Top 10 Best Horror Movies
Horror movies belong to the most polarizing class of all moviemaking. Action blockbusters, romantic comedies and historical biopics all sell tickets and garner critical acclaim, but the horror genre brings about as much disdain and avoidance as it does obsession and fandom. It’s the bastard step-child of the Greek tragedy, offering up a kind of storytelling far beyond the traditional good guy wins, bad guy loses mentality.
However, the temptation to take shortcuts for quick bucks and easy scares has predictably polluted our most effectively emotive movie genre. Today, horror films are most famous for the sheer number of ridiculous clichés and unintelligent absurdity. With movies like Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood, Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood and Sorority Sister Slaughter, there’s little to wonder why only one horror film has ever won Best Picture in 85 Academy Awards.
But at the same time, there’s something incredibly special about horror movies. They intoxicate our senses and pull us into a world or situation we’re simultaneously desperate to escape and unable to stop watching. The best horror films take this opportunity and use it as a springboard to reach an audience or tell a story completely unique to filmmaking.
This is why horror movies matter, and it’s why this Halloween, PorchDrinking.com is delivering you the Top 10 Best Horror Movies ever made.
In order to make this list, each film had to significantly establish or demonstrate a unique aspect of horror. Furthermore, they must use that horror to reach new entertainment heights in a way that still stands up today. Remember, this isn’t a list for the scariest moments or scariest movies. It’s for those that take your fear and turn it into something else entirely.
10. Rosemary’s Baby
Narrowly edging out Jaws on our list, Rosemary’s Baby makes the Top 10 due to its propensity to disturb. Widely regarded as a horror classic with career defining performances, controversial director Roman Polanski delivered a slow-burning tale about satanism, femininity and pregnancy. But what makes Rosemary’s Baby so significant is its ability to mirror the protagonist. It holds back, preferring politeness and comfortable courtesy, all while something evil scratches beneath the surface.
Memorable quote: “The boy has his father’s eyes.”
9. The Sixth Sense
Isn’t it strange Hollywood considered M. Night Shyamalan the next Spielberg just over a decade ago? Thanks to The Sixth Sense, it was a fair assumption. With six Academy Award nominations, The Sixth Sense has one of the most quoted movie lines and one of the most famous twist endings in cinema history. But it’s Shyamalan’s situational use of tortured ghosts with a fragile child that really digs in deep. Show me a Millennial who wasn’t scared when they first saw The Sixth Sense, and I’ll show you a liar.
Memorable quote: “I see dead people.”
8. 28 Days Later
28 Days Later is the best zombie movie ever made. Well, technically it’s not a zombie movie. It is, however, incredibly intelligent, carefully crafted and revolutionary for the genre. 28 Days Later did more than introduce undead(ish) maniacs that could sprint rather than shamble — it balanced tension and horror with characters you genuinely care about. Even after the influx of all things zombie since 28 Days Later hit screens, it still holds up as an apocalyptic masterclass.
Memorable Quote: “That was longer than a heartbeat.”
Halloween is the the most effective film on this list at pulling viewers into the experience. The premise and villain are remarkably simple, but the artistic execution and care put into each shot propels it far higher than it has any right to be. At its core Halloween is a slasher film, but director John Carpenter added complex layers of voyeurism, stalking and nightmarish persistence that resonate with each viewer (something Rob Zombie’s remake lacks). When you’re watching Halloween, you aren’t fearing for Jamie Lee Curtis. You’re fearing for yourself. Not to mention, it has one of the most iconic horror themes ever composed.
Memorable Quote: “You can’t kill the boogeyman.”
Unlike Halloween, Carrie gets its strength from a stellar, if not heartbreaking, story. This Stephen King adaptation revolves around a psychologically abused teenager coping with bodily changes. She gets humiliated in a public shower when she gets her first period. Her mother locks her in a closet and tells Carrie her existence is a sin. She has pigs blood poured all over her at prom. But what makes Carrie great isn’t when she telekinetically snaps, but when we realize everyone, including Carrie, is doomed. Sissy Spacek delivers an incredibly authentic performance, and within the first five minutes, it’s clear how close to home Carrie’s treatment can hit. This is not a revenge tale. It’s a horrific tragedy.
Memorable quote: “They’re all gonna laugh at you.”
5. The Thing
A staple among horror films is the “monster in the house” concept. The Thing takes this concept, puts the house in Antarctica and gives the monster an ability to assimilate anyone in the house. Watch it today, and you’ll realize this 1982 film has more realistic special effects than its 2011 prequel. The second film from John Carpenter to make our list, The Thing mixes gore, paranoia and tension with one of the scariest creatures ever conceived. Who’s really human? What would you do if you couldn’t tell? Is there something more important at stake than your life? It’s a film that becomes more rewarding the more you think about it, complete with an ending as chilling as its concept.
Memorable Quote: “Nobody. Nobody trusts anybody now.”
4. Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs is the aforementioned Best Picture winner, and it has every right to be. Anthony Hopkins delivered his greatest performance as the imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lector, highlighted by Jodie Foster’s fantastic work as one of the strongest female characters ever put on film. A fascinating psychological study and a rush against the slaughter-clock make it as intense as it is thought-provoking. With all these elements and more, Silence of the Lambs clearly stands as one of the best detective stories ever told. If these contenders were competing for “best movies in general,” Silence of the Lambs would leave many of them behind. However, as a horror film amongst others in the genre, Silence of the Lambs doesn’t quite horrify as much as it thrills.
Memorable Quote: “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
3. The Shining
More often than not, most of the best films are based on books. While book purists usually come out of theaters exclaiming “the book was better,” The Shining stands tall as a movie that far exceeds the foundation set by its novel. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, master of all things cinema, The Shining follows Stephen King’s tale of isolation, sanity and the paranormal. But instead of throwing outside monsters or maniacs into the fray, Kubrick recognized that the scarier question is not, “Is there evil inside this hotel?” but rather, “Is there evil inside my head?” To drive the point home, The Shining mirrors the falling sanity of Jack Nicholson’s character by slowly infiltrating the audience’s subconscious. Subliminal messages lend metaphorical significance and creeping evil to every scene, making The Shining as disturbing as it is horrifying.
Memorable Quote: “Here’s Johnny!”
Before there was Kubrick, there was Hitchcock. An auteur in every sense, Alfred Hitchcock defined horror cinema with his masterpiece, Psycho. It may be universally remembered for the infamous shower scene, but Psycho is at its scariest thanks to its subject matter. A perfect blend of psychological horror and violence, Psycho set the bar high for the depth of character movies can tackle.
Memorable Quote: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
1. The Exorcist
The Exorcist reigns supreme. Of all the contenders, only The Exorcist horrifies on a level beyond anything audiences had ever experienced. Yet theres so much more to this film. What makes The Exorcist great is its ability to use that horror to deliver an incredibly poignant story. It is as much an epic showdown as it is a crisis of faith. It is a morally grey world forced to consider the possibilities of good and evil. It is a movie that reaches the apex of genre accomplishment, and if you can stomach it, The Exorcist will show you how a film can transcend its parameters. It is, without a doubt, the epitome of horror.
Memorable quote: “The power of Christ compels you!”
That’s our list. Disagree? Demand reasons for why certain films were left out? Think something else deserves to make the Top 10? Leave a comment below!
No Jaws, no deal.
Great list! I would include Saw (the original) on my list because it makes you ask yourself what would you do in this situation when faced with two awful outcomes. It is a gory, twisted, psychological teaser where both villains and victims are duplicitous. Also, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (again the Toby Hooper original) has always been my personal favorite (and really the first) slasher movie. The villain(s) are brutal, sadistic, and mockingly unapologetic. Unlike Jason or Freddy, Leatherface and family are the people you could imagine living on a remote farm in Texas that just want to mess with you.