ByJancy Richardson, writer at Creators.co
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

It's a monster task to compile a list of the 50 greatest classic horror movies of the 20th century, and therefore it needs a little explanation. This is intended to be a kind of Horror 101; if you'd never seen a horror movie before in your life and wanted to have a quick, bloody education in this most terrifying of genres, this would be a good place to start.

Classic Horror Movies

Every serious horror fan will have seen every film in this list, every movie a classic in its own right. These movies spawned horror icons, grew horror history, pushed boundaries and caused controversy. It's not a list of personal favorites, rather a collection of the most culturally significant horror movies that were important for certain reasons both within their own timeline and the span of cinema history.

How many of the classic horror movies of the 20th century have you seen?

50. Nosferatu

  • Released: 1922
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Max Schreck as Count Orlok
  • Director: F.W. Murnau
  • Related Viewing: Häxan, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Horror classic Nosferatu is a masterpiece of shadows 'n' scares. Check it out!

















49. Dracula

  • Released: 1931
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Related Viewing: Vampyr, The Phantom of the Opera, The Black Cat

















48. Frankenstein

  • Released: 1931
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Boris Karloff as The Monster
  • Director: James Whale
  • Related Viewing: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man

47. Freaks

  • Released: 1932
  • Classic Horror Movie Controversy: Freaks was banned upon release, and was ultimately used as propaganda to introduce the censorship laws of 1934.
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Related Viewing: There's nothing contemporary quite like Freaks either thematically or stylistically, but American Horror Story: Freak Show draws heavily on the imagery and social commentary of Freaks.

46. King Kong

  • Released: 1933
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Fay Wray as Ann Darrow
  • Directors: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
  • Related Viewing: White Zombie















45. The Creature From the Black Lagoon

  • Released: 1954
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Gill-man
  • Director: Jack Arnold
  • Related Viewing: The Reptile

44. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

  • Released: 1956
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The movie was remade in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland, and is also heavily referenced in 1998's The Faculty.
  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Related Viewing: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Faculty, Plan 9 From Outer Space

















43. The Mummy

  • Released: 1959
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Christopher Lee as Kharis
  • Director: Terence Fisher
  • Related Viewing: You're always going to have a good time watching a Hammer Horror movie, with highlights including The Horror of Dracula and The Devil Rides Out.

42. Psycho

  • Released: 1960
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Related Viewing: Frenzy, Rope, The Birds

41. Peeping Tom

















40. Les Yeux Sans Visage

  • Released: 1960
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Possibly the finest 'mad scientist' movie ever made.
  • Director: Georges Franju
  • Related Viewing: The Skin I Live In

39. The Haunting

  • Released: 1963
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The Haunting was a box office hit as a remake in 1999
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Related Viewing: The Old Dark House, House on Haunted Hill

















38. Repulsion

  • Released: 1965
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Catherine Deneuve as Carole/Carol Ledoux
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Related Viewing: Belle de Jour, The Hunger

















37. Night of the Living Dead

  • Released: 1968
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: the modern zombie
  • Director: George Romero
  • Related Viewing: Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and just about any other zombie movie you can think of.

















36. Rosemary's Baby

  • Released: 1968
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Related Viewing: House of the Devil

















35. Suspiria

  • Released: 1977
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Lela Svasta as Mother Suspiriorum/Helena Markos
  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Related Viewing: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Opera

















34. The Last House on the Left

  • Released: 1972
  • Classic Horror Movie Controversy: LHOTL was caught up in the 'video nasty' scandal, which almost ruined his career. Years later, Hollywood came crawling back to ask his permission for a big-money remake.
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Related Viewing: Mother's Day

















33. The Wicker Man

  • Released: 1973
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle
  • Director: Robin Hardy
  • Related Viewing: Kill List, The Witch

















32. Don't Look Now

  • Released: 1973
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Adelina Poerio as The Dwarf
  • Director: Nic Roeg
  • Related Viewing: Walkabout, Picnic at Hanging Rock

















31. The Exorcist

  • Released: 1973
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Related Viewing: The Last Exorcism, The Taking of Deborah Logan

















30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  • Released: 1974
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Related Viewing: Several sequels

29. Jaws

  • Released: 1975
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: An animatronic as Jaws
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Related Viewing: Piranhas, Anaconda, Lake Placid, Deep Blue Sea

















28. Carrie

  • Released: 1976
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Sissy Spacek as Carrie White
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Related Viewing: Jennifer's Body

















27. The Omen

  • Released: 1976
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Harvey Spencer Stephens as Damien Thorn
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Related Viewing: The Omen II and III

















26. The Hills Have Eyes

  • Released: 1977
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Michael Berryman as Pluto
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Related viewing: Deliverance, Wrong Turn

















25. House

  • Released: 1977
  • Classic Horror Movie Madness: Imagine a Japanese acid trip video for The Monkees and you're halfway there... possibly the most deranged movie ever made.
  • Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • Related Viewing: The Happiness of the Katakuris, Uzumaki

24. Halloween

  • Released: 1978
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Related Viewing: several marvelous sequels

See Also:

23. Alien

  • Released: 1979
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley (and H.R. Giger's Alien)
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Related Viewing: Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Prometheus

22. The Amityville Horror

  • Released: 1979
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Jay Anson's original novel of The Amityville Horror was supposedly based on a real life haunting.
  • Director: Stuart Rosenberg
  • Related Viewing: Several sequels and movies like The Conjuring

21. I Spit On Your Grave

  • Released: 1978
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills
  • Director: Meir Zarchi
  • Related Viewing: Post-2000 reboots I Spit On Your Grave I, II and III

20. Phantasm

  • Released: 1979
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man
  • Director: Don Coscarelli
  • Related Viewing: Phantasm II, III, IV and Phantasm V: Ravager

19. Cannibal Holocaust

  • Released: 1980
  • Classic Horror Movie Controversy: The gruesome SFX were so extreme that the director was hauled into court on suspicion of having actually killed members of the cast.
  • Director: Ruggero Deodato
  • Related Viewing: Cannibal Ferox, Mondo Cannibale

18. Friday the 13th

  • Released: 1980
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Betsy Palmer as Mrs Voorhees, as well as the legend of Jason Voorhees
  • Director: Sean S. Cunningham
  • Related Viewing: 11 sequels and counting

See Also:

17. The Shining

  • Released: 1980
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, Lisa & Louise Burns as The Grady Twins
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Related Viewing: Room 237

See Jack Nicholson and other horror icons in rare behind the scenes footage.

16. Sleepaway Camp

  • Released: 1983
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Felissa Rose as Angela
  • Director: Robert Hiltzik
  • Related Viewing: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

15. Evil Dead

  • Released: 1981
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Bruce Campbell as Ash
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Related Viewing: Evil Dead 2 & 3

14. Poltergeist

  • Released: 1982
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Related Viewing: Drag Me To Hell

13. The Thing

  • Released: 1982
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The Thing is a remake of the earlier 1951 movie, but was itself remade in 2010.
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Related Viewing: The Fly, The Last Winter

12. Nightmare on Elm Street

  • Released: 1984
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Related Viewing: There were seven excellent sequels before a rather unpopular remake in 2010.

See Also:

11. Re-Animator

  • Released: 1985
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Related Viewing: Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator

10. Hellraiser

  • Released: 1987
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Doug Bradley as 'Pinhead'
  • Director: Clive Barker
  • Related Viewing: Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions

9. Misery

  • Released: 1987
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
  • Director: Rob Reiner
  • Related Viewing: Pet Sematary, Tommyknockers

8. Child's Play

  • Released: 1988
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Brad Dourif as Chucky
  • Director: Tom Holland
  • Related Viewing: Dolls, Puppet Master, Leprechaun

7. It

  • Released: 1990
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Tim Curry as Pennywise
  • Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Related Viewing: Clown, Stitches

Is Pennywise the scariest ever horror movie clown? Check out his contenders...

See Also:

6. The Silence of the Lambs

  • Released: 1991
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Related Viewing: Manhunter, Hannibal, Deranged

See Also:

5. Candyman

  • Released: 1992
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Tony Todd as the Candyman
  • Director: Bernard Rose
  • Related Viewing: Midnight Meat Train

4. Scream

  • Released: 1996
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Ghostface, Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Related Viewing: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Valentine, Urban Legend

See Also:

















3. Funny Games

  • Released: 1997
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Funny Games went meta and broke the fourth wall on us, influencing future smart horrors that played with our expectations.
  • Director: Michael Haneke
  • Related Viewing: The Last Horror Movie, Cabin in the Woods















2. Ring

  • Released: 1998
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Rie Inō as Sadako Yamamura
  • Director: Hideo Nakata
  • Related Viewing: The Grudge, The Eye, Dark Water















1. Blair Witch Project

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