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Top 10 Best Horror Movies of All-Time

It’s that time of year again when the spookiest movies come out to play.  We gather around as groups to be simultaneously scared and entertained as we eat gross amounts of candy that we’ll regret a matter of moments after it enters the digestive system.  But which films provide the most entertainment (or the most scares) out of the thousands of possibilities?  Let’s take a look at the best horror movies of all-time:

#10: The Babadook (2014)

The youngest film on the list, The Babadook is a deeply affecting movie that serves as many heartfelt moments as scares.  The scariest films are the those that are relatable on some level, and The Babadook may be one of the most relatable of them all.  This monster that has since become an LGBTQ icon (no, seriously, look it up) is a horrifying stand-in for loss, guilt, and regret, infecting our main characters to their breaking points.

Some believe The Babadook to not necessarily be the most scary film out there, but its layered entity makes for a chilling feature film that will stick with you the more you think about it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 98%

Metacritic Score: 86

#9: Psycho (1960)

Without Psycho, we may not have gotten the rest of the films on this very list.  Everyone knows Hitchcock’s masterpiece for its shower scene and screechy score, but Hitchcock conjured a masterfully edited film that defied literally every convention of its time.  Shockingly, Psycho was panned upon initial release, mostly because people just weren’t ready to handle its elements.

There are some deeply unnerving performances in this film that have stood the test of time, making Psycho more than just a film that gets credit because it’s old.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 97%

Metacritic Score: 97

#8: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

There simply can’t be a list of the best horror movies without Freddy making an appearance somewhere on it.  A Nightmare on Elm Street continues to be one of the most inventive horror premises, and one of the most scary.  The idea of an entity killing you in your sleep makes it so that you’re never safe.  The only way to continue to live is to go insane by sleep deprivation or face the killer head-on.  There’s no room to run.

The character became incredibly silly and broke the fourth wall in later iterations, but the original strikes a good balance between the two, creating an experience that is both scary and fun.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 94%

Metacritic Score: 78

#7: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

When your film basically invented the zombie, it absolutely deserves a spot among the best horror movies.  George Romero’s magnum opus changed the horror landscape entirely, and its presence is still felt today.  There’s a certain feeling of dread and grossness that’s still ever present in this classic.

But, as with many of Romero’s other films, there’s biting social commentary underneath the surface.  However, unlike his later films that got absurdly preachy, this film strikes a great balance between discussion and entertainment value.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 96%

Metacritic Score: 87

#6: Halloween (1978)

The best of the classic slasher filmsHalloween has been replicated on multiple occasions (and had some sequels) that just haven’t been able to recapture that feeling of pure evil that’s within this film.  The allure of Michael Myers is at its peak here.  You don’t know why he does what he does.  Rather, he’s a stand-in for the feeling of pure evil, a feeling that will send chills down your spine.  Jamie Lee Curtis does an outstanding job in the lead role, creating a character for whom we can all cheer.

Blumhouse has since acquired the rights to the property and is creating a sequel that totally disregards some of the more heinous entries in the franchise.  Don’t screw it up!

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 93%

Metacritic Score: 78

#5: The Shining (1980)

Although Stephen King hates this adaptation, The Shining is a fantastic movie in its own right.  The film is powered by a career-defining performance from Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence.  Stanley Kubrick takes us on a ride that can best be described as a slow burn, and we get to see Nicholson as he slowly loses his mind.  With any other actor in the lead role, The Shining probably doesn’t work.

This iconic feature has been unbelievably influential on the current state of horror and psychological trauma in film.  It’s a film that continues to drive debate to this day, which is certainly a sign of a great film, making it an easy choice for one of the best horror movies ever.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 87%

Metacritic Score: 61

#4: The Thing (1982)

The Thing has a very devoted audience, but it is still an unbelievably underrated film and deserves more praise among the best horror movies.  The creature design may have only been beaten under one circumstance (more on that later) while the effects themselves are unrivaled.  Moments with the creature are best described as “gross.”  They provide shock value and are unsettling in the best of ways.

However, The Thing at its core is really a whodunnit film.  We see how fear of the unknown causes people to turn on each other without a moment’s notice.  You never quite know who has been taken over by the alien, making the tension even greater with every passing moment.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 83%

Metacritic Score: 57

#3: Jaws (1975)

Some may believe that Jaws doesn’t exactly count as a “horror” film.  While there’s certainly a case to be made for such an argument, this critic disagrees mightily.  After watching the first kill take place, you understand that Jaws isn’t your typical summer film.  Known for its widely popular score and use of tension, Jaws created the summer blockbuster and the landscape of film in general.

What makes Jaws so great, however, is that it’s populated with likable, memorable characters such as Brody, Quint, and Hooper help to create a storyline that continues to be engrossing to this day.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 97%

Metacritic Score: 87

#2: Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is as poetic as it is scary.  The film contains the best creature design ever conceived, creating a monster that has a large undercurrent of sexual horrors.  The alien is a representation of impending death, only showing itself in the most frightening of situations.  Sigourney Weaver managed to become a revolutionary figure in film, becoming a fan favorite not because the film told us to like her, but because we align greatly with her actions.

For better or for worse, it created a world of endless possibilities due to its creation of lore and mythology.  If only Scott knew exactly how to stick the landing in that regard…

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 97%

Metacritic Score: 83

#1: The Exorcist (1973)

People just weren’t ready for this film back in 1973.  Adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist still stands as the highest grossing horror film of all-time.  The film challenges the idea of faith in the most horrorific of ways, putting it in the face of pure evil.  Max von Sydow offers arguably the best performance in his storied career, creating a character that is unrivaled in the genre.

Concepts of possession and demons were present in film before 1973, but they changed for good once The Exorcist came along.  The film takes you on a thrill ride that doesn’t cease until the end credits appear, filled with scares that are equal parts shocking and gross.

The Exorcist still gives people nightmares, and deservedly so.  It absolutely deserves its spot among the best horror movies of all-time.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 86%

Metacritic Score: 82

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Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on the best horror movies of all-time?  Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

20 Responses

  1. Awesome great top ten..I know I’m late, but dang, I’ve watched all 10 a million times 🙂

    • Nick Kush says:

      It’s never too late to comment. You’re always welcome to! I think we’ve all watched them over and over!

  2. pennzer.com says:

    I know it’s a bit late now but this is a great Top Ten Best Horror Movies of All Time! It’s not easy to just have 10 and I know there are some other great Horror Movies out there. Actually watched a lot of horror movies with my friends over Halloween and some of them were: The Invitation, Brain Dead, Ginger Snaps (all 3) and The Fly. I just can’t stick to only 10!

  3. Surprised “IT” didn’t make the list. Good list of horror films though

  4. raistlin0903 says:

    I have seen every film from this list and they are all seriously awesome. The Babadook though…..sooooo scary. I really got chills running down my doing while watching that one. An absolutely amazing film. Great list, and great post. Happy Halloween ??

    • Nick Kush says:

      Happy Halloween to you as well! I still get chills from the basement scene in the The Babadook. Yikes!

  5. I’ve only seen Jaws and Psycho from these and while I do love both films, I don’t believe they’re “scary” or “horror”.

    My fave “horror” films would probably be The Conjuring series, I guess!

    • Nick Kush says:

      I hear ya. They’re certainly not after the same scares that today’s films are. Maybe it’s a generational thing!

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