Here’s the list of the top horror movies of all time. The list was compiled from the most trusted movie sources. Do share this post.
This list will be somewhat controversial as some movies simply didn’t make the list.
Some of these horror movies are older classic horror films that set the standard for the horror film industry.
1. Halloween 1978
Starring: Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Audience reaction: Truly original and genuinely frightening.
Plot: Set in Haddonfield, Illinois, Michael Myers was convicted for killing his sister Judith on Halloween night, 1963. He was sentenced to 15 years but the 21 year old Michael Myers escapes custody the night before Halloween, 1978 and returns to his hometown in search of his next victims.
2. Psycho 1960
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam.
Audience reaction: Psycho changed cinema and was shocking to people at that time.
Plot: A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer to run-away with her boyfriend. Travelling the back roads to avoid police and caught is a heavy rainstorm the couple stops for the night at the Bates Motel. They are greeted by a polite proprietor Norman Bates, who has an unusual interest in taxidermy and a strained relationship with his mother.
3. The Exorcist 1973
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller.
Audience reaction: Back in 1973 people were freaked. Surprising Terror.
Plot: A teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious evil entity. Her mother seeks guidance from 2 priests. The elderly frail priest recognizes the evil entity as demonic and must perform an exorcism, a religious act to drive an evil spirit from a person or place.
4. The Shining 1980
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers.
Audience reaction: This film has become a cult classic and considered a masterpiece to this day. Back in 1980, the audience was “disappointed”.
Plot: A writer, Jack Torrence takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He is accompanied by his wife Wendy and his son Danny. The family is isolated and stranded as Danny becomes plagued by psychic premonitions and Jack is haunted by the ghostly occupants of the prior caretaker. With cabin fever setting in and writer’s block, Jack turns into a homicidal maniac intent on terrorizing his family.
5. Alien 1979
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto.
Audience reaction: Described as a shocking sci-fi/horror classic with scientific inaccuracies.
Plot: Set in deep space, the crew of a commercial starship named Nostromo are awakened from their sleep when they received a distress call from an alien craft. After boarding the alien ship they encounter a nest of eggs and an alien organism leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew members. The crew member becomes comatose and soon the remainder of the crew is confronted by more life threatening alien encounters.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp.
Audience reaction: The scares intense and this film created a new fear, the fear to fall asleep.
Plot: A group of teenagers in the Midwest, USA are visited in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, a disfigured burnt serial killer equipped with a glove with elongated razor blades. By killing his victims in their dreams, it causes their deaths in the real world.
7. Rosemary’s Baby 1968
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Angela Dorian, Clay Tanner, and Charles Grodin.
Audience reaction: Described as a nightmarish blend of fantasy and naturalism.
Plot: Set in New York City, a young catholic housewife, Waifish Rosemary Woodhouse becomes pregnant and believes that the child she is carrying is not of this world. Rosemary and her husband Guy Woodhouse move into a New York apartment with a history of odd occurrences. Soon they are befriended by their elderly but somehow eccentric next-door neighbours, Roman and Minnie Castevets, Strange things begin to happen and Rosemary suspects the neighbours have special plans for her child.
8. It 2017
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher and Bill Skarsgård.
Audience reaction: Described as scary as S**T.
Plot: Set in Derry, Maine, an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children and it is up to 7 young town outcasts to battle this terrifying clown known as Pennywise.
9. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen.
Audience reaction: A low-budget 1974 sleeper that became a cult classic but was banned from many theatres worldwide for graphic content and violence.
Plot: Sally and her paraplegic brother, Franklin are informed that their grandfather’s grave has been vandalized. The set-out to investigate the grave site with their friends but discover that and group of crazed, murderous outcasts are living next door to their family’s old farmhouse. Soon, they are fleeing for their lives as Leatherface, a chainsaw wielding killer who wears a mask of human skin pursues the group one by one.
10. Scream 1996
Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore.
Audience reaction: This film electrified audiences and critics by mocking other horror films.
Plot: Set in the small town of Woodsboro, California, a psychopath emerges who has seen too many horror movies. The killer stalks his victims and taunts them with trivia questions before murders them. The sleepy little town is on high alert as the killer could be anybody.
11. The Evil Dead 1981
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker.
Audience reaction: This cult-hit horror film was described by Stephen King as “the most ferociously original horror film of the year”.
Plot: Five friend journey into the woods for a vacation. When they arrive at the cabin they discover a book called “The Book of the Dead”. As the friends read this book aloud, a flood of evil is unleashed as the text reawakens the dead. The lead character, Ash, watches as his friends become possessed and he must find a way to survive until daybreak.
12. The Thing 1982
Starring: Kurt Russell , A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas Waites.
Audience reaction: Named the scariest movie of all time by the Boston Globe.
Plot: A group of American research scientists in Antarctica rescue a dog that was being shot at by a helicopter. Soon this dog attacks the humans and canines at the base camp and they learn that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A perilous battle ensues as the creature kills them off, one by one.
13. The Blair Witch Project 1999
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard.
Audience reaction: Considered a horror movie phenomenon that changed everything. A low budget movie that was a sensational hit.
Plot: Three film students travel to a small town to collect film evidence of a legendary murderer, the Blair Witch. After interviewing the townspeople, they set out to the woods where they become lose their way and experience strange noises at night and are at the mercy of the Blair Witch.
14. Jaws 1975
Starring: Roy Scheider , Robert Shawas, Richard Dreyfuss, Matt Hooper, Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary.
Audience reaction: Jaws scared the crap out of people and still does to this day. Some people will not go in the ocean after watching this movie.
Plot: A young woman is killed by a shark while skinny dipping close to the New England tourist town of Amity Island. The town is on alert as they fear more attacks could be imminent and it could cripple their tourism revenue. A crew is assembled to battle this 25’ Great White Shark.
15. The Conjuring 2013
Starring: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
Audience reaction: Proclaimed as one of the best horror movies of the last 5 or 10 years. and a movie that knows suspense.
Plot: In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists are beckoned to an old farmhouse, the home of the Perrons and their five daughters. A supernatural presence makes itself known and the events escalate of they learn of the house’s macabre history.
16. The Cabin in the Woods 2011
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford.
Audience reaction: One of the best and craziest “horror” movies ever.
Plot: Five college friend head to a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation. Their vacation turns into a nightmare as one by one they are attacked by backwoods zombies.
17. The Ring 2002
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox and Daveigh Chase.
Audience reaction: A creepy film overall that will have you sinking into your chair with fear.
Plot: Four teenagers die mysteriously after watching a video tape. A reporter is skeptical about a tape that foretells a viewers death in exactly 7 days, predicated by a phone call. After watching the tape, the reporter Rachel Keller has only 7 days to unravel the mystery.
18. The Silence of the Lambs 1991
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glenn.
Audience reaction: A plausible story with a true villain that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Plot: The FBI enlist the help of a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter who is serving a life sentence as a violent psychopath for murder and cannibalism. Lecter may have some insight case into another serial murdered by the name of Buffalo Bill. Lecter provides clues but manipulates the FBI into allowing him special privileges as he makes plans of his own.
19. Paranormal Activity 2007
Starring: Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat.
Audience reaction: This film prompted hysterical reactions and some viewers allegedly fled the cinema in terror..
Plot: A young couple move into a suburban home but are disturbed by a perceived supernatural presence. They set-up multiple cameras throughout the house hoping to catch evidence of it on film. They are unprepared for the terrifying events that unfold.
20. Night of the Living Dead 1968
Starring: Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea.
Audience reaction: A very influential and terrifying movie to this day.
Plot: Corpses begin the leave the graveyard in search of human bodies to devour forcing a group of individuals to seek refuge in an abandoned house. The zombies surround the house and begin to find ways into the house as the living humans fight for their lives.
21. Sinister 2012
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, Fred Thompson, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Audience reaction: Well received with a mix of ghastly images and audience participation in solving paranormal mysteries.
Plot: A true crime writer is desperate to write another top seller is intrigued by a snuff film that shows the death of a family. He moves his own family into the victim’s house and soon learns of a supernatural force that could prove deadly.
22. The Omen 1976
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern.
Audience reaction: Truly original and genuinely frightening when it was first released.
Plot: An American diplomat and his wife adopt a son, Damien. Damiens adoptive parents, Robert and Katherine are forewarned by Father Brennan that Damien will kill their unborn child.
After she miscarries, Damien pushes her off a balcony and Robert becomes all too aware that his adopted son may be the Antichrist.
23. The Descent 2005
Starring: Shauna Macdonald,Oliver Milburn, MyAnna Buring, Saskia Mulder, and Nora-Jane Noone.
Audience reaction: The movie creates a real claustrophobic setting and has the women cowering and the men jumping out of their seats.
Plot: The main character in this film Sarah is recovering from an emotional trauma and decides to head to North Carolina with her friend to go cave exploring. After descending underground they happen upon cave painting and evidence of a prior expedition. Not long after, they discover that they are not alone as they are pursued by underground predators that have a thirst for human flesh.
24. Insidious 2010
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Barbara Hershey.
Audience reaction: A very creepy atmosphere with some great scares in this film.
Plot: A family moves into their new home which unbeknownst to them is haunted. They soon realize that their comatose son is possessed by an evil entity intent on inflicted harm on other.
25. Poltergeist 1982
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, and Craig T. Nelson.
Audience reaction: The audience is feaked out by the creepy stuff happening in the house. People went to see this movie to witness the audience reactions.
Plot: The Freelings, a Californian family of five are visited by sprits in their home. The story escalates as the ghosts begin to communicate through their tv and a family member, the youngest daughter Carol Ann, a five year-old goes missing. They enlist the help of a parapsychologist and an exorcist to bring their daughter back to this world.
We also recommend 2 classic movies that should have made the list:
The Amityville Horror 1979—based on a true story.