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The 100 best horror movies of all time

In September 2021 Time Out writers and horror experts chose their list of the 100 best horror movies of all time. The list includes everything from slasher films, scary alien productions to monster features and silent cinema classics. Perhaps unsurprisingly its American cinema of the 1970s that receives the most recognition.

  • 100. The Babadook (2014)
  • 99. The Invisible Man (2020)
  • 98. The Mist (2007)
  • 97. God Told Me To (1976)
  • 96. It Follows (2014)
  • 95. Saint Maud (2020)
  • 94. Scream (1996)
  • 93. Re-Animator (1985)
  • 92. It (2017)
  • 91. Braindead (1992)
  • 90. Dead Ringers (1988)
  • 89. Day of the Dead (1985)
  • 88. The Unknown (1927)
  • 87. Session 9 (2001)
  • 86. Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
  • 85. Phantasm (1979)
  • 84. Candyman (1992)
  • 83. Dracula (1958)
  • 82. Black Sabbath (1963)
  • 81. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  • 80. Midsommar (2019)
  • 79. A Quiet Place (2018)
  • 78. Ginger Snaps (2000)
  • 77. The Fog (1979)
  • 76. Get Out (2017)
  • 75. Hellraiser (1987)
  • 74. Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan, Revenge of the Vampire) (1960)
  • 73. Black Christmas (1974)
  • 72. The Old Dark House (1932)
  • 71. Kill, Baby… Kill! (aka Operazione Paura, Curse of the Dead)
  • 70. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
  • 69. 28 Days Later… (2002)
  • 68. Night of the Demon (1957)
  • 67. The Witch (2015)
  • 66. Switchblade Romance (2003)
  • 65. Pulse (Kairo) (2001)
  • 64. The Beyond (1981)
  • 63. Lake Mungo (2008)
  • 62. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • 61. Les Diaboliques (1955)
  • 60. [Rec] (2007)
  • 59. Vampyr (1932)
  • 58. Kwaidan (1964)
  • 57. The Vanishing (1988)
  • 56. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  • 55. The Wailing
  • 54. Repulsion (1965)
  • 53. Eraserhead (1977)
  • 52. Deep Red (1975)
  • 51. The Devils (1971)
  • 50. The Descent (2005)
  • 49. Peeping Tom (1960)
  • 48. Ring (Ringu) (1998)
  • 47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)
  • 46. Dead of Night (1945)
  • 45. The Others (2001)
  • 44. The Silence of the Lambs (1990)
  • 43. The Tenant (1976)
  • 42. Hour of the Wolf (1967)
  • 41. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
  • 40. Possession (1981)
  • 39. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
  • 38. Eyes Without a Face (1959)
  • 37. Frankenstein (1931)
  • 36. The Wicker Man (1973)
  • 35. Carnival of Souls (1962)
  • 34. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • 33. Hereditary (2018)
  • 32. Cat People (1942)
  • 31. Videodrome (1982)
  • 30. The Changeling (1979)
  • 29. The Birds (1963)
  • 28. The Evil Dead (1981)
  • 27. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • 26. Poltergeist (1982)
  • 25. The Omen (1976)
  • 24. Freaks (1932)
  • 23. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)
  • 22. The Haunting (1963)
  • 21. Audition (1999)
  • 20. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  • 19. Let the Right One In (2008)
  • 18. The Fly (1986)
  • 17. Evil Dead II (1987)
  • 16. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • 15. Carrie (1982)
  • 14. The Innocents (1961)
  • 13. Don’t Look Now (1973)
  • 12. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • 11. Suspiria (1976)
  • 10. Jaws (1975)
  • 9. Dawn of the Dead (1974)
  • 8. Halloween (1978)
  • 7. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  • 6. The Thing (1982)
  • 5. Psycho (1960)
  • 4. Alien (1979)
  • 3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • 2. The Shining (1980)
  • 1. The Exorcist (1973)

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Martin Scorsese’s Scariest Movies of All Time

For Halloween 2015, Daily Beast invited acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese to name what he believes to be the scariest movies of all time. Perhaps unsurprisingly Scorsese doesn’t include the sort gratuitous horror of the 21st century and names nothing later than the early 1980s in his list of 11 films. Pleasing to see recognition from the Taxi Driver director for classic British horror such as Dead of Night and Jack Clayton’s atmospheric masterpiece The Innocents.

  1. The Haunting
  2. The Isle of the Dead
  3. The Uninvited
  4. The Entity
  5. Dead of Night
  6. The Changeling
  7. The Shining
  8. The Exorcist
  9. Night of the Demon
  10. The Innocents
  11. Psycho

See Also –

Martin Scorsese 10-Movie DVD & Blu-ray Collection: Goodfellas / Mean Streets / Aviator / Departed / Wolf of Wall Street / Shutter Island / Taxi Driver / Raging Bull / New York, New York
The Films of Martin Scorsese: Gangsters, Greed, and Guilt (kindle, Hardcover)

The 25 best horror films of all time

In October 2010, as part of the  Guardian and Observer’s Film Season, The Guardian published a list of the 25 best horror films. Hitchcock’s Psycho finishes in top in a list that includes a number of classics from the early days of cinema, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, Vampyr, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Les Vampires.

1) Psycho

2) Rosemary’s Baby

3) Don’t Look Now

4) The Wicker Man

5) The Shining

6) The Exorcist

7) Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

8) Let the Right One In

9) Vampyr

10) Peeping Tom

11) The Innocents

12) Ring

13) The Haunting

14) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

15) Dead of Night

16) The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

17) Halloween

18) Bride of Frankenstein

19) Les Diaboliques

20) Dracula

21) Audition

22) The Blair Witch Project

23) The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II

24) Carrie

25) Les Vampires

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The greatest horror films of all time

In 2005, Total Film magazine carried out poll to find the greatest horror films of all time. Below is the top 10 films. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, made for $140,000 US dollars and inspired by the exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein topped the list ahead of Halloween.

1. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
2. Halloween (1978)
3. Suspiria (1977)
4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
5. The Shining (1980)
6. Psycho (1960)
7. The Wicker Man (1973)
8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
9. Don’t Look Now (1973)
10. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
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The 100 Scariest Movie Moments

The 100 Scariest Movie Moments list comes  from an American television documentary miniseries that aired in late October 2004 on Bravo. In five 60-minute segments, the miniseries counts down what producer Anthony Timpone, writer Patrick Moses, and director Kevin Kaufman have determined as the 100 most frightening and disturbing moments in the history of movies. Each segment includes interviews from horror genre experts and other celebrities who experienced the listed films, as well as film clips and movie stills from the films covered. However, information on the list only includes details of specific moments in the films for the top 5 placings.

1 Jaws – The opening scene in which the unseen shark devours Chrissie Watkins during a midnight swim.
2 Alien – the chestburster sequence.
3 The Exorcist – The scene where the possessed Regan MacNeil’s head spins clockwise during the exorcism.
4 Psycho – The death scene of the private investigator Arbogast.
5 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – The scene in which Leatherface bashes Kirk’s skull in with a sledgehammer.
6 The Shining
7 The Silence of the Lambs
8 Carrie
9 Night of the Living Dead
10 Wait Until Dark
11 Audition
12 Misery
13 Scream
14 Halloween
15 Freaks
16 The Omen
17 A Nightmare on Elm Street
18 The Haunting
19 Hellraiser
20 The Ring
21 Jacob’s Ladder
22 Don’t Look Now
23 Rosemary’s Baby
24 Suspiria
25 Phantasm
26 Seven
27 Frankenstein
28 When a Stranger Calls
29 The Serpent and the Rainbow
30 The Blair Witch Project
31 Friday the 13th
32 Pet Sematary
33 The Fly
34 The Hitcher
35 Aliens
36 Cape Fear
37 House on Haunted Hill
38 Peeping Tom
39 Dawn of the Dead
40 Black Sunday
41 The Hills Have Eyes
42 An American Werewolf in London
43 It’s Alive
44 The Game
45 The Wicker Man
46 The Sentinel
47 Nosferatu
48 The Thing
49 Les Diaboliques
50 The Last House on the Left
51 The Dead Zone
52 The Phantom of the Opera
53 Demons
54 The Changeling
55 The Vanishing
56 Single White Female
57 House of Wax
58 Cujo
59 Fatal Attraction
60 The Beyond
61 The Devil’s Backbone
62 The Wolf Man
63 Deliverance
64 Near Dark
65 The Tenant
66 Marathon Man
67 Duel
68 The Black Cat
69 Re-Animator
70 The Stepfather
71 The Sixth Sense
72 Them!
73 Blood Simple
74 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
75 Candyman
76 The Evil Dead
77 Signs
78 The Brood
79 Dracula
80 Poltergeist
81 The Howling
82 The Terminator
83 The Others
84 Blue Velvet
85 Blood and Black Lace
86 The Wizard of Oz
87 Black Christmas
88 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
89 Alice, Sweet Alice
90 The Night of the Hunter
91 Shallow Grave
92 Village of the Damned
93 Child’s Play
94 Pacific Heights
95 Jurassic Park
96 The Birds
97 Cat People
98 Zombi 2
99 Creepshow
100 28 Days Later

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock Cinematographer: John L. Russell

Having just enjoyed spectacular success with the lavishly scaled North by Northwest, with Psycho, Hitchcock surprisingly turned to a shooting schedule and black and white photography that was more commonly used in television. The grisly horror/thriller follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who, while hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, encounters the the initially mild mannered motel owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Unsettling and strange when compared to the director’s earlier romantic adventures, the film features a mix of brilliant montage, long mobile camera shots, complex characterisation and dramatic narrative shifts that play with the audience’s expectations. It’s here that Hitchcock’s collaboration with composer Bernard Herrmann arguably reaches its peak, particularly with one of cinema’s most acclaimed sequences, the famous shower scene. Derided at the time of release by critics who deemed it to have too much focus on the sort of seedy subject matter they thought was more at home in cheap horror, the film is now seen as one of Hithcock’s major works. Ultimately, while it’s sex and violence may seem tame and even predictable by 21st century standards, the film represents an important turning point in American film history as it brought such excesses into mainstream cinema but it was also such content, and particularly an increased tendency from Hitchcock towards violence against women, that would later cause a decline in his popularity.

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Blue Velvet (1986)

Director: David Lynch Cinematographer: Frederick Elmes

Lynch’s unsettling and provocative drama centres around a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), who, upon returning from visiting his ill father in hospital, comes across a human ear in a field in his idealised hometown of Lumberton.  Intrigued by what he’s found, Jeffrey journeys behind the facade of  middle American suburbia into the terrifying criminal world  of the malevolent Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Initially disliked by some critics for the level of violence, the film’s reputation has grown from cult status to being considered one of the best films of the 1980s. With Lynch at the peak of his disorientating powers and Hopper giving a terrifying career best performance Blue Velvet remains, all these decades later,  a uniquely troubling and exhilarating experience.

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  • Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy Vallens
  • Kyle MacLachlan as Jeffrey Beaumont
  • Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth. The role of the gas-huffing, obscenity-screaming villain brought about a career resurgence for Hopper. He was the biggest name in the film, having starred in and directed Easy Rider (1969). Hopper, said to be far from Lynch’s first choice (Michael Ironside has stated that Frank was written with him in mind), accepted the role after Harry Dean Stanton and Steven Berkoff both turned it down because of the violent content in the film. Few actors have thrown themselves into a part as Hopper does here, showing no inhibition with a performance that had left an imprint on popular culture, with countless tributes, cultural references and parodies.
  • Laura Dern as Sandy Williams
  • Hope Lange as Mrs. Pam Williams
  • Dean Stockwell as Ben
  • George Dickerson as Detective John Williams
  • Priscilla Pointer as Mrs. Frances Beaumont
  • Frances Bay as Aunt Barbara
  • Jack Harvey as Mr. Tom Beaumont
  • Ken Stovitz as Mike Shaw
  • Brad Dourif as Raymond
  • Jack Nance as Paul
  • J. Michael Hunter as Hunter
  • Dick Green as Don Vallens
  • Fred Pickler as Detective Tom Gordon/The Yellow Man
  • Megan Mullally as Louise Wertham (scenes not in final cut)
  • Jon Jon Snipes as Little Donnie

Directed by David Lynch
Produced by Fred Caruso
Screenplay by David Lynch
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Frederick Elmes
Edited by Duwayne Dunham
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Director: Miloš Forman Cinematographer: Haskell Wexler, Bill Butler

Based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, the film follows Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a petty criminal serving a short sentence for statutory rape, who is transferred to a mental institution after faking insanity to avoid prison hard labour. Brought to life by an outstanding ensemble cast, led by an energized Nicholson (who improvised throughout) and Louise Fletcher’s notable turn as his nemesis, the domineering nurse Ratched, the film provides a powerful portrait of the oppressive nature of such draconian institutions. It’s maybe dated from a moral point of view and treads a fine line between comedy and tragedy, but the film remains one of the strongest examples of New American cinema and was only the second film to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay).

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  • Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick “R.P.” McMurphy. Hal Ashby, who had been an early consideration for director, suggested Nicholson for the role even though he had never played this type of role before. Production was delayed for about six months because of Nicholson’s schedule, but producer Michael Douglas later stated in an interview that “that turned out to be a great blessing: it gave us the chance to get the ensemble right”. The part is the one that allows the actor to show his full range, moving from quieter restrained moments to full on rages. Forman allowed Nicholson to improvise throughout the film, including most of the group therapy sequences. He was rewarding with an Oscar for best actor and the performance is seen as one of American cinema’s most legendary.
  • Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched
  • Will Sampson as “Chief” Bromden
  • William Redfield as Dale Harding
  • Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit
  • Sydney Lassick as Charlie Cheswick
  • Christopher Lloyd as Max Taber
  • Danny DeVito as Martini
  • Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey
  • William Duell as Jim Sefelt
  • Vincent Schiavelli as Bruce Frederickson
  • Michael Berryman as Ellis
  • Alonzo Brown as Attendant Miller
  • Mwako Cumbaka as Attendant Warren
  • Nathan George as Attendant Washington
  • Marya Small as Candy
  • Scatman Crothers as Night Guard Turkle
  • Phil Roth as Woolsey
  • Louisa Moritz as Rose
  • Peter Brocco as Col. Matterson
  • Delos V. Smith Jr. as Inmate Scanlon
  • Josip Elic as Inmate Bancini
  • Mimi Sarkisian as Nurse Pilbow
  • Ted Markland as Hap Arlich

Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas
Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Haskell Wexler, Bill Butler
Edited by Richard Chew, Lynzee Klingman, Sheldon Kahn
Running time 133 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Director: Billy Wilder Cinematographer: John F. Seitz

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards (including nominations in all four acting categories), the film stars William Holden as a naive and unsuccessful screenwriter and Gloria Swanson as a faded movie star who draws him into her demented fantasy world, in which she dreams of making a return to the screen. While transcending film noir tropes and featuring notable appearances from Erich von Stroheim and Cecil B. DeMille (playing himself), it’s Swanson’s legendary unsettling performance that propels Wilder’s deliciously cynical and melodramatic black comedy to greatness. Still probably the best critique of the inner workings of Hollywood and the destructive melancholy that comes with been trapped in the past.

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  • William Holden as Joe Gillis
  • Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond. According to producer and co-writer Charles Brackett, director and co-writer Billy Wilder and he never considered anyone except Gloria Swanson for the role of Norma Desmond. Wilder, however, had a different recollection. He recalled first wanting Mae West and Marlon Brando for the leads. West rejected the offer out-right as she portrayed herself as a sex symbol through her senior years, and was offended that she should be asked to play a Hollywood has been. Having approached Greta Garbo, Pola Negri, Norma Shearer and Mary Pickford and got nowhere, Wilder asked George Cukor for advice. He suggested Swanson, one of the most feted actresses of the silent-screen era, known for her beauty, talent, and extravagant lifestyle. In many ways, she resembled the Norma Desmond character, and like her, had been unable to make a smooth transition into talking pictures. However, Swanson had gone on to work on talking pictures, accepted the end of her film career and then worked on radio, television and the stage. Though Swanson was not seeking a movie comeback, she became intrigued when Wilder discussed the role with her and was glad for the opportunity to earn a greater salary than she had been making in other mediums. However, she didn’t want to do a screen test, saying she had “made 20 films for Paramount. Why do they want me to audition?” Her reaction was echoed in the screenplay when Norma Desmond declares, “Without me there wouldn’t be any Paramount.” In her memoir, Swanson recalled asking Cukor if it was unreasonable to refuse the screen test. He replied that since Norma Desmond was the role for which she would be remembered, “If they ask you to do ten screen tests, do ten screen tests, or I will personally shoot you.” His enthusiasm convinced Swanson to participate, In a 1975 interview, Wilder recalled Swanson’s reaction with the observation, “There was a lot of Norma in her, you know.”
  • Erich von Stroheim as Max von Mayerling
  • Nancy Olson as Betty Schaefer
  • Fred Clark as Sheldrake, film producer
  • Lloyd Gough as Morino, Joe’s agent
  • Jack Webb as Artie Green
  • Franklyn Farnum as undertaker
  • Larry J. Blake as finance man #1
  • Charles Dayton as finance man #2
  • Cecil B. DeMille as himself
  • Hedda Hopper as herself
  • Sidney Skolsky as himself
  • Buster Keaton as himself (bridge player)
  • Anna Q. Nilsson as herself (bridge player)
  • H. B. Warner as himself (bridge player)
  • Ray Evans (pianist at Artie’s party)
  • Jay Livingston (pianist at Artie’s party)
  • Robert Emmett O’Connor as Jonesy (older guard at Paramount gate)
  • Henry Wilcoxon as actor on DeMille’s Samson and Delilah set (uncredited)

Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Charles Brackett
Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D. M. Marshman Jr.
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography John F. Seitz
Edited by Doane Harrison, Arthur Schmidt
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Alexander Walker (Sight & Sound) Top 10

Alexander Walker was a British film critic who wrote for the London Evening Standard from 1960 to the end of his death in 2003.  His most extended work was a book trilogy on the history of the British film industry: Hollywood England, National Heroes and Icons in the Fire. In addition, he was the author of an Elizabeth Taylor biography, a history of the impact made on Hollywood by the rise of the talkies (The Shattered Silents) and a study of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Below are his top 10 choices for Sight & Sound’s critics film poll for 2002.

  1. L’avventura (Antonioni)
  2. Citizen Kane (Welles)
  3. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick)
  4. La dolce vita (Fellini)
  5. The 400 Blows (Truffaut)
  6. The Leopard (Visconti)
  7. Some Like It Hot (Wilder)
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
  9. Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
  10. Wild Strawberries (Bergman)

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