Top 10 horror movies of all time

Written by nick redfern | 13/05/2017
Top 10 horror movies of all time
Big-screen terror! (Getty Editorial)

Horned devils, in-bred hillbillies, the dead risen from the grave, a child possessed by a terrifying demon, an ancient book of satanic secrets, a man who turns into a giant insect, human sacrifice off the coast of Scotland, and a werewolf rampaging around the UK's capital: they have all been the subject of films that have entertained and scared audiences for years. But, they did far more than that: they also received rave reviews, picked up major awards and accolades, and earned millions in dosh. They are our top 10, favourite horror movies of all time!

Devilishly good!

Top 10 horror movies of all time
A night to remember (Courtsey of Imageworks Entertainment International)

It doesn't contain blood and gore. There are no high-tech special-effects. It's not even shot in colour. But it does make our number one spot. It's the classic, 1957 production, Night of the Demon. A massively atmospheric, spellbinding saga of witchcraft, sorcery and demonology in England, it stars Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins. But it's Niall MacGinnis who steals the show as the devil-worshipping bad guy, Julian Carswell. Dark woods, a supernatural big-cat, a spooky mansion and the demon of the title are just a few of the highlights of a movie that Martin Scorsese lists among his all-time favourites.

Related: Top 10 British horror films

Dead good!

Top 10 horror movies of all time
When evil ruled the cinema (Courtsey of New Line Cinema)

It had people jumping out of their cinema-seats in terror, and bags of popcorn flying here, there and everywhere. It was Sam Raimi's masterful, 1981 gore-fest, The Evil Dead. Set in a cabin deep in the Tennessee woods, the movie tells the story of a bunch of students that find themselves up against the forces of evil. Demonic possession and just about anything and everything else horrific you could possibly imagine follow. A box-office smash that has developed a cult-following, it cost only $350,000 to make, but pulled in millions. Deadly and evilly good!

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From wicker to wicked

Top 10 horror movies of all time
A star gets sacrificed (Courtsey of Lion International)

Sacrifice off the coast of Scotland? Yep, that's the thrust of The Wicker Man, a fantastically-unsettling 1973 movie starring Edward Woodward as a policeman who heads to an isolated island in search of a missing girl. In no time at all, he's plunged into a world of strange and disturbing characters that worship a sun-god. They follow the teachings of the deranged Lord Summerisle, played in masterfully-mad fashion by Christopher Lee. It's a film that Cinefantastique magazine called "the Citizen Kane of horror movies." We can't disagree with that! One tip: avoid the 2006 remake like the plague.

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An Oscar-winning werewolf

Top 10 horror movies of all time
A monster roams the capital (Courtsey of Imageworks Entertainment International)

A movie that combined dark comedy and savage terror in highly successful fashion, An American Werewolf in London - released in 1981 - practically rewrote the horror-movie genre. The reason: its then-groundbreaking special-effects of Rick Baker, who deservedly received an Oscar for his work. Audiences howled with delight as David Naughton's character shape-shifted into a nightmarish creature that was half-human and half-wolf, and proceeded to prowl the London Underground in search of a traveler to get his teeth into. Monsters, a city in fear, and an old English village hiding a deep and dark secret, make this movie horrifically good!

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Banjo-based terror

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Fear in the woods (Courtsey of Warner Bros)

The 1972 movie that spawned a wealth of useless imitations, Deliverance, starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, is about as horrific as you could imagine. But there's not a monster, demon or ghost in sight. The horror of Deliverance comes from realising that we don't have to venture far from civilisation before we can end up in big trouble. For Burt and co., it proves disastrous as they come face-to-face with deranged, in-bred, forest-dwelling hillbillies with death on their minds. Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards flooded in. If you're ever in the woods and hear a banjo, run!

Related: How to play dueling banjos

Trick or treat terror

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Halloween gets really horrific (Courtsey of Imageworks Entertainment International)

Thinking of doing a bit of trick-or-treating on October 31? You may want to think again after seeing John Carpenter's 1978 movie, Halloween. A production that was very low on budget, but that has so far grossed in excess of $70 Million, Halloween defined the teenagers-get-hacked-to-pieces-by-mad-slasher genre. On the most supernatural night of the year, the mask-wearing, knife-wielding Michael Myers goes on a bloody rampage in Haddonfield, Illinois. Jamie Lee Curtis fights for her life. Spooky music keeps us on the edge of our seats. And a great time is had by all. Aside from Jamie's friends, of course.

Related: 12 Terrifying reads for Halloween

A gateway to a great movie

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Depp does it by the book (Courtsey of Imageworks Entertainment International)

It may not be on everyone's top list of horror movies, but The Ninth Gate - with Johnny Depp and Frank Langella in the leading roles - is a fine tale of occult-driven murder, at the heart of which is the search for a legendary old book that was allegedly written by none other than Satan. Depp's character, Dean Corso, deals in rare titles and Langella's Boris Balkan hires him to find the book, The Nine Gates. Depp heads to Europe, where death and paranormal activity spread like wildfire. Reviewer Peter Canavese called it "witty, unnerving, and finally haunting."

Related: Top 10 paranormal hoaxes

Buzzing with horror

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Flying high (Courtsey of 20th Century Fox)

Not many movies can make a success out of one setting. But David Cronenberg's 1986 version of The Fly did exactly that: for the most part, it takes place in the apartment of scientist Seth Brundle, played in enjoyably-eccentric style by Jeff Goldblum. Brundle discovers the secret to teleportation and decides to test it out for himself. Big mistake. Unknown to poor Seth, a fly gets teleported with him and their genes catastrophically fuse. The tale of a man transforming into something monstrous, it raked in millions and led Time to call it one of the top-25 horror-films of all-time.

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The ultimate zombie movie

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Cannibals and Congress (Courtsey of New Line Cinema)

Without any doubt, if it hadn't been for this movie, there would have been no 28 Days Later, no The Walking Dead, and no Resident Evil. What is it? Night of the Living Dead: George A. Romero's first - and still best - zombie flick. The world falls apart, civilisation collapses, and the dead - totally fed up with being six-foot-under - rise up and hit the road in search of food. That's us, of course. Such was the impact of Romero's masterpiece, it even led the US Library of Congress to describe it as historically and culturally significant. Blimey!

Related: Top 10 zombie movies

The daughter from hell

Top 10 horror movies of all time
Demons in Hollywood (Courtsey of Warner Bros)

Yes, it's mainly remembered for the scenes involving a rotating-head, a crucifix, and strangely-coloured puke, but The Exorcist - nearly forty-years after it was made - packs a paranormal punch from start to finish. Linda Blair gives a fine and creepy performance as a child possessed by a homicidal demon that growls in backwards tones and doesn't care too much for the good old Human Race. But, audiences forgave the horned and evil one. As evidence, today the film has made almost half a billion dollars. A figure that is - if you'll excuse our terrible pun - truly head-spinning!

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