Essential Horror Cinema: 50 Films That Redefined the Genre

The horror movie genre continues to bring thrills to some and make the rest of us hide our faces behind pillows at movie night.

There are so many horror movies, but some are better than others.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to create a list of the best horror movies of all time. So, if you are a horror fan, you will want to add these to your watch list if you haven’t already seen them.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

“If I have any more fun today I don’t think I can take it!”

– Franklin

Genre: slasher horror

Director: Tobe Hooper

Screenwriters: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal

Description: Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), and her friends decide to spend the night at the old family homestead after their grandfather’s death. Along the way, they encounter a strange hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who scares them with his knife-wielding behavior. When an empty tank strands them at the homestead, Sally and her friends are at the mercy of the killer, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).

2. The Shining (1980)

“Here’s Johnny!”

– Jack Torrance

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriters: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

Description: Aspiring writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Motel, a hotel in the Rocky Mountains that closes every winter, despite the premonitions of his son Danny (Danny Lloyd). As winter sets in and isolation grows, the ominous warnings of the hotel staff come true, and mysterious forces put the already-temperamental Jack in an unstable state, to the horror of Danny and wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall). What is happening in the Overlook Motel, and what is wrong with Room 237?

3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“I am having an old friend for dinner.”

– Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Jonathan Demme

Screenwriter: Ted Tally

Starring: Jodie Foster, Ted Levine, Anthony Hopkins

Description: Young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is trying to catch the brutal serial killer “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine). For help, her instructor at Quantico tells her to consult the former psychiatrist, now incarcerated cannibal, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). However, Lecter’s help does not come cheaply, and he begins to psychologically infiltrate Clarice’s mind, extricating her secrets while, outside Buffalo Bill continues to terrorize women.

I think Hannibal Lecter had such a scary mask, and it was fitting that it only covered his mouth. It was a good design because otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Hopkins’ amazing performance as much, i.e. if we hadn’t seen his eyes. Read more about famous masked killers in horror movies here.

4. Carrie (1976)

“Everyone isn’t bad, Mama! Everything isn’t a sin!”

— Carrie White

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenwriter: Lawrence D. Cohen

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, William Katt, Piper Laurie

Description: Painfully shy Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is tormented at school by bullies. She has no peace at home with her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie). When a kind, popular boy (William Katt) invites her to prom, leading to a clash with the school bullies, everyone will discover that there’s more to Carrie than they bargained for.

If you’re into supernatural horror, you should also check out this list of astral projection horror niche movies.

5. The Exorcist (1973)

“The power of Christ compels you!”

– Father Damien Karras

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: William Friedkin

Screenwriter: William Peter Blatty

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller

Description: In Washington DC, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) experiences strange things around the house that culminate when daughter Regan (Linda Blair) begins acting strangely. After a mysterious death surrounding Regan, Chris calls in a battery of psychiatrists who cannot help her until someone refers her to the troubled Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who battles a supernatural entity for Regan’s soul.

6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

“I’m scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them! We’re gonna die out here!”

– Heather Donahue

Genre: Supernatural horror, found footage horror

Directors: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Screenwriters: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

Description: Three film students Heather, Michael, and Joshua (all playing themselves), decide to make a documentary about a local legend, The Blair Witch. The film students get more when they bargain for when they start recording strange occurrences in this pioneer of the found-footage horror genre.

7. Paranormal Activity (2007)

“You cannot run from this—it will follow you.”

– Dr. Friedrichs

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Director: Oren Peli

Screenwriter: Oren Peli

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Description: Since childhood, Katie (Katie Featherston) has been haunted by a demon, and a psychic can’t help her. Her husband Micah (Micah Sloat) wants to help her and sets up a camera to record demonic activity in their home. However, some of Micah’s actions only awaken what haunts them further. Before the endless sequels, this found-footage thriller chilled audiences to the bone.

8. Train to Busan (2016)

“I’ll take you to your mom no matter what.”

– Seok-woo

Genre: zombie horror

Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Screenwriter: Park Joo-suk

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi

Description: Workaholic businessman Seo Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is on a mission to take his unhappy daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an), to her mother in Busan for vacation. Unbeknownst to him, while they’re getting ready to leave, a chemical leak kicks off a zombie infection that soon reaches their train. Seok-woo must get his daughter to safety while zombies attack the train, and the stations are not much safer.

9. Alien (1979)

“This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”

– Ellen Ripley

Genre: science fiction horror

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Dan O’Bannon

Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright

Description: The commercial space tug ship Nostromo, captained by Dallas (Tom Skerritt), is returning to Earth when it receives a strange signal from a nearby moon. They land on the moon to investigate the distress signal, damaging their ship. Against the wishes of warrant officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), they bring a crew member infected with an alien parasite on board, but the alien isn’t happy with just one victim.

10. The Thing (1982)

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

– Clark

Genre: science fiction horror

Director: John Carpenter

Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster

Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter

Description: American helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) is stationed on a base in Antarctica when his team witnesses a Norwegian helicopter team blowing themselves up. When they go to investigate the Norwegian base, they find it destroyed and occupied by the strange remains of a humanoid. Perhaps unwisely, they bring the body back to their base to investigate.

Also, check out the best horror mermaid movies of all time.

11. A Quiet Place (2018)

“There’s nothing to be scared of.”

– Lee Abbott

Genre: horror

Director: John Krasinski

Screenwriters: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski

Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt

Description: In fewer than 100 days, alien creatures with hypersensitive hearing almost annihilate the world. The Abbott family, led by parents Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski), are among the few survivors communicating by ASL, which they know thanks to deaf teenager Regan (Millicent Simmonds). The family struggles to survive in an inhospitable world that leaves little room for children’s mistakes.

12. Halloween (1978)

“What’s the boogieman?”

– Laurie

Genre: slasher horror

Director: John Carpenter

Screenwriters: John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle

Description: Incarcerated child-killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) escapes from the asylum where he’s been imprisoned since he killed his sister as a child and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield. At the same time, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) tries to catch him. Meanwhile, teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) starts noticing stalking behavior, but nobody believes her. Is the boogieman stalking her, or is it something far more real?

Also, check out these famous horror couples from movies you might not know about.

13. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

“What have you done to his eyes?”

– Rosemary

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Roman Polanski

Screenwriter: Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

Description: Young couple Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary (Mia Farrow) move into a haunted apartment building in New York City, although they don’t believe the ominous rumors. When Rosemary gets a “good luck charm” from bothersome neighbor Minnie (Ruth Gordon), she becomes pregnant. However, as Rosemary is slowly isolated from her friends, she realizes that the baby and her neighbors are not what they seem.

14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1980)

“Why are you screaming?”

– Freddy Krueger

Genre: supernatural slasher horror

Director: Wes Craven

Screenwriter: Wes Craven

Starring: John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp

Description: Teenager Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is disturbed when her friend Tina (Amanda Wyss) talks about strange nightmares where she wakes up with injuries. Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) have a sleepover with Tina to help, only to be helpless when they find her dead. The other teenagers soon start experiencing the same dreams, to the bewilderment of the town that cannot understand how nightmares can kill.

15. Audition (1999)

“Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”

– Asami Yamazaki

Genre: horror

Director: Takashi Miike

Screenwriter: Daisuke Tengan

Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina

Description: Lonely widower Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) agrees to his friend’s plan to hold an audition for young women to be his new wife. Aoyama falls in love with the young, emotional Asami (Eihi Shiina), who captivates him with his plea to love only her. However, as he goes on dates with the young woman and begins to think about proposing marriage, he and his loved ones soon discover a trail of destruction in Asami’s past.

16. Hereditary (2018)

“She isn’t gone.”

– Joan

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Ari Aster

Screenwriter: Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro

Description: Annie Graham (Toni Collette) experiences a series of tragedies that threaten to break her — first the death of her estranged, mentally ill mother, Ellen, then the freak accident that kills her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). As if the grief is not enough to break her, her son Peter (Alex Wolff), and her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), strange things happen around the house that can’t be explained by normal means.

17. The Innocents (1961)

“It was only the wind, my dear.”

– Miles

Genre: horror

Director: Jack Clayton

Screenwriters: William Archibald, Truman Capote, and John Mortimer

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins

Description: Despite her inexperience, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is happy to be hired as a governess by a wealthy bachelor for his wards. However, when she travels to Bly estate to meet the children, she discovers two troubled children and a harried housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins), who is still afraid of the deceased, evil Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). Nobody knows for sure what is causing the strange behavior of the children in this adaptation of Henry James’s work.

18. The Ring (2002)

“She never sleeps…”

– Aidan

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Gore Verbinski

Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger

Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman

Description: Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is suspicious after her seemingly healthy teenage niece drops dead out of nowhere. Her investigations trace the death back to a haunted videotape. According to legend, anyone who watches the tape will die within seven days. When Rachel finds the tape, she inadvertently brings the curse upon herself, her son Aidan (David Dorfman), and estranged ex Noah (Martin Henderson), and they all have to race against time to save themselves.

19. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

“They’re coming to get you, Barbra.”

– Johnny

Genre: horror

Director: George A. Romero

Screenwriters: George A. Romero and John Russo

Starring: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones

Description: Barbra (Judith O’Dea) is on her way to visit her father’s grave with brother Johnny (Russell Streiner, uncredited) when they are attacked by shambling ghouls awakened for a mysterious reason. Johnny is killed, but Barbra manages to flee to a nearby farmhouse, where she holes up with fellow survivors led by Ben (Duane Jones). Can they hold out against the seemingly endless armies of the dead?

20. Under the Shadow (2016)

“Sir, I just want to come back…”

– Shideh

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Babak Anvari

Screenwriter: Babak Anvari

Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi

Description: Former medical student Shideh (Narges Rashidi) dedicates herself to her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) after political concerns prevented her from returning to school. The two remain in Tehran as the Iran-Iraq war rages on, believing that they will be safe. But as air raids intensify, neighbors begin leaving, and the family has to spend more and more of their time in the air-raid shelter, a djinn adds to the family’s woes.

21. Poltergeist (1982)

“You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.”

– Tangina Barrons

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Tobe Hooper

Screenwriters: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grals, Mark Victor

Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight

Description: Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) and her husband Steven (Craig T. Nelson) have a picture-perfect life with their three children in the California suburbs. However, their lives are upended when five-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) begins talking to the TV static. Strange phenomena continue to haunt the family as sinister secrets about their neighborhood’s past are revealed.

22. The Omen (1976)

“Did I scare you, Mommy? I didn’t mean to.”

– Damien

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Richard Donner

Screenwriter: David Seltzer

Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner

Description: Rome-based U.S. diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) agrees to secretly adopt an infant when his wife Katherine’s (Lee Remick) baby dies in childbirth. As Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) turns five, strange things happen around him. Robert calls on the aid of photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner), and together, they discover that the boy Damien is not what he seems.

23. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019)

“Once upon a time, there was a prince who wanted to be a tiger.”

– Estrella

Genre: crime-fantasy horror

Director: Issa Lopez

Screenwriter: Issa Lopez

Starring: Paola Lara, Juan Ramon Lopez, Ianis Guerrero

Description: Estrella (Paola Lara) is on her own in the world after her family is among the victims of Mexico’s Drug War. Armed with three pieces of chalk her teacher claims will grant her wishes, she joins up with fellow street children El Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez) and his gang. However, not even children are spared from the brutal pursuit of crime bosses, including henchman Caco (Ianis Guerrero) and more supernatural pursuers.

24. Suspiria (1977)

“Suzy, do you know anything about…witches?”

– Sarah

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Dario Argento

Screenwriters: Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi

Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci

Description: Suzy (Jessica Harper), a young American ballerina, arrives in Germany hoping to improve herself by studying at the prestigious Tanz Dance Akademie in Germany. However, she discovers right on arrival that something sinister is happening in the school when a fellow student is killed in front of her. Suzy and her roommate Sarah (Stefania Casini) struggle to survive as mysterious occurrences interrupt one dance class after another.

25. Psycho (1960)

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

– Norman Bates

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenwriter: Joseph Stefano

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh

Description: In a moment of weakness, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) decides to steal a large sum of money from her real estate employer so she can marry her debt-ridden boyfriend. On her way out of the state, she stops at the Bates Motel, run by socially awkward yet welcoming Norman (Anthony Perkins). Yet, when Marion disappears without a trace and sister Lila (Vera Miles) decides to track her down, people wonder what the picturesque exterior of the Bates Motel is hiding.

26. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again?”

– Casares

Genre: gothic horror

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro, David Munoz, Antonio Trashorras

Starring: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

Description: During the Spanish Civil War, Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi) and his fiancee Carmen (Marisa Paredes), secret supporters of the Republican cause, run an orphanage in the woods where they secretly hide gold for fighters. Things change when a new boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), arrives, who develops an unnervingly close connection with the boy’s spirit that disappeared just before his arrival.

27. Inside (2007)

“Why me?”

– Sarah

Genre: horror

Directors: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo

Screenwriter: Alexandre Bustillo

Starring: Beatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis

Description: A pregnant, recently widowed Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is struggling to rebuild her life in the wake of a car accident that disabled her, killed her husband, and cut her off from her support system. The night before she is scheduled to deliver her baby, Christmas Eve, a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) arrives at her home and asks to come in, and she will not take no for an answer.

28. The Babadook (2014)

“He’s my father! You don’t own him!”

– Samuel

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Jennifer Kent

Screenwriter: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney

Description: The widowed Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) is struggling to raise her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who becomes even more difficult after he becomes convinced that a monster from his storybook, The Babadook, is real and coming to get him. However, strange things begin to happen around the house that isolates the family from relatives and friends, and Amelia begins to wonder if the Babadook is real after all.

29. The Witch (2015)

“There’s evil in the wood.”

– William

Genre: period supernatural horror

Director: Robert Eggers

Screenwriter: Robert Eggers

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Description: After getting banished from a Puritan settlement, William (Ralph Ineson) moves his family to a remote cabin in the woods. However, the family finds out that there is great evil hidden in the woods when unbaptized baby Samuel is abducted, devastating mother Katherine (Kate Dickie). They begin to suspect teenage daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the suspicions tear the family apart almost as much as the evil coming out of the woods.

30. Saw (2004)

“I want to play a game.”

– Jigsaw

Genre: Puzzle horror

Director: James Wan

Screenwriter: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell

Description: The Jigsaw Killer, who kills by tormenting his victims in twisted games, has found new victims in Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), who wake up chained to a bathroom with tapes in their pockets instructing them that Gordon must kill Adam, Adam must survive. As the two try to get out of their predicament, which is only possible by sawing off their own feet, they also try to figure out the identity of the mysterious killer haunting the area for years.

Check out the best Puzzle Horror movies if you like movies like Saw.

31. Possession (1981)

“I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I’m the maker of my own evil.”

– Anna

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Andrzej Zulawski

Screenwriters: Andrzej Zulawski and Frederic Tuten

Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill

Description: During the height of the Cold War, international spy Mark (Sam Neill) is surprised when he returns home to find out that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani), wants a divorce. After losing his wife, apartment, and custody of his child, Mark doesn’t think he can sink any lower. Still, his life takes a turn for the worse when he discovers the reason behind Anna’s brutal behavior and actions that could endanger their child.

32. Pan’s Labyrinth (2007)

“The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

– Carmen

Genre: fantasy horror

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screenwriter: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones, Ivana Baquero)

Description: Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) finds refuge in a book of fairy tales when she and her sick mother move in with the sadistic fascist Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Soon, Ofelia discovers that the fairy tale world is real, and she meets the Faun (Doug Jones), who assigns her a series of tasks to help her regain her true form as Princess Moanna. However, the tasks he gives her take her to increasingly disturbing locales, while around her, the real-life horrors of the Spanish Civil War rage on.

33. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

“Now I also know how to cure him.”

– Dr. Caligari

Genre: silent horror

Director: Robert Wiene

Screenwriters: Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz

Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher

Description: Francis (Friedrich Feher) lives a hedonistic life in the small town of Holstenwall. At the same time, the vengeful Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) prepares a spectacle for the town fair featuring somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt). Things take a turn for the bizarre when Cesare accurately predicts the murder of someone in the audience in this twisting silent film that scares even a century later.

34. The Lighthouse (2019)

“It’s the calm before the storm, Winslow.”

– Thomas

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Robert Eggers

Screenwriters: Robert and Max Eggers

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson

Description: Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) hopes to find a new career and escape his past by taking a position as a wickie (lighthouse keeper) at a lighthouse. However, his demanding and humiliating boss, lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), does not allow him near the lantern. In isolation, the two men are pushed to the limit as Ephraim questions the sea man’s superstitions, including bans on killing seagulls and beliefs in mermaids.

35. Let the Right One In (2008)

“I’m like you.”

– Eli

Genre: romantic horror

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Screenwriter: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar

Description: Lonely bullied Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) dreams of getting violent revenge on the bullies that torment him in his school in a 1980s Stockholm suburb. When mysterious new girl Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves in next door with old caretaker Hakan (Per Ragnar), Oskar befriends her, and she encourages him to stand up for himself. But the bloodthirsty Eli is not what she seems, and her appetites threaten to rip apart their small town.

36. Get Out (2017)

“You know I can’t give you the keys, right, babe?”

– Rose

Genre: horror

Director: Jordan Peele

Screenwriter: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford

Description: Black photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is finally taking the next step in his relationship — meeting his white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family. At first, the encounter with the family, including bleeding heart liberal pater familias Dean (Bradley Whitford), is no stranger than any encounter with an all-white suburb. But beneath the wholesome exterior, populated by the white Armitage, their friends, and black servants, is a far more sinister secret.

37. It (2017)

“Don’t you want it?”

– Pennywise

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Andy Muschietti

Screenwriters: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgard

Description: Young Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), living in a small Maine town, is still haunted by his brother’s disappearance the summer before. He recruits a gang of neighborhood kids to uncover what happened. Soon, they uncover a string of disappearances in their town going back centuries, all committed by Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard). It’s up to the kids to defend their town against this evil.

38. The Birds (1963)

“These weren’t a few birds.”

– Melanie Daniels

Genre: horror thriller

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenwriter: Evan Hunter

Starring: Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Tippi Hedren

Description: Bored socialite Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is intrigued by lawyer Mitch (Rod Taylor), whom she meets in a pet store. However, when she follows him to his family’s farm to deliver a birthday present for his sister, she finds out that his overbearing mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), is not the most frightening. The local birds have started behaving in inexplicable ways.

39. Young Frankenstein (1974)

“Wait, Master, it might be dangerous… you go first.”

– Igor

Genre: comedy horror

Director: Mel Brooks

Screenwriters: Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman

Description: Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a successful American physician trying to distance himself from his mad scientist forefather, Victor, when he discovers he inherits his family estate in Transylvania. Returning home, the young Frankenstein meets a loyal manservant (Marty Feldman) and is inspired to take up his grandfather’s work, with comedic results.

40. Godzilla (1954)

“I saw it! A creature from the Jurassic era!”

– Dr. Kyohei Yamane

Genre: monster horror

Director: Ishiro Honda

Screenwriters: Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura

Description: When a series of boats mysteriously disappear near Odo Island, locals blame an ancient sea creature, Godzilla, which soon takes its revenge on the land. The government sends paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) to investigate, but his desire to examine conflicts with the government’s drive to kill the monster. Chaos erupts as Japan’s most iconic monster attacks the mainland.

41. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

“I’m bad.”

– The Girl

Genre: Horror Western

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour

Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

Description: In an Iranian ghost town, Arash (Arash Marandi) does his best to take care of his addict father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh), in an inhospitable environment with criminals who harass them. A mysterious, chador-clad skateboarding woman, known only as The Girl (Sheila Vand), arrives in town and begins avenging those who prey on weak people. But not all is what it seems about The Girl.

42. Midsommar (2019)

“Does he feel like home to you?”

– Pelle

Genre: folk horror

Director: Ari Aster

Screenwriter: Ari Aster

Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper

Description: Traumatized student Dani (Florence Pugh) reluctantly joins insensitive boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) on a trip to his friend’s house in Sweden to see a Midsummer ritual that only occurs once or twice a century. When they get to the community, strange things happen, but Christian’s friend Josh (William Jackson Harper) encourages them to stay so he can finish his thesis. But will they ever be able to leave?

43. La Llorona (2019)

“All the hatred, all the talking about bad things must leave…”

– Valeriana

Genre: folk horror

Director: Jayro Bustamante

Screenwriters: Jayro Bustamante and Lisandro Sanchez

Starring: Maria Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz

Description: The family of former Guatemalan dictator Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) is besieged by protesters when he is acquitted of genocide. All the household staff quit, and strange occurrences only intensify when the new maid, Alma (Maria Mercedes Coroy), joins the household. Internally, the household is divided by doubt when daughter Natalia (Sabrina De la Hoz) questions her father’s innocence.

44. The Evil Dead (1981)

“Kill her if you can, loverboy!”

– Cheryl

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: Sam Raimi

Screenwriter: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss

Description: Five students, including siblings Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), go on vacation to a remote cabin in the Tennessee woods. As soon as they arrive, they notice strange happenings that they initially dismiss but that becomes harder to ignore once they find a demonic text in the cellar.

45. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

“There isn’t a human being left in Santa Mira!”

– Dr. Miles Bennel

Genre: science-fiction horror

Director: Phillip Kaufman

Screenwriter: W.D. Richter

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum

Description: When Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) brings a mysterious flower home, she becomes confused when her boyfriend starts behaving strangely. Soon, reports pour in of people reporting loved ones behaving strangely. She works together with Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), her colleague, to try and fight off a strange epidemic of clones.

46. The Conjuring (2013)

“Sometimes it’s better to keep the genie in the bottle.”

– Ed Warren

Genre: supernatural horror

Director: James Wan

Screenwriters: Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

Description: Demonologist couple Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) are called in to help the Perron family, who is haunted after moving into a remote farmhouse on Rhode Island. The Warrens must fight off a spirit that reaches into the town’s malevolent history before the family’s children are victimized.

47. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

‘I’m just a mean green mother from outer space and I’m bad!”

– Audrey II

Genre: horror black comedy

Director: Frank Oz

Screenwriter: Howard Ashman

Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin

Description: Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) works in a struggling plant shop in a run-down NYC neighborhood that begins to turn around when gentle colleague Audrey (Ellen Greene) places his strange plant in the window. However, the plant, nicknamed Audrey II, develops a taste for human blood and complicates the lives of those around her in this musical horror-comedy.

48. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

“You mean, all this time we could have been friends?”

– Jane Hudson

Genre: psychological horror

Director: Robert Aldrich

Screenwriter: Lukas Heller

Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford

Description: Spoiled child actress Jane (Bette Davis) grows into an alcoholic failure, a burden on her responsible, shy older sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) until Blanche’s career is crippled by a horrific accident. The paralyzed Blanche is at the mercy of the increasingly unhinged Jane.

49. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”

– Peter

Genre: zombie horror

Director: George A. Romero

Screenwriter: George A. Romero

Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger

Description: After only a few weeks of a mysterious virus, the United States is overrun by zombies. Stephen Andrews (David Emge) tries to save himself and his girlfriend and winds up in a shopping mall with other survivors, including Peter Washington (Ken Foree), fleeing from a violent police incident. Can they hold out against the dead?

50. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“I want you to arrest me, you asshole!”

– David

Genre: horror comedy

Director: John Landis

Screenwriter: John Landis

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

Description: When two American backpackers wind up in a remote area of Yorkshire on the full moon, only David (David Naughton) survives an attack by a mysterious beast. When he wakes up in a hospital in London weeks later, he has to deal with his terrifying transformation.


From Psycho to Paranormal Activity and dozens of other films in between, these are the best horror movies of all time.

Most of these are pretty scary, so if you’re looking for something to see together with your kids, have a look at The Best Horror Movies for 13 year olds instead.

Please comment below if you have any other recommendations for good horror movies. I’d love to hear from you!


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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