BEST HORROR MOVIES BY YEAR SINCE 1920

Look, we know that it’s the time of year when everyone and their sister has a list of the best horror movies of all time. This time out, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to take a slightly different tack. Using our weighted formula, we compiled a list of the best-reviewed fright fests from each year since 1920 — the year The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which created the template for horror cinema, was released. This wasn’t an easy assignment — there were several years, like 1932 and 1960, that boasted a slate of classic films (and a few others, like 1937 and 1938, in which we had trouble finding any solid contenders). What was the best horror flick the year you were born? Check out our list — if you dare.

DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI. (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) (1920)

100% Adjusted Score: 110.255%

Critics Consensus: Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set a brilliantly high bar for the genre — and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.

Synopsis: In one of the most influential films of the silent era, Werner Krauss plays the title character, a sinister hypnotist…
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover, Friedrich Feher
Directed By: Robert Wiene

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (1921)

100% Adjusted Score: 102.143%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) is the abusive husband who finds his wife (Hilda Borgstrom) has left him after he is…
Starring: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Astrid Holm, Lisa Lundholm
Directed By: Victor Sjöström

NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF HORROR (NOSFERATU, EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS) (NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE) (1922)

97% Adjusted Score: 108.682%
Critics Consensus: One of the silent era’s most influential masterpieces, Nosferatu’s eerie, gothic feel — and a chilling performance from Max Schreck as the vampire — set the template for the horror films that followed.
Synopsis: F. W. Murnau’s landmark vampire film begins in the Carpathian Mountains, where real estate agent Hutter has arrived to close…
Starring: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder
Directed By: F.W. Murnau

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923)

95% Adjusted Score: 97.218%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This second film version of the Victor Hugo novel Notre Dame de Paris (the first was a Theda Bara vehicle,…
Starring: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Ernest Torrence
Directed By: Wallace Worsley

ORLACS HÄNDE (THE HANDS OF ORLAC) (1924)

86% Adjusted Score: 86.447%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this classic horror film, based on a novel by Maurice Renard and filmed by Robert Wiene (of Dr. Caligari…
Starring: Conrad Veidt, Carmen Cartellieri, Fritz Kortner, Paul Adkonas
Directed By: Robert Wiene

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

91% Adjusted Score: 95.91%
Critics Consensus: Decades later, it still retains its ability to scare — and Lon Chaney’s performance remains one of the benchmarks of the horror genre.
Synopsis: Lon Chaney stars as Erik, the Phantom, in what is probably his most famous and certainly his most horrifying role….
Starring: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Snitz Edwards
Directed By: Rupert Julian, Edward Sedgwick

FAUST (1926)

94% Adjusted Score: 98.684%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this German film, Emil Jannings glowers his way through the role of Mephistopholes, who offers the aging Faust an…
Starring: Emil Jannings, Gösta Ekman, Camilla Horn, Wilhelm Dieterle
Directed By: F.W. Murnau

THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927)

93% Adjusted Score: 93.407%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Creaky, but enduring expressionistic suspenser is the classic “old dark house” movie as sundry characters converge at an ominous mansion…
Starring: Laura Laplante, Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Tully Marshall
Directed By: Paul Leni

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928)

100% Adjusted Score: 101.09%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The second of German director Paul Leni’s American films (Cat and the Canary was the first), The Man Who Laughs…
Starring: Nick De Ruiz, Allan Cavan, Olga Baclanova, Mary Philbin
Directed By: Paul Leni

 HÄXAN (HÄXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES) (THE WITCHES) (1929)

88% Adjusted Score: 90.044%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen’s obsession with bizarre lighting effects reached its apotheosis with his 1922 masterpiece Häxan. Beginning in a…
Starring: Clara Pontoppidan, Maren Pedersen, Oscar Stribolt, Benjamin Christensen
Directed By: Benjamin Christensen

THE BAT WHISPERS (1930)

64% Adjusted Score: 65.271%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Magnificently restored by UCLA to its original “Grandeur” wide-screen format The Bat Whispers may not be a cinematic masterpiece but…
Starring: Grayce Hampton, Chester Morris, Una Merkel, Spencer Charters
Directed By: Roland West

FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

100% Adjusted Score: 106.209%
Critics Consensus: Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff’s legendary, frightening performance as the monster.
Synopsis: “Frankenstein” is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein”, who creates a monster, by taking body parts…
Starring: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke, John Boles
Directed By: James Whale

VAMPYR – DER TRAUM DES ALLAN GREY (1932)

100% Adjusted Score: 104.828%
Critics Consensus: Full of disorienting visual effects, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr is as theoretically unsettling as it is conceptually disturbing.
Synopsis: Vampyr ranks in many circles as one of the greatest horror films of all time. Inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s…
Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer

KING KONG (1933)

98% Adjusted Score: 107.911%
Critics Consensus: King Kong explores the soul of a monster — making audiences scream and cry throughout the film — in large part due to Kong’s breakthrough special effects.
Synopsis: “How would you like to star opposite the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood?” Enticed by these words, brunette leading…
Starring: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Sam Hardy
Directed By: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper

THE BLACK CAT (1934)

87% Adjusted Score: 93.311%
Critics Consensus: Making the most of its Karloff-Lugosi star pairing and loads of creepy atmosphere, The Black Cat is an early classic in the Universal monster movie library.
Synopsis: The first cinematic teaming of horror greats Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi is a bizarre, haunting, and relentlessly eerie film…
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jacqueline Wells, David Manners
Directed By: Edgar G. Ulmer

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

100% Adjusted Score: 107.267%

Critics Consensus: An eccentric, campy, technically impressive, and frightening picture, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein has aged remarkably well.

Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein is forced to tempt fate once again by creating a suitable mate for his monster….

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Elsa Lanchester

Directed By: James Whale

THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936)

87% Adjusted Score: 89.018%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Oscar-winner Lionel Barrymore (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) stars in this classic horror thriller about a Devil’s Island escapee who shrinks…

Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O’Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Robert Greig

Directed By: Tod Browning

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

91% Adjusted Score: 93.786%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: The most elaborate–and longest–of Universal’s Frankenstein series, Son of Frankenstein represents Boris Karloff’s last appearance in the role of the…

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill

Directed By: Rowland V. Lee

DR. CYCLOPS (1940)

83% Adjusted Score: 83.81%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: In this film, the evil Dr. Thorkel (Albert Dekker) has developed a way to shrink people to a minuscule size…

Starring: Albert Dekker, Janice Logan, Thomas Coley, Charles Halton

Directed By: Ernest B. Schoedsack

THE WOLF MAN (1941)

94% Adjusted Score: 99.371%

Critics Consensus: A handsomely told tale with an affecting performance from Lon Chaney, Jr., The Wolf Man remains one of the classics of the Universal horror stable.

Synopsis: “Even a man who is pure at heart/And says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms/And…

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy

Directed By: George Waggner

CAT PEOPLE (1942)

93% Adjusted Score: 99.455%

Critics Consensus: Influential noir director Jacques Tourneau infused this sexy, moody horror film with some sly commentary about the psychology and the taboos of desire.

Synopsis: Handed the exploitive title Cat People, RKO producer Val Lewton opted for a thinking man’s thriller–a psychological mood piece, more…

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)

92% Adjusted Score: 97.458%

Critics Consensus: Evocative direction by Jacques Tourneur collides with the low-rent production values of exploitateer Val Lewton in I Walked with a Zombie, a sultry sleeper that’s simultaneously smarmy, eloquent and fascinating.

Synopsis: RKO producer Val Lewton seemed to thrive upon taking the most lurid film titles and coming up with pocket-edition works…

Starring: James Ellison, Frances Dee, Tom Conway, Edith Barrett

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

BLUEBEARD (1944)

100% Adjusted Score: 100.961%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: In this haunting feature from director Edgar G. Ulmer, a 19th-century Parisian marionette master cannot seem to control his urges…

Starring: John Carradine, Jean Parker, Nils Asther, Ludwig Stossel

Directed By: Edgar G. Ulmer

DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)

96% Adjusted Score: 100.349%

Critics Consensus: With four accomplished directors contributing, Dead of Night is a classic horror anthology that remains highly influential.

Synopsis: A phone rings. Architect Mervyn Johns is wakened from a nightmare and summoned to the country estate of Roland Culver….

Starring: Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, Antony Baird, Googie Withers

Directed By: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer

THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946)

89% Adjusted Score: 91.035%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: When a concert pianist dies without recognizing his personal secretary in his will, the secretary chops off one of the…

Starring: Robert Alda, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Victor Francen

Directed By: Robert Florey

 SCARED TO DEATH (1947)

63% Adjusted Score: 63.497%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Completed several years before its 1947 release, Scared to Death is historically important as Bela Lugosi’s only color film (outside…

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Douglas Fowley, Joyce Compton, George Zucco

Directed By: Christy Cabanne

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

88% Adjusted Score: 91.403%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: It seems that Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), in league with a beautiful but diabolical lady scientist (Lenore Aubert), needs a…

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lénore Aubert

Directed By: Charles Barton

THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1949)

95% Adjusted Score: 97.505%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: A supernatural tale based on a short story by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, this is the portrayal of a poor…

Starring: Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans, Yvonne Mitchell, Ronald Howard

Directed By: Thorold Dickinson

HOUSE BY THE RIVER (1950)

62% Adjusted Score: 63.28%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Fritz Lang was the guiding hand of this laudable Republic Studios melodrama. Louis Hayward stars as a wealthy wastrel who…

Starring: Louis Hayward, Jane Wyatt, Lee Bowman, Dorothy Patrick

Directed By: Fritz Lang

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951)

88% Adjusted Score: 92.669%

Critics Consensus: As flying saucer movies go, The Thing From Another World is better than most, thanks to well-drawn characters and concise, tense plotting.

Synopsis: This film is set at a distant Arctic missile base, where a UFO has crashed. The frozen body of the…

Starring: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, James Arness

Directed By: Christian Nyby

VALKOINEN PEURA (THE WHITE REINDEER) (1952)

100% Adjusted Score: 100.065%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: A newly wed woman goes to the local shaman to get some help with her lovelife, but instead gets turned…

Starring: Åke Lindman, Mirjami Kuosmanen, Kalervo Nissilä, Jouni Tapiola

Directed By: Erik Blomberg

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

95% Adjusted Score: 100.145%

Critics Consensus: House of Wax is a 3-D horror delight that combines the atmospheric eerieness of the wax museum with the always chilling presence of Vincent Price.

Synopsis: Ever been creeped out by the life-like statues at a wax museum? Yes? But have you ever recognized your old…

Starring: Vincent Price, Carolyn Jones, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk

Directed By: André De Toth

THEM! (1954)

100% Adjusted Score: 102.742%

Critics Consensus: One of the best creature features of the early atomic age, Them! features effectively menacing special effects and avoids the self-parody that would taint later monster movies.

Synopsis: In this film, a girl is found wandering in the desert in a state of complete shock. When she finally…

Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness

Directed By: Gordon Douglas, Gordon M. Douglas

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)

98% Adjusted Score: 106.223%

Critics Consensus: Featuring Robert Mitchum’s formidable performance as child-hunting preacher, The Night of the Hunter is a disturbing look at good and evil.

Synopsis: Adapted by James Agee from a novel by Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter represented legendary actor Charles Laughton’s…

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce

Directed By: Charles Laughton

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)

98% Adjusted Score: 103.731%

Critics Consensus: One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror.

Synopsis: Director Don Siegel’s thinly-veiled examination of McCarthy-era hysteria stars Kevin McCarthy (no relation) as Miles Bennell, a California doctor who…

Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, Carolyn Jones

Directed By: Don Siegel

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957)

90% Adjusted Score: 92.3%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: The screen’s great existential science fiction film, The Incredible Shrinking Man stars Grant Williams in the title role. While catching…

Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, Paul Langton, April Kent

Directed By: Jack Arnold

THE FLY (1958)

95% Adjusted Score: 99.945%

Critics Consensus: Deliciouly funny to some and eerily presicient to others, The Fly walks a fine line between shlocky fun and unnerving nature parable.

Synopsis: Wealthy Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) is discovered late at night in the factory owned by her husband Andre (David Hedison)….

Starring: Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman

Directed By: Kurt Neumann

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

96% Adjusted Score: 98.348%

Critics Consensus: Campy by modern standards but spooky and atmospheric, House on Haunted Hill is a fun, well-executed cult classic featuring a memorable performance from genre icon Vincent Price.

Synopsis: A very wealthy man gives a haunted house party, offering to give each of his guests $10,000 – if they…

Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Annabelle Ohmart, Alan Marshal

Directed By: William Castle

PSYCHO (1960)

96% Adjusted Score: 107.729%

Critics Consensus: Infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace, and art, Hitchcock didn’t just create modern horror, he validated it.

Synopsis: In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock was already famous as the screen’s master of suspense (and perhaps the best-known film director in…

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

THE INNOCENTS (1961)

96% Adjusted Score: 100.846%

Critics Consensus: Creepily atmospheric, The Innocents is a stylishly crafted, chilling British ghost tale with Deborah Kerr at her finest.

Synopsis: In this lugubrious but brilliantly realized adaptation of Henry James’ classic novella The Turn of the Screw, 19th century British…

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins

Directed By: Jack Clayton

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1962)

98% Adjusted Score: 103.144%

Critics Consensus: A horrific tale of guilt and obsession, Eyes Without a Face is just as chilling and poetic today as it was in 1959.

Synopsis: A brilliant but crazed surgeon resorts to horrifying measures to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured face….

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli, François Guérin

Directed By: Georges Franju

THE BIRDS (1963)

96% Adjusted Score: 101.825%

Critics Consensus: Proving once again that build-up is the key to suspense, Alfred Hitchcock successfully turned birds into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history.

Synopsis: The story begins as an innocuous romantic triangle involving wealthy, spoiled Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), handsome Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor),…

Starring: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

KAIDAN (KWAIDAN) (GHOST STORIES) (1964)

85% Adjusted Score: 86.292%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Kwaidan is an impressively mounted anthology horror film based on four stories by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-born writer who began…

Starring: Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Rentaro Mikuni, Kenjiro Ishiyama

Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi

REPULSION (1965)

100% Adjusted Score: 108.173%

Critics Consensus: Roman Polanski’s first English film follows a schizophrenic woman’s descent into madness, and makes the audience feel as claustrophobic as the character.

Synopsis: When Carol, a shy young Belgian, is left alone for a few days in the Kensington flat she shares with…

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Patrick Wymark

Directed By: Roman Polanski

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

78% Adjusted Score: 79.645%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Hammer’s second outing for the notorious vampire after their hugely successful Dracula (1958), with Christopher Lee returning as the demonic…

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer

Directed By: Terence Fisher

THE SORCERERS (1967)

100% Adjusted Score: 100.645%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: A well-meaning and gentle inventor creates a machine capable of allowing one person to completely control the mind of another,…

Starring: Boris Karloff, Catherine Lacey, Ian Ogilvy, Elizabeth Ercy

Directed By: Michael Reeves

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)

99% Adjusted Score: 106.171%

Critics Consensus: A frightening tale of Satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon.

Synopsis: In Roman Polanski’s first American film, adapted from Ira Levin’s horror bestseller, a young wife comes to believe that her…

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans

Directed By: Roman Polanski

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1969)

90% Adjusted Score: 91.914%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: This film features adaptations of three short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. In “Metzengerstein,” a woman believes a horse possesses…

Starring: Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon

Directed By: Louis Malle, Federico Fellini, Roger Vadim

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)

100% Adjusted Score: 101.022%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: In this surreal psychological fantasy, young Valerie lives with her grandmother. She feels the first stirring of sexual awareness when…

Starring: Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anyzková, Jan Klusak, Helena Anyzková

Directed By: Jaromil Jires

THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

86% Adjusted Score: 89.454%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Long thought dead, the victim of a horrible accident, Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) still lives, surrounded by art-deco bric-a-brac…

Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith, Virginia North

Directed By: Robert Fuest

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

61% Adjusted Score: 64.714%

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Synopsis: Based on Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Wes Craven’s cult classic is an account of a group of sadistic killers who…

Starring: Lucy Grantham, Sandra Cassel, David Hess, Marc Sheffler

Directed By: Wes Craven

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

96% Adjusted Score: 101.098%

Critics Consensus: Don’t Look Now patiently builds suspense with haunting imagery and a chilling score — causing viewers to feel Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s grief deep within.

Synopsis: A married couple is haunted by a series of mysterious occurrences after the death of their young daughter in this…

Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania

Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

 88% Adjusted Score: 94.194%

Critics Consensus: Thanks to a smart script and documentary-style camerawork, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre achieves start-to-finish suspense, making it a classic in low-budget exploitation cinema.

Synopsis: Just as Hitchcock’s Psycho was based on the life of deeply disturbed farmer Ed Gein, so is this little story…

Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McMinn

Directed By: Tobe Hooper

JAWS (1975)

97% Adjusted Score: 105.056%

Critics Consensus: Compelling, well-crafted storytelling and a judicious sense of terror ensure Steven Spielberg’s Jaws has remained a benchmark in the art of delivering modern blockbuster thrills.

Synopsis: Based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark saga set the standard for the New Hollywood popcorn blockbuster…

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Directed By: Steven Spielberg

CARRIE (1976)

93% Adjusted Score: 99.045%

Critics Consensus: Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst — and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history.

Synopsis: This classic horror movie based on Stephen King’s first novel stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a shy, diffident teenager…

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, Amy Irving

Directed By: Brian DePalma

SUSPIRIA (1977)

93% Adjusted Score: 97.092%

Critics Consensus: The blood pours freely in Argento’s classic Suspiria, a giallo horror as grandiose and glossy as it is gory.

Synopsis: A candy-colored nightmare from Italian terror maestro Dario Argento, Suspiria weaves a menacing tale of witchcraft as a fairy tale…

Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli

Directed By: Dario Argento

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)

94% Adjusted Score: 99.535%

Critics Consensus: Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original.

Synopsis: In this elaborate remake of the 1956 horror classic, health inspector Donald Sutherland is dispatched to investigate the curious behavior…

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright

Directed By: Philip Kaufman

ALIEN (1979)

97% Adjusted Score: 106.839%

Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.

Synopsis: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” A close encounter of the third kind becomes a Jaws-style nightmare when…

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton

Directed By: Ridley Scott

THE SHINING (1980)

88% Adjusted Score: 94.557%

Critics Consensus: Though it deviates from Stephen King’s novel, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a chilling, often baroque journey into madness — exemplified by an unforgettable turn from Jack Nicholson

Synopsis: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” — or, rather, a homicidal boy in Stanley Kubrick’s eerie…

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

95% Adjusted Score: 99.57%

Critics Consensus: This classic low budget horror film combines just the right amount of gore and black humor, giving The Evil Dead an equal amount of thrills and laughs.

Synopsis: This auspicious feature debut from Sam Raimi — shot on 16mm in the woods of Tennesse for around $350,000 –…

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich

Directed By: Sam Raimi

POLTERGEIST (1982)

88% Adjusted Score: 93.229%

Critics Consensus: Smartly filmed, tightly scripted, and — most importantly — consistently frightening, Poltergeist is a modern horror classic.

Synopsis: With Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hopper, Steven Spielberg had his first great success as a producer. Released around the same…

Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne

Directed By: Tobe Hooper

THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

90% Adjusted Score: 93.477%

Critics Consensus: The Dead Zone combines taut direction from David Cronenberg and and a rich performance from Christopher Walken to create one of the strongest Stephen King adaptations.

Synopsis: A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detective ability….

Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom

Directed By: David Cronenberg

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

94% Adjusted Score: 97.512%

Critics Consensus: Wes Craven’s intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.

Synopsis: A group of teenagers are terrorized by “Freddy Krueger”, an evil being from another world who gets to his victims…

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely

Directed By: Wes Craven

RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

94% Adjusted Score: 97.738%

Critics Consensus: Perfectly mixing humor and horror, the only thing more effective than Re-Animator’s gory scares are its dry, deadpan jokes.

Synopsis: Scientist Herbert West has discovered a fluid which brings living tissue back to life. After the death of his professor,…

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson

Directed By: Stuart Gordon

ALIENS (1986)

98% Adjusted Score: 103.639%

Critics Consensus: While Alien was a marvel of slow-building, atmospheric tension, Aliens packs a much more visceral punch, and features a typically strong performance from Sigourney Weaver.

Synopsis: Big-budget special effects, swiftly paced action, and a distinct feminist subtext from writer/director James Cameron turned what should have been…

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser

Directed By: James Cameron

EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)

98% Adjusted Score: 102.153%

Critics Consensus: Evil Dead 2’s increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good — if not better — than the original.

Synopsis: This sequel is better, funnier, scarier and superior to the first indie gore-fest. Never before has there been such an…

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva

Directed By: Sam Raimi

SPOORLOOS (THE VANISHING) (1988)

98% Adjusted Score: 101.179%

Critics Consensus: A clinical, maddening descent into the mind of a serial killer and a slowly unraveling hero, culminating with one of the scariest endings of all time.

Synopsis: Based on Time Krabbe’s The Golden Egg, The Vanishing is a deeply disturbing psychological thriller about a young man’s search…

Starring: Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gwen Eckhaus

Directed By: George Sluizer

SANTA SANGRE (1989)

85% Adjusted Score: 87.589%

Critics Consensus: Those unfamiliar with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s style may find it overwhelming, but Santa Sangre is a provocative psychedelic journey featuring the director’s signature touches of violence, vulgarity, and an oddly personal moral center.

Synopsis: Santa Sangre is the surreal horror story about a young man, Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) who has grown up in a…

Starring: Sergio Bustamante, Adan Jodorowsky, Jesus Juarez, Axel Jodorowsky

Directed By: Alejandro Jodorowsky

THE WITCHES (1990)

100% Adjusted Score: 101.813%

Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Angelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson’s creature shop, Nicolas Roeg’s dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl’s writing like few other adaptations.

Synopsis: A little boy and his kindly grandmother thwart the efforts of a coven of witches to rid Britain of children…

Starring: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson

Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

95% Adjusted Score: 100.752%

Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme’s smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.

Synopsis: In this multiple Oscar-winning thriller, Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy whose…

Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine

Directed By: Jonathan Demme

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992)

78% Adjusted Score: 80.934%

Critics Consensus: Overblown in the best sense of the word, Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of Bram Stoker’s Dracula rescues the character from decades of campy interpretations — and features some terrific performances to boot.

Synopsis: Based on Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel, this film from Francis Ford Coppola and screenwriter James Victor Hart offers a…

Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves

Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

DEAD ALIVE (1993)

88% Adjusted Score: 89.794%

Critics Consensus: The delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen and his zombified mother, Dead Alive is extremely gory and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Peter Jackson’s affection for the tastelessly sublime.

Synopsis: Considered by many to be the goriest film ever made and one of the funniest “splatstick” horror films since Sam…

Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin

Directed By: Peter Jackson

CRONOS (1994)

89% Adjusted Score: 91.704%

Critics Consensus: Guillermo del Toro’s unique feature debut is not only gory and stylish, but also charming and intelligent.

Synopsis: This surreal variant on the classic vampire tale is the directorial debut of Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who garnered…

Starring: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro, Guillermo del Torro

SEVEN (SE7EN) (1995)

80% Adjusted Score: 84.606%

Critics Consensus: A brutal, relentlessly grimy shocker with taut performances, slick gore effects, and a haunting finale.

Synopsis: Director David Fincher’s dark, stylish thriller ranks as one of the decade’s most influential box-office successes. Set in a hellish…

Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey

Directed By: David Fincher

SCREAM (1996)

79% Adjusted Score: 82.567%

Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven’s subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it’s a little too cheeky for some.

Synopsis: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There’s a killer in their midst who’s seen a few…

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore

Directed By: Wes Craven

SCREAM 2 (1997)

81% Adjusted Score: 85.414%

Critics Consensus: As with the first film, Scream 2 is a gleeful takedown of scary movie conventions that manages to poke fun at terrible horror sequels without falling victim to the same fate.

Synopsis: The crafty Wes Craven follows up lastÕs yearÕs surprise hit with another supremely self-referential but satisfyingly droll thriller….

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Directed By: Wes Craven

RINGU (RING) (1998)

97% Adjusted Score: 98.321%

Critics Consensus: Ringu combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way.

Synopsis: In this psychological horror story from Japan, a legend circulates among teenagers that if one watches a certain video at…

Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Hitomi Sato, Yuko Takeuchi

Directed By: Hideo Nakata

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

86% Adjusted Score: 92.974%

Critics Consensus: Full of creepy campfire scares, mock-doc The Blair Witch Project keeps audiences in the dark about its titular villain — thus proving that imagination can be as scary as anything onscreen.

Synopsis: Combining Hi-8 video with black-and-white 16 mm film, this film presents a raw look at what can happen when college…

Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffith

Directed By: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000)

81% Adjusted Score: 85.392%

Critics Consensus: Shadow of the Vampire is frightening, compelling, and funny, and features an excellent performance by Willem Dafoe.

Synopsis: F W Murnau is making Nosferatu on location in Eastern Europe. The director is determined to make this the most…

Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes

Directed By: E. Elias Merhige

THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (EL ESPINAZO DEL DIABLO) (2001)

92% Adjusted Score: 95.26%

Critics Consensus: Creepily atmospheric and haunting, The Devil’s Backbone is both a potent ghost story and an intelligent political allegory.

Synopsis: The mournful fable of the Santa Lucia School during the last days of the Spanish Civil War. An imposing stone…

Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Fernando Tielve, Federico Luppi

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

THE RING (2002)

72% Adjusted Score: 77.353%

Critics Consensus: With little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skin, thanks to director Gore Verbinski’s haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.

Synopsis: A disturbing videotape appears to hold the power of life and death over those who view it in this offbeat…

Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox

Directed By: Gore Verbinski

28 DAYS LATER (2003)

87% Adjusted Score: 92.965%

Critics Consensus: Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory.

Synopsis: After breaking into a primate research facility, a group of animal rights activists discover caged chimps chained up before banks…

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns

Directed By: Danny Boyle

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)

92% Adjusted Score: 97.326%

Critics Consensus: Shaun of the Dead cleverly balances scares and witty satire, making for a bloody good zombie movie with loads of wit.

Synopsis: It’s often said that the true character of a man is only revealed in times of dire crisis, and for…

Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis

Directed By: Edgar Wright

LAND OF THE DEAD (2005)

73% Adjusted Score: 78.314%

Critics Consensus: George A. Romero’s latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.

Synopsis: It has been two decades since master filmmaker GEORGE A. ROMERO’s zombies have stalked the screens of motion picture theaters….

Starring: Simon Baker, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, John Leguizamo

Directed By: George A. Romero

 THE DESCENT (2006)

85% Adjusted Score: 90.365%

Critics Consensus: Deft direction and strong performances from its all-female cast guide The Descent, a riveting, claustrophobic horror film.

Synopsis: A group of close female friends on a yearly adventure vacation find themselves trapped and hunted in a series of…

Starring: Shauna MacDonald, Alex Reid, Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Saskia Mulder

Directed By: Neil Marshall

THE HOST (2007)

93% Adjusted Score: 97.317%

Critics Consensus: As populace pleasing as it is intellectually satisfying, The Host combines scares, laughs, and satire into a riveting, monster movie.

Synopsis: When a young girl is snatched away from her father by a horrifying giant monster that emerges from the River…

Starring: Song Kang-ho, Park Hae-il, Byeon Hie-bong, Bae Doo-na

Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

 LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)

98% Adjusted Score: 104.189%

Critics Consensus: Let the Right One In reinvigorates the seemingly tired vampire genre by effectively mixing scares with intelligent storytelling.

Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy befriends a mysterious young girl whose appearance in town suspiciously coincides with a horrifying series of murders…

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)

92% Adjusted Score: 99.778%

Critics Consensus: Sam Raimi returns to top form with Drag Me to Hell, a frightening, hilarious, delightfully campy thrill ride.

Synopsis: Evil Dead director Sam Raimi takes the helm for this “spook-a-blast” shocker about an ambitious L.A. loan officer who incurs…

Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Reggie Lee

Directed By: Sam Raimi

LET ME IN (2010)

88% Adjusted Score: 94.135%

Critics Consensus: Similar to the original in all the right ways — but with enough changes to stand on its own — Let Me In is the rare Hollywood remake that doesn’t add insult to inspiration.

Synopsis: Twelve-year old Owen is viciously bullied by his classmates and neglected by his divorcing parents. Achingly lonely, Owen spends his…

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas

Directed By: Matt Reeves

ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)

90% Adjusted Score: 94.283%

Critics Consensus: Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, brisky-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor.

Synopsis: From the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block follows a gang of tough inner-city…

Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh

Directed By: Joe Cornish

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

92% Adjusted Score: 101.161%

Critics Consensus: The Cabin in the Woods is an astonishing meta-feat, capable of being funny, strange, and scary — frequently all at the same time.

Synopsis: Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story,…

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz

Directed By: Drew Goddard

THE CONJURING (2013)

86% Adjusted Score: 93.346%

Critics Consensus: Well-crafted and gleefully creepy, The Conjuring ratchets up dread through a series of effective old-school scares.

Synopsis: Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. “The Conjuring” tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson,…

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Directed By: James Wan

THE BABADOOK (2014)

98% Adjusted Score: 105.761%

Critics Consensus: The Babadook relies on real horror rather than cheap jump scares — and boasts a heartfelt, genuinely moving story to boot.

Synopsis: Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline…

Starring: Essie Davis, Barbara West, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney

Directed By: Jennifer Kent

IT FOLLOWS (2015)

97% Adjusted Score: 104.809%

Critics Consensus: Smart, original, and above all terrifying, It Follows is the rare modern horror film that works on multiple levels — and leaves a lingering sting.

Synopsis: After a strange sexual encounter, a teenager finds herself haunted by nightmarish visions and the inescapable sense that something is…

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe

Directed By: David Robert Mitchell

From <https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/guide/best-horror-movies-by-year-since-1920/>

BEST HORROR MOVIES BY YEAR SINCE 1920 was originally published on Something Different

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