By Josh Williams
Ah, October. One of the most wonderful times of the year. The weather starts to cool down before getting too cold, there are countless Halloween decorations that are awesome to look at, but another thing that makes the spooky season one of the best times of the year is the opportunity to celebrate and worship horror films. The feeling that Halloween gives off makes for a perfect time for us as film fans to appreciate all of the great horror films that have been made. Obviously, any time of the year is a great time to preach your love for the horror genre but the month of October definitely amplifies that.
So we here at Next Best Picture thought that it would be fun to poll together our favorite horror films for you all to see. Runners up included "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Blair Witch Project," "The Sixth Sense" and "28 Days Later." Without any further delay, here are Next Best Picture's Top 15 Horror Films of all time!
15. "Alien" (1979)
Ridley Scott's science-fiction/horror masterpiece is a film that has been a polarizing topic of debate when it comes to discussing horror films. Mainly it boils down to whether or not "Alien" is a horror film or not. The topic of what is or isn't a horror film has been widely discussed especially as of late and I think it ultimately boils down to personal preference. What you consider horror may not be considered horror to somebody else. But here at Next Best Picture, "Alien" is absolutely considered a horror film.
The tension that Scott creates fits perfectly within this science-fiction world and creates a downright terrifying atmosphere. Not only is the design of the Xenomorph one of the greatest creature designs to ever appear in cinema but the sound design behind the way the creature moves and sounds add all the extra intensity the film needs. Focused simply around the paranoia of the Xenomorph itself versus being more action-oriented, "Alien" is a sure-fire classic that is just as scary as anything else on this list.
14. "Hereditary" (2018)
Ari Aster's feature film debut "Hereditary" is a bone-chilling dramatic horror film that released to amass critical acclaim this year. "Hereditary" creates an atmosphere that is rarely seen from first-time directors and even some truly seasoned directors. The constant "look over your shoulder" feeling that Aster crafts within the frames of his debut is a feeling that you will never forget even weeks after you watch the film. "Hereditary" gets under your skin and seeps its way into your soul so that it can haunt you personally for days on end.
With a career-best and completely Oscar-worthy performance from Toni Collette, she carries a majority of the film's weight on her back. Obviously, the cinematography, the editing, the score are all incredible and should be in the conversation for best of the year in their respective categories. But something about Collette and her dedication to the performance and the character is stunning. She is the best she's ever been and gives one of the greatest performances of the year.
13. "Jaws" (1975)
Steven Spielberg's first true masterpiece "Jaws" is a masterclass in the study of "less is more." A lot of the tension that arises from "Jaws" is actually how little we see of the shark. The shark has plenty of screen time but not as much screen time as if the film was made today. The characters of the film just talk and talk about how worried they are and about how the shark could wreak havoc on the 4th of July. The tension and panic are all built through the surrounding elements of the shark, not the physical being of the creature.
"Jaws" features a stellar ensemble in legends like Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, and Loraine Gary. It also features one of the most iconic scores of all time from legendary composer John Williams. The film is a bit more reserved in terms of its scares but it still is petrifying in many many ways. While many may not consider "Jaws" to be a horror film nowadays it certainly made a killing (ha, get it) at the box office upon its release and even terrified viewers of ever going back to swim in the ocean. So we think it's safe to say that the film qualifies simply for that quality.
12. "The Witch" (2016)
Robert Eggers' feature film debut "The Witch" is seeping at the pores with style, terror, and themes that you can sink your teeth into. "The Witch" is a slow-burning period piece film that not only nails the detail of the time period it takes place in but it also with the characters themselves. Not only do the actors perfect the accents but the film is written with great attention and care to detail for how each character speaks to one another.
Eggers' direction solid but the amount of weight that the ensemble carries, especially Anya Taylor-Joy is magnificent. The actors are so good at projecting their fears and horrors onto one another that eventually, we can't decide whether we are more terrified of the witch or of what the family is going to do to one another. Trapped within such a limited physical space and being forced to interact with one another while everyone's emotions are at an all-time high and everyone is full of fear, is probably the scariest aspect of the film.
11. "The Cabin In The Woods" (2012)
As you can tell we are all fans of feature film debuts on this list. Drew Goddard's campy, cliche-filled horror film "The Cabin In The Woods" is so much fun and scary at the same time that it is almost difficult to not enjoy. Goddard's genius utilization of the 70's and 80's horror movie tropes into his and Joss Whedon's hysterical and demented script.
The film does offer up a lot of twists and turns within its not so layered script but it still is enjoyable beyond belief. The ensemble is perfect in their execution of the typical group of rambunctious teens with not a care in the world. It just is a simple, well made, entertaining film that is infinitely re-watchable.
10. "Rosemary's Baby" (1968)
Based upon the novel of the same name, Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" is a petrifying horror film that is more dramatic and intriguing than anything else. It creates such a palpable amount of discomfort and irritation between the film's ensemble and cast that it becomes claustrophobic in a way. Each character carries so much weight in terms of their ulterior motives and what their own thoughts about the situation are.
It is a genius character study and a masterclass in terms of how to block your actors in a single setting and also how these characters should be interacting with one another. It truly creates terror in the simplest of forms. Instead of trying to make us afraid of some terrifying otherworldly creature, it simply wants to remind us that we are all monsters deep down inside. And of course, it has one of the greatest endings to a film ever.
9. "The Thing" (1982)
Considered to be John Carpenter's commercial and critical failure at the time of release but has now found a new following and religion of sorts, "The Thing" is a film that makes you question how one ever saw it as incompetent or even poorly made. It crafts such a terrifying and bone-chilling atmosphere through its ice-cold setting, it will be hard to escape the images that Carpenter puts on display.
With brilliant use of practical effects to create some of the most horrifying monsters ever put on celluloid, "The Thing" is quite possibly the greatest body horror movie ever made and paved the way for many films to follow. Few filmmakers have captured the amazing humanity that resides within each frame of a John Carpenter film and "The Thing" shows us this humanity while also tearing it limb from limb.
8. "Get Out" (2017)
I know, another debut, but there are so many directors whose first film is a horror film and it is typically spectacular. A prime and recent example of this is Jordan Peele's socially relevant, darkly comedic and Oscar winning "Get Out." It perfectly mixes its comedic elements with its deeply haunting moments. The film's strongest element is its screenplay, with Peele hemming the script as well as directing he is able to command every element of his characters. He not only nails the character interaction but the pace at which his story moves along.
There is never a moment wasted nor is there ever a moment that drags on too long. He creates an atmosphere where something is always lurking in the shadows ready to strike. This creates such an unnerving feeling throughout the discourse of the film which makes its horror elements rather superb. It is a brilliant mix of horror and comedy, a genius debut, and incredibly deserving of its three nominations and one win.
7. "The Shining" (1980)
Based upon the Stephen King novel of the same name, Stanley Kubrick's horror entity "The Shining" is one that has seemed to stand the test of time for reasons different than most. While it does not remain entirely faithful to the source material, it still offers up some genuinely chilling moments. "The Shining" is a film where the pieces of the film offer up something greater than the entire whole. Filled to the brim with chilling and spine-tingling moments that you will never forget.
The blood elevator, the twins, the "here's Johnny" scene, so many iconic scenes and moments that are chiseled into cinema history. "The Shining" does create an atmosphere that is really special and really haunting. At the turn of the decade, nobody had ever seen anything of this caliber yet and it still holds up to this very day.
6. "Carrie" (1967)
Also based off of the Stephen King novel of the same name, "Carrie" is a film that is not only socially applicable but also just one hell of a watch. The film is shot incredibly well and has a bone-chilling score, but the two key components that make the film the masterpiece that it is are the performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie as well as the direction from Brian de Palma.
Sissy Spacek gives the greatest performance of her career with Carrie White. The innocence and rage that is building inside of her is put on full display and allows her to completely relish within this character. Piper Laurie is a wonderful counterpart in the supposed all-knowing and righteous mother of Margaret White. Brian de Palma's use of the camera as a watchful eye over the characters versus just a technical tool is stunning. Mix all of this in with a Stephen King source material and you have yourself a masterpiece.
5. "The Exorcist" (1973)
"The Exorcist" is a film that is considered to be sheer evil. When you watch this film you can quite literally feel the evil pouring off of the screen. The acting, the lighting, the scares, the editing, the script, everything. Each and every aspect of "The Exorcist" comes perfectly into play to create a once in a lifetime cinematic experience.
Performances from Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, the entire ensemble really are absolutely outstanding and with any one of them missing it would be a fault to the film. With so many different pieces constantly working with and off of one another, "The Exorcist" creates a perfect horror film. It is a once in a lifetime combination of brilliant direction from William Friedkin and a perfect screenplay from William Peter Blatty, creating a perfection concoction of religion, horror, and family.
4. "The Silence Of The Lambs" (1991)
A masterpiece delivered to us from the late great Jonathan Demme, "The Silence Of The Lambs" is quite possibly the most subtle horror film on this list. The horror of this film is delivered solely through dialogue. The way that characters interact and speak to each other is what causes us to be afraid as an audience. Anthony Hopkins' legendary performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter is not only sleek and intelligent but core shaking. His inflection when delivered dialogue or his subtle face changes or body language shifts, the film lives and dies by him.
Countering his performance is Jodie Foster who has never been better than she is here as the confident, yet inexperienced FBI cadet. She is able to command the screen each and every single time that she is on it. The film lives and dies by these two actors and their genius performances. "The Silence Of The Lambs" is a perfect study in how the two characters play off of one another and can quite literally carry an entire film on their backs.
3. Psycho (1960)
The original and one of the very first slasher films, Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is not only a classic but easily lands itself in one of the greatest films to have ever been made. Not only does Hitchcock command the screen with his striking and brilliant composition, but the amazing performances from Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles is also one of the greatest ever. Hitchcock made countless masterpieces in his career and this is just one of many.
With the classic shower scene, the violent and terrifying murders that had yet to ever be put on display in cinema yet, Hitchcock casually strolls into the genre and revolutionizes it, crafting something nobody was even remotely thinking of at the time, "Psycho" remains a magnum opus for Hitchcock and revolutionary to the horror genre as a whole.
2. "Halloween" (1978)
John Carpenter's magnum opus and also another classic slasher film that has not only stood the test of time but has inspired countless filmmakers to this very day, "Halloween" is an astounding horror film that is never boring nor ever not terrifying. Through the use of his own legendary score, the striking cinematography specifically the composition from Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey, "Halloween" is a crowd-pleaser through and through.
With an amazing performance from Jamie Lee Curtis and a subtle reserved performance from Donald Pleasance, "Halloween" has stood the test of time for 40 years and counting and will continuously be talked about for another 40. It is an emotionally taxing viewing, putting yourself in the shoes of Laurie Strode. It also is still downright terrifying even in 2018, with that blank empty stare from Michael Myers that will haunt audiences until the end of time.
1. "Scream" (1996)
We have finally arrived. After countless scares and endless nightmares, we have arrived at the ultimate consensus choice for Next Best Picture's horror selection and that is Wes Craven's "Scream." The late great Wes Craven has been crucial in creating so many of the cult and terrifying horror classics that we know of today and it's amazing how he was able to garner such a brilliant body of work. That work all culminates into his tongue in cheek masterpiece "Scream."
A film that practically invented the horror comedy genre and a film that is fondly remembered by just about everyone who has seen it, not only is the comedy aspect effective and genuinely funny but the play on horror tropes of the films that came before it are genius. Making fun of himself and the films that he had made, Craven took a step back with "Scream" and made something entirely different and utterly unforgettable.
Not only is the ensemble, led by Neve Campbell, outstanding but the story of the film is filled with many sharp turns and things that you never see coming. It creates a genuine fear in not only the killer but the stigma that the killer brings to the town. "Scream" is Next Best Picture's general consensus for the best horror movie of all time for its humor, horror, killer script, love of the genre, cast and more. It took all of the ingredients of the genre and presented something new that we had never seen before and haven't seen since.
What is your favorite horror film? Do you agree with out list? Let us know in the comments section below.
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09
Nomadland (15) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, CIC, GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NDFS, NSFC, SFBAFCC, StLFCA, TIFF, VENICE
Promising Young Woman (4) - COFCA, MCFCA, SCA, SDFCS
First Cow (2) - FFCC, NYFCC
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2) - CIC, PFCC
Minari (2) - NCFCA, OFCC
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (2) - DFCS, HFCS
Another Round - EFA
Da 5 Bloods - CIC
Small Axe - LAFCA
Chloé Zhao (21) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, COFCA, DFCS, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, LAFCA, MSFCA, NCFCA, NDFS, NSFC, NYFCC, OFCC, PFCC, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Spike Lee (2) - CIC, HFCS
Darius Marder - SCA
Andrew Patterson - GOTHAM
Thomas Vinterberg - EFA
Frances McDormand (12) - AWFJ, BOFCA, CFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, NDFS, NSFC, OFCC, SFBAFCC
Carey Mulligan (7) - COFCA, DFCS, HFCS, LAFCA, MCFCA, SCA, SDFCS, StLFCA
Viola Davis (2) - CIC, PFCC
Sidney Flanigan (2) - BSFC, NYFCC
Paula Beer - EFA
Nicole Beharie - GOTHAM
Riz Ahmed (8) - COFCA, GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, HFCS, NDFS, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS
Chadwick Boseman (8) - AWFJ, CFCA, CIC, DFCS, LAFCA, MSFCA, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Delroy Lindo (7) - BOFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, NSFC, NYFCC, PFCC
Anthony Hopkins (2) - BSFC, FFCC
Mads Mikkelsen - EFA
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Youn Yuh-jung (12) - AWFJ, BSFC, COFCA, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, MCFCA, NCFCA, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Maria Bakalaova (10) - BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, FFCC, HFCS, IFJA, MCFCA, NDFS, NSFC, NYFCC
Ellen Burstyn - DFCS
Olivia Cooke - HFCS
Amanda Seyfried - PFCC
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Raci (13) - BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, COFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, NSFC, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Sacha Baron Cohen (4) - DFCS, MCFCA, NCFCA, NDFS
Chadwick Boseman (3) - CIC, NYFCC, PFCC
Leslie Odom Jr. (3) - AWFJ, HFCS, IFJA
Glynn Turman - LAFCA
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nomadland (8) - AWFJ, CFCA, COFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, OFCC
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (4) - BOFCA, BSFC, FFCC, StLFCA
First Cow (3) - DFCS, PFCC, SFBAFCC
The Father (2) - SCA, SDFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - CIC
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Promising Young Woman (8) - AWFJ, CIC, COFCA, HFCS, LAFCA, NDFS, OFCC, StLFCA
Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (5) - CFCA, GWNYFCA, IFJA, NSFC, NYFCC
Minari (4) - FFCC, NCFCA, SDFCS, SFBAFCC
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (4) - CIC, DFCS, HFCS, MCFCA
Another Round - EFA
The Forty-Year-Old-Version - GOTHAM
Fourteen - GOTHAM
Nomadland (15) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, MCFCA, NCFCA, NDFS, NSFC, PFCC, SDFCS, StLFCA
Mank (3) - FFCC, OFCC, SCA
Small Axe (2) - LAFCA, NYFCC
First Cow - SFBAFCC
Hidden Away - EFA
Tenet - HFCS
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Emma. (2) - CFCA, SDFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2) - CIC, HFCS
Hidden Away - EFA
BEST FILM EDITING
Nomadland (6) - AWFJ, BOFCA, GWNYFCA, NDFS, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (4) - CIC, COFCA, HFCS, MCFCA
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (2) - BSFC, CFCA
The Invisible Man (2) - MCFCA, SDFCS
The Father - LAFCA
Once More Unto The Breach - EFA
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The Endless Trench - EFA
Mank - HFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - CIC
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Soul (13) - BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCS, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, LAFCA, NCFCA, OFCC, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Tenet (3) - IFJA, MCFCA, SCA
Mank (2) - HFCS, NDFS
Berlin Alexanderplatz - EFA
Minari - BSFC
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
One Night In Miami (5) - CIC, DFCS, HFCS, HFCS, MCFCA
Over The Moon - NDFS
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mank (9) - CFCA, CIC, FFCC, HFCS, LAFCA, MCFCA, NDFS, SDFCS, StLFCA
First Cow - SFBAFCC
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - EFA
Little Girl - EFA
Sound Of Metal - HFCS
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Tenet (6) - DFCS, HFCS, HFCS, NCFCA, SDFCS, StLFCA
The Invisible Man (2) - CFCA, CIC
The Platform - EFA
Possessor - FFCC
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Soul (14) - AWFJ, CCA, CIC, DFCS, FFCC, HFCS, IFJA, MSFCA, NCFCA, NDFS, OFCC, PFCC, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Wolfwalkers (7) - BOFCA, CFCA, COFCA, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NYFCC, SDFCS
Josep - EFA
The Wolf House - BSFC
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round (8) - AWFJ, CFCA, EFA, IFJA, MCFCA, NCFCA, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Minari (3) - COFCA, DFCS, GWNYFCA
Bacurau (2) - BOFCA, NYFCC
The Life Ahead (2) - HFCS, SDFCS
And Then We Danced - NDFS
A Sun - HFCS
Beanpole - LAFCA
Collective - NSFC
His House - CIC
Identifying Features - GOTHAM
Jumbo - PFCC
La Llorona - BSFC
Los Fuertes - FFCC
Martin Eden - OFCC
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Time (6) - GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NYFCC, PFCC, SDFCS
Dick Johnson Is Dead (5) - CCA, CFCA, COFCA, IFJA, NCFCA
Collective (4) - BSFC, EFA, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
Boys State (3) - CIC, DFCS, OFCC
All In: The Fight For Democracy (2) - AWFJ, NDFS
The Painter And The Thief (2) - AWFJ, BOFCA
Beastie Boys Story - HFCS
Crip Camp - IDA
My Octopus Teacher - HFCS
The Social Dilemma - MCFCA
A Thousand Cuts - GOTHAM
You Don't Nomi - FFCC