Let's Talk About... My All-Time Favorite Horror Films!

Updated on October 15, 2019
John Plocar profile image

I've been watching horror since childhood and haven't stopped for nearly three decades now. I've got this!

All Hallows Eve Right Around the Corner

Well, well, well… Looks like it’s October once again! Easily one of my favorite times of the year as I am a huge fan of autumn and the fun holiday we all know as Halloween. October is when the weather begins to mellow out, the leaves begin to yellow out, and I eat Jell-O about… Okay, I wanted to rhyme. Give me a break. Seriously though, the month of October, for me, is a giant excuse to watch a boat load of the spookiest films I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Be frightened to the core and delighted by all the gore. I know, I did it again. Horror is admittedly one of my favorite genres, for many years I’ve been putting a lot of thought as to what is truly my favorites out of the whole creepy-crawly bunch; from slashers to creature features to flesh eating undead to supernatural hauntings and wicked witchcraft and so on and so forth, I’ve certainly seen it all.

However, which ones stand out as the scariest to me? Which ones are the few that take their place closest to my heart? And eats it? Is it a list of the most obvious choices that one could muster up in a jam or is it an unconventional mess that nobody would have guessed in a bam? The answer is yes. What I want to establish here is not a list of horror flicks that I necessarily consider to be the greatest of all-time. No, maybe some, but this is a personal list of simply what horror movies I love the most. Whether they frightened me and filled me with chills or gloriously entertained me in a riot full of… spills. Alright, I’m stretching now, but I just like rhyming. Leave me be! Let’s not waste any more time, shall we count down my top ten all-time favorite horror films?! The answer is still yes.

The Runners-Up

There is a seemingly endless plethora of truly astonishing works of art within the horror genre, so honestly I feel bad for leaving some of the few out that either had a major influence on my tastes, simply one of the greats, or they were a crucial stepping stone in my development for the love of film since childhood. Some of the honorable mentions may be surprising to not make it onto my top ten list, but this is just how I feel in the moment. So I apologize if a favorite of yours didn’t make the cut.

HAVE
A
HAPPY
HALLOWEEN
GHOULIES!
The Evil Dead Trilogy (1981 – 1993)
Stage Fright (1987)
Christine (1983)
The Hitcher (1986)
The Changeling (1980)
Friday the 13th (1980 – 2001)
All of the Universal Monster Movies (1923 – 1960)
Maniac (1980)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
The Exorcist (1973)
Alien (1979)
The Birds (1963)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28 Days Later (2003)
The Conjuring (2013)
The Descent (2005)
The Babadook (2014)
Jaws (1976)
Re-Animator (1985)
Insidious (2011)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Haunting (1963)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Psycho (1960)
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10) Halloween (1978)

THE PLOT: Michael Myers was sentenced away into a mental hospital as a child with no hope of release after he brutally murdered his own sister back on Halloween night 1963. Fifteen years later, Michael has escaped to return back to his small town of Haddonfield, Illinois and killing anyone who crosses his path. Setting his evil sights on three unsuspecting babysitters who know not the terrors they soon face with the shape that lurks from the darkness. Halloween is the night he came home, but his victims did not.

MY THOUGHTS: John Carpenter’s Halloween is a classic of the slasher genre for a reason. This 1978 masterpiece is one of a kind that takes its sweet time slowly building the suspense rather than speedily building the body count akin to most of the subsequent installments within the genre, as well as its own film series. Dean Cundey’s cinematography is beyond impressive, especially for the significantly smaller budget of only $300,000.

Visually speaking, the work done to create a sense of impending doom around the Michael Myers character is outstanding as there are camera shots where the man can be seen standing in the background without any emphasis being drawn onto him as he stalks his future victims. Donald Pleasance as Doctor Samuel Loomis and Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode are two pinnacles of any horror performance; both bringing such a commanding presence to their characters that the audience are completely locked and engaged by them. Then, of course, Carpenter’s musical score is quite possibly the most iconic and recognizable theme in all of horror. Truthfully, Halloween is one of the best of its kind with its slow burn intensity mixed with all the right ingredients to keep us on our toes.

How Well Do You Know Halloween?

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9) Suspiria (1977)

THE PLOT: Susie Banion (Jessica Harper) is an American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy, a school with something a bit more sinister going on within its walls. Once a series of grisly murders begin occurring, things become amiss with this bizarre staff of dance instructors. Something… witchy.

MY THOUGHTS: Suspiria is a film when I first saw it I was totally mesmerized by its vibrantly surreal imagery. Every frame is practically the most gorgeous horror painting ever crafted with some of the purest color schemes ever put to film. When we enter this picture, it is as though we are catapulted into a dark fantasy with no escape. This is one of the few films where the style presented enormously adds to the terror felt by its otherworldly atmosphere. With a lesser director behind the camera, I feel that the story would fall apart in a big way as the direction is key to why someone becomes so enthralled by this unconventional fairy tale. Not everything is fully explained and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in what the hell is even going on, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way because the perplexing nature of the narrative also creates a nightmarish quality with no clear path to follow. Dario Argento has an entire filmography that has wowed audiences around the world, Suspiria is my personal favorite of his. The remake was okay, link down below for my in-depth thoughts on the newest iteration.

8) An American Werewolf in London (1981)

THE PLOT: Two young American friends, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), are on a walking tour of Northern Britain when they are viciously attacked by a werewolf. Jack is sadly killed, however David lives through the attack only to discover that he has been infected by the curse of the werewolf. Slowly as the deranged and murderous animal within takes over, David is haunted by the ghosts of Jack and his unfortunate casualties when the full moon strikes.

MY THOUGHTS: When it comes to the combination of horror and comedy, there can be seen a multitude of degrees for where the blending of the two genres can reside. Some horror-comedies lean slightly more towards the comedic side; such as Night of the Creeps, Happy Death Day, Shaun of the Dead, Ghostbusters, or The Return of the Living Dead. There are others that are more inclined to the macabre with odd flares of dark humor spread throughout; like The Devil’s Rejects, The Evil Dead, Dead-Alive, and House. Then there are flat out comedies with horror basically implemented as a visual aesthetic; i.e. Young Frankenstein, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Scary Movie, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Student Bodies. An American Werewolf in London is a rarity that walks the fine line between both comedy and horror flawlessly as it merges the two as one.

There are just about as many scares as there are laugh out-loud moments in this film. This really is the perfect blend of the two genres as it maintains the bleakness for our protagonist as he is tormented by this horrific curse and mercilessly killing innocents without any control. Yet, there are several hilarious interludes and jokes squeezed in between the thrills. Not to mention that An American Werewolf in London has quite possibly the most hilariously depressing ending of all time. I promise I won’t spoil anything, but if you’ve seen the picture then you know exactly what twisted humor is applied onto a rather dark finale.

The practical effects… my God, the practical effects on display in this film are no short of remarkable and wildly innovative for its time as there was no cinematic effort prior that painstakingly portrayed the utterly painful transformation from man to beast. Yes, I know that The Howling is another werewolf picture with similar ambitions of effects work and it was released four months beforehand. The fact of the matter is that An American Werewolf in London is the better film and includes the transformation sequence more fluidly… and I’m a petty b*tch, so there’s that too. Seriously, every effect is pretty awesome. Making this blend of the humorous and the scary all the more frightening.

How Well Do You Know the Wolf?

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7) A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

THE PLOT: Jessie Walsh (Mark Patton) is the new kid in town, turns out that his new house isn’t as warm and welcoming as his family had thought. The newly claimed home was once the residence for that of Nancy Thompson, the poor girl that was previously haunted by the deceased child murderer, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). The burnt up monster now sets his sights on a new victim as he attempts to possess the teenaged boy’s body in order to continue his reign of terror in the real world once again.

MY THOUGHTS: This will likely tick some fellow readers off not putting on the list one of the more beloved installments for the fandom, such as the 1984 original or maybe even Dream Warriors, but I’d be lying if I didn’t claim Freddy’s Revenge to be my absolute favorite of the entire series. Probably the black sheep of the Elm Street collection, in my opinion, it’s the underdog of them all.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was a shining example of when Freddy was still in his prime and at his ultimate darkest. Mentally torturing this poor kid to the point of insanity, murdering countless souls without hesitation while relishing in their pain. Krueger isn’t some joke to be taken lightly, much like what can be seen in the later Elm Street sequels, he’s chilling to the bone as he wreaks havoc amongst the kids of Springwood. There are two main elements that pump this horror sequel into greatness; the psycho-sexual themes implemented into the Jessie and Freddy dynamic, the other is Mark Patton’s skillful performance as Krueger’s psychological victim battling for his soul. Patton is truly an underrated talent that deserves far more attention for his work here. The scares are solid, the effects are cool and clever, and there’s an awesome ‘80s song/dance sequence on par with Risky Business. I dig it!

How Well Do You Know Your Nightmares?

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6) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

THE PLOT: A group of youths en route to visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas stumble across a psychotic family of cannibals and must do whatever they can to survive.

MY THOUGHTS: Honestly, I won’t be going too in-depth as to why Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest horror films ever made as I already did so in a past article. However, I don’t want to shortchange this horror masterpiece either. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is some of the most intense 83 minutes ever projected in the cinema. That’s a fact. Unfortunately not a single sequel, reboot, or knock-off has ever come close to succeeding with the sheer levels of terror that Tobe Hooper’s ’74 classic has achieved so effortlessly. Plus, the fact that Leatherface has been a horror icon for nearly fifty years now solely thanks to this introduction. If anyone reading this hasn’t had the privilege of checking out the 1974 disturbing horror flick, do yourselves a favor and see it at your earliest convenience!

5) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

THE PLOT: The days are growing closer to Halloween, children all over the continent are obsessed over the new holiday trend in that of Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. Although maybe there’s something more sinister planned by the company’s owner, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). Now it’s up to Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) and his new sexy companion, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), to find out and put an end to Cochran’s diabolical plans for America’s youngsters on Halloween night.

Conal Cochran is one of the greatest villains to come out of the 1980s. Fight me!
Conal Cochran is one of the greatest villains to come out of the 1980s. Fight me!

MY THOUGHTS: That’s right. I did it. I put Halloween III: Season of the Witch higher on the list than the immortal Carpenter 1978 classic. This is not a mistake, I do in fact love Halloween III even more than the original Halloween. No, I will never dispute John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the greatest horror films ever made and had a mind-blowing cultural impact on the genre for decades after. Halloween III, on the other hand, represents exactly where the franchise could have and should have went after the demise of the Michael Myers character. Planting its roots deep into the mythology of Halloween and having a total blast with the lore. There was no good reason to go backwards in bringing Myers back from the grave, the Halloween series should have kept trudging forward in the anthology direction that was established terrifically with Halloween III. I go quite further in-depth with my thoughts on the matter of the franchise’s direction, check out the link down below.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is fun with its atmosphere dripping of Halloween imagery in practically every frame, a story and tone harkening back to films akin to 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed with a 1980s vibe that is simply awesome, one of cinema’s most underrated villains ever projected on the big screen with O’Herlihy’s Conal Cochran, and not to mention a fantastic John Carpenter musical score that is worthy of massive praise. Sadly, Halloween III didn’t win the hearts of its contemporary audience in 1982, but over time it has garnered quite the cult following. This isn’t a slasher, this isn’t supposed to be in the same vein as the first two movies in the series and it is unfair to compare; Halloween III is a pod people flick with a more jovial tone mixed with a slightly dark ‘80s twist. In my opinion, Halloween III is one of the ultimate examples to represent All Hollows Eve. Even more so than Carpenter’s Halloween since that plot could quite literally exist at any time of the year with very little affected the story at all, while Halloween III’s premise solely relies on it being based during Halloween while flooding the screen with the perfect color schemes and creepy imagery to match.

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If someone reading this has not seen Halloween III, but is a fan of the other Michael Myers installments then do not go into this under the impression that this is going to be the same type of movie or else you will be sorely disappointed. Again I say, Season of the Witch is not a slasher, it’s basically in a completely different sub-genre. Now if that doesn’t sound appealing and one is unwilling to give the film a fair shake, then this will not appease that specific individual. However, if someone does give this movie a chance with the right mindset and full understanding of what this movie is then they should have a pretty good time. Check it out if you haven’t, and if you are one of the select members under the belief that the Halloween franchise is only good with Michael Myers in it… allow me to refer you to Halloween 4; when broken down to the barebones is a subpar remake of Carpenter’s film only with about a hundred annoying jump scares inserted rather than slow burning suspense. Halloween 5; when things go psychic. Halloween 6; when the editing totally botches the narrative into oblivion and contains the introduction to a cult that is practically edited out of its own story. Halloween: H20; the epitome of late 1990s slasher movie tropes and non-stop jump scares for ninety minutes straight. Halloween: Resurrection; one of the most idiotic movie deaths to an iconic horror character only about ten minutes in while the rest of the movie is a godawfully generic early 2000s slasher. Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II; the obnoxious red neck heaven of slashers. Yeah… go ahead and tell me all about how the franchise was perfect with Michael Myers. I dare you.

That's right... Halloween: Resurrection brought us Busta Rhymes uttering this line right here. You're welcome, America!
That's right... Halloween: Resurrection brought us Busta Rhymes uttering this line right here. You're welcome, America!

Season of the Witch is ambitious and strikes a tone that can only elicit the Halloween spirit with all the fun and creepy quirks of the holiday. The story is nonsensical and embraces its own absurdity, at no point ever attempting to hide its ridiculous plot holes or odd character motivations; instead, the movie has fun with itself and let’s the audience have a good time with it as well. To me, this is Halloween all wrapped up in one movie; colorfully strange, full of questions, darkly fun, creepy and crawly, absurd in all the right ways, beautifully warm and cold, and holds the highest body count of all from the Halloween franchise seeing how it ends with the death of probably millions of kids across the country. What more could one ask for from the perfect Halloween movie? I say Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a perfect celebration of this beloved All Hallows Eve that is unmatched by any other. No backsies!

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4) The Thing (1982)

THE PLOT: Somewhere deep in the desolate snowy tundra of Antarctica, there is a research team being hunted by a shape-shifting creature assuming the physical appearance of anyone it comes in contact with. Deceiving the whole crew and creating paranoia amongst its unsuspecting victims, leaving the team to figure out who to trust and who is… the thing.

MY THOUGHTS: Frankly, there is no denying that I have gushed non-stop about John Carpenter’s The Thing in practically two articles already, at this point it would be redundant to prattle on much further on the subject. The Thing is about as perfect of a horror film as one could ever make. The setting is unnerving, the premise is devilishly intense, the acting is spot on, and the practical effects are in competition of being the best of the best. Seriously, to place this at only number four is extremely difficult for me… but that shouldn’t demean The Thing’s masterpiece status. Honestly, there is not a single element that is even remotely wrong about this film. I’m not kidding when I claim it to be damn near perfect and should be on every horror fan’s radar if it isn’t already.

3) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

THE PLOT: A global epidemic has struck, turning the mass population into mindless zombies rising from the dead to eat the flesh of the living. Two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television girlfriend find refuge inside a secluded shopping mall. Fighting for their lives on a daily basis from the undead, as well as from the rest of the world that isn’t from beyond the grave for that matter.

MY THOUGHTS: Hmm… Let’s see. What do we have here? Oh yeah, George A. Romero’s freaking Dawn of the Dead! It’s a no brainer why this is on my list of horror favorites… no pun intended, don’t start with me. The original Dawn of the Dead works as a commentary on materialism, it works on levels of sheer suspense, and it works at somehow being an extremely self-contained yet epic zombie picture. The action always feels so much larger than life, yet handled with a budgetary restraint in all the right ways. Tom Savini’s effects goes without saying that it is phenomenal to say the very least. The actors do wonders in their roles as they are all colorful and easily memorable. George A. Romero is a master of horror and this is his magnum opus. Intelligent and terrifying from start to finish.

2) The Fly (1986)

THE PLOT: Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a brilliant, yet quirky scientist on the verge of a major discovery achieving teleportation. Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is an up and coming investigative journalist that agrees to join Seth along with his journey in figuring out how to make his telepods work. Together they begin the romance of a lifetime, that is until there is a small hiccup in their plans as it turns out an experiment has gone wrong and is now transforming Seth from man to a giant fly. Accidents do happen, but this one may put a bit of a doosie on the honeymoon! Be afraid… Be very afraid!

MY THOUGHTS: All joking about the synopsis aside, what I adore about David Cronenberg’s The Fly is that this really is kind of a romance plot gone shockingly wrong. At the heart of the film is the chemistry shared between Goldblum’s and Davis’s characters, which is irresistible to completely fall madly for watching the sparks fly in their scenes together. Making it all the more tragic when the story starts taking a dark turn with no signs of hope. Emotionally speaking, this is the horror film that has probably affected me the most. I grew up with both versions of The Fly, the original 1958 Vincent Price classic and the 1986 remake; in my opinion, the ’86 picture is one of the greatest remakes of all time and surpasses the original in every way. The story is far darker and more heartbreaking, the practical effects created in camera are truly demented and terrifying to behold, the performances are emotionally gripping, and the ending is one of the harshest in cinematic history. As a kid, this was definitely one that I kept coming back to time and time again regardless of my total fear of the material. Cronenberg’s The Fly holds the audience by the heart and refuses to let go.

1) The Shining (1980)

THE PLOT: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family accept a job offer to look after an isolated hotel for the winter. Months completely separated miles away from any form of assistance. Which turns into a severe problem when it becomes clear that there is a sinister presence haunting the halls of the Overlook Hotel. Slowly influencing Jack to become violent while his son is overwhelmed by horrific visions of the dead.

MY THOUGHTS: At a very early age, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining drew me in with its hypnotizing filmmaking and jaw dropping insane performance by Jack Nicholson. The Shining is one of the horror films that kind of simply always existed to me as I’m unsure exactly when I was introduced to the picture, yet it’s a movie that has always been around in my eyes. Somewhat eerily fitting when you really think about it. The movie that has always been and will always be.

The Overlook Hotel is one of the few horror environments that feels as though that it also is a character of its own. Every room, every portrait on the wall, every seemingly endless hallway, every step on a stairway, every inch of wallpaper and carpet feels alive. Watching ominously over our protagonists, driving Jack Torrance utterly mad, terrorizing his poor innocent wife and child. An atmosphere so rich with Closter phobic vibes inside strangely wide open spaces. Nicholson gives truthfully one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ‘crazy man’ performances I’ve personally ever witnessed. Shelley Duvall, by the way, I find to be slightly overlooked in terms of her obvious mentally exhaustive performance as she must react with such genuine devastation to everything going on around her while also driving her to the edge insanity.

From the opening shot it is wildly apparent that this is something in a league all of its own. This is no run of the mill haunted house flick, this is the epitome of haunted house tales. There is no other horror film, in my opinion, that reaches the heights of pure ambition and epic stature that succeeds to such unbelievable degrees as Kubrick’s The Shining. Hell, the musical score, there is nothing else quite like it; every note is surreal, unnerving, and unique to this specific film. No other film has thrusted me into a realm that’s certainly adjacent to our own, yet simultaneously feels oddly foreign. I become remarkably lost in my absolute immersion of this world. Not even Stephen King’s novel or mini-series of the same name was capable of capturing that much of an intoxicating tone and mood.

Admittedly, this film ranks relatively higher amongst some of the others because this was one that meant a great deal to my father and I. We watched it countless times, every single time we were just as astonished in viewing as the last time. Then over the years, the movie gained a bit more personal relevance to our lives as my dad was struggling with alcoholism. Honestly I think me and him knew how significantly we were able to relate to the subject matter involving Jack and his son, Danny. Strangely enough, this film was common ground where we were able to find solace within, even during the hardest of times. We found comfort in delving into The Shining’s nightmarish themes in a way that we could probably never explain.

When I initially think on the subject of which is my number one favorite horror film, I never hesitate to realize that The Shining is on the very top of the list. On a writing, acting, and technical aspect; there’s no other that can contest this film’s perfection. Granted, I know that art is undoubtedly subjective and this is by no means an official assessment. An argument can be made for any single one of my personal picks to be the number one spot on someone else’s list, or even selections that aren’t even present on my top ten. This just so happens to be my favorites and how I perceive this certain lot of spook-tacular wonders. They’re all great though in their own special rights.

Do You Have the Shine?

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What is your favorite from the list?

Out of all the selections that I have mentioned in this article, which horror film is your favorite?

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That’s All Folks!

There was my top ten all-time favorite horror films, I definitely couldn’t imagine my life without a single one of these every year during the month of October. What about you though? What is your favorite horror films? Are any of my picks on your own top ten creepy cinematic beauties or do you have list entirely your own? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my list of favorite scary movies then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a spooky day!

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    © 2019 John Plocar

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