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


The Changeling (1980)

Shot with an unerring eye for ghostly atmospherics, yet grounded in George C. Scott’s perfectly calibrated performance as a bereaved composer, Peter Medak’s The Changeling is an archetypal haunted-house film suffused with dread and a somber sense of loss. But dig beneath the spectral surfaces—all those séances, eerie bouncing balls, and phantom wheelchairs—and you’ll find a hidden wellspring of social criticism. Like The Ruling Class, Medak’s scalding satire of the English aristocracy, The Changeling lambasts authority for its wanton abuse of power, embodied here in an elderly senator who was adopted as a child by a prosperous patriarch to replace the crippled offspring he drowned.  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Blue Velvet (1986)

As a horror film, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is a master class in the uncanny—that cognitive dissonance opened up when something familiar is made to seem strange, or vice versa. From the tone-setting send-up of Leave It to Beaver’s middle America, to Lynch’s camera panning down to creepy-crawlies tilling up the soil of a suburban anyhome, to its nuanced and terrifying explorations of the Oedipal desires and sexual deviance that lurk in the nation’s closets, the film feels like a crystal-clear articulation of the Freudian and the Lynchian. In Dennis Hopper’s nitrous-huffing, Pabst-swilling, Isabella Rossellini-punching Frank, Lynch has created a movie monster chilling enough to lurch astride any in this list.  Semley

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Cat People (1942)

Cat People lyrically and metaphysically gives prominence to its sense of atmosphere, occasionally suggesting a film noir in its velvety chiaroscuro. Producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur borrow freely from German expressionism, from Murnau, Lang, and Wiene, but its original story ensures that it will never derivative. RKO demanded Lewton make a film called Cat People, but rather than phone in a hokey monster movie, he delivered a complex tale of cultural dislocation that homes in on people’s fears of myth, the preternatural, and femininity. For his part, Tourneur orchestrated one of horror cinema’s most iconic set pieces, a pool scene that suggests that the fear of the unseen in perhaps the greatest fear of all.  Hunt

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Kuroneko (1968)

Japanese films that grapple with the sense of loss and social upheaval that descended upon the country in the wake of World War II are often logically characterized by an ineffable sense of wandering loneliness. Many Japanese filmmakers have funneled these contemporary social moods through (theoretically) reassuringly distanced stories of historic feudal hypocrisy, and few voiced the disconcerting parallels between past and present Japan with the enraged lucidity of Kuroneko. A surreal, poetic story of avenging female spirits and the conflicted samurai charged with stopping them, the film explores a symbolic paradoxical quest of attempting to spiritually heal through the infliction of ironic and unfair physical carnage. It doesn’t go well.  Bowen

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Martyrs (2008)

Riding at the forefront of the bloody New Wave of French horror, Martyrs is nothing less than the most punishing genre experience since Irréversible. In this grueling account of two women who encounter a deranged cult bent on seeking transcendence through vicarious suffering, Pascal Laugier interrogates the work of Clive Barker and decides that the supernatural element is extraneous. Who needs Cenobites when we have human beings? Laugier deconstructs the notion of torture porn, shutting down any hope the protagonists have of escaping their unimaginable plight and, thus, the idea that “pleasure” could be derived from watching it. It’s a work of singular vision, ambitious almost to a fault as an acknowledgment of mankind’s capacity for cruelty and—perversely—resilience.  Das

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


The Hitcher (1986)

A young man (C. Thomas Howell) drives through the El Paso desert on a rainy night, nearly falling asleep, when a stranger (Rutger Hauer, in top leering form) materializes by the side of the road, thumbing a ride. And that’s enough of a setup for director Robert Harmon in The Hitcher to craft a veritable waking nightmare of endless highways, contorted bodies, and one man’s sheer evil seeping through another’s skin. At times an uncanny abstraction of asphalt, battered earth, and splattered blood, at others a companion piece to that year’s Blue Velvet, the film looms as menacingly over pallid ’80s horror fare as the titular boogeyman does over his hapless victim.  Croce

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Eraserhead (1977)

Despite never indulging in outright horror, it’s no surprise to find David Lynch’s name on this list nearly as much as more traditionally inclined genre filmmakers, so disquieting is his imagery, so unnerving his thematic spectrum. And Lynch’s debut film, Eraserhead, may be his most disarming, disturbing, and unforgettable experiment in a career that’s only grown stranger. Pieced together over a period of years, the film is nonetheless a lucid nightmare, following Jack Nance’s meek protagonist on a transformative odyssey, both emotionally and physically, through an industrial wasteland which recycles souls and collapses time and space into a slipstream of subconscious guilt and longing. Heaven’s never felt so enticing.  Cronk

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Halloween II (2009)

An alternate title for this film could be Sympathy for the Devil. If Michael Myers was almost a phantom presence in John Carpenter’s Halloween, here he’s unmistakably and chillingly real. Throughout, Michael suggests a nomad single-mindedly driven by a desire to obliterate every connection to his namesake, and the scope of his brutality suggests a clogged id’s flushing out. In this almost Lynchian freak-out, whose sense of loss comes to the fore in a scene every bit as heartbreaking as its violence is discomfiting in its graphic nature, Rob Zombie’s prismatic aesthetic is cannily rhymed with Michael’s almost totemic mood swings, every obscenely prolonged kill scene a stunning reflection on an iconic movie monster’s psychological agony.  Gonzalez

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Black Sunday (1960)

Maestro of the macabre Mario Bava put Italian horror cinema on the map with this unique hybrid blending of the bloody violence of Hammer Films with the moody monochrome cinematography and elaborately atmospheric set design of ’30s Universal horrors. The storyline boasts all the best gothic trappings: ancestral curses, haunted portraits, and hidden passageways. Bava’s endlessly roving camera slinks through ruined crypts and prowls lavish ancestral halls, at one point executing a vertiginous 360-degree pan around a tenebrous burial vault. As if all that weren’t enough, Black Sunday sports one of the most indelible openings ever, with a grotesque spike-lined mask being hammered into Barbara Steele’s lovely visage.  Wilkins

The 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time


Day of the Dead (1985)

The qualities that alienate some from George. A. Romero’s third Dead film are also its most rewarding: the pressure-cooker narrative, the protracted philosophizing, the over-cranked emotions, the despair befitting the end of days. Acknowledging an impossibly bleak present and gazing with steadfast, and perhaps stubborn, hope toward the future, the film rejects the partisan binaries its clashing human characters transparently embody, infusing its apocalyptic vision with an allegorical thrust that ultimately transcends futile politics. That a zombie is arguably the film’s most humane character remains a scathing testament to Day of the Dead’s enduring relevance.  Humanick