Flavorwire’s 50 Essential Horror Films

by freak3086 | created - 23 Apr 2014 | updated - 23 Apr 2014 | Public
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1. Halloween (1978)

R | 91 min | Horror, Thriller

78 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 to kill again.

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

Votes: 183,119 | Gross: $47.00M

2. Psycho (1960)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

97 Metascore

A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Votes: 502,547 | Gross: $32.00M

3. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

87 Metascore

A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.

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

Votes: 484,387 | Gross: $260.00M

4. The Exorcist (1973)

R | 122 min | Horror

82 Metascore

When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

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

Votes: 315,922 | Gross: $232.91M

5. Nosferatu (1922)

Not Rated | 81 min | Fantasy, Horror

Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder

Votes: 77,036

6. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Not Rated | 96 min | Horror

88 Metascore

There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from these bloodthirsty, flesh-eating monsters.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman

Votes: 99,711 | Gross: $0.09M

7. Dracula (1931)

Not Rated | 75 min | Fantasy, Horror

The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye

Votes: 38,730

8. The Shining (1980)

R | 146 min | Drama, Horror

63 Metascore

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

Votes: 728,576 | Gross: $44.02M

9. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

R | 137 min | Drama, Horror

96 Metascore

A young couple moves in to an apartment only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer

Votes: 160,310

10. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson

Votes: 37,081

11. Alien (1979)

R | 116 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

83 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

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

Votes: 674,550 | Gross: $78.90M

12. 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: 56,924

13. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Unrated | 127 min | Horror, Thriller

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: 99,518 | Gross: $5.10M

14. Black Christmas (1974)

R | 98 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

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: 25,475 | Gross: $4.05M

15. Friday the 13th (1980)

R | 95 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

19 Metascore

A group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which, years before, was the site of a child's drowning.

Director: Sean S. Cunningham | Stars: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan

Votes: 98,454 | Gross: $39.75M

16. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Not Rated | 83 min | Horror

75 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.

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

Votes: 113,486 | Gross: $30.86M

17. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

R | 91 min | Horror

78 Metascore

The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon

Votes: 173,923 | Gross: $25.50M

18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

PG | 115 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

75 Metascore

In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced one by one, with clones devoid of emotion.

Director: Philip Kaufman | Stars: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 43,422 | Gross: $24.95M

19. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Not Rated | 67 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.

Director: Robert Wiene | Stars: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover

Votes: 46,771

20. Freaks (1932)

Not Rated | 64 min | Drama, Horror

A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates

Votes: 36,560

21. The Haunting (1963)

G | 112 min | Horror

74 Metascore

A scientist doing research on the paranormal invites two women to a haunted mansion. One of the participants soon starts losing her mind.

Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn

Votes: 29,575 | Gross: $2.62M

22. Les yeux sans visage (1960)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Horror

90 Metascore

A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.

Director: Georges Franju | Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Alexandre Rignault

Votes: 20,630 | Gross: $0.05M

23. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

R | 118 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

85 Metascore

A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney, Kasi Lemmons

Votes: 1,057,272 | Gross: $130.74M

24. Peeping Tom (1960)

Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A young man murders women, using a movie camera to film their dying expressions of terror.

Director: Michael Powell | Stars: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Votes: 25,399 | Gross: $0.08M

25. The Birds (1963)

PG-13 | 119 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

87 Metascore

A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette

Votes: 147,452 | Gross: $11.40M

26. Diabolique (1955)

Not Rated | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal hatch a plan to murder him while having the perfect alibi. They carry out the plan...but then his body disappears.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot | Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel

Votes: 53,295

27. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Approved | 82 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Victor Frankenstein builds a creature and brings it to life, but it behaves not as he intended.

Director: Terence Fisher | Stars: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee

Votes: 7,578 | Gross: $7.00M

28. Cat People (1942)

Not Rated | 73 min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

An American man marries a Serbian immigrant who fears that she will turn into the cat person of her homeland's fables if they are intimate together.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph

Votes: 15,997 | Gross: $4.00M

29. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

R | 81 min | Horror, Mystery

81 Metascore

Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez | Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffin

Votes: 208,823 | Gross: $140.54M

30. Scream (1996)

R | 111 min | Horror, Mystery

65 Metascore

A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich

Votes: 248,787 | Gross: $103.05M

31. Hostel (2005)

R | 94 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

55 Metascore

Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.

Director: Eli Roth | Stars: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova

Votes: 153,325 | Gross: $47.33M

32. The Thing (1982)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

A crew in Antarctica finds a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew dead. Whatever killed them is nowhere to be found, unless it's hidden in plain sight.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur

Votes: 310,914 | Gross: $13.78M

33. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

60 Metascore

Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin Dunne

Votes: 77,245 | Gross: $30.57M

34. The Fly (1986)

R | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel

Votes: 137,038 | Gross: $40.46M

35. Hellraiser (1987)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

57 Metascore

An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.

Director: Clive Barker | Stars: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman

Votes: 87,457 | Gross: $14.56M

36. Ringu (1998)

Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, Mystery

A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed video tape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.

Director: Hideo Nakata | Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô

Votes: 56,226

37. Audition (1999)

R | 115 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

69 Metascore

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.

Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura

Votes: 62,292

38. The Wolf Man (1941)

Not Rated | 70 min | Horror

A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.

Director: George Waggner | Stars: Claude Rains, Warren William, Lon Chaney Jr., Ralph Bellamy

Votes: 19,523

39. The Evil Dead (1981)

NC-17 | 85 min | Horror

70 Metascore

Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker

Votes: 161,496 | Gross: $2.40M

40. Evil Dead II (1987)

R | 84 min | Comedy, Horror

69 Metascore

The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva

Votes: 129,113 | Gross: $5.92M

41. 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: 143,559 | Gross: $33.80M

42. Zombie (1979)

R | 91 min | Horror

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

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

Votes: 22,127

43. Carnival of Souls (1962)

PG | 78 min | Horror, Mystery

After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.

Director: Herk Harvey | Stars: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison

Votes: 16,190

44. The Wicker Man (1973)

R | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

87 Metascore

A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.

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

Votes: 55,450 | Gross: $0.06M

45. Kwaidan (1964)

Not Rated | 183 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A collection of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi | Stars: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Kenjirô Ishiyama

Votes: 11,968

46. Phantasm (1979)

R | 88 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: 26,750 | Gross: $11.99M

47. The Orphanage (2007)

R | 105 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

74 Metascore

A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.

Director: J.A. Bayona | Stars: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera

Votes: 132,808 | Gross: $7.16M

48. Poltergeist (1982)

PG | 114 min | Horror, Thriller

79 Metascore

A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight

Votes: 122,001 | Gross: $76.61M

49. The Blob (1958)

Not Rated | 86 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

An alien lifeform consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.

Directors: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., Russell S. Doughten Jr. | Stars: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland

Votes: 19,034