One thing that horror aficionados love to argue about is which movie in their beloved genre is the scariest of all time. It's always been a matter of opinion, and will remain so as we continue to bicker back and forth to our dying breaths, but a number of experts in the field got together, voted, and have declared once and for all the most horrifying horror film ever made. You know we're still going to argue about this, right?
Hitfix recently took a massive poll of more than 100 horror fanatics, including writers, filmmakers, authors, movie critics, bloggers, scholars, actors, and anyone else who may have an aptitude for spooky cinema, and had them pick their top ten greatest horror flicks of all time. The results are in and it's a pretty fantastic list to say the least. Check them out below. Do you agree? What absolute classic did they miss?
Right out of the gate we get a film that has long been the subject of the "is it really horror?" debate. But regardless of what genre you place it in, there's no denying the sheer terror inspired bySteven Spielberg's 1975 Jaws. The tale of a killer Great White Shark terrorizing the townsfolk of Amity Island has scared generations of would-be swimmers back to the shore.
9. Night Of The Living Dead
With 1968's Night of the Living Dead, horror legend George Romero singlehandedly defined the modern zombie movie. Taking a genre that had been dominated by voodoo zombies, the story of the dead rising and a group of survivors hiding out in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse is scary, has a sharp political undertone, and has such a long reach that its influence is still felt today in the glut of zombie apocalypse narratives that fill movie and television screens.
You can't have a list like this without Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic (personally, I think it should be higher up). From the shower scene and the big reveal at the end (not to mention one of the most unnerving final shots of all time) to the meticulous staging and willingness to buck convention, Psycho is brilliant and terrifying and stands as one of the greatest achievements of one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live.
Even more so than contemporaries like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, John Carpenter's Halloween, about an escaped mental patient in a William Shatner mast terrorizing a small Illinois town, defined the slasher craze that swept horror cinema in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Giving birth the a slew of sequels, and even a Rob Zombie-directed reboot, the original is still every bit as chilling as it was in 1978.
6. The Thing
The 1980s were a magical time for John Carpenter, and one of his highest points was 1982's The Thing. A group of scientists in a remote Antarctic outpost are besieged by a shape shifting extraterrestrial presence that takes on the form of those it kills and hides among the survivors. Paranoid, harrowing, and with an ambiguous ending that is still the subject of great debate, The Thing features gruesome creature effects, and though it was a bit of a critical dud on release, it has emerged as a true horror classic.
Often the subject of a debate over whether it's truly a science fiction movie or a horror film, the end result doesn't really matter, because anyway you look at it, Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien is still one of the scariest goddamn movies ever put to celluloid. With one of the greatest movie monsters of all time, and one of the baddest protagonists of any genre, male or female, Alien is tense, claustrophobic, thematically dense, and absolutely terrifying on all fronts.
4. Rosemary's Baby
Roman Polanski's 1968 psychological horror masterpiece, Rosemary's Baby, provides terror and tension on every level. It's simultaneously grounded and plausible, playing on the fears inherent in becoming a parent, and also demonic, as there other forces at work as a young couple played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes embark on a journey to start a family that goes in truly dark and sinister directions. Not gory of overtly violent, the performances and atmosphere squeeze you until you're about to explode.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
What's not to love about a chainsaw wielding cannibal madman wearing a mask made of human skin? Well, if you happen to be one of the hapless teens in Tobe Hooper's 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there are any number of thing not to love, but as a horror movie fan, I can't think of much to complain about. Shocking, bloody, and deeply unsettling in so many ways, the film that was initially described as "despicable" and gruesome has risen to become a true classic of nightmare cinema.
2. The Shining
Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining (an adaptation the author is renowned to hate), this is a prime example of how meticulous the filmmaker was. Jack Nicholson's stunning performance as Jack Torrance, a writer isolated from the rest of the world, slowly losing his mind in his solitude, much to detriment of his wife and young son, stands as one of the most frightening turns in all of cinema.
1. The Exorcist
It's hard to argue with William Friedkin's 1973 demonic possession film The Exorcistbeing the scariest movie of all time (and I won't, this movie still scares the shit out of me). When an evil spirit posses a 12-year-old girl, a troubled priest and an older compatriot must team up to save the innocent child from damnation. Playing up themes of good versus evil and religion versus science, toying with faith and doubt, the film touches on a number of base fears that have been with us for eons, which is why it still resonates, and scares, today.