The greatest shockers of time as compiled by 100 experts in terror
Horror cinema is a monster. Mistreated, misunderstood and subjected to vicious critical attacks, somehow it keeps lumbering forward, leaving a trail of destruction and outrage in its wake. For some, horror films are of the gutter, focused purely on evoking a reaction – be it terror, disquiet or disgust. For others, they’re a bit of fun, a chance to shriek and snigger at a second-hand nightmare.
As we wait for a new 3D sequel of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be released on Wednesday June 7, we present Time Out’s top 100 horror movies of all time, as decided by a list of contributors peopled partly by big names – Roger Corman, Simon Pegg, Guillermo del Toro, Clive Barker, even Alice Cooper – and partly by fanatics. The result is a list of films guaranteed to amaze and delight hardcore horror fans and newcomers alike, and hopefully spark a furious debate amongst you, our dear readers, about exactly why this most divisive genre should still inspire so much passion, ingenuity and controversy – and so very many great movies.
10 Dawn of the Dead (1978) Directed by George A Romero The wildest, most exciting zombie flick of them all, and the movie that defines socially aware, politically astute horror cinema. A near-flawless piece of fist-pumping ultraviolence.
9 Suspiria (1977) Directed by Dario Argento With its violent set-pieces staged with baroque extremity and heightened by Goblin’s score, Suspiria has influenced directors ever since. This is cinema of pure visual and aural sensation.
8 Halloween (1978) Directed by John Carpenter Carpenter doesn’t put a foot wrong in this seminal hack ’n’ slasher. It’s hide-behind-the-sofa, foaming-at-the-mouth terrifying. The most visceral, scary and tense film in this poll.
7 Rosemary’s Baby (1968) Directed by Roman Polanski It’s tough enough moving house without suspecting your neighbours might be Satanists. This is the subtle face of horror, as Polanski keeps us guessing how much is in the mind.
6 The Thing (1982) Directed by John Carpenter This was hated on release but has emerged as one of the most potent modern terrors, combining the icy-cold chill of suspicion and uncertainty with plenty of imaginative, pre-CG effects blowouts.
5 Alien (1979) Directed by Ridley Scott Alien was pitched as ‘Jaws in space’. Later, the writer admitted, ‘I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!’ Horror movies have paid Alien the same compliment ever since.
4 Psycho (1960) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Psycho gnawed relentlessly at the edges of taste and decency by being way ahead of its time: it offers a modernity that sets it apart from most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, both before and after.
3 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Directed by Tobe Hooper There are horrors that deal with the psychological or suggested – and there are the sheer, in-your-face horrors that threaten to drain your body of sweat. This is one of the latter.
2 The Shining (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick Kubrick’s masterpiece of execution and claustrophobia still retains the power to frighten audiences out of their wits. Yet it’s the study of insanity and failure that makes this film so chilling.
1 The Exorcist (1973) Directed by William Friedkin Friedkin created a horror movie like no other – brutal and beautiful, artful and exploitative, exploring controversial wacked-out religious concepts with the clinical precision of an agnostic scientist. Bravo.