Nothing goes better with Halloween than horror movies.
The following is a list of what I believe to be the 10 best horror movies to watch this holiday, preferably in a marathon setting.
To back up my favorites, I’ve included RottenTomatoes.com‘s ratings of each film.
Some of my personal favorites are not exactly loved by critics and fans alike (looking at you Children of the Corn and your 39 percent approval rating), so they didn’t make this list. There are also some highly rated films omitted on here, such as Rosemary’s Baby (98 percent) and Roman Polanski’s first English film Repulsion (a whopping 100 percent), to which I’ll admit I haven’t seen. And then there’s The Exorcist (87 percent), which I’ll be honest and say I didn’t find it that scary and never really cared for it.
10. The Strangers (2008) – 45 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
Okay, I’ll admit there are probably much better films that could take the bottom spot. Roger Ebert called it a practical joke. Others called it unmotivated. While the movie does drag at some points, I like how the film broke a few horror conventions to put the audience in the middle of a horrific home invasion – the most obvious instance is the first time the killers are seen in the house, watching in the shadows a few feet away from Live Tyler’s character in complete silence rather than the traditional musical scare key.
While it’s nowhere near a classic, The Strangers is a good film to watch for a few cheap scares.
9. Stephen King’s It (1990) – 67 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
I’m pretty sure this film’s lower-than-expected rating is based solely on its second half, specifically the big reveal of what It’s true form is in the last few minutes.
Nonetheless, this film based off one of the “Master of Horror’s” best-known books is the reason I was terrified of clowns from the age of two until my teenage years. In fact, I never actually finished watching the entire movie until I was 13 years-old despite starting it for the first time when I was four.
Pennywise’s appearance, mannerisms and creepy voice were what scared me most when I was younger (along with the opening scene where he eats the child through the sewer drain). As I’ve watched the film through the years, I realize what really makes It so terrifying is what “It” represents – the personification of fear, specifically what whoever comes in contact with it fears most.
While the ending does ruin the horror and suspense built up, it’s not enough to knock out of the top 10.
8. The Ring (2002) – 71 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
The arthouse-like tape that tells Samara’s story in the American remake of the 1998 Japanese sensation Ringu is creepier than 99 percent of what’s churned out as horror films these days. The little things are what make this film so eerie and scary, from the near-monochromatic color scheme used throughout the film (this is helped by the gloomy Seattle setting) to the hair-raising string soundtrack. Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Carribean fame, set the benchmark for remaking Asian horror films by sticking true to the original plot, but adding just the right amount of Americanization to have it appeal to audiences state-side.
7. Scream (1996) – 80 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
Wes Craven laid the playbook for successful Hollywood horror franchises out in plain sight for audiences to see, and Scream still scared up a storm. The part slasher flick, part murder mystery worked on two levels, playing up to modern horror tropes while also throwing in enough homages to classic horror films to honor the films and directors that paved the way for Craven’s blockbuster series.
6. The Blair Witch Project (1998) – 87 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
The documentary-style film that started it all. Unlike the slew of copycat films that have been spat out every Halloween for the last 10 years, The Blair Witch Project felt real, authentic and genuinely scary. The black-and-white colorization of the film added to the suspense, and the three protagonists’ individual journey to hysteria the longer they’re isolated really help push the film over the edge.
It also may have helped that most of the country believed the film to be a real account at the time of its release.
5. Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut (2004) – 91 percent rating on RottenTomates.com
While not a traditional horror film, the director’s cut of Richard Kelly’s tale of a teen faced with his mortality to save the world (while also learning a thing or two on time travel) takes place around Halloween, and was originally marketed to look like a contemporary teen slasher flick to try and draw a bigger audience. While Donnie Darko is a great film, you’ll definitely need to be in the right mood to watch it – there’s plenty of questions left unanswered and it will leave you thinking about it long after.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – 91 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
While I’m probably one of the few that enjoyed the 2004 remake, it doesn’t compare to the 1974 original.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is horror personified. There is no real plot to the film other than a few young adults making a wrong turn into a living nightmare and trying to make it out of the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface’s family home alive. The snuff-film like images and what sounds like real screams of terror from the actors make this horror film equally important and impactful.
3. Halloween (1978) – 94 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
Probably the only franchised horror film that the original can be considered a true classic. Halloween set the bar for slasher flicks and birthed one of horror’s most iconic characters in the process. Despite starting the slasher film trend, Halloween’s use of subtlety is when its at its scariest. You never actually see Michael Myers stabbing one of his victims, but you definitely hear it.
2. Psycho (1960) – 96 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
Alfred Hitchcock’s story of mild-mannered Norman Bates’ descent into madness holds up well despite its age. While I could write for days about why I love this movie and what makes it work so well, but doing so would spoil a major plot point. If you haven’t watched this film yet, be sure to do so as soon as possible. And remember, you have to watch it from the very beginning, and don’t spoil the ending.
1. The Shining (1980) – 92 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com
There’s not much I can say about The Shining that hasn’t already been said.
It’s a beautiful, yet haunting, film crafted by one of the greatest director’s of all time and is another top-notch horror story written by Stephen King.
At the heart of the story, Jack Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance battles addiction and isolation while working as a caretaker in the remote Overlook Hotel during its winter offseason.
Depending on who you talk to, the film has many different meanings, so many that a documentary was recently released describing the many interpretations and conspiracy theories around Kubrick’s masterpiece.
Bottom line, this film will leave its mark on you after viewing. It hands down takes the number one spot for Halloween movies.