Halloween is fast approaching and what better way to mark the occasion than wide awake cowering behind your furniture? Horror films have often been critically attacked and dismissed as vulgar, disgusting and plain silly. But the genre has given some innovative and timeless classics that have changed the landscape of cinema.
Some cheesy, some plain scary - these 30 classics will make you laugh, scream and and jump. Hold onto your popcorn...
Simply click on an image to launch the gallery. Do you agree with our choices or have we left out your favourite slasher flick? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below.
words: Emma Spedding
Horror fans have as many opinions as sleepless nights, so let us know what you think of our list @stylistmagazine or in the comments section below.
Best Horror Films: The Shining (1980)
This adaption of Stephen King’s novel is a landmark horror movie following the psychological breakdown of a family man. Who doesn't feel a slight chill at the thought of Jack Nicholson’s head poking through the doorway shouting: “Here’s Johnny?”
Best Horror Fims: Jaws (1975)
The scariest Spielberg film ever made - this monster blockbuster made an entire generation scared of water. The two note score alone is enough to make you reconsider that summer beach break in exotic climes.
Best Horror Films: Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock did everything he could to build up suspense, even buying every copy of the original novel so that very few knew the gory ending. Fifty years later the shower scene where Janet Leigh is slashed to death is one of the most iconic moments of cinema.
Best Horror Films - Poltergeist (1982)
Suburbia turns into a living nightmare, as poltergeists enter the Freeling’s home through static. Stephen Spielberg was the co-writer and producer of the film but there is much speculation that he had a more directorial influence.
Best Horror Films: The Ring (2002)
This Hollywood horror was praised as a successful remake of the 1998 Japanese horror flick. Who knew such a simple concept - involving a creepy girl crawling out of a television set - could be quite so terrifying?
Best Horror Films: Friday the 13th (1980)
Gate-crashing the success of Halloween, Friday the 13th became one of the longest running franchises in film history. A group of camp councillors are murdered one by one as they attempt to re-open a summer camp. It is essential viewing for those who love a bit of gore - the perfect April blood shower. But boycott the sequels which are the real horrors that followed.
Best Horror Films: Don’t Look Now (1973)
Based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, Don’t Look Now follows a couple devastated by the death of their daughter and will certainly make you think twice about visiting Venice, where gothic, mist-clad beings lurk at every corner.
Best Horror Films: Let the Right One In (2008)
This Swedesh film is one of the best contemporary horror movies - a gory tale of love and relationships. A bullied 12-year old falls in love with a peculiar girl who needs to drink other people’s blood to survive. But don’t worry - this isn’t a Swedish Twilight … it will leave you truly shaken.
Best Horror Films: The Omen (1976)
A tale of the anti-Christ, The Omen has the perfect villain and intense psychological moments. But stick to the original starring Gregory Peck.
Best Horror Films: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George Romero pretty much created the zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead, and ten years later he made the ultimate zombie film Dawn of the Dead. Think zombie bloodshed with a social message.
Best Horror Films: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Thirty years on the special effects and make-up featured in An American Werewolf in London, especially in the transformation scenes, are still compelling. Plus a film that mixes horror with humour is a winner in our books. The film brilliantly captures that feeling of being an 'outsider' when the two Americans David and Jack enter an English village pub.
Best Horror Films: Silence of the Lambs (1991)
A cannibalistic classic starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs was the third ever film to win five Oscars - challenging the suspicion that horror has no real significance to cinema. Drink with a bottle of Chianti.
Best Horror Films: The Exorcist (1973)
Four decades after it first hit our screens, this extraordinary tale of demonic possession still manages to touch a nerve. The theological thriller, starring 14-year-old Linda Blair, is one of the most frightening films of all time. The Exorcist was banned and finally went on general sale in the UK in 1999. This guaranteed screamer was banned from being shown on television in Australia on Good Friday in 2001.
Best Horror Films: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Is it real or isn’t it? This film created the “horror movie as faux-documentary” genre, with nausea-inducing, shaky camera angles, a woods brimming with sinister promise and obscure close-ups. It was lauded at the time for relying on the viewers' imagination to play out unseen horrors - real or otherwise.
Best Horror Films: Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski’s film is a masterpiece of the horror genre, in which Mia Farrow becomes paranoid she is having Satan’s spawn. This is another “less is more” approach, following the logic the more you have to imagine, the more sinister it is.
Best Horror Films: What Lies Beneath (2000)
Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) is lonely after her daughter leaves home for college and senses something is wrong with her house. A smart supernatural thriller starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Director Robert Zemeckis gives a Hitchcock-style thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Best horror Film: Peeping Tom (1960)
This iconic flick tells the story of Mark, who films women with a camera that has a spike hidden in the tripod. He obsessively captures the look on their faces as they realise they are going to die. This film is frightening cinematic voyeurism.
Best Horror Films: The Sixth Sense (1999)
It’s all said in those four simple words: “I – see - dead - people.” A landmark psychological terror starring Bruce Willis and 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment. Oh, and look out for 13-year-old Mischa Barton starring as a vomiting ghost.
Best Horror Films: Carrie (1976)
This coming-of-age cult is based on Stephen King’s novel. Sissy Spacek plays a tormented and horrifying teen with telekinesis. One thing is certain - it will put your own teenage years right into perspective.
Best Horror Films: Paranormal Activity (2007)
This is a genuinely frightening digital horror film, in a similar vein to The Blair Witch Project. A young couple are disturbed by something that comes out in the middle of the night. A recipe for nightmares.
Best Horror Films - Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
“Whatever you do: Don’t. Fall. Asleep.” Killer Freddy Kruger enters into your dreams where there is no hiding from him. This is an explosive slasher, which unfortunately reduces Johnny Depp to a pool of blood and will have you grabbing at the nearest person for support in a terrified stupor.
Best Horror Films: The Thing (1982)
This was a box office flop panned by the critics but now is recognised as one of the best horror/ sci-fi films of all time. It tells of an alien who can take any form and infiltrates an Antarctic research base ending in bloodshed and paranoia.
Best Horror Films: The Birds (1963)
The most frightening films blend reality with horror, making the trauma believable. In The Birds Alfred Hitchcock takes our innocent feathered friends and transforms them into terrifying creatures that will peck our lives away. Many don't realise that this film is based on a Daphne du Maurier novella.
Best Horror Films: Dracula (1931)
A straightforward adaption of the Bram Stoker’s classic novel - it’s not too scary, but is filled with atmosphere and has one of the best villains in film history. The 1992 version with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder is also a horror classic.
Best Horror Films: Scream (1996)
This classic will make you laugh and you guessed it, scream, as it seamlessly pulls together horror and self-parody. A must see for all horror fans. After all it did inspire the ultimate default Halloween costume...
Best Horror Films - The Haunting (1963)
On paper this is an uninspiring cliché – a group visit an old house where all is not what it seems. There is not a drop of blood but if you are sold by atmosphere and suspense, this is a must-see psychological thriller.
Best Horror Films - Shaun of the Dean (2004)
London is infested with zombies in this horror parody. This zombie comedy by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is filled with intelligent references and is arguably the best horror/comedy since American Werewolf.
Best Horror Films- Wickerman (1973)
The Citizen Kane of horror flicks (as said by Film magazine Cinefantastique) this is an incredibly crafted film of paganism and sex. This cult classic also has one of the most frightening finales of all time.
Best Horror Films - Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This savage slasher introduced the faceless killer and the use of power tools as murder weapons. It follows a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals. The film was marketed as a true story, but is entirely fictional. It is also a contender for the most notorious movie title of all time.
Best Horror Films: Halloween (1978)
What’s most creepy of all is that Halloween’s killing psychopath (played by Mike Myers) looks, well, bored. This is another horror franchise that played a key role in the creation of the slasher genre. It introduces a new theme: Stalk and slash.