There is a very good reason why horror movies never go out of fashion. Sure, the films change and take on new trends over the years, the genre remains strong because audiences always want a good scare. We may cover our eyes at times, but there's no denying the fun and excitement of watching a really great horror movie.
Scares are important, but that's not enough to make a truly great film in the genre. Horror films can be as beautifully directed, brilliantly acted, and expertly written as any genre in film. IMDb's list of the top-rated horror films of all-time does not just feature scary movies, but movies that are counted among the greatest ever made. Here are the best horror films of all time, according to IMDb.
Vampires are still a fascination with movie-goers even to this day. Dracula might be the most iconic of the cinematic vampires, but it was Nosferatu that kick-started the terrifying trend of bloodsuckers on film.
This 1922 silent film from Germany was actually a loose adaption of Bram Stocker's Dracula. It tells the story of a real estate agent and his wife, who visit a reclusive count for a potential business opportunity but find the count is no ordinary man. With an unforgettable performance by Max Schreck as Graf Orlok, the film manages to be extremely effective as a horror film even without sound.
9 Rosemary's Baby
Horror films can be most disturbing when they present a terrifying situation in which the protagonist seems to be the only one who recognizes the horror of what is going on. The tension-filled frustration of this kind is used expertly in Rosemary's Baby.
Mia Farrow stars as a pregnant woman who finds herself surrounded by an odd community of people as she soon suspects they have dark plans for her baby. The twisted psychological horror film builds on the paranoia of the situation making the audience feel as surrounded and helpless as Farrow's character.
8 The Exorcist
The Exorcist is another horror film which draws much of its discomfort and tension from the thought of a child in danger. The film concerns a young girl who appears to have been possessed by an ancient and evil spirit. Two priests are sent to rid the evil and save the girl's life.
The film received universal praise and was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, which is rare for the horror genre. Director William Friedkin perfectly creates a dark and foreboding feeling which permeates throughout the entire film. It's a film which still manages to shock audiences today.
7 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Like Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a German silent film which was released just two years prior to that vampire classic. The film is about a mad doctor and hypnotist who uses his hypnotized targets to carry out murders.
The lack of sound does nothing to make the film less unsettling. The dark and eerie visuals make the entire film feel like something straight out of a nightmare. The film was meant to be a critique of the German military and their brainwashing of the people to become killers. In that sense, many people have said it is an unsettling premonition of Hitler's eventual rule.
6 Les Diaboliques
Les Diaboliques is a 1955 French psychological thriller which found success in America and has continued to cement itself in the minds of audiences. The story follows the wife and mistress of a cruel and abusive man, who join forces to carry out a murder. However, when the body disappears, the women are haunted by their crime.
The film is much quieter than many of the others on this list. Much of the horror comes from the unknown threat which may be in their minds the whole time. The movie builds this tension up until its famous twist ending.
5 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a film whose behind the scenes drama might be even more well-known than the film itself. The film stars screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as sisters and former actresses. Davis portrays the twisted sister who holds her paraplegic sibling as a prisoner in their home.
Davis and Crawford were famous rivals and their tumultuous time filming together was documented in the series Feud: Bette and Joan. All that only adds to the twisted movie which features unhinged and thrilling performances from both actresses.
4 The Thing
Horror remakes are not usually regarded too highly, but John Carpenter's The Thing is an excellent example that a remake can sometimes exceed the original. The movie is set at a remote Arctic research facility where the small crew begins to be picked off by a deadly alien who can take the form of any of them.
The movie makes great use of paranoia, making the audience (and characters) suspect everyone. The film is also praised for its amazing creature work, which is both grotesque and beautiful in its art. It remains entirely convincing to this day.
3 The Shining
Stephen King's novels have been the basis for many horror films over the years, some good and some bad. However, the one that is generally regarded as the best of his adaptations in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining. The film stars Jack Nicholson as an aspiring writer who takes a job as caretaker of an empty and isolated hotel during its offseason. With his family along with him, the man slowly begins to unravel as the hotel's dark past dives him insane.
Nicolson is iconic in the role and Kubrick's direction has resulted in some of the most recognizable shots in film history. Though King was not a fan himself, The Shining remains a beloved and unsettling film.
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential directors in the horror genre. He is a master of building suspense and keeping audiences on their toes. Psycho is probably his most famous film and one that changed the horror genre forever.
The movie introduced audiences to Norman Bates, the awkward man who runs the Bates Motel and lives under the shadow of his overbearing but unseen mother. The tension of the movie is almost intolerable and the infamous shower scene is one of the most shocking moments in film history.
Just as science-fiction was becoming all the rage in Hollywood with the success of Star Wars, Ridley Scott decided to add some horror to the genre. Alien follows the crew of a commercial space ship who respond to a distress signal in space and unwittingly allow a deadly alien creature on board their ship.
The design of the Xenomorph is unforgettable and continues to get more terrifying as it evolves. The claustrophobic feel of the movie helps ratchet up the tension, while Sigourney Weaver's Ripley became an iconic film hero.