Here we are at last! We’ve reached the top 10 horror movies of all time after five weeks of drip-fed titbits, we get to our final destination … (see what I did? Don’t worry, it’s not on the list) … If you want to catch up on the list so far, then click on the links below.
- Carrie – (1976)
Let’s start the top ten off with our penultimate Stephen King adaptation, Carrie. The novel was King’s first and so when this was released in cinemas, he was a relative unknown … that wouldn’t last long. The film features a teenage girl (played to perfection by Sissy Spacek) who gets her first period and goes on a murderous rampage … we’ve all been there, am I right, ladies? … The great thing about the film, is that Carrie is not evil and is in fact the victim of an abusive, religious zealot of a mother; and bullying teenagers (including John Travolta, for some reason), so when she unleashes her new found telekinetic abilities and wipes out a small town, you kind of feel glad for her … The ending is also one of the most beautifully, hauntingly, shocking endings in cinema history.
- Suspiria - (1977)
Suspiria is an Italian film, but don’t worry, you Philistines, it’s in English, so you don’t have to read anything … heaven forbid ... The film takes place in Germany where a young American student has been accepted into an elite ballet school, but of course, something is wrong and it doesn’t take her long before she starts to suspect that her instructors aren’t what they appear and may be housing a dark secret. Whilst the plot is interesting and spooky enough to keep one entertained, the real beauty of this film is in the technical side. Remember how in The Matrix everything was a vague shade of green? Well, in Suspiria, everything is red and the music was written by a progressive rock band (but don’t let that put you off) and will leave you breathless with fear, even if nothing scary is happening on screen. Suspiria is one of the most stunning films ever made and probably the most beautiful horror movie in existence.
- Alien – (1979)
The next two films on the list aren’t often classified as ‘horror’ movies, but you only have to think about them long enough, to realise that in fact they are quintessential horror movies. Alien has often been called Jaws in space and this is true, to be honest, however this isn’t by any means bad thing. Although the films follow a very similar structure and plot, Alien is dripping with cinematic genius, principally in its imagery, which is very ... urm … vaginal … there I said it, happy? The Xenomorphs gunky wall creations are very … you know what … and because of this, the whole thing soon becomes a metaphor for motherhood and child birth (except the babies burst out of your chest and not … you know where …) The real reason you need to watch this film, is because Sigourney Weaver’s, Ellen Ripley, is the single greatest movie character of all time and I will fight anyone to the death who says otherwise!
- Jaws – (1975)
Now we get to Alien in the ocean. Jaws was the first blockbuster and along with Star Wars created the modern cinematic formula of big action-packed summer and winter movies that rake in the dough … and what a film to start it all off! According to old people (hey, Mum and Dad), the film was so scary on release that people would dodge deep looking puddles and the thought of swimming would make you break out in a cold sweat. The film is funny, tense, scary, and exhilarating, which are all the things you want from a blockbuster. Due to budget issues and the fact that the shark looked shit, Stephen Spielberg cut most of the scenes with it in, which inadvertently made the film a massive success because the tension was able to build (with the help of John Williams’ incredibly, iconic score) throughout, because you never saw – aside from glimpses – what was gliding beneath the waves and your dangling feet …
- Scream – (1996)
By the mid-90s the horror genre was flailing badly and all that was being released were crappy sequels and rehashes of the same plot over and over again, with nothing new being added. It looked like the horror movie was on the way out … and then Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson came along and completely wiped the slate clean. They made a film that was so funny, so clever, and so scary that it single handedly reenergised the horror landscape. Taking all the elements of the slasher film (and the horror genre on the whole, to be fair) they wrote a script that not only proved to be one of the best slasher films ever made, it also poked fun (without ever becoming a spoof) at everything that had come before. It proved to be a horror fan’s dream. It also has – for me – the greatest opening scene in cinema history (not just horror movies) … poor Drew Barrymore.
- The Exorcist – (1973)
This is often a contender for the best horror movie of all time, however I’ve placed it back here at number 5, because although it was completely shocking on its release (and remains to this day), some of that horrible magic has faded over time (although I know some people will shoot for me for saying so). A young girl, whose mother is a famous actress, finds a Ouija board and begins to play whilst ‘inventing’ this imaginary friend. It doesn’t take long for her to be possessed by a demon and shout profanities at priests whilst doing something very ‘unusual’ with a crucifix … Even by today’s desensitised standards, the film has some extremely shocking moments that not even modern filmmakers would dare include. If you’ve only seen the film on TV, then get the DVD, because even now, in 2017, they still don’t show the original theatrical release.
- The Thing – (1982)
John Carpenter, as I’ve mentioned, is one of my all-time favourite directors and this is one of my all-time favourite films. It is a loose remake of 1951 film, A Thing From Another World, however surpasses that by miles. The film is set in an arctic research station where one day a dog being chased by angry Norwegians turns up. They are firing at the dog and accidently hit one of the American crew before they are gunned down by the Americans. Unfortunately for them, this dog is not what it seems and is in fact a ‘thing’ which can take on the perfect form of anything it kills, meaning that anyone of us could be it. The film is extremely tense as you are never sure who is currently an alien and who is still human … even when you re-watch it a dozen times, it can be quite difficult to work out. Sci-fi horror doesn’t get better than this … and yes, I think this is better than Alien … but only just …
- Psycho – (1960)
Often considered the first ever slasher film, although it doesn’t follow the formula to the letter (that wouldn’t be until number 2 on our list came around), it is an excellent piece of work, that proves what you can do on a little budget once the studio has lost faith in you and calls you a has-been … way to prove them wrong, Hitch … You all know the story; Marion Crane steals some money from her boss so that she can travel to her boyfriends and start a nice new life. She – foolishly – gets tired and checks into the Bates Motel, where she decides to take a shower … eeek … eeek … eeek … What was so genius – and daring – about the film, is that it kills of its big leading star before the halfway mark, making it one of the biggest twists in movie history.
- Halloween – (1978)
And now we conclude my obsession with slasher films … Halloween is the perfect slasher film (and the one that essentially started it all). This is the film that made anyone home alone, petrified, and has frightened babysitters for generations. Escaped lunatic, Mike Myers (no, not Austin Powers), dons a mask, picks up a knife, and kills a bunch of teenagers … there’s not much else to say, except it’s a masterclass in tension, which is partly helped by John Carpenters genius score and the fact that Myers just won’t stay f**king dead! They shoot him, stab him, and throw him off a balcony and still he gets up and keeps coming. The film created the archetype for nearly every horror movie (especially slashers) that followed, and if you don’t watch it annually on October 31st, then there is something missing from your life, my friend.
- The Shining – (1980)
I tried so hard to find anything else that I could put here, and fought with myself to stop it from sitting atop the pile, but I just couldn’t. It is the best horror film of all time, even if it has become a cliché to say it. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name – although the book is massively different and scarier – The Shining is essentially a haunted house story set in a hotel. It’s winter and Jack Nicholson and his small family move into the hotel to keep it from falling into disrepair over the winter. They are completely cut off from the rest of the world and soon, cabin fever … or something more supernaturally sinister … starts to settle in and Jack starts to become a little … off … The film is creepy and unsettling (but, luckily no jump scares! Woo!), but the reason it is number one, is because it is genuinely one of the best movies ever made, not just within the horror genre. There have even been documentaries made, simply examining all the hidden gems to be found. The film uses clever tricks that your sub-conscious picks up on even if your brain doesn’t … like the fact that the hotel’s floorplan makes no geographical sense, but you’d have to a super film nerd to pick up on that. It truly is special, even if it takes you a couple (or three) watches to realise it. A worthy number one for our countdown of the top 50 horror movies of all time!