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100 best American horror movies of all time

  • 100 best American horror movies of all time

    Georges Melies’ 1896 film "Le Manior du Diable" is believed to be the very first horror movie ever, and though filmed in France, it was released in the United States as "The Haunted Castle,” establishing deep roots for the horror genre in American cinema. While horror films are often deemed a lower cultural form of filmmaking, they have been popular mainstays all the way back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Universal Pictures made a series of celebrated monster movies that audiences still love today.

    Stacker compiled data on horror films from They Shoot Zombies, Don't They?, a horror-centric site that has weighed and aggregated rankings from over 2,900 editorial lists to create the most definitive ranking of horror movies. From there, Stacker ranked the top 100 American films on the list. Nearly 7,900 films were considered in total. IMDb user ratings and Metascores are presented for popular and critical context. The list represents data gathered through May 2020.

    Whether it's the postmodern 1990s film that brought the slasher subgenre back to life or a silent film from the genre's earliest days, these movies speak to those who love horror. Fans of horror are loyal and dedicated—they love the jump scares, the camaraderie of watching a film with other fans, and the sheer adrenaline rush of being scared to death in the darkened confines of movie theaters and living rooms.

    While only six horror films have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and only one has actually won it, the genre is an important one. Zombies, vampires, aliens, monsters, and werewolves continue to hold a place in both the American psyche and heart. They terrify and delight viewers who continue to come back for more. For over a century, they have brought us the most deliciously amazing nightmares.

    What's your favorite scary movie? Perhaps it made Stacker's list. Grab a snack, shut out the lights, and keep reading...if you dare!

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  • #100. May (2002)

    - Director: Lucky McKee
    - Horror subgenre: psychological
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6
    - Metascore: 58
    - Runtime: 93 minutes

    May had a difficult childhood due to her lazy eye. While contact lenses help to correct the problem, the psychological damage remains—and that, mixed with two failed romantic relationships, throws May into a frenetic killing frenzy. Writing for The New York Times, Stephen Holden called the “May” a “facetiously witty slasher film that keeps its forked tongue firmly in its gashed cheek.”

  • #99. The House of the Devil (2009)

    - Director: Ti West
    - Horror subgenre: supernatural
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4
    - Metascore: 73
    - Runtime: 95 minutes

    Ti West not only directed but also edited and wrote this homage to the “babysitter in peril” films of the 1980s, though with an interesting twist on the trope. The movie was shot in 16 mm and also employed the use of the caption, “based on true unexplained events,” at the beginning to add to the 1980s horror vibe.

  • #98. Mad Love (1935)

    - Director: Karl Freund
    - Horror subgenre: psychological
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 68 minutes

    Adapted from Maurice Renard's novel “The Hands of Orlac,” the film boldly claimed it was “Suitable Only for Adults.” The plot finds a love-sick surgeon (Peter Lorre) doing the unthinkable when he replaces the mangled hands of the concert-pianist husband of the actress he loves with the hands of an executed murderer.

  • #97. Army of Darkness (1992)

    - Director: Sam Raimi
    - Horror subgenre: comedy
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: 59
    - Runtime: 81 minutes

    This horror comedy is the third installment of the “Evil Dead” horror franchise. The storyline follows the main character, Ash Williams, played by cult icon Bruce Campbell, as he once again fights the undead to return to the present day from the Middle Ages. Director Sam Raimi originally wanted to call the film, “The Medieval Dead.”

  • #96. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

    - Director: William Castle
    - Horror subgenre: haunted house
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 75 minutes

    This classic “haunted house” tale features an eccentric millionaire, played by Vincent Price, who invites five guests to spend the night in a spooky house. Those who make it until morning will be rewarded with $10,000. The 1999 remake increased the reward to $1 million and spawned a sequel that had a straight-to-DVD release.

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  • #95. The Lost Boys (1987)

    - Director: Joel Schumacher
    - Horror subgenre: vampire
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Metascore: 63
    - Runtime: 97 minutes

    Two brothers, played by Jason Patric and Corey Haim, move with their mother back to her hometown and soon find out why its referred to as the Murder Capital of the World. Vampires have taken over and threaten the seaside town, whose amusement park location was actually the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This film introduced the two Coreys, Feldman and Haim, who would remain friends until Haim’s 2010 death.

  • #94. Fright Night (1985)

    - Director: Tom Holland
    - Horror subgenre: vampire
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Metascore: 62
    - Runtime: 106 minutes

    This film marked the directorial debut of Tom Holland, who also wrote the screenplay. It features a teenager obsessed with horror films who believes his new neighbor, played by Chris Sarandon, is a vampire. Actor Anton Yelchin, who played the role of the horror-obsessed teen in the 2011 remake, died at the age of 27.

  • #93. Event Horizon (1997)

    - Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
    - Horror subgenre: science fiction
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7
    - Metascore: 35
    - Runtime: 96 minutes

    The Event Horizon, a spacecraft that disappeared, suddenly reappears, and a team led by the man who created it investigates and realizes that they may not be alone. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson.

  • #92. The Fly (1958)

    - Director: Kurt Neumann
    - Horror subgenre: science fiction
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 94 minutes

    When a scientific experiment goes awry, a common housefly is caught in a matter transporter, slowly turning a scientist into a fly. The 1986 remake of this sci-fi marvel, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, received an Oscar for Best Makeup. There is talk of a Disney remake.


  • #91. The Seventh Victim (1943)

    - Director: Mark Robson
    - Horror subgenre: mystery
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 71 minutes

    After her sister goes missing, a young woman leaves her boarding school and searches for her in New York City, only to discover that she’s become part of a satanic cult. The film explored topics that were considered taboo at the time, including repressed sexuality and satanism.

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