Since birth, we’ve been indoctrinated with a love of horror, whether we knew it or not. The first game your mother would play with you involved her hiding behind her hands and then shouting “Boo!” We were taught folk tales that involved a witch wanting to eat children or a wolf wearing the skin of an elderly woman. Some of us were warned of the Krampus, who’d kidnap misbehaving little boys and girls.
We’d play Bloody Mary and watch old Disney films. You know, the scary ones. We dressed up like monsters and ghouls for Halloween and even begged to go to haunted houses. Everything we did as children was a lifetime of preparation for horror. Because deep down, we all have an innate desire to be frightened. We crave it and when we were finally brave enough to watch some horror horror films, these were the characters that scared us better than any others. This list is a celebration of horror and the icons that help us lose sleep at night.
This is The 100 Greatest Horror Characters Of All Time.
50. Tucker and Dale
Played by: Alan Tudyk/Tyler Labine
Film: Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010)
Hillbilly redneck cannibals are such a prevalent villain in horror, that the film The Cabin in the Woods (2012) used them as one of their cliche monster du jour. Like zombies or Nazis, they’re an easily identifiable albeit unremarkable baddie. But what makes Tucker and Dale Vs Evil so brilliant, is that it takes that lame ass villain and all of the cliches associated with it and flips it on its head
Tucker and Dale are hillbillies but they’re not murderous in anyway but because they keep unintentionally putting themselves in situations that make them look like they’re deranged killers, the group of teens they keep running into end up accidentally killing themselves because they’re trying to avoid them. Tucker and Dale are just minding their business but due to a hilarious misunderstanding, everyone around them end up dead.
The film is ingenious and the duo are the funniest horror protagonists since Abbott and Costello.
Played by: Tobin Bell
Film: Saw [series] (2004-2017)
To summarize a backstory that gets increasingly more and more convoluted as the series progresses: After being diagnosed with an inoperable tumour, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) decides to take his own life. Miraculously, the suicide attempt fails but instead of counting his blessings or hitting the titty bar, Kramer decides to dedicate his life to punishing those who take their life for granted.
From that point forward, he becomes Jigsaw: torture game enthusiast with a penchant for puppets and pig masks. If you ask hundred horror enthusiasts why they like horror, I’d bet over half of them would say the gore effects. There’s nothing better than seeing creative kills done practically and the Saw series have some of the most ingenious kills in all of horror. And that’s far more important than whatever bullshit backstory they use to pad the length of these films.
48. Malcolm Crowe
Played by: Bruce Willis
Film: The Sixth Sense (1999)
Bruce Willis has been phoning in his career for so long, it’s hard to remember a time when he was a good actor. Even before he consigned himself to DTV trash, he was an actor known mostly for action and action comedies but some how, M. Night Shyamalan was able to get a subtle, poignant performance from him.
After getting shot by a patient in the opening scene, Malcolm Crowe is a psychiatrist who, in a desperate attempt to “fix” his previous mistake, takes on a peculiar patient that reminds him of the man who shot him. The patient? A ten year old boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims he can see ghosts.
Once Osment is introduced, it immediately becomes his film and while he gives a phenomenal performance, Willis has the equally hard job of doing two things at once. Everything he does in the film, takes on a completely different meaning the second time you watch it.
Osment’s performance sells you on the premise of a little boy who can see ghosts and Willis’s performance makes the twist unforgettable.
47. Randy Meeks
Played by: Jamie Kennedy
Film: Scream [series] (19996-2000)
In a film filled to the brim with memorable characters, the film obsessed nerd Randy Meeks might be the most important. The audience needed to root for Sidney (Neve Campbell) to survive, be shocked by Casey Becker’s (Drew Barrymore) death and instantly love the villain (gotta sell that merch) but most importantly, they needed to relate to Randy. For the first time in a horror movie, the audience had a mouth piece. Skating right up to the fourth wall, Randy comments on horror cliches as they’re happening in real time.
He was such an immediate hit, that slashers had no choice but to become self aware from that point forward.
46. Frank Zito
Played by: Joe Spinnell
Film: Maniac (1980)
Film critic Gene Siskel was so disgusted by the infamous “shotgun head explosion” scene, that he immediately got up and walked out of the movie theater. Which means he only made it about 15 minutes into the film. If that made him leave, I can’t imagine what the other 80 minutes would have done to him.
There are certain performances that feel like the actor isn’t acting; they are just the character. R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket (1987) or Erwin Leder in Angst (1983) come to mind. Joe Spinnell is so good in Maniac, you pray to God he’s just acting. It doesn’t even feel like a performance. It feels like we’re trapped in the theater with a psychopath and we have no idea what he’s going to do next.
45. The Tall Man
Played by: Angus Scrimm
Film: Phantasm [series] (1979-2016)
The original Slenderman, Angus Scrimm‘s Tall Man is the only horror villain that’s iconic due to the performance and not the costume. Outfitted with nothing but a suit that’s far too tight, the Tall Man doesn’t have a mask or any facial deformities; which make it nearly impossible to dress like him for Halloween but he’s been a fan favorite for 40 years and it’s all thanks to Scrimm’s God given face and voice.
Played by: Colin Clive
Film: Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein (1931-1935)
“Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
Although the imitators often misquote him (he says “it’s alive!” not “he’s alive!”), Colin Clive‘s manic performance is so gloriously over the top, its forever etched itself into the fabric of pop culture. The Hammer films version is arguably more fun–somebody told Peter Cushing to be an asshole and he dials that shit all the way to 11–but Clive’s is far more iconic and ultimately sympathetic.
With his sidekick Fritz (later called Karl in the sequel but never Igor), Frankenstein is responsible for some of the most quotable dialogue of any movie as well as the creation of two cinematic icons. Pretty good for a glorified grave robber.
Played by: Haruo Nakajima
Film: Gojira (1954)
Before he became the most famous character in Japanese history, Gojira (or Godzilla if you’re nasty) was created as a cautionary tale. The dark side of the Atomic Age.
Godzilla is a large, destructive, and irradiated dinosaur that appears out of nowhere with the sole purpose of destroying mankind with his radioactive breath and big ass feet. Unlike the sequels that turned him into a world saving superhero, Godzilla is destruction incarnate. Much like Fatman and Little Boy–he came without warning, destroyed everything he saw and immediately changed history forever.
Played by: Marilyn Burns
Film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
While most horror fans have appointed Jamie Lee Curtis as the first official scream queen, Marilyn Burns‘s importance to cinema is unquestionable. Laurie Strode is like the band Nirvana, she got the ball rolling but without the Pixies, there would be no Nirvana. For those of you that aren’t good at figuring out analogies, Sally is the Pixies. She’s the proto final girl but ironically, even though she’s only technically considered one, she goes through more shit than arguably any of the others.
Stalked, mocked and tormented by an entire family of cannibals, the film puts her ass through the ringer. She might not fight back or even “defeat” the villain like every other final girl but her simply surviving is victory enough.
41. R.J. MacReady
Played by: Kurt Russell
Film: The Thing (1982)
Snake Plissken has the eye patch and Jack Burton has the tank top but MacReady has the hat. The best film out of the Russell/Carpenter collaborations, The Thing is not only the greatest horror film ever made, it has one of the best protagonists in film history.
Cool without feeling too machismo, Mac is a Scotch swigging loner that’s thrust into the role of hero when an alien is slowly assimilating everyone around him. But even after the shit hits the fan, he never goes full action movie badass. He’s smart enough to test the blood but still fallible in that he accidentally kills an innocent person. He may not of been able to save his teammates but he was willing to sacrifice his life in order to save the world. Just don’t ever play chess with him.