Aaron's Top 20 Horror Movies (And A Ton Of Honorable Mentions)

I have put together a list of my top 20 horror movies.  This was a difficult process, which no doubt led to the reason for also having 70 honorable mentions.  I can say right now that this is the kind of list that can easily shift over time, whether it be rankings or even which films are in the top 20 vs. being an honorable mention, but for now, this is what I have come up with.  The top 20 are listed below and they are films that I watch because they are horror movies and I derive a level of entertainment (or whatever you want to call it) out of them.  This does not mean that some of these films are "better" than others, but they are ones that I would name as favorites of the genre. [Note: this post was inspired by my appearance on an episode of the podcast Battleship Pretension, where I was a guest discussing the greatest horror films of all time as voted by listeners - http://battleshippretension.com/episode-345-top-50-horror-movies/] 

A key part of this was making sure these were movies I have seen multiple times, as far as the top 20 goes, let alone films that make me think "horror" rather than anything else, when it comes to blunt genre placement.  Obviously something like Se7en can be viewed as something different than horror, but I was kicking myself over a lot of these, so please enjoy the list I have made (along with the posters) and feel free to comment!

The Top 20:
Below I have my top 20 favorite horror films listed from #1 onwards, because it seems more interesting to me this way.  I won't provide much in the way of additional writing for each entry, but enjoy nonetheless.

1.  Psycho
So I'm not writing a bunch, because what else is there really to say about some of these?  Psycho is one of my favorite films of all time and it was practically a no-brainer to choose it as my no. 1 horror film.  It is great for so many reasons, including the fascinating approach of literally switching main characters nearly halfway through the film, almost giving you a reason to want to root for the wrong person.  Plenty more I could say about this Hitchcock classic, but "brilliance" is an easy word to associate with this film.

Norman Bates:  She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother.

2.  Jaws
That same brilliance pretty much applies to Jaws as well.  Another one of my all time favorite films, which truly is scary, despite the fact that it also leans on being an adventure film.  Jaws is the reason that I have insane thoughts about not being completely safe in a swimming pool, which means the movie must have been pretty damn effective.

Quint: Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. 

3.  Halloween
I have written about Halloween plenty, so the best I can say right now is that it is a film that I watch annually, no question about its greatness for me.

Dr. Sam Loomis: Death has come to your little town, sheriff. 

4.  The Thing
John Carpenter is responsible for one of the best remakes of all time and I will say this, no matter how many times I watch it, the damn chest opening scene still gets me every time.

MacReady: Yeah, fuck you too! 

5.  Alien
Jaws in space. A wonderful high concept and brilliant execution, with a classic and original monster design.  The alien bleeds acid! That's an amazing idea.  Plus, Ash was a damn robot!

Parker: So, um, we think we should discuss the bonus situation...

6.  The Shining
I once watched this movie late in one room, while my roommate slept in another.  The next morning my roommate talked about how freaked out he was simply from the music occurring in the other room, from this film.

Grady Daughters: Come play with us, Danny. 

7.  Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn
This is the closest I can get to being more comedy than horror, as far as the top 20 goes, but I watch The Evil Dead films every October and even with the goofier touches, Sam Raimi creates great horror atmosphere in this very inventive film.

Ash: You bastards.  You dirty bastards!  Gimme back my hand... GIMME BACK MY HAND!

8.  Dawn of the Dead
The best zombie film ever made, with a lengthy story that focuses on characters, life in an apocalyptic situation, various themes and social commentary revolving around consumerism and other topics, and a great handle on mixing the violence and terror of the situation with a comic book-vibe, Dawn of the Dead practically has it all.

Dr. Foster: Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!

9.  The Evil Dead
While it is acknowledged for its camp factor, watching The Evil Dead in the right setting makes for a fine horror experience, as it is full of atmosphere and real dread, as Ash and the others are tormented through one horrible night.

Cheryl: Kill her if you can, loverboy. 

10.  Night of the Living Dead
The original and still very much a classic.  Very simple, yet a great depiction of people doing their damnedest to solve a problem, only to be foiled by arguments, while an ongoing threat occurs outside their barriers. 

Ben: Don't you know what's goin' on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!

11.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Here's a film that I could easily see climbing to a higher level in my (incredibly arbitrary) rankings.  Despite having almost no gore, this film has plenty of thrills and violent implication, and it is all the more effective with its gritty filmmaking.  No "super cool" shots going through bullet holes in the original, just guerrilla filmmaking paying off really well.

Jerry: That's the last goddamn hitchhiker I ever pick up. 

12.  From Dusk Til Dawn
So this is where we start to get to why I started at No. 1.  It may seem out of nowhere, but before Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made this fantastic horror gem that plays around with genres, as it moves from gritty crime drama to funhouse vampire film midway through and keeps up its energy the whole time.

Seth: All right, vampire killers... let's kill some fucking vampires. 

13.  Aliens
Sure, it is more focused on action, but this James Cameron-directed sequel brings plenty of thrills as well, turning one of the easiest concepts for a sequel title into a true accomplishment in film.

Newt: We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly. 

14.  Se7en
So here we go, it's a tough call on this one, but some really horrible stuff occurs in Se7en and I have a high regard for it because of the sense of atmosphere and dread the comes with this very dark, procedural thriller.

William Somerset: If we catch John Doe and he turns out to be the devil, I mean if he's Satan himself, that might live up to our expectations, but he's not the devil. He's just a man. 

15.  Sleepy Hollow
I should reiterate that I am damn proud of my list and have no shame in saying how much I love Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow enough to put it on a "top horror" list, along with the rest of the films listed.  While Ed Wood may be Burton's best, Sleepy Hollow is my favorite, as it just screams "Burton in his element" to me, while also having a fun and creative take on the classic Washington Irving tale. 

Katrina Anne Van Tassel: Good-bye, Ichabod Crane. I curse the day you came to Sleepy Hollow.

16.  The Silence of the Lambs
Between some key lines of dialogue and a some very memorable images, this is another procedural made more terrifying by what is depicted and those who are involved.

Hannibal Lecter: Well, Clarice - have the lambs stopped screaming? 

17.  The Mist
Even without the knock-out ending, there is some really great work done in both communicating a threat of the unknown and delivering on deadly creature feature type action.

Dan Miller:  Well, we gave it a good shot. Nobody can say we didn't. 

18.  The Devil's Rejects
I love this movie. Plain and simple. Rob Zombie's insane rampage road movie puts us in the lives of serial killers and somehow gets us to be on their side.  Mixing a dark sense of humor with some well-done 70s-style filmmaking, I responded very well to this film and continue to do so.

Otis B. Driftwood: Boy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin' Mark Twain shit. 'Cause it's definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone.


19.  28 Days Later
Even with a third act that is a bit flawed, I have watched 28 Days Later a lot and it is because Danny Boyle has done a damn good job with his depiction of a plague-infested England and what that means for those who have survived.

Jim: That was longer than a heartbeat. 

20.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Another fine remake. This 1978 take on a story that has been remade a number of times at this point is very chilling, as it provides a strangely plausible depiction of paranoia at its finest, only to also throw in crazy imagery, such as a dog with a man's face at one point, let alone a haunting final image.

Elizabeth Driscoll:  There's nothing to be afraid of. They were right. It's painless. It's good. Come. Sleep. Matthew. 

Honorable Mentions (Scary)
This first batch of honorable mentions (listed in alphabetical order) features films that scared me at some point and have stuck with me.  They may not be as scary anymore or they may continue to be scary (I have not re-watched The Strangers for example), but this is an all-encompassing list of films that I find to be effectively frightening in some way.

28 Weeks Later
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Bad Seed
The Birds
The Decent
The Devil's Backbone
Event Horizon
The Exorcist
Fail Safe
Funny Games
Henry: Portait of a Serial Killer
The House of the Devil
The Last House on The Left
Let the Right One In
New Nightmare
The Omen
The Orphanage
Paranormal Activity
Rosemary's Baby
Session 9
The Signal
The Sixth Sense
The Strangers
Take Shelter
V/H/S 2

Honorable Mentions (Entertaining)
This second batch of honorable mentions (again, listed in alphabetical order) features horror films that I love, but not because they are scary.  These are really just films that I really enjoy watching.  Some are favorite films of mine, others are just great horror entertainment that I think is worth checking out.

An American Werewolf in London
Army of Darkness
Attack the Block
Bubba Ho-Tep
The Cabin in the Woods
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Day of the Dead
Dead Alive
Donnie Darko
Drag Me To Hell
The Faculty
The Fly
The Frighteners
Fright Night
The Host
Jason X
The Little Shop of Horrors
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Re-Animator
Scream 2
Shaun of the Dead
Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The Terminator
They Live
Trick R Treat
Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil

And so there you have it.  I've listed a ton of horror movies I love. Feel free to list your own favorites/comments/rants below!

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.


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