Prince of Darkness (1987)
This one’s really unsettling. It’s not much like John Carpenter’s other work. It’s slow and careful and nightmare-like, and takes time to set up really disturbing images and a sense of dread.  A Sci-Fi horror flick with a real explanation of how it can happen rooted in known physics. Directed by the top notch director of horror John Carpenter. An important secret in the church is passed on to someone that realizes they need help with it. As the realization of what it is unfolds the viewer is engulfed in horror and suspense. A horror flick that all others can be judged against.

The Thing (1982)
The second one that was a remake by John Carpenter. Excellent scenes of suspense peppered throughout the background of horror with a thriller of an ending. This film went back to the original source material, a short story entitled “Who Goes There?” that the first film was based on, and brought back into the plot all the elements that had made the story work that the first film had just completely ignored. Lots of action, a claustrophobic setting, and a wonderfully ambiguous ending make this one memorable.

Dead Calm
Gripping your seat yelling at the screen suspense and thriller. A few bits of horror thrown in. A real character movie with only three actors. A couple of R rated sex scenes the kids have to cover their eyes during.

Splinter‘ (2008)

“Trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts, a young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together to survive this primal terror.” It is actually well done with a decent plot and not a lot of focus on gore.  Is Truth stranger than fiction?

‘Mothman Prophecies’ (2002)
Strange things are happening in Point Pleasant, W.Va. For one, Richard Gere can’t figure out how he got there. Then there are the shadowy winged figures lurking around. And finally, the phone calls from someone (or something) with a creepy insect-like voice. Did we mention the phone wasn’t plugged in?

‘Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters)’ (2003)
Never has a menstrual cycle been presented as more terrifying or as, well, a harbinger for doom, death, and ghosts. This Korean masterpiece, directed and written by Ji-woon Kim, is elusive, subtle and horribly, horribly frightening. It centers on two deranged sisters, one deranged step-mother, one deranged father, and one deranged phantom. Oh, and some birds. Scary ones.

‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974)
What sets this movie apart from other slasher films? Perhaps it was Leatherface’s human skin mask, or maybe it was the roar of the chainsaw, or it could have been the “based on a true story” line at the beginning. Who can say? What is certain is that this is an extremely scary movie — especially Leather’s happy-dance at the end of the movie. Jason could learn a few things.

‘Saw’ (2004)
Initially rated NC-17 before being re-edited, “Saw” follows the travails of two men held captive by Jigsaw, a serial killer who presents his victims with a terrible choice. Avoiding the slasher flick clichés (teens being pursued by ax-wielding maniac), the film delves into darker psychological territory while still maintaining an unhealthy level of gore.

‘Ju-on’ (2000)
Dateline, Japan: Jealous of his wife’s love for another man, a man brutally kills his wife and young son. Better than the Sarah Michelle Gellar slog-fest (“The Grudge”) that followed this flick, “Ju-on” is edgy — it even allows you some time to get comfortable before the heavy breathing, black blood, and phantasmagoric preschoolers start popping out of the woodwork like drunk termites. Put on a helmet, and dive in.

‘Rec’ (2007)
Spanish reporter Angela Vidal is looking for a good story. And, when she follows a group of firefighters on an emergency call to a creepy apartment building she gets more than she bargained for. A little girl locked in a penthouse, a zombie dog, dimly lit rooms, a screaming old lady, the list of scary stuff in this flick is a mile long. Knowing a good thing when they see it, Hollywood produced its own version called “Quarantine.” Stick with the original.

‘The Ring’ (2002)
Naomi Watts. Very good looking, yes. Sassy? Yep. Try squaring her off against a weird chick who really wants to climb out of a well and kill people and eat their guts. OK, well maybe she doesn’t want to eat their guts. But she does a good job of killing a lot of people in this cinematically beautiful horror romp — and she scares the bejeezus out of Naomi Watts (right) in the process. Hey, that little kid playing the doomed son is cute, but kinda freaky. Extra points for that.

‘Alien’ (1979)
Sigourney Weaver: hot. Alien monster: ugly. Throw them together in a futuristic, highly stylized space battleground: beautiful. And terrifying. “Alien” was important not least because it showed that the science-fiction horror genre was one of possibility — this movie was also intelligently rendered, psychologically powerful, and, well, gross. Where else can find a bloody creature being birthed from a human surrogate?

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)
Why is my family acting so strangely? Why do they keep insisting that I go to sleep? What are these strange plants I see suddenly sprouting up? These are the important questions dealt with in this classic sci-fi thriller. Incidentally, if you are a big fan of uplifting endings (like the one tacked on to the original 1956 version) … consider a different flick.

‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978)
Director George Romero single handedly created the zombie genre with “Night of the Living Dead.” But it was the sequel, “Dawn of the Dead” that he really cranked the scares up exponentially by featuring some of the goriest scenes ever committed to film. It’s no wonder the film was banned in 17 countries.

‘Halloween’ (1978)
It was all downhill from here on out for Jamie Lee Curtis. And we mean that. Would she ever scream like this again? Hide in a closet while a very persistent Michael Myers spent about, oh, say, 78 minutes trying to hack through the door? Did we mention she’s related to the killer? Little known fact: John Carpenter wrote the theme song himself. Genius like that doesn’t come along many times in a lifetime, folks.

‘The Shining’ (1980)
It goes without saying that a haunted hotel is going to feature lots of frights, and director Stanley Kubrick doesn’t disappoint. Sure, Jack Nicholson (right) trotting around the empty halls sporting an ax and a demented look in his eyes is pretty scary, but for us the biggest jolt comes when Shelley Duval discovers his new novel consists of the line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” written over and over and over.

‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
Spinning heads. Vile expletives. Buckets of vomit. Sound like your last blind date? It was worse for Ellen Burstyn and Max Von Sydow, who had to play opposite Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” When this puppy first hit the silver screen, people were running out of the theater in droves. Now we call those people sissies. But as approximately 6,453 previous “Scariest Movies of All Time” lists have noted, this movie is scary.

‘Jaws’ (1975)
Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. Good movie. Scary music. And Roy Scheider, playing a stressed-out sheriff in a small beach community, steals the show here, even when Richard Dreyfuss sticks his mug into the picture. As for the shark, well, yeah, that’s frightening. But who has time to be nervous about sharks? What about jellyfish? They have no brains! Good god, now that’s terrifying.

‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (1990)
Tim Robbins stars as a Vietnam vet suffering from disturbing hallucinations. How disturbing you ask? Well, he keeps seeing monstrous figures waving to him from passing trains. Later, at a party, his girlfriend looks like she’s dancing with some sort of alien. The only one he can turn to for help is an angelic chiropractor played by Danny Aiello. Yikes! Now that’s scary.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – with the threat of nuclear disaster and its effects on humans largely forgotten, how successful would a remake featuring villains mutated by radioactive fallout play to today’s generation of horror fans? Well, it worked back then and it works today.


This is still one of the best ghost stories ever made. The film takes the safety and ordinariness of the American suburb and turns it into a house of horrors. And it all begins with some strange and amusing poltergeist activity in a young family’s home, and gets serious when five-year-old Carol Anne disappears. A team of paranormal investigators is called in, but it’s a task none of them are quite prepared for. Creepiest scene: A psychic, describing the circumstances of the missing little girl, informs her parents that there are many arms about her, including those of an evil presence… “to her it is just another child, but to us it is… the beast.”

Re-Animator (1985)
Stupid, gory, and fun. Don’t watch this if you have a weak stomach and no sense of humor. It’s allegedly based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, but it doesn’t even approach the mystery and creepiness of Lovecraft, and, well, it doesn’t even try to — it just borrows the premise of the story as a framework for a lot of sick, in-your-face visual ideas.

Friday the 13th (1980)
Surprisingly good. As the progenitor of the “mad slasher goes around killing teenagers who were about to have sex” genre, I thought this film would be as bad as the countless imitators that followed. I was wrong. Some fairly decent acting, good pacing, and a few real surprises.

Creepshow (1982)
If you’re tired of horror films with pretensions of being serious and artistic, here’s your cure. It manages to be frequently campy without losing the edge of horror. (Okay, maybe during the animated sequences.) But this is just plain fun. It’s an homage to the horror comics of the fifties, especially the offerings from EC Comics. (The sequel wasn’t quite as good, so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but if you really enjoy this film, check out the second one.

Cemetary Man (1994)
I always think of this movie as Dellamorte, Dellamore, it’s Italian title, but I’ve listed it under it’s American release title so you can find it at your local video store. It’s a strange one, but I liked it a lot. It’s moody, creepy, gory, hysterically funny, and strangely romantic. Don’t expect it to make much sense, but it’s fun to watch.

The Fly (1986)
The first Cronenberg film I ever saw, this one is fairly typical of his work. Not that this movie is typical by other standards; where Dead Ringers gives us a slow deterioration of a relationship, The Fly gives us a slow deterioration of a human body, as we watch a man slowly devolve into a monster. Worth watching just for Jeff Goldblum as the lead character; no one is better at being naturally creepy than Goldblum, and Cronenberg gets an excellent performance out of him.

Scream (1996)
Okay, maybe this one isn’t really all that scary — the first five minutes or so had me on the edge of my seat, but the rest of it doesn’t really live up to the opening — but if you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ve got to see this one; it’s made with such obvious fondness and affection for the whole horror film genre, and with such style, that it just picks you up and carries you along. It’s a lot of fun.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
I wasn’t really expecting much from this movie — it looked like a cheap knockoff of Night of the Living Dead, and that’s essentially true . . . . But if I’m not mistaken, the writer from NotLD actually had some involvement in this movie, and in some respects, was able to improve on his original ideas. These zombies really are (almost) unstoppable — and it’s fun watching the characters try anyway. It’s dumb, it wants you to laugh at it, but so much of what it does with the concept is so darn clever that you just have to stop and appreciate the ideas while you’re laughing. Also, it’s got a really great 80’s soundtrack.

Nomads (1986)
Unsettling and original, this movie really conveys the feeling of a world both darker and larger than our own. Rather than tapping into the same well of old stories that most horror films use, with their demons and vampires and werewolves, this story creates a threat that feels unmistakably urban and modern and real. The movie’s slow breakdown of linear logic echoes the mental breakdown of the lead character. And the ending still really haunts me.

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)
My expectations for the original may have been low, but my expectations for this one were even lower — the first film was cheesy enough, but sequels are always even worse, right? Wrong. This movie is hip, creepy, and clever, and takes the idea of zombie movies and makes it personal as we watch the deteriorating relationship between a woman who is slowly giving into her undead hunger and the man who brought her back from the dead. This movie is perfectly aware of both the real horror and the real absurdity of its premise, and sets tense, dramatic scenes against colorfully-lit, EC-comics-like backgrounds, giving the whole film a surreal and dreamlike feeling.

Session 9 (2001)
Slow, moody, atmospheric, psychological. The decaying mental hospital is one of the most disturbing places I’ve ever seen on film, and the slow breakdown of the people working on it is even more disturbing. Even just thinking about the line “What are you doing here?” makes me shudder.  A cleaning crew working at an abandoned mental hospital is an obvious recipe for scares. You just know that something bad is going to happen. And happen it does. It’s only at the end do we – the audience – realize how crazy one of the crew members has been since the beginning. As an added bonus the film was shot at the former state hospital in Danvers, Mass.
Last House on the Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first film, and easily his single most disturbing. I think this one works so well because he didn’t know what he was doing — it doesn’t fall into any safe, predictable patterns — you never know what’s going to happen to any of the characters at any moment. This is not light, fluffy, kiddie-fare — don’t toss this one in the VCR at your next Halloween party if you still want all your friends speaking to you afterward. This one is brutal and nasty, and shot in such a cheap, flat way that it looks like a documentary, or a snuff film; the cheapness actually enhances the realism, just as the badly-placed and -executed comic relief enhances the real horror of the rest of the film — you find yourself staring slack-jawed at the “funny” scenes as you would at someone who brought a whoopie cushion to a funeral.

The Company of Wolves (1984)
I’ve heard this film described as a “fairy tale for adults,” and that’s pretty dead-on. There’s a lot of creepy, bloody, sexual, chaotic material boiling around under the skin of our culture’s fairy tales, and this movie takes that skin and peels it back. This film makes much more sense on an emotional level than it does on an intellectual level; sit back and watch it, wide-eyed and open and receptive as a child, and get ready for nightmares.

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
The best John Carpenter film in years. Not that he’d been slacking, or anything, but he really outdid himself this time. This one’s a nice homage, partly to Steven King, but mainly to H.P. Lovecraft

Nightbreed (1990)
I always feel a little sad when I see this now, knowing that it should have been better — apparently, the studio really cut this one to ribbons, and it shows, with the occasional jump in the plot or gap in logic. But what’s left really makes me yearn for the long-rumored director’s cut to be released. Nightbreed is the film that finally realizes that the most compelling and even sympathetic characters in horror films aren’t the victims — they’re the monsters. And this film provides an entire nightmarish hidden city of them.

The Exorcist (1973)
It’s a little hard to judge this movie on its own merits — its images and ideas have become so firmly entrenched in our culture, and it’s been parodied and referenced so many times that’s it’s hard to separate the film itself from this idea of the film. Although it almost works better as an archetype than as a movie, The Exorcist still has the power to shock and horrify, even by today’s jaded standards; and I have to give it proper credit for not going with a “Hollywood” ending.

Cat People (1942)
You’d think that a movie this old would seem too dated to scare a modern audience, but this one still really shines. The characters are intriguing and well-acted, and the story and the direction both refuse to give you release from the tension they build up right until the final frames. The film is also beautifully lit and shot, using the black-and-white medium to its full advantage. There was a remake in 1982, that had a great performance from Malcolm McDowell and music by David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder, that still couldn’t touch the original.

Videodrome (1983)
Yeee-ikes. Creepy, icky, weird, and makes no linear sense. But should a film that shows someone’s gradual mental deterioration really have to make linear sense? It’s hard to tell, as the film progresses, how much of the action is “really” happening, and how much only takes place inside the protagonist’s mind — but it doesn’t really matter.

Martin (1978)
Okay, sure, this is another vampire movie. But I guarantee you that this is not like any other vampire movie you’ve ever seen. For one thing, you can never really be sure whether the title character really is a vampire, or whether he’s just horrifically delusional . . . . One of the creepiest horror movies I’ve seen, since aside from the flashbacks (which could just be fantasies), there’s nothing in this film that couldn’t actually happen. This isn’t one of George Romero’s better known films — but it should be, dammit.

The Ugly (1997)
Disturbing, entrancing, and beautifully shot in a very modern, jerky, and disorienting style, this movie is the life story of a serial killer with a supernatural edge to it. While having an “unreliable narrator” is a common enough technique in prose fiction, I can’t remember another film that uses the same technique so well; we’re left uncertain whether the events we’re seeing are real memories, imagined memories, or simple lies. This movie also has a very distinctive visual style; for example, the blood in this movie isn’t red, it’s oil-black. That might sound almost cartoonish, but it’s incredibly effective — it draws your attention to the blood in a way that a normal portrayal wouldn’t, and underlines the horror of the situation. Simon’s victims look soiled and unclean by his acts.

Pumpkinhead (1988)
I avoided this film for years, thanks to a pretty stupid title and an unimaginative and cheap looking video cover design. I finally rented it out of desperation one night, when I couldn’t find anything else that looked appealing — and I was blown away by it. Great creature effects from Stan Winston, the man who made the creatures in Alien. An interesting story. And a compelling performance from Lance Henriksen, whom I loved in Near Dark.

Near Dark (1987)
Best damn vampire movie ever made. No question. (Even though it never uses the word “vampire” once — the characters in it don’t seem sure what they are.) It’s the story of a young man’s descent into darkness, and his redemption. Features Lance Henriksen as the lead vampire; he’s probably better known now as Bishop from Aliens, but this the role I always picture him in. Great soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This is a difficult movie to categorize — it’s hard to tell what kind of film you’re watching, even from one moment to the next. It manages to be very genuinely creepy, occasionally hysterically funny, and sometimes even both at once. I’m not sure if this movie succeeds, because, quite frankly, I don’t know what the hell it was trying to do. But I found it fairly intriguing, even though it’s inconsistently paced. Definitely worth seeing just for Rick Baker’s werewolf transformation effects, which really pushed the envelope of what was possible to put on the screen. And it has a perfect ending. Personally, I really enjoyed the long-overdue sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, but I can’t honestly say it was a good movie.

Phantasm (1979)
This is a very . . . weird little movie. I didn’t like it until about halfway through it, when I stopped trying to make sense of it. It has a very creepy, dreamlike feel and structure to it, there are parts of the film that are laughably bad and other parts that are really terrifying, and it doesn’t really add up to a cohesive whole — but you get the feeling that it wasn’t trying to, that it was just trying to tow you along as it drifted through a nightmare for a while. And I think it succeeds at that. Also, despite the overall cheapness of the movie, the makers had a good sense of visual style, and the Ball and the Tall Man are compelling images.

Candyman (1992)
It’s based on a Clive Barker short story, so naturally I had to love this one. It strays a little far afield of the story it’s based on, but it does so fairly gracefully. This movie does an excellent job at creating an original supernatural menace, while grounding it so firmly in the context of urban legends that you’d be convinced the character has been spoken of in whispers for years. This movie has a quiet, low-budget look and feel to it that actually helps to enhance the unsettling mood it creates.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
This is, well, a pretty strange movie. I’m not entirely certain I understand what happened in this film, although I have some ideas — but that’s all right, because the main character doesn’t understand what’s happened to the world around him, either. It’s not often I enjoy feeling as confused as the characters I’m watching, but considering some of the themes this movie deals with — the very nature of life and death — I suppose a little confusion might be justified.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Almost as unheard-of as a good Steven King movie, we have here another another rarity: a well-done sequel. Even though it has a different writer and different director, this movie still dovetails fairly seamlessly onto the end of the first; one can cheerfully watch them back-to-back, if you’re willing to ignore the fact that the main character’s house seems to un-burn-down between films. Hellbound manages to delve even farther into the mythology established by the first film while still remaining true to the spirit of it. (Just a side note: Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because the first two films were so good, the third one will be as well. It’s excruciatingly bad. And it’s not even bad in an entertaining way.)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Do you really need a recommendation for this one? Well, maybe you do; maybe you’d just as soon avoid any film that spawned a franchise of endless sequels. But, really, the first one was groundbreaking and fun, and really manages to convey the strange logic that nightmares operate under. If you’ve never seen it, you need to.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
I know what you’re thinking. But really, this is not that kind of movie; despite the title, there have been many, many movies that have gone much farther out of their way to splatter blood, gore and intestines up on the screen than this one. This may have been visually shocking in the early seventies, but it’s awfully tame to today’s jaded thrillseekers, such as myself. It’s not tame, however, in its plot and direction; after slowly building up the atmosphere, nearly the last half of the movie is one, long, extended chase sequence. It may sound boring put that way, but it’s not. The viewer is made to feel tense, claustrophobic and trapped along with our heroine. Very creepy and unsettling.

The Hitcher (1986)
This one is really creepy and unsettling, too, but in a much more cinematic way, so it’s a little easier to take. But not much. The perfect movie for people who always thought there was something just a little sinister about Rutger Hauer.

Les Yeux sans visage (1960)
Simultaneously sadistic and gentle, dreamlike and brutally real. The surgery imagery from this film has stayed buried in my subconscious more than any sophisticated modern special effect.

The Wicker Man
The scariest part of the movie for me is not its famous ending — and if you’re one of the five people out there who doesn’t know what that is, I’m not going to ruin it for you — but just watching our hero wind his way through the slow, inevitable trap that’s been set for him. There was no way out from the moment he got off the plane, and watching him figure that out is like slowly watching him die.

Carnival of Souls (1962)
I rented this movie on the strength of the recommendations on alt.horror, and now I have to add my own. I love this movie. It’s very slow-paced by today’s standards, but it’s very creepy and effective. (There’s a so-called “remake” out there that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original. Skip it and rent this instead.)

Angel Heart (1987)
Written and directed by Alan Parker, who directed my favorite non-horror movie (Pink Floyd: The Wall). It has the voodoo-laden, jazzy, hard-boiled feel that I wish Lord Of Illusions had managed to pull off.

Ginger Snaps (2000)
Fresh and scary, as funny and clever as its title, this movie easily pulls off what very few horror films have even thought to attempt — a close friendship between two young girls, along with all the emotional minefields such friendships can bring. Maybe the central metaphor — using the werewolf legend to examine adolescence itself — is a little obvious, a little broadly played, but its still well-handled and smart.

Stir of Echoes (1999)
I’m really almost unreasonably fond of this movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kevin Bacon, but I find him at his most likeable here, as an everyday guy who is suddenly dealing with unwanted psychic powers, and a ghost who won’t rest. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s all done here with such conviction and style you’d swear they invented the ghost story, just now. It was released very shortly after, and completely eclipsed by, The Sixth Sense, a movie I also liked, but not nearly as much as this one.

Frailty (2001)
I really wish this movie were more widely known. For one thing, it has the best performance I’ve ever seen from Bill Paxton, but mainly, I find the story and the mood so compelling. We’re told from the start exactly what’s going on, as a man confesses his family’s bloody history of working for the Lord to the FBI, but we’re still drawn through twists and turns.

Cube (1997)
Damn. I made the mistake of seeing this movie alone when I saw it for the first time, and I couldn’t sleep afterwards. Claustrophobic and terrifying, this movie keeps setting up your expectations and knocking them down. Extremely nihilistic in its outlook, this film has a lot to say about the nature of life. Shot on an extremely low budget with amazing special effects provided entirely free of charge by volunteers, this movie proves what you can do with just a handful of actors and one set.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)
Yeeeesh. When you think you’ve become jaded, when you think you’ve seen it all, and that nothing you could possibly see in a movie could bother you — please, by all means, watch this movie. After seeing hours of stylized, glossy, slicked-up violence dished out by the Jasons and Freddy’s of the silver screen, this movie is a real fucking wake-up call. Disturbingly realistic in a flat, stark, almost documentary-like style, there is absolutely nothing glamorous about this movie. It will mess you up bad. Worth seeing, but really, really, unsetlling. See it with a friend who won’t hate you for making them watch it.

Dead Ringers (1988)
Easily one of the best films by David Cronenberg, the most twisted and messed-up director I know (I love his work). I almost hesitate to call this a horror film; it doesn’t have the trappings of a traditional horror film, doesn’t have the pacing of one. What it does do is slowly unfold the unsettling, disturbing breakdown of two identical twins, both expertly played by Jeremy Irons with the aid of some flawless split-screen work.

28 Days Later (2002)
It never occurred to me that the director of Trainspotting would ever turn his hand to reinventing the zombie genre, but he certainly did — he took everything that works about it and stripped away everything else, investing what remains with an amazing depth of compassion for his characters, a sweeping sense of scale for what the world has lost.

The Shining (1980)
I’ve had a recent conversion experience over this one. I’d seen it on video, and I always used to find it kind of boring — but I got talked into seeing it on the big screen, and I finally got it. It really needs a cinema screen to convey the sense of scale and isolation, and now I love it. (I still think Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness would seem more convincing if they hadn’t cast Jack Nicholson, who seems a little unhinged at the start of the movie, but what the hell.)

The Ring (2002)
I don’t remember the last time I was this scared in a movie theater. The original version isn’t as good, in some respects — both of them have their plot holes and leaps of logic, but the original’s Sadako is even more creepy and terrifying than the remake’s Samara, if you can believe that.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I saw the 1990 remake long before I ever saw the original, and for quite a while, I honestly thought I prefered the remake, at least partly because it has the talents of the incomparable Tony Todd and Babylon 5’s Patricia Tallman behind it. But when it came time to compile this list, I realized that only one of the two had really managed to burn its images into my brain, and that was the original. The original may feel a little stilted and dated in some ways compared to the remake, but it’s got a power to it that just can’t be denied.

Dark Water (2002)
The American remake is a perfectly serviceable little film, and has some decent scares in it, but the original Japanese film is really, really unsettling. I had a hard time going into elevators after seeing it. And I never thought I’d be quite so scared of a little pink backpack.

Audition (1999)
Okay, I’m going to make kind of an anti-recommendation here, okay? If you’re just looking through this list because you’re looking for something kind of scary for a date, or for a party, don’t — don’t pick this one, all right? Physically brutal, psychologically off-kilter, this movie is fairly brilliant — but don’t see it unless you’re sure you really want to.

Hellraiser (1987)
For years, this was my very favorite. The directing debut of my favorite author, Clive Barker, Hellraiser is a charming little tale of passions taken too far; it’s a movie that isn’t afraid to show gore, but does so for a reason. Hellraiser is an intelligent, thoughtful film, that sets up its own logic, its own reality, and its own mythology. Strikingly innovative, it raised the bar for horror films.

The Haunting (1963)
What can I possibly say about this movie that could convey the creepy feeling it provides? In some ways, this movie is a little stilted and dated, but no other film has ever really matched its atmosphere of oppression and dread. The characters are well-drawn, neurotic and compelling; the house really feels haunted, with shifting perspectives and weird trappings; and the writers and directors had the sense to know that what we don’t see is much, much worse than anything they could put on the screen. (Too bad the makers of the 1999 remake couldn’t figure that out. Avoid the remake as if your life depended on it.)

Inception 2010
The Great Dictator 1940
Citizen Kane 1941
The Pillars of the Earth 2010
Defiance 2008
The Big Parade 1925
Vertigo 1958
Ip Man 2008
Pan’s Labyrinth 2006
The Pacific 2010
Life Is Beautiful 1997
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962
Munich 2005
Downfall 2004
Band of Brothers 2001
Black Hawk Down 2001
Full Metal Jacket 1987
Kingdom of Heaven 2005
Agora 2009
Gangs of New York 2002
Casablanca 1942
12 Angry Men 1957
Hotel Rwanda 2004
The Maltese Falcon 1941
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
The Deer Hunter 1978
Witness for the Prosecution 1957
The Battle of Algiers 1966
The Green Mile 1999
Grave of the Fireflies 1988
Strangers on a Train 1951
Platoon 1986
Diabolique 1955
Open City 1945
Gentlemen of Fortune 1972
Public Enemies 2009
Apocalypse Now 1979
The War Game 1965
Oldboy 2003
Barefoot Gen 1983
The Big Sleep 1946
Gone with the Wind 1939
The Secret in Their Eyes 2009
Come and See 1985
The Manchurian Candidate 1962
Witness for the Prosecution 1957
Stalag 17 1953
Donnie Darko 2001
The Wages of Fear 1953
Andrei Rublev 1966
The Sixth Sense 1999
Safety Last! 1923
Army of Shadows 1969
Sleuth 1972
Strangers on a Train 1951
Buried 2010
Diabolique 1955
Sin City 2005
Anatomy of a Murder 1959
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1921
Oldboy 2003
Paths of Glory 1957
Schindler’s List 1993
My Name Is Ivan 1962
The Bourne Ultimatum 2007
Jaws 1975
Throne of Blood 1957
Notorious 1946
Shadow of a Doubt 1943
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943
Yojimbo 1961
Dial M for Murder 1954
The African Queen 1951
Hotel Rwanda 2004
To Have and Have Not 1944
Z 1969
Die Hard 1988
The Lady Vanishes 1938
The Shop on Main Street 1965
Batman Begins 2005
Breaker Morant 1980
Twelve Monkeys 1995
The Big Sleep 1946
Memories of Murder 2003
The Burmese Harp 1956
Blade Runner 1982
Fires on the Plain 1959
The Manchurian Candidate 1962
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War 2004
Pushpak 1988
Invictus 2009
Lawrence of Arabia 1962
Ballad of a Soldier 1959
No Country for Old Men 2007
Saving Private Ryan 1998
Saving Private Ryan 1998
Downfall 2004
The Pianist 2002
Braveheart 1995
Das Boot 1981
The Tudors 2007
The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
Alien IV 1994
Blood Simple. 1984
Centurion 2010
Devils on the Doorstep 2000
Double Indemnity 1944
e7en 1995
Fight Club 1999
Strange Days 1995
I want a new drug.  And so did everyone in this flick.  Well done thriller that is quite long.  Talk about skull candy….
Inception 2010
Inglourious Basterds 2009
M 1931
Memento 2000
One of my favorite suspense and riddle movies.  A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.
Psycho 1960
Pulp Fiction 1994
Rear Window 1954
Reservoir Dogs 1992
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
The Abyss 1989
The Dark Knight 2008
The Godfather 1972
The Godfather: Part II 1974
The Great Escape 1963
The Last of the Mohicans 1992
Three trappers protect a British Colonel’s daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War.
The Lives of Others 2006
The Prestige 2006
The Professional 1994
The Silence of the Lambs 1991
The Terminator 1991
The Usual Suspects 1995
Titanic 1997
True Lies 1994
Vertigo 1958
The Terminator: Dawn of Fate 2002
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003