When you think of horror, your view might be narrow. Are you thinking outside your favorite genre? How about older movies? I’ve compiled the top 20 horror movies of all time according to their user ratings on IMDb. This list spans over 100 years of film and they are some seriously spooky classics. How many have you seen?
1. Alien (1979)
Pair a badass female, a spaceship full of people who make all the wrong decisions, and an alien hell-bent on busting out of people’s chests and you have the best horror movie of all time. It also bridges the gap between horror and sci-fi. Watch it for Sigourney Weaver and her adorable kitty. IMDb user rating: 8.5.
2. Psycho (1960)
If you ever wanted a cautionary tale of just how off-his-rocker a mama’s boy can be, check out Psycho. Loosely based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein, you’ll be looking at middle-of-nowhere motels a little differently after you catch this one. Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates will give you the chills. IMDb user rating: 8.5.
3. The Shining (1980)
Despite Stephen King hating this adaptation of his horror novel, it remains a favorite for most horror fans. Watch as Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance goes slowly mad inside a palatial hotel in the dead of winter. Let’s hope his wife and son can get away from his as he descends into madness. IMDb user rating: 8.4.
4. The Thing (1982)
It’d be bad enough to be sequestered in a remote research station in Antarctica’s perpetual winter, but it’s all made so much worse when a mysterious parasite starts turning people into malformed humanoid monsters. The practical special effects in this one make it a must-see even for people who normally don’t like body horror. It’s just that good! IMDb user rating: 8.2.
5. The Exorcist (1973)
Ask anyone who was alive when The Exorcist came out and they’ll probably tell you it was the scariest movie they’ve ever seen. Poor young Regan has been possessed, and now it’s up to a couple priests to exorcise her. The world has been blessed with some horror staples because of this movie, like the use of pea soup when it comes to possessions in film. Thanks, I guess. IMDb user rating: 8.1.
6. Diabolique (1955)
A wife and her husband’s mistress devise a plan to kill the man. But when his body goes missing, things might not be as they seem. This older French film is a classic when it comes to all the twists and turns. If you like movies that make your heart sink down into your stomach, here you go. IMDb user rating: 8.1.
7. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
A young Manhattanite becomes pregnant. It should be a wonderful time, but when she starts to suspect her elderly neighbors of Satanism, she believes her and her unborn baby are in danger. The paranoia is palpable with this one. And here’s the thing about paranoia: Sometimes you’re right. IMDb user rating: 8.0.
8. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
“Baby” Jane was a prominent child actress while her sister Blanche held the spotlight as a Hollywood starlet in early adulthood. Now that they’re older and Blanche is paralyzed, Jane’s crazed and ready to do anything to hurt her sister. It sounds simple, but the performance by Bette Davis is chilling. IMDb user rating: 8.
9. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Here’s proof that you don’t need spoken dialog to create a horrifying film. This German silent film follows a mysterious man and his creepy cabinet that houses a prophetic sleepwalker. The town is frightened when people start popping up dead. This one’s a classic for a reason, folks. IMDb user rating: 8.
10. Let the Right One In (2008)
A young boy strikes up an unlikely friendship with the new kid in town in this Swedish horror film. Maybe now he won’t be so severely bullied? But the new kid isn’t what they seem. This one’s a favorite among many and is often considered sweet and romantic, in addition to being terrifying. IMDb user rating: 7.9.
11. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It doesn’t hurt to add a bit of comedy in with all this horror. Follow Shaun and his doofy roommate Ed as they try to save Shaun’s girlfriend and wait out the zombie apocalypse in the local pub. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and writer/director Edgar Wright are now staples in the movie biz thanks to this one. As well they should be! IMDb user rating: 7.9.
12. Freaks (1932)
A woman joins a traveling French circus and plots the murder of one of the sideshow performers. This one was banned in the UK for 30 years because of its content. To this day, it’s controversial for its use of real sideshow performers and their label as “freaks.” Still, it’s clearly a favorite of horror fans if the rating is any indication. IMDb user rating: 7.9.
13. Nosferatu (1922)
A classic German vampire film, Nosferatu follows a man as he visits the mysterious Count Orlok. After he flees the Count’s estate, the man is worried that his girlfriend may be in danger. Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Bram Stoker’s estate sued the filmmakers because of how close the plot was to Dracula…and they won. IMDb user rating: 7.9.
14. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
When there’s a zombie outbreak, where would you go? For this group of survivors, the answer is clearly the local shopping mall. They survive by raiding the stores, which sounds fun until the mall gets overloaded by zombies. IMDb user rating: 7.8.
15. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Here’s the George A. Romero zombie movie that started at all. Without this one, Dawn of the Dead wouldn’t have happened. It’s a fresh zombie outbreak and Barbara needs to find somewhere to hide. She joins a group of people in a rural farmhouse, but can they survive the night? IMDb user rating: 7.8.
16. The Innocents (1961)
The Innocents is one of many film adaptations of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. A governess agrees to watch two children in a huge mansion, but starts to suspect that the place is haunted. You can probably thank Truman Capote’s rewrites of the script for why this adaptation made this list. IMDb user rating: 7.8.
17. Frankenstein (1931)
Dr. Frankenstein has some creative ideas when it comes to science. He wants to create a man, so he gathers body parts to cobble up his own creation. But when the experiment works, the town is now terrified by his monster. This is one of the most important creature features in horror history. IMDb user rating: 7.8.
18. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
What happens when the monster you created gets lonely? You make him a wife, of course! This horror sequel may just be better than the original. Just look at the bride’s iconic hair. IMDb user rating: 7.8.
19. Get Out (2017)
A man is finally meeting his girlfriend’s family. They seem nice enough, but when he starts to become uncomfortable with all the attention he’s getting as one of the few black people on the estate, his intense desire to get out is telling him something important. Let’s all thank Jordan Peele for branching out of comedy and into horror. IMDb user rating: 7.7.
20. Evil Dead II (1987)
Yes, there’s a sequel on this list that’s much higher rated than the original. Following Ash as he battles demon possession in a secluded cabin, this one is the perfect balance of horror and comedy. Without Evil Dead II, we would have never gotten Bruce Campbell with a chainsaw arm. IMDb user rating: 7.7.