Thursday, October 18, 2018


In 2006, over the course of a few weeks and with the help of fellow fiends online and off, I put together what I felt was a list of essential horror films, a “Horror Primer,” if you will, that I hoped would be useful to newcomers to the genre. These films, ranging from the early silent years to the turn of the 21st century, provided what I felt was a path, one that would lead horror fans through a variety of subgenres and influential figures that had shaped the course of onscreen fright. I was also quick to note that these were in no way meant to represent “THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF ALL TIME,” but merely the ones that had made a significant impact on the genre in some fashion.

That list, substantiated by 101 accompanying essays from horror fans around the globe, eventually found its way into print form in late 2007, under the amazing colossal title, HORROR 101: The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies, Vol. 1. (Midnight Marquee Press). I served as editor for the project, giving birth to my Dr. AC alter ego in the process.

For years, I have been reluctant to post said list online because a) I did not want to devalue our literary efforts and b) did the world really need another “essential horror” list out there? But now, with most horror fans getting their intel through the internet and H101 having been out in the world for over a decade, it seems na├»ve and small-minded not to Share the Scare™ with as wide an audience as possible. (I have expanded the list into the 2000s, although it remains to be seen how many of these will be significant in years to come, or if other, lesser-known titles will rise to take their place.)

Again, these are NOT the best horror films ever made, nor a list of my personal favorites. Below you will find titles that in my estimation have made a substantial impact on the genre in one fashion or another, ones worthy of any seasoned horror fan’s time. Experiencing these offerings firsthand, you will become familiar with a wide array of fright flicks and be able to hold your own in conversation with any like-minded aficionado. (Whether you like or dislike the movies in question is, of course, up to you. Such is the stuff of which impassioned late-night geek-outs are made.)

As always, I welcome discussion regarding any films listed as well as those omitted. One of the great things about the internet is that oversights can be amended and opinions altered, so don’t be shy. I look forward to your thoughts.



The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) d. Robert Weine (Germany)
Der Golem (1920) d. Paul Wegener (Germany)
Nosferatu (1922) d. F. W. Murnau (Germany)
Haxan (1922) d. Benjamin Christensen (Sweden)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) d. Wallace Worsley (USA)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) d. Rupert Julian (USA)


Dracula (1931) d. Tod Browning (USA)
Frankenstein (1931) d. James Whale (USA)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) d. Rouben Mamoulian (USA)
Freaks (1932) d. Tod Browning (USA)
The Mummy (1932) d. Karl Freund (USA)
White Zombie (1932) d. Victor Halperin (USA)
The Invisible Man (1933) d. James Whale (USA)
Island of Lost Souls (1932) d. Erle C. Kenton (USA)
King Kong (1933) d. Ernest B. Schoedsack (USA)
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) d. Michael Curtiz (USA)
The Black Cat (1934) d. Edgar G. Ulmer (USA)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) d. James Whale (USA)
Mad Love (1935) d. Karl Freund (USA)


The Wolf Man (1941) d. George Waggner (USA)
Cat People (1942) d. Jacques Tourneur (USA)
I Walked With a Zombie (1943) d. Jacques Tourneur (USA)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) d. Roy William Neill (USA)
The Uninvited (1944) d. Lewis Allen (USA) d. Lewis Allen (USA)
The Body Snatcher (1945) d. Robert Wise (USA)
Dead of Night (1945) d. Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Deardon, Robert Hamer (UK)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) d. Charles Barton (USA)


The Thing from Another World (1951) d. Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (USA)
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) d. Eugene Lourie (USA)
House of Wax (1953) d. Andre De Toth (USA)
War of the Worlds (1953) d. Byron Haskin (USA)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) d. Jack Arnold (USA)
Them! (1954) d. Gordon Douglas (USA)
Gojira (1954) d. Ishiro Honda (Japan) and Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) d. Ishiro Honda, Terry O. Morse (Japan/USA)
Diabolique (1955) d. Henri-Georges Clouzot (France)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) d. Don Siegel (USA)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) d. Terence Fisher (UK)
Curse of the Demon aka Night of the Demon (1957) d. Jacques Tourneur (UK)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) d. Jack Arnold (USA)
The Fly (1958) d. Kurt Neumann (USA)
Dracula aka Horror of Dracula (1958) d. Terence Fisher (UK)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) d. Nathan Juran (USA)
The Blob (1958) d. Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. (USA)
Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) d. Edward D. Wood, Jr. (USA)
House on Haunted Hill (1959) d. William Castle (USA)


Black Sunday (1960) d. Mario Bava (Italy)
Eyes Without a Face (1960) d. Georges Franju (France)
House of Usher (1960) d. Roger Corman (USA)
Peeping Tom (1960) d. Michael Powell (UK)
Psycho (1960) d. Alfred Hitchcock (USA)
Village of the Damned (1960) d. Wolf Rilla (UK)
The Innocents (1961) d. Jack Clayton (UK)
Carnival of Souls (1962) d. Herk Harvey (USA)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) d. Robert Aldrich (USA)
The Birds (1963) d. Alfred Hitchcock (USA)
Blood Feast (1963) d. Herschell Gordon Lewis (USA)
The Haunting (1963) d. Robert Wise (UK/USA)
Blood and Black Lace (1964) d. Mario Bava (Italy
Kwaidan (1964) d. Masaki Kobayashi (Japan)
The Masque of the Red Death (1964) d. Roger Corman (USA)
Onibaba (1964) d. Kaneto Shindo (Japan)
Repulsion (1965) d. Roman Polanski (UK)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) d. Roman Polanski (USA)
Night of the Living Dead (1968) d. George A. Romero (USA)
Witchfinder General (1968) d. Michael Reeves (UK)


Tales from the Crypt (1972) d. Freddie Francis (UK)
The Last House on the Left (1972) d. Wes Craven (USA)
The Wicker Man (1973) d. Robin Hardy (UK)
The Exorcist (1973) d. William Friedkin (USA)
Black Christmas (1974) d. Bob Clark (Canada)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) d. Tobe Hooper (USA)
Deep Red (1975) d. Dario Argento (Italy)
Jaws (1975) d. Steven Spielberg (USA)
Shivers (1975) d. David Cronenberg (Canada)
The Stepford Wives (1975) d. Bryan Forbes (USA)
Carrie (1976) d. Brian De Palma (USA)
The Omen (1976) d. Richard Donner (USA)
Martin (1977) d. George A. Romero (USA)
Suspiria (1977) d. Dario Argento (Italy)
Dawn of the Dead (1978) d. George A. Romero (USA)
Eraserhead (1978) d. David Lynch (USA)
Halloween (1978) d. John Carpenter (USA)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) d. Philip Kaufman (USA)
Alien (1979) d. Ridley Scott (UK/USA)
Phantasm (1979) d. Don Coscarelli (USA)
Zombi (1979) d. Lucio Fulci (Italy)


Cannibal Holocaust (1980) d. Ruggero Deodato (Italy)
Friday the 13th (1980) d. Sean S. Cunningham (USA)
The Shining (1980) d. Stanley Kubrick (USA)
An American Werewolf in London (1981) d. John Landis (USA)
The Beyond (1981) d. Lucio Fulci (Italy)
The Evil Dead (1981, released 1983) d. Sam Raimi (USA)
The Howling (1981) d. Joe Dante (USA)
Creepshow (1982) d. George A. Romero (USA)
Poltergeist (1982) d. Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg (USA)
The Thing (1982) d. John Carpenter (USA)
Videodrome (1983) d. David Cronenberg (Canada)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) d. Wes Craven (USA)
The Terminator (1984) d. James Cameron (USA)
Re-Animator (1985) d. Stuart Gordon (USA)
Return of the Living Dead (1985) d. Dan O’ Bannon (USA)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986, released 1990) d. John McNaughton (USA)
The Fly (1986) d. David Cronenberg (USA)
Aliens (1986) d. James Cameron (USA)
Hellraiser (1987) d. Clive Barker (UK)
Evil Dead II (1987) d. Sam Raimi (USA)
Child’s Play (1988) d. Tom Holland (USA)


Jacob’s Ladder (1990) d. Adrian Lyne (USA)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) d. Jonathan Demme (USA)
Candyman (1992) d. Bernard Rose (USA)
Jurassic Park (1993) d. Steven Spielberg (USA)
Se7en (1995) d. David Fincher (USA)
Scream (1996) d. Wes Craven (USA)
Ringu (1998) d. Hideo Nakata (Japan)
The Blair Witch Project (1999) d. Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez (USA)
The Sixth Sense (1999) d. M. Night Shyamalan (USA)


Battle Royale (2000) d. Kinji Fukasaku (Japan)
Final Destination (2000) d. James Wong (USA)
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) d. Takashi Shimizu (Japan)
Resident Evil (2002) d. Paul W. S. Anderson (UK/Germany/USA)
28 Days Later (2002) d. Danny Boyle (UK)
House of 1000 Corpses (2003) d. Rob Zombie (USA)
High Tension (2003) d. Alexandre Aja (France)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) d. Marcus Nispel (USA)
Saw (2004) d. James Wan (USA)
Hostel (2004) d. Eli Roth (USA)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) d. Edgar Wright (UK)
The Descent (2005) d. Neil Jordan (UK)
The Devil’s Rejects (2005) d. Rob Zombie (USA)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) d. Scott Derrickson) (USA)
Wolf Creek (2005) d. Greg McLean (Australia)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) d. Guillermo del Toro (Spain)
Inside (2007) d. Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury (France)
Halloween (2007) d. Rob Zombie (USA)
The Mist (2007) d. Frank Darabont (USA)
The Orphanage (2007) d. Juan A. Bayona (Spain)
Paranormal Activity (2007, released 2011) d. Oren Peli (USA)
[Rec] (2007) d. Juame Balaguero, Paco Plaza (Spain)
Trick ’r Treat (2007) d. Michael Dougherty (USA)
Let the Right One In (2008) d. Tomas Alfredson (Sweden)
Pontypool (2008) d. Bruce Macdonald (Canada)
Twilight (2008) d. Catherine Hardwicke (USA)


Stake Land (2010) d. Jim Mickle (USA)
The Human Centipede (2010) d. Tom Six (Netherlands)
Cabin in the Woods (2012) d. Drew Goddard (USA)
V/H/S (2012) d. David Bruckner, Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West (USA)
The Conjuring (2013) d. James Wan (USA)
The Purge (2013) d. James DeMonaco (USA)
The Babadook (2014) d. Jennifer Kent (Australia)
It Follows (2015) d. David Robert Mitchell (USA)
The VVitch (2015) d. Robert Eggers (UK/USA)
Get Out (2017) d. Jordan Peele (USA)




  1. Do you think any 2018 movies make the list, like A Quiet Place or Hereditary?

    1. Great question!

      Personally, I don't think A Quiet Place is a strong enough film to become an enduring classic (unless they start making sequels, which, please god don't...) But I absolutely feel like Hereditary will be one that will stand the test of time, if only for Toni Collette's performance. I know some people will always have issues with the ending, which is their right, but I was 100% in for the ride.