Slasher, psychological, or sci fear, true horror fans will be familiar with all these sub-genres and more besides. But have you ever asked yourself whether you have ticked off every horror classic and masterpiece from your watch list? Fortunately, you can check your horror credit against the definitive top 10 below. Read on to find out what they are … if you dare?!
Warning spoilers ahead!
Where to get your horror fix
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the movies you just have to watch to call yourself a true horror fan, let’s talk a bit about where you can find them. The truth of the matter is there is no single platform or channel where you will be able to watch every movie on this list. Instead, they are spread around a variety of platforms, with some only available by purchasing a download or DVD.
However, the good news is that there are some dedicated horror channels out there just like one of the 19 best movie channels on DistroTV – Fright Flix. The even better news is that you can access channels like Fright Flix for free online. The advantage of which is that you can watch some of the best horror classics without breaking the bank and ensure you retain the kudos necessary to call yourself a true horror fan.
The Thing (1982)
Vastly underrated in current times, John Carpenter’s The Thing has every element that a good horror film needs, even if the special effects are somewhat naive by today’s standards. In fact, at the time of its 1982 release, The Thing was panned by critics for its gross-out horror, and watchers today will be bombarded by all sorts of bloody nastiness that should follow a trigger warning.
Horrific is the premise of The Things and the psychological horror that it provokes. You see the Thing is an alien life form that can take on any organic shape that it has encountered. What this means is that Kurt Russels’ character, along with his rapidly disappearing colleagues, never know from one minute to the next whether they are safe or about to get the chop.
Indeed, this idea that anyone no matter how normal they look or act could be the monster is a theme that will resonate with modern audiences just as much as it did when the film was first released.
28 Days Later (2002)
There is plenty of blood and guts in the zombie horror 28 Days Later, but apart from that, there is also much that fans of both the horror and zombie genres will find surprising. The first is that this film begins in a very quiet way, with a deserted London much like its sci-fi cousin the Day of the Triffids. However, once the zombies are revealed we discover that unlike their slow, and cumbersome predecessors in Film, 28 Days Later zombies are fast, and full of rage, making them even more scary and deadly.
Of course, you can expect the age-old theme of who is the real monster here, as humans begin to treat each other in deplorable ways, against the backdrop of rage field-virus-ridden monsters. Bold, bleak, and thoroughly worth watching for any real horror fan.
Scream has to be on the list too, as it’s a real genre buster! Indeed, at the beginning of the 1996 film, things get very scary very fast, with poor Drew Barrymore finding something awful and upsetting in her garden at the direction of a scream masked-wearing intruder.
The rest of the film never quite hits the fearsome peak of the beginning but a sense of unease and tension permeate completely, along with the smart self-referential elements that make it a pleasure to watch. There are twists and turns too, and as fans will know by watching again, lots of hidden creepy appearances of the killer in a scream mask throughout.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Billed as a true story, documentary-style film The Blair Witch Project of 1999 had whole generations reduced to even setting foot in the woods! The premise of this film is that the footage is found after the makers go missing, and when played back it documents their descent into fear and madness. Worth a watch!
The Fly (1986)
A sci-fear offering, The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum is a terrifying trip of what can happen when man tries to play God. With themes similar to the Greek legend of Icarus, Seth Brundle’s teleportation device first appears to work flawlessly, only to later reveal it has begun to swap the DNA of the user and a fly caught in the other pod. With grossness, gore, and a great message, the Fly is a horror film that should not be missed.
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
f you have ever heard the phrase: “It puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose again” you will know exactly why 1991 hit The Silence Of The Lambs earned its Best Picture Oscar its place in the top 10 horror movies.
Not content with one murderous maniac, The Silence Of The Lambs has two Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter. Bill is the one that Clarice Starlings’ (played by Jodie Foster) character is trying to catch and to do this she visits the charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins).
Of course, the actions of Bill are horrific, as are the previous crimes of Lecture or as he is also known as Hannibal the Cannibal. However, the real horror in this movie comes from the tension between Lecter and Starling and that damage wrought on her by having to connect with this monstrous man.
The Shining (1980)
All work and no play certainly didn’t make Jack a dull boy. Indeed, in the 1980’s classic The Shining, it seemed to turn the protagonist Jack Torrance into a murderous maniac with familicide on his mind.
There are many striking things to look out for in this film, including iconic performances from Jack Nicholson, and Shelly Duval. Along with some evocative locations, and clever set design. Indeed, the geometric carpet that covers the floor of most of the Overlook Hotel is still recognized and utilized in artwork and merchandise to this day. Some pretty impressive shots convey both the isolation of their location and the madness of Jack as the film progresses too.
However, despite being regarded as one of the most classic movies of its genre, Stephen King who penned the original story is said to hate Kubrick’s version. I guess you really can’t please all the people all of the time.
Before Dracula became a mainstay of horror culture there was the 1922 classic Nosferatu. The oldest of the all films mentioned here true horror aficionados will have seen and loved this film many times.
Nosferatu is all about the terrifying Count Orlock, played to a tee by the indomitable and distinctly odd Max Schreck. Despite being made over 90 years ago, the makeup and prosthetics Schreck war including long pointed ears, pointed teeth, a bald cap, and elongated claw-like fingers can still force a shiver down the spines of watchers today.
The 1979 Sci-fear classic Alien is in the opinion of many, one of the most groundbreaking horror movies ever made. Indeed, there is something very special about the quiet womb-like feeling of the ship, where the tension is allowed to build and build until it becomes almost unbearable.
Of course, the ‘birth’ of the now-famous xenomorph is what temporarily breaks this tension, only to allow it to build again as the creature matures at an alarming rate into a chitinous horror intent on slaughtering or capturing humans for traumatic and forced implantation.
Indeed, silence is a big part of this movie, and it is executed perfectly to make the watcher uncomfortable and keeps them on the edge of their seat for the whole thing. Sigourney Weaver is, of course, the most bad-ass heroine as she outwits the alien threat, only to be left as the lone survivor of the encounter.
Of course, at number one we have one of the most well-known, and terrifying films of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960s masterpiece Psycho. Using that age-old idea that when people do bad they open themselves up to have bad things done to them, Marion Crane stops at the Bates Motel while on the run after stealing a then whopping $1000 from her boss.
Unfortunately, what she doesn’t realize is that Norman Bates the proprietor of the motel isn’t quite the polite individual that he first appears to be. Instead, he is among other things, a peeping Tom with some rather major mommy issues that ultimately are the cause of Crane’s violent demise.
Both the shower scene, with the blood as it runs down the drain, and the attic scene when we finally get a look at Norman’s mother, whom he has been talking to throughout the film, will go down in history as some of the most ground-breaking, and boundary-pushing cinema of the time, and still can inject an authentic sense of shock and disquiet into the viewer.