1. The Shining (1980) – Master director Stanley Kubrick’s epic slow-build creepfest is not only one of the scariest films ever made, but also one of horror’s most iconic and successful displays of style, story and suspense. A family lives in and works as a ghostly hotel’s caretakers during its closed winter months, while the father (Jack Nicholson), influenced by the resident spirits, slowly spirals into murderous madness and turns on his wife and young son.
2. Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Jonathan Demme’s utterly chilling serial killer investigation not only contains one of the greatest and most haunting performances of all time, but is one of only three movies to have ever won all five major Oscars, and currently the only Best Picture-winning horror film. To catch another serial killer, rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) must seek help from and open up to an imprisoned killer and cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).
3. The Thing (1982) – Arguably John Carpenter’s greatest work as well as the epitome of awesome 80s special effects, this paranoia-laced creature feature stars the always bad-ass Kurt Russell in the lead, and provides tons of unique thrills, astounding gore and finely crafted tension. After a group of scientists encounters an alien in Antarctica, it starts killing off and imitating them, so no one can trust each other as they all try to find out who’s still human and destroy the impostors.
4. Alien (1979) – Ridley Scott’s big break is still one of the most terrifying pieces of either the science fiction or horror genres, with some of the best sets and creature designs ever conceived and a female heroine (Sigourney Weaver) who proves girls really can kick ass. After a mining spaceship finds a new alien lifeform, the specimen quickly evolves into a sneaking monster and starts taking out the crew one by one, turning a routine mission into a claustrophobic fight for survival.
5. The Exorcist (1973) – William Friedkin’s undoubted masterpiece, this tale about a young girl’s possession by the devil horrified audiences when it was first released, and has lost little of its chilling power in the 36 years since. Particularly shocking is the extended climax of the film, the exorcism itself, which highlights the incredible acting present throughout, the well-developed story and the extreme tension that have made this a classic.
6. Quarantine (2008) – While John Erick Dowdle’s first-person, shaky-cam infection flick is by no means perfect, it does manage to supply an engagingly styled, continously intense thrill ride that never lets up, proving that sometimes American remakes actually can be good. A television reporter and her cameraman, paired with some firemen out on a routine call, become trapped inside an apartment building after it’s sealed off, leaving them to handle the infected residents on their own.
7. Planet Terror (2007) – Robert Rodriguez’s half of “Grindhouse” was not only the better movie of the double feature, but also one of the coolest zombie films in recent memory, rife with explosive and over the top action, irreverent humor and gross, creepy monsters. While it starts out as (somewhat) regular horror, it transitions into extreme zombie action comedy about half way through, especially after the heroine (Rose McGowan) starts using her machine gun leg to save the day.
8. Let the Right One In (2008) – Tomas Alfredson’s majestic, Swedish piece of art house horror tells not only one of the best grown-up fantasy stories of this generation, but also one of the most brilliant, effective vampire tales in history. A bullied young boy makes an unlikely friendship with an odd little girl, who turns out to be a vampire, and the two of them develop a romance where they both protect and care for each other in different ways.
9. Evil Dead 2 (1987) – Sam Raimi’s remake/re-imagining of his original cult classic “Evil Dead” takes a less serious approach to the “cabin in hell” situation compared to the first, balancing the horror with gut-busting, wonderfully cheesy humor and utilizing the incredible charm and awesomeness of its star Bruce Campbell to its advantage. After a book awakens the dead, a lone survivor must defeat an assault of demons or suffer the same fate as the creatures he battles.
10. Psycho (1960) – Suspense king Alfred Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece, one of the first horror movies and still one of the best, boasts possibly the most famous murder scene in film history, and in addition to its narrative sideswipe less than halfway in, gushes with genius the whole way through. A young girl on the run from the law stops at the empty Bates Motel, and accidentally awakens the psychotic killer residing within.