Most audiences go to the movies in search of a thrill. While genres such as action and drama can offer excitement in their own right, no type of film is more thrilling than a horror film. Horror generates a visceral reaction rarely found in other kinds of movies – producing a primal fear that twists the viewers’ stomachs into knots.
The type of horror films with the biggest audience impact has changed over the years. The artistic experiments of the 1970s gave way to the Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers-driven slasher craze of the 1980s. The films of the 1990s differentiated themselves by adopting an increased self awareness of tropes developed in the 80s with popular movies like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Audiences then flocked to darker, more gruesome movies like “Saw” and “Hostel” in the mid-2000s.
And while violence remains a feature of many new releases, the genre has continued to evolve with franchises such as the Purge films. (A new installment, a prequel called “The First Purge,” is being released July 4.)
24/7 Wall St. has looked at user and critic online ratings of horror films to determine the best of the genre.
Regardless of new trends, fans also love sequels to popular titles. For instance, there have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. There are 10 entries in the Halloween series, and an 11th is due for release this October. Yet while most of these sequels manage to make a profit, only one in every five movies on the list of best horror movies is a sequel. The films that are most loved by audiences are the initial, most impactful, releases of the franchise.
Modern audiences also appear to prefer more recent releases to older classics. Of the 100 films listed, 65 came out in 2000 or later. Only 20 were released prior to 1990. While this may be upsetting to some diehard horror fans, it also illustrates the ever-changing nature of an ever-popular genre.
To determine the best horror movies of all time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have at least 10,000 total user votes between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews, and be categorized as “horror” on IMDb. We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Domestic box office gross data comes from reporting service Box Office Mojo and is not adjusted for inflation.
Certain films that were considered as being too far outside the genre were removed from consideration.