Top Thirty Horror Films

Defining horror is difficult to do. Defining the horror genre is likewise difficult. Regarding the latter, some viewers prefer gore, slasher films, and camp. Others solidly follow their favorite monster: vampire, zombie, and so on. Thrillers and science fiction films often elide with horror. I tend to think of horror as a psychological effect, and there are many ways to get there. I think horror involves a process of defamiliarization, a way of unsettling one’s mind by warping the senses–the uncanny, I suppose. Although I do enjoy camp, I am a bigger fan of true horror, which is an idea I find difficult to qualify. In the end, it is our examples that best illustrate our positions. This list was composed in no particular order, albeit the top three are in my top three. Freddy and Jason never made it to my list. Many of these films have nothing to do with the supernatural, albeit they all upset out notions of the natural. A few made the list simply because they make my list of favorite directors and I couldn’t imagine leaving them off any list. So, Dear Reader, if you are home and running out of ideas during a horror film marathon, maybe my list will extend your evening. Cheers.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. John Cooper says:

    A great list! I could write a couple paragraphs on almost each of the movies I’ve seen (18, I think). I’ve never thought of myself as a horror fan—and I’m emphatically not interested in slasher films or torture porn—but I love thought-provoking psychological studies, which would be my label for my favorites on your list. You’re entitled to classify films any way you like, and you’ve explained your reasoning, but to me “Mulholland Drive,” for example, can’t really be classified as horror unless you classify all of David Lynch’s work as horror for its unsettling imagery and disregard for conventional, real-world narrative. “Eraserhead” would be the prime example of horror in his canon.

    The straight-up horror films that I like tend also have an element of social commentary: “Frankenstein” is about the cruelty of the elite toward the outsider, and “Night of the Living Dead” comments forcefully on selfishness and racism as opposed to honor and solidarity. But Kubrick, as so often, stands alone. “The Shining” is straight horror by anyone’s definition, and makes no social points that I can discern, yet I’d agree with you in putting it at number one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mcfeats says:

      Good point about Lynch. I thought that, too, but resisted listing other films. I guess I went with Mulholland Dr. because of how it reveals the horrors of the protagonist’s experiences through various uncanny scenes and images. In a classic sense, it represents the uncanny through doppelgangers.

      I’ve read few horror novels, but the Shining offers some basic critique on how fathers spread violence to their sons. There might be a vague critique of patriarchy in it. That critique disappears in the film.

      Yeah, I don’t think I’m a horror buff either. If anything defines my film taste, it likely has to do with the exploration of the unknown and a resistance to certainty–detective procedurals, psychological thriller, horror, scifi, etc.

      I also enjoy a good typewriter documentary. Why isn’t that a genre?


      1. John Cooper says:

        It is, but it only includes two films that I know of!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. mcfeats says:

    Maybe Misery is a documentary, too. Why portables are better for travel . . .


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