Here’s how it works!
Our staff and our readers were asked to send me a list of their 25 favorite Horror Films of all time. 15 ballots were received, and the movies were ranked on a point system allowing 25 points for a #1 choice, 24 for a #2, and all the way down to 1 point for #25. The points were added up, and what follows are the selections.
Tiebreakers work like such: If two movies have equal pointage (and neither got a number 1 vote), the movie that appeared on the most lists ranks higher. If those characters appeared on the same amount of lists, I went with whatever ranked highest on the individual list. A character that was someone’s #4 beats another person’s #6, for example. And then if they still were tied I just picked one so shut up.
The countdown happened on our official facebook page, and here are the finished results!
“The girls will wake up…when they are hungry.”
50. House – (1977) – 25 points
(2 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #7 – B)
House is a 1977 Japanese horror film directed and produced by Nobuhiko Obayashi. The film stars mostly non professional actors with only Kimiko Ikegami and Yōko Minamida having any notable previous acting experience. The film is about a schoolgirl traveling with her six classmates to her ailing aunt’s country home, where they come face to face with supernatural events as the girls are, one by one, devoured by the home.
The film company Toho approached Obayashi with the suggestion to make a film like Jaws. Influenced by ideas from his daughter Chigumi, Obayashi developed ideas for a script that was written by Chiho Katsura. After the script was green-lit, the film was put on hold for two years as no director at Toho wanted to direct House. Obayashi promoted the film during this time period until he was given the right to direct it from the studio. The film was a box office hit in Japan but received negative reviews from critics. House received a wide release in 2009 and 2010 in North America where it received more favorable reviews.
“Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.”
49. Suspiria – (1977) – 28 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #7 – Tbmg13)
Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento and co-written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi. The film follows an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany, only to discover that it is controlled by a coven of witches. The film’s score was performed by Goblin. It stars Jessica Harper and Stefania Casini. It was also one of the final feature films to be processed in the Italian processing plant of Technicolor before it was closed. Suspiria is the first of the trilogy Argento refers to as “The Three Mothers”, followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears.
The film has become one of Argento’s most successful feature films, receiving critical acclaim for its visual and stylistic performance, outstanding colors, and soundtrack. It has been nominated for two Saturn Awards: Best Supporting Actress for Joan Bennett in 1978 and Best DVD Classic Film Release in 2002. The film has since become a cult classic.
“If I wasn’t a girl… would you like me anyway?”
48. Let the Right One In – (2008) – 29 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #7 – Patrick)
Let the Right One In is a 2008 Swedish romantic horror film directed by Tomas Alfredson. Based on the novel of the same title by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay, the film tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a vampire child in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm, in the early 1980s.
Alfredson, unfamiliar with the horror and vampire conventions, decided to tone down many elements of the novel and focus primarily on the relationship between the two main characters. Selecting the lead actors involved a year-long process with open castings held all over Sweden. In the end, then 11-year-olds Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson were chosen for the leading roles. They were subsequently commended by both Alfredson and film reviewers for their performances.
The film received widespread international critical acclaim and won numerous awards, including the “Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature” at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation’s 2008 Méliès d’Or (Golden Méliès) for the “Best European Fantastic Feature Film”, as well as four Guldbagge Awards from the Swedish Film Institute.
“Here I am, you pod bastards!”
47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – (1978) – 29 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #6 – Alan)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1978 science fiction film based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. It is a remake of the 1956 film of the same name. It was directed by Philip Kaufman and starred Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Leonard Nimoy.
A San Francisco health inspector and his girlfriend discover that human beings are substituted by aliens. The duplicates, who appear to be perfect copies of the persons replaced, but are devoid of any human emotion, attempt to install a tightly organised, conformist society.
Reviews for Invasion of the Body Snatchers have been nearly unanimously positive. It maintains a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is regarded as one of the best films of 1978, as well as one the greatest remakes of all time. The Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 59th scariest film ever made. The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, who said “it may be the best film of its kind ever made”, was a particular fan.
46. Poltergeist – (1982) – 30 points
(2 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #10 – Willie)
Poltergeist is a 1982 American horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, and is the first and most successful film of the Poltergeist film trilogy. Set in a California suburb, the plot focuses on a family whose home is invaded by malevolent ghosts that abduct the family’s youngest daughter.
The film was ranked as #80 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20th scariest film ever made. The film also appeared as #84 on American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills, a list of America’s most heart-pounding movies. Poltergeist was also nominated for three Academy Awards.
The Poltergeist franchise is often said to be cursed due to the premature deaths of several people associated with the film. “The Poltergeist Curse” has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story.
“I’m not dying in a fucking rat maze!”
45. Cube – (1997) – 31 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #9 – Spoodles)
Cube is a 1997 Canadian science fiction psychological thriller/horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali. The film was a successful product of the Canadian Film Centre’s First Feature Project.
Much of the film’s appeal lies in its surreal, Kafkaesque settings; no extensive attempt is made to explain what the cube is which the characters are confined in, why it is created, or how the people were selected to be put inside the cube. Although the world “outside” is referred to, it is presented in an extremely abstract fashion, either a dark void or a bright white light.
After writing Cube, Vincenzo Natali developed and filmed a short entitled Elevated. The short was set in an elevator and was intended to give investors an idea of how Cube would hypothetically look and come across. It eventually got the feature financed. Cube was shot on a Toronto soundstage.
Only one cube, measuring 14 by 14 by 14 feet, was actually built, with only one working door which could actually support the weight of the actors. The colour of the room was changed by sliding panels. Since this task was a time-consuming procedure, the movie was not shot in sequence; all shots taking place in rooms of a specific colour were shot one at a time. It was intended that there would be six different colours of rooms to match the recurring theme of six throughout the movie; five sets of gel panels plus pure white. However, the budget did not stretch to the sixth gel panel and so there are only five different room colours in the movie. Another partial cube was made for shots requiring the point of view of standing in one room looking into another.
“The calls are coming from the house!”
44. Black Christmas – (1974) – 32 points
(2 of 39 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Dave S.)
Black Christmas is a 1974 Canadian slasher film directed by Bob Clark and written by A. Roy Moore, and largely based on a series of murders that took place in Quebec, Canada around Christmas time. The film’s score is by Carl Zittrer. It was distributed by Ambassador Film Distributors in Canada and Warner Bros. in the United States. It follows a group of college students who must face a deranged serial killer lurking in their sorority house. It stars Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, and John Saxon. A remake of the same name directed by Glen Morgan was released on December 25, 2006. The movie was inspired by an urban legend called “The Baby-Sitter.”
The film received generally positive reviews from contemporary critics. According to the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film ranked a 63% “fresh” of 15 positive reviews out of 22, with an average rating of 6.2 out of 10.
Bill Chambers of Film Freak Festival awarded the film a perfect score of 4 out of 4 stars, calling it a “one of a kind” film. Clint Morris of Moviehole also gave a positive review, calling it “the horror film that started it all,” referring to the film’s notability as being one of the first slasher films today. Heidi Martinuzzi of Film Threat praised the film’s leading actresses, Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder. Keith H. Brown of Eye for Film gave the film a positive review, stating that, “Like Carpenter, Clark avoids graphic gore, focusing instead on suggestion and using careful mise-en-scene, editing and use of music to build suspense.”
“Who died and made you fucking king of the zombies?”
43. Shaun of the Dead – (2003) – 37 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Heather)
Shaun of the Dead is a 2003 British romantic zombie comedy directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Pegg and Wright. Pegg plays Shaun, a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with his girlfriend, his mother and stepfather. At the same time, he has to cope with an apocalyptic uprising of zombies.
The film is the first of what Pegg and Wright call The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with Hot Fuzz (2007) as the second and The World’s End (TBA) as the third.
The film was a critical and commercial success in the United Kingdom, and the United States. It received a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 76 out of 100 at Metacritic. Shaun of the Dead was a BAFTA nominee. Pegg and Wright considered a sequel that would replace zombies with another monster, but decided against it as they were pleased with the first film as a stand-alone product, and thought too many characters died to continue the story.
Critical reaction was highly positive, with the film receiving a score of 91% at the comparative review website Rotten Tomatoes (with a Cream Of The Crop score of 94%) and a score of 76 out of 100 at Metacritic which indicated universal acclaim. Nev Pierce, reviewing the film for the BBC, called it a “side-splitting, head-smashing, gloriously gory horror comedy” that will “amuse casual viewers and delight genre fans.” Peter Bradshaw gave it four stars out of five, saying it “boasts a script crammed with real gags” and is “pacily directed [and] nicely acted.”
“Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”
42. Audition – (1999) – 40 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #6 – B)
Audition is a 1999 Japanese horror film directed by Takashi Miike and starring Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina. It is based on a Ryu Murakami novel of the same title. Over the years, the film has developed a cult following.
For its unflinching graphic content, the film has been likened to the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery and Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses. However, the torture scene in the movie is very brief, and only a few shots show the actual torture, focusing more on Asami’s sadistic enjoyment of it. Among filmmakers featured on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments” (on which the film appeared at #11), notable horror directors including Eli Roth, John Landis and Rob Zombie found the film very difficult to watch, given its grisly content; Landis said that the film was so disturbing that he couldn’t enjoy it at all.
Bloody Disgusting ranked the film fourteenth in their list of the ‘Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade’, with the article saying “Considered by many to be Takashi Miike’s masterpiece, this cringe-inducing, seriously disturbed film boasts one of the most unbearable scenes of torture in movie history… It’s revolting in the best possible way; the prolific Miike goes for the jugular here, and he cuts deep.”
“You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday…”
41. Friday the 13th – (1980) – 41 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #11 – Dave S.)
Friday the 13th is a 1980 American slasher film directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller. The film concerns a group of teenagers who are murdered one-by-one while attempting to re-open an abandoned campsite and stars Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, and Kevin Bacon in one of his earliest roles.
Friday the 13th, inspired by the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, was made on an estimated budget of $550,000. Released by Paramount Pictures in the United States and Warner Bros. Internationally, the film received negative reviews from film critics, but grossed over $39.7 million at the box office in the United States, and went on to become one of the most-profitable slasher films in cinema history. It was also the first movie of its kind to secure distribution in the USA by a major studio, Paramount Pictures. The film’s box office success led to a long series of sequels, a crossover with the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and a series reboot released on February 13, 2009.
The ending sequence of the film was listed at #31 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and the film was voted #15 in Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Scariest Moments.
“Get your filthy pig knuckle off my desk!”
40. Drag Me To Hell – (2009) – 42 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #11 – Kane)
Drag Me to Hell is a 2009 American horror film, directed by Sam Raimi, with a screenplay by Sam and Ivan Raimi. The plot focuses on loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who tries to impress her boss by refusing to extend a loan to a gypsy woman by the name of Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver). In retaliation, Ganush places a curse on Christine that, after three days of escalating torment, will plunge her into the depths of Hell to burn for eternity.
Raimi wrote Drag Me to Hell with his brother, Ivan, prior to working on the Spider-Man films. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released to wide critical acclaim. It was also a box office success, making $90.8 million worldwide on a $30 million budget. Drag Me to Hell won the award for Best Horror Film at the 2009 Scream Awards and the 2010 Saturn Awards.
Positive critical reception of the movie generally praised the film’s scary but humorous and campy tone. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A rating, stating that “Raimi has made the most crazy, fun, and terrifying horror movie in years.” Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times praised the film, stating that it “should not be dismissed as yet another horror flick just for teens. The filmmakers have given us a 10-story winding staircase of psychological tension that is making very small circles near the end.” Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune described the film as a “hellaciously effective B-movie [that] comes with a handy moral tucked inside its scares, laughs and Raimi’s specialty, the scare/laugh hybrid.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times wrote a positive review, stating the film “is a sometimes funny and often startling horror movie. That is what it wants to be, and that is what it is.”
“I am a victim of your carnivorous lunar activities.”
39. An American Werewolf in London – (1981) – 42 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #5 – Kane)
An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 British-American horror film, written and directed by John Landis. It stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne.
The film starts with two young American men, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, the two men venture deep into the moors at night. They are attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon.
Shooting took place mostly in London but also in Surrey and Wales. It was released in the United States on August 21, 1981 and grossed $30.56 million at the box office. Critics generated mostly favourable reviews for the film. The movie won the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. The film was one of three high-profile wolf-themed horror films released in 1981, alongside The Howling and Wolfen.
Over the years, the film has accumulated a cult following and has been referred to as a cult classic. Empire magazine also named An American Werewolf in London as the 107th greatest movie of all time in September 2008.
“Why are they doing this?”
38. The Birds – (1963) – 42 points
(2 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #4 – Hirsby)
The Birds is a 1963 horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on the 1952 short story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier. It depicts Bodega Bay, California which is, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of a few days.
The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter. Though Hunter read Du Maurier’s original novel, Hitchcock told him to disregard it as all he wished to use was the title and the idea of birds attacking people.
The Birds was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Special Effects. The special effects shots of the attacking birds were done at Walt Disney Studios by animator/technician Ub Iwerks, who used the sodium vapor process (“yellow screen”) he had helped develop. The SV process films the subject against a screen lit with narrow-spectrum sodium vapor lights. Unlike most compositing processes, SVP actually shoots two separate elements of the footage simultaneously using a beam-splitter. One reel is regular film stock and the other a film stock with emulsion sensitive only to the sodium vapor wavelength. This results in very precise matte shots compared to blue screen special effects, necessary due to “fringing” of the image from the birds’ rapid wing flapping.
“You must really like Halloween.”
37. Trick ‘R Treat – (2007) – 44 points
(2 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Spoodles)
Trick ‘r Treat is a 2007 American horror film written and directed by Michael Dougherty, and based on his short film Season’s Greetings. Originally slated for an October 5, 2007 release, it was announced in September 2007 that the film had been pushed back. Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures released the film direct to DVD and Blu-ray on October 6, 2009 in North America, October 26 in the UK and October 28 in Australia.
Despite only a handful of public screenings, the film has been reviewed extensively by online journalists and bloggers, especially in the genre/horror communities, and reviews are unanimously positive. Dread Central gave it 5 out of 5 stars and stated “Trick ‘r Treat ranks alongside John Carpenter’s Halloween as traditional October viewing and I can’t imagine a single horror fan that won’t fall head over heels in love with it.” The film earned 10 out of 10 from Ryan Rotten of ShockTilYouDrop.com. It also earned an 8 out of 10 from Bloody Disgusting, who later ranked the film ninth in their list of the ‘Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade’, with the article saying, “[It’s] so good that its lack of a theatrical release borders on the criminal.” IGN attended a screening of the film and concluded, “This well-crafted Halloween horror tribute is a scary blast.”, rating it 8 out of 10 overall.
Based on 17 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall “Fresh” approval rating from critics of 85%, with an average score of 7.7/10; the site’s critical consensus states “An deftly crafted tribute to Halloween legends, Trick ‘r’ Treat hits all the genre marks with gusto and old fashioned suspense.”
“It’ll be easier next time.”
36. The Strangers – (2009) – 45 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #9 – Spoodles)
The Strangers is a 2008 American horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, and Kip Weeks. The film revolves around a young couple who are terrorized by three masked assailants, who break into the remote summer home in which they are staying and damage all means of escape.
The Strangers was made on a budget of $9 million and after two postponements, was released theatrically on May 30, 2008 in North America, and grossed $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. Although it was ambiguously marketed as being “inspired by true events”, writer and director Bryan Bertino stated that the film was inspired by a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood as a child, as well as some incidents that occurred during the Manson killings.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 146 reviews; a rating of 50% amongst Top Critics and a 57% rating based on the reviews from low critics. Metacritic reported an average score of 47 out of 100, based on 27 reviews. Among the positive reviews, Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times said The Strangers is “suspenseful,” “highly effective,” and “smartly maintain[s] its commitment to tingling creepiness over bludgeoning horror.” Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a “creepily atmospheric psychological thriller with a death grip on the psychological aspect.” James Berardinelli of ReelViews said, “This is one of those rare horror movies that concentrates on suspense and terror rather than on gore and a high body count.” Scott Tobias of The Onion’s A.V. Club said that “as an exercise in controlled mayhem, horror movies don’t get much scarier.”
“They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
35. Carrie – (1976) – 45 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #6 – Hirsby)
Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on the novel Carrie by Stephen King. The film and the novel tell the story of a socially outcast teenage girl, Carrie White, who discovers she possesses latent psionic power which seems to flare up when she becomes angry or otherwise distressed. Carrie’s powers become apparent after her humiliation by her peers, teachers, and abusive mother, eventually resulting in tragedy. The film stars Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, William Katt, John Travolta, P.J. Soles and Priscilla Pointer.
The film was a major success for United Artists, grossing $33.8 million at the U.S. box office, on a budget of $1.8 million. It received a mostly positive response from critics. The film spawned a failed sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 and a fairly well-received made for television film, released in 2002, neither of which involved De Palma. During a survey taken in October 2008, it was revealed that Carrie was considered one of the most popular movies teens watched on Halloween.
Spacek and Laurie were nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
“Where we’re going…we don’t need eyes to see!”
34. Event Horizon – (1997) – 46 points
(2 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Kyle C.)
Event Horizon is a 1997 British science fantasy horror film. The screenplay was written by Philip Eisner (with an uncredited rewrite by Andrew Kevin Walker) and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. The film stars Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill. It was #1 at the box office in the UK.
Philip Eisner pitched the idea for Event Horizon to Paramount Pictures; he had no plot, he just pitched it as “The Shining in space,” which gained a positive reception from the executives.
In the commentary Anderson mentions the wish he had to direct an R rated picture after the PG-13 rated Mortal Kombat and also mentions that he turned down the opportunity to direct X-Men in order to make Event Horizon.
Anderson said that his initial cut of the film, before the visual effects had been completed, ran to about 130 minutes in length. The film was even more graphic in this incarnation, and both test audiences and the studio were unnerved by the gore. Paramount ordered Anderson to cut the film by thirty minutes and delete some of the violence, a decision that he regrets. Some of the lost scenes were offered as special features on the 2006 DVD but were taken from poor quality video tape, the only format in which the scenes now exist; the studio had little interest in keeping unused footage and the film has since been lost.
“Satanic Ritual Abuse Syndrome. It was big in the ’80s.”
33. Session 9 – (2001) – 50 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #8 – Heather)
Session 9 is a 2001 American psychological horror film directed by Brad Anderson. It stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, and Brendan Sexton III. The plot focuses on the growing tension within an asbestos removal crew working at an abandoned mental asylum, which is paralleled by the gradual revelation of a former patient’s disturbed past through recorded audio tape of the patient’s hypnotherapy sessions. The film takes place in and around the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. The massive building in Danvers, which was part of the National Register of Historic Places, was partially demolished in 2006.
Session 9 garnered mixed reviews from critics. Based on 70 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Session 9 currently has a 60% ‘fresh’ approval rating from critics, with a weighted mean score of 6.2/10. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 58, based on 16 reviews which it characterized as “mixed or average” reviews.
Some critics praised the film’s dark and creepy atmosphere and lack of gore. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “a spine-tingler” and praised Brad Anderson’s direction. Bloody Disgusting ranked the film fifth in their list of the ‘Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade’, with the article saying “Session 9 isn’t just a cheap, hack ‘n’ slash, instantly-forgettable type horror film, but a psychologically probing, deeply unsettling journey off the edge and into the abyss of the human mind.”
“Mr. Singer. What an appropriate name for a man who can’t shut up.”
32. Jacob’s Ladder – (1990) – 50 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #5 – Alan)
Jacob’s Ladder is a 1990 American psychological thriller/horror film directed by Adrian Lyne, based on a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin.
Reception of the film was quite polarized at the time of release. According to aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, 73% of reviews of the film were positive, but the top critics were split evenly, with 50% giving it a positive review. According to film critic Roger Ebert, “This movie was not a pleasant experience, but it was exhilarating in the sense that I was able to observe filmmakers working at the edge of their abilities and inspirations.”
Jacob’s Ladder greatly inspired the horror franchise Silent Hill, including the film adaptation and the video game Silent Hill Homecoming.
“Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore.”
31. Saw – (2004) – 51 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #9 – Greg W.)
Saw is a 2004 American independent horror film directed by James Wan. The screenplay, written by Leigh Whannell, is based on a story by the latter and Wan. The film stars Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Whannell and Tobin Bell. It is the debut of Wan and Whannell and the first installment of the seven–part Saw film series.
The film’s story revolves around Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Elwes), two men who are chained in a dilapidated subterranean bathroom and are each given instructions via a microcassette recorder on how to escape. Adam is told he must escape the bathroom, while Lawrence is told to kill him before a certain time, or Lawrence’s family will die. Meanwhile, police detectives investigate and attempt to apprehend the mastermind behind the “game”.
The screenplay was written in 2001, but after failed attempts to get the script produced in Wan and Whannell’s home country, Australia, they were urged to travel to Los Angeles. In order to help attract producers they shot a low-budget short film from a scene out of the script. This proved successful in 2003 as producers from Evolution Entertainment were immediately attached and also formed a horror genre production label Twisted Pictures. The film was given a small budget and shot on a short schedule of 18 days.
“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.”
30. The Wicker Man – (1973) – 51 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – B)
The Wicker Man is a 1973 British film, combining thriller, horror and musical genres, directed by Robin Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer. The film stars Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Britt Ekland. Paul Giovanni composed the soundtrack. The film is now considered a cult classic.
Inspired by the basic scenario of David Pinner’s 1967 novel The Ritual, the story centres on the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie to the isolated island of Summerisle, in search of a missing girl the locals claim never existed. Howie is a devout Christian, and is appalled by a religion loosely inspired by Celtic paganism practised by the inhabitants of the island.
The Wicker Man is generally well regarded by critics and film enthusiasts. Film magazine Cinefantastique described it as “The Citizen Kane of Horror Movies”, and during 2004 the magazine Total Film named The Wicker Man the sixth greatest British film of all time. It also won the 1978 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. A scene from this film was #45 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
In his 2010 BBC documentary series A History of Horror, writer and actor Mark Gatiss referred to the film as a prime example of a short-lived sub-genre he called “folk horror”, grouping it with 1968’s Witchfinder General and 1971’s Blood on Satan’s Claw.
An ill received 2006 Canadian/German/American remake was produced, from which Robin Hardy and others involved with the original have disassociated themselves. The central question of the film, ‘How’d it get burned?’ remains unsolved.
“I want to tell you my secret now.”
29. The Sixth Sense – (1999) – 53 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #7 – Willie)
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American psychological thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. The film established Shyamalan as a writer and director, and introduced the cinema public to his traits, most notably his affinity for surprise endings. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The film received positive reviews from critics, with an 85% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 64 rating on Metacritic.
The film had a production budget of approximately $40 million (plus $25 million for prints and advertising). It grossed $26.6 million in its opening weekend and spent five weeks as the #1 film at the U.S. box office. It earned $293,506,292 in the United States and a worldwide gross of $672,806,292, ranking it 35th on the list of box-office money earners in the U.S. as of April 2010. In the United Kingdom, it was given at first a limited release at 9 screens, and entered at #8 before climbing up to #1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.
By vote of the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Sixth Sense was awarded the Nebula Award for Best Script during 1999. The film was #71 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the scene where Cole encounters a female ghost in his tent. It was also recently named the 89th Best Film of all time by the American Film Institute during 2007.
“The first rule of Zombieland: Cardio.”
28. Zombieland – (2009) – 59 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #4 – Spoodles)
Zombieland is a 2009 American zombie comedy film directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Together they take an extended road trip across Southwestern United States in an attempt to find a sanctuary free from zombies.
Zombieland received positive critical reviews and was a commercial success, grossing more than $60.8 million in 17 days and surpassing the 2004 film Dawn of the Dead as the top-grossing zombie film to date in the United States.
The film received critical acclaim. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 90% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 184 reviews, with a rating of 7.3/10, and a generally positive 88% approval rating from “top” critics based on 29 reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds a “generally favorable” score of 73% based on 31 reviews.
Film critic Roger Ebert was surprised by Zombieland’s ability to be significantly humorous while zombies remained the focus of the film and felt that “all of this could have been dreary, but not here. The filmmakers show invention and well-tuned comic timing”. He credited Bill Murray’s cameo appearance as receiving the “single biggest laugh” of the year, and gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. Murray’s cameo was called out for attention by other reviewers: Marc Savlov of Austin Chronicle credited it as “the single most outrageously entertaining unexpected celebrity cameo of any film—genre or otherwise—” that he had seen in a “long, long time” and that while the film did little to advance the genre, its smart script and high action made it very enjoyable.
“This…is my BOOMSTICK!”
27. Army of Darkness – (1992) – 59 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Willie)
Army of Darkness, also known as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness, is a 1992 action comedy fantasy film directed by Sam Raimi. It is the third and final installment in The Evil Dead trilogy. The film was written by Raimi and his brother Ivan, produced by Robert Tapert, and stars Bruce Campbell and Embeth Davidtz. Continuing from Evil Dead II, Ash Williams is trapped in the Middle Ages and he battles the undead in his quest to return to the present.
Army of Darkness is not as violent or gory as the prior Evil Dead films, relying more on slapstick. The film was produced as part of a production deal with Universal Studios after the financial success of Darkman. Filming took place in California in 1991. The Director’s Cut premiered in October 1992 and the Theatrical Cut was released in the US on February 19, 1993. It was a commercial success, grossing $21.5 Million, though critical response was generally less positive than the first two films. Since its video release it has acquired a cult following, along with the other two films in the trilogy.
Army of Darkness had received generally mixed to positive response from critics, with a 71% “Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 38 reviews, which made its critical reception above average but is lower than The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, which received 100% and 98% critical approval, respectively. In her review for the New York Times, Janet Maslin praised, “Mr. Campbell’s manly, mock-heroic posturing is perfectly in keeping with the director’s droll outlook”. Desson Howe, in this review for the Washington Post praised the film’s style: “Bill Pope’s cinematography is gymnastic and appropriately frenetic. The visual and make-up effects (from artist-technicians William Mesa, Tony Gardner and others) are incredibly imaginative”.
“I am your number one fan. There is nothing to worry about. You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan.”
26. Misery – (1990) – 61 points
(3 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Adam, Willie)
Misery is a 1990 American thriller film based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel of the same name. Directed by Rob Reiner, the film received critical acclaim for Kathy Bates’ performance as the psychopathic Annie Wilkes. The film was ranked #12 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
Misery received almost universally positive reviews; on the critic website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 90% “fresh” rating; the consensus states, “Elevated by standout performances from James Caan and Kathy Bates, this taut and frightening film is one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date.” Bates won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Annie Wilkes.
The genre magazine Bloody Disgusting ranked Misery fourth place in its list of “10 Claustrophobic Horror Films”. King himself has stated that Misery is one of his favorite film adaptations, in his collection “Stephen King Goes to the Movies”.
“It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps…a little blood.”
25. Nosferatu – (1922) – 64 points
(6 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – B)
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; also known as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror or simply Nosferatu) is a classic 1922 German Expressionist horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok”).
The premiere reviewers generally praised the film with some occasionally complaining that the technically perfect and brightly-lit images detracted from the unworldly horror theme. Der Film, a Berlin film magazine, praised the technical quality and the believability of Schreck’s portrayal of the vampire, but also felt that his form would have had a greater effect had it been shown more in silhouette.
This was the first and last Prana Film; the company declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker’s estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu burned, but one purported copy of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were duplicated over the years.
The movie has received not only a strong cult following, but also has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. On Rottentomatoes.com it received a “Certified Fresh” label and holds a 98% “fresh” rating based on 46 reviews. It was ranked twenty-first in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema” in 2010.
24. Cloverfield – (2008) – 65 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Heather)
Clovenfield is a 2008 American disaster-monster film directed by Matt Reeves, produced by J. J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard.
The film follows six young New Yorkers attending a going-away party on the night that a gigantic monster attacks the city. First publicized in a teaser trailer in screenings of Transformers, the film was released on January 17 in New Zealand and Australia, on January 18 in North America, on January 24 in South Korea, on January 25 in Taiwan, on January 31 in Germany and on February 1 in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in Italy. In Japan, the film was released on April 5.
Critics mostly praised Clovenfield; as of October 29, 2011, review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 192 reviews. According to Metacritic, the film has received an average score of 64, based on 37 reviews. And on Spill.com, it got their highest rating of ‘Better Than Sex!’. [ed. lol]
Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle calls the film “the most intense and original creature feature I’ve seen in my adult moviegoing life […] a pure-blood, grade A, exhilarating monster movie.” He cites Matt Reeves’ direction, the “whip-smart, stylistically invisible” script and the “nearly subconscious evocation of our current paranoid, terror-phobic times” as the keys to the film’s success, saying that telling the story through the lens of one character’s camera “works fantastically well”. Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called it “chillingly effective”, praising the effects and the film’s “claustrophobic intensity”. He said that though the characters “aren’t particularly interesting or developed”, there was “something refreshing about a monster movie that isn’t filled with the usual suspects”. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said that the film was “surreptitiously subversive, [a] stylistically clever little gem”, and that while the characters were “vapid, twenty-something nincompoops” and the acting “appropriately unmemorable”, the decision to tell the story through amateur footage was “brilliant”. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that the film is “pretty scary at times” and cites “unmistakable evocations of 9/11”. He concludes that “all in all, it is an effective film, deploying its special effects well and never breaking the illusion that it is all happening as we see it”.
“Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them.”
23. Dawn of the Dead – (1978) – 70 points
(6 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #4 – Tmbg13)
Dawn of the Dead (also known as Zombi internationally) is a 1978 zombie film, written and directed by George A. Romero. It was the second film made in Romero’s Living Dead series, but contains no characters or settings from Night of the Living Dead, and shows in larger scale a zombie epidemic’s apocalyptic effects on society. In the film, a pandemic of unknown origin has caused the reanimation of the dead, who prey on human flesh, which subsequently causes mass hysteria. The cast features David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross as survivors of the outbreak who barricade themselves inside a suburban shopping mall.
Dawn of the Dead was shot over approximately four months, from late 1977 to early 1978, in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh and Monroeville. Its primary filming location was the Monroeville Mall. The film was made on a relatively modest budget estimated at $650,000 US, and was a significant box office success for its time, grossing an estimated $55 million worldwide. Since opening in theaters in 1978, and despite heavy gore content, reviews for the film have been nearly unanimously positive.
In addition to four official sequels, the film has spawned numerous parodies and pop culture references. A remake of the movie premiered in the United States on March 19, 2004. It was labeled a “re-imagining” of the original film’s concept. It retains several major themes of the original film along with the primary setting in a shopping mall. In 2008, Dawn of the Dead was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
“It seems that envy is my sin.”
22. Seven – (1995) – 72 points
(6 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #4 – Kane)
Seven (stylized in some publications as Se7en) is a 1995 American thriller film, which also contains horror and neo-noir elements, directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. It was distributed by New Line Cinema and stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey and Kevin Spacey.
David Mills (Pitt) and William Somerset (Freeman) are police detectives working in a crime-filled city, who become deeply involved in a case involving a series of sadistic murders. Each murder corresponds to one of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, envy, lust, pride, sloth, greed and wrath.
Filming took place in Los Angeles, California. The film was released in the United States on September 22, 1995. Grossing $327 million at the box office internationally, Seven was a commercial success, and received very positive reviews from most critics.
The film was highly acclaimed by critics and currently has an 85% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Gary Arnold, in the Washington Times, praised the cast: “The film’s ace in the hole is the personal appeal generated by Mr. Freeman as the mature, cerebral cop and Mr. Pitt as the young, headstrong cop. Not that the contrast is inspired or believable in itself. What gets to you is the prowess of the co-stars as they fill out sketchy character profiles”. Sheila Johnston, in her review for The Independent, praised Freeman’s performance: “the film belongs to Freeman and his quiet, carefully detailed portrayal of the jaded older man who learns not to give up the fight”. In his review for Sight and Sound, John Wrathall wrote, “Seven has the scariest ending since George Sluizer’s original The Vanishing…and stands as the most complex and disturbing entry in the serial killer genre since Manhunter”.
Seven is a great kids name.
“He has his father’s eyes.”
21. Rosemary’s Baby – (1968) – 72 points
(4 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Alan)
Rosemary’s Baby is a 1968 American horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel by Ira Levin. The cast includes Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer, and Charles Grodin.
Farrow plays a pregnant woman who fears that her husband may have made a pact with their eccentric neighbours, believing he may have promised them the child to be used as a human sacrifice in their occult rituals in exchange for success in his acting career.
In her review for The New York Times, Renata Adler said, “The movie—although it is pleasant—doesn’t seem to work on any of its dark or powerful terms. I think this is because it is almost too extremely plausible. The quality of the young people’s lives seems the quality of lives that one knows, even to the point of finding old people next door to avoid and lean on. One gets very annoyed that they don’t catch on sooner.”
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a brooding, macabre film, filled with the sense of unthinkable danger. Strangely enough it also has an eerie sense of humor almost until the end. It is a creepy film and a crawly film, and a film filled with things that go bump in the night. It is very good…much more than just a suspense story; the brilliance of the film comes more from Polanski’s direction, and from a series of genuinely inspired performances, than from the original story . . . The best thing that can be said about the film, I think, is that it works. Polanski has taken a most difficult situation and made it believable, right up to the end. In this sense, he even outdoes Hitchcock.”
Variety stated, “Several exhilarating milestones are achieved in Rosemary’s Baby, an excellent film version of Ira Levin’s diabolical chiller novel. Writer-director Roman Polanski has triumphed in his first US-made pic. The film holds attention without explicit violence or gore . . . Farrow’s performance is outstanding.”
Today, the film is widely regarded as a classic; the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 98% “Certified Fresh” rating (53 out of 54 reviews), with the site’s consensus stating “A frightening tale of Satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon”.
“You’d never think it. Needing rain so badly.”
20. 28 Days Later – (2002) – 85 points
(11 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Patrick)
28 Days Later is an acclaimed 2002 British horror film directed by Danny Boyle. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland, and the film stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, and Christopher Eccleston. The plot depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious “rage” virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors to cope with the ruination of the life they once knew.
A critical and commercial success, the film is widely recognised for images of a deserted London, and was shot almost entirely on digital video. The film spawned a 2007 sequel, 28 Weeks Later, a graphic novel entitled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, which expands on the timeline of the outbreak, and a 2009 comic book series 28 Days Later.
Critical views of the film were very positive. Based on 199 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 89% of critics gave 28 Days Later a positive review. On Metacritic, it received a 73 (out of 100) based on 39 reviews. The Los Angeles Times described it as a “stylistic tour de force,” and efilmcritic.com called it “raw, blistering and joyously uncompromising.”
“That’s the last goddamn hitchhiker I ever pick up.”
19. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – (1974) – 86 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #8 – Greg W.)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a 1974 American independent horror film directed and produced by Tobe Hooper, who cowrote it with Kim Henkel. It stars Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, and Gunnar Hansen, who respectively portray Sally Hardesty, Franklin Hardesty, the hitchhiker, the proprietor, and Leatherface, the main antagonist. The film follows a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals while on their way to visit an old homestead. Although it was marketed as a true story to attract a wider audience and as a subtle commentary on the era’s political climate, its plot is entirely fictional; however the character of Leatherface and minor plot details were inspired by the crimes of real-life murderer Ed Gein.
Hooper produced the film for less than $300,000 and used a cast of relatively unknown actors drawn mainly from central Texas, where the film was shot. The limited budget forced Hooper to film for long hours seven days a week, so that he could finish as quickly as possible and reduce equipment rental costs. Due to the film’s violent content, Hooper struggled to find a distributor. Louis Perano of Bryanston Pictures eventually purchased the distribution rights. Hooper limited the quantity of onscreen gore in hopes of securing a “PG” (Parental Guidance) rating, but the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rated it “R” (Restricted; children under 17 require a parent or guardian). The film faced similar difficulties internationally.
Upon its October 1974 release, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was banned outright in several countries, and numerous theaters later stopped showing the film in response to complaints about its violence. While it initially drew a mixed reception from critics, it was enormously profitable, grossing over $30 million at the domestic box office. It has since gained a reputation as one of the most influential horror films in cinema history. It is credited with originating several elements common in the slasher genre, including the use of power tools as murder weapons and the characterization of the killer as a large, hulking, faceless figure. The popularity of the film led to a franchise that continued the story of Leatherface and his family through sequels, remakes, comic books, and video games.
“I feel it. I feel it breathing on me.”
18. Paranormal Activity – (2007) – 86 points
(8 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Kyle C.)
Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. The film centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. It is presented in the style of “found footage,” from a camera set up by the couple in an attempt to photograph what is haunting them.
Originally developed as an independent feature, the film was acquired by Paramount Pictures. It received a limited U.S. release on September 25, 2009 and nationwide release on October 16, 2009. The film earned nearly $108 million at the U.S. box office and $194 million worldwide.
The film received positive critical reception upon release. Based on 184 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval ‘certified fresh’ rating from critics of 82%. Movie critics James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert each awarded it 3.5 stars out of a maximum of 4 stars. Ebert stated in his review: “It illustrates one of my favorite points, that silence and waiting can be more entertaining than frantic fast-cutting and berserk f/x. For extended periods here, nothing at all is happening, and believe me, you won’t be bored.” Bloody Disgusting ranked the film 16th in their list of the “Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade”, with the article saying, “Peli deserves props for milking the maximum amount of tension out of the spare, modern setting – an ordinary, cookie-cutter tract home in San Diego. It doesn’t sound very scary, but Peli manages to make it terrifying.
“I think before you die, you see the ring…”
17. The Ring – (2002) – 87 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #9 – Jen F.)
The Ring is a 2002 American psychological horror film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson. It is a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ring (or Ringu).
Both films are based on Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring and focus on a mysterious cursed videotape which contains a seemingly random series of disturbing images. After watching the tape, the viewer receives a phone call in which a girl’s voice announces that the viewer will die in seven days. The film was a critical and commercial success.
The Ring met with generally positive reviews from film critics, receiving 72% favorable reviews out of 167 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Metacritic score of 57/100 (mixed or average) from 36 reviews. On the television program Ebert & Roeper, Richard Roeper gave the film “Thumbs Up” and said it was very gripping and scary despite some minor unanswered questions. IGN’s Jeremy Conrad praised the movie for its atmospheric set up and cinematography, and said that “there are ‘disturbing images’… but the film doesn’t really rely on gore to deliver the scares. … The Ring relies on atmosphere and story to deliver the jumps, not someone being cleaved in half by a glass door.” Film Threat’s Jim Agnew called it “dark, disturbing and original throughout. You know that you’re going to see something a little different than your usual studio crap.” Verbinski was praised for slowly revealing the plot while keeping the audience interested, “the twists keep on coming, and Verbinski shows a fine-tuned gift for calibrating and manipulating viewer expectations.”
“I ought to drag you out there and FEED you to those things!”
16. Night of the Living Dead – (1968) – 92 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #5 – Willie, Patrick)
Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent black-and-white zombie film and cult film directed by George A. Romero, starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea and Karl Hardman. It premiered on October 1, 1968, and was completed on a USD$114,000 budget. After decades of cinematic re-releases, it grossed $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. Night of the Living Dead was heavily criticized during its release because of its explicit content; but received critical acclaim and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The film entered the public domain due to an error by the distributor.
The plot of the film follows Ben Huss (Duane Jones), Barbra (Judith O’Dea), and five others trapped in a rural farmhouse in Pennsylvania while the house is attacked by reanimated corpses, commonly known as ‘ghouls’ or ‘zombies’. Night of the Living Dead is the origin of six other Living Dead films directed by George A. Romero and became the inspiration for two remakes of the film, a 1990 film of the same name directed by Tom Savini and Night of the Living Dead 3D in 2006, which was directed by Jeff Broadstreet and contained a different storyline.
More than 40 years after its release, the film enjoys a reputation as a classic and still receives positive reviews; Night of the Living Dead currently holds a 96% “Certified Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, and it is regarded by many as one of the best films of 1968. In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. In January 2010, Total Film included the film on its list of The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
“This was no boat accident.”
15. Jaws – (1975) – 94 points
(6 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Dave S.)
Jaws is a 1975 American horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name. The police chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Roy Scheider stars as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as the Mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody’s wife, Ellen.
The film was shot on location at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and had a troubled production, going over budget and schedule. As the mechanical sharks suffered many malfunctions, Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the animal’s presence, by utilizing an ominous yet subdued theme noted film composer John Williams had created to describe the shark’s impending appearances. Jaws is regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster film and one of the first “high concept” films. Because of the film’s success in advance screenings, studio executives decided to distribute it in a much wider release pattern than ever before employed. The Omen followed suit in the summer of 1976, and then Star Wars one year later in 1977, cementing the notion for movie studios to distribute their big-release action and adventure pictures (commonly referred to as tentpole pictures) during the summer months.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, Jaws appeared at number 48 on American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time, dropping down to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list. It ranked second on a similar list for thrillers, 100 Years… 100 Thrills and was number one on Bravo’s list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
“I’ll swallow your soul!”
14. Evil Dead II – (1987) – 101 points
(5 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Kane)
Evil Dead II, also known as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, is a 1987 horror comedy film directed by Sam Raimi. It is a retcon sequel to the 1981 film The Evil Dead. The film was written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel, produced by Rob Tapert and starring Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. Raimi and Spiegel wrote the script during production of Crimewave.
Filming took place in Michigan and North Carolina in 1986 and the film was released in the United States on March 13, 1987. It was a minor box office success, achieving just under $6 million. As of 2006, the total US box office gross is $10.9 million. It also received critical acclaim. Observers praised Raimi for the direction and Campbell for his role in the film. Evil Dead II was eventually followed by the 1992 film Army of Darkness.
Evil Dead II received very positive reviews from critics and audience members; it holds a 98% “Certified Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. On a similar website Metacritic, it holds a score of 69/100 (generally favorable) with a user rating of 9.2/10. Empire magazine praised the film saying “the gaudily gory, virtuoso, hyper-kinetic horror sequel/remake uses every trick in the cinematic book” and confirms that “Bruce Campbell and Raimi are gods” and Caryn James of The New York Times called it “genuine, if bizarre, proof of Sam Raimi’s talent and developing skill.” Leonard Maltin originally rated the film with two stars, but later increased the rating to three stars.
“You’re going to die up there.”
13. The Exorcist – (1973) – 105 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #5 – Kyle C.)
The Exorcist is a 1973 American horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted from the 1971 novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty and based on the exorcism case of Robbie Mannheim, dealing with the demonic possession of a young girl and her mother’s desperate attempts to win back her daughter through an exorcism conducted by two priests. The film features Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Linda Blair. The film is one of a cycle of ‘demonic child’ movies produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.
The Exorcist was released theatrically in the United States by Warner Bros. on December 26, 1973. The film earned ten Academy Award nominations—winning two, one for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay, and losing Best Picture to The Sting. It became one of highest earning movies of all time, grossing $441 million worldwide.
The film has had a huge effect on popular culture. It was named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly and Movies.com and by viewers of AMC in 2006, and was #3 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The film was selected in 2010 to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry.
“Now, you tell me. Am I different somehow?”
12. The Fly – (1986) – 110 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #7 – Andy)
The Fly is a 1986 science fiction horror film co-written and directed by David Cronenberg. Produced by 20th Century Fox, and Brooksfilms, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz. It is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, but retains only the basic premise of a scientist accidentally merging with a housefly during a teleportation experiment. Some critics saw the film as a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic. The score was composed by Howard Shore and the make-up effects were created by Chris Walas, who won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
Upon its release, The Fly was critically acclaimed, as was Goldblum’s tour de force performance. Despite being a gory remake of a classic made by a controversial, non-mainstream director, the film was a huge commercial success, the biggest of Cronenberg’s career, and was the top-grossing film in the United States for two weeks, earning a total domestic gross of $40,456,565. Audiences reacted strongly to the graphic creature effects and the tragic love story, and the film received much attention at the time of its release.
David Cronenberg was surprised when The Fly became embraced as a cultural metaphor for AIDS, since he originally intended the film to be a more general analogy for disease itself, terminal conditions like cancer and, more specifically, the aging process: “If you, or your lover, has AIDS, you watch that film and of course you’ll see AIDS in it, but you don’t have to have that experience to respond emotionally to the movie and I think that’s really its power… This is not to say that AIDS didn’t have an incredible impact on everyone and of course after a certain point people were seeing AIDS stories everywhere so I don’t take any offense that people see that in my movie. For me, though, there was something about The Fly story that was much more universal to me: aging and death–something all of us have to deal with.”
“You bastards, why are you torturing me like this?”
11. The Evil Dead – (1981) – 112 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Kane)
The Evil Dead is a 1981 horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, and Betsy Baker. The film is a story of five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a wooded area. Their vacation becomes gruesome when they find an audiotape that releases evil spirits.
The film premiered in Michigan on October 15, 1981. The film was extremely controversial for its graphic horror, bloody violence, and gory scenes, being initially turned down by almost all U.S. film distributors until a European company finally bought it in the Cannes Film Festival marketplace in May 1982. It was finally given a US direct-to-video release in early 1983 as a film. In 1994 a heavily censored version was shown in US theaters and received an NC-17 rating. The film was a moderate success at the box office, grossing a total of $2,400,000 in the U.S upon its initial release, against a budget of probably no more than $400,000.
The Evil Dead received mixed reviews upon its release but over the years its critical reputation has grown considerably. Based on 45 reviews, the film holds a 100% “Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes; the site’s consensus states “This classic low budget horror film combines just the right amount of gore and black humor, giving The Evil Dead an equal amount of thrills and laughs.” The film was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the 400 candidates for AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills, a list of America’s most heart-pounding films.
The tree rape scene has been described by some as being misogynistic. Raimi has since stated he regrets putting it in the film.
“It appears we may have a problem of some magnitude.”
10. The Mist – (2007) – 116 points
(8 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Patrick)
The Mist (also known as Stephen King’s The Mist) is a 2007 American science-fiction horror film based on the 1980 novella of the same name by Stephen King. The film is written and directed by Frank Darabont, who had previously adapted Stephen King’s works The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Darabont had been interested in adapting The Mist for the big screen since the 1980s. The film features an ensemble cast including Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Samuel Witwer, Toby Jones, Nathan Gamble, Andre Braugher, and Frances Sternhagen.
Darabont began filming The Mist in Shreveport, Louisiana in February 2007. The director revised the ending of the film to be darker than the novella’s ending, a change to which Stephen King was amenable. Unique creature designs were also sought to differ from creatures in past films. The Mist was commercially released in the United States and Canada on November 21, 2007. The Mist performed well at the box office and received generally positive reviews.
James Berardinelli wrote of the film, “The Mist is what a horror film should be – dark, tense, and punctuated by just enough gore to keep the viewer’s flinch reflex intact. … Finally, after a long list of failures, someone has done justice in bringing one of King’s horror stories to the screen. Though definitely not the feel-good movie of the season, this is a must-see for anyone who loves the genre and doesn’t demand “torture porn” from horror.”
Bloody Disgusting ranked the film #4 on their list of the ‘Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade’, with the article saying “The scary stuff works extremely well, but what really drives this one home is Darabont’s focus on the divide that forms between two factions of the townspeople – the paranoid, Bible-thumping types and the more rational-minded, decidedly left-wing members of the populace. This allegorical microcosm of Bush Jr.-era America is spot on, and elevates an already-excellent film to even greater heights.”
“I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open them.”
9. The Blair Witch Project – (1999) – 118 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Adam)
The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 American horror film pieced together from amateur footage. The film was produced by the Haxan Films production company. The film relates the story of three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams) who hiked into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch, and disappeared. The viewers are told that the three were never seen or heard from again, although their video and sound equipment (along with most of the footage they shot) was discovered a year later. This “recovered footage” is presented as the film the viewer is watching.
The Blair Witch Project is thought to be the first widely released film marketed primarily on the Internet. The film grossed $248,639,099 worldwide, compared to its final budget, which ranged between $500,000 and $750,000.
Rotten Tomatoes provides links to 127 reviews for the film, with 84% of these reviews being favorable. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four stars, calling it “an extraordinarily effective horror film”. It was listed on Filmcritic.com as the 50th best movie ending of all time. Critics praised Donahue’s apology to the camera near the end of the movie, saying it would cause “nightmares for years to come”; Roger Ebert compared this sequence to Robert Scott’s final journal entries as he froze to death in the Antarctic. Donahue has stated that there was a considerable backlash against her because of her association with the film, which she claims led to her having threatening encounters and difficulty obtaining employment.
The Blair Witch Project was given a Global Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay and won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award. Conversely, the film was nominated for the 1999 Razzie Award for Worst Picture. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named The Blair Witch Project one of “the 100 best films from 1983 to 2008”, ranking it at #99. In 2006, Chicago Film Critics Association listed it as one of the “Top 100 Scariest Movies”, ranking it #12.
“There was… there was this guy; he had knives for fingers.”
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street – (1984) – 124 points
(8 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Spoodles)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American slasher film directed and written by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film features Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers who, if they fall asleep, will be killed by Fred Krueger in their dreams, thus causing their deaths in reality. The teenagers are unaware of the cause of this strange phenomenon, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago.
Craven produced A Nightmare on Elm Street on an estimated budget of just $1.8 million, a sum the film earned back during its first week. An instant commercial success, the film’s total United States box office gross is $25.5 million. A Nightmare on Elm Street was met with rave critical reviews and went on to make a very significant impact on the horror genre, spawning a franchise consisting of a line of sequels, a television series, a crossover with Friday the 13th, a remake, and various other works of imitation.
The film is credited with carrying on many tropes found in low-budget horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, originating in John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film Halloween, including the morality play that revolves around sexual promiscuity in teenagers resulting in their eventual (usually graphic) death, leading to the term “slasher film”. Critics and film historians argue that the film’s premise is the question of the distinction between dreams and reality, which is manifested in the film through the teenagers’ dreams and their realities. Critics today praise the film’s ability to transgress “the boundaries between the imaginary and real”, toying with audience perceptions.
“It’s full of leathery objects, like eggs or something.”
7. Alien – (1979) – 126 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Jen F.)
Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The film’s title refers to its primary antagonist: a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature which stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship. Dan O’Bannon wrote the screenplay from a story by he and Ronald Shusett, drawing influence from previous works of science fiction and horror. The film was produced through Brandywine Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox, with producers David Giler and Walter Hill making significant revisions and additions to the script. The titular Alien and its accompanying elements were designed by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the human aspects of the film.
Alien garnered both critical acclaim and box office success, receiving an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction for Scott, and Best Supporting Actress for Cartwright, and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, along with numerous other award nominations. It has remained highly praised in subsequent decades, being inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2002 for historical preservation as a film which is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In 2008 it was ranked as the seventh-best film in the science fiction genre by the American Film Institute, and as the thirty-third greatest movie of all time by Empire magazine.
An initial screening of Alien for 20th Century Fox representatives in St. Louis suffered from poor sound in the theater. A subsequent screening in a newer theater in Dallas went significantly better, eliciting genuine fright from the audience. Two theatrical trailers were shown to the public. The first consisted of rapidly changing still images set to some of Jerry Goldsmith’s electronic music from Logan’s Run. The second used test footage of a hen’s egg set to part of Goldsmith’s Alien score. The film was previewed in various American cities in the spring of 1979 and was promoted by the tagline “In space no one can hear you scream.”
“It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
6. Halloween – (1978) – 129 points
(9 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Andy, Dave S.)
Halloween is a 1978 American independent horror film directed, produced, and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut and the first installment in the Halloween franchise. The film is set in the fictional midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. On Halloween, six year old Michael Myers murders his older sister by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital, returns home, and stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends. Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis suspects Michael’s intentions, and follows him to Haddonfield to try to prevent him from killing.
Halloween was produced on a budget of $325,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, and $60 million worldwide, equivalent to over $203 million as of 2010, becoming one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Halloween had many imitators and originated several clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many of its imitators, Halloween contains little graphic violence and gore. In 2006, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by identifying audiences with its villain. Other critics have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers’s victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as chaste and innocent hence her survival (the lone survivor is seen smoking marijuana in one scene). Carpenter dismisses such analyses. Several of Halloween’s techniques and plot elements, although not founded in this film, have nonetheless become a standard slasher movie trope.
“They don’t have a name for what he is.”
5. The Silence of the Lambs – (1991) – 132 points
(7 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Kane, Greg W.)
The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. It was directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, and Scott Glenn. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, his second to feature Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.
The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and grossed over $272 million. The film won the top five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Silence of the Lambs was a sleeper hit that gradually gained widespread success and critical acclaim; Rotten Tomatoes records that The Silence of the Lambs received a 96% “fresh” rating. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster also received praise for their performances. Roger Ebert specifically mentioned the “terrifying qualities” of Hannibal Lecter, and has since recognized the film as a “horror masterpiece”, alongside such classics as Nosferatu, Psycho, and Halloween.
“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
4. Psycho – (1960) – 158 points
(9 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Jen F.)
Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who lived just 40 miles from Bloch.
The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Leigh), hiding at a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel’s disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates (Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.
Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics. The film spawned two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and a television movie spin-off. In 1992, the film was selected to be preserved by The Library of Congress at The National Film Registry.
Initial reviews of the film were thoroughly mixed. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, “There is not an abundance of subtlety or the lately familiar Hitchcock bent toward significant and colorful scenery in this obviously low-budget job.” Crowther called the “slow buildups to sudden shocks” reliably melodramatic but contested Hitchcock’s psychological points, reminiscent of Krafft-Ebing’s studies, as less effective. Positive reviews stated, “Anthony Perkins’ performance is the best of his career… Janet Leigh has never been better”, “played out beautifully”, and “first American movie since Touch of Evil to stand in the same creative rank as the great European films.”
The public loved the film, with lines stretching outside of theaters as people had to wait for the next showing. It broke box-office records in Japan, China and the rest of Asia, France, Britain, South America, the United States, and Canada, and was a moderate success in Australia for a brief period. It is one of the largest-grossing black-and-white films and helped make Hitchcock a multimillionaire and the third-largest shareholder in Universal. Psycho was, by a large margin, the top moneymaking film of Hitchcock’s career, earning $11,200,000 ($82.5 million in 2010, adjusted for inflation).
“You hang up on me again and I’ll gut you like a fish!”
3. Scream – (1996) – 159 points
(12 of 15 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Spoodles)
Scream is a 1996 American slasher film written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven. The film stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, and David Arquette. Released on December 20, 1996, Scream follows the character of Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a high school student in the fictional town of Woodsboro, who becomes the target of a mysterious killer known as Ghostface. Other main characters include Sidney’s best friend Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan), Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), film geek Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), deputy sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette), and news reporter Gale Weathers (Cox). The film combined comedy and “whodunit” mystery with the violence of the slasher genre to satirize the cliché of the horror genre popularized in films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. The film was considered unique at the time of its release for featuring characters who were aware of real world horror films and openly discussed the cliché that Scream attempted to subvert.
Based partly on the real-life case of the Gainesville Ripper, Scream was inspired by Williamson’s passion for horror films, especially Halloween (1978). The script, originally titled Scary Movie, was bought by Dimension Films and was retitled by the Weinstein Brothers just before filming was complete. The production faced censorship issues with the Motion Picture Association of America and obstacles from locals while filming on location. The film went on to financial and critical acclaim, earning $173 million worldwide, and became the highest-grossing slasher film in the US in unadjusted dollars. It received several awards and award nominations. The soundtrack by Marco Beltrami was also acclaimed, and was cited as “[one] of the most intriguing horror scores composed in years”. It has since earned “cult status”. Scream marked a change in the genre as it cast already-established and successful actors, which was considered to have helped it find a wider audience, including a significant female viewership.
Scream was credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the 1990s, which was considered to be almost dead following an influx of direct-to-video titles and numerous sequels to established horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s. These sequels drew decreasing financial and critical success, as they exploited clichés that films in the genre had become reliant upon. Scream’s success spawned a series of sequels, though only the first of them achieved a level of commercial and critical success equal to the original film. In the years following the release of Scream, the film was accused of inspiring and even inducing violent crimes and murders.
“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while…see what happens…”
2. The Thing – (1982) – 190 points
(9 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 2 #1 Votes – Tmbg13, Patrick)
The Thing (also known as John Carpenter’s The Thing) is a 1982 science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, and starring Kurt Russell. The film’s title refers to its primary antagonist: a parasitic extraterrestrial lifeform that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them. The Thing infiltrates an Antarctic research station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it kills, and paranoia occurs within the group.
Ostensibly a remake of the classic 1951 Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby film The Thing from Another World, Carpenter’s film is in fact an adaptation more faithful in its premise and characters to the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. which inspired the 1951 film, and not a remake in the conventional sense. Carpenter considers The Thing to be the first part of his Apocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. Although the films are unrelated, each features a potentially apocalyptic scenario; should “The Thing” ever reach civilization, it would be only a matter of time before it consumes humanity and takes over the Earth.
Despite mixed contemporary reviews, the film has been reappraised substantially in the years following its release, and now maintains an 80% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s consensus stating “Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.” It’s been listed as one of the best of 1982 by Filmsite.org and Film.com. The film ranked #97 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Journey Through Sci-Fi (100 Best-Reviewed Sci-Fi Movies), and a scene from The Thing was listed as #48 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 17th scariest film ever made. The Thing was named “the scariest movie … ever!” by the staff of the Boston Globe. In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
“Danny isn’t here, Mrs. Torrance.”
1. The Shining – (1980) – 262 points
(13 of 15 lists. Highest ranking 4 #1 Votes – Adam, Andy, Greg, Hirsby)
The Shining is a 1980 psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. A writer, Jack Torrance, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at an isolated hotel. His young son possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Soon after settling in, the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, and Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence; he descends into madness and attempts to murder his wife and son.
Unlike previous Kubrick films, which developed an audience gradually by building on word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, opening at first in just two cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide a month later. Although initial response to the film was mixed, later critical assessment was more favorable and it is now viewed as a classic of the horror genre. Film director Martin Scorsese, writing in The Daily Beast, ranked it as one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Film critics, film students, and Kubrick’s producer, Jan Harlan, have all remarked on the enormous influence the film has had on popular culture.
The film had a slow start at the box office, but gained momentum, eventually doing well commercially and making Warner Bros. a profit. It opened at first to mixed reviews. For example, Variety was critical, saying “With everything to work with, […] Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.” It was the only one of Kubrick’s last nine films to get no nominations at all from either the Oscars or Golden Globes, but was nominated for a pair of Razzie Awards, including Worst Director and Worst Actress (Duvall), in the very first year that award was given. (At that time, the Raspberries were voted on by a tiny handful of friends of Raspberry founder John Wilson. This was long before the voting body expanded to a large international committee that included reputable film critics and industry professionals.)
As with most Kubrick films, more recent analyses have treated the film more favorably. A common initial criticism was the slow pacing which was highly atypical of horror films of the time; viewers subsequently decided this actually contributes to the film’s hypnotic quality. Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 88% “Certified Fresh”.
Thanks to all who participated! Keep an eye out for our next collaborative list, hopefully coming soon!