Top 200 Horror Movies of All Time

From the lesser-known gems of George A. Romero and Clive Barker to the sleazebag William Castle and the unclassified Polish shocker, these are the best horror movies.

In this age of indivisibility and craftsmanship, film critics and academics no longer dismiss horror films with the reflex regularity they once did. But even now, the specter of “sublime horror” (see Scream 5 for a critique of this concept) looms over discussion of more artistic explorations of fear and horror—Ari Astaire’s Midsommar, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, Rose Glass’s Saint Maud. — which are distinctly different from, well, not upbeat horror. The idea is that these exceptions to the “horror is bad” rule will engage your brain more than just displaying brains eaten by zombies or splattered on the wall.

How can movies that excite your adrenals, give you goosebumps, give you goosebumps, and quicken your breathing—that elicit such an intense physical response—also be cerebral experiences? The answer is obvious enough. Spectators always forget that, as Marianne Renoir, the heroine of Anna Karina’s Mad Pierrot, says: “There can be ideas in feelings.”

What scares people says a lot about them, as the debate about “Get Out”, “Men” and similar politically charged titles has shown. What scares people and makes them laugh says even more; see Ready or Not, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, or What We Do in the Shadows. These two genres, horror and comedy, are most often expected to have an immediate, visceral response from viewers. Perhaps the disgust some viewers have for both is the fear of losing control: laughing so hard that you snort, or having to turn away in fear, embarrass yourself.

The funny thing is that horror, like comedy, is a genre in which each director must have complete control of the material so that the audience can lose it. Extreme control so that the audience can lose control: that seems to be the key. What makes talk of so-called “elevated horror” misguided and even funny is the suggestion that such a puppet show hasn’t been seen since the horror genre’s inception in the silent film era. From 1951’s The Thing from Another World to everything that’s happened since the 1982 remake of Kurt Russell’s The Thing, horror filmmakers have been pulling strings and pushing our buttons for decades.

To celebrate these extremely primal, personal films, the staff at IndieWire have compiled this list of the top 200 horror films of all time. This is a list that reflects the wide range and diversity of the genre, from Laird Cregar invisible cars to a Russian chiller based on a Nikolai Gogol story, from J-Horror to the Mexican gem Alucarda. Organized chronologically (and then alphabetically by year), this guidebook is also a history of a genre that has been at its best all along.

Ann Thompson, Chris Lindahl, Chris O’Falt, Christian Zylko, David Ehrlich, Eric Cohn, Jamie Righetti, Jude Dry, Keith Erbland, Michael Nordin, Noel Murray, Ryan Lattanzio, Samantha Bergeson, Steve Green, Tambay Obenson and Zach Scharf contributed this story.

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