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The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time

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The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time

This list has been a long time coming for Paste. We are fortunate—some would say “cool enough”—to have quite a lot of genre expertise to call upon when it comes to horror in particular. Several Paste staff writers and editors are lifelong horror geeks, and there’s also a strong sentiment toward the macabre among several of our more prolific contributing writers. Case in point: We have so many writers focused on horror that we’ve produced huge lists of the 70 best horror films on Netflix, or the 100 best horror films on Shudder, both within the last year. We’ve kept you up to date with the 10 best horror movies of 2017 so far. We’ve even given you the likes of the 50 best zombie movies of all time, and the 100 best vampire movies of all time, if you can believe that.

And yet, somehow, despite all that expertise, we’ve never put together a definitive ranking of the best horror films of all time. That ends now, with the list below: a practical, must-see guide through the history of the horror genre.

There are classic films on this list, of course. There are also likely a handful of independent features that will be unknown to all but the most dedicated horror hounds. There are foreign films from around the globe, entries that range from 1922 to 2017. In some cases, you will likely be shocked by films that are missing. In others, you’ll find yourself surprised to see us going to bat for films that don’t deserve the derision they’ve received.

One thing is for certain: With all the films that were nominated, we could easily have made this list 200 entries long. Horror cinema speaks toward the dark side in all of us, allowing us to confront the most frightening, primal forces we struggle with every day—death, and human malevolence—in a way that is actually constructive in strengthening the psyche. In the oddest of ways, horror movies help us overcome our own fears.

So let’s get started: The 100 best horror films of all time.


100. Vampyros Lesbos, 1971
Director: Jesús Franco

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“Jess” Franco is a legend among students of independent and Euro cinema, a galvanizing and polarizing figure whose prodigious output during the ’60s-’80s and onward (until his death in 2013) made him both an idol and an outcast. Even at the age of 82, in the year of his death, Franco was hard at work playing himself in a sly meta-comedy, Revenge of the Alligator Women, but it’s 1971’s Vampyros Lesbos that remains his best remembered and most celebrated work. It catches him in an in-between period, after his earlier, sincere horror efforts and before the erotic, Marquis de Sade-esque fantasias he would go on to direct. The Countess Nadine Carody, played by the alluring Soledad Miranda, is indeed a vampire, but her status as a monster is ultimately less important than the twisted love affair that ensues between her and protagonist Linda. With a space-age psychedelic soundtrack that heralded much of his work to come, Vampyros Lesbos feels like a grungier, eroticized answer to the Italian giallo films of Mario Bava. The acting is at times absurd, but the mesmerizing interplay of darkness, color and human flesh has a pervasive, lasting pull that has never quite dissipated in the decades that followed. —Jim Vorel


99. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, 1964
Director: José Mojica Marins

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José Mojica Marins was a successful director of westerns and dramas before he donned a top hat to embody the character that would make him infamous in South American film. An undertaker/gravedigger in a small Brazilian town, Coffin Joe is basically pure evil personified, at least from the perspective of a Brazilian Catholic. He’s a psychopath and misanthrope who hates mankind, women and especially God. Indeed, it’s the intensity and neutrality of Joe’s sense of evil that makes him so memorable—he’s not a devil worshiper or a man with a grand plan, besides his desire to impregnate the “perfect woman” with his son. He doesn’t believe in God, and he doesn’t believe in the supernatural—all he believes in is his innate sense of superiority that justifies his ability to be wantonly cruel or straight up murderous to everyone around him. He kills his best friend because he wants to sleep with his wife. He kills his own wife via spider poison because she’s infertile. He rails in a drunken stupor against God himself, defying the almighty directly and inviting retribution. He tears peoples’ eyeballs out with his bare hands. For 1964, the level of brutality is truly shocking—keep in mind that this is a full four years before Night of the Living Dead, which was hailed in the United States as one of the goriest black-and-white movies ever made, but it has nothing on Coffin Joe. If the film had been made in the U.S., it would surely be far better known. Marin’s is simply a magnetic presence in both this and the sequel, which had an equally awesome name: This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse. —Jim Vorel


98. The Tingler, 1959
Director: William Castle

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For William Castle, going to the movies was a matter of life and death. Or at least he wanted to convince you as much: If he didn’t have you believing you had some serious stakes in what was happening onscreen, then he—the 20th century’s consummate cinematic showman—wasn’t doing his job. So begins The Tingler, Castle’s 1959 creature feature, wherein the director appears on screen like a B-grade Alfred Hitchcock to remind the audience that what they’re about to see is hardly a lark. Fear is a natural but serious affliction, a building-up of poisonous humors within one’s nervous system, and so it must be addressed should you endure the film he’s about to show you. The only way to live through The Tingler? You’re going to have to scream. And, to prove his medical conclusions, Castle introduces us to Dr. Chapin (Vincent Price at the height of his weirdo sophisticate phase), a man who believes that every human being has a parasite living in their spine—that’s the “tingling” sensation you get every time you’re panicked—that feeds off of extreme fear. The parasite will grow and decimate a person’s backbone unless it’s defeated by the only logical reaction to fear: screaming. Meanwhile, Castle was always ready to exploit his audience’s squirm factor, having “Percepto!” contraptions installed into each theater seat, set to buzz the butts of already agitated film-goers to scare them into thinking the insectoid creature was crawling up their backs. Among Castle’s many interactive “gimmick” films in the 1950s, The Tingler might be the Castle-est, a sincerely wacky, unsettling, imaginative experience whether you’re equipped with a vibrating chair or not. And hearing Vincent Price hollering into the void of a pitch-black screen, “Scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in the theater!”, offers enough urgency to persuade you something may be nipping at your backside after all. —Dom Sinacola


97. The Blair Witch Project, 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick

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Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route: crafting both a new style of presentation and, especially, of promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage—just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier—but this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet Age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. —Jim Vorel


96. Häxan, or Witchcraft Through the Ages, 1922
Director: Benjamin Christensen

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A truly unique silent film, Häxan is presented as a historical documentary and warning against hysteria, but in function it plays much more like a true horror film, especially considering the timeframe when it arrived in Danish and Swedish cinemas. Director Christensen based his depictions of witch trials on the real-life horrors codified in the Malleus Maleficarum, the 15th century “hammer of witches” used by clergy and inquisitors to persecute women and people with mental illness. The dreamlike—make that nightmarish—dramatization of these torture sequences were almost unthinkably extreme for the time, leading to the film being banned in the U.S. But put simply: There’s iconography in Häxan that grabs hold of you. Puffy-cheeked devils with long tongues lolling lazily out of their mouths. Naked men and women crawling and cavorting in circles of demons, lining up to literally kiss demonic asses. Scenes of torture straight out of Albrecht Dürer woodcuts or Divine Comedy illustrations. The grainy silence of black and white only makes Häxan more otherworldly to watch today—it feels like some kind of bleak Satanic relic that humankind was never supposed to witness. This is one silent film you won’t want on with children in the room. —Jim Vorel


95. The Conjuring, 2013
Director: James Wan

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Let it be known: James Wan is, in any fair estimation, an above average director of horror films at the very least. The progenitor of big money series such as Saw and Insidious has a knack for crafting populist horror that still carries a streak of his own artistic identity, a Spielbergian gift for what speaks to the multiplex audience without entirely sacrificing characterization. Several of his films sit just outside the top 100, if this list were ever to be expanded, but The Conjuring can’t be denied as the Wan representative because it is far and away the scariest of all his feature films. Reminding me of the experience of first seeing Paranormal Activity in a crowded multiplex, The Conjuring has a way of subverting when and where you expect the scares to arrive. Its haunted house/possession story is nothing you haven’t seen before, but few films in this oeuvre in recent years have had half the stylishness that Wan imparts on an old, creaking farmstead in Rhode Island. The film toys with audience’s expectations by throwing big scares at you without standard Hollywood Jump Scare build-ups, simultaneously evoking classic golden age ghost stories such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Its intensity, effects work and unrelenting nature set it several tiers above the PG-13 horror against which it was primarily competing. It’s interesting to note that The Conjuring actually did receive an “R” rating despite a lack of overt “violence,” gore or sexuality. It was simply too frightening to deny, and that is worthy of respect. —Jim Vorel


94. The Burning, 1981
Director: Tony Maylam

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If Halloween codified many of the slasher conventions in 1978, then Friday the 13th opened the floodgates wide with its unexpected success and profitability in 1980. A slew of imitators and low-rent slashers poured into drive-ins and grindhouses in the decade that followed, but The Burning is one of the few to rise above the scrum. At first it seems just like one of the pale Friday the 13th imitators, aping the summer camp setting much in the same way as Sleepaway Camp would later do, but there’s an artistry and shocking quality to the violence and gore here that isn’t present in most of the copycats, which were more interested in titillation rather than genuine surprise. Drawing upon the New York urban legend/campfire story of “Cropsey,” which tells of a disfigured camp counselor returned from a presumed grave to seek vengeance on counselors, The Burning takes its time and lures the audience into a rather effective false sense of security through establishing a lighthearted tone and scenes of counselors scaring each other. That status quo is eventually shattered in one of the more amazing early-’80s scenes of slasher carnage, which occurs when Cropsey (Lou David) ambushes an entire raft full of counselors and campers and systematically dispatches them in the most grisly format imaginable. It must have had audience members excusing themselves to flee the theater at the time. —Jim Vorel


93. They Look Like People, 2015
Director: Perry Blackshear

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I fully expect there to be someone reading this—one of the few people who has actually seen this film—arguing that it doesn’t belong on a “horror” list, but they would be mistaken. And it’s true, They Look Like People is genuinely far creepier than many other, more traditional horror films on this list that aim to entertain more than legitimately scare. What we have here is a very unusual, unflinching portrait of mental and emotional illnesses that spin wildly out of control. It would be really easy for the story to be more conventional—guy’s friend visits, turns out the friend is crazy—but They Look Like People messes with the audience’s expectations by giving both of the male leads (MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel) their own mental hurdles to overcome. They never react quite like we expect them to, because neither sees the world in a healthy way. It’s a film where the threat and implication of terrible violence, evoked via constantly on-edge atmosphere, becomes almost unbearable—whether or not it actually arrives. Thanks to some very, very strong performances, you always feel balanced on the edge of a knife. Deliberately paced but thankfully brisk (only 80 minutes), They Look Like People leaves much unanswered, but we still feel satisfied anyway. It’s one of the most brilliant and overlooked of modern horror films. —Jim Vorel


92. Village of the Damned, 1960
Director: Wolf Rilla

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Child actor Martin Stephens truly had a knack for embodying characters with an eerie, alien sense of composure. In both The Innocents and Village of the Damned, this 11-year-old was the straw that stirs the drink, turning in dual performances unmatched by most of the adult actors in either film. Village of the Damned is the pulpier and less serious-minded of the two British horror classics—since parodied memorably on The Simpsons as The Bloodening—but memorable in its own right. In the canon of “creepy kid movies,” it falls among those which consider the unknowable nature of a child’s mind and sense of reasoning, rather than that of the “bad seed”: The brood of unusual children in this small British village aren’t so much evil as they are entirely detached from the conventions of humanity. This is what makes them creepy, because they’re everything that children aren’t supposed to be: Self-sufficient, unemotional, quiet and cold. The 1995, Christopher Reeve-starring remake by John Carpenter is serviceable, but Carpenter’s kids can’t stand up to Stephens’ icily composed menace here. —Jim Vorel


91. Paranormal Activity, 2007
Director: Oren Peli

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Here’s a statement: Paranormal Activity is the most wrongly derided horror film of the last decade, especially by horror buffs. That’s what happens in the wake of massively successful overnight success, and immediately derivative, inferior sequels: The original gets dragged down by its progeny. The original Paranormal Activity is a masterful piece of budget filmmaking. For $15,000, Oren Peli made what is probably the most effective “for the price” horror movie ever released, surpassing The Blair Witch in terms of both tension and narrative while pulling off incredibly unnerving minimalist effects. Yes, there are some stupid, “I’m in a horror movie” choices by the characters, and yes, Micah Sloat’s “get out here so I can punch you, demon!” attitude is irritating, but it’s calculated to be that way. Sloat is a reflection of the toxic “man of the house” attitude, a guy who would rather be terrorized than accept outside help. Meanwhile, Katie Featherston’s realistic performance as a young woman slowly unraveling is a thing of beauty. But beyond performances, or effects, Paranormal Activity is a brilliant case study in slowly building tension, in raising an audience’s blood pressure. I know: I saw this film in theaters when it was still in limited release, and I can honestly say I’ve never been in a movie theater audience that was more terrified. How can I tell? Because they were so loud in the moments of calm before each scare (the most dead giveaway of all: when a young man turns to his friends to assure them how not-nervous he is). This was just such an event—there were actually ushers standing at the entrance ramps throughout the entire film, just watching the audience watch the movie. I’ve yet to ever see that happen again. Deride all you want, but Paranormal Activity scared the hell out of us. —Jim Vorel


90. Creepshow, 1982
Director: George A. Romero

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The anthology is a film structure that has always been native to horror—it captures the campfire “spooky stories” aesthetic and often allows promising young directors a platform on which they can shoot what are essentially short films to launch their careers. On the flip side, however, anthologies rarely end up in “best film” discussions because every contemporary appraisal of any given anthology is always quick to highlight the exact same point: They are uneven in quality by their very nature. Creepshow, however, has an advantage here: It maintains a thematic and visual consistency because Romero directed all of the segments himself. Working with Stephen King in his screenwriting (and unfortunately, acting) debut, Romero dives deep into a childhood obsession and love for EC Comics horror series such as Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror, using vibrant, phantasmagorical splashes of color in reaction shots in a way that almost parallels how Sam Raimi would eventually evoke comic book panels in Spiderman 2. The stories themselves are wonderful, pulpy fun, from the gothic, ghostly “Father’s Day” to the bloody, beastly conclusion of “The Box,” which features the death of a truly irritating Adrienne Barbeau. But the highlight is a murderous Leslie Nielsen, in the sort of pompous, villainous performance that fans of The Naked Gun or Airplane! have likely never seen before. You owe it to yourself to see Creepshow for him alone. —Jim Vorel


89. The Phantom of the Opera, 1925
Director: Rupert Julian

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Before Dracula and the official birth of Universal Horror, there was Phantom of the Opera. (By the way: It sucks that none of the major streamers, including Netflix and Shudder, have the rights to show all of the classic Universal Monster series. I want to be able to watch Son of Frankenstein or The Wolf Man streaming on demand some day, guys! Get those licensing deals in place!) Regardless, it’s nice that Shudder has at least one of these old classics, on account of it being in the public domain. This is the original version of Phantom, starring Lon Chaney Sr., the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The pace is slow, the acting style on display is rather alien to watch today— overdramatic holdovers from the vaudeville era—and you know how the classic story goes, but man: Chaney’s face. t’s one of the truly iconic faces of horror, right alongside Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Chaney’s own son, Lon Chaney Jr., who would go on to play The Wolf Man. Phantom of the Opera is indispensable for Chaney’s self-devised makeup, which reportedly had theater patrons fainting in the aisles in 1925. —Jim Vorel


88. Black Christmas, 1974
Director: Bob Clark

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Fun fact—nine years before he directed holiday classic A Christmas Story, Bob Clark created the first true, unassailable “slasher movie” in Black Christmas. Yes, the same person who gave TBS its annual Christmas Eve marathon fodder was also responsible for the first major cinematic application of the phrase “The calls are coming from inside the house!” Black Christmas, which was insipidly remade in 2006, predates John Carpenter’s Halloween by four years and features many of the same elements, especially visually. Like Halloween, it lingers heavily on POV shots from the killer’s eyes as he prowls through a dimly lit sorority house and spies on his future victims. As the mentally deranged killer calls the house and engages in obscene phone calls with the female residents, one can’t help but also be reminded of the scene in Carpenter’s film where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls her friend Lynda, only to hear her strangled with the telephone cord. Black Christmas is also instrumental, and practically archetypal, in solidifying the slasher legend of the so-called “final girl.” Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) is actually among the better-realized of these final girls in the history of the genre, a remarkably strong and resourceful young woman who can take care of herself in both her relationships and deadly scenarios. It’s questionable how many subsequent slashers have been able to create protagonists who are such a believable combination of capable and realistic. —Jim Vorel


87. The Stuff, 1985
Director: Larry Cohen

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A cult classic for sure, The Stuff was one of the best 1980s critiques of consumer culture, all wrapped up in the form of a horror movie. Profiteers find a white, gooey substance leaking up out of the Earth that proves both delicious and addictive…which they discover by simply tasting this stuff seeping up from the ground, in what is definitely a doctor-recommended action. Soon, repackaged as the secret ingredient-laden “Stuff,” it sweeps the world. The fake commercials are fantastic—this one has Abe Vigoda and actress Clara Peller, who only one year earlier began the famous “Where’s the beef?” campaign for Wendy’s. That is cross-cultural awareness. The Stuff is also a very fun, schlocky horror flick with gross-out special effects, because as you eat more of The Stuff it gradually takes over your body until it explodes out into a self-aware being. This film may actually be more relevant today than it was in the mid-1980s, as awareness of what’s actually in fast food becomes more widespread. —Jim Vorel


86. The Wolf Man, 1941
Director: George Waggner

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Wolf Man Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), along with Frankenstein’s Monster, represents the more sympathetic side of the Universal Monster movie canon, although some viewers would doubtlessly use the word “whiny.” Regardless, poor Larry never asked to turn into a werewolf, and he spends most of the sequels trying to figure out a way not only to be cured, but to kill himself and end his long suffering in the process. The 1941 original remains the best and most earnest film in the series—a portrait of a man who has no power over the raging beast within. It’s the film that made Lon Chaney Jr. a household name, throwing him into the same career of filling genre films as his father during the silent film era. Famed for the groundbreaking FX of its iconic transformation scene, and aided by the same top-notch makeup that Jack Pierce employed in Frankenstein, it raised the bar for horror FX substantially. Like other Universal horror films from the classic era of monster horror, it’s heavy on the atmosphere and old-fashioned spooky settings—fog-wreathed graveyards, dark forests and gothic dwellings—while taking to heart some of the lessons learned by superior Frankenstein sequels such as Bride and Son of Frankenstein. Throw it on at your next Halloween party, and you’ll see that it holds up remarkably well. —Jim Vorel


85. Carnival of Souls, 1962
Director: Herk Harvey

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Carnival of Souls is a film in the vein of Night of the Hunter: artistically ambitious, from a first-time director, but largely overlooked in its initial release until its rediscovery years later. Granted, it’s not the masterpiece of Night of the Hunter, but it’s a chilling, effective, impressive little story of ghouls, guilt and restless spirits. The story follows a woman (Candace Hilligoss) on the run from her past who is haunted by visions of a pale-faced man, beautifully shot (and played) by director Herk Harvey. As she seemingly begins to fade in and out of existence, the nature of her reality itself is questioned. Carnival of Souls is vintage psychological horror on a miniscule budget, and has since been cited as an influence in the fever dream visions of directors such as David Lynch. To me, it’s always felt something like a movie-length episode of The Twilight Zone, and I mean that in the most complimentary way I can. Rod Serling would no doubt have been a fan. —Jim Vorel


84. The Host, 2006
Director: Bong Joon-ho

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Before he was breaking out internationally with a tight action film like Snowpiercer, this South Korean monster movie was Bong Joon-ho’s big work and calling card. Astoundingly successful at the box office in his home country, it straddles several genre lines between sci-fi, family drama and horror, but there’s plenty of scary stuff with the monster menacing little kids in particular. Props to the designers on one of the more unique movie monsters of the last few decades—the creature in this film looks sort of like a giant tadpole with teeth and legs, which is way more awesome than it sounds. The real heart of the film is a superb performance by Song Kang-ho (also in Snowpiercer) as a seemingly slow-witted father trying to hold his family together during the disaster. That’s a pretty common role to be playing in a horror film, but the performances and family dynamic in general truly are the key factor that help elevate The Host far above most of its ilk. —Jim Vorel


83. Inside, 2007
Director: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo

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Like Martyrs, High Tension or Frontier(s), Inside is a member of the loosely grouped movement of the 2000s known as “new French extremity” or “new French extremism,” which produced an array of films whose defining features were shocking brutality. Inside may have the most disturbing premise of any of them, though: A young, pregnant woman (Alysson Paradis) waits at home for her delivery, scheduled the next day, only to be attacked by a female intruder (Béatrice Dalle) with the strange, sinister goal of forcibly removing the protagonist’s baby from the womb to take it for herself. The identity and motivations of the assailant are a mystery, but her savagery is plain to see, the film painting a bloody canvas from the get-go, never shying away from “savoring the little emotions” which the Joker references as the reason for his knife preference in The Dark Knight. Rather, Inside revels in those little emotions—and their grisly outcomes. At points, it almost becomes a comedy of errors, as uninvited guests arrive at the house and complicate what is already a deadly game of cat and mouse, but the film treats its violence with such gravity and unflinching reality that no one will be laughing. With a conclusion even more brutal than you’re imagining, Inside is not for the faint of heart, but it is plenty memorable. —Jim Vorel


82. The Bad Seed, 1956
Director: Mervyn LeRoy

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The Bad Seed is one of the most disturbing American portraits of pure psychopathy or sociopathy, coming from the least suspected of all sources: an 8-year-old girl. The piercing eyes of little blonde, pigtailed Rhoda (Patty McCormack) are terrifying to behold, moreso once we begin to suspect what lays behind her facade. Rhoda’s ability to function and hide her true self with wily cunning presages the likes of Patrick Bateman or the already mentioned Henry in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. There could be no We Need to Talk About Kevin without The Bad Seed there to ask the question: What is the nature of innate evil? The menace and sheer, unflinching look into human cruelty in The Bad Seed is truly unique for its time period, with young McCormack’s performance ranking among the all-time greats for children in a horror film. The Bad Seed is about the horrors of responsibility as a parent, when there’s something you know needs to be done but the act of carrying it out is something the world will never be able to understand. It’s a film that may turn you off of pigtails for life. —Jim Vorel


81. Society, 1989
Director: Brian Yuzna

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Society is perhaps what you would have ended up with in the earlier ’80s if David Cronenberg had a more robust sense of humor. Rather, this bizarre deconstruction of Reagan-era yuppiehood came from Brian Yuzna, well-known to horror fans for his partnership with Stuart Gordon, which produced the likes of Re-Animator and From Beyond…and eventually Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, believe it or not. Society is a weird film on every level, a feverish descent into what may or may not be paranoia when a popular high school guy begins questioning whether his family (and indeed, the entire town) are involved in some sinister, sexual, exceedingly icky business. Plot takes a backseat to dark comedy and a creepily foreboding sense that we’re building to a revelatory conclusion, which absolutely does not disappoint. The effects work, suffice to say, produces some of the most batshit crazy visuals in the history of film—there are disgusting sights here that you won’t see anywhere else, outside of perhaps an early Peter Jackson movie, a la Dead Alive. But Society’s ambitions are considerably grander than that gross-out Peter Jackson classic—it takes aim at its own title and the tendency of insular communities to prey upon the outside world to create social satire of the highest (and grossest) order. —Jim Vorel


80. Friday the 13th, 1980
Director: Sean S. Cunningham

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The one that started them all: Years after two summer camp counselors are offed while they’re getting it on, a new group with similar extracurricular activities arrives at Camp Crystal Lake. Hack, slice. A pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon (one of the series’ many casting gems) plays a guy who gets lucky and then immediately gets an arrowhead through the back of the throat. Bummer. Friday the 13th is a competent and formative slasher flick, though it barely resembles the series it spawned, in ways both positive and negative. Its impact, however, can’t be argued, and it’s the film most singularly responsible for properly kicking off the slasher boom of the ’80s. Jason makes only a brief, but extremely searing appearance, and the film’s ending reveal can be counted among the most shocking in horror history. —Jeffrey Bloomer


79. We Are Still Here, 2015
Director: Ted Geoghegan

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We Are Still Here never wants for scares. It might actually be the single most terrifying movie of 2015, even next to David Robert Mitchell’s acclaimed and unsettling It Follows. But Geoghegan handles the transition smoothly, from the story of running away from tragedy We Are Still Here begins as to the bloodbath it becomes. There’s no sense of baiting or switching; the director flirts with danger confidently throughout. Plus, there’s that New England winter to add an extra layer of despair. The elements forebode and forbid in equal measure. The weather outside is frightful…and the carbonized wraiths in the basement even more so. In the end, this is one haunted house that won’t be denied. —Andy Crump


78. The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957
Director: Terence Fisher

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The film that birthed the stylistic idea of “Hammer Horror” and brought back the greatest of the Universal Monsters to the mainstream: It’s Curse of Frankenstein. And it’s difficult to do justice to how important a moment this was for the future course of horror history, the effective launching point of a second Golden Age of serious monster movies. In the ’40s and ’50s, classical horror had been in decline, co-opted by comedies such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or the burgeoning science fiction genre. It was Curse of Frankenstein and Hammer’s subsequent Dracula and Mummy follow-ups that convinced audiences the old monsters could once again be treated as the stuff of nightmares, and they did so by infusing the old black-and-white specters with opulence, cleavage and pulses of Technicolor blood that brought shock and titillation back to the genre. Unlike the Universal series, the Hammer Frankenstein films make no qualms about the identity of the true villain—it’s the Doctor himself, played with petulant verve by the great Peter Cushing. He morphs into something of an antihero throughout the sequels, but this imperious Frankenstein, who thinks he simply knows better than the foolish, close-minded villagers impeding his work, is the obvious spiritual forebear to Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West in Re-Animator. Christopher Lee’s monster, on the other hand, is an afflicted creature without the soul or humanity of Karloff’s iconic creation. We fear him, and pity him, but this is Cushing’s time to shine and revel in his own crapulence. —Jim Vorel


77. The Innkeepers, 2011
Director: Ti West

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When you’re working in indie horror, a big part of success is learning how to turn your budgetary limitations into a positive—to rely less heavily on effects and setting and more on characterization and filmcraft. Ti West understands this better than most, which is part of what made his earlier House of the Devil so effective. The Inkeepers has some of the same DNA, but it’s rawer and more “real,” following the mostly unremarkable exploits of two friends (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) as they work in a dingy old bed & breakfast and conduct nightly paranormal research in their place of business. They’re well-cast and feel like two of the most “real people” you’re likely to see in a horror film—West, acting in moments like a horror-tinged Tarantino, enjoys lingering on them during their conversations and small-talk, which builds a sense of casual camaraderie to what’re supposed to be long-time co-workers. Of course, things do eventually start going bump in the night, and the film ratchets up into a classically inflected ghost story. Some will accuse it of being slow, or of spending too much time dawdling with things that are unimportant, but that’s “mumblegore” for you. Ultimately, the reality imbued into the characters justifies the time it takes to give them characterization, and you still get some spooky “boo!” moments in the film’s final act. —Jim Vorel


76. Les Diaboliques, 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

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Watching Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques through the lens of the modern horror film, especially the slasher flick—replete with un-killable villain (check); ever-looming jump scares (check); and a “final girl” of sorts (check?)—one would not have to squint too hard to see a new genre coming into being. You could even make a case for Clouzot’s canonization in horror, but to take the film on only those terms would miss just how masterfully the iconic French director could wield tension. Nothing about Les Diaboliques dips into the scummy waters of cheap thrills: The tightly wound tale of two women, a fragile wife (Véra Clouzot) and severe mistress (Simone Signoret) to the same abusive man (Paul Meurisse), who conspire to kill him in order to both reel in the money rightfully owed the wife, and to rid the world of another asshole, Diaboliques may not end with a surprise outcome for those of us long inured to every modern thriller’s perfunctory twist, but it’s still a heart-squeezing two hours, a murder mystery executed flawlessly. That Clouzot preceded this film with The Wages of Fear and Le Corbeau seems as surprising as the film’s outcome: By the time he’d gotten to Les Diaboliques, the director’s grasp over pulpy crime stories and hard-nosed drama had become pretty much his brand. That the film ends with a warning to audiences to not give away the ending for others—perhaps Clouzot also helped invent the spoiler alert?—seems to make it clear that even the director knew he had something devilishly special on his hands.
—Dom Sinacola

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