The Best Horror Films

INTRODUCTION

Like many kids of my time, I was exposed at an impressionable age to the macabre and the uncanny. Despite my mother's aversion to the horrific and concerted efforts to raise me with wholesome influences, it was, ironically, her reading to me Grimm's fairy tales (I particularly remember Bluebeard!) which cultivated my taste for terror and morbidity (she insists that I point out her strong denial of this charge, the Bluebeard episode in particular). Delicious memories of Halloweens past abide with far greater clarity than any Christmas. I read H. G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, and Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland avidly (my introduction to what "pulp" meant), and collected nearly the entire Aurora "Glow in the Dark" monsters plastic model series. The original, 1968-vintage Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cartoon series and Kolchak: The Night Stalker had no small influence upon my development. And I stayed up "past my bedtime" to watch movies of which my mother did not approve.

Around 1973, when I was 8 years old or so, I began a list of all the "monster movies" which I had seen, with pertinent details and a rating of the quality of the experience. Since that time I have compiled a list of 800+ genre films, including fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery-suspense-thriller, and pulp-serial-comics films. There was a renaissance of horror films beginning in the early 1970s and reaching its nadir between 1975 and 1982. I saw many of the films in this list during that time, so my recollection and evaluation of them is at times quite hazy and doubtful (some I cannot even remember watching). It has been my experience, upon seeing a film as an adult which I loved as a child, that my perception of it has changed radically. Conversely, many films which I did not appreciate as a child, because they were "boring" (ie, didn't have any cheap rubber monsters that ate people), I now regard as being superior, much in the same way that I now like Brussel sprouts... Unfortunately, I have not been able to re-watch all of the movies which I saw some twenty-odd years ago; many have slipped into eternal obscurity (possibly to the betterment of mankind!).

Long before TNT's MonsterVision, when the Turner Broadcasting Station, WTBS, was just WTCG, channel 17 in Atlanta, and a young guy named Bill Tush was the program manager, at the height of the renewed interest in the macabre, WTCG and other independent local stations would schedule the old classics of the genre, which was my first and in many cases my only exposure to these films of the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. There was a fantastic Friday night prime time feature on WTCG which began with a sepia-toned montage of shadowy sequences from some of the scariest moments in these older films (notably the Creeper series), set to that famous score from Jaws (the translation to this context was remarkable and effective).

Alas! the day of the independent local station is no more. Nor do many yearn for the films of yesteryear. For those born in the 1980s or 1990s, even the 1960s seem remote, and the younger generation is not naturally inclined to watch movies which are 50, 60 or 70 years old. For those who do remember, this site is a tribute, a guide along the darkened corridors of a lost childhood, and a memorial to a collection of genre work which is now passing into obscurity. For the youth of today it is also an introduction to the wonders of the unknown...

The films reviewed here are presented in chronological order. My intention is to provide an historical artistic context and to indicate the development of the craft of the horror film. If you wish to search for a specific title, there is an index at the bottom of this page which links directly to each film on their respective pages, but I encourage you to take the tour of each page and trace the evolution of the genre. I should also mention that such masterpieces of suspense as Psycho will not be found on this page; look for them on The Best Suspense Films page. Similarly, scientifically slanted monsters such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon will be found on The Best Science Fiction Films page.

And incidentally... if you want to catch some of the older films reviewed on these pages check out the programming schedules of Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics; even such unlikely venues as Cinemax and Showtime I've noticed will show some rare and excellent genre films.

I have removed my Top 20 list of the very best horror films. It was just too short and too arbitrary. I can't choose! I love so many of these films and I find that revisiting them after some time that they are once more fresh and I discover in them new delights of chills and blood-curdling fun.


LINKS TO THE OTHER PAGES

These are the links to the in-depth reviews, trivia and images for all the best horror films that I have seen. Go straight to the source or peruse the list of all the films below.

The Golden Age of Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)

The classic originals of genre cinema from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The Renaissance of Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)

The post-war renaissance of horror, with the emerging masters of British horror cinema, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and the new American icon, Vincent Price. From House of Wax to Frankenstein - the True Story.

The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)

From the passing of gothic cinema, through the modern evolution of contemporary horror to the reemergent Neo-Gothic of the 1990s. From Romero's Night of the Living Dead to Stephen King's The Shining.

The New Millenium (1999 - ?)

A resurgence of interest in the classics (as remakes) competes with a renaissance of independent films. From The Blair Witch Project onwards.


ALPHABETICAL INDEX TO THE HORROR FILMS

This listing is in alphabetical order for ease in locating a specific film, with a direct link to the location on the page where it is found. The date of release is included to help distinguish films where multiple versions exist. There are over 100 films reviewed here.

13 Ghosts 1960 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
28 Days Later... 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes 1971 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Abominable Snowman
of the Himalayas
1957 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
An American Werewolf in London 1981 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Angel Heart 1987 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Army of Darkness 1987 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Awakening 1980 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Birds 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Black Cat 1934 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Black Sunday 1960 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Blair Witch Project 1999 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Blood and Roses 1960 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb 1971 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Blood on Satan's Claw 1970 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Blood Ties 1991 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Bram Stoker's Dracula 1972 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Bram Stoker's Dracula 1992 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Bride 1985 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Bride of Frankenstein 1935 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Brides of Dracula 1960 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Burn, Witch, Burn 1962 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1919 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Candyman 1992 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter 1972 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Carnival of Souls 1962 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Cat People 1942 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Cat People 1982 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Company of Wolves 1984 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Countess Dracula 1970 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Craft 1996 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Creepshow 1982 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Cry of the Werewolf 1944 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Curse of the Black Widow 1977 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Curse of Frankenstein 1957 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb 1964 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Dark Water 2005 The New Millenium (1999 -?) NEW
Dawn of the Dead 1978 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Dead of Night 1945 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Deceivers 1988 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Die, Monster, Die! 1965 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Dracula 1931 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Dracula (Spanish Version) 1931 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Dracula 1979 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Dracula's Daughter 1936 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Dracula - Dead and Loving It 1995 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave 1968 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Dracula, Prince of Darkness 1965 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde 1972 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again 1972 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Entity 1981 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Exorcist 1973 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Eye of the Devil 1967 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Fall of the House of Usher 1960 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Final Destination 2000 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Flatliners 1990 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Flesh and Fantasy 1943 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Frankenstein 1931 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Frankenstein 1993 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Frankenstein 2004 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Frankenstein - The True Story 1973 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Freaks 1932 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Fright Night 1985 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Frighteners 1996 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
From Dusk Till Dawn 1996 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Ghostbusters 1984 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Ghost Story 1981 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Ghoul 1933 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Golem 1920 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Gorgon 1964 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Gothic 1985 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Halloween 1978 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Haunted Palace 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Happening 2008 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
The Haunting 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Haunting 1999 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Horror of Dracula 1958 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
House of Dracula 1945 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
House of Wax 1953 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
House on Haunted Hill 1959 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Hunger 1983 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Innocent Blood 1992 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Interview with the Vampire 1994 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
In the Mouth of Madness 1995 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Island of Lost Souls 1933 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
I Walked with a Zombie 1943 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Innocents 1961 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Jaws 1975 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Ju-On 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
Kiss of the Vampire 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Kwaidan 1965 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Lair of the White Worm 1988 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Lifeforce 1985 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Mad Love 1935 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Mad Magician 1954 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Magic 1978 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Mary Reilly 1996 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1994 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Masque of the Red Death 1965 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Mummy 1932 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Mummy 1959 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Mystery of the Wax Museum 1933 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Night of Dark Shadows 1971 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Night of the Demon 1957 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Night of the Living Dead 1968 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Night Stalker 1971 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Ninth Gate 2000 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Nosferatu - A Symphony of Horrors 1922 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Old Dark House 1932 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Omen 1976 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Pet Sematary 1989 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Phantom of the Opera 1925 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Phantom of the Opera 1943 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Phantom of the Opera 1962 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Phantom of the Opera 2004 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Poltergeist 1982 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Queen of the Damned 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
The Raven 1935 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Raven 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Reptile 1966 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Return of Dracula 1958 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Revenge of Frankenstein 1958 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Ring 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Rosemary's Baby 1968 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
`Salem's Lot 1979 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Scary Movie 2000 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
The Seventh Victim 1943 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Shadow of the Vampire 2000 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Shaun of the Dead 2004 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
The Shining 1980 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Signs 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
The Sixth Sense 1999 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
The Skull 1965 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Sleepy Hollow 1999 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
Snowbeast 1977 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Something Wicked This Way Comes 1983 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Son of Frankenstein 1939 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
The Stepford Wives 1975 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Stephen King's The Shining 1997 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde
1968 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Tales from the Crypt 1972 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Tales from the Darkside 1990 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Tales from the `Hood 1995 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Tales that Witness Madness 1973 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Tales of Terror 1962 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
They 2002 The New Millenium (1999 - ?) NEW
Thir13en Ghosts 2001 The New Millenium (1999 - ?)
The Tingler 1959 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Turn of the Screw 1992 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Twice-Told Tales 1963 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
Twilight Zone - The Movie 1983 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Uninvited 1944 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Vampire in Brooklyn 1995 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Vampire Circus 1971 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Vampire Lovers 1970 The Classic Horror Films (1953 - 1973)
The Watcher in the Woods 1980 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Werewolf of London 1935 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Willard 1971 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Wolf 1994 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
The Wolf Man 1941 The Classic Horror Films (1919 - 1948)
Wolfen 1981 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)
Young Frankenstein 1974 The Modern Horror Film (1968 - 1998)

THE GRINNING GOBLINS RATING SYSTEM

Instead of stars, I have little grinning goblins. The ratings on my original master list were based on a scale of 1 to 9. Only the better films are represented here, so there are no degrees of bad ratings. Consequently, a perfectly mediocre film rates no goblins. Why bother to review the junk?

A True Classic! de Rigeur for any Aficionado
Well Worth the Trouble of Finding and Watching
Better than Bad, Its Good!
Properly Misspent Time


LINKS TO OTHER SITES
Classic Horror Film Board A forum site for fans of all the classics from the silent era to the 90s
Confessions of a Pop-Culture Addict: House of 100 Horrors One uberfan's ruminations on the genre
Classic Horror An excellent site featuring classic movies up to the present
The Internet Movie Database: Horror A nearly complete listing of genre films

Disclaimer
The views expressed herein are those of the author. No liability is assumed for any misapprobation of intent or injury to persons or entities, either actual or alleged, by the content of this site. This is a non-commercial site maintained at the author's expense as a tribute to the exemplary works of the genre. All imagery exhibited at this site is assumed to be unrestricted and will be removed at the request of authorized entities upon presentation of proof of copyright (although it would well behoove such parties to consider the advantage to be gained by refraining from molesting honest efforts at praise and sponsorship).
This web page was designed by HTL (Mail to: Ulfhere at Rathcoombe.net)
Originally posted 3 January 1998 -- All rights reserved