpenter who wrote, directed, produced, and composed the score for the film.
- Psycho 1960 (11 votes) – one of the great horror films by Hitchcock (based on a book by Robert Bloch), with a huge twist at the end. This was number one on one of the lists.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 1983 (11 votes) – Wes Craven created one of the most memorable monsters in horror … Freddy.
- The Ring 2002 (11 votes) – A ghost story with a big twist at the end.
- Poltergeist 1982 (9 votes) – written by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, this was one of the great haunted house films of all time.
- The Blair Witch Project 1999 (9 votes) – a scary film about being lost in the woods.
- Rosemary’s Baby 1968 (8 votes) – a classic by director Roman Polanski and based on the book by Ira Levin. This film was number one on two of the lists.
- The Silence of the Lambs 1991 (8 votes) – I wouldn’t call this a horror film, more of a thriller – but it was on several of the lists, and it’s one of the great films of all time. It was number one on one of the twenty lists.
- The Thing 1982 (8 votes) – one of John Carpenter’s classic films. Even though this film only had 8 votes, it was number one on two of the lists.
- Night of the Living Dead 1968 (5 votes) – the film that is said to have influenced the modern-day zombie film. Directed by George A. Romero.
- Jaws 1975 (5 votes) – A great monster movie, but also one of the greatest films of all time.
- The Omen 1976 (5 votes) – a great film about the Antichrist.
- The Evil Dead 1981 (5 votes) – Directed by Sam Raimi, the first in his Evil Dead series.
- The Sixth Sense 1999 (5 votes) – A great ghost story with perhaps one of the biggest twists in cinematic history.
- 28 Days Later 2002 (5 votes) – a fresh take on the shuffling zombies – these zombies can run, and they’re scary!
- The Conjuring 2013 (5 votes) – I was surprised this film made so many lists (and others didn’t), but still a good haunted house film.
- Dracula 1931 (4 votes) – the classic film with Bela Lugosi as Dracula.
- The Haunting 1963 (4 votes) – the black and white horror film based on the book by Shirley Jackson. Some say this film set the standard for the haunted house film (and story).
- Friday the 13th 1980 (4 votes) – I was surprised that this film didn’t make more lists, but Jason is still one of the most recognizable icons of horror. This film also had a great twist at the end.
- Hellraiser 1987 (4 votes) – Clive Barker’s imaginative creation of demons coming from hell after a puzzle box is opened.
- Saw 2004 (4 votes) – Another surprise for me, I thought this film would be on more lists. It’s one of the great horror films of all time with an awesome twist at the end.
- Paranormal Activity 2007 (4 votes) – a creepy found-footage film that may stay with you for a while; especially when you’re lying in bed waiting for the invisible demon to drag you out of the room.
- The Amityville Horror 1979 (3 votes)
- Dawn of the Dead 1978 (3 votes)
- Let the Right One In 2008 – Swedish version (3 votes)
- The Grudge 2004 (3 votes)
- Carrie 1976 (3 votes)
- Nosferatu 1922 (3 votes)
- The Fly 1987 (3 votes)
- Bride of Frankenstein 1935 (3 votes)
The next list all received 2 votes each on these twenty lists I looked up:
It, Rec (Spanish version), An American Werewolf in London, Insidious, Sinister, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1976), Seven, Jacob’s Ladder, The Orphanage (Spanish version), The Birds, The Cabin in the Woods, Ju-On (Korean), Last House on the Left (2009), The Descent, Suspiria, The Changeling (1980), The Mist, Les Diaboliques (French).
And these next films all were listed once somewhere on the twenty lists:
The Babadook, The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Crazies (2010), Cujo, The Beyond, Frailty, The Stepfather (1987), Martin (1977), Bug, Candyman, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (not sure why this was on one of the lists), Black Swan (not sure why this one was on the list either), Cube (TV film), The Host, Coraline, Grave Encounters, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Mirrors, In the Mouth of Madness, The Devil’s Backbone (Spanish), The Brood, Deliverance, Wolf Creek, Evil Dead II, The Mummy (not sure of which year), Scream, The Others, World War Z, Phantasm, The Wicker Man (1973), Don’t Look Now, When A Stranger Calls (1979), Fire in the Sky, Silent Night Deadly Night, Pet Sematary, 1408, ‘Salem’s Lot (TV movie 1979), Trick R Treat, Child’s Play, Dark Water (Korean 2002), House of Wax (not sure which one 1955 or 2005), The Innocents, Interview with a Vampire, Les Vampires, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri, Peeping Tom, Vampyre, Dead of Night, Audition, Eyes without a Face, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Well, that’s the whole list. And here are a few statistics that I noticed in the top 34 films (those with three votes or higher):
Scariest decade: the 70’s. Here’s the breakdown: 1920’s – 1 film, 1930’s – 2 films, 1940’s and 50’s no films, 1960’s – 4 films, 1970’s – 9 films, 1980’s 8 films, 1990’s – 3 films, 2000’s – 6 films, and after 2010 – 1 film.
Here’s the breakdown of the villians/monsters in the top 34 films: aliens – 2, vampires – 3, zombies – 3, serial killers – 8, monsters – 3, demons/the devil – 7, ghosts – 7, and telepathy/telekinesis – 1. Some of the films were a little difficult to categorize, and some could’ve been two of the above choices, but I did my best.
Three directors were represented with two films in the top 34: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and George A. Romero. And Stephen King was the winning writer with 2 films in the top 34.
And for another list of favorite horror movies by geography in the U.S. here’s a link:
I came up with my own list of what I think are the top 25 horror films, and these are also my favorites so they won’t necessarily mirror the top 34 films above.
- The Exorcist 1973 – Clearly one of the scariest films ever made. It has stood the test of time.
- The Shining 1980 – This is one film I can watch again and again. The atmosphere is both chilling and beautiful at the same time.
- Jaws 1975 – As I said above, this is not only one of the best horror films, but one of the great films of all time.
- Alien (and Aliens) 1979 – the best sci-fi/horror ever done.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 – Many believe that this was based on a true story, but I heard it wasn’t. That’s how realistic this film was.
- Poltergeist 1982 – This was genius writing. The haunting in their house was so bad, but they couldn’t leave their daughter behind.
- The Silence of the Lambs 1991 – I was hesitant to include this one because I don’t really consider it a horror film, but since it was on so many of the lists, and because it’s so good, I had to include it in my top 25.
- Psycho 1960 – I know this film may be a little old-fashioned for some people, but I believe it’s still relevant today and still one of the all-time classics. Hitchcock was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
- The Thing 1982 – This is one of my favorite films of all time; I can watch it over and over again. It has really influenced my writing a lot (as have many others).
- Paranormal Activity 2004 – I know there are a lot of people who hated this movie, but for the low budget it had, I thought the film was well done and very creepy.
- Halloween 1978 – another low-budget film that really worked.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 1983 – Wes Craven was one of the best horror writer/directors ever.
- Saw 2004 – one of the great horror movies with a brilliant twist at the end.
- 28 Days Later 2002 – I’m not a huge fan of zombie films (and I know that these weren’t technically zombies), but I really liked this film. With that said, I have to say that The Walking Dead on TV is far better than any zombie film I’ve ever seen.
- It – I know this was a TV miniseries, but I had to include it here. I think Pennywise the Clown deserves to be one of the great horror icons along with Jason, Michael Meyers, Freddy, Pinhead, and Leatherface.
- The Ring 2002 – This film took me by surprise when I first saw it. I thought it was really good until near the end, and then I was like: This is how every ghost film ends … but then the surprise ending!
- Carrie 1976 – This was a very creepy film with a very scary scene at the end.
- Hellraiser 1987 – An imaginative film with haunting demons in it.
- The Sixth Sense 1999 – A great film with one of the best twists ever.
- Seven 1995 – I remember leaving the theater after watching this film and feeling a little ill. It seemed so realistic. Great acting, and another film with a great twist at the end.
- Event Horizon 1997 – I know this film isn’t on the lists above, but I saw this film in the theater and it creeped me out. A great sci-fi/horror blend.
- The Serpent and The Rainbow 1988 – This is another film that isn’t on the lists above (even though it should be). I think this is an underrated film by Wes Craven.
- The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (TV miniseries) – This is a hard film to find. I saw it when I was a kid and it stayed with me all these years. I found a video tape of it on Amazon and had to buy it so I could watch the film again. It wasn’t quite as creepy or scary as I remembered, but it was still good. I think it may have been one of Bette Davis’ last performances.
- Hostel 2005 – Another film not on the lists above. A very gory film, but seems like something that could really happen.
- The Blair Witch Project 1999 – The fear of being lost in the woods and hunted by … somebody … or something. Very well done for a low budget film.
And here were some close runners up on my Top 25: Evil Dead II, The Amityville Horror, The Omen, Let the Right One In, The Ruins, Predator, and Quarantine.
What do you think about the lists? Have you seen most of these films? All of them? Are there some you still want to see? Do you have your own lists, your own top few favorites?
Please feel free to comment and share your favorites!
Until next time …