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Are These Really “the Best Horror Movies of All Time”?

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Happy Halloween! Let’s debate the best scary movies ever.

The website Ranker—which, you guessed it, ranks things from audience polls—sent out a compilation of their finest Halloween-related content. What caught my eye was the list of Ranker-determined “best horror movies of all time,” which seemed to me to be more dominated by classics than necessarily the best horror ever in the history of time. These are definitely the movies that many people might rattle off when the question is put to them, but I’d imagine more from familiarity than anything else.

Over a million votes determined Ranker’s list of The Best Horror Movies of All Time:

  1. The Shining
  2. Halloween
  3. The Exorcist
  4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  5. Alien
  6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  7. Friday the 13th
  8. Psycho
  9. The Thing
  10. Poltergeist

Now, I won’t take issue with The Shining; it’s my favorite horror movie, and it’s pretty unparalleled in cinema. I also agree with the placement of Halloween. But “The Excorcist” in the #3 slot? Maybe in terms of cultural impact, sure, but in terms of the best of all time? All I remember is falling asleep for a good portion of it, and a lot of filthy-mouthed demonic activity.

Alien gets another thumbs-up from me, in terms of both the movie and its impact, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains one of the most officious films I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch. Maybe this makes it successful horror, but I’ll never call it the best at anything except making me never want to watch another horror movie.

Psycho is an essential movie across genres, inarguably important, but is it even horror? It’s definitely a thriller, and a mystery, and it’s a slasher film, so now I’m getting into semantics. My main point here is that while undoubtedly these are critical staples of scary movies, are there really no more recent or even classic entries that deserve a place in this ranking? Where is Get OutIt Follows? Rosemary’s Baby? The Conjuring? The Omen? The Babadook? And on and on and on.

Here’s another list with teeth—and some more modern movies. This helps me know what I will never, ever attempt to watch. 10 Horror Movies That Are So Scary, People Can’t Even Finish Watching Them. This ranking was the result of 263k votes.

  1. The Conjuring
  2. Mexico Barbaro
  3. The Human Centipede 2
  4. The Void
  5. Raw
  6. JeruZalem
  7. Cabin Fever
  8. Carnage Park
  9. Teeth
  10. Piranha 3D

And on a more easy-watching note (aka movies I could probably sit through without hiding behind my hands), here are Ranker’s Best Halloween Movies for Kids, which was based on 27k votes.

  1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  3. Ghostbusters (1984)
  4. Beetlejuice
  5. Hocus Pocus
  6. Casper
  7. Monsters, Inc.
  8. Halloweentown
  9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  10. The Goonies

What’s on your list of the best horror movies of all time? Do you agree with these rankings, or are people falling into nostalgia and name-recognition-traps? Do you have any movies that you absolutely could not finish, because they were so frightening or disturbing? We can protect each other in the comments. Circle up. I’ve got an axe and a lot of candy corn.

(via Ranker, image: Warner Bros.)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.