Maxwell’s Top 10 Horror Films of all Time

Maxwell Dean

I know that some of you guys don’t like lists so much but I thought that to give myself a challenge and give everyone a more personal look at my own horror experience and preferences I would attempt to define my Top 10 Horror films of all time.

It was a difficult task but here it goes

1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre  (1974)

Though this may seem a very obvious Number 1 choice believe me when I say with conviction that this is the definitive film that got me into the genre. What more can be said that hasn’t already. The very literally example of a film whose current or future sequels have never and cannot hope to come close to the raw power that the original classic holds. Throughout my horror viewing experience I have been chasing that same raw experience ever since.


2. Day of The Dead (1985)

This is for me, what a zombie film should be – dark, gritty, gory and full of compelling characters  – the two most notable – Capt Rhodes and Bub.  All these characteristics suit its end of the world scenario so much better than Dawn in my opinion. Look closely and it has just as much relevant social commentary as Dawn. Day of The Dead also features perhaps Savini’s greatest work he completed while alongside Greg Nicotero – his first major film in a special effects role.

It’s claustrophobic setting is reflected in the psychological element that Romero so expertly draws from his characters and presents to the audience so well. Also features sequences of provoking dialogue as profound Dawns classic line from the pilot character John and one of my all time favourite performances in Joe Pilato as Capt. Rhodes. Romero has said that he considers fans of this entry to be the ‘trolls of horror viewers, the ones who can take the really rough stuff’. Well Mr Romero, sir, I am proud to be a troll.


3. Black Sabbath (1964)

Following the success of Black Sunday Mario Bava, encouraged by its producer, created a visual tour de force, which along with two particularly effective segments draws you into Black Sabbath’s hauntingly atmospheric gothic world. If you want to watch a truly excellent anthology I would advise anyone to skip modern anthologies such as V/H/S that pale in comparison and watch a true master vision’s at work here.


4. The Devils Backbone (2001)

A beautiful and well written ghost story from Del Toro that combines atmospheric visuals and setting with a sharp commentary relating to its backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Del Toro very successfully interweaves the supernatural concepts – with which he creates genuinely and subtly creepy sequences without using cheap tricks – and at times emotive and powerful images of war, within its narrative and the films message.  

One could interpret from this film a message that in the context of Spain’s fascist past men can do acts far more chilling than the most gruesome monster the imagination can conjure. Like in the case of Day of the Dead and Dawn for me this is overshadowed by, but a far better film than his more critically acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth. 

5. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)

Fredric Marsch elevates a good film to an excellent one with his portrayal of alter ego Hyde here – in the process deservedly achieving a best Actor Oscar – in this adaptation of Robert Stevenson’s original novel by director Roubin Mamoulian.

It is a powerful and never matched performance in its sexual and violent intensity that perfectly captures Hyde’s primal nature, which is supported by good performances from the rest of the cast, particularly Miriam Hopkins as Ivy Pearson.

Furthermore, though in addition, Mamoulian employs quite inventive camera techniques and angles, he still manages to capture the divide between civilised and unrepressed society that reflects the dual and tormented soul of  Jeckyll and Hyde. In addition this symbolises it’s quite complex freudian undertones.


6. Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Attempting to achieve a similar success to Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein and match the explicit nature of MGM’s Freaks in a pre-code Hollywood – so explicit it was banned in Britain due to its perceived blasphemy  – the standout element of this adaptation is an amazing performance by Charles Laughton as the tyrannical and power mad doctor tampering with nature.

In this he is also supported by impressive performances by the rest of the cast and some of the best make up effects of the period that come close to that of Jack Pierce.


8. Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs is what some mainstream critics describe as a ‘torture porn film’ in the vein of Hostel or the increasingly gory Saw sequels but what differentiates this european film from its american contemporaries is its significant complexity. This is reflected in its narrative, the intelligence found within its concepts, application of film-making techniques – including some quite stunning visual sequences and other imagery – and the inclusion of strong, interesting characters who are excellently played by the main actresses.

Critically it is also a very brave film, unflinching in its execution of ideas and violence onscreen which can be truly horrifying to visually experience and can be argued as justified and more effective because of its aforementioned depth in other aspects. All these factors mean that again unlike Hostel the film has a genuine, strong and lasting impression/impact for a while after the end credits roll.

Martyrs is one of two movies in my entire life that I had to use the fast forward button during. Not because the movie was bad but because the content was so disturbing I literally had to fast forward to keep from being sick. That being said it is still one of the most intense and intelligent films I have ever seen. A young girl who was victimized as a youngster sets out with her friend to seek revenge but what starts out as a path of vengeance quickly spirals out of control. A story of vengeance, torture and the human spirit it is easily one of the most disturbing and well done films I have ever seen. Be warned though this will not be an easy one to sit through!

8. Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)

This a contemporary grindhouse film that far more than Machete, Death Proof or Planet Terror manages to capture the feel, with its  visually arresting technicolor visuals and lurid characters, the tone of New York’s 42nd street grindhouse films during the late 70’s/early 80’s such as Street Trash.

It also incorporates a sympathetic main character in Rutger Hauer’s Hobo who is, however as menacing as his enemies. Above all this also incorporates a wicked sense of humour  and the greatest number of quotable lines I have yet found in a film due to an equally original and smart script.

Hobo with a Shotgun

9. Dark Water (2002)

A really good early example of the new millennium’s J-Horror. Visually very interesting with the films apartment block providing a haunting,dark and foreboding setting and atmosphere which is maintained throughout the movie and which keeps you engaged and the film intense to watch.

The relationship between the mother and daughter provides a perfect counter-point to the bleak atmosphere and helps to develop/support an effective narrative for the viewer.

This is also benefited by the actresses impressive and above average performances of the two main female characters. Overall this is one of the most impressive asian films I have seen and was immediately one of my favourites.


10. Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

This is Lucio at his creatively gory best and perhaps the film more than any other film earned him the ‘Godfather of Gore’. It was however watching this a second time, a restored version on my Blu-Ray disc that made me realize how great this film is. It incorporates some fantastic gore effects by Gianetto de Rossi. They are in my opinion a vast improvement over that of Dawn of The Dead despite criticism from some quarters that Zombie Flesh Eaters is a cheap cash-in.

This however sadly discounts the effective and ominous score by Fabio Frizzi and during many sequences, atmospheric and haunting visuals by cinematographer Sergio Salvati. Plus how can you not love a film that has a zombie vs shark underwater fight?

zombie flesh eaters

Other films that didn’t quite make the cut – Candyman  (1992), Fulci’s Dont Torture A Duckling (1972), Who Can Kill A Child (1976), Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981), Maniac (1980), Black Cat (1932)Black Christmas (1974) and Bedevilled (2010).



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      1. Simon March 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        I love reading the articles on this website, but DUDE, you really need to get on the level of the primary writer when it comes to grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and sentence structure. Your opinion on the films aside, because I tend to agree with you, actually reading the article was an excruciating experience, because I was so distracted by the grammar and spelling errors, redundancies, and general problems with sentence structure. Your opinion is valuable, but your writing ability is appalling. Please edit your future entries properly to maintain the integrity of the content of this website.

        (To the editor of this site, please ready this writer’s material more closely before posting it and make appropriate corrections if they will not.)

      2. Goran Lozanoski March 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

        first list with not Exorcist on N1 gj:)

      3. Vasquez March 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        Just corrected it Simon. Sorry about my mistakes. I always try my hardest to make as few mistakes as possible. I am glad you like the articles content though.

      4. firedog909 March 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

        Pretty good list but lost me at Hobo. Better than Halloween? Splinter? Robocop is better than Hobo and same kind of over the top violence. Blair Witch? Evil Dead 2? Hobo should be removed.

        • Maxwell Dean (Vasquez) March 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm

          To be honest I have never quite got the love for Halloween, even on multiple viewings. I respect it’s place in the genre’s history but I like Black Christmas (which I mentioned) a lot more and I think it is a far superior earlier slasher movie. It holds a lot more of suspense for me. The killer for example is immensely more creepy to me even though you never see him. In fact I believe Carpenter may have got the idea for Halloween from Black Christmas’s director Bob Clark. What can I say about Hobo. I just enjoyed it so much watching it. Each to their own as they say.

      5. John W March 17, 2013 at 2:04 am

        The only one I’m sure of is the #1 choice, the rest could go either way.

        20. The Shining
        19. Black Christmas
        18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
        17. Sixth Sense
        16. Juon
        15. Prince of Darkness
        14. Ringu
        13. Session 9
        12. Salem’s Lot
        11. Night/Curse of the Demon
        10. Psycho
        9. Rosemary’s Baby
        8. Halloween
        7. Friday the 13th
        6. Nightmare on Elm St.
        5. Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead
        4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
        3. The Thing
        2. Alien
        1. The Exorcist

        • JIm B. August 5, 2014 at 2:44 am

          I much prefer this list.

      6. Brad guillory March 17, 2013 at 3:51 am

        That pic from Jekyll and Hyde is not from the Fred march version.

      7. Maddog March 18, 2013 at 6:24 am

        Hobo with a Shotgun?(I mean I loves me some Rutger Hauer but BS is BS)

        Texas Chainsaw and maybe dawn of the dead are the only ones you could legitimately put in a half way respectable top 20.

        I’m just gonna have to say you’re cool for a 12 year old but horrible at understanding quality if your older old enough to drink.

        • Vasquez March 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm

          No need for such a immature response. In my view a willingness to look beyond the established genre classics, though there are films that the majority will agree are terrible (e.g Day of The Dead remake), simply displays a true passion for the horror genre. Anyone can look up Top 10 horror films of all time on google and copy off Dawn of The Dead, TCM, Halloween, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, TCM, Evil Dead and Friday 13th etc onto a list in 10 minutes.

          And please dont tell me you are one of those people who refuse to watch black and white films just because they are ‘black and white’. Before you dismiss my selections I would advise you to actually watch them if you haven’t and then you can respond with a better informed and more mature reply.

      8. Tiago Almeida March 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm

        Hobo with a Shotgun and Dark Water, you cant be serious.
        Not including Rosemary’s Baby and Pet Sematary also makes no sense.

      9. BlondeRobynGirl March 19, 2013 at 1:07 am

        Personally, I don’t agree with any of the choices on your list, but obviously nobody has to because it’s your list. I’m not going to say you’re stupid or wrong (as some other people above have rudely written) as I think that is unnecessary and childish. I will however say that I’m not quite sure how Black Christmas didn’t make the cut, you should have included it I think. Also, I’m rather confused as to how many films are not on your list such as Halloween (although I read your comment that you’re not as into it, but it’s definitely my number one!), Scream, Night of the Living Dead, Psycho, A Nightmare On Elm Street, etc., as they are all classics!

        • Vasquez March 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm

          Thx for your mature feedback. What can I say, these are the films I love the most. I do like NOES and Night of The Living dead quite a bit (NOES more so) but not enough to put in my top 10. As you pointed out yourself I really like Black Christmas and I nearly put that in my top 10. To me, however, just because a film is a classic, doesn’t mean it has a fixed place in any horor fans personal top 10 or else everyones list would look very similar and the horror community and genre overall would be very boring. Saying this there are a few films that I am sure 99% of the community loathe (the Day of The Dead remake for example). If you haven’t seen some of the films I have listed I would only encourage you to do so though, only so that you can form your own opinion, especially The Devil’s Backbone.

      10. Keteki April 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

        Best horror movie list! Dear admin, please correct the numbers 8 as 7

      11. Saumojit June 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

        A good list imo. Devil’s Backbone is another brilliant horror that most miss. Also the 1961 flick The Innocents is another atmospheric horror that many miss. Thank you for Black Sabbath, but unfortunately is a rare movie to get a hold of.