When scrolling through the “Horror” section of platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, it can be hard to tell the difference between laughably awful failures and truly terrifying horror films. Here’s a list of the 13 best horror films ever made (along with some honorable mentions). Whether they be black-and-white classics, brand-new scares or unsettling foreign films, these movies will be sure to spice up your Halloween night.
- The Shining (1980)
The greatest horror film ever made by the greatest filmmaker there ever was. What director Stanley Kubrick did will never be topped, bar none. From making actress Shelley Duvall so stressed out she was losing locks of hair, to using the Steadicam for the first time, to having one of the most iconic movie scenes in history with the twins, this film is puzzle of Kubrick’s deep and dark themes that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
Possibly the scariest movie ever made, The Exorcist will leave you shocked and disgusted by what you have witnessed. It’s a film about faith and redemption hidden behind some of the best make-up work ever done and a vulgar and vile performance from then–14-year-old Linda Blair. This film is really about Father Karras and his faith, led by an Oscar nominated performance from Jason Miller. The final 30 minutes alone will be one of the scariest things you will have ever witnessed.
3. The Babadook (2014)
This film about grief and depression put Australian director Jennifer Kent’s name in the back of film lover’s minds. From the first scene, Kent builds suspense to an extraordinary climax. Actress Essie Davis gives a powerhouse performance that unfortunately got zero awards season recognition. This film has so many small nuisances that if you don’t pay attention, you could miss something massive.
4. Halloween (1978)
Easily the greatest slasher film ever made, John Carpenter’s breakout film cemented him as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, horror directors of all time. The film has, quite possibly, the most iconic villain in horror history with Michael Myers. As the name says, this is the perfect movie to watch during the spooky season.
5. Alien (1979)
Out of all these movies, “Alien” is my favorite. But for horror proposes alone, it comes in at number five. This movie is suspenseful from start to finish. With some of the best set design and H.R. Giger’s incredibly work on the Alien itself, the film has not only one of the best protagonists in film history, but the best monsters ever put in a movie.
6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
What Roman Polanski did with “Rosemary’s Baby” is something that horror films don’t do anymore. This is the definition of a slow burn and builds up to its terrifying ending. This film, unlike most horror films, doesn’t have an over the top ending filled with complete insanity. The ending is so horrifying because of its subtleties, like the words being spoken. The thing I applaud most is how Polanski doesn’t show the audience what they want to see, leaving the ending ambiguous to an extent.
7. Let the Right One in (2008)
A fantastic horror movie about vampires, this film is led by two terrific performances from child actors Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant. They are what make this film work. The chemistry between them, along with Tomas Alfredson’s sure hand behind the camera, make this one of the greatest foreign language films I’ve ever seen, let alone horror films.
8. The Thing (1982)
Four years after “Halloween,” John Carpenter made another all-time great horror film. This time instead of focusing on one specific person, Carpenter builds fear through the paranoia of a research crew in Antarctica. This film features some amazing practical effects, which has become something that feels lost in film today with the implementation of CGI. The film also has one of my favorite scores in a horror film thanks to composer Ennio Morricone.
9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Set in one location and featuring a phenomenal cast, “Night of the Living Dead” changed the way we look at zombies. Director George A. Romera took the film’s low budget and crafted one of the most influential horror films ever made. This amazing story is only strengthened by an emotional and relevant ending.
10. Psycho (1960)
The master of suspense created the most iconic horror film with one of the greatest twists in film. Unfortunately, because of how popular the film is, I doubt that someone doesn’t know this film’s twist already, but the fact that everyone knows what it is proves how incredible this film is. Hitchcock broke rules with this film and crafted some of the most memorable moments in film history.
11. Hereditary (2018)
I wanted to put this film much higher, but I feel like this film needs to stand the test of time. Nevertheless, I do feel like this film will be considered one of the all-time great horror films because of how Ari Aster manipulates the audience. There are only two or three movies on this list that I watched and was scared from the beginning to end. This is one of those films. I can pick out a scene of each of these movies and say, “that’s what got me.” But with this film, I can’t, because the whole film was terrifying, and not one scene sticks out from the rest.
12. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Pedro Almodóvar made the most unconventional horror film on this list. This over sexualized film leads you to question where the movie is going from the very start. But then the second half starts, and the film becomes one of the most deranged and violating things I have ever witnessed on screen. If you want to watch something unlike anything you have, or will ever watch, then give “The Skin I Live In” a watch.
13. Get Out (2017)
Just like Hereditary, this film needs some time. With that being said, Jordan Peele shocked everyone with being able to make an effective horror film with thought provoking social commentary. Peele was able to blend horror and comedy phenomenally, creating one of the most memorable directorial debuts ever made.
Story by Jake Ditto
These movies weren’t scary enough to make the list, but they’re still fantastic films for anyone who wants to dive deeper into the horror genre.
28 Days Later … (2002)
Funny Games (1997)
It Follows (2014)
Lake Mungo (2008)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The Witch (2015)