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The Top 50 Horror Movies of All Time

Possessed children, ghost-faced killers, burn victims with knives for fingers — these are a few of our favorite things! Horror movie lovers are some of the most devoted, most loyal, most fanatical fans that a film could ever hope to snag. We’re like big, lovable Labrador puppies with a taste for blood.

Now that the air is turning chilly and pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps, it’s time to start planning a ghoulishly good movie marathon. Max Evry, Bryan Enk and Jenni Miller rended their flesh and bled all over their keyboards to bring you this list of the best horror movies ever made. Is yours on here? Leave your accursed mark in the comments.

50. “Candyman” (1992)
Tony Todd is terrifying as the Candyman, a ghoulish figure who is tormenting the residents of a dangerous Chicago housing project. Helen (Virginia Madsen) is researching urban legends for her thesis when she starts investigating rumors of the hook-handed man and goes into the projects to see for herself. Sure, it’s a horror movie about an urban legend, but it’s based on a short story by horror maestro Clive Barker, an expert at making people want to pee their pants. The bees, the bees! – Jenni Miller

49.  “Audition” (1999)
Takashi Miike’s gonzo revenge fantasy introduced the madman of subversive Japanese cinema to a wider American audience thanks to its run in a handful of arthouse theaters. “Audition” tells the story of a middle-aged widower who’s encouraged by his teenage son to start dating again; his film producer friend helps him get over his initial reluctance with a mock casting session in which young women audition for the “part” of his new wife. Such a misogynist endeavor practically begs for feminist retaliation – and, oh boy, it comes raining down, in the form of a supposed former ballerina who turns the widower’s life into a living hell of torture and … other stuff. One of the all-time great “dare” movies – do you have the stomach to watch it? – Bryan Enk

48. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987)
The first “Nightmare” sequel where Freddy Krueger started being … well, kind of fun, “Dream Warriors” trades the houses of Elm Street for the halls of the Westin Hills psychiatric hospital, where Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette), committed after a Freddy attack that was interpreted as a suicide attempt, and her fellow patients become terrorized by the great gloved one. The film is silly (boy, is it ever) but it’s definitely got showmanship, with Robert Englund and his young co-stars pulling out all the stops as they put on a pretty decent ’80s horror show; Wes Craven wanted this to be the final installment in the series, but its box office success made that inconceivable. Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor appear as themselves (hey, why not?), with heavy metal band Dokken providing the totally awesome theme song. – BE

47. “Child’s Play” (1988)
The first chapter in the tragicomic saga of serial killer-turned-malevolent-doll Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif yeah!!) is actually quite scary, which is certainly not the case with the series’ many sequels (both unintentionally and, later, very much intentionally). Before Chucky screamed “I’ll be back – I always come back!” with equal amounts anger, exhaustion and self-awareness in “Bride of Chucky” (1998), he was a full-blown movie monster whose small size and benign (-ish) appearance made him all the more frightening – and dangerous. Chucky can squeeze into places a grown-up can’t, and he has the advantage of being able to get away with almost anything – after all, who would believe a damn doll is throwing hammers at the babysitter’s head and blowing his former partner sky high after messing around with the gas stove? Certainly not Mom (Catherine Hicks) and Cop (Chris Sarandon). “Wanna plaaaaaaay?” – BE

46. “House of Wax” (1953)
Vincent Price may be a “Saturday Night Live” staple today thanks to Bill Hader, but back in the mid-fifties he was the prince of the horror genre. This spooky tale of perverted wax sculptor who takes the lazy way out and just starts killing people and coating them with wax (CHEATING!) is one of the best examples of Price’s fiendish ways. It’s also the first color 3-D film, so when you pay $18 to see “The Last Airbender,” get mad at this movie. This was itself a remake of 1933′s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” and was itself later remade with none other than Paris Hilton… now that’s scary! – Max Evry

45. “The Haunting” (1963)
Director Robert Wise’s personal all-time favorite moviemaking experience (and it’s easy to see why), “The Haunting” is considered one of the all-time great haunted house movies – and one of the first horror films of the ’60s to demonstrate that the genre didn’t need to be so … well, cheesy. Wise incorporates innovative camera angles (that would go on to influence such cinematic showmen as Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson) to create a sense of voyeuristic dread as Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn traverse the screen adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s terrific horror novel, “The Haunting of Hill House,” braving the creaks, moans, cryptic messages and bedroom doors that bend inward as something tries to gain entry. A terrific example of how sound, performance and cinematography can make for as good (if not better) a horror movie as one chock full of pyrotechnics and other special effects. – BE

44. “Suspiria” (1977)
Dario Argento’s loud, maddening, brain-smushing thingamabob says the hell with “passive entertainment” as it’s out to assault and hurl you over a cliff from the get-go. Watch (and live, live!) this bizarro fairy tale about an American student at a prestigious Euro ballet school who soon discovers that the place is run by a bunch of freakin’ witches. Part I of Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy (followed by “Inferno” in 1980 and “Mother of Tears” in 2007), “Suspiria” is an exhausting exercise in sheer overkill in every possible department; the colors (dear lord, the COLORS) in particular are so extreme and outlandish that you’ll think you’re going insane, though the endless clanging Goblin score may send you spiraling down first. Don’t get us wrong, this flick rocks … you may just want to lock yourself in a room for a day or two after “experiencing” it to come back down to a world where things aren’t so, uh, red and green. – BE

43. “The Birds” (1963)
The most remarkable thing about Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest cinematic magic trick is that it was actually made. How did they get the birds to do all that crazy stuff? Sheesh, there’s a scene where they all peck and flap around Tippi Hedren so much that she passes out! There’s some true old-school movie magic going on in “The Birds,” the kind that we imagine tested even Hitch’s seemingly endless patience more than once (and we wonder how many times Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy and the rest of the cast threatened to walk off this bats**t – or, rather birds**t – insane project). Today, “The Birds” would be made all with computers. Back in 1963, Hitchcock had to find innovative ways to trick dozens of real birds to do his bidding in order to make what would become one of the all-time best man (or woman, rather, for the most part) versus nature thrillers. – BE

42. “The Eye” (2002)
An argument against self-improvement if there ever was one, the Pang Brothers’ “The Eye” tells the story of a blind 20-year-old classical violinist who finds that she doesn’t really like what she sees when she receives a new pair of peepers that belonged to a woman who possessed psychic abilities. Soon, she’s suffering from prophetic visions of horrible events yet to come – and contending with the ghost of her donor, who committed suicide after she failed to convince a bunch of villagers of an imminent disaster that ended up coming true and claiming all of their lives. “The Eye” is one of the most unsettling Asian horror films in a decade that saw more than its fair share of them; oddly enough, the Pang Brothers also called the shots on the almost completely ineffective 2008 American remake starring Jessica Alba. – BE

41. “The Mummy” (1932)
Being the legend that his is, Boris Karloff managed to pull off another iconic entry into the terror pantheon after his brush with “Frankenstein.” This time he’s a mysterious Eqyptian named Ardath Bey, which sounds like a woman who hosts a show about home décor, but turns out he’s a 3000-year-old priest whose been wrapped in toilet paper for awhile and wants revenge. He attempts to reincarnate his murdered bride through a modern woman (Zita Johann). This was in the pre-Bangles era, so that was how you got someone to walk like an Egyptian. – ME

40. “The Orphanage” (2007)
Why are children so creepy?? Guillermo del Toro was an executive producer on this gorgeous Spanish film that manages to be incredibly spooky and utterly moving at the same time. Laura (Belén Rueda) decides to turn her childhood home into an orphanage for children, but soon after she and her family move in, her son Simón begins acting strangely. He starts drawing pictures of his “new friend,” a little boy who wears a sack over his head. (Augh!) Soon enough, he’s arguing with Laura and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and then, poof, he disappears. Is his “friend” Tomás responsible? This tragic tale will leave you in tears, and maybe a little bit afraid of the dark. – JM

39. “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977)
“The Hills Have Eyes” is an icky low-budget film with the same ’70s vibe as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” which is high praise. Wes Craven wrote and directed this exploitation-y sleazefest featuring a family of nasty cannibals who torture and kill a nice normal family whose car breaks down out in the desert. The 2007 remake doesn’t have the same grit, although it does have plenty of the grossness. Still, if you want your “Hills” done right, you need to see this version with iconic character actor Michael Berryman glaring from the DVD cover. – JM

38. “The Others” (2001)
This melancholy wartime fable stars Nicole Kidman as a mother living in an isolated mansion (perfectly art-directed for paranormal activity) with her two children whose extreme sensitivity to sunlight keeps them in a world of shadows; as they await the return of the husband/father upon the aftermath of WWII, they come to suspect that their house is haunted (and it is, just not … well, you’ll have to see for yourself, won’t you?). Both a horror film and a sad (and we do mean sad) fairy tale, “The Others” maintains a strong sense of mystery and dread throughout, with the final revelation not so much shocking as it is tragically inevitable. “Doctor Who” enthusiasts will appreciate the better-late-than-never appearance of Christopher Eccleston, who can stare into space with a vacant look on his face like nobody’s business. – BE

37. “Day of the Dead” (1985)
While this third chapter in Romero’s “Dead” series doesn’t quite live up to the lofty heights of its two predecessors, it once again evolves the series into interesting, uncharted new directions. This time, the action is centered around an underground Army bunker in the Florida Everglades where a group of scientists experiment on penned-up zombies to try to find a cure. What color ribbon should we wear for that? The real star here is Bub, the first sympathetic zombie in the series, who is trained to remember flashes of his past life, including his fondness for music. That’s ironic, since the film was sampled multiple times by Gorillaz. – ME

36. “The Ring” (2002)
It’s a good thing that videotapes have been phased out, because man, they are up to no good! Take the VHS tape in “The Ring,” for instance. Once you watch it, you die within seven days. You get a phone call that tells you so, even. This doesn’t happen with DVDs! Naomi Watts plays a journalist who’s researching the phenomenon — by watching it, duh. The most unforgettable part is perhaps the character of Samara, a creepy girl who walks upside down and backwards. Although this English-language remake of 1998′s “Ringu” is slightly more coherent than the original, it’s a little less scary, as diehard horror fans will affirm. – JM

35. “Scanners” (1981)
It’ll blow your mind, man… quite literally. David Cronenberg’s first mainstream success is kind of like “X-Men” if it were a body horror movie. The psychic mutations shared by the main characters, known as Scanners, include the abilities to read minds and also, yes, explode them, as in the famous scene where Michael Ironside’s Revok does just that. The story involves a nefarious weapons company ConSec trying to capture renegade Scanners for military applications. Is that all they can think of? What about blowing up watermelons for Gallagher? – ME

34. “The Descent” (2005)
Spelunking isn’t a popular hobby, and this is a good example of why. Add in troubled group dynamics and some bloodthirsty cave critters, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is still mourning the death of her husband and daughter, but you know, it’s time to get on with life and go spelunking. Too bad that one of the women on the trip, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), leads them in way over their heads. Literally. Not for claustrophobics! (I found this out the hard way.) – JM

33. “Freaks” (1932)
“We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble!” Tod Browning’s other great horror movie makes for a much more personal film than “Dracula,” as the director had been a member of a traveling circus in his early years and drew much from those experiences in telling this nasty little tale. Browning also shocked and amazed with his casting of actual sideshow performers to play the “freaks” of the title, who are trusting and honorable as opposed to the “normal” trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) conspiring to kill one of them to collect on their inheritance. Much more “cinematic” than the theatrical “Dracula,” “Freaks” is a truly unnerving fable, climaxing with the freaks taking their violent revenge during a rainstorm; unfortunately, Browning had trouble finding work after the film’s release due to its extreme controversy and negative audience reaction. – BE

32. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)
Jack Finney’s 1954 novel “The Body Snatchers” has been adapted for the screen no less than four times: 1956, 1978, 1993 and 2007 all had cinematic variations of people being replaced by emotionless clones as an alien race plots to take over the world through conformity and “contentment.” This 1978 version is considered by many to be the best of the lot, with Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum trying to find a way to stop the epidemic – and struggling to keep from falling asleep, long before Freddy Krueger started haunting our unconscious hours. The film’s final shot of Sutherland pointing/ screaming (the rather unsubtle way these creatures identify those that haven’t been “turned”) makes for one of the final battle cries of the cynical ’70s. – BE

31. “Paranormal Activity” (2007)
Remember when everyone was like, “Guys, this is totally real!”? And it was all creepy and mysterious like back when “The Blair Witch Project” creeped onto screens trailing a whole bunch of urban legends with it? Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) decide to record the late-night rumblings around their new house, the footage of which makes up the movie. The off-screen noises and eventual reveal of who’s up to no good are still scary as heck for some of us. Ahem. – JM

30. “The Omen” (1976)
So many evil children, so little time. Is Damien really causing a whole lot of terrible things to happen around him, or is his dad just being paranoid? Gregory Peck plays an American ambassador who suspects that not only is his blue-eyed moppet the Antichrist but that there’s an entire conspiracy to protect him. Lee Remick appears as Katherine Thorn, Damien’s mom — or is she?? – JM

29. “Let the Right One In” (2008)
The first true horror masterpiece of the 21st century, this story of the unlikely friendship between a 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and a centuries-old vampire named Eli (Lina Leandersson) who looks like a little girl (she may in fact have originally been a boy). Though it has more than its fair share of startling scenes, including a crazy one involving 100 cats, at its core it’s a tender, even sweet story that just happens to have a lot of blood drinking and decapitations. – ME

28. “Don’t Look Now” (1973)
At the height of his powers, director Nicolas Roeg (“The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Walkabout”) made films that elegantly played with non-linear storytelling, and his unconventional visual style was never better matched than when he adapted Daphne du Maurier’s short story “Don’t Look Now.” As played by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, a couple copes with the recent loss of their young daughter by travelling to Venice for work, but a pair of psychics warn them of evil afoot. Features a classic twist ending that will very well freak you out, though it’s equally famous for the supposedly non-simulated sex scene between the stars, to the point where Christie’s then-boyfriend Warren Beatty tried to have it removed from the film. – ME

27. “Dead Alive” (1992)
Before he lorded over his rings, Peter Jackson was the king of splatstick, that beautiful melding of splatter and slapstick. With a cast and crew of game New Zealanders he created this gross-out tale of henpecked Lionel (Timothy Balme), whose zombiefied live-in mother causes him no shortage of Freudian distress. Widely considered to be the goriest movie of all-time, thanks in part to a scene in which our hero takes a lawnmower to some undead party crashers. Seriously, the blood is up to people’s knees. – ME

26. “Poltergeist” (1982)
You’d think people would learn not to build suburban homes on ancient burial grounds, but apparently it takes a total ghost infestation and possession of your adorable blonde-haired daughter to learn it’s a bad idea. (One of the joys of the modern age is that TV channels turn to static late at night, so the chance of getting sucked in like Carrie Ann did is way lower.) “Poltergeist” is one of those ’80s horror movies that was a sleepover staple but stands the test of time. – JM

25. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
Wes Craven strikes again! Freddy Krueger is right up there with Leatherface, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees when it comes to iconic horror monsters. Krueger was burned to death by parents of the children he killed; now he infiltrates the dreams of teenagers and tortures them in innovative ways, usually with his magical glove that has razors attached to the fingers. (He’s literally a slasher!) This first film is especially notable because a baby-faced Johnny Depp appears as the doomed boyfriend of our heroine Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp. Krueger was portrayed by Robert Englund, who’s basically made this deformed murderer his bread and butter for most of his career. God bless ‘im. – JM

24. “Carnival of Souls” (1962)
A huge influence on “Night of the Living Dead,” this black and white B-movie has a stark, melancholy vibe that is nothing if not striking. It concerns a woman named Mary (Candace Hilligoss), who miraculously survives a serious case of extreme car wreck, then travels to Utah to play spooky organ music at a church. When she begins having visions of ghouls coming after her she doesn’t know if she’s haunted or psychotic. Can’t she be both? – ME

23. “28 Days Later” (2002)
Yeah, yeah, they’re not “zombies,” they’re “infected,” but there’s no arguing that Danny Boyle’s low-budget horror film helped revitalize the flailing zombie genre, paving the way for Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake, Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead,” “The Walking Dead” television series and a horde of other zombie-themed movies, comic books, video games, Halloween attractions and probably even toilet seat covers. Boyle uses digital video to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy in this tale of London (and beyond) getting wiped out by a virus that turns people into mindless bloodthirsty killing machines, turning the once thriving metropolis into a post-apocalyptic wasteland traversed by only a handful of uninfected (including Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Brendan Gleeson). Almost unbearably intense at times, “28 Days Later” stumbles a bit in its third act as a military camp (and supposed sanctuary) turns all “Lord of the Flies,” but it makes for quite a major comeback movie for Boyle, returning him to his days of “Trainspotting” glory after stumbling a bit himself with the likes of “A Life Less Ordinary” and “The Beach.” – BE

22. “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990)
Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction,” “Indecent Proposal,” “Unfaithful”) took a break from making movies about people cheating on their spouses to somehow craft one of the most visually distinctive, multi-layered horror movies of the 20th century. Taking its cues from equal parts Dante, Francis Bacon, and wackadoo conspiracy theory, it presents the harrowing journey of Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet/postal worker whose demonic visions and terrifying flashbacks leave him -and the audience- disoriented to the point where you don’t know what’s precisely happening until the last minute of the film. – ME

21. “The Fly” (1986)
David Cronenberg’s remake of this mad scientist story takes it in a slightly sexier and gooier direction than the black and white original. Jeff Goldblum’s nerdy but hot scientist Seth Brundle is working on a device to safely teleport things, but just as he’s getting the kinks worked out, a fly sneaks into the Telepod with him. At first, he’s just hornier and stronger and smarter, but soon enough, he’s transforming into the grossest fly-man you’ve ever seen. As you might imagine, this puts a damper on his relationship with journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis in full flower!). Look for Cronenberg’s cameo as a gynecologist in Veronica’s nightmare. – JM

20. “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935)
Those who’ve seen “Highlander 2: The Quickening” or “Speed 2: Cruise Control” know that sequels are hard. To make one that matches the original is even harder, but to make one that tops it? That list is very exclusive, and it starts with “Bride of Frankenstein.” While the original was more-or-less a straight adaptation of Mary Shelly’s masterpiece, this one goes off the reservation in the most delightful way possible, with Boris Karloff’s blockhead monster eager to have Frankenstein (Colin Clive) carve him up some undead tail. Director James Whale’s more whimsical approach invented “campy” 40-years before “Rocky Horror.” – ME

19. “Scream” (1996)
The first “Scream” was smart and funny but still scary. It was self-referential and a touch snarky thanks to resident movie nerd Randy (Jamie Kennedy) who lectured them on the rules of horror movies and how to survive them, although, of course, no one follows the rules and not all of them survive. Before the “Scream” sequels were trotted out and the “Scary Movie” parodies exhausted our goodwill, this was a fresh horror film in a pretty barren decade. Plus, remember when Skeet Ulrich was being primed to be the next Johnny Depp? – JM

18. “Friday the 13th” (1980)
Jason Voorhees may be a horror icon, but he didn’t even show up in this original installment (his mom did all the hatchet work) and his hockey mask didn’t come on until the third. So what makes this one so good? Well, it created the mold from which all slasher flicks sprang thereafter, including important rules like “If you have sex you die.” For the record, a lot of camp counselors have sex in this movie. – ME

17. “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
The immediately famous twist ending of this story of a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) and a troubled young boy who “sees dead people” (Haley Joel Osment) isn’t nearly as remarkable as the way writer-director M. Night Shyamalan so brillantly set you up for it from the very first scene … whether you realized it (and, come on, you know you didn’t). M. Night’s films have steadily gotten worse over the years, and the mentioning of his name now brings groans from the masses, but back in 1999 – a banner year for risky, challenging and intelligent studio films (look it up sometime) – he was the toast of the town, and rightly so. An exquisite thriller, and one with more than a few good jump scares … and a particularly unsettling performance by an almost unrecognizable Donnie Wahlberg, who starts things off with a bang. – BE

16. “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)
Director John Landis of “Animal House” and “Blues Brothers” fame took a slight left turn with this movie that’s one half comedy, the other part genuine horror, all mixed together quite deftly. Rick Baker’s effects during the title protagonist’s transformation are still unequaled to this day, and the script (which Landis wrote when he was 19) goes into surprising depth on both the physical and mental effects of being transformed into a snarling lycanthrope. Oh, and “A naked American man stole my balloons!” – ME

15. “Psycho” (1960)
Ahh, the movie that made showers scary. Alfred Hitchcock invented many modern storytelling conventions, including the Macguffin, and with this terror tale he ushered in the dawn of the slasher movie. Based on the real-life crimes of mother-obsessed serial killer Ed Gein, Hitchcock turned him into timid weirdo motel clerk Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), whose proclivities include watching women undress through a peephole, then dressing up like his mother and murdering them. Those are what psychologists refer to as “sexual difficulties.” – ME

14. “Nosferatu” (1922)
The first cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s iconic horror novel “Dracula” (that we know of, anyway) was F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror,” a silent classic that remains the scariest movie based on the book to date, chock full of dread and despair and starring the astonishing Max Schreck as the grotesquely striking Graf Orlok. The film is public domain and there are many bootleg versions available, including one that’s set entirely to songs by goth metal band Type O Negative (which is actually rather amusing) – whichever version you come across, it’s sure to give you the heebie-jeebies like only a piece of unauthorized German Expressionism can. – BE

13. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)
George Romero returned to the living dead a decade after “Night” and created arguably the greatest horror sequel ever made. What makes it so special? First of all, it’s a complete stylistic 180, with more of an epic look to it. Secondly, once its four protagonists barricade themselves inside an abandoned shopping mall the film makes the daring decision to stop being a horror movie for its entire second act and becomes a bold commentary on consumerist isolation. It dares to ask the question, “who are the real zombies, here?” When there’s no more room in hell, let’s go shopping! – ME

12. “Evil Dead 2″ (1987)
While the original “Evil Dead” announced Sam Raimi as a force to be reckoned with behind the camera, his slaphappy sequel essentially serves as a comedic remake that gives the formally milquetoast Ash (Bruce Campbell) a newfound cockiness that serves him well as he battles those annoying deadites who want to swallow his soul. Campbell’s rubberfaced antics make Jim Carrey look subdued, and unpredictable creature effects give life to everything from trees to the Necronomicon itself. It is, in a word, “groovy.” – ME

11. “Blair Witch Project” (1999)
Before it inexplicably became cool to hate it, “The Blair Witch Project” was crowned the new king of horror during the summer of 1999, when the scrappy DIY Sundance hit ended up grossing more than $248 million worldwide on a budget of, like, a hundred bucks. The “found footage” aesthetic has since been done to death – and, for the record, “Cannibal Holocaust” beat “Blair Witch” to that punch by almost 20 years – but what was truly undeniably groundbreaking was the marketing campaign that presented the film (via the then still-newfangled Internet) as a true-life chronicle of real horrific events. Soon, the world was wondering what happened to Heather, Mike and Josh out there in the woods – and lined up in droves to find out. – BE

10. “Jaws” (1975)
Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of a Peter Benchley’s crappy novel (have you read it? It’s quite awful) ended up being the first true summer blockbuster, setting the director down the path of becoming a filmmaking legend and clearing the beaches of the world for at least one summer. It’s the human characters and their interaction that really make this monster movie work: Roy Scheider as the small-town sheriff who eventually gets to tell that son of a bitch to smile; Robert Shaw as the salty shark hunter who’s finally met his match; and Richard Dreyfuss as a marine biologist who probably went on to oversee the development of a considerably more powerful water cage. “Jaws” is one of the best horror movies of all time, and just great moviemaking, period – though avoid all sequels as if they were shark-infested waters. – BE

9. “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the Ira Levin novel is essential viewing for any horror fiend. It’s a slow, stylish burn that isn’t scary or gory per se, but a study in nightmarish paranoia. It preys on our fears of betrayal, sex, pregnancy and giving birth to the Antichrist. Mia Farrow’s stylish Vidal Sassoon pixie cut launched countless imitators, although we’re still waiting for the fashion world to catch up with the psychedelic witchy stylings of Ruth Gordon, who plays her nosy neighbor Minnie. – JM

8. “Alien” (1979)
How great would it be to go back in time and watch the infamous “chest-bursting” scene with an audience that has absolutely no idea what’s coming? Poor John Hurt ruined everyone’s dinner and gave birth to a creature that would later become one of the most popular (and terrifying) sci-fi icons of all time, complete with acidic blood, a dual set of jaws and a sequel-friendly ability to adapt and evolve. James Cameron’s crowd-pleasing “Aliens” might be the default choice for many, but while that film brought in the Marines to make it an action film (and a damn good one), the original “Alien” is a true horror classic, complete with slow-burn ’70s pacing and a sense of blue-collar realism brought on by an often ad-libbing cast of characters who just want their bonuses after so much overtime in the ass-end of outer space. – BE

7. “Carrie” (1976)
Being a teenage girl kind of sucks, but Carrie (Sissy Spacek) has it rough. Her mom (Piper Laurie) is a strict religious freak who doesn’t bother to tell her about menstruation, making for one of the most harrowing gym shower scenes ever filmed. It’s only topped by the infamous prom scene where Carrie takes her revenge on her cruel schoolmates by setting them on fire… with her mind! – JM

6. “Halloween” (1978)
This is the OG when it comes to slasher tropes like the smart babysitter, deadly teen sexing, faceless lurking and an unkillable villain. As Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis put in a bad ass performance as the Final Girl who outsmarts dogged Michael Myers, a recent escapee from a mental institution who’s come back to his hometown to finish the job. – JM

5. “The Exorcist” (1973)
Director William Friedkin is no joke, and neither is this terrifying film about a possessed little pre-teen named Regan. When she’s not peeing on the rug, spitting obscenities or projectile vomiting on her mom and priests, she’s doing unspeakable things with a crucifix. Linda Blair’s performance as Regan is horrifyingly good, as is Ellen Burstyn as her mom, Max von Sydow as Father Merrin and Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras, whose faith is shaken and definitely stirred. – JM

4. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
Still scary 44 years later, this is THE movie that literally wrote the book on zombies. Shot in mostly handheld black and white, which lends an eerie documentary feel, director George Romero follows a group of disparate people who hole up in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse after the dead begin inconveniently rising from their graves and feasting on the living. Determined not to become buffet fodder, their de facto leader Ben (Duane Jones) tries to fight off the flesh eaters outside while quelling disorder among the living. A revolutionary civil rights-era subtext gives the film added weight, particularly the famous scene in which a black man (Jones) gives a hysterical white woman a good, hard smack across the face. – ME

3. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
One of the best sleazy ’70s horror films, if not one of the best horror films ever made, this creepy flick takes its cues from serial killer and mama’s boy Ed Gein, who liked using parts of his victims as home décor and snacks. (Gein was also an inspiration for Norman Bates in “Psycho.”) This ups the ante with an entire family of psychos, especially the unforgettable, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Because he wears someone’s face on his face, you see. This is what happens when you mess with Texas, people! – JM

2. “The Thing” (1982)
Paranoia was never more gooey than in John Carpenter’s grand guignol sci-fi freak show, in which a ragtag group of scientists holed up in a remote Antarctica research station should’ve realized that that seemingly crazy Norwegian might’ve been shooting at that dog for a really, really good reason. Part One of Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” (followed by “Prince of Darkness” in 1987 and “In the Mouth of Madness” in 1995), “The Thing” gets under your skin as the shapeshifting alien … well, literally gets under the skin of these poor bastards who now have something more to worry about than just subzero temperatures and cabin fever. – BE

1. “The Shining” (1980)
Still subject to intense analysis three decades later, most recently in Sundance documentary “Room 237,” Stanley Kubrick’s visionary reconstruction of Stephen King’s potboiler novel might be the only horror film that gets more frightening on each viewing. Eschewing jump scares in favor of a simmering sense of distress, the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and family taking care of a Colorado hotel that’s haunted up the ass instills dread from its opening frames and never lets up. There are many fascinating theories behind the movie’s intricate visuals, including the fact that every time Nicholson talks to a ghost he’s looking in a mirror, or the fact that the hotel’s layout is filled with deliberate architectural impossibilities. Creepy! – ME


Categories: Lists, Top 50

Tags: 28 Days Later, A Haunting, A Nightmare on Elm Street, An American Werewolf in London, Audition, Blair Witch Project, Bride of Frankenstein, Carnival of Souls, Carrie, Child's Play, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Dead Alive, Don't Look Now, Evil Dead 2, Freaks, Friday the 13th, Halloween, House of Wax, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jacob's Ladder, Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, Nosferatu, Paranormal activity, Poltergeist, Psycho, Rosemary's baby, Scanners, Scream, Suspiria, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The birds, The descent, The Exorcist, The Eye, The Fly, The Hills Have Eyes, The mummy, The Omen, The Orphanage, The Others, The Ring, The Shining, The sixth sense