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The 25 Best Horror Movies of All Time

October 31, 2009  |  7:00am
Few people recognize horror films for what they truly are: a form of education. Guardian journalist Ryan Gibley recently made the argument that children should be exposed to scary movies, suggesting that "children don't only like to be frightened - they need it too, if their emotional development is to be complete," with children's author Joanna Nadin chiming in that "being scared is a rite of passage, but a pleasurable one. I don't see the gain in mollycoddling. I'd be devastated to find out now that I had missed out on, say, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood getting chopped open, and Granny being found inside."

Just like those tales from The Brothers Grimm, these celluloid parables can serve as poignant warnings against our extreme ambitions (Frankenstein's Monster, The Fly), our unfounded prejudices (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Carrie), and even warnings against homicidal butchers with grudges against fornicating teenagers (ummm...lots of movies). Although we'll be the first to admit that the genre in question has produced its fair share of lackluster entries (In fact, here are our 25 favorites!), there exist scores of horror films that are just as complex, intellectual and visual as our favorite works that don't feature severed heads and radiated bugs.

Here is Paste's list of the 25 Best Horror Movies of All Time. Let us know yours in the comments. 

25. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


Taking a big hint from another entry on this list, The Cabinet of Caligari, Wes Craven warps reality and tackles one of humanity's primal fears: the dark. Freddy Kruger stomps through intangible dreamscapes, tormenting a group of teenagers by denying them sleep lest he kill them in a series of extremely creative disembowelments. Technology and creativity merged in this feature to create a searing illustration of fatigue and color that has yet to be effectively replicated.

24. 28 Days Later (2002)

 

Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland reconstructed an entire monster archetype with their introduction of the "Rage" virus, a nasty bug that makes zombies a lot more faster, feral and aggressive than grandaddy George A. Romero's lethargic corpses ever were. More interested in positing a gruesome analogy to the western world's political isolation during the second Iraqi war, the results nonetheless give a visceral thrill-ride through an abandoned England with crackling chemistry between leading man Cillian Murphy and his costars.

23. Phantasm (1979)

 

We've all seen enough vampires, werewolves, zombies and mummies to last a dozen after-lifes, but it takes true vision to create a monster mythology from scratch. Don Coscarelli, the creator of The Beastmaster and Bubba Ho-tep, is known most for his contribution of the Tall Man, a gaunt undertaker who churns dead corpses into midget underlings in pursuit of world domination. Crazy, kooky and downright bizarre, Phantasm is a breath of fresh mausoleum air in a sea of stale sequels and re-imaginings.

22. Friday the 13th (1980)


Before the myriad laughable sequels, there was this legitimately freaky classic. It gave us post-coital violence, Kevin Bacon and Mrs. Vorhees, the best mascot of effed-up mother/son relationships since Psycho. Its legacy might be tarnished now, but this first flick's last scene is still scary enough to keep us from ever setting foot in a canoe again.

21. Paranormal Activity (2007)


From Jesus Christ tossing a legion of unclean spirits over a cliff in Matthew 8:32 to Linda Blair spewing day-glo pea soup in modern day Georgetown, the Judeo-Christian demon has been one of pop culture's most prominent antagonists for a millennia plus. First-time director Oren Peli introduces a whole new generation to the diabolical boogeyman utilizing a scare tactic nary found in the horror genre: intimacy. Using a claustrophobic camera setup focused around a single room, Paranormal Activity draws the audience into a series of twisted home movies that witness a couple terrorized from forces beyond the veil. We're confident to call this 2-year-old indie bombshell an immediate classic.

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