The 30 best horror movies of all time

Christel Deskins

And that’s whats lurking in the list below. Whether they’re real monsters with supersonic hearing or much more human ones, this collection of the very best scary movies is the perfect collection of cinematic frightmares to keep you distracted. We’ve even got a lockdown movie here in the shape of the Zoom-set Host, proving that horror, once again, is on the literal bleeding edge of cultural reflection. But don’t worry, there are plenty of classics too. Whether you’re looking for Aster, Hitchcock, Peele or Kent, they’re all below having a much-needed drink together. Settle down, get comfortable. It’ll be a scream.  

Saw is nowhere near as gross-gusting as you think it is and happens to be brilliant horror. Yes, the title is about an implement that a depraved killer suggests someone takes their leg off with rather than use a key to unlock a cuff, but Saw is actually remarkably restrained. The ideas at work here are significantly more grisly in your own mind than what you see on screen. Made on a shoestring budget by Leigh Whannell and James Wan, this tale of two men waking up in a bathroom, a corpse between them, is twisted but constantly intriguing. ” data-reactid=”73″>The movie: It might have reignited the so-called torture porn genre with its (mostly) truly disgusting sequels but – and this is a huge ‘but’ – the original Saw is nowhere near as gross-gusting as you think it is and happens to be brilliant horror. Yes, the title is about an implement that a depraved killer suggests someone takes their leg off with rather than use a key to unlock a cuff, but Saw is actually remarkably restrained. The ideas at work here are significantly more grisly in your own mind than what you see on screen. Made on a shoestring budget by Leigh Whannell and James Wan, this tale of two men waking up in a bathroom, a corpse between them, is twisted but constantly intriguing. 

Here’s how Saw became one of the biggest names in horror” data-reactid=”77″>Read more: Here’s how Saw became one of the biggest names in horror

28. The Birds (1963)

27. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

26. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

25. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

An image from A Nightmare on Elm Street

24. Evil Dead 2

Bruce Campbell himself has answered the first two and explained that Sam Raimi’s cabin-based comedy horror is, in fact, a ‘requel.’ Whereas the original Evil Dead followed a group of twenty somethings to a holiday house from hell, the sequel revolves exclusively around Campbell’s Ash and his girlfriend Linda as they attempt to survive after playing a reading of the Necronomicon aloud. I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you about someone being beheaded with a garden tool post reading.” data-reactid=”175″>The movie: So many Evil Dead 2 questions, so little time. Is it a remake? Is it a sequel? Would it actually be physically possible to switch out your missing (presumed possessed) hand for a chainsaw with relative ease? Well, thankfully, Bruce Campbell himself has answered the first two and explained that Sam Raimi’s cabin-based comedy horror is, in fact, a ‘requel.’ Whereas the original Evil Dead followed a group of twenty somethings to a holiday house from hell, the sequel revolves exclusively around Campbell’s Ash and his girlfriend Linda as they attempt to survive after playing a reading of the Necronomicon aloud. I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you about someone being beheaded with a garden tool post reading.

23. The Babadook (2014) 

The Babadook is scary. The tale of a young grieving widow trying to look after her young son, this is a movie that sneaks under your skin and stays there. It also makes you ask yourself a lot of questions. What would you do with a pop up book about a creepy black clad figure in a top hat? Would you read it to your already traumatised young son? What if he begged? And how would you deal with the ‘haunting’ that follows…?  ” data-reactid=”198″>The movie: On release, Jennifer Kent’s haunted pop-up book became a whole generation’s boogeyman seemingly overnight. “Have you seen the Babadook? I didn’t sleep all night,” was hissed gleefully across offices and pubs. And for good reason. The Babadook is scary. The tale of a young grieving widow trying to look after her young son, this is a movie that sneaks under your skin and stays there. It also makes you ask yourself a lot of questions. What would you do with a pop up book about a creepy black clad figure in a top hat? Would you read it to your already traumatised young son? What if he begged? And how would you deal with the ‘haunting’ that follows…?  

22. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Scream 4 was out and had an intro multiple layers deep, smashing the fourth wall into pieces with horror-ception as character after character quipped about the masked slasher genre. But where could comedy horror go next? How many times could a leading actress say “I saw this in a movie once” without us wanting to remove our own eyes and never watch horror again? Well, it turns out that there was still some life in the reanimated corpse yet. The Cabin in the Woods manages to pin not just one horror trope but every single one, like someone armed with a laser sight and Final Destination 3’s nail gun. When this lot of attractive twenty-somethings head to the titular spot, they get significantly more than they bargained for. Oh, and Chris Hemsworth is one of them. Now you’re interested…  ” data-reactid=”221″>The movie: By 2011, we were having a self-referential horror crisis. Scream 4 was out and had an intro multiple layers deep, smashing the fourth wall into pieces with horror-ception as character after character quipped about the masked slasher genre. But where could comedy horror go next? How many times could a leading actress say “I saw this in a movie once” without us wanting to remove our own eyes and never watch horror again? Well, it turns out that there was still some life in the reanimated corpse yet. The Cabin in the Woods manages to pin not just one horror trope but every single one, like someone armed with a laser sight and Final Destination 3’s nail gun. When this lot of attractive twenty-somethings head to the titular spot, they get significantly more than they bargained for. Oh, and Chris Hemsworth is one of them. Now you’re interested…  

It movie and its monster’s multiple faces, The Cabin in the Woods will tackle plenty of your phobias. This is a creature feature like you’ve never seen before with gallons of gore and every monster you could ever imagine lurking in the dark. Like Buffy before it, this has the ability to make you laugh one minute and scream the next. Go in blind and this trip to the forest is a delightfully gory surprise. ” data-reactid=”222″>Why it’s scary: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s creation is no mere comedy escapade. I’m staying spoiler-free here because it’s too good, but just like the It movie and its monster’s multiple faces, The Cabin in the Woods will tackle plenty of your phobias. This is a creature feature like you’ve never seen before with gallons of gore and every monster you could ever imagine lurking in the dark. Like Buffy before it, this has the ability to make you laugh one minute and scream the next. Go in blind and this trip to the forest is a delightfully gory surprise. 

21. A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place might have a simple premise but this is 90 minutes of sheer muscle-clenching tension. ” data-reactid=”244″>The movie: Is there anything more terrifying than the idea of bringing up a young family in a world where brutal monstrosities with supernaturally good hearing hunt down the last of humanity? John Krasinski’s first horror – in which he also stars with IRL wife Emily Blunt – follows the Abbott family as they silently creep through a truly miserable existence where every single sound could be their last. Playing with movie audio in an entirely new way, A Quiet Place might have a simple premise but this is 90 minutes of sheer muscle-clenching tension. 

These reactions to annoying A Quiet Place moviegoers say it all” data-reactid=”246″>Read more: “Please shut the f**k up” – These reactions to annoying A Quiet Place moviegoers say it all

20. Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

The Blair Witch Project revved found footage horror back into action like a haunted motorbike back in 1999, Paranormal Activity is where things got, err, dead serious. The first movie from now horror staple Oren Peli, it introduces us to Katie and Micah who have been experiencing some odd goings on in their LA home. Ever the keen filmmaker, Micah sets up a camera at the foot of their bed to keep an eye on things while they sleep. The bumps in the night that follow are enough to make you never want to see another bed again, let alone lie on one.    ” data-reactid=”268″>The movie: While The Blair Witch Project revved found footage horror back into action like a haunted motorbike back in 1999, Paranormal Activity is where things got, err, dead serious. The first movie from now horror staple Oren Peli, it introduces us to Katie and Micah who have been experiencing some odd goings on in their LA home. Ever the keen filmmaker, Micah sets up a camera at the foot of their bed to keep an eye on things while they sleep. The bumps in the night that follow are enough to make you never want to see another bed again, let alone lie on one.    

19. Suspiria (1977)

The Suspiria remake is beautiful, brutal, and one of the most shocking horror films of the year” data-reactid=”294″>Read more: The Suspiria remake is beautiful, brutal, and one of the most shocking horror films of the year

18. The Descent (2005)

The Descent is horribly real. Before you even discover what’s lurking down there – with a night vision reveal so spectacular that it goes down in jump scare history – this cave system is stone horror. The women are experienced explorers but every shot of squeezing through tiny spaces as rubble gently falls, every huge cavern only lit in one tiny corner by their flares, and every step they take further into the abyss is heart racing stuff. And this isn’t an unlikable crew of barely fleshed out American teens, pun intended, these characters and their complex relationships truly matter. This is beautifully gruelling, not to mention empowering, filmmaking. Witness the UK ending of this cult classic and you’ll need more than a cheeky G&T to cheer you up afterwards. ” data-reactid=”317″>Why it’s scary: The claustrophobia of The Descent is horribly real. Before you even discover what’s lurking down there – with a night vision reveal so spectacular that it goes down in jump scare history – this cave system is stone horror. The women are experienced explorers but every shot of squeezing through tiny spaces as rubble gently falls, every huge cavern only lit in one tiny corner by their flares, and every step they take further into the abyss is heart racing stuff. And this isn’t an unlikable crew of barely fleshed out American teens, pun intended, these characters and their complex relationships truly matter. This is beautifully gruelling, not to mention empowering, filmmaking. Witness the UK ending of this cult classic and you’ll need more than a cheeky G&T to cheer you up afterwards. 

17. It Follows (2015) 

16. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

15. Rec (2007) 

best found footage horror movies, the set-up here is very simple. The crew of a morning TV show is following a team of firefighters when a call comes in about a woman behaving strangely in her apartment. Of course, Angela and her cameraman Pablo excitedly follow the crew of emergency workers into, well, hell.   ” data-reactid=”385″>The movie: First off, we’re going to pretend that the English language remake, Quarantine, doesn’t exist. Good. Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to wax lyrical about the true terror lurking inside a Barcelona apartment block in this Spanish scarefest. As with all the best found footage horror movies, the set-up here is very simple. The crew of a morning TV show is following a team of firefighters when a call comes in about a woman behaving strangely in her apartment. Of course, Angela and her cameraman Pablo excitedly follow the crew of emergency workers into, well, hell.   

28 Days Later, this feels like the story of an infection rather than the shuffling horde. This is a claustrophobic nightmare and in its found footage package, painfully realistic and believable. From the fire crew to the residents of the apartment building, the performances are exceptional, meaning that ‘this is only a movie’ part of your brain will constantly struggle with what’s on screen. Prepare to be hiding behind something or someone long before Rec’s gloriously terrifying night vision-hued third act.” data-reactid=”386″>Why it’s scary: Rec ramps up slowly and expertly. You won’t realise just how tense you are until a little too late. Officially this counts as a zombie movie but, like 28 Days Later, this feels like the story of an infection rather than the shuffling horde. This is a claustrophobic nightmare and in its found footage package, painfully realistic and believable. From the fire crew to the residents of the apartment building, the performances are exceptional, meaning that ‘this is only a movie’ part of your brain will constantly struggle with what’s on screen. Prepare to be hiding behind something or someone long before Rec’s gloriously terrifying night vision-hued third act.

14. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

13. The Witch (2015)

The Witch and suddenly everything is scary and you can’t put your shaking finger on exactly why. Every perfectly constructed shot of the family attempting to survive in the wilderness is cranked into fear-ville with a constantly surprising hellish score of strings and vocals. This means that when true horror eventually does hit after a torturous slow burn of tension, it’s like Eggers has masterfully wired you in for shocks and you didn’t notice. From the unnerving skip and shrill voices of the young twins to the monstrous goat known only as Black Phillip, there is unique horror lurking in The Witch that just doesn’t go away. ” data-reactid=”432″>Why it’s scary: It’s love or hate time with this divisive movie, but lose yourself to The Witch and suddenly everything is scary and you can’t put your shaking finger on exactly why. Every perfectly constructed shot of the family attempting to survive in the wilderness is cranked into fear-ville with a constantly surprising hellish score of strings and vocals. This means that when true horror eventually does hit after a torturous slow burn of tension, it’s like Eggers has masterfully wired you in for shocks and you didn’t notice. From the unnerving skip and shrill voices of the young twins to the monstrous goat known only as Black Phillip, there is unique horror lurking in The Witch that just doesn’t go away. 

12. The Wicker Man (1973)

11. Get Out (2017)

Get Out is a modern horror masterpiece in every sense of the word. Not content with scaring you just for its 90 minute run-time, director Jordan Peele wants to draw your attention to the real frightening truths rooted deep in the identity politics of contemporary America, and his grand reveal is more horrific than any jump scare could ever hope to be. ” data-reactid=”474″>Why it’s scary: Bubbling with resonant social commentary, layered with hard-hitting goosebumps, and sprinkled with uncompromising humour, Get Out is a modern horror masterpiece in every sense of the word. Not content with scaring you just for its 90 minute run-time, director Jordan Peele wants to draw your attention to the real frightening truths rooted deep in the identity politics of contemporary America, and his grand reveal is more horrific than any jump scare could ever hope to be. 

5 spoiler-free reasons why Get Out is the best horror movie of 2017” data-reactid=”475″>Read more: 5 spoiler-free reasons why Get Out is the best horror movie of 2017

10. 28 Days Later (2002)

28 Days Later feels like a nightmare. Complete with a quite often heartbreaking as well as heart pounding soundtrack, this feels like the truest glimpse at the modern British apocalypse as Jim and his fellow survivors quest for safety in Scotland. The Infected are truly horrifying, survivors are suspicious, and the fallen British landscape is an impressive feat of cinematography. Throw in excellent performances from everyone involved and 28 Days Later is a gory feast for the eyes and the heart. ” data-reactid=”499″>Why it’s scary: 28 Days Later feels like a nightmare. Complete with a quite often heartbreaking as well as heart pounding soundtrack, this feels like the truest glimpse at the modern British apocalypse as Jim and his fellow survivors quest for safety in Scotland. The Infected are truly horrifying, survivors are suspicious, and the fallen British landscape is an impressive feat of cinematography. Throw in excellent performances from everyone involved and 28 Days Later is a gory feast for the eyes and the heart. 

9. Scream (1996)

Scream which, despite being parodied into Inception levels of postmodern irony since, reinvigorated the genre with its perfect blend of knowing comedy and scares. Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, and Drew Barrymore as teenagers talking fluent horror movie while being picked off by a genre-obsessed serial killer? Oh go on… Add in Courtney Cox – at the giddy heights of Friends fame – as intrepid news reporter Gale Weathers and Scream is a modern horror classic.” data-reactid=”521″>The movie: By the late ’90s, horror was looking a little tired. The masked slasher trope was staggering along in a dire need of a cup of very strong espresso. What it got instead was Wes Craven’s Scream which, despite being parodied into Inception levels of postmodern irony since, reinvigorated the genre with its perfect blend of knowing comedy and scares. Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, and Drew Barrymore as teenagers talking fluent horror movie while being picked off by a genre-obsessed serial killer? Oh go on… Add in Courtney Cox – at the giddy heights of Friends fame – as intrepid news reporter Gale Weathers and Scream is a modern horror classic.

Scary Movie, but it still manages to unsettle and thrill. Scream’s scares remain unpredictable too. Victims fall to this slasher’s knife with disturbing regularity and as we grow attached to our genuinely likeable quipping heroes, the end game becomes all the more stressful as we wonder who will survive to the credits. Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street scare talents guarantee terror all the way to the end. Why don’t you, liver alone, eh?” data-reactid=”522″>Why it’s scary: Just because something is self-referential doesn’t mean it can’t be truly terrifying. The Scream mask, based on Munch’s painting, might have been twisted into stoned bliss by Scary Movie, but it still manages to unsettle and thrill. Scream’s scares remain unpredictable too. Victims fall to this slasher’s knife with disturbing regularity and as we grow attached to our genuinely likeable quipping heroes, the end game becomes all the more stressful as we wonder who will survive to the credits. Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street scare talents guarantee terror all the way to the end. Why don’t you, liver alone, eh?

Watch Scream online – how to see all the movies, wherever you are in the world” data-reactid=”523″>Read more: Watch Scream online – how to see all the movies, wherever you are in the world

8. Alien (1979)

7. Jaws (1975)

Jurassic Park, before ET, and an eternity before the majority of the cast of Ready Player One were brought screaming into existence, there was Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s toothy horror. And yes, this is a horror movie. Jaws, one of the original blockbusters on account of the number of people literally queuing around the block only to flee the cinema in terror, is horrifying. It doesn’t matter that the shark looks a little ropey now when he gets up close and personal, the story of Amity Island’s gory summer season as Chief Brody desperately tries to keep swimmers out of the water is the stuff of horror legend. And, let’s face it, you’re already humming the score.    ” data-reactid=”568″>The movie: Before Jurassic Park, before ET, and an eternity before the majority of the cast of Ready Player One were brought screaming into existence, there was Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s toothy horror. And yes, this is a horror movie. Jaws, one of the original blockbusters on account of the number of people literally queuing around the block only to flee the cinema in terror, is horrifying. It doesn’t matter that the shark looks a little ropey now when he gets up close and personal, the story of Amity Island’s gory summer season as Chief Brody desperately tries to keep swimmers out of the water is the stuff of horror legend. And, let’s face it, you’re already humming the score.    

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6. Halloween (1978)

Halloween removes all those messy other sequels and does a perfect job of showing the real trauma of growing up as a victim of The Shape himself. ” data-reactid=”589″>Why it’s scary: Pretty much the original stalk-and-slash, Halloween set standards that have rarely been matched. Carpenter composes his shots to keep you constantly guessing, blending both claustrophobia and fearful exposure, often at the same time, to create a deeply uneasy sense of vulnerability wherever you are and whatever is happening. Also, that soundtrack. Composed by Carpenter himself. there is a reason that pounding doom-synth is still the soundtrack for oppressive horror. As a great follow up too, get the 2018 sequel into your eyes. The new Halloween removes all those messy other sequels and does a perfect job of showing the real trauma of growing up as a victim of The Shape himself. 

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5. The Exorcist (1973)

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4. Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary feel safe. Nowhere during its two hour run time do you feel like you can stop and take a breath, or even make a guess as to what’s coming next. Is this a supernatural movie? Is this an exercise in grief, similar to the Babadook? Is there even a difference between these two ideas? Every shot of Collette’s artist painstakingly creating miniature dioramas feels like a threat and every awkward conversation between the two teenagers of the family leaves a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach. Why? There’s no putting your finger on the exact reason. It might have split cinema audiences but Hereditary is a tour de force of modern horror that will leave you reeling long after its gruelling third act. We’re just not going to tell you why.” data-reactid=”637″>Why it’s scary: It’s fair to say that at no point does Hereditary feel safe. Nowhere during its two hour run time do you feel like you can stop and take a breath, or even make a guess as to what’s coming next. Is this a supernatural movie? Is this an exercise in grief, similar to the Babadook? Is there even a difference between these two ideas? Every shot of Collette’s artist painstakingly creating miniature dioramas feels like a threat and every awkward conversation between the two teenagers of the family leaves a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach. Why? There’s no putting your finger on the exact reason. It might have split cinema audiences but Hereditary is a tour de force of modern horror that will leave you reeling long after its gruelling third act. We’re just not going to tell you why.

Intelligent, emotional, and terrifying, Hereditary is near-perfect horror. With a little more restraint, it would have been flawless” data-reactid=”638″>Read more: Intelligent, emotional, and terrifying, Hereditary is near-perfect horror. With a little more restraint, it would have been flawless

3. The Thing (1982)

DoesTheDogDie.com this time around – but it really doesn’t stop there.” data-reactid=”660″>The movie: Perhaps you’ve been buried in snow and have missed John Carpenter’s ultimate creature feature. Entirely understandable. Why don’t you come closer to the fire and defrost? The title might sound hokey but The Thing remains one of the most gloriously splattery and tense horrors of all time as a group of Americans at an Antarctic research station – including Kurt Russell’s R.J MacReady – take on an alien, well, thing that infects blood. It might start off taking out the canine companions – there’s no need to check out DoesTheDogDie.com this time around – but it really doesn’t stop there.

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

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1. The Shining (1980)

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