[Editor’s note: The following list was originally published October 15, 2019 and has been updated with new entries multiple times since.]
Whether you’re looking for a scary movie to watch on Halloween or conjuring up the creeps some other time of year, there’s no better way to score top-tier recommendations than to ask other movie-lovers about their all-time favorite fright fests. And no one knows these sorts of movies better than the filmmakers who carefully spin their personal nightmares into public entertainment. So why not take a suggestion from one of the best directors working today and/or a master of the horror genre?
Combing through scads of reporting — from our own stories and others’ — IndieWire has rounded up 51 filmmakers discussing the horror movies they love, including Eli Roth on “Creepshow” Guillermo del Toro on “Eyes Without a Face,” Martin Scorsese on “The Innocents,” Ari Aster on “Kwaidan,” Steven Spielberg on “The Shining,” Jennifer Kent on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Jordan Peele on “Misery,” Greta Gerwig on “The 39 Steps,” Josh Safdie on “Videodrome,” David Cronenberg on “Don’t Look Now,” and more. Notable rising voices in the horror genre such as Nia DaCosta, Osgood Perkins, and Natalie Erika James, plus consistent horror masters like Mike Flanagan and bonafide legends like Rob Zombie, also appear with their tried-and-true terrifying titles.
What makes this list of the best horror movies stand out from the crowded curation space isn’t just the caliber of taste, though with selections like “Eraserhead,” “Audition,” and “Hereditary” it certainly boasts that. Rather, this curation is set further apart by the filmmakers’ quotes contextualizing their chosen films’ greatness. Seeing classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” through the eyes of Wes Anderson and John Carpenter can either give you the perfect introduction to a movie you haven’t seen yet, or provide a new vantage point from which you can rewatch and appreciate nightmares you already thought you knew.
Listed alphabetically by the directors’ surnames — with only “Alien” and “The Shining” repeated — here are 51 directors on their favorite horror movies. Their choices range from edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventures to unimaginable body horrors, but a palpable enthusiasm from these filmmakers for the most extreme genre they can hope to play in tightly binds their scattered recommendations into a singular spooky treat.