Good Horror Movies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 5:15 am
By Shane Rivers

Good horror movies can make you scream in terror or stop taking a shower for a week. The powerful imagery of these films taps into the primal fears within us all, and the best horror movies are able to scare us on a number of levels.

Following the release of movies such as Scream, horror films have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the last several years. They’ve become so popular that movie studios are falling over themselves to remake classic 80’s films with better cinematography and lots more boob jobs.

You won’t find a lot of crappy remakes on the lists below, but you will find a mixture of good horror movies and the best horror movies. From the Internet Movie Database to TIME Magazine, we’ve compiled a number of resources to help you find the highest-quality scares for your money.

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Types of Horror Movies

Before we start looking at all the good horror movies out there, let’s make sure we’re familiar with the different sub-genres of the horror film. While many people just associate horror movies with masked psychos butchering girls in tank tops, there’s actually a great deal of diversity within the genre.

AFI’s Greatest Horror Films

Every 10 years, the American Film Institute releases a list of their 100 greatest movies. The last list was unveiled in 2007, and the following good scary movies made the grade.

9. Vertigo

14. Psycho

41. King Kong

48. Rear Window

56. Jaws

74. The Silence of the Lambs

89. The Sixth Sense

Many people wouldn’t even consider the above films to be categorized as “horror,” but don’t forget that thrillers and monster movies are sub-genres of the horror film. Not surprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock has three of the seven horror films to appear on the list. That’s appropriate, as nobody made good horror movies like Hitchcock.

Silence of the Lambs certainly deserves its place on the list, as it succeeded as a film on every level. The same goes for Jaws, and I have long held that Quint’s speech about delivering “the bomb” is the greatest monologue in the history of the movies.

I’m not so certain about The Sixth Sense at #89. While I liked the film, I thought a large part of its success was simply based on the big twist at the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has fallen off the list when the next one comes out.

TIME Magazine’s Top 25 Horror Films

If you’re looking for good scary movies, be sure to check out TIME Magazine’s list of the Top 25 horror films. The entries are listed in no particular order, and they contain a nice mixture of old classics and new favorites.

Shaun of the Dead

Red Dragon


Dead Alive

The Fly

Men Behind the Sun




The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Exorcist

Night of the Living Dead

Blood Feast


Black Sunday

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Peeping Tom






The Phantom of the Opera

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat

I feel like I need to explain a couple of the entries, specifically Bambi and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. Bambi was included because the writers felt the scene where Bambi’s mother gets shot probably scared more children than most standard horror films. Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat was one of the first motion pictures ever shown, and many people became frightened because they thought the image of the train rushing towards them was going to come off the projection screen. Whatever the case for inclusion, I think TIME was trying to be a little too cute with these entries.

I don’t really agree with the inclusion of Red Dragon, Audition or Blood Feast. They’re all solid works, but certainly not among the best 25 horror movies. For that matter, Audition really only distinguishes itself in the last 20 minutes. When I think of good horror movies, these three are down the list a bit.

I was, however, pleased to see Shaun of the Dead included. It’s a solid film from top to bottom, and being able to blend a zombie movie with a comedy is an accomplishment in itself. While it certainly deserves to appear on a Top 100 list, placing it in the top 25 may be a bit generous, however.

Netflix Top 100

So how popular are good horror films over at Netflix, the top online video rental company? Let’s take a look at their frequently updated Top 100 and find out.

43. I Am Legend

74. Mr. Brooks

Wow! I was really surprised by this one. Only two top horror films made the list. Of course, the list changes all the time, but I expected a few more than this. I guess it proves that horror films have a long way to go before they can rival the mass appeal of romantic comedies and dramas. Maybe if Ron Howard directed a horror film starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt….

Top Horror Films at the IMDB

The Internet Movie Database is undoubtedly the biggest online movie resource. Members of the site can rate films, and each movie genre is then ranked accordingly. As of this writing, the following were the 50 best horror films according to IMDB members.

  1. Psycho (1960)
  2. Alien (1979)
  3. The Shining (1980)
  4. Aliens (1986)
  5. Diabolique (1955)
  6. Let the Right One In (2008)
  7. The Thing (1982)
  8. Faust (1926)
  9. Frankenstein (1931)
  10. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  11. King Kong (1933)
  12. Nosferatu (1922)
  13. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  14. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  15. The Virgin Spring (1960)
  16. The Exorcist (1973)
  17. Onibaba (1964)
  18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  19. Ghost Stories (1964)
  20. The Innocents (1961)
  21. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  22. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  23. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
  24. Repulsion (1965)
  25. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  26. Halloween (1978)
  27. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
  28. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
  29. Grindhouse (2007)
  30. The Birds (1963)
  31. Delicatessen (1991)
  32. Evil Dead II (1987)
  33. The Scarlet Claw (1944)
  34. The Invisible Man (1933)
  35. Dead of Night (1945)
  36. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  37. Freaks (1932)
  38. Peeping Tom (1960)
  39. The Unknown (1927)
  40. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
  41. The Haunting (1963)
  42. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
  43. Dr. Mabuse, King of Crime (1922)
  44. The Wicker Man (1973)
  45. Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
  46. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  47. Survive Style 5+ (2004)
  48. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
  49. The Tenant (1976)
  50. Vampire Hunter D (2000)

Let the Right One In was released in 2008, and it’s already jumped to #6 on the list. That’s pretty darned impressive, especially for a foreign film given a limited release in America.

As usual, a large number of really old films made the list. In fact, 13 of the top 50 were released in 1935 or earlier. While I’ve got no problem with Frankenstein making the list, movies like Nosferatu (1922) don’t add credibility in my mind. With its laughable production values and overly-stylized acting, anyone giving this a high rating is just being downright pretentious.

Certainly, there are plenty of good horror movies that are over 50 years old; I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing is that movies like The Unknown are higher ranked than The Wicker Man. Historical significance should only count for so much.

Fangoria’s 101 Hidden Horror Gems

If you’re looking for good scary movies that you might have missed, check out this list from the fine folks at Fangoria (the country’s leading horror magazine). You’re bound to find several that you’ve never even heard of.

  1. Alice, Sweet Alice
  2. Alone in the Dark
  3. Apt Pupil
  4. The Asphyx
  5. The Beyond
  6. Beyond the Door
  7. Black Christmas
  8. The Blob
  9. The Boneyard
  10. The Borrower (1991)
  11. Brain Damage
  12. Castle Freak
  13. Cemetery Man
  14. The Changeling
  15. Cherry Falls
  16. Chinese Ghost Story
  17. Christmas Evil
  18. Cronos
  19. El Día de la bestia
  20. Day of the Dead
  21. Dead of Night
  22. The Dead Pit
  23. Dead Waters
  24. Death Machine
  25. Deathdream
  26. Deep Rising
  27. Def by Temptation
  28. The Dentist
  29. Deranged
  30. The Devil’s Backbone
  31. The Devil’s Daughter (La Setta)
  32. Dolls
  33. Event Horizon
  34. The Evil Within
  35. The Exorcist 3
  36. From Beyond
  37. Funny Games
  38. Ginger Snaps
  39. Hardware
  40. Hell Night
  41. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  42. Horror Express
  43. Humanoids From the Deep
  44. I Spit on Your Grave
  45. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  46. Jack Be Nimble
  47. Jack’s Back (1988)
  48. The Keep (1983)
  49. Kingdom of Spiders
  50. The Lair of the White Worm
  51. The Last House on the Left
  52. The Legend of Hell House
  53. Lemora – A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural
  54. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
  55. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
  56. Luther the Geek
  57. Manhunter
  58. Maniac
  59. Maniac Cop 2
  60. Motel Hell
  61. Mother’s Day
  62. Mute Witness
  63. Necronomicon: Book of the Dead
  64. The Night Flier
  65. Night of the Comet
  66. Night of the Creeps
  67. The Ninth Gate
  68. Nomads
  69. Open Your Eyes
  70. Opera (1987)
  71. The Other
  72. Paperhouse
  73. Pin
  74. Prison (1988)
  75. Private Parts
  76. Pumpkinhead
  77. Rabid
  78. Rampage (1988)
  79. Ravenous
  80. The Resurrected
  81. Santa Sangre (1989)
  82. Screamers
  83. The Sender (1982)
  84. Session 9
  85. Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder
  86. Sisters
  87. The Stepfather
  88. Stir of Echoes
  89. Strange Behavior
  90. Swamp Thing
  91. Ticks (aka Infested) (1993)
  92. Tombs of the Blind Dead
  93. Twitch Of The Death Nerve (a.k.a. Bay Of Blood)
  94. Two Thousand Maniacs
  95. The Ugly
  96. Aswang
  97. Urban Ghost Story
  98. The Vanishing
  99. Wendigo
  100. When a Stranger Calls
  101. Immortality

I was going to include my own list of good horror movies which might have flown under your radar, but it looks like Fangoria saved me the trouble. This is an excellent list of top horror films, and I would certainly advise that you view hidden gems like Ravenous, Black Christmas, Ginger Snaps, and Exorcist III.

Horror Blockbusters

So what are the top-grossing horror films of all time? I consulted a list of the Top 50 grossing films in the U.S. and Canada (adjusted for inflation). Here were the horror films which qualified:

7. Jaws (1975)
9. The Exorcist (1973)

While only two horror films made the list, they’re both in the top 10 (when today’s ticket prices are factored in). Can’t say either one of these surprised me, as Jaws and The Exorcist are classics in any genre and belong on any respectable list of good horror movies.