10. The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan)
Before writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's ego inflated and started creating crap movie after crap movie, he created this horror classic which became a cultural phenomenon. It still holds up very well today. Bruce Willis plays a scarred child psychologist trying to help a young boy (played to perfection by Haley Joel Osment) who claims to "see dead people". The now famous twist ending shocked and amazed people at the time but it holds up well to repeat viewings and it's still quite spooky. It also makes me sad that an obvious talent like Shyamalan has fallen from grace.
09. Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata)
The night after I saw this film, I slept with the lights open. It is quite terrifying. The film is from Japan and it's about a cursed videotape. It is said that anyone who watches it dies in a week unless he or she passes the videotape to someone else. The story behind the video that involves a creepy young girl named Sadako adds more to the mystique of the film. This was remade in the U.S. a few years later starring Naomi Watts and directed by Gore Verbinski and although it wasn't terrible or insulting, it still doesn't hold a candle to the original Japanese version which is a must-see.
08. Eyes Without a Face (1960, Georges Franju)
A once brilliant doctor gets into a car accident that horribly disfigures his once beautiful daughter. So he and an assistant hunt down young girls to surgically remove their faces and graft them onto the face of his daughter in hopes of restoring her beauty. Don't let the fact that it's French, black & white and from the 1960's fool you. This is a not a film for the squeamish. This contains a rather graphic and gory surgery scene that can satisfy gorehounds. But it's just one scene. The film itself is a beautiful gothic tragic piece of film that is definitely a must-see for anybody.
07. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)
Among all the teen slasher films of the 1970's and 1980's, this is by far my favorite. Leatherface scares me more than Freddy, Jason and the rest. The first original film is simply an astounding low-budget B-movie achievement and pretty much wrote all the cliches of these types of films. A group of young people lose their way and find themselves at the mercy of a chainsaw-wielding maniac and most of them meet horrible deaths. It's straightforward and simple. Lots of imitators, but seldom equaled and almost always fall short. This film surprisingly has very little actual on-screen gore which makes it even more effective, in my opinion.
06. Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento)
I featured this in one of my past The Great Scenes blogpost and for good reason. This is widely considered the masterpiece of the giallo subgenre of horror (Italian horror films known for their both their gore and beauty). It's about a young American ballet dancer who goes to a dance school in Europe with a horrific secret. The cinematography and art direction of this film is simply breathtaking that you almost can't take your eyes off of it despite the horrible violence going on. The film is further along helped by the great score of the group Goblin.
05. The Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero)
I have to say that of all the horror subgenres out there, the one that is my favorite has got to be the zombies. The zombie is the one movie monster that actually frightens me for some reason because this type of undead state is so horrifying to think about. Few horror directors have done zombie movies better than George Romero. Although I only listed the first one, Night of the Living Dead in this list but it's just for formality's sake, I'd like to think this also goes for Dawn of the Dead (1975) and Day of the Dead (1983). Hell, even Land of the Dead though not as great as his earlier works still has greatness in it. Suffice to say that yes, I am watching The Walking Dead now.
04. Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau)
With all due respect to Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, I happen to consider Max Schreck as Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau's silent horror classic Nosferatu to be the best cinematic vampire in history. His startling and frightening appearance can still put a chill in one's spine even today. The film basically follows the Dracula story but since they couldn't actually do a direct adaptation of the novel due to copyright issues, they just changed the title and the names but it's still obviously Dracula.
03. Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)
What else can I say? It's still a freakin' classic. This is probably the most universally loved adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic. Although it's not really technically scary (although the scene where the Monster first emerges still gives me the willies) and more tragic, it's still one of the greats because it's a story well-told. Boris Karloff though only grunts gives the Monster depth and pathos with just his eyes and his movements. It's followed by a sequel, Bride of Frankenstein that's just as great (some say even better).
02. Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)
This is one of those "grey area" films. Is it more horror or thriller? I would say it qualifies as horror. It is, in fact, one of the earliest slasher films. Everyone and their mom knows the story and of course is aware of its famous second act kills where the apparent protagonist meets her end in the shower. It's such a shocking, ballsy move for a film which pretty much cements its status as a classic and one of director Alfred Hitchcock's very best films.
01. The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)
I'm a Catholic (semi-lapsed but I still believe in God) so growing up, this movie terrified me more than the average other person because I grew up believing in the Devil. This film about a little girl possessed by a malevolent demon allegedly based on a true story has lots of shocking and truly scary and disturbing and gross-out moments but what makes it a classic and a masterpiece is that it's also one of the most insightful and moving films about religious faith ever made. It gives it that extra oomph which makes me come back again and again and again.
RUNNERS-UP & HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dracula (1931, Tod Browning), Halloween (1978, John Carpenter), The Omen (1976, Richard Donner), Don't Look Now (1972, Nicolas Roeg), Rosemary's Baby (1967, Roman Polanski), Scream (1996, Wes Craven), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton), The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick), Onibaba (1964, Kaneto Shindo), The Birds (1963, Alfred Hitchcock), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962, Robert Aldrich).