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100 best horror movies of all time

  • 100 best horror movies of all time

    Horror stands alone as a form of cinematic entertainment. Like a shot of adrenaline, the best examples are often measured by their ability to stimulate the senses. Rarely will one find Oscar-worthy monologues or painstaking character development. Even basic logic can be hard to come by, as movies like “Scream” point out. But that doesn’t matter, because horror movies aren’t overly concerned with logic or rationale. To put it as plainly as possible: entertainment is the point.

    Great horror also functions as a cathartic outlet, and a streamlined one at that. Tapping into deeply-rooted fears and desires, the genre cultivates a whirlwind of primitive indulgence. Viewers can experience the thrill of running from a monster or just barely surviving through the night. Thanks to the iconic POV shot, one can even step into the killer’s shoes on occasion. If there’s a pretext, it’s that audiences leave their lofty ideals and moral judgments at home. With an open mind (and empty stomach), one can strap into their seat and take a proverbial roller coaster ride. It’s no wonder that the genre has such a dedicated fan base.

    That’s not to say horror goes short on symbolism or social commentary. On the contrary, many of the best horror films are filled to the brim with metaphor and prescient subtext. Jordan Peele’s blockbuster “Get Out” explores racism through the lens of historical hierarchies. The French film “Raw” uses cannibalism as a metaphor for pubescent urges, while Norway’s “Thelma” conjures psychokinetic power out of religious repression. Proto-slashers like “Psycho” are chock full of mommy issues and even “Halloween” retains a psychological edge.

    Stacker compiled data on all horror movies to come up with a Stacker score, i.e., a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores as of Oct. 13, 2020. To qualify, the film had to be listed as horror on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 25,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Because they don’t fall under the “horror” banner on IMDb, classics such as “Jaws,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “The Sixth Sense” didn’t make the list.

    Every film that did make the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of horror. An exception was made on behalf of three essential horror movies, whose lack of a Metascore inaccurately reflects their place in film history: "Nosferatu," "Diabolique," and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Each of these films has a Stacker score that reflects its respective IMDb user rating and has been ranked accordingly.

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  • #100. The Conjuring (2013)

    - Director: James Wan
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 68
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Runtime: 112 minutes

    Here’s a movie so terrifying that it was reportedly given an R rating for the “scare factor” alone. Helmed by James Wan, it sends a pair of paranormal investigators to a haunted farmhouse. A critical and commercial smash, the film spawned an ongoing franchise.

  • #99. REC (2007)

    - Directors: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 69
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 78 minutes

    A high point of the found footage subgenre, “REC” locks a TV reporter and her crew inside an apartment building infected by a deadly virus. Hailing from Spain, the film was remade in America under the name “Quarantine.” The Spanish version yielded three sequels, while its inferior American counterpart yielded one.

  • #98. Gremlins (1984)

    - Director: Joe Dante
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 70
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Runtime: 106 minutes

    When a young man (Zach Galligan) fails to properly care for his adorable new pet, it unleashes a horde of monsters upon his small town. The seminal ’80s flick packed just enough darkness into a family-friendly package, which only broadened its appeal. Look for an uncredited cameo from executive producer Steven Spielberg.

  • #97. The Descent (2005)

    - Director: Neil Marshall
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 71
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Runtime: 99 minutes

    Trail a group of friends into the deep recesses of a dark cave, where something deadly awaits. With its palpable themes of psychological trauma, “Descent” takes on more gravitas than the standard monster fare. Its original ending was deemed too dark for American audiences, leading to a revised cut.

  • #96. Midsommar (2019)

    - Director: Ari Aster
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 72
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Runtime: 148 minutes

    Director Ari Aster tackled the folk horror subgenre with this heralded sophomore effort. It follows a group of American friends into the heart of rural Sweden, where they partake in a pagan ceremony. A young woman named Dani (Florence Pugh) discovers she’ll be purging herself of more than just the past.

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  • #95. The Invisible Man (2020)

    - Director: Leigh Whannell
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 72
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Runtime: 124 minutes

    From “Saw” co-creator Leigh Whannell comes this clever reinvention of a classic horror story. After fleeing from her abusive boyfriend, a young woman (Elisabeth Moss) must grapple with his unique brand of untraceable vengeance. A substantial hit, the film breathed new life into Universal’s pending slate of monster movie remakes.

  • #94. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

    - Director: S. Craig Zahler
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 72
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Runtime: 132 minutes

    One might hear the term “Western horror” and think of gunslinging skeletons, but this film finds all of its scares in the natural world. Starring Kurt Russell, it’s about a devoted man trying to save his wife from a group of savage cannibals. A slow build culminates with some truly grotesque visuals. This one’s not for the faint of heart...or stomach.

  • #93. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

    - Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 73
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Runtime: 121 minutes

    Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos cultivates a world that’s equal parts familiar and alien in this unsettling thriller. It’s by walking this deft line that the movie squeezes tension out of even the most casual exchange. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star as an upper crust married couple, who must deal with the fallout of a deadly curse.

  • #92. The Platform (2019)

    - Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 73
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Runtime: 94 minutes

    A dystopian prison doubles as an allegory for socio-economic despair in this Spanish thriller. Inmates are randomly placed on a vertical system, which spoils those at the top and torments those at the bottom. It won the People's Choice Award for Midnight Madness at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival before getting scooped up by Netflix.

  • #91. Frankenweenie (2012)

    - Director: Tim Burton
    - Stacker score: 79
    - Metascore: 74
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 87 minutes

    It’s the tale of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as only director Tim Burton can imagine it. Adapting his own black-and-white short film, Burton substitutes a young boy for the mad scientist and a loyal pet dog for the infamous monster. Vivid 3D stop-motion animation brings the story to life.

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