ByCharlie Ridgely, writer at Creators.co
Writer, Creator, All-Around Film Nerd
Charlie Ridgely

If you can't tell from my other posts, I really love the horror genre. From spooky to slasher, I'm always the one voting to pop in the scary movies. There have been some great Horror movies over the years, and I've liked a lot of them. There have also been some really bad ones that none of us really enjoyed. Either way, there is no shortage of quality horror films readily available with the click of a mouse. With Halloween just a few days away, I wanted to take some time to celebrate the films that made all the others possible. The six movies that changed the course of cinema, and birthed an entire genre. In one way or another, these six movies altered the course of horror, and changed it for the better. If you're looking for a classic this Halloween season, or maybe you're new to the genre as a whole and looking for somewhere to start. These six films are where it all began, and where you wanna be.

Psycho (1960) dir. by Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho
Psycho

The O.G. horror flick. This movie really began the modern horror movement. Hitchcock made a lot of creepy movies before Psycho, but this was his masterpiece. Audiences in 1960 had experienced thrills, but nothing they had seen before could prepare them for a true dive into the mind of a serial killer. This movie took some concepts from Shakespeare, put them in a motel, and proceeded to give everyone the willies. We can still watch this movie 55 years later and be scared at times. Psycho is the definition of a classic.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

Psycho gave us a lot of firsts. This was our first foray into the actual psychosis of a serial killer. Before Norman Bates there was no such thing as a famous movie killer. He paved the way for characters like Jason and Michael Myers to actually be the popular antagonists they are today. This film also birthed the Scream Queen. Terror and an absolute killer scream had never been glorified in film until Janet Leigh brought us that infamous shower scene we all know so well. Leigh even got an Oscar nod for the role. That shower scene also gave us one of the earliest, and best, POV scenes in horror. Giving the audience the eyes of the killer changed everything we knew about terror.

The Exorcist (1973) dir. by William Friedkin

The Exorcist
The Exorcist

Friedkin set out to frighten us, and he's still doing it over 40 years later. From the head turning, to the Holy Water throwing, this film had audiences queasy from start to finish. When we watch a little girl turn demonic, something inside us just tells us that evil is very real, and that creates a fear in us that cannot be ignored. To this day, many people still regard The Exorcist as the scariest movie they've ever seen.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

Horror and character development had never really mixed up to this point. There were scares, and sometimes great plots, but never characters that really drew you in. William Peter Blatty did such an incredible job of bringing dramatic cinematic writing into the horror genre for the very first time. The Exorcist is part of the reason we hate stereotypical horror characters so much, because this film showed us that we can do so much better. In addition to Blatty's Oscar for best screenplay, The Exorcist was nominated for nine other Academy awards. Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor among them, this film remains the only horror movie to ever be recognized by the Academy with such esteem. This was also one of the first chances audiences really had to dive into the supernatural. There had been ghost stories before, but The Exorcist dove into demon possession head first, and really opened the gates for a lot of movies to come after.

Halloween (1978) dir. by John Carpenter

Halloween
Halloween

Not only was it the first, but Halloween still remains arguably the greatest slasher to this day. Between the believable and terrifying story of Michael's escape and the incredible performance of Jamie Lee Curtis, this movie became difficult to ignore. For the first time, you saw teens that you related to being chased down and eliminated in a place that wasn't scary at all, their own neighborhoods. Other films took you to terrifying places, while Halloween showed you that home can be just as frightening.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

With Halloween, the slasher genre was born. You could argue that Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the original slasher, but I disagree. Yes, TCM had elements of what came to be the slasher, but was more like a southern version of Norman Bates than what we know as slashers today. With Halloween, all of the stereotypes were created. You had the single killer chasing down teens with the tense music following him. You had the couple having sex brutally killed to send a message while the virgin narrowly escapes, becoming the famous final girl. Even the ending was copied for generations. The killer being caught and seemingly killed, only to disappear out of thin air to one day kill again. Have you ever seen any other slasher movie? Almost everything in it came from Halloween. To top it off, while other slashers are fun and campy, Halloween was actually scary. Michael Myers was a topic of teen nightmares for years to come.

Alien (1979) dir. by Ridley Scott

Alien
Alien

Sigourney Weaver might be the only female in modern horror more recognizable than Jamie Lee Curtis. Her performance as Ripley was of a knockout caliber, and sent an already great film into another dimension. Ridley Scott created a world, far from ours, that could still frighten us lightyears away. While most horror films were trying to find a way to root evil as close to home as possible, Scott decided to go the opposite direction and make fear even more believable.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

Alien was one of the most suspenseful movies ever made. It found a way to take darkness, add stress, and propel us all to the edge of our seats. The sharp contrast of the darkness of space and the light of the stars set an eerie mood that pulled audiences in from the opening minutes of the film. When you see films with creatures or killers hiding in the shadows nearby, a lot of those concepts came from Alien. Not only did Ridley Scott give suspense a new level, but he brought monsters back with a vengeance. Without Alien, films like The Thing and Predator don't have an audience already waiting for more. Possibly the biggest impact Alien had on the horror genre, was the ability to cross it over with science fiction. With the Star Wars hype at an all time high, Alien was able to take the nerd crowd and show them a type of horror that they could enjoy as well. It was the first time we saw two major fanbases collide and actually be successful in doing so.

The Shining (1980) dir. by Stanley Kubrick

The Shining
The Shining

What is there to say about this movie??? Anyone who enjoys horror will always reference this film as one of their favorites, as well as one of the all-time greats. While Kubrick was hated for his perfectionism, it brought us a visual masterpiece. This film took a place of beauty and grace, like the Overlook Hotel, and made it into a psychotic killing field. And we all bought in. Jack Nicholson delivered one of the best performances of his career, which is saying something, and Kubrick brought us stunning visuals that we still remember to this day.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

The Shining might be the most ripped off film in horror history. While most slashers took from Halloween, most films in general took from The Shining. We have seen the iconic "Here's Johnny" line duplicated in numerous films, as well as the hotel setting beaten like a dead horse. Even the carpet has been a replicated in order to instill fear. Just this season in American Horror Story, the majority of the Hotel Cortez was copied off of the Overlook, and for obvious reasons. Take a look!

American Horror Story: Hotel
American Horror Story: Hotel

The Shining was also one of the first horror films to shake things up below the surface. Behind every door, number, or line of dialogue in the film, Kubrick had a plan. Whether it be to bring us fears we weren't aware of or to fake the moon landing, Stanley Kubrick put so much more than a story into The Shining. One could argue that many of Christopher Nolan's films, while not horror, take this very style from Kubrick. You could even go as far as to say Inception wouldn't have been the same, or even happened, without the tedious detail of The Shining.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) dir. by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez

Blair Witch Project
Blair Witch Project

While The Blair Witch Project is easily the weakest film on this list, it isn't without it's upside. The idea to produce a film with next to nothing, and market it as reality went against everything Hollywood believed in. A couple of young filmmakers played off of an old urban legend and did their best to get others to believe in the terror they were creating. Much to everyone's surprise, it worked. It worked really, really, well.

WHY IT'S INFLUENTIAL

This filmed birthed an entire sub-genre; found footage. Much like Halloween, this film turned horror on it's head and created an original concept that would be copied for years and years to come. Just the marketing alone was enough to scare most people. A year before the release, this film was shown to select audiences under the pretense that it was actual footage that had been found by the police. For a long time, people thought this movie was actually real, and that's what made it so frightening. Many were scared to go in the woods because they believed the Blair Witch really existed, and that she had killed three young filmmakers. Much of the direction, and marketing, was directly copied in 2009's Paranormal Activity. If you didn't know this already, Paranormal Activity is the highest grossing film franchise OF ALL TIME. Billions of dollars, and who does Oren Peli have to thank? That franchise, along with films like Cloverfield, V/H/S, and countless others, never would have happened without The Blair Witch Project.

Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity

Poll

Which one do you think is the most influential? Did I miss one? Tell me in the comments or write your own post!

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