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100 best horror movies, according to critics

  • 100 best horror movies, according to critics

    What makes for a truly great horror movie? Is it the jump scares and buckets of blood? A solid directorial voice? Creativity? Originality? Deeper layers of meaning? These are the questions critics might ask themselves when examining the genre from an analytical perspective. And as one will soon discover, their conclusions aren’t always tuned in to audience expectations. Nevertheless, critically-acclaimed horror is usually unique in one way or the other, and therefore worth checking out. After all, one can only take so many rote formulas and generic clichés. Right?

    On the following list of top-rated horror films, there’s a little bit of everything and then some. Movies such as “Tigers Are Not Afraid” and “Under the Shadow” juxtapose supernatural terror with real-life atrocities. By contrast, films like “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” let the slasher subgenre speak for itself. “Alien” incorporates sci-fi elements while “The Babadook” and “Rosemary’s Baby” play upon psychological tropes. Horror comedies like “Shaun of the Dead” and “What We Do in the Shadows” have also garnered loyal fanbases.

    With these wide-reaching parameters in mind, some might say that horror is more an emotive state than it is an outright genre. Indeed, a taut war drama or compelling sci-fi premise will occasionally render far greater an impression than the standard splatter flick. Of course, don’t take that to mean the critics aren’t game for grindhouse fare, presuming it’s executed with a certain tier of originality.

    To celebrate this genre in all its permutations and possibilities, Stacker compiled data on the top-ranked horror films of all time from Metacritic as of June 30, 2020. They’re presented here in order of their Metascore, going from low to high. Expect some surprises and not just because audiences didn’t always agree with the critical assessments. Here are the best horror movies, according to critics.

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  • #100. Frankenweenie (2012)

    - Director: Tim Burton
    - Metascore: 74
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 87 min

    Tim Burton remade his own black-and-white short film with this 3D stop-motion animated tale. Offering a clever take on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” it swaps in a beloved pet dog for the legendary monster. Critics took to the work more than audiences did and it was viewed as a commercial disappointment.

  • #99. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

    - Director: Robert Aldrich
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 15
    - Runtime: 134 min

    With a little push from the FX TV series “Feud,” this seminal psychodrama continues to shock new audiences. Screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play two once-famous siblings who are now engaged in a fraught—but mutually-dependent—relationship. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an score of 92 between both critics and audiences.

  • #98. The Deeper You Dig (2020)

    - Directors: John Adams, Toby Poser
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 6
    - Runtime: 92 min

    Married couple Toby Poser and John Adams churned out this “nicely economical tale of supernatural vengeance,” to quote Variety. Primarily set in the wake of a tragic accident, it chronicles the ongoing conflict between three central characters. The few moviegoers who’ve seen it seem far less impressed than the critics.

  • #97. mother! (2017)

    - Director: Darren Aronofsky
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 51
    - Runtime: 121 min

    An art film run amok is one way to describe this multi-layered drama, which descends into pure horror as the story unfolds. One of the few films to earn an “F” CinemaScore upon release, it’s since become something of a cult classic. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence play a married couple, whose secluded life gets uprooted by a series of uninvited guests.

  • #96. Nina Forever (2016)

    - Directors: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 10
    - Runtime: 98 min

    Nothing if not unique, this off-kilter romantic dramedy plays with various genre tropes. Upon losing his girlfriend in a car accident, a young man is haunted by her gory presence every time he tries to have sex. It’s another film that appears to divide critics and audiences on sites such as Rotten Tomatoes.

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  • #95. House of Usher (1960)

    - Director: Roger Corman
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 8
    - Runtime: 79 min

    B-movie icon Roger Corman hit an early stride with this gothic Poe adaptation. Set inside a cursed house, it stars horror legend Vincent Price in one of his most definitive roles. Corman adapted seven additional Poe stories over the course of just four years, collaborating with Price nearly every time.

  • #94. THX 1138 (1971)

    - Director: George Lucas
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 8
    - Runtime: 86 min

    The feature-length debut from George Lucas takes place in a 25th-century dystopia. Under the constant watch of an oppressive regime, two nameless citizens (Robert Duvall and Maggie McOmie) forge a rebellion. Cranking hard-earned special effects out of a modest budget, the cult film tackles a range of prescient themes.

  • #93. Joy Ride (2001)

    - Director: John Dahl
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 31
    - Runtime: 97 min

    While on a road trip, three friends cross paths with a psychotic truck driver in this taut thriller. What could be a generic stalker film turns out to be far more gripping than the standard fare. In his 3.5-star review, critic Roger Ebert called it the “kind of horror movie that plays so convincingly we don't realize it's an exercise in pure style.”

  • #92. Creep 2 (2017)

    - Director: Patrick Brice
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 5
    - Runtime: 80 min

    Indie fixture Mark Duplass co-wrote and stars in this found footage sequel, reprising the role of a demented serial killer. This time around, the killer lures an aspiring videographer into his deadly web. Fans of the original won’t be disappointed.

  • #91. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

    - Director: Philip Kaufman
    - Metascore: 75
    - Number of reviews: 15
    - Runtime: 115 min

    Director Philip Kaufman breathed new life into a sci-fi horror classic by way of this effectively creepy remake. Retaining the core elements of its predecessor, it depicts the gradual takeover of mankind from the inside out. With or without any socio-political subtext, the story taps into the deepest fears of human consciousness.

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