My top 10 ten horror movies
There are thousands of top 10 horror movies lists floating around out there, but over the past few years I’ve been asked for my list countless times. So I decided to finally make it. Warning: It’s not the most original list.
I didn’t try to include lesser-known films to show you how hip and cool I am or any super old films in some attempt to make you think I’m super intelligent, and I didn’t include a bunch of foreign films to make you think I’m some cultured savant. I just picked the films I enjoy the most, and uninterestingly, they all turned out to be American films from 1970-1999, almost all of which most people tend to agree are some of the best horror films of all time. Regardless, I present my list!
Number 10 on my top 10 horror movies list is Misery. Misery isn’t the only Stephen King adaptation to make the list, ironic because I don’t actually like King’s writing. Luckily, other filmmakers do like King’s writing and they see the value in it and they’re able to bring that value out in a way that I can appreciate. I have a lot of respect for King. He’s a writer with an incredible work ethic. I just think he should start making his protagonists something other than writers!
Misery is a great horror film with lots of unexpected twists and plenty of crippling tension. The older I’m getting, the more I’m loving “real” horror films, and the less I’m enjoying the supernatural alternative. A recent horror/thriller I really loved was The Gift (2015), which had a lot of similar tension building as Misery. But Misery combined a lot of elements I love about horror: great characters, an isolated setting, and a reserved use of gore and jump scares.
Number 9 on my top 10 horror movies list is Carrie. It’s also another King adaptation. It’s not a terrifying movie, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it is a great movie that happens to be a horror. The cinematography is great, the acting is superb, the overall direction is excellent. Though I think the poster sucks, which is why it took me so long to get around to watching the film.
Carrie does an excellent job building characters, which I believe is more important than anything in horror filmmaking. As a result, you find yourself totally invested in the film. When that blood drops, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
8. The Fly
Number 8 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. Like Carrie, I don’t believe the film is that scary personally, but again, it’s a great film. The acting is spot on, the writing is great, and the direction is solid. But best of all, the special effects are phenomenal. If you go into the film not knowing what to expect, the film is shocking (as you would expect from a director like Cronenberg).
And once again, the characters are fantastic. Seth Brundle is a captivating character that you can’t not love, and Jeff Goldblum is the only human on the planet who could pull that character off. So many horror movies rely on boring archetypes or worse, the everyman, to lead their plot. The Fly doesn’t fall for that trap.
7. The Exorcist
Number 7 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Exorcist. If you found this page looking for a scary movie recommendation, The Exorcist is it. A lot of people might be put off by the fact it’s the oldest film on my list, but don’t be discouraged by its age. The Exorcist holds up. This film has scared the living hell out of so many people since its release, and I think it will continue doing so for a very long time. And most hardcore horror fans would agree.
The Exorcist backs up a lot of my horror theories. There are very few jump scares, the characters are great and relatable, and the filmmakers focus on the story rather than just trying to make the film scary. As a result, you are more invested in the material, you care more for the fate of the characters, and you’re more vulnerable to the fear and dread that the film orchestrates masterfully.
6. Eyes Wide Shut
Number 6 on my top 10 horror movies list is Eyes Wide Shut. Eyes Wide Shut gets a lot of bad press from film fans, mostly because people love to hate Tom Cruise (Tom Cruise is the best, by the way). There’s some silly theory that Tom Cruise and the studio took the film away from Stanley Kubrick and had it cut his own way and Kubrick could do nothing about it because, well, he was dead. Warner Bros insists Kubrick submitted the final cut before his death. Either way, the film is great. It’s a film that forces you to watch closely, sometimes with multiple viewings, to realize what’s going on. It’s like a puzzle you have to assemble, and every time you get a piece, you get closer to the very terrifying final image.
There is so much happening in the background in Eyes Wide Shut–so many little clues hidden in the frame. In the middle of the film, Cruise finds himself in a secret world that he wasn’t supposed to find. And then the next thing he knows, that world is gone. But it’s never really gone. It continues to exist in the background. The secret world becomes an invisible entity that you, as the viewer, can always feel is around, meddling in plot.
What makes the film even more terrifying are all of the conspiracies surrounding it. Some people suggest that Kubrick was trying to point people towards a very real secret society filled with sex slaves, much like the one in the film. Since the film’s release, there’s been an overwhelming number of testimonies suggesting such a society actually exists. Yikes!
Number 5 on my top 10 horror movies list is Predator. Predator is the most entertaining film ever made. It’s got insane action and special effects, incredible stunt-work, an original and fun plot, good characters and performances, and so on and so on. It’s impossible to doze off while watching this movie.
The filmmakers really cared about this film, but they really didn’t have to. They could have shot it on a backlot in Hollywood, gotten some safe, seasoned director, and they could have just made a quick buck. But they didn’t do that. They hired a new director who they thought was a great new talent, they put the script through numerous rewrites, and they shipped the cast and crew off to Mexico to shoot the thing. The first creature they had looked kind of silly, and they could have settled with it, but instead they froze production and had a whole new creature built. An incredible amount of thought went into every shot in the film, and the work payed off because I truly believe the film is absolutely timeless. In 500 years someone will be able to watch it and it will stand up.
4. The Evil Dead
Number 4 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Evil Dead (the original, of course). The Evil Dead holds a special place in my heart because it’s part of the reason I went into filmmaking, and it’s the one reason I went into horror. Reading about the production, seeing pictures from set, I was able to see myself doing the same thing. It never seemed like something I couldn’t achieve, unlike other films I loved at the time like The Thing, with incredible production value and stunt work and so on. The Evil Dead was just a small crew of buddies in a cabin with a super simple script.
Does it hold up today? I think so, but not in the same way Predator or The Exorcist holds up. It’s got a special charm to it. You can feel the love and ambition that went into it. I love any indie film that feels completely genuine, but they’re very rare.
I watched The Evil Dead for the first time when I was 13 years old, on my laptop in my dark bedroom, with headphones on. It scared the hell out of me. I had to pause it multiple times to build up the courage to continue. Despite the film’s low budget, it still has good characters, a good plot, great atmosphere, great cinematography. It’s proof you don’t need a massive budget to make a great movie.
3. The Thing
Number 3 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Thing (the original, of course). If you’ve seen my film, Black Mountain Side, you probably saw this pick coming. Black Mountain Side has been tirelessly compared to The Thing, but I don’t really mind, seeing as The Thing is commonly considered one of the greatest horror films ever made.
The Thing has amazing cinematography, special effects, and a captivating setting and story. But best of all, it has amazing characters. None of the characters are dull or boring. Watching the film, you feel like there’s life in every one of them, and you care for all of them when shit starts to hit the fan.
Carpenter made some seriously awesome films in his early days, though if I’m going to be honest, he kind of loses me shortly after The Thing. I actually don’t like In The Mouth of Madness, I think They Live is pretty corny, Big Trouble in Little China didn’t do much for me. I think The Thing and Escape From New York were the films he was born to make.
2. The Shining
Number 2 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Shining. The Shining is one of those films that you just have to see to understand. Whenever I hear people saying it’s too long and too boring, my mind is blown. I wish the film was longer. I wish it was twelve hours long. And boring? That I can’t understand.
The acting is Oscar-worthy. The production value is perfect. The setting is awesome. But what takes the cake is the tone. From the opening frame right ’till the end of the film, there’s an intense sense of dread that never goes away and continues to grow and grow and grow. Watching the film, you really feel like you’re in that empty hotel. It’s a truly surreal feeling that really can’t be described.
Stephen King supposedly hates the film because it isn’t faithful to his source material (which I’ve read, and it’s true, it’s not very faithful). But I really do believe Kubrick took the source material and made it better. All of Jack Torrance’s backstory that Kubrick cut out from the book is still there, in Jack Nicholson’s performance. After I read the book, I understood his character so much better, but I think I ruined it somewhat. The power of that performance is that you can see the man is tortured but you don’t really know why. It’s more interesting when it’s left mysterious, and it allows the audience’s imagination to fill the gaps.
Number 1 on my top 10 horror movies list is Alien.
I don’t like the sequels (sorry, but I don’t really like Aliens) or the spinoffs, and to be honest, I almost wish they didn’t exist, because they try all to explain things that are better left unexplained. The Blair Witch Project (original) is a great film, until you go and watch the putrid sequel, which attempts to explain everything that happened in the original. It ruins it. It takes away the mystery and then there’s nothing left.
Alien is still a good movie, despite the existence of its sequels. It’s got everything: isolated setting, great production value, cinematography, acting, characters, special effects, and so on and so on. In fact, I am willing to suggest that the film has no flaws whatsoever. There isn’t a single line delivery that doesn’t sound authentic, there isn’t a single set piece that looks fake, there isn’t a single shot that feels out of place or unnecessary. Technically, it’s a perfect film.
Ridley Scott’s tension building is phenomenal. He increases the tension in perfect amounts and gives the audience small, perfectly timed breaks to keep us from being overstimulated. He uses his jump scares sparingly and they’re always unexpected (sometimes even to the actors). Alien is the perfect example of a team of filmmakers working at the top of their game, pushing the boundaries of filmmaking.