Since the first horror film The Devil’s Castle in 1896 by silent film director Georges Melies, the horror genre has made a huge impact on pop culture, both in America and around the world. That being said, the word “horror” in terms of film genre wasn’t used until the 1930’s for Universal Pictures first monster films like Dracula (1931),The Wolfman (1941), Frankenstein (1931) The Invisible Man (1933), The Mummy (1932), and The Phantom of The Opera (1925).
The horror genre continues to be popular to this day thanks to many successful franchises and films, some of which defy the bounds of genre and have made a lasting impact on pop culture.
Of the myriad number of horror films, here is the top 10 for all your Halloween needs:
10. Halloween (1978): The original film from director John Carpenter was a huge hit, grossing 70 million worldwide with just a $325,000 budget. It also spawned six sequels and two remakes. It’s a psychological horror film about a serial killer that stalks a babysitter on all hallows eve. The original Halloween is often cited as the best in the horror genre and shows how horror doesn’t require a huge budget
9. Psycho (1960): Director Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is considered to be the foundation for psychological horror/suspense genre. Psycho is about a quiet motel owner, Norman Bates, hiding a deadly secret. Norman Bates, played brilliantly by Anthony Perkins, does an excellent job to make you think twice about checking in a motel on a dark and stormy night.
8. The Omen (1976): This film still creeps me out. Gregory Peck plays Robert Thorn, an American ambassador in Europe with his wife Katherine, played by Lee Remick. Together they adopt a child who may or may not be the the biblical antichrist. The Oscar-winning score by composer Jerry Goldsmith adds even more to the film’s scare factor.
7. The Shining (1980): Considered one of the most frightening films of all time, The Shining is based off of the equally terrifying novel by Stephen King (who interestingly hated this film due to the changes made to his story). Director Stanley Kubrick co-wrote the film, trashing the original screenplay by King. The Shining centers around Jack Torrance, played by the brilliant Jack Nicholson, who with his wife and stepson gets a job taking care of the Overlook Hotel during the winter. Soon after they move in, it’s discovered that the hotel has a life of its own and a dark past. Despite deviating from the original story, the film is good in its own right and is certainly scary when you’re alone in the dark.
6. Poltergeist (1982): One of the most spectacular haunted house movies ever made, Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper. Poltergeist centers around a suburban family in Southern California who experience strange disturbances in their home. When their daughter disappears into her closet, the family consults a paranormal investigative team for help. Even though it’s more than 30 years old, the film has spectacular special effects that still frighten audiences to this day.
5. Pet Sematary (1989): Another Stephen King adaptation, this time written by King himself from his novel. Pet Sematary is a about the Creed family, who move into a home with a terrifying secret in the backyard. This film is dark and disturbing; it doesn’t disappoint when you want to be scared for real.
4. Fright Night (1985): One of my all time favorite vampire films, Fright Night is the ultimate B-list movie that makes fun of itself. The story is about a teenager, who discovers his neighbor is is vampire; he and his mentor must try to stop the vampire before he strikes again.
3. A Nightmare On ElmStreet (1984): This is the first horror film I remember seeing as a kid and is one of Director Wes Craven’s best films. The film is about Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp, a teen whose friends start dying in their sleep. When she learns she may be the next victim, she must try to stop the spectral murderer while also protecting herself. This film was wildly original and inventive, thanks to Craven’s script and direction.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): Based loosely on a true story, this film was praised for its realistic violence and scary premise. The story centers around a group of travelers in Texas who must flee from a group of cannibals. Like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot on a very low budget and became a huge success.This film is violent, disturbing, and downright horrifying — a must-watch for the season.
- The Exorcist (1973) Considered one of the scariest films ever made, The Exorcist is about actress Chris MacNiel, played by the always brilliant Ellen Burstyn, whose daughter Regan is possessed after playing with a Ouija board. There are some great performances in The Exorcist, including by Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow, who play the priests sent by the Church to perform the exorcism. There are also some really scary and disturbing moments, like the infamous spider walk down the staircase or the 360-degree head turn. The Exorcist was based on a true story from the 40’s.
In recent years, films such as Get Out, Hereditary, A Quiet Place, It Follows, and Don’t Breathe have put the horror genre back on top, but if you want to see where these films came from look no further than this list. Happy viewing, and have a frighteningly wonderful Halloween!