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The Best Horror Movies: Maika Monroe, Jennifer Tilly, and More Scream Queens Share Their Picks

From director Jennifer Reeder to "Hereditary" actress Milly Shapiro, who better to judge the genre than reigning royalty? Andi Matichak, Barbara Crampton, Leigh Janiak, and more women share their lists with IndieWire.

IndieWire's Seven Days of Scream Queens

(Left to right): Jennifer Tilly, Barbara Crampton, Maika Monroe, Cassandra Peterson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Milly Shapiro, and Andi Matichak

Everett Collection/Vicky Leta

From the carefully considered outline of a Final Girl to the intoxicating nebulousness of the Scream Queen moniker, women are the bloody, brooding, beating heart of the horror genre.

On screen and off, women have long proved an essential linchpin to the success of scary movies. Actresses have served as horror’s marquee-topping centerpieces since even before Elsa Lanchester became Universal’s “Bride of Frankenstein” in 1935, and the subjects of many women’s fears — abuse, stalking, subjection, birth, motherhood, the patriarchy, etc. — have inspired the works of countless creepy classics directed by men: take Brian de Palma’s “Carrie” or Dario Argento’s “Suspiria,” just for starters.

And yet, it’s only been in the last few decades that women have more fully and frequently taken over telling their own nightmares: writing, directing, and producing contemporary masterpieces such as Mary Harron’s “American Psycho,” Karyn Kusama’s “Jennifer’s Body,” Julia Ducournau’s “Raw,” Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman,” and more. In the audience, critics have championed these films either by picking apart their layered lambasting of our sexist society or appreciating that woman can make some sensationally silly slashers too. (Here’s looking at you, Halina Reijn and “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”)

To honor and celebrate women in horror, we at IndieWire emailed some our favorite horror actresses, writers, and directors with one simple question (as made iconic by 1996’s “Scream”): What’s your favorite scary movie? Their answers at once reinforce the classics — “The Silence of the Lambs” tops the list as the most mentioned film — as well as illuminate lesser-known tales of these scream queens’ incredible careers. Read on for stories from living legend Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira, and “Orphan” star Isabelle Fuhrman on the David Gordon Green “Suspiria” remake that almost was.

Listed alphabetically by last name, here are some of horror’s most beloved Scream Queens on their top picks for terrifying flicks.

This article was published as part of IndieWire’s Seven Days of Scream Queens. Visit the series’ schedule for more.

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