Top 25 Best '70s Horror Films

by Dennis_Alink | created - 02 Oct 2013 | updated - 24 May 2015 | Public

The 25 best Horrorfilms from the seventies listed by the Midnight Movie Review.

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1. The Exorcist (1973)

R | 122 min | Horror

81 Metascore

When a 12-year-old girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her.

Director: William Friedkin | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb

Votes: 355,035 | Gross: $232.91M

One of those films that gave me nightmares. Afraid to close your eyes at night because you might see Linda Blair gazing at you in your dreams. Being raised in a roman-catholic fashion the thought of you or one of your loved ones getting possessed by the devil is incredibly frightening. Let alone the goosebumps which occur the moment you just think of Blair's head doing a 360. Seeing something physically impossible happen in an ordinary looking shot simply gives the creeps, and it are those creeps this film is just overflowing with. Then there is also the story of a priest wrestling with his own faith; great films have great drama and a good genre-film will never become a classic without something happening inside the heads of our main character; "The Exorcist" just has it all and has it put on film in a brilliant way.

2. Suspiria (1977)

R | 92 min | Horror

79 Metascore

An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé

Votes: 77,478

Seldom has a combination of music, architecture, extreme lights, gore and slow tension been so effective as in 'Suspiria'. From the moment Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives at the Munich airport till the final countdown; this film is audio/visually unique and till this day has to find it's equal (although Argento's own "Inferno" (a sequel to this film) does an amusing shot). Don't expect great acting, do expect to be amazed by this brilliant piece of horror.

3. Halloween (1978)

R | 91 min | Horror, Thriller

87 Metascore

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran, Nancy Kyes

Votes: 223,160 | Gross: $47.00M

It would be ignorant to say that with "Halloween" the slasher-genre was born, that credit either has to go to Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" or Bob Clark's "Black Christmas". Nevertheless "Halloween" started the film-formula for the slasher which would keep horrorfans going through the '80s and the decades to come. Film is a combination of images and sounds and John Carpenter is one of those people who clearly understands that. He works with strong images and sounds that set the bar for horror and are immediately iconic. Just two examples are Michael Myjers mask and the main Halloween-theme. Apart from using them brilliantly in his timing and setting the pure essence of these film-elements are strong and touching and have remained with us for years and probably for the years to come. Just as this classic film "Halloween".

4. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel receives an unknown transmission as a distress call, one of the crew is attacked by a mysterious life form and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 771,339 | Gross: $78.90M

Initially offered to John Carpenter who would refuse it to go on and direct "Halloween". Anyway Ridley Scott was the perfect choice; the game he plays with shadows is essential to the supreme fear which rises in this claustrophobic combination between horror and science-fiction. Put in a bit of body-horror to make the physical-fright even bigger and you have a film that just gives you the creeps by it's sheer concept. Rumor has it that the famous breakfast-scene was shot during real breakfast and that all the cast reactions where genuine... Well I've never been on a set where it is allowed to eat in front of the cameras with the lights turned on, spilling cereal on props and art roughly costing thousands of dollars. Nevertheless the scene works. "Alien" works, and you should definitely check it out this october.

5. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Not Rated | 117 min | Drama, Horror, War

In World War II Italy, four fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture.

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini | Stars: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti

Votes: 53,028

Some say this was the film to take director Pier Paolo Pasolini's life because it upset his former communist-friends. Fact remains that how horrible the disfiguring of his real life death was; they could not match the sick sodomy of this film. Pasolini travels to places in the human mind where power and perversion go to terrible lows. Making brilliant statements about society and power in general and twisting your stomach with horrific torture.

6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

R | 83 min | Horror

78 Metascore

Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather's grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths and must survive the terrors of Leatherface and his family.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain

Votes: 132,868 | Gross: $30.86M

Seldom did a film make you feel so at unease. It has to do with Tobe Hooper's brilliant sound-design in which Leahterface's chainsaw is never far from our main group of kids. Shot in such a raw fashion you might almost think you could go around the place and visit the family of cannibals who haunt this film. I was especially caught by the logic and rituals of Leahterface's family, it just feels like your going to a place in which you observe the locals but don't know how fast you can get out of there.

7. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Thriller

87 Metascore

When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it's up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 536,800 | Gross: $260.00M

One of those films to ruin your childhood. My parents left me alone to watch this film when I was seven years old figuring it was some kind of adventure-film; how wrong they where. For years I would not go into the sea and still it gives me the creeps every time I walk into the water at the beach. Steven Spielberg constantly comes up with original scares to keep the film going. But his true talent doesn't lie with pure jumpscares and scary music; it lies with the terror he creates in the dark (both of the sea and in your mind). Perhaps the scene in which Robert Shaw's character talks about his failed war-mission which ended in the water is just as scary as John Williams's score.

8. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Unrated | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

71 Metascore

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross

Votes: 109,463 | Gross: $5.10M

What is scarier? the dead returning to the earth or the foresight of what life has to offer when you're done shopping? George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" is a confronting film about how our lives are lived by the materialistic standards which are set in our minds by capitalistic society which works with huge malls and brilliant commercials. Even if you're not into social analyses "Dawn of the Dead" has enough to offer; namely atmosphere and gore. The setting of an old shopping mall being surrounded by zombies is none other than brilliant and the game of cleaning it and keeping it clean of the undead is highly entertaining. When you watch it be sure to watch the Italian version, re-cut by none other than Dario Argento who put in some more gore and replaced the soundtrack by that of our favorite horror-band 'Goblin'.

9. Black Christmas (1974)

R | 98 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

65 Metascore

During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.

Director: Bob Clark | Stars: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon

Votes: 31,640 | Gross: $4.05M

I still feel a strong nostalgia for the moment two years ago when I got to screen this pearl on the big screen. As cozy and Christmassy as it is terrifying. Director Bob Clark was the first to put a bunch of teenagers to face a serial-killer and was unbelievable creative in the way the story develops. We never get to see the killer and seldom was a horror-finally so nail-biting as this one. When I saw it on the big screen I realized how developed the sound-design of this film is. Who needs a recognizable horror-tune when you've got these layers of sound?

10. Don't Look Now (1973)

R | 110 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

96 Metascore

A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania

Votes: 48,142 | Gross: $0.98M

Horror just gets a bit tougher when you link it to a tragic event. Nicolas Roeg opens his film with a film-school seminar on editing in a scene in which the daughter of our main characters drowns in the backyard. Her death haunts us throughout the entire film and when they decide to go to Venice to work and "get on with life" the atmosphere of death surrounds them. Not haunting but confronting and creepy. It's final-scene is one of those schock-moments you will never forget the rest of your life.

11. Deep Red (1975)

R | 127 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

89 Metascore

A jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist are pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril

Votes: 31,024

The mother of all Giallo's; Dario Argento's "Profondo Rosso" also known as "Deep Red" hints towards the paranomal films he would later make but is a brilliant end of his Giallo-era. The film is jammed full with brilliant elements; the child-song we hear whenever the killer is near, the use of the color red, the long shots throughout a collection of the killer's possessions, the damp on the bathroom-walls, the walking doll and one of the scariest abandoned mansions ever. See this film and see it soon, especially when you are a filmmaker cause Argento put it full with fresh ideas and inspirations.

12. Blue Sunshine (1977)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

A bizarre series of murders begins in Los Angeles, where people start going bald and then become homicidal maniacs. But could the blame rest on a particularly dangerous form of LSD called Blue Sunshine the murderers took ten years before?

Director: Jeff Lieberman | Stars: Zalman King, Deborah Winters, Mark Goddard, Robert Walden

Votes: 2,442

Described as "Hitchcock on acid", well it could have been. I usually praise Jeff Lieberman mainly by his editing and ambiance. They never get more brilliant in his career than in this film but "Blue Sunshine" offers more. The film is built around the strange physical and psychological side-effects a LSD-like drug has 10 years after it's used. The film contains brilliant paranoia in a world that is filmed in a recognizable way.

13. The Wicker Man (1973)

R | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

87 Metascore

A puritan Police Sergeant arrives in a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl who the locals claim never existed.

Director: Robin Hardy | Stars: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland

Votes: 67,811 | Gross: $0.06M

One of the weirdest films you'll probably ever see but haunting all the way. It's like a horror-version of 'Alice in Wonderland' which finds it creeps in a search throughout the most unbelievable rituels a British cult has developed. I started watching this film with interest I ended watching it in amaze. One of the most haunting shots is one in which our main character wants to get away from the island using an airplane. The entire village sneaks up on him wearing animal-masks while he doesn't have a clue... It's like you're being watched from over your shoulder for 88 minutes.

14. Eraserhead (1977)

Not Rated | 89 min | Fantasy, Horror

87 Metascore

Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 99,870 | Gross: $7.00M

Stanley Kubrick showed this film to his crew during the filming of "The Shining" to set the mood on set. And "setting the mood" is something "Eraserhead" definitely does. David Lynch creates a world of unknown weirdness with a logic that refers to those of your darkest dreams. Lynch shot this film over a period of five years using nothing more than 20,000 dollars and the result is amazing. View directors have such a high understanding of the effects of sound as David Lynch who creates an entire world outside his decor with space-effects and industrial sounds. Must-see for any film-student.

15. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

PG | 107 min | Drama, Horror

79 Metascore

Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to Wismar, spreading the Black Plague across the land. Only a woman pure of heart can bring an end to his reign of horror.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Roland Topor

Votes: 31,523

Only one actor could make you forget Max Schreck's performance in the original "Nosferatu" and his name is that of insanity; Klaus Kinski. He only has to stare towards his opponent with make-up on to make you feel lots of things but mostly fear and petty. Werner Herzog transforms the plain story of a vampire to that of living with the constant presence of death, with the plague and rats mainly as elements to translate it's loneliness and unavoidability to film. If horror has a function other than scaring you that function is captured in this piece of horror-art.

16. Magic (1978)

R | 107 min | Drama, Horror

49 Metascore

A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

Director: Richard Attenborough | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter

Votes: 8,950 | Gross: $25.94M

For me the seventies where an era which used the dark themes of horror to go into the dark places of the mind. Richard Attenborough tells the story of a ventriloquist who uses his doll to communicate and seems to develop some sort of a split personality throughout the film. The scene in which his psychiatrist asks him to lay the puppet down for 5 minutes is one of the most intriguing examples of what the combination of good acting and good editing can do. Anyone thought that Anthony Hopkins was scary as Hannibal Lecter? Think again. Definitely watch this film.

17. Zombie (1979)

R | 91 min | Horror

54 Metascore

Strangers searching for a young woman's missing father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately seeks the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.

Director: Lucio Fulci | Stars: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver

Votes: 25,025

If there is one film that will always be connected to the name of Lucio Fulci (who in the seventies was known as a director of police-thrillers and spaghetti-westerns) it has to be "Zombie". In Italy known as "Zombi 2" because "Dawn of the Dead" was released over there as Zombi". Apart from the zombies there is no connection between the two films, and the zombies in this film look better. Where Romero does the job with a bit of grey make-up Lucio Fulci let's them rot and crawl with maggots. Storywise this film has little to offer but if you want to see great atmosphere, an eye being penetrated by a piece of wood, the stink of death and a zombie fighting a shark you came to the right place with "Zombi 2".

18. The Omen (1976)

R | 111 min | Horror

62 Metascore

Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil's own son?

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens, David Warner

Votes: 105,089 | Gross: $4.27M

One of those films that run mainly on plot and acting (although it's impossible to forget it's main-theme "Ave Satani"). The film tells the story of a couple who raise a boy which is not theirs because their own son died at childbirth and the father (Gregory Peck) and the priest decided to replace the kid to spare the mother the sad news. The process of raising their new son is surrounded by all sorts of strange happenings. Ever seen your maid hang herself in front of everyone at your sons birthday party?

19. The Tenant (1976)

R | 126 min | Drama, Thriller

A bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet

Votes: 38,664 | Gross: $1.92M

The final part in Roman Polanski's apartment trilogy with "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby" being the other two films. "Le Locataire" also known as "The Tenant" is in my opinion the best one. His trilogy is about loneliness in the big city. The loneliness leads towards a fear towards other people, in these cases the neighbours. And that fear leads to paranoia. Somehow he visually finds a way to shape the chaos of the mind and make you even doubt wether it is only a horror of the mind you're watching.

20. Martin (1977)

R | 95 min | Drama, Horror

68 Metascore

A young man, who believes himself to be a vampire, goes to live with his elderly and hostile cousin in a small Pennsylvania town where he tries to redeem his blood-craving urges.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau

Votes: 9,705 | Gross: $0.10M

There used to be days in which George A. Romero wasn't simply copy/pasting his own work but was constantly searching for new challenges within the horror-genre. "Martin" must be his most artistic challenge. It is a modern take on the vampire-legend in which our main-character is a 17-year old vampire. The need for blood is a synonym for a drug-addiction and is visualized by getting it injected through a needle. A drama horror with great ambiance and challenging nouvelle-vague-like editing.

21. The Brood (1979)

R | 92 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

63 Metascore

A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Henry Beckman

Votes: 24,804

David Cronenberg was fascinated by the concept of the connection between the body and the mind. In "The Brood" he turns this into the most unlikely reaction of the flesh coming from an early trauma. It's important not to reveal the end as it is the highlight of this piece of horrorcinema. Constantly on edge and constantly unsettling.

22. Carrie (1976)

R | 98 min | Horror

85 Metascore

Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta

Votes: 164,509 | Gross: $33.80M

There have been many adaptations of Stephen King novels but only the truly great directors succeed in making them good movies. One of the guys to do the job correctly is Brian DePalma who makes "Carrie" a understandable story of revenge. You could wonder which element is the scariest in the film; the kinetic powers of our main-character, the horrible bully-methods of the antagonists or the christian mother. Watch out for that final shot... It almost gave me a heart-attack.

23. Deathdream (1974)

PG | 88 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A young soldier killed in Vietnam inexplicably shows up to his family home one night.

Director: Bob Clark | Stars: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe

Votes: 4,219

Please don't mind it's terrible poster as it might mislead you to missing out on one of the most memorable zombie-films ever. "Dead of Night", also known as "Deathdream" is the tale of a boy who is about to die in Vietnam while his mother at the other side of the globe is praying to get him home save. Due to this he can't die that night, but he can't life either. He returns home undead with the everlasting need for human flesh. Director Bob Clark hints towards the traumatized vietnam veterans and makes this film with a depressing atmosphere. The creative genius who made "Black Christmas" definitely worked his ass of on this film.

24. Phantasm (1979)

R | 89 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

72 Metascore

A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him.

Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester

Votes: 31,452 | Gross: $11.99M

Some horrorfilms just seem to be made out of amazement. "Phantasm" is one of those films which exists on it's visualization of a boy who can't get over the death of his parents. With a sterile cemetery and mausoleum as the main stage, this film contains an atmosphere which none of the sequels ever matched. The amount of iconic horror-elements is huge. Bizarre hooded dwarfs, surreal flying silver balls, a beautiful main-theme and a horror-legend in the persona of 'The Tall Man'; "Phantasm" has it all.

25. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

R | 90 min | Horror, Thriller

64 Metascore

On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace

Votes: 29,261 | Gross: $25.00M

A family strands in the desert right near an area of nuclear tests. At night they are being stalked by a family of mutants. "The Hills Have Eyes" is one of the most threatening 'under siege'-films around. It has no values, it has no morals; it is plain horror which will leave you behind unsettled.

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