Top 1960s American Horror Movies Ranked

Horror as a genre is perhaps the most dependent on its time period. What is scary is defined differently in every generation. As horror films add different standards of special effects or master the art of screaming, some films may seem more funny than scary to modern audiences.


And yet the horror classic of the 60s holds a special place in modern cinema. The 1960s in the US was a time of uncertainty, paranoia and rapid change, which of course was reflected on the big screen. These films were psychological and stylish, serving as the main source of inspiration for modern films such as, for example, Shutter Island, We should talk about Kevinas well as witch of lovewhich is a nod to 60s horror in general.

While the genre has often seemed to be dominated by international horror from the UK, Italy and Japan, there are still plenty of American horror masterpieces from this decade – Edgar Allan Poe’s adaptation starring Vincent Price, a low-budget masterpiece Carnival of Soulscolorfully unforgettable blood queenand completely crazy spider baby everyone comes to mind. However, we’ve narrowed down this list of the most famous American horror films of the 60s to the mainstream films that defined the decade, country, and genre.

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5 What happened to Baby Jane?

Standing in line with All about Eve as well as Sunset Boulevard, What happened to Baby Jane is one of the greatest films to critique the Hollywood film industry, exposing its ugly underside: how it chews people up and spits them out into oblivion when they’re done.

Horror intertwines with drama in this psychological thriller, vying for genre supremacy just as the main characters battle each other. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were newcomers to the horror genre, but the film was praised not only for its direction, but also for their gripping performances, as well as for the overall style and original Hollywood behind-the-scenes aesthetic that captures the dark depths of human madness.

Related: Best International Horror Films of the 1960s, Ranking

Baby Jane became an LGBTQ+ cult classic, thanks in part to Charles Pierce, one of whose imitators was Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson. This legacy has also been noted in Rupaul’s drag flight in a cult parody All Stars Season 2. After all, both horror and drag are based on augmented reality performance.

four Birds

Any list of the best American horror films would be incomplete without Alfred Hitchcock, the master of horror. Hitchcock knew how to lure and surprise his audience by exploring and exploiting the fears and anxieties of the population like few other directors. This is the general understanding that Birds are a veiled metaphor for the Cold War and especially the American condition and turmoil during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With this context Birds Considered to be one of the scariest animal films ever made. But what exactly does Birds so sinister?

First, this film is unique in that it uses sound—or lack of it. Birds does not have a full soundtrack. Another feature is not the murder scenes themselves, but the ominous shots of numerous flocks of birds. Hundreds of birds in one frame create a distinct sense of panic. And finally, the lack of justification. The film ends, but the audience does not guess why the birds began to attack people and for what purpose. This mystery makes you think about the meaning of the film, create different theories and try to decipher what was really going on in the head of the great Hitchcock. Horror is more unnerving when it is not fully explained.

3 Psycho

Psycho was the result of Hitchcock’s desire to do something experimental, unusual, unexpected, and downright challenging. The final product became one of the most important horror films of all time, unlike any of his previous films. The Old Hollywood era cracked and exploded in 1960 when Alfred Hitchcock, always a critic and perfectionist, was at the forefront of it. His Psycho is one of the most innovative films in the history of cinema and has influenced countless future filmmakers.

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This psychological horror is a real feast for movie gourmets: the plot is tense and unpredictable; mise-en-scenes are staged with jeweler’s precision; actors gave performances throughout their lives, deceiving the audience, forcing them to believe and sympathize with them; the cinematographer, selected after working only in a TV show, was nominated for an Oscar for stylish black-and-white camera work; and, of course, last but not least, Bernard Herrmann’s nervous, imaginative score. Try to get those screeching violins out of your head.

2 Rosemary’s baby

Roman Polanski is a terrible person. Rosemary’s babyHowever, not only about him, and remains an excellent film that deserves praise. Jordan Peele by name Rosemary’s baby one of his favorite films and the main inspiration for his Get out. Vulture explored just how inevitable this film’s impact seems, and for good reason – any film about motherhood, let alone horror films about motherhood, stumbles upon the question: Rosemary’s baby did not say the same already, and better.

This film, which combines Hollywood narrative cinema and European experimentation, plunges the viewer into the dangerous waters of human nature and distorted reality. Domestic life and pregnancy are contrasted with rape, murder and Satanism, masterfully heightening the sense of paranoia. Despite their eccentricity and caricature talkativeness, cute Roman and Minnie turn out to be diabolical villains. Both Rosemary and the viewer feel cornered, gaslighted and unable to trust anyone, from neighbors and doctors to those closest to them.

one Night of the Living Dead

George Romero initiated the popularization and active use of the image of zombies in films. Night of the Living Dead, no doubt revolutionized the horror film genre and set the stage for movie zombies to create their own cult. From the term “living dead” to creating the canonical image of the zombie as a slow, unintelligent creature that craves flesh and can only die from a blow to the head, Romero’s vision has influenced countless films and TV shows. Shot on a ridiculously tight budget, it has (accidentally or intentionally) become a true cinematic legend.

For example, making one of the first horror films directed by a black man was not part of Romero’s plans. However, the arrival of Dwayne L. Jones in the title role changed everything dramatically. Jones, concerned about the aggressiveness of his character, actively developed the script, discarding some lines and even rewriting them personally. Combined with the recent assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the ending turned this film from a B-movie to a social tragedy and poignant satire.

Since its inception, the zombie genre has remained the little black dress of cinematic social commentary, as The Conversation so eloquently described it. True to its nature, one of the pioneers of the genre, Night of the Living Dead is one of the best examples when it comes to social commentary in horror films.

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