In honor of Halloween coming up, it seems only fitting to rank the best films that the horror genre has to offer. While some of today’s horror films are just blatant cash grabs and remakes, the ones on this list induced fear in original and innovative ways. These are the top 5 horror films terrified audiences and made a prominent impact in pop culture.
John Carpenter’s 1978 film was a game-changer for a few reasons, with the main one being it was the dawn of the slasher film. The film also inspired many copycats in the horror genre and initiated several clichés found in the slasher subgenre. The story of Michael Myers is shrouded in mystery, and that fact is precisely why the film is disturbing. The audience does not know or understand the motive of the killer. He is simply a mentally unstable man who appears to target teenagers, including one Laurie Strode. This creepy randomness to Meyers is why the character has become such a pop-culture icon and continues to be reinvented in subsequent films and remakes.
#4 “The Exorcist”
Produced in the age of “demonic child” films from the 1960s to 1970s, “The Exorcist” stands out, not only because of its groundbreaking special effects from Dick Smith, but because of a strong and downright scary performance from Linda Blair. Linda Blair and the voice of Mercedes McCambridge work together to create an awe-inspiring performance of fear and dread that continues to shock audiences through the decades. The iconic film ultimately racks up the thrills because of its focus on the supernatural and the fear of Satan and hell.
Quite possibly Alfred Hitchcock’s most well-know film, “Psycho,” set a new standard of suitability for violence and sexual expression in film. The film is most known for its shower scene, which has been redone and copied in several ensuing films. However, the film has more to offer than that. Because the film plays on the audience expectations, because it is so masterfully set up from Hitchcock, this classic proved you could have a horror film be high-art, and not sacrifice the story at all.
#2 “The Shining”
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King classic originally received mixed reviews, but through the years, evaluation of the film has garnered support, with many considering it one of the greatest horror films of all time. Kubrick’s choice to specifically not follow the novel might have upset Stephen King fans, but the result is a well-executed film that is downright unnerving and bizarre. This is due to the dedicated work ethic of Kubrick, who was notorious for massive amounts of takes for his scenes, as well as the outlandish performance from Jack Nicholson as a deranged father and husband. Ultimately, Kubrick manages to bring the premise of a haunted hotel to life with his expertise, giving audiences nightmares for decades to come.
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic has been terrifying audiences for 40 years, and for good reason. The film is such an acclaimed classic due to its simplistic story and chilling atmosphere. Considering that humans have only discovered a small percentage of the world’s oceans, the fear of the unknown is what Spielberg uses to make “Jaws” a truly frightening film. Like the maestro that he is, Spielberg decides to wait until the final act to reveal the menacing shark, creating an impressive conclusion to the film.