As the Halloween season kicks into full swing, many will seek out a fitting movie to watch. For many, this means turning to the sole genre designed to frighten audiences: horror.
Fans of scary movies have a seemingly endless supply to choose from. Genre signifiers — such as skeletons, ghosts, and demons — have been appearing in films since the 19th century. Today, moviegoers have access to a steady stream of new, big budget horror movies at their local theater as well as extensive libraries going back decades available on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu.
Of course, the genre has gone through many changes over the years. The classic monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s were eventually replaced by grittier films in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1980s gave rise to the slasher craze, featuring memorable characters such as Jason, Freddy Kreuger, and Michael Myers in numerous sequels, though the popularity of these antagonists has notably waned since. These are the most popular movie villains of all time.
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 as well as found footage flicks such as “Paranormal Activity.”
While horror movies do not always dominate the box office, they have consistently maintained some level of popularity. Some horror movies have even ranked among the top grossing movies of all time.
To help movie watchers navigate the genre this Halloween, 24/7 Tempo has identified the 50 best horror movies of all time based on user and critic ratings online.
To determine the best horror movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo 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 as of Oct. 5, 2019. 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.
To be considered, each film was required to have English dialogue and be released prior to 2018. Certain films that were considered by our editors as being too far outside the genre were removed from consideration.