Halloween is only a few weeks away and what better way to prepare for this pointless holiday than watching some of the best horror movies ever made. I have narrowed the list down to 15 films and I know that there are many more that are great and some that might be better than those listed but I personally like these. I wanted to choose movies that were not only scary or tense but had good storylines and were well made. Some horror movies simply shock you upon first viewing but don’t resonate with you very long afterwards. All of the ones listed are ones that I go back to time and again when I’m in the mood for horror movies and I think that most people will enjoy them all as well.
The Exorcist– The Exorcist was released in 1973 and was directed by William Friedkin. It became one of the highest grossing movies of all-time and easily one of the scariest. The film still holds up really well after all of these years and countless parodies of it haven’t totally blunted the impact it can have on viewers. This will always have a place on the list for me just based on my first viewing of it when I was seven or eight and how frightened I was to be alone for a day or two after. I can still watch it now as an adult and enjoy the experience even if it doesn’t completely freak me out like it did that first time. Regan while possessed is still one of the most evil characters on film.
Alien– One of the greatest science fiction films? Yes. One of the greatest horror films of all-time too? You bet. Alien is a definite classic not only in those two genres but just general movies. I doubt that there are many plots more terrifying than being stuck aboard a space ship with a killer alien and nowhere to flee. Ridley Scott does a wonderful job directing and setting up an atmosphere of absolute terror.
Dawn of the Dead– This 1978 film by George Romero is the second installment of the Living Dead series and is awesome from start to finish. The dead have been reanimated and cause society to essentially collapse, the group of humans that we follow barricade themselves inside of a shopping mall with the constant threat of zombies breaking inside to feast on them. It is definitely gory and sick but so much fun to watch.
Halloween– Alright this is still a good movie even if the plot has basically been done a million times since in some stupid sequels and other movies. Michael Myers is a horrifying character both silent and relentless in his pursuit to kill. There isn’t a whole lot of blood actually shown in the movie but the setting on Halloween night with a psychotic killer and creepy music makes this one of the best horror movies.
Night of the Living Dead– This is the first of the Living Dead series by the aforementioned Romero and another movie that scared me as a child. I don’t know I guess it was the black and white cinematography that made me scared then but now the movie is just entertainment rather than frightening. I still maintain that the little girl Karen that comes back as a zombie is the scariest character she just looks evil.
The Shining– Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel is tense, methodical and the scenery absolutely consumes you as a viewer. Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness is brilliantly acted and equally scary. While it doesn’t have the same quick pace as other movies on the list the way it builds to the climax demands that it be considered amongst the best horror movies ever.
Nightmare on Elm Street- What if you weren’t safe from a killer even in your own dreams? That’s what the 1984 film Nightmare on Elm Street is all about. Freddy Krueger was a child murderer who is killed by the town’s parents and now seeks his revenge by killing their kids while they sleep. Sure, some parts of it look kind of corny now but it’s still a great horror movie and is the first movie with Johnny Depp in it.
Psycho– This film by Alfred Hitchcock is an undeniable classic that is filled with suspense and iconic imagery. Even people who have never seen the movie know the infamous shower scene and can hum the music that accompanies it. Norman Bates is a very disturbing character and the fact that he could be a real person makes it all the more disturbing.
The Evil Dead– This is a low budget film that really delivers in the gore department and is very violent, naturally this works well for a horror film. The plot centers on a group of students who stay in a cabin in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness and unwittingly unleash evil spirits by listening to an audio tape. What follows is a series of demonic possession and murder. Great movie.
Ringu– You may have seen the American adaptation of this movie called The Ring but the Japanese original is a bit better and scarier than its counterpart. The basic premise is that there is a videotape that after you watch it you immediately receive a phone call and will die exactly seven days later. Part of what makes this movie so good is finding out about the tape’s origins and the ending which is pretty damn good.
Carrie– Carrie is an outcast at her high school and is constantly tormented by her classmates. She also doesn’t get any refuge at home from her very religious and domineering mother. However, Carrie does have a special telekinetic gift which she uses to exact revenge on those who have made her life a living hell. Carrie is an old movie now and seems pretty dated with its portrayal of youth culture but it still packs a punch when it comes to being a good horror movie.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre– The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is brutal as hell and downright terrifying to watch. Leatherface in that mask with a hook or chainsaw in hand is the thing of nightmares. The fact that it was portrayed a being based on true events helped to push it popularity and turned the extremely low budget film into a massive success.
The Descent– The Descent is a newer horror film being released in the United States in 2006 after its run in British theaters but it is very well made and scary to boot. Six women are taking a trip in the caves of Appalachia a year after a tragic accident claims the husband and daughter of one of the women. Little do they know a society of cave dwelling hominids live in the same place they are exploring and soon find out how much of a mistake it was going there. The ‘Crawlers’ as they are called look like monsters but are definitely a similar species to us just evolved underground. If you haven’t seen this one since it’s still recent I suggest you check it out.
The Howling– I had to put at least one werewolf movie on the list and The Howling grabs itself a spot. A colony full of werewolves that can change at will without the need for a full moon is much more interesting than only being able to change under the right circumstances.
Rosemary’s Baby– A horror movie with a conspiracy plot and the spawn of satan is that dark enough for you? Roman Polanski directed this movie in 1968 and it still provides some good scares today and is very entertaining.