Any list of the ten best horror movies you should see before you die is bound to provoke lots of conversations, disagreements, and even flat out fights among horror film fans. The bottom line…no one can claim to have created the definitive list, but it sure is fun trying. Here are ten of the all-time great scary movies you should see before you die. Want even more “best of” lists curated by your friends at Serial Killer Shop? Check out our blog posts on must-see ghost movies, classic British horror, and great horror films that not everyone has seen.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This is the horror film that kicked off the “found footage” genre that continues to be so popular today. The premise involves a group of three kids who take their video camera into the woods to see what they can see. They want to record evidence of the Blair Witch Incidents, which have become something of a local legend in the community. A whole lot of running and screaming and shaky video footage later, they find more than they bargained for. The makers of The Blair Witch Project created a novel approach to horror moviemaking that made a big impact with audiences.
The Shining (1980)
Stephen King may not have been totally thrilled with Stanley’s Kubrick’s take on his classic horror novel The Shining, but most film critics and fans agree that this movie stands among the very best horror films of all time. Is there another horror move that has more memorable scenes, images, and quotes than The Shining? We can’t think of any that even come close…thanks in large part to Kubrick and the amazing performances by Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and the other cast members.
Evil Dead (1981)
Shot in the Tennessee backwoods by up-and-coming horror filmmaker Sam Raimi for a mere $350,000, Evil Dead introduced the world to actor Bruce Campbell, the Necronomicon, and a non-stop carousel of gory violence inflicted by (and on) a succession of young people-turned-demons. If you love outrageous gore and classic overacting, this is the movie for you. The plot centers on five college kids who unleash a world of trouble from the basement of their cabin in the woods. When incantations summon forth demons, it’s Ash to the rescue!
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The presence of Zombieland later on this list makes it mandatory that we include the man and movie that revolutionized the zombie genre--George A. Romero and his Night of the Living Dead. The plot involves a group of people trying to survive the night in a farmhouse while being attacked by zombies. While the gore factor might seem tame these days, at the time it was revolutionary. Romero’s masterpiece (and it certainly is that) incorporates tight editing and the kind of clever social commentary rarely found in today’s movies. Don’t watch another zombie flick until you pay homage to the master.
The Fly (1986)
Normally, we don’t suggest you see a remake over the original but, in this case, we’ll make an exception. With The Fly, David Cronenberg created a fascinating tale (sometimes disgusting, often funny, and also surprisingly moving) of a scientist (a great Jeff Goldblum) who experiments with teleportation technology. But when a fly gets into the chamber, their DNA gets mixed, and things go terribly wrong. Where this movie succeeds is in creating characters we genuinely care about, which is unusual, but a welcome change, for the horror genre.
This surreal exploration of a man’s fear of pending parenthood put director David Lynch (creator of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks) on the map. If you like your movies with linear plots, well-defined motives, and nice little scenes that make perfect sense, you can skip the cult classic Eraserhead. Except you should watch it, just to see what one director’s unique vision can do. Shot in atmospheric black-and-white during Lynch’s tenure at the American Film Institute, this movie has unsettled, puzzled, and downright disturbed moviegoers for decades.
Along with the television series The Walking Dead, Zombieland helped give new life to the zombie genre. This horror comedy has a great cast--Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and a hilarious cameo by Bill Murray pretending to be a zombie. This funny, gory road trip is always entertaining. When the zombie apocalypse breaks out, Columbus (Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Harrelson) join forces for survival, but everything goes awry when they meet a pair of untrustworthy sisters. Grab your Twinkies and watch it now!
Event Horizon (1997)
Unlike most of the movies on our list, Event Horizon has a pretty low 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the movie’s fans would beg to differ on that one. The plot involves a spaceship, the Event Horizon, which has mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Seven years later, members of a rescue mission track the Event Horizon’s distress call, find the lost ship, and discover that some very strange things have been going on. Not all critics loved it, but it’s a must-see for sci-fi horror fans.
Though subsequent franchise entries were of varying quality levels, the original Hellraiser, written and directed by Clive Barker (his directorial debut), presents an unforgettable world of horrifying supernatural creatures and events…all unleashed when unwitting humans start tinkering with an antique puzzle box. Even people who have never seen the movie are no doubt familiar with Pinhead, the leader of the demons called Cenobites.
Last but not least on our list: Insidious, a favorite of many fans of supernatural horror…and the jump scare! A young boy falls into a mysterious coma after a trip to the attic of his new home, and his desperate parents seek out the help of a paranormal expert when other strange things begin happening in the house. Turns out the boy has the powers of astral projection and horrifying demons and tormented lost souls are able to enter our world through the boy.
There you have it…our list of 10 must-watch horror movies. Ask us on a different day and you might get a different answer, but for now, we’ll stand by our picks! Hope you’ll be inspired to watch something new to you…or revisit an old favorite. Don’t forget to check out our collection of horror shirts featuring hand-drawn images of classic horror movie images, including three movies on the list--The Shining, The Fly, and Hellraisier.
Images via IMDb.