×
Back to IndieWire

The Greatest Horror Movies of All-Time

From underseen Laird Cregar vehicles to a Russian chiller based on a Nikolai Gogol story, from J-Horror to the Mexican gem "Alucarda," these are the best horror movies the genre has to offer.

80. “Kuroneko” (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Toho/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5872619b) Taichi Kiwako Kuroneko - 1968 Director: Kaneto Shindo Toho JAPAN Scene Still Yabu No Naka No Kuroneko / Black Cat From The Grove

“Kuroneko”

Toho/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Kaneto Shindo directed 48 films in his 100 years on this planet, none more unsettling than “Kuroneko.” Much of the Japanese auteur’s work was haunted by the atomic bomb dropped on his hometown of Hiroshima, making this masterful film something of an exception: An enigmatic ghost story set during Japan’s Heian period, it features murderous samurai, the baleful ghosts of two women seeking revenge on the soldiers who raped and killed them, and a black cat whose presence portends death. “Kuroneko” is more frightening for what it doesn’t show than for what it does, which isn’t to say that what’s on display isn’t terrifying in its own right; rarely have spirits been so justifiably angry. Getting vengeance beyond the grave is better than nothing, but it’s also cold comfort — after all, they’re still dead. -MN

79. “Martyrs” (Pascal Laugier, 2008)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Canal Horizons/Canal +/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5875402c) Morjana Alaoui Martyrs - 2008 Director: Pascal Laugier Canal Horizons/Canal + FRANCE Scene Still

“Martyrs”

Canal Horizons/Canal +/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The New French Extremity movement that dominated French horror during the ’90s and early aughts came to an appropriate close with 2008’s “Martyrs.” Two young women, both of whom suffered extreme abuse as children, seek out revenge on the people they believe to be their captors, and in the process uncover ties to a religious cult darker than they could ever imagine. Imbued with the genre’s proclivity for extreme, graphic, and incredibly shocking violence, “Martyrs” lives up to its title and then some, provocatively blurring the lines between extreme pain and ecstasy. “Martyrs” features some of the most jaw-dropping shocks horror has ever offered, and it’s worth going in knowing very little, but be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart. -JR

78. “The Vanishing” (George Sluizer, 1988)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Argos/Golden Egg/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5865466b) Johanna Ter Steege The Vanishing - 1988 Director: George Sluizer Argos/Golden Egg FRANCE/NETHERLANDS Scene Still Foreign Spoorlos

“The Vanishing”

Argos/Golden Egg/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

There are unhappy endings, and then there’s “The Vanishing.” Not at all for the faint of heart — or even the normal of heart, really — this dispiriting Dutch thriller proved such a sensation that George Sluizer remade it in English five years later (which went about as well as when Michael Haneke did the same with “Funny Games”). Few missing-person movies are so viscerally upsetting, with the simple case of a man searching for his girlfriend after she, well, vanishes from a gas station without a trace packing a gut-punch that’s rarely been equaled in the three decades since Sluizer’s film was made. To say any more would be to give far too much away, but let it be known that you, too, may leave “The Vanishing” feeling as though you’ve lost something that can’t be found again. -MN

77. “House on Haunted Hill” (William Castle, 1959)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Allied Artists/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5878727f) Carolyn Craig, Richard Long House On Haunted Hill - 1958 Director: William Castle Allied Artists USA Scene Still La Maison de l'horreur

“House on Haunted Hill”

Allied Artists/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

William Castle’s love of gimmickry added a spooky touch to the end of the filmmaker’s classic haunted house thriller, as an actual skeleton would be rigged in the theater to take flight over a (hopefully stunned) audience just as something similar was unfolding within the film itself. As was so often the case with Castle’s films, the addition of that extra bit of horror and humor only increased the impact of a film that, flying skeletons notwithstanding, is as well-crafted as they come. Knowing the plot — and this is a plot that has been mercilessly cribbed by lesser films for decades — doesn’t dilute its power, and the twists that follow one particularly bad dinner party, set over the course of one particularly bad night, are fresh as ever. Bolstered by star Vincent Price as an appropriately secretive millionaire who invites a mixed group to his house for an evening of thrills, chills, and murder revelations, Castle’s best film is also a seminal addition to the genre itself. Hell, even Hitchcock was said to be a fan. -KE

76. “Brotherhood of the Wolf” (Christophe Gans, 2001)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Studio Canal +/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5876525c) Samuel Le Bihan, Monica Bellucci Le Pacte Des Loups / The Brotherhood Of The Wolf - 2001 Director: Christophe Gans Studio Canal + FRANCE Scene Still Brotherhood Of The Wolf Le Pacte des loups

“Brotherhood of the Wolf”

Studio Canal +/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Adapted from the David Farland novel about the 18th century French urban legend of the giant Beast of Gévaudan, the $29 million horror martial-arts actioner was shot at the Chateau de Roquetaillade and stars Samuel Le Bihan as Knight and royal naturalist Grégoire de Fronsac, who investigates a mysterious giant wolf-beast with metal claws terrorizing the French countryside. Fronsac figures out that the beast is an instrument of a secret society, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, which is trying to undermine the king and take over the country. He and his Iroquois companion Mani (Mark Dacascos) try to capture the beast who may be more lion than wolf. The stylish Sergio Leone-inspired entertainment scored over $70 million worldwide. -AT

75. “Sisters” (Brian De Palma, 1973)

“Sisters”

screencap

Brian De Palma has always worn his admiration for Alfred Hitchcock on his cinematic sleeve, and 1973’s “Sisters” puts his own twist on “Rear Window.” Grace, an investigative journalist, accidentally witnesses her neighbor murdering a man, but when the police arrive, there’s no evidence of the crime. Although everyone is convinced she’s crazy, Grace tries to uncover the truth about her neighbor, who may or may not be hiding her murderous twin sister from the world, but the dark secrets Grace ultimately destroy her in the end. “Sisters” is simultaneously the kind of lurid thriller one has come to expect from De Palma, but it’s also a surprisingly prescient film that shows the detrimental fallout of gaslighting and not believing women. -JR

74. “Raw” (Julia Ducournau, 2016)

“Raw”

Focus World

First-time director Julia Ducournau terrified and titillated Cannes audiences with her gruesome coming-of-age tale, combining classic cannibalism scares with a distinctly female perspective. The film follows a young student (Garance Marillier) who discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself (and the world) when she heads off to vet school (truly, the ideal setting for a body horror film). Marillier’s Justine is a dedicated vegetarian, so when she’s forced to endure a revolting hazing ritual that involves lots of blood and raw liver, she’s shocked to discover just how much she enjoys the taste of flesh. As Justine’s hunger for consuming meat grows, so does her desire to experience the pleasures of the flesh in different ways. It’s visceral, challenging, and often just plain jaw-dropping. -KE

73. “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (John McNaughton, 1986)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Maljack Prods/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5877007c) Michael Rooker Henry - Portrait Of A Serial Killer - 1989 Director: John McNaughton Maljack Prods USA Scene Still Horror Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer

“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”

Maljack Prods/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Shot on 16mm in less than a month, this chilly $110,000 indie built its X-rated cult reputation on the film festival circuit and made a name for curly-haired Michael Rooker, who magnetically anchors the movie as the eponymous murderer Henry. The bloodthirsty slasher moves doggedly from town to town, changing his modus operandi to avoid detection by local police. He is briefly joined by an old prison buddy Otis (Tom Towles) on a Chicago killing spree; the duo not only annihilate an entire family but put it on video for their later enjoyment. When Otis’s hard-luck sister Becky falls for Henry, it can’t be good. -AT

72. “Hour of the Wolf” (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)

Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by SNAP/REX/Shutterstock (390890fp) FILM STILLS OF 'HOUR OF THE WOLF' WITH 1968, INGMAR BERGMAN, INGRID THULIN, MAX VON SYDOW IN 1968 VARIOUS

“Hour of the Wolf”

SNAP/REX/Shutterstock

Before this 1968 outing, Ingmar Bergman had occasionally dabbled with horror elements in his career, particularly with 1957’s “The Seventh Seal” and 1960’s “The Virgin Spring,” but “Hour of the Wolf” found the esteemed director fully giving into the genre with haunting results. An artist and his wife live on a remote island, where the artist is troubled by his past and what he believes to be demons haunting him. During the “hour of the wolf,” the time where most births and deaths occur, the artist opens up to his wife about the darkness in his past, his childhood traumas, and a former lover, before realizing that the past might not be as far away as he once believed, and might instead be waiting for him across the island. “Hour of the Wolf” feels like a surreal fever dream (or nightmare), raising plenty of questions about what is really happening and what is imagined. It wouldn’t be a Bergman film without Liv Ullman, Max von Sydow, and a lot of existential questions, but “Hour of the Wolf” also features a creepy mini-opera, foreshadowing Bergman’s later take on “The Magic Flute.” It might be the director’s only horror film, but it’s an eerie and truly unforgettable one. -JR

71. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)

"Bram Stoker's Dracula"

“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

SNAP/REX/Shutterstock

Francis Ford Coppola unleashes the sexuality that was always lurking underneath Bram Stoker’s original “Dracula” in sumptuous color and delicious visuals. Created on a soundstage with no visual effects, the film has been criticized for its mannered performances and ornate extravagance, but few films in Hollywood’s modern era have used color and costume so expressively, as designer Eiko Ishioka’s work takes center stage in revealing the burning internal emotions of the characters. As 26 years have passed, it’s impossible to not feel the film’s heartbeat come pouring through Coppola’s precision, as the film has aged like a fine a wine. -CO

This article continues on the next page.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,