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 best classic horror movies of all time, and therefore it needs a little explanation. This is intended to be a kind of 20th Century 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 list of the top classic horror movies ever made would be a good place to start.

Every serious horror fan will have seen every film in this list, every movie a must-see classic in its own right. Good classic horror movies spawned 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 these popular classic horror flicks of the 20th century have you seen? And which classic horror film are you going to watch next?

50. Nosferatu

[Credit: Prana Film]
[Credit: Prana Film]
  • Released: 1922
  • Director: F.W. Murnau
  • Cast: Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff
  • Related Viewing: Häxan, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
  • IMDb score: 8.0/10

49. Dracula

[Credit: Universal]
[Credit: Universal]
  • Released: 1931
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Cast: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners
  • Related Viewing: Vampyr, The Phantom of the Opera, The Black Cat
  • IMDb score: 7.6/10

48. Frankenstein

[Credit: Universal]
[Credit: Universal]
  • Released: 1931
  • Director: James Whale
  • Cast: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff
  • Related Viewing: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man
  • IMDb score: 7.9/10

47. Freaks

[Credit: MGM]
[Credit: MGM]
  • Released: 1932
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Cast: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova
  • Classic Horror Movie Controversy: Freaks was banned upon release, and was ultimately used as propaganda to introduce the censorship laws of 1934.
  • 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.
  • IMDb score: 7.9/10

46. King Kong

 [Credit: Radio Pictures]
[Credit: Radio Pictures]
  • Released: 1933
  • Directors: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
  • Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot
  • Related Viewing: White Zombie
  • IMDb score: 7.9/10

45. The Creature From the Black Lagoon

[Credit: Universal]
[Credit: Universal]
  • Released: 1954
  • Director: Jack Arnold
  • Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning
  • Related Viewing: The Reptile
  • IMDb score: 7.0/10

44. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

[Credit: Allied Artists Pictures]
[Credit: Allied Artists Pictures]
  • Released: 1956
  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The movie was remade in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland, and is also heavily referenced in 1998's The Faculty.
  • Related Viewing: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Faculty, Plan 9 From Outer Space
  • IMDb score: 7.8/10

43. The Mummy

[Credit: Hammer Film]
[Credit: Hammer Film]
  • Released: 1959
  • Director: Terence Fisher
  • Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux
  • 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.
  • IMDb score: 6.8/10

42. Psycho

[Credit: Paramount Pictures]
[Credit: Paramount Pictures]
  • Released: 1960
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
  • Related Viewing: Frenzy, Rope, The Birds
  • IMDb score: 8.5/10

41. Peeping Tom

[Credit: Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors]
[Credit: Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors]
  • Released: 1960
  • Director: Michael Powell
  • Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer
  • Classic Horror Movie Controversy: Peeping Tom so upset the public that it destroyed director Michael Powell's career.
  • Related Viewing: Dressed to Kill, Body Double
  • IMDb score: 7.7/10

40. Les Yeux Sans Visage

 [Credit: Lux Film]
[Credit: Lux Film]
  • Released: 1960
  • Director: Georges Franju
  • Cast: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Possibly the finest 'mad scientist' movie ever made.
  • Related Viewing: The Skin I Live In
  • IMDb score: 7.8/10

39. The Haunting

[Credit: DreamWorks Pictures]
[Credit: DreamWorks Pictures]
  • Released: 1963
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Cast: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The Haunting was a box office hit as a remake in 1999
  • Related Viewing: The Old Dark House, House on Haunted Hill
  • IMDb score: 7.6/10

38. Repulsion

 [Credit: Compton Films]
[Credit: Compton Films]
  • Released: 1965
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
  • Related Viewing: Belle de Jour, The Hunger
  • IMDb score: 7.8/10

37. Night of the Living Dead

[Credit: Continental Distributing]
[Credit: Continental Distributing]
  • Released: 1968
  • Director: George Romero
  • Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: the modern zombie
  • Related Viewing: Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and just about any other zombie movie you can think of.
  • IMDb score: 7.9/10

36. Rosemary's Baby

 [Credit: Paramount Pictures]
[Credit: Paramount Pictures]
  • Released: 1968
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
  • Related Viewing: House of the Devil
  • IMDb score: 8.0/10

35. Suspiria

 [Credit: Seda Spettacoli]
[Credit: Seda Spettacoli]
  • Released: 1977
  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci
  • Related Viewing: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Opera
  • IMDb score: 7.5/10

34. The Last House on the Left

[Credit: Hallmark Releasing]
[Credit: Hallmark Releasing]
  • Released: 1972
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David Hess
  • 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.
  • Related Viewing: Mother's Day
  • IMDb score: 6.0/10

33. The Wicker Man

[Credit: British Lion Films]
[Credit: British Lion Films]
  • Released: 1973
  • Director: Robin Hardy
  • Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento
  • Related Viewing: Kill List, The Witch
  • IMDb score: 7.6/10

32. Don't Look Now

[Credit: British Lion Films]
[Credit: British Lion Films]
  • Released: 1973
  • Director: Nic Roeg
  • Cast: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason
  • Related Viewing: Walkabout, Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • IMDb score: 7.3/10

31. The Exorcist

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Released: 1973
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
  • Related Viewing: The Last Exorcism, The Taking of Deborah Logan
  • IMDb score: 8.0/10

30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

[Credit: Bryanston Pictures]
[Credit: Bryanston Pictures]
  • Released: 1974
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Cast: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
  • Related Viewing: Several sequels
  • IMDb score: 7.5/10

29. Jaws

 [Credit: Universal Pictures]
[Credit: Universal Pictures]
  • Released: 1975
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
  • Related Viewing: Piranhas, Anaconda, Lake Placid, Deep Blue Sea
  • IMDb score: 8.0/10

28. Carrie

[Credit: United Artists]
[Credit: United Artists]
  • Released: 1976
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
  • Related Viewing: Jennifer's Body
  • IMDb score: 7.4/10

27. The Omen

[Credit: 20th Century Fox]
[Credit: 20th Century Fox]
  • Released: 1976
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens
  • Related Viewing: The Omen II and III
  • IMDb score: 7.6/10

26. The Hills Have Eyes

[Credit: Blood Relations Co.]
[Credit: Blood Relations Co.]
  • Released: 1977
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston, John Steadman
  • Related viewing: Deliverance, Wrong Turn
  • IMDb score: 6.4/10

25. House

[Credit: Toho]
[Credit: Toho]
  • Released: 1977
  • Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba
  • 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.
  • Related Viewing: The Happiness of the Katakuris, Uzumaki
  • IMDb score: 7.3/10

24. Halloween

[Credit: Compass]
[Credit: Compass]
  • Released: 1978
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
  • Related Viewing: several marvelous sequels
  • IMDb score: 7.9/10

23. Alien

[Credit: 20th Century Fox]
[Credit: 20th Century Fox]
  • Released: 1979
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
  • Related Viewing: Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Prometheus
  • IMDb score: 8.5/10

22. The Amityville Horror

[Credit: American International Pictures]
[Credit: American International Pictures]
  • Released: 1979
  • Director: Stuart Rosenberg
  • Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Jay Anson's original novel of The Amityville Horror was supposedly based on a real life haunting.
  • Related Viewing: Several sequels and movies like The Conjuring
  • IMDb score: 6.2/10

21. I Spit On Your Grave

[Credit: Cinemagic]
[Credit: Cinemagic]
  • Released: 1978
  • Director: Meir Zarchi
  • Cast: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace
  • Related Viewing: Post-2000 reboots I Spit On Your Grave I, II and III
  • IMDb score: 5.7/10

20. Phantasm

[Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures]
[Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures]
  • Released: 1979
  • Director: Don Coscarelli
  • Cast: A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister
  • Related Viewing: Phantasm II, III, IV and Phantasm V: Ravager
  • IMDb score: 6.9/10

19. Cannibal Holocaust

[Credit: United Artists Europa]
[Credit: United Artists Europa]
  • Released: 1980
  • Director: Ruggero Deodato
  • Cast: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen
  • 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.
  • Related Viewing: Cannibal Ferox, Mondo Cannibale
  • IMDb score: 6.0/10

18. Friday the 13th

[Credit: Paramount]
[Credit: Paramount]
  • Released: 1980
  • Director: Sean S. Cunningham
  • Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor
  • Related Viewing: 11 sequels and counting
  • IMDb score: 6.5/10

17. The Shining

[Credit: Warner Bros.]
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Released: 1980
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
  • Related Viewing: Room 237
  • IMDb score: 8.4/10

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

16. Sleepaway Camp

[Credit: United Film Distribution Company]
[Credit: United Film Distribution Company]
  • Released: 1983
  • Director: Robert Hiltzik
  • Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields
  • Related Viewing: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
  • IMDb score: 6.3/10

15. Evil Dead

[Credit: New Line Cinema]
[Credit: New Line Cinema]
  • Released: 1981
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
  • Related Viewing: Evil Dead 2 & 3
  • IMDb score: 7.5/10

14. Poltergeist

[Credit: MGM]
[Credit: MGM]
  • Released: 1982
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Cast: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
  • Related Viewing: Drag Me To Hell
  • IMDb score: 7.4/10

13. The Thing

 [Credit: Universal Pictures]
[Credit: Universal Pictures]
  • Released: 1982
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
  • Classic Horror Movie History: The Thing is a remake of the earlier 1951 movie, but was itself remade in 2010.
  • Related Viewing: The Fly, The Last Winter
  • IMDb score: 8.2/10

12. Nightmare on Elm Street

 [Credit: New Line Cinema]
[Credit: New Line Cinema]
  • Released: 1984
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
  • Related Viewing: There were seven excellent sequels before a rather unpopular remake in 2010.
  • IMDb score: 7.5/10

11. Re-Animator

 [Credit: Empire International Pictures]
[Credit: Empire International Pictures]
  • Released: 1985
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
  • Related Viewing: Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator
  • IMDb score: 7.2/10

10. Hellraiser

[Credit: New World Pictures]
[Credit: New World Pictures]
  • Released: 1987
  • Director: Clive Barker
  • Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
  • Related Viewing: Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions
  • IMDb score: 7.0/10

9. Misery

[Credit: Columbia Pictures]
[Credit: Columbia Pictures]
  • Released: 1987
  • Director: Rob Reiner
  • Cast: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth
  • Related Viewing: Pet Sematary, Tommyknockers
  • IMDb score: 7.8/10

8. Child's Play

[Credit: United Artists]
[Credit: United Artists]
  • Released: 1988
  • Director: Tom Holland
  • Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent
  • Related Viewing: Dolls, Puppet Master, Leprechaun
  • IMDb score: 6.5/10

7. It

 [Credit: WBTV]
[Credit: WBTV]
  • Released: 1990
  • Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Cast: Richard Thomas, Tim Reid, Annette O'Toole
  • IMDb score: 6.9/10
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Tim Curry as Pennywise
  • Related Viewing: Clown, Stitches

6. The Silence of the Lambs

[Credit: Orion Pictures]
[Credit: Orion Pictures]
  • Released: 1991
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Hannibal Lecter
  • Related Viewing: Manhunter, Hannibal, Deranged
  • IMDb score: 8.6/10

5. Candyman

[Credit: TriStar Pictures]
[Credit: TriStar Pictures]
  • Released: 1992
  • Director: Bernard Rose
  • Cast: Virginia Madsen, Xander Berkeley, Tony Todd
  • Related Viewing: Midnight Meat Train
  • IMDb score: 6.6/10

4. Scream

 [Credit: Dimension]
[Credit: Dimension]
  • Released: 1996
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
  • Related Viewing: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Valentine, Urban Legend
  • IMDb score: 7.2/10

3. Funny Games

 [Credit: Wega Film]
[Credit: Wega Film]
  • Released: 1997
  • Director: Michael Haneke
  • Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Funny Games went meta and broke the fourth wall on us, influencing future smart horrors that played with our expectations.
  • Related Viewing: The Last Horror Movie, Cabin in the Woods
  • IMDb score: 7.6/10

2. Ring

 [Credit: Toho]
[Credit: Toho]
  • Released: 1998
  • Director: Hideo Nakata
  • Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi
  • Classic Horror Movie Icon: Rie Inō as Sadako Yamamura
  • Related Viewing: The Grudge, The Eye, Dark Water
  • IMDb score: 7.3/10

1. Blair Witch Project

[Credit: Artisan Entertainment]
[Credit: Artisan Entertainment]
  • Released: 1999
  • Director: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
  • Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
  • Classic Horror Movie History: Blair Witch Project was the first horror movie to popularize the found footage technique.
  • Related Viewing: Paranormal Activity, V/H/S
  • IMDb score: 6.4/10

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