It’s October and pumpkin spice-flavored foods have invaded store shelves, the leaves are changing, haunted houses and attractions are popping up everywhere, and horror movies are starting to play on cable channels regularly. While a lot of people spend their October nights watching horror films, I’ve never really gotten into the genre. I don’t like seeing blood and gore and I’m not big on being scared. However, I know there is a lot of great cinema that I’m missing by avoiding the horror genre completely. I’m not going to go out and watch a lot of slasher flicks or torture porn but I do want to see the best films the genre has to offer. I love sci-fi and should like the relatively-similar horror genre as well. I’ve decided to spend the next 31 days watching what are probably considered to be the 31 most iconic horror films of all-time for the very first time (except for “Shaun of the Dead” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” which I have seen before but are worth re-watching). This list of films represents every decade since the 1920’s and covers just about every sub-genre from classic monster films and a slasher flick or two to zombie films and horror comedies; it even includes two silent films. Basically, if the film has extremely good reviews, started a sub-genre of films, or is historic in some other way, it’s probably on the list.
I did have to cut some very well-known films and I’m sure I completely missed some as well but there’s always next year (I expect to make this an October tradition). I also plan on doing some series like the rest of the Universal Monsters films in the coming months. I’m not just going to stick with horror films though, I consider myself a cinephile (a cinephile is a person passionate about cinema) but there is a lot of great films in all genres I’ve yet to see. Expect to see a lot of these “Cinephile Catch-Up Challenge” series as I attempt to catch up on the history of film. You can also look forward to some other Halloween-themed posts, spooky game reviews, and more this month on Geeky Hobbies.
I will watch the films in chronological order to witness the growth of the genre and the changing styles of horror cinema (and probably get more and more scared as cinematic techniques improve and more graphic stuff is shown in newer films). After watching each film, I will write a short post with my thoughts on the movie. Here’s the lineup I’m planning on doing this year:
- October 1-The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920): Considered by Roger Ebert to be “the first true horror film,” it had to make the list.
- October 2-Nosferatu (1922): Early unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” which became very influential.
- October 3-Dracula (1931): First major Universal Monsters film.
- October 4-Frankenstein (1931): One of the most iconic films of all-time and an obvious choice for this list.
- October 5-The Mummy (1932): Another big Universal Monsters film which had to make the list.
- October 6-Cat People (1942): Listed on a ton of top horror film lists and one of the only iconic horror films from the ’40s I could find.
- October 7-Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Owns a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and one of the best extraterrestrial-themed movies of all-time (and one of only three on this list).
- October 8-Vertigo (1958): The start of a string of Alfred Hitchcock films, what best horror films list doesn’t have at least a handful of his movies?
- October 9-Psycho (1960): Not many horror films are more well-known than this Alfred Hitchcock gem.
- October 10-The Birds (1963): The third straight Hitchcock film on the list but all three are considered to be absolute classics.
- October 11-Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and is on a lot of best lists.
- October 12-Night of the Living Dead (1968): I know this isn’t the first zombie film but it’s probably one of the best and the fact that it was an independent film which became a cult classic makes it a shoe-in for this list.
- October 13-The Exorcist (1973): The first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture and one of the best examples of the “demonic” sub-genre that was popular in the ’60s and ’70s.
- October 14-The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): I’m not a big fan of blood and gore so this and the other slasher films on this list kind of scare me (I have no idea how bad they are since I haven’t seen them but I’m preparing for the worst) but it’s on nearly every must-see horror list out there.
- October 15-Carrie (1976): It can’t be a best horror films list without at least one or two Stephen King adaptations.
- October 16-Halloween (1978): Another independent film which helped make John Carpenter a household name.
- October 17-Dawn of the Dead (1979): The only sequel on my list and one of the best zombie films of all-time.
- October 18-Alien (1979): I almost didn’t include this film because it really doesn’t seem to fit in the horror genre (it seems more like a sci-fi film to me) but I’ve seen a lot of people list it on best horror films lists.
- October 19-Friday the 13th (1980): Probably the lowest rated film on this list but I can’t say I’ve watched the classics without watching one of the most well-known horror films of all-time, can I?
- October 20-The Shining (1980): A pretty obvious choice, especially since ghosts are probably the paranormal phenomenon that intrigues me the most (and I really want to investigate the supposedly haunted Stanley Hotel, which “The Shining” is based on, for real-life ghosts sometime).
- October 21-The Evil Dead (1981): I love B-movies and Bruce Campbell so I had to include this highly-rated zombie film.
- October 22-Poltergeist (1982): Probably the perfect type of horror film for me, scary and includes ghosts but apparently not very violent.
- October 23-The Thing (1982): One of the very few films on this list to under-perform it’s expectations but it’s one of those films that seems to move up the rankings every year.
- October 24-A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): It isn’t Halloween season without a Freddy Krueger film (ditto for Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who show up earlier on this list).
- October 25-The Silence of the Lambs (1991): There aren’t as many universally acclaimed horror films from the ’90s and 2000’s as the previous decades but this is one of them. It even made the AFI’s top 100 list.
- October 26-Scream (1996): The ’90s are pretty weak on horror releases but this is supposedly one of the better ones.
- October 27-The Blair Witch Project (1999): I obviously had to include the originator of the found footage genre (even if it’s way over-used at this point) which somehow almost made 10,000 times it’s budget.
- October 28-Shaun of the Dead (2004): I watched this last year but this list needed more horror comedy and it’s such a great film that should be seen often anyway.
- October 29-Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): I’ve seen this film as well but not since 2007 when it came out on DVD. It’s one of the best horror films of the decade and it’s time I re-watched it.
- October 30-The Cabin in the Woods (2012): Joss Whedon. All you have to do is say his name and I’m sold. I’ve enjoyed everything of his I’ve watched thus far and it doesn’t hurt that this is one of the best reviewed horror films of the ’10s either.
- October 31-The Conjuring (2013): I don’t have a straight-up haunted house film so I decided on “The Conjuring” for my recent classic to conclude the list with.
I have a large amount of horror films on my “to watch” list already but I can always use more suggestions. Which horror films do you think are essential viewing? Sound off in the comments section.