I believe it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who famously said “Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” I take umbrage with that ridiculous notion. There’s plenty of things to fear. The world is goddamn cornucopia of terror. Take for example a random clown walking around a forest at night. What the fuck is he doing there? Evil. That’s what. Or what about an abandoned mannequin factory? I guarantee some of those mannequins are sentient. And some might’ve even voted for Trump.
The world is a scary place but thankfully Hollywood has been there to capitalize on our fears for over 100 years. Their greed has helped generations confront and overcome their fears with the magic of cinema. Yay movies! Yay Capitalism! Boo Roosevelt! He was a cripple and had no idea the terror of a forest clown. Worst president ever.
Let’s celebrate Hollywood’s obsession with horror with a list of The Greatest Horror Films Of All Time. The ranking and selection of the films is based on my weird algorithm of influence, impact and plain ol’ spookability.
Enough of the rabble, on with the list.
50. American Psycho
Based on the novel written by Bret Easton Ellis, the movie is a dark comedic satire about the horrors of yuppie culture and 80’s nostalgia.
Told from the point of view of an insane Manhattan businessman, the entire film plays with audiences reality by making them question everything they see and hear. Is Patrick Bateman actually doing these things or is he just going deeper down the rabbit hole of madness? The director says he is and that everyone around him is too self absorbed to notice which would fit with the theme of the film but there’s also a scene involving Bateman trying to feed a cat to an ATM. So obviously not everything is real*
Two fun facts:
1. David Cronenberg was once attached to direct with Leonardo DiCaprio starring and the mind boggles as to what that film would be.
2. Christian Bale based his performance on Tom Cruise and that might be the scariest thing about the film.
*or maybe it is. I don’t know what NY ATMs be eating at 3 o’clock in the morning and I don’t judge.
49. The Innocents
Based on the play The Innocents (which, itself was based on the book The Turn of the Screw), The Innocents is actually a little too classy for this list. Especially considering one of the next entries on this list involves a severed head performing cunnilingus on a woman strapped to a table.
The film is about a governess (played by a career best Deborah Kerr) who watches over two children and comes to fear that the house she and the children occupy is haunted by ghosts and that the children are being slowly possessed.
It’s a brilliant psychological thriller that feels like Polanski by way of Hammer. It’s so good, that famed director François Truffaut said “this is the best British film since Alfred Hitchcock had left for America.” Which is high praise considering that motherfucker loved him some Hitchcock.
48. Bride Of Frankenstein
If this film was released today, shot for shot, line for line, I guarantee audiences today would bitch about it for the rest of eternity. Not because of the performances or the make up but the total amount of screen time the titular bride gets. In fact, let’s turn it into a game. How much screen time does the bride get in the Bride of Frankenstein?
- 10 minutes
- 8 minutes
- 6 minutes
- 4 minutes
Place your bets. I got my money on you, guy with the face. Ok. Betting is over, ya degenerates.
The winner is YOU!! Have some confetti.
For everyone else that actually didn’t cheat by reading the IMDB trivia or Wikipedia page, the correct answer is 3. No, not the third choice, 3 minutes. She’s in this film a grand total of 3 fucking minutes. The xenomorph in Alien has more screen time and he’s only in that film for 7 minutes. Fuck, the shark in Jaws has more screen time and he’s only seen a handful of times.
What I’m trying to say is, stop fucking complaining about how much screen time Godzilla got in the 2014 reboot.
Oh and this film is good. Watch it.
47. Shaun Of The Dead
If I was judging these films based solely on the talent involved, Shaun of the Dead would be in the top 10 easily. It’s one of the best constructed films on this list. Everything from the amazing direction to the outstanding performances work gangbusters but it’s barely a horror film.
It’s definitely a comedy with zombies, no question but that comedy is rooted in both Wright and Pegg’s deep love of horror cinema. The entire film is one long love letter to one of their favorite genres. There’s references to Fulci and Romero, as well a million other nods to actors or directors they love.
There’s a scene that essentially kickstarts the third act thats 100% horror. It’s so shockingly violent, it almost feels out of place with the rest of the film. Picture Zombieland having the “choke on em” scene from Day of the Dead. It’s jarring but it’s effective because that scene along with the love letter aspect is the reason the film is on the list.
That and the fact that y’all voted it in. I wanted Tucker and Dale vs Evil or Tremors but no. We had to have Shaun.
How the fuck did this movie get made? I don’t know if you youngsters know or not but America used to be awful. We barely tolerated anything that wasn’t white people and that unfortunately lasted a long time. So, to have a film who’s cast is primarily made up of people who have physical handicaps, is insanity. Especially in 19 fucking 32.
Referred to as “…standing alone in a subgenre of one”, Freaks tells the story of Hans, a “sideshow midget” (I know that word is offensive but I literally have no idea the correct nomenclature) who inherits a shit ton of cash and the trapeze artist who schemes to take it all.
Half revenge film and half slice of life period drama, Freaks is unlike any other film before or since. Thank god for the wheelbarrow sized balls of Todd Browning.
45. The Haunting
Is it possible for the British to make a horror film that isn’t classy as fuck? I picture every director from across the pond to have top hats and monocles, like dapper versions of Willy Wonka. I mean Stroheim had a monocle but he was Hungarian. And I doubt he ever wore a top hat. I digress.
The Haunting is a film that could never be made today. If you want further proof of that statement, look no further than the remake, which replaced this films subtle paranoia and tension with Michael Bay ghosts. It’s nothing but paranormal bombast but it does have a scene where Owen Wilson gets decapitated by a chimney lion, so that’s a win. But I digress.
Based on the monumentally influential novel The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting is far more cerebral than your typical haunted house film. For starters, it adds a level of mental breakdown that isn’t present in the novel. There’s running theme of whether or not the ghosts actually exist or is the main character going insane. Kinda like our buddy Patrick Bateman, who we just talked about. Just replace the chainsaw murders with ghosts and Huey Lewis with more ghosts and it’s essentially the same film.
This film proves, that the greatest special effect a film can have, is a great actor. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Jeffrey Combs in this film, which is saying a lot considering the bug nuts insanity that transpires within. That’s a testament to his abilities as an actor, that he’s the main focal point when there’s literal insanity going on around him. It’s an iconic character brought to life with an equally iconic performance.
And speaking of iconic, like I mentioned earlier, there’s a scene in this film, that no matter when you see it, whether your a prepubescent or an adult, you will never forget it. It’s a scene so outrageously audacious, that you wonder who the fuck thought it up and why no one has since tried to rip it off.
It’s one of those scenes like the tree rape in Evil Dead or the zombie fighting the shark in Zombi 2, that’s so insanely momentous, that not only does it stick in your mind for all time but no one has the balls to even attempt to homage it in any way.
One of the biggest questions that every haunted house film has to address is “why the fuck are not leaving the house?” But before you make that jump, you usually also ask “why are they not calling the cops, I mean maybe it’s just somebody fucking with us.” The brilliance of Sinister is that not only does it answer both questions, the answers are the backbone of the plot.
The main character won’t leave because he specifically chose that house for reasons i won’t reveal and he can’t call the cops because a book he wrote threw, what the kids refer to as “mad shade” on the local police department. It starts by addressing cliches and ends by creating one of the most interesting new monsters in the last decade.
It’s a mean little movie that has a jumpscare so great, it actually made my wife cry. She refused to finish this film because of that scene. What more can you ask for?
For many of you, this will seem shockingly premature. To add a film that, at the time of writing this (don’t forget, lizard people from the future might be reading this), is still in the theaters but I stand by my decision.
Much like how the Duffer Bros reworked their nostalgia to bring us Stranger Things, IT is a celebration of the 80’s way of making horror films. It’s John Carpenter meets Amblin. It’s an R rated Monster Squad or what The Gate would look like with a massive budget. As much as American Psycho is an indictment of the toxicity of being obsessed with a certain generation, IT is the flip side. It has nothing but reverence to the old school.
Everything about this film feels simultaneously nostalgic and also timeless. The losers club could be a group of kids in the 50’s, like they are in the book, or they could be a group of kids today. The only difference would be the technological advantage of texting your buddy to not go down in the sewers or to avoid clowns. Other than that, there’s no difference. These kids are timeless and their performances are flawless. There’s literally no weak link among them. Every character is well defined and portrayed perfectly by their accompanying actor.
There’s no way I can end this entry without bringing up the real star of the show–Pennywise. Brilliantly played by Tim Curry in the 90’s mini series, what Bill Skarsgård to it is, undeniably his. From his intimidating physicality to his unnerving, childlike voice, he’s not playing a clown. He’s playing a monster pretending to be a clown and it’s terrifying.
41. The Blair Witch Project
There’s no film on this list that benefits more from “time and place” than this one. If you weren’t alive when this film was first being marketed, you have no frame of reference to how big this thing was. Everyone, and I mean everyone, thought this thing was real. There was missing posters all over the place for months and there was even a website made where you could read journal entries or see some of the footage they supposedly shot.
Viral marketing is old hat now but at the time, this was groundbreaking and I would still argue no film has done it better.
The film itself is a bit controversial among fans. Some saw it before the hype and were scared shitless while others jumped in far too late and never understood the love. Whatever your thoughts on the film are, there’s no denying how impactful it is to horror. It didn’t create the found footage film but it definitely created the genre.
And goddamn is that ending still good.