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October 05, 2007

31 Favorite Horror Films


A couple of weeks ago, Ed Hardy, Jr. requested lists of 31 favorite horror films. Because of personal obligations, it wasn't until last night that I was able to compile a list. Unlike some of my previous lists, I have included a few comments. While I have attempted to include as many different filmmakers as possible, the truth is that the best horror films are made by those who explored the genre several times, if not exclusively. After the first few films, ranking becomes abitrary. Some of these films are not scary but remain fun to watch. Other films remain intense in spite of multiple viewings.


1. Psycho (Alfred Hitchock - 1960)

There is no way of getting around it. Even if Psycho was Hitchcock's way of getting back at William Castle, the film defines the modern horror movie, and remains an influence on virtually every filmmaker working in the genre.

2. Suspiria (Dario Argento - 1977)

Even after several viewings, this if for me one the scariest films ever made. The shot of Jessica Harper stepping out of the airport, the wind blowing her hair, is magical. Argento, a former film critic, makes a nod to Hitchcock and Lang in the casting of Alida Valli and Joan Bennett.

3. Repulsion (Roman Polanski - 1965)

I ducked in my seat at the Thalia Theater when I saw Catherine Deneuve as the beautician from hell.

4. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnua - 1922)

Murnau’s Dracula by any other name is no blood drinking, caped dandy, but a rat faced demon who still thrills and chills.

5. Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale - 1935)

Funnier than almost an horror spoof you could name. I also love this film for Elsa Lanchester's hair-do.

6. Tomb of Ligeia (Roger Corman - 1964)

I love the Corman-Poe films. For me, this is the best.

7. Deep Red (Dario Argento - 1975)

Argento making something that goes beyond giallo. Where does that killer doll come from? A great score by the appropriately named group Goblin.

8. The Mummy (Karl Freund - 1932)

I saw this film almost every day on television when I was nine years old. I still find it fascinating.

9. Eyes without a Face (Georges Franju - 1960)

I don’t know how much credit should go to Georges Franju and how much should go to screenwriters Boileau and Narcejac. The image of Juliette Mayniel in the white mask has become iconic.

10. Black Sunday (Mario Bava - 1960)

Barbara Steele is both scary and beautiful.

11. The Unknown (Tod Browning - 1927)

I couldn't make a list without one film with Lon Chaney or Tod Browning. This may be their most horrifying film because of what is left to the imagination. Also worth seeing to catch Joan Crawford as a total babe.

12. Brides of Dracula (Terence Fisher - 1960)

No brides and no Dracula, but Terence Fisher’s best film for it’s creative use of color - reds, blues, and purple.


13. Kill, Baby, Kill (Mario Bava - 1966)

My favorite Bava. Follow the bouncing ball.

14. Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo - 1964)

The horror of the mask that can not be removed from the woman’s face unnerved me when I saw this on the big screen at the New Yorker Theater.

15. The Thing (John Carpenter - 1982)

Much of the time, John Carpenter seems to be remaking Rio Bravo. This time Carpenter used Howard Hawks for inspiration to make something darker and much more horrifying than the first film.

16. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero - 1968)

George Romero upped the ante on on screen horror and reinvented the zombie film. That the film is also a political allegory, and is the first film in general release with a black hero are bonus points.

17. Shivers (David Cronenberg - 1975)

I had read about Cronenberg's short films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, probably in "Take One" magazine. The only way I could see Cronenberg's first feature was to go to 42nd Street, back when it was a bit more colorful. I wasn't the only one in the audience to be freaked by Cronenberg's vision of sex and horror. That hasn't stopped me from seeing Cronenberg's films since then.

18. The Eye (Danny Pang & Oxide Pang - 2002)

The Pang Brothers defined the Asian horror film. We will have to see if the remake can match the apocalyptic ending of the orignal.

19. The Invisible Man (James Whale - 1933)

Considering that CGI was almost fifty years away, the special effects of The Invisible Man still amaze me.

20. Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur - 1957)

My favorite horror film by Jacques Tourner. Even the trees are scary.

21. Cat People (Paul Schrader -1982)

A gory reworking of Jacques Tourner’s film with a terrific cast and David Bowie singing about putting out fire with gasoline. Also the one film directed by Paul Schrader that I enjoy seeing more than once.

22. The Devils (Ken Russell - 1971)

I left the theater totally disheveled. A friend saw me the night I saw The Devils. After she saw Russell’s film, she understood why I looked like a wreck.

23. Carrie (Brian De Palma - 1976)

Even after several viewings, I still jump when those hands pop out from the grave.

24. Sisters (Brian De Palma - 1973)

Sure it’s an obvious hommage to Hitchcock, but De Palma does it better than anyone else. Even former Hitchcock scripter Sidney Gilliat bungled the job.

25. Freaks (Tod Browing - 1932)

You want to look away, but you can’t.

26. The Haunting (Robert Wise - 1963)

One of the things I liked about Robert Wise was how he would revisit a genre every ten years or so. One may want to explore the thematic trilogy that also includes Curse of the Cat People and Audrey Rose.

27. Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (Brian Clemens - 1974)

One of the last Hammer films, and one of the best. Underseen and underappreciated.

28. The Tenant (Roman Polanski - 1976)

The Polanski film that caused one of my ownly film inspired nightmares.

29. Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg - 1988)

I could have listed several films by David Cronenberg. This film is especially creepy and disturbing, and beautiful.

30. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich - 1962)

For better and worse, Robert Aldrich created a genre and extended the careers not only of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but almost every Depression era female star in Hollywood.

31. Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey - 1962)

Herk Harvey’s little film is effectively creepy. That it inspired George Romero is another reason to love this film.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 5, 2007 12:54 AM


Thanks for participating in the Willie List nominations! Extra points go for mentioning Goblin and lodging the only vote thus far for one of the films that gives me the ickiest feelings inside: Russell's DEVILS.

Anybody else interested in voting, head on over to Shoot the Projectionist and check it out.

Posted by: Ed Hardy, Jr. at October 5, 2007 12:41 PM

Great list Peter! I see lots of my own favorites listed.

It was nice to see Night of the Demon mentioned. It brought back fond memories of a Halloween night about 8 or 9 years ago when I caught the film playing locally with some friends. It was amazing seeing a Jacques Tourneur film on the big screen and I hadn't seen Night of the Demon before. Needless to say, it was an amazing evening and I got a bad case of the willies walking home that night!

Posted by: Kimberly at October 6, 2007 01:10 PM

NIGHT OF THE DEMON is one of the rare movies that made my normally rock-like wife jump in her seat... and into mine. And now we have children.

Posted by: Richard Harland Smith at October 10, 2007 03:39 PM

Very funny! Thanks for writing, RHS.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at October 11, 2007 02:33 AM

I would love to see you after you just saw THE DEVILS, because Im curious to know how you looked like. Hahaha.

I havent seen this film yet, but I have heard it is great. Talking about Ken Russell, I like THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988) very much. I would like to include THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM in my list, too, but in the end I decided to drop it because I think what I like the most in this film is the personality of Amanda Donohoe, not how frightened I was while watching it.

Posted by: Celinejulie at October 12, 2007 12:21 PM