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The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time
The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

10

The Fly (1986)

A beautifully poignant tale of love and heartbreak cocooned in the outré trappings of its maker’s distinctive splatter-punk aesthetic, The Fly represents the apotheosis of David Cronenberg’s early obsessions. The story of scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), who, in a fit of drunken jealousy, tests his new teleporter only to find himself fused with a housefly, it’s a testament to the elastic properties of genre as metaphor. Cronenberg reappropriates the original’s schlocky damsel-in-distress plot as the delivery system for a thoughtful, witty, and literate consideration of his pet preoccupations: sex, death, technology, biology. It’s tragedy pitched at an operatic scale, body horror at its most visceral, pop philosophy at its most insightful. Insect politics for a blockbuster age.  Das

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

9

The Thing (1982)

Infection transfers seamlessly between organisms in John Carpenter’s exploration of paranoia, making detection impossible until it’s too late. So how does one survive such an onslaught when your body might already be rotting from the inside out? Kurt Russell and company grapple with this mortal question throughout, and their reactions run the gauntlet, from violent to compassionate and beyond. The film’s extreme icy setting only forces these roughnecks closer together in confined interiors, where the air is just warm enough for a supernatural host to take root and never let go. It’s a perfect cinematic Petri dish for our greatest fears to flourish and evolve.  Heath

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

8

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Roger Ebert memorably described the effect George A. Romero’s charter zombie film had on a group of Saturday matinee kids, wrote that their accelerating awareness that the film wasn’t going to play nice—and was, in fact, going to plunge a garden trowel deep into Mommy’s chest cavity—drove them to hysterical tears. Perhaps they subconsciously recognized in the political and social subtext of the film the many ways adults were failing them, how upheavals were destroying all illusions of social stasis, how the arms race was pushing the Doomsday Clock toward midnight, how the nuclear family unit was on its deathbed. Or maybe Romero’s pitch-black, impressionistic, gory depiction of the living under siege by the dead simply was and remains among the scariest goddamned movies ever made.  Henderson

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

7

Freaks (1932)

In many ways, Tod Browning’s Freaks is the antithesis of the typical horror film, which isn’t to suggest that its rain-soaked climax is anything less than scary as hell. A clear-eyed portrait of a traveling circus’s community of disabled performers, the film is most famous for effectively ending director Tod Browning’s career, an outcome that ironically underscores his film’s unflinching humanitarianism. In defense of their own, the film’s disfigured characters are capable of great horrors, but it’s those who see them as less than human—audiences included—to whom the title of this masterpiece most scathingly refers.  Humanick

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

6

The Shining (1980)

By 1980, Stanley Kubrick had made a practice of adopting genres, pushing their perceived limitations, and often perfecting the formula. Despite its base predilections, The Shining proved to be a risky experiment. A formally bold, elliptically structured translation of Stephen King’s pop novel, the film revels in horror tropes, raising as many questions as it answers while encoding its text with an added degree of discomfort by playing logic against itself and heightening the primal fear in character and audience alike. Simply one classic, unsettling sequence after another, the film is at once the paradigm of modern horror and the most audacious employment of genre the cinema has ever known.  Cronk

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

5

Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento’s breathtakingly artificial horror film owes as much to Georges Méliès and German Expressionism as it does to Jean Cocteau and Grimm fairy tales, its opening, Golbin-scored “once upon a time” a giddy anticipation of the plethora of deliriously affected horrors yet to come. Suggesting a Technicolor version of Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door, the film thrusts Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) into the ostentatiously colored confines of a ballet Academy that may as well represent the deepest recesses of her subconscious, from which the once skittish ballerina emerges noticeably freed. Snow White has left the building.  Gonzalez

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

4

Carrie (1976)

The definitive tale of a person who summons the courage to try and engage with the world around her, only to be terribly, terribly rebuffed. One of the most influential of American horror movies, Carrie was also director Brian De Palma’s most emotionally direct film up to that point, as it broke through the belabored gimmickry of his earlier work to pave the way for an astonishing career that remains under-heralded. Over 30 years after its release, Carrie still best encapsulates, more than any other movie before or since, one of the prevailing subtexts of nearly every horror film: the fear that your private, most horrible thoughts about yourself are entirely, inescapably true.  Bowen

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

3

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

“This is no dream!” Mia Farrow’s Rosemary screams, while being set upon by the devil, “This is really happening!” It’s this permeating sense of plausibility that makes Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece so chilling. It’s not just the naturalism of the performances (of Farrow, of John Cassavetes, even of Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as the doddering old Castevets), but of the scenario. Released pre-Roe v. Wade, Rosemary’s Baby entered into a culture where the feminine body was tantamount to the maternal body. The film radically disrupts this narrative, depicting a bourgeois upward-mobility that can only be assured through pacts with Lucifer, and offering a stern reply to the pro-life line that all children are gifts from God.  Semley

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

2

Psycho (1960)

From the moment Marion Crane checks out of the Bates Motel a little earlier than expected, the shock of the new resounds throughout Alfred Hitchcock’s genre game-changer. In an era dominated by Technicolor terrors and gothic grotesqueries, Hitchcock shot the film in unvarnished black and white and situated his sanguinary shudders squarely in the present day. But beyond even Hitch’s impeccable craftsmanship, what positions Psycho as an ever-renewable resource, a wellspring for academic and amateur discussion whose bottom likely will never be scraped by the rusty buckets of critical inquiry, is the intricate skein of metaphors, both verbal and visual, that runs like a scarlet thread throughout the film.  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time

1

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Opening in utter darkness illuminated by sudden, dreadful flashes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre begins with a police report describing a violated corpse as “a grisly work of art,” a term that also applies perfectly to Tobe Hooper’s legendary grindhouse masterpiece. A rough-hewn American Gothic canvas, the film charts the trajectory of a batch of youngsters from a clammy van to the dangling hooks of an abbatoir run by a cannibalistic clan. Materializing in the middle of the horror genre’s most transgressive decade, this is a cacophony of piercing shrieks, metallic clanks, and roaring machinery that looks back to Psycho’s view of ingrown monsters even as it outdoes the older film in sheer, visceral impact. Snapshot of Vietnam-era outrage? Indictment of all-devouring capitalism? Blood-spattered redneck Theater of Cruelty? Yes to all, plus the screen’s most grueling portrait of mushrooming terror. Decades of sequels, remakes, and imitators can’t take away its scabrous power.  Croce

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