HAPPY HALLOWEEN – KEN GARFF NISSAN SALT LAKE
25 Best Horror Films of All Time (NSFW)
When it comes to horror movies, opinions are like ax holes: Nearly everybody’s got one.
So Wired.com went straight to the experts for this frightful film roundup. Since 1979, horror magazine Fangoria has waltzed on the bleeding edge of the genre, dedicating itself to coverage and criticism of gore, splatter and exploitation films and the people that make them.
Just in time for Halloween, we asked four of Fangoria‘s savants of slash — Editor-in-Chief Chris Alexander, Managing Editor Michael Gingold, Director of Marketing Bekah McKendry and Contributing Editor Sam Zimmerman — to spill their guts on the top 25 horror films of all time.
(NSFW alert: Some photos in this gallery are not safe for work.)
Chris Alexander: Disturbing one-of-a-kind creeper that also effectively killed director Tod Browning‘s career.
Michael Gingold: Let’s see someone try to remake this one today.
Bekah McKendry: One of the first cinematic examples of the antihero, and a concept that was way ahead of its time. Plus, the dinner scene reminds me of most Fango staff meetings!
Sam Zimmerman: Aside from the generally disturbing qualities this film has throughout, the sheer out-of-controlness of the end reveal makes my life better.
The Wolf Man (1941)
Chris Alexander: Lon Chaney Jr. hunts for blood on the moors in Universal’s emotionally sophisticated shocker.
Michael Gingold: The movie that made the full moon what it is today.
Bekah McKendry: Dracula and the Invisible Man were always so educated and classy. You could picture the Wolf Man in a seedy bar slamming Rum Runners before jumping on his Harley. Chaney played the transformation brilliantly and laid the groundwork for many great werewolves to come.
Sam Zimmerman: My personal preference of the Universal classics. It’s a beautiful, tragic story, plus werewolves will forever be the most boss of monsters.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Chris Alexander: The king of the gimmick flick, William Castle, teams up with the Prince of Ham, Vincent Price, in this creepy haunted-house classic.
Michael Gingold: Quintessential Castle … watch out for floating skeletons!
Bekah McKendry: The P.T. Barnum of the film world brings you flying skeletons, an overly dramatic Price and a cinematic experience that is campy yet pure brilliance.
Sam Zimmerman: I truly love that in Castle’s universe, it’s completely normal and even a bit of demented fun that married couples are forever out to kill each other. The only other horror film I smile at as much is Creepshow.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Chris Alexander: George Franju’s epic mad-scientist drama still has the power to turn stomachs.
Michael Gingold: Proof that black and white can shock you just as powerfully as color.
Sam Zimmerman: An early indicator that the French were up to no good when it came to frights. It’s incredible.
Bekah McKendry: Like the also-French Grand Guignol, it has been the subject of a long-running debate about whether it is exploitive horror or artistic genius. This film unquestionably shows that horror can be art.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Chris Alexander: The movie that put Polish director Roman Polanski on the U.S. map is nothing short of a masterpiece, with a waifish Mia Farrow carrying Satan’s spawn to term.
Michael Gingold: Sometimes, the devil you know is worse …
Bekah McKendry: One of the best examples of a postmodern horror movie. The horror just keeps on rolling after the film ends. Plus, it is a beautifully subconscious commentary on the 1960s’ sexual revolution and control of the female body.
Sam Zimmerman: So much of horror relies upon your own emotional connection to the characters. Rosemary is without a doubt one of the sweetest, most well-meaning and adorable protagonists in horror history. Watching what should be a tremendously happy time in her life become a monstrous plague on her body and psyche, via Polanski’s expertise with dread, kills me every time.
The Exorcist (1973)
Chris Alexander: What more can be said about this theological thriller other than it continues to be one of the most terrifying films ever made?
Michael Gingold: A movie that can still turn heads nearly four decades later.
Bekah McKendry: This film turned Linda Blair into a horror starlet, and for Washington, D.C., natives (like myself), it turned a long set of stairs into a horror mecca.
Sam Zimmerman: Few times have I ever been flat-out horrified at a film. Captain Howdy‘s terrible powder-white face is one of them.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Chris Alexander: Gothic, earthy and weird thriller that combines sex, paganism, mystery and black humor to grand effect. Builds to one of the most alarming climaxes ever.
Michael Gingold: This unique cult item keeps the horror tantalizingly just off screen for most of the running time, before winding up with one of the scariest finales ever. And who knew Christopher Lee has such a great singing voice?
Bekah McKendry: A religion that promotes naked musical dance numbers and wild orgies. Where do I sign up?
Sam Zimmerman: Wait, we’re not talking about the Nicolas Cage version?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Chris Alexander: Gritty, filthy and blackly funny, Tobe Hooper’s savage shocker is like hell itself unleashed on-screen.
Michael Gingold: Perhaps the most notorious horror title in film history.
Bekah McKendry: There were no grand settings or lavish costumes. Instead, the putrid visual aesthetic of this film oozes off the screen, making it a horror classic.
Sam Zimmerman: This was probably the first film in which it was hammered home to me that not everything evil happens at night.
Chris Alexander: Steven Spielberg’s nerve-shredding adventure sees a monstrous shark terrorizing a small New England town. Even after multiple viewings, this one still maintains its primal power to manipulate an audience.
Michael Gingold: Watch it once for the shark, watch it twice for Spielberg’s best-ever work with actors.
Bekah McKendry: To this day, I cannot swim in any ocean, lake or oversized bathtub without recalling this movie.
Sam Zimmerman: The Fango team just called me “Son of Hooper” last week.
Chris Alexander: Sad, stylish and shocking Brian De Palma-directed melodrama improves upon Stephen King’s novel and offers a revelatory performance by Sissy Spacek as a tormented teen cursed with telekinesis. Moving Pino Donnagio score and a head-spinning last reel (and final shot!).
Michael Gingold: Thanks to King and De Palma, countless people don’t feel so bad about how their own proms went.
Bekah McKendry: This movie offered a shockingly real depiction of what it is like for girls to come of age in sexually repressive environments … minus the telekinesis, which, if I had possessed it during my teen years, I would have used to mentally smack up bitches left and right.
Sam Zimmerman: I’ve always been oddly attracted and emotionally drawn to tales of damaged female protagonists, and that can probably be traced back to my extreme love of this film. (P.S. You should see its contemporary spiritual soul mate, May, starring Angela Bettis and directed by Lucky McKee. It’s marvelous.)
Chris Alexander: Italian director Dario Argento‘s designer horror show is like a blood-spattered, feature-length rock video, full of sound, fury, style and gore.
Michael Gingold: Argento’s most popular film and greatest visual feast grabs you by the throat and shakes you for 90-odd minutes … and makes you love it.
Bekah McKendry: This was honestly one of the films that pushed me to study and write about horror instead of just being a die-hard fan. The visuals and sound in this film are a feast for the senses.
Sam Zimmerman: While it may not be your favorite Argento (I would say it’s mine), it’s probably the best introduction into his wild, colorful and often nonsensical universe, one with an absolutely killer soundtrack and that remains eerie, creepy and very affecting.
Chris Alexander: The first big American body-count movie put John Carpenter on the map and birthed a wave of stalk-and-slash exploitation. But very little blood is spilled on-screen here, and the picture is a testament to Carpenter’s fluid style and intense electronic music.
Michael Gingold: The movie that scared the life out of me at an impressionable age and set me on the path I’m still following today. Would that Michael Myers would go after those responsible for all the awful sequels and rip-offs.
Bekah McKendry: Would I be tarred and feathered if I professed my extreme love of Halloween III: Season of the Witch?
Sam Zimmerman: The juxtaposition during P.J. Soles‘ death should be enough to justify this film as the classic that it is. Thankfully though, the rest of Halloween is just as great.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Chris Alexander: The Gone With the Wind of zombie films, George A. Romero‘s epic, explicit tale of the living-dead apocalypse gets better with age, featuring revolting gore, multidimensional characters, action, humor and full-blooded horror. Often imitated, rarely duplicated.
Michael Gingold: The most conspicuous consumption ever seen on a movie screen, and one of the few films in history to singlehandedly create an entire genre.
Sam Zimmerman: That one zombie’s flannel is on point.
Bekah McKendry: Even during a zombie apocalypse, the mall is packed!
Chris Alexander: Wes Craven may have streamlined the concept, but Don Coscarelli got there first, blurring dreams and reality in a tale of a Tall Man, haunted graveyards and brain-shredding silver spheres.
Michael Gingold: The first R-rated horror film I ever saw in a theater still creeps me out today. Do you have the (silver) balls to sit through this one without flinching?
Bekah McKendry: I have read countless internet debates on whether or not this is actually a good movie or just really overhyped. Yes, it is a good f’n movie!
Sam Zimmerman: I’ll never forget the first time I saw Phantasm and its peek into the other dimension/world, and I realized how much I love horror films that are completely unafraid of having scope and being bat-shit crazy.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Chris Alexander: Gruesome, depressing, exploitative and unforgettable Italian epic that is as wrenching as it is indefensible. Fans of cute furry animals, turtles — and humanity — should probably avoid this one at all costs.
Michael Gingold: Sorry, I can’t get behind this one. Yes, it has a place in the halls of notoriety, but killing real animals on-screen is a kind of horror I can’t stomach.
Bekah McKendry: A depraved piece of video nasty that will forever be used to test horror chops and stomach control.
Sam Zimmerman: This film has been blown out of proportion as a sort of rite of passage for gore and shock-hungry horror fans. While no doubt very disturbing, it holds a lot more value than that. It’s genuinely scary, has haunting music and what’s probably my favorite last line of any movie.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Chris Alexander: A towering horror film laced with genuine humor and charm, John Landis’ wolf-man reimagining is pretty much a perfect movie, goosed by Rick Baker’s alarming man-to-monster FX.
Michael Gingold: Any movie that gave horror an extra foot in the door at the Oscars deserves its place in genre history.
Bekah McKendry: Awesome! Awesome! Kicks ass! Awesome!
Sam Zimmerman: American Werewolf is my favorite movie of all time. It contains the best transformation scene, is a shining example of horror/comedy that hasn’t been surpassed, the werewolf design and attacks are frightening and intense and the comedy is naturalistic and witty. It’s just all-around perfect. I shit you not.
The Beyond (1981)
Chris Alexander: Italian horror masterpiece driven by abstract gore, atmosphere and throbbing music.
Michael Gingold: So hypnotically stylish and memorably gruesome, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Sam Zimmerman: In every zombie movie ever, the main character comes across an undead child and, for at least one whole minute, wrestles with his emotions about the necessity and moral ethics of destroying one so young. In The Beyond, David Warbeck blows the brains out of that evil little ginger without a second-guess, and it results in one of the best head shots of all time. The Beyond rules.
Bekah McKendry: Sam, why you gotta bring gingers into it, punk? Anyway, The Beyond is like a bottomless bottle of acid slowly being poured on your brain. Wait, I think that scene is in the movie.
The Evil Dead (1983)
Chris Alexander: Sam Raimi rubbed dimes together and made horror history with this ballistic shocker of demonic possession and relentless gore.
Michael Gingold: Even the camerawork is scary in Raimi’s DIY horror classic.
Bekah McKendry: This film is often glossed over as casual horror fans leap at Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, but true horror fans know the roots, and that it takes the solid foundation of this film to continue the brilliance in the sequels.
Sam Zimmerman: Truthfully, I prefer Evil Dead II, but the overarching influence of Raimi’s original is not to be ignored. It’s full of style, originality and nasty fun.
Chris Alexander: David Cronenberg refines his body-horror obsessions, making deft observations about technology, voyeurism and, of course, sex in this paranoid masterpiece.
Michael Gingold: An ahead-of-its-time flop when first released; happily, fans and critics have caught up with Cronenberg’s horrific study of monstrous media in the years since. Can we get the Jersey Shore and Real Housewives people cast in these TV shows?
Bekah McKendry: I don’t quite know what exactly is going on or how many things symbolically looked like vaginas, but the film is a great commentary on new technologies, fear and the original reality television.
Sam Zimmerman: Cronenberg is a force of nature, a director who constantly uses genre to intelligently and excitingly work through a whole mess of issues, taboos and fears. Videodrome is one of many stunning examples of such. The Criterion Collection thinks so too.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Chris Alexander: The movie that first gave us Freddy Krueger is also one of the key pictures in the slasher canon, filled with dark, surreal imagery and explosive murders.
Michael Gingold: Remember when Freddy was genuinely frightening? If not, time for a refresher.
Bekah McKendry: This was Freddy back when Freddy was still scary and not the fourth Stooge. My little preteen heart was broken when Johnny Depp was reduced to a giant fountain of blood.
Sam Zimmerman: Despite its many sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street is very much one of a kind. Its uniqueness and scares still hold up (thanks to the master, Wes Craven), and if you try and tell me you aren’t bothered by Tina’s body-bag appearance in the school hallway, you’re full of it.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Chris Alexander: Part send-up, part irreverent punk-rock rip-off, all balls-out horror film, Dan O’Bannon‘s cracked explosion of brain-eating corpse mayhem is really scary and really funny. Great soundtrack album featuring The Cramps, The Damned and Roky Erickson, among others.
Michael Gingold: A bracing blast of humor added to the classic George A. Romero zombie mythos. Yeah, we wanna paaaaartyyyyyyy!!
Bekah McKendry: A literal interpretation of the phrase “punk’s not dead,” and Trash is still the hottest zombie ever.
Sam Zimmerman: It doesn’t get radder than this. Up the punx!
Angel Heart (1987)
Chris Alexander: Alan Parker‘s grafting of supernatural horror onto a grubby film-noir framework is haunting, hypnotic and offers a young Mickey Rourke at the peak of his powers.
Michael Gingold: Rourke in his prime, Lisa Bonet in her … uh … prime, and Robert De Niro as “Louis Cypher” (nudge nudge) add up to one spooky detective story.
Bekah McKendry: One of the best voodoo movies. It received a huge amount of controversy for the sexy showcasing of Cosby kid Bonet, but the film stands on its own with its gorgeous tone, stellar acting and endlessly twisting plot, plus a very unusual role for De Niro, who can eat a hardboiled egg like no one else.
Sam Zimmerman: Noir and horror have always been kindred spirits, and very successfully become a beautiful pair in this very weird and kind of off-putting (in a good way) film. (Bonus: For another noir mashup that will quite simply blow your mind, it would behoove you to see Alex Proyas’ Dark City.)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Chris Alexander: Funny and charming U.K. romp was an instant classic upon release and manages to straddle the comedy and horror realms smashingly.
Michael Gingold: Yes, it’s one of the funniest zombie films ever — but it’s also, in its odd way, one of the most moving.
Bekah McKendry: Expanding on the style set up in their hit show Spaced, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright create an endearing movie that loves horror films just as much as it spoofs them.
Sam Zimmerman: Billed as a parody, but containing way too much heart, story, character and love for its homages to be lumped in with the likes of other spoof-oriented films, Shaun of the Dead is actually the best horror/comedy since American Werewolf, and every bit of hype about it is completely true.
Chris Alexander: Malevolent French melodrama goes for the throat … and the womb. Pregnant women should never, ever watch this violent, relentless shocker.
Michael Gingold: French horror became a cause célèbre in the late 2000s, and this example deservedly won the highest praise for truly intense, gory chills. (Check out the harrowing French/Canadian co-production Martyrs, too — if you think you can handle it.)
Bekah McKendry: As soon I get pregnant, I’ll be removing all scissors from my house. This film disturbed the hell out of me and has gone down as one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen (and I watch a lot of really freaky shit).
Sam Zimmerman: While there have been plenty of winners, no horror movie in the 2000s excited me more than Inside (except maybe House of the Devil). It’s a marriage of horrifying atmosphere, insane and shocking violence and what should go down as one of the top villains in horror history (Béatrice Dalle is that out of control).
Let the Right One In (2009)
Chris Alexander: Lyrical Scandinavian vampire drama is as much a coming-of-age story as it is contemporary Gothic thriller. The remake ain’t bad either.
Michael Gingold: A little boy, a little vampire girl, a movie that’s decidedly not for kids. For adults, it’s one of the best evocations of childhood fears and fantasies ever.
Bekah McKendry: It contains the one element that always makes horror films more terrifying: freaky children. But the film showcases them in a beautifully Gothic fairy tale.
Sam Zimmerman: There’s been so much written about this film with a ton more eloquence than I can employ, so I will just say that, yes, it is that great and beautiful of a picture.