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The Ten Best Classic Horror Movies of All Time

laurie and michael in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

*You are awoken from sleep by a ghostly old woman floating over your bed*

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Oh wake up, dearie! Wake up! Not still sleepy from last night’s Spooky Moviethon, are you? Come, come, wipe the little crusties out of your eyes! It’s my favorite time of day, three o’clock in the morning! The witching hour, and do you know how I like to celebrate the witching hour when I’ve got a young, vulnerable human being staying with me in a remote mansion with no working telephone that is miles away from civilization?

*she floats closer and whispers*

By watching classic horror movies


*She passes through you, and through the floor below. You shiver, and make your way down the stairs after her*

In here, dearie!

Back to the scene of the crime, my movie room. I’ve grown tired of Netflix, and “spooky” movies are for babies … No, no, we’re far past being babies … we’re adults. And adults appreciate classic cinema. Adults like to critique things. Adults like to intellectualize things in an effort to avoid having fun. So you and I are going to put on our critic hats and watch only bestest, most “critically acclaimed” classic horror movies of all time. And then we’re going to post our opinions online and check the comments section. That’s where the REAL horror begins! EEE HEE HEE HEE!!!!

10. Psycho

anthony perkins
(universal pictures)

Let’s start this list off with the most classic horror movie ever! It’s arguably Mr. Alfred Hitchcock’s finest work, and a film snob would certainly define it as “seminal work of the horror idiom,” whatever that means! All I know is that it starts out as one thing and turns into another, and that’s quite cool! It’s like a Frank Ocean song, or Bohemian Rhapsody! Don’t you just love when art turns itself on its head? Speaking of groovy tunes, it’s got one of the best horror movie soundtracks ever made! If I snuck up behind someone and yelled REE! REE! REE! in their ear they’d know exactly what movie soundtrack I’m referencing! If they don’t die of a heart attack first!

9. The Shining

Jack Nicholson in The Shining
(Warner Bros)

This movie is a well loved adaption of a novel by Mr. Stephen King. In fact, it’s loved by everyone but Stephen King. The film is quite different in tone from the book. In the book, Jack Torrence is a loving father who gets manipulated into becoming a monster by some spooky ghosts. In the film, he’s a total creepazoid from the beginning! This movie is bone chillingly scary, and features some of the finest acting of any film on this list! It’s another “seminal work,” mostly because no one had ever seen that much blood pour out of an elevator before!

8. Scream

two women and a man with blood stains all over body, looking scared with surprised expressions
(Dimension films)

This movie is perhaps one of the cleverest horror films on this list because it’s so self aware! Nearly everything in this movie is a reference to a film that came before! The beginning scene where Drew Barrymore is being menaced by Ghostface on the phone is lifted entirely out of a movie called When A Stranger Calls. A fancy film critic would call this an homage, which is basically just the French word for “plagiarism!” And I love it! This film knows that it’s a horror film, and knows the “rules” established by horror films of the past. Even the characters themselves are aware of the tropes of horror, which is why the film is so satisfying to watch them fall victim to horror conceits that they claim to be conscious of! Oh, the irony! The delicious irony!

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

sally fleeing in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(Image credit: Vortex)

Oh yes! This movie is a beloved classic by adults everywhere. Smart people will tell you that this movie pioneered the “redneck nightmare” genre. Smart people will use nasty, dick-related words like “seminal” to describe this one. But they’ve got a good reason too! Yuppie film critic nonsense aside, it is indeed one of the scariest movie ever made! It’s about a group of young adults (the most horrible kind) who go on a little trip through the backroads of Texas in order to find a grave. But before they get there, they’re interrupted by a hitch-hiker who’d rather they keep their big city opinions to themselves! And tells them to get lost by cutting open his hand with a knife! EEEEE!!! These young whippersnappers decide not to listen, and keep poking their noses into places they shouldn’t. Unlucky for them, the locals get the idea to cut their little noses off! Along with other body parts!

6. The Exorcist

Linda Blair in the Exorcist
(image: Warner Bros.)

Oooooh, here’s another film that adults love having their big city opinions about! They say it’s the “greatest horror movie ever made,” and certainly the scariest! I’m sure they’ll also wax poetical about how it’s some sort of “religious allegory” or something like that, but my critic hat tells me that this movie is just good plain ol’ fun! It’s about a young woman who gets possessed by the devil. So what does she do? Dislike some Youtube videos? Worse. She 360’s her head around and throws up pea soup everywhere! Then she kills a few priests! Oops! Spoiler alert!

5. Halloween

laurie with a knife in Halloween
(Compass International Pictures and Sony Pictures)

Oh, those horror movie critics certainly love this film! They’ll say things like it “pioneered” the Scream Queen genre. Isn’t that a silly word? “Pioneered?” Like Michael Meyers is canoeing after Jaime Lee Curtis in a coon skin cap! Oh but all jokes aside dearie, this movie is a scary one. It starts with an “iconic” (they love that word too!) sequence from the killer’s point of view where he stalks and murders a young woman! Then the camera zooms out and you realize it was a little boy who killed her! Children certainly do know how to have fun! But the best part of this movie is when little Jaime Lee Curtis is trapped in the house with Michael Meyers. Just wait for the closet scene! You’ll be jumping out of your pleated critic pants!

4. The Nightmare On Elm Street

(Image: New Line Cinema)

More young people! In the prime of their lives! Their best years ahead of them! If it wasn’t for a murderous pedophile with knives for hands murdering them in their dreams! This movie is an icky one, and perfectly captures that weird obsession that horror movie directors have with sexualizing characters who are supposed to be minors and killing them! Put that up your critical pipe and smoke it! Eee hee hee! The silver lining about this movie is that at least it’s really good at figuring out ways to creatively murder children! We’ll never forgot poor Johnny Depp’s character as he’s dragged into a hole that forms in his bed, which then erupts in a geyser of blood! Oh it’s unforgettable! Unforgettably disgusting!

3. Alien

ripley & the alien in Alien
(Image: 20th Century Studios)

SPEAKING of sexuality and violence! Those film school yuppies just love writing hot take after hot take on marriage of sex and murder in this little number! Alien is a movie about a big penis shaped alien that chases a woman around on a spaceship! And that’s all you need to know! Yes there’s also yonic (that’s a critic-y word meaning ‘related to lady parts’) imagery in the film with the nasty little face hugger aliens, but sometimes I’m content to let a cigar be a cigar and not give myself nightmares about what’s between people’s legs! Icky sex stuff aside, this movie is a grand old time! After all, the alien hunts down only the smartest of smarty pants people! Scientists!

2. Jaws

(Image: Universal Pictures)

A big old blockbuster from Mr. Spielberg himself! Oh the film critics just love crawling up his butt and dying there. Learned people like to say that this movie is a perfect horror movie. And even if one film school youngster wants to annoyingly play “devil’s advocate,” it’s pretty hard to argue that this movie isn’t at least close to perfection! It made a whole generation of people never want to get in the water again! It probably also started our cultural obsession with sharks! There’d be no “Shark Week” without Jaws, one might say! One might say that, but I’ll leave those “cultural analyses” to the big city folks.

1. The Thing

(Universal Pictures)

This movie might be the scariest on this list. It’s what the film critics call “cosmic horror,” and apparently it’s hard to get it right! Maybe for them! But after seeing the cold, desolate void that you living people call “the afterlife,” I think I’ve got a good lil’ handle on it! It’s a movie about a bunch of smart people (scientists, no less!) trapped in a remote little outpost in Antartica with a shapeshifting thing-a-mah-thing from beyond the stars! Unlucky for them, they don’t get to use their smart people brains to analyze what’s “culturally significant” because they’re too busy trying to analyze their way out of a horrible death! Oh it’s a good one, dearie! One of the scariest monsters around! Not as scary as an adult on the internet with a strong opinion, but still pretty frightening!

(Featured Image: Compass International Pictures and Sony Pictures)

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.

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