Top 10 Horror Movies of all time
Here are our picks for best horror movie scripts (shooting). This roughly translated means the horror movies we felt had the best character development, unique way the plot was driven, social significance and other such writing justification. If you think we got this list wrong, please comment. Also, we are going to be running a series of these best horror movies lists until Halloween, so check back to see what we come up with.
Please remember we are looking at the script here not what the actors did or how well makeup looked or even the setting or direction. It is true that these may not be the best overall horror movies of all time. We are saying we feel these are the best written horror movie scripts. Plus we get to give a shout out to the under appreciated writers. If you'd like to add something, or if you think we got something wrong, let us know in Discuss this list! Also if you liked the list pass it around
1. Psycho (1960)
Based on Robert Bloch’s novel and adapted for the screen by Joseph Stefano simply one of the best slasher characters ever written. Norman Bates’ psychosis made millions feel frightened in the shower at one time or another. This movie is the best written horror movie in our opinion. This is do to the character development/ revelations by and about Norman. His condition is ever more intriguing the more you learn about this tortured demented soul.
The slow build of suspense through the first half of the movie earns it a well-crated stamp of approval right away. Here more than any other horror film the dialogue, setup and characters drive the plot. This is why we feel it is the top of the top.
2. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Based on a Thomas Harris novel and adapted by Ted Tally, more creepy than terrifying we know, but the exchange between Clarice and Hannibal are classic movie making. Hannibal is even poetic at times roaring with delight over his manipulation of the young agent. Fear here is really built up in dialogue and interaction between psychosis. Few horror movies hold your attention so well with good dialogue, and interesting characters. A industry of serial killer trading cards owe their existence in part to the intriguing nature of Hannibal Lecter. The fragility of Clarice isn’t so obvious but rather exposed by the skillfully crafted script.
3. The Shining (1980)
Based on the Stephen King's novel and adapted by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson a twisted masterpiece of horror, psychosis, isolation, and a super natural power you wish was a little more like spider-sense than women’s intuition. The back story of these characters is the gem of this script, in our opinion. It is the subtle details about Johnny that allows us to see why he could possibly deserve such a cruel fate as the possession by this hotel and such evil. In truth the character is already possessed by the alcohol that consumes him so much he even dislocates his son’s shoulder.
The wife’s quiet submissive nature as well as the dialogue or lack of is chilling. I am not aware of any other horror movie that uses actual words to let you into the madness of a character “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That is true terror growing out of words on the page. Wonderful!
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Civil rights commentary far ahead of its time crawling out of a horror film. You don’t see that very often. Many horror films reflect inward, not outward on society, but Night of the Living Dead written by George A. Romero and John A Russo groaned a legacy out of mindless, flesh eating zombies. With it’s African American male lead (Duane Jones) and Judith O’Dea grabbing the most screen time, the film spoke to the civil rights movement in more ways than just its message.
You know it put its message where its mouth was. It is a suspenseful movie spent almost exclusively in a couple rooms. If the dialogue flopped so too would the movie, but it didn’t. Tense scenes between Karl Hardman and Jones trading threats made the movie. The zombies were a side plot when it comes to political and cultural clashes that go on inside the house. Of course with the death of Jones’ character at the end by the hands of white men unconcerned about the safety of an African American, the possibility of the story socially was much more chilling than the creature eating through flesh no matter what the skin tone.
5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Based on the Jack Finney novel and adapted to the screen W.D Richter is one case where the remake is a little better than the original. It’s also one of the only horror films to feature a poet in a co-starring role. If you are worried about falling asleep and being attached by a plant you'd better have good dialoug, interesting quirky characters and character development or you film is doomed . Invasion of the Body Snatchers delivers by allowing the two lead characters (Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams) develop a atypical relationship where horror movies are concerned. They take care of each, other but they do not have sex! It is the relationship between these two that makes the ending so power and terrifying.
6. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Odd that we would have a gore fest as one of our top 10, but if you’ve seen Evil Dead 2 you know this B movie's corny secret: it’s not all meant to be scary. Most feel it is Bruce Campbell’s cheesing acting that gets all the laughs, but the Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel’s dialogue, plot, and even cyclical nature of the story are all hilarious in their own right. At times this mammoth cult classic also crosses into terror. It is the rhythm and balance between horror and comedy that gets knee slapping, gore spurting, horror fest a spot on our top 10.
7. Carrie (1976)
Stephen King's novel to Lawrence D. Cohen's script turns the blood of an innocent ridiculed teenager to the cold blood of a rage filled killer. It isn't the killer here that is the monster though. It is her classmates, her mother, her world. Anytime a horror movie can reflect both society and predict the future it makes the list. School killings decades later would take place for the same reasons this character turns her powers to violence.
8. Cape Fear (1962)
James R Webb's screenplay based on John D. MacDonald's novel is one of the most chilling horror movies of all time. The suspense and terror portrayed in Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) is one of the best conceived “monsters” in horror movie history. The movie holds up today and is still horrific.
9. Alien (1979)
Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett terrified audiences with a double chomping exoskeleton monster that infest and digests. This movie has a stillness and rhythm that you can tell as a writer is created as much by the script as by the director and actors who made the words live on the screen. There are moments of creepy quiet and roaring terror. This as a sci-fi horror movie has everything. Drama, suspense, and a monster that won't quit.
10. Poltergeist (1982)
Steven Spielberg's screenplay was as much a shock to audiences as it was to the industry. This makes the list for a couple reasons. It is a well-written example of the “every family” that lived in America at the time. The quiet of the neighborhood is ever more terrifying when the bodies begin popping our of the swimming pool. If Spielberg is good at anything, he's good at symbolism. The movie is also on the list as the quintessential blockbuster horror movie script. It mixes horror and comedy, and keeps audience safely in the comfortable “horror zone.” Whatever else can be said about the film, it is well-written.