Entertainment

The Best Classic Horror Movies 

Ranker Horror
Originally by
Updated February 6, 2020 83.8k votes 4.2k voters 103k views 207 items

List Rules Any good old horror films recognized as classics

If you’re a true horror film enthusiast then you’ll recognize these famous directors and the movies that earned them worldwide recognition: Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Tod Browning’s Dracula, James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and the most famous horror director of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, who produced some of the greatest horror movies in all of film history, including The Birds and Psycho and other old horror movies.

The movies on this list have stood the test of time as being the greatest horror films in history, so if you're in the mood for horror, these won't disappoint. Some are so essential, you may feel like you've seen them even if you haven't. They include: The Shining, Jaws, Alien, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, Halloween, Rosemary’s Baby, Dressed to Kill, I Walked With a Zombie, and Possession. This list includes old slasher films as well as scary psychological horror movies that terrified early audiences of cinema.

Vote up your favorite classic horror flick today, or add a good old scary classic that isn't on the list already.

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Alfred Hitchcock

Actors: Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, + more

Released: 1960

Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film centers on an encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, who ends up at a secluded motel after taking money from ...more

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#4 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #203 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #7 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

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Ridley Scott

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, + more

Released: 1979

Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott. The crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo encounter the eponymous Alien, a deadly and aggressive extraterrestrial set ...more

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#52 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time 50 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Alienlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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PaulWojciechowski added Jonathan Demme

Actors: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak, George A. Romero, Roger Corman, + more

Released: 1991

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott ...more

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William Friedkin

Actors: Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, William Peter Blatty, + more

Released: 1973

The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 ...more

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Stanley Kubrick

Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Barry Dennen, Barry Nelson, + more

Released: 1980

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, ...more

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#61 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #1 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story

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Brian De Palma

Actors: John Travolta, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, + more

Released: 1976

Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film based on Stephen King's first major 1974 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen. The ...more

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#69 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #20 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time The Scariest Quotes From 'Carrie' Will Have You Seeing Red

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dee123 added Tobe Hooper

Actors: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Beatrice Straight, + more

Released: 1982

Poltergeist is a 1982 American supernatural thriller film, directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is the first and most successful entry in the Poltergeist ...more

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dee123 added Wes Craven

Actors: Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Lin Shaye, + more

Released: 1984

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American supernatural slasher horror film written and directed by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film stars ...more

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#332 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #4 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time Ranking Freddy Krueger's Best Kills from A Nightmare on Elm Street

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John Carpenter

Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards, Donald Pleasence, Sandy Johnson, Charles Cyphers, + more

Released: 1978

Halloween is a 1978 American independent slasher horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her ...more

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#2 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #215 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made Stories About Jamie Lee Curtis From Behind The Scenes Of The Original ‘Halloween’ 

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StevenKershaw added Richard Donner

Actors: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Patrick Troughton, Billie Whitelaw, + more

Released: 1976

The Omen is a 1976 British/American supernatural horror film directed by Richard Donner. The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick ...more

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Alfred Hitchcock

Actors: Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Rod Taylor, + more

Released: 1963

The Birds is a 1963 suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the 1952 story "The Birds" by Daphne du Maurier. It depicts Bodega Bay, California, which is, ...more

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#276 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #35 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

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but chickens double d added Francis Ford Coppola

Actors: Monica Bellucci, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, + more

Released: 1992

Bram Stoker's Dracula is a 1992 American horror film directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker. Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), a ...more

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#53 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books The 11 Weirdest Things About Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'listed on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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George A. Romero

Actors: George A. Romero, Duane Jones, Bill Hinzman, Karl Hardman, Judith O'Dea, + more

Released: 1968

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent zombie horror film directed by George A. Romero, starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman. It premiered on October 1, 1968, and ...more

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#80 of 568 The Greatest Disaster Movies of All Time #30 of 59 The Best Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

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John Carpenter

Actors: Kurt Russell, Keith David, John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, Wilford Brimley, + more

Released: 1982

The Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, and starring Kurt Russell. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a ...more

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#116 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #43 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books

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James Whale

Actors: Boris Karloff, John Boles, Colin Clive, Francis Ford, Paul Panzer, + more

Released: 1931

Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by ...more

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but chickens double d added Rob Reiner

Actors: Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates, James Caan, Rob Reiner, Richard Farnsworth, + more

Released: 1990

Misery is a 1990 American psychological thriller film based on Stephen King's 1987 novel of the same name and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances ...more

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but chickens double d added Wes Craven

Actors: Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox, Liev Schreiber, Neve Campbell, + more

Released: 1996

Scream is a 1996 American slasher film written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven. The film stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, and David Arquette. Released on ...more

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#12 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #381 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made According To This Theory, Dewey Is The Serial Killer Mastermind In 'Scream'

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Roman Polanski

Actors: Mia Farrow, Tony Curtis, John Cassavetes, Charles Grodin, Ruth Gordon, + more

Released: 1968

Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel of the same name by Ira Levin. The cast includes Mia ...more

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#119 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time All The Spooky Evidence That Rosemary’s Baby Is, In Fact, A Cursed Movielisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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dee123 added Karl Freund

Actors: Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Noble Johnson, David Manners, Bramwell Fletcher, + more

Released: 1932

The Mummy is a 1932 horror film from Universal Studios directed by Karl Freund and stars Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features Zita Johann, David Manners ...more

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David Cronenberg

Actors: Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, David Cronenberg, George Chuvalo, John Getz, + more

Released: 1986

The Fly is a 1986 American science fiction horror film directed and co-written by David Cronenberg. Produced by Brooksfilms and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, ...more

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#39 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #59 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Againlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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dee123 added William Castle

Actors: Vincent Price, Richard Long, Elisha Cook, Jr., Alan Marshal, + more

Released: 1959

House on Haunted Hill is a 1959 American horror film. It was directed by William Castle, written by Robb White and stars Vincent Price as eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren. He and his fourth ...more

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#100 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #6 of 20 20 Of The Most Entertaining Haunted House Movies Ever Made

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James Whale

Actors: Boris Karloff, Walter Brennan, Billy Barty, Elsa Lanchester, John Carradine, + more

Released: 1935

Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 American horror film, the first sequel to Frankenstein. Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester ...more

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#604 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #131 of 180 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

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dee123 added Jack Arnold

Actors: Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Julie Adams, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, + more

Released: 1954

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a 1954 monster horror 3-D film in black-and-white, directed by Jack Arnold and starring Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno and Whit ...more

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Steven Spielberg

Actors: Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, John Searle, + more

Released: 1975

Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The prototypical summer blockbuster, its release is regarded as a ...more

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but chickens double d added John Landis

Actors: Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Rik Mayall, David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, + more

Released: 1981

An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis, and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. The film starts with two young ...more

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#28 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #445 of 1,196 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever