The Greatest Horror Films of All Time, According to the Critics

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The Greatest Horror Films of All Time, According to the Critics Universal Pictures / Columbia Pictures / MGM / Paramount Pictures

Horror movies tap into a primal part of human nature: The desire to confront—and ultimately control—our fears.

"Some people ask why people would go into a dark room to be scared," horror master Wes Craven once said. "I say they are already scared, and they need to have that fear manipulated and massaged. I think of horror movies as the disturbed dreams of a society."

The horror movie dates back to the beginning of cinema: Some of the earliest silents were scary movies, like 1915's The Golem, 1920's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and 1922's Nosferatu, the granddaddy of vampire flicks. Since then, Hollywood has haunted moviegoers with an evolving array of frightening films.

But what constitutes a horror movie can vary greatly: Some traffic in the supernatural, while others keep the suspense to more human proportions. Some are outright gorefests and others force viewers to imagine the horror in their minds. Some scary movies are disposable while others are cinematic landmarks from A-list directors like Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) and Roman Polanski (Rosemary's Baby).

There's been a resurgence of quality horror of late, with films like Hereditary and A Quiet Place earning big box office and critical praise. Jordan Peele's Get Out was a smash hit in 2017, earning more than $250 million worldwide and winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, a rarity for the genre.

The movie-rating site Rotten Tomatoes has determined the best horror films of all time based on reviews from top critics: To qualify, each film had to have at least 20 reviews with a "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (A film needs at least 60 percent positive reviews to be certified "Fresh.") Eligible movies were then ranked based on their adjusted scores.

So what do the critics consider the greatest horror movies of all time? Slide through to find out-—if you're not too scared.

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50 It - New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

50. IT (2017)
Based on Stephen King's haunting novel, IT follows a group of children haunted by an evil clown in a small town in Maine.
“It is [a] study in trauma to match the best of them.” —Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic. Get it here.

49 Re-Animator - Empire Pictures
Empire Pictures

49. Re-Animator (1985)
In this modern-day Frankenstein inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft story, a mad scientist enlists a hapless couple in his quest to bring dead tissue back to life.
“Simply the best, funniest Grand Guignol horror picture to come along in ages”—Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times. Get it here.

48 The Evil Dead - Renaissance Pictures
Renaissance Pictures

48. The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi's debut film sees a group of college kids on a camping trip unknowingly unleashing demons onto the world.
“[Raimi's] anything-for-an-effect enthusiasm pays off in lots of formally inventive bits”—Pat Graham, Chicago Reader. Get it here.

47 Invasion of the Body Snatchers - United Artists
United Artists

47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In this remake of the 1956 horror flick, humans are replaced by emotionless pod people when they fall asleep.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers validates the entire concept of remakes.”—Stella Hurtley, Variety. Get it here.

46 Carrie - Red Bank Films
Red Bank Films

46. Carrie (1976)
A young Sissy Spacek gets murderous revenge on the classmates who humiliated her at the prom, in Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's debut novel.
“An exercise in high style that even the most unredeemably rational among moviegoers should find enormously enjoyable.”—Richard Schickel, Time. Get it here.

45 The Endless - Snowfort Pictures
Snowfort Pictures

45. The Endless (2018)
Two lifelong friends are forced to face a trauma from their childhood to stop a UFO death cult.
“This impressive low-budget indie weaves a genre-defying tapestry of weirdness, atmospherics and cultish horrors across a dusty U.S. setting.”—Philip De Semlyen, Time Out London. Get it here.

44 The Wolf Man - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

44. The Wolf Man (1941)
In this ‘40s fright fest, Lon Chaney Jr returns to his ancestral home in Wales to make amends with his father (Claude Rains) and is attacked by a werewolf.
“This Universal classic not only established Lon Chaney Jr. as a horror star but also instigated most of the cinematic werewolf lore concerning pentagrams, the moon and the fatality of silver.”— Alan Jones, Radio Times. Get it here.

43 Drag Me To Hell - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

43. Drag Me To Hell (2009)
When a young loan officer evicts an elderly tenant, the old woman curses her, promising that she'll burn in Hell for eternity.
“Playful and relentlessly scary.”— Bruce Diones, New Yorker. Get it here.