The Best Horror Movies of All Time, According to Critics

Whether it is the very latest in psychological carnage, a classic slasher, or a found-footage fright-fest, Hollywood has a proud history of producing horror movies of the very highest caliber.

Horror's reputation has enjoyed a timely reappraisal in recent years, and critics are now eager to appreciate the gory film genre's genius.

Newsweek counts down to the all-time greatest horror films, according to movie review aggregator Metacritic.

20. Jaws

1975 ‧ Horror/Adventure ‧ 2h 10m

American actor Richard Dreyfuss (left) (as marine biologist Hooper) and British author and actor Robert Shaw (as shark fisherman Quint) look off the stern of Quint's fishing boat the 'Orca' at the terrifying approach of the mechanical giant shark dubbed 'Bruce' in a scene from the film 'Jaws' directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975 Universal Pictures/Getty Images

The idyllic resort island of Amity comes under attack by a dangerous great white shark, and three men race to destroy the creature before it strikes again.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described the horror movie as "a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings."

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19. Eraserhead

1977 ‧ Horror/Indie film ‧ 1h 29m

Eraserhead: A troubled man struggles to cope with industrial surroundings, an angry girlfriend and the incessant screams of his newly born mutant child American Film Institute

A troubled man struggles to cope with industrial surroundings, an angry girlfriend and the incessant screams of his newly born mutant child.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "David Lynch's surreal Eraserhead uses detailed visuals and a creepy score to create a bizarre and disturbing look into a man's fear of parenthood."

18. Halloween

1978 ‧ Horror/Thriller ‧ 1h 31m

Jamie Lee Curtis holds a knife in a scene from the film 'Halloween', 1978 Compass International Pictures

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to his small hometown to kill again.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films."

17. The Invisible Man

1933 ‧ Sci-fi/Horror ‧ 1h 12m

The Invisible Man
A poster for the Universal Pictures film 'The Invisible Man', based on the story by H. G. Wells, 1933 Movie Poster Image Art

Based on H. G. Wells' classic novel, the horror movie centers on a scientist who discovers a method of becoming invisible but becomes dangerously insane in the process.

The New York Post referred to the horror movie in a contemporaneous review as "one of the best thrillers of the year."

16. The Innocents

1961 ‧ Horror/Fantasy ‧ 1h 40m

The Innocents
Scottish actress Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007) as governess Miss Giddens in the psychological horror film 'The Innocents', based on the novella 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James, 1961 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw this horror movie concerns a woman who takes a governess job for two orphans in a Victorian home.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Creepily atmospheric, The Innocents is a stylishly crafted, chilling British ghost tale with Deborah Kerr at her finest."

15. Night of the Living Dead

1968 ‧ Horror/Sci-fi ‧ 1h 37m

Night Of The Living Dead
Movie art for the film 'Night Of The Living Dead', 1968 Continental Distributing/Getty Images

Extraterrestrial radiation causes the recently deceased to rise from their coffins and search for the living to use as food.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent."

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14. Alien

1979 ‧ Horror/Sci-fi ‧ 1h 57m

Movie art for the horror film 'Alien', 1979 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

A spacecraft crew investigating a distress signal from a planet are attacked by an alien that later invades their ship.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole."

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13. Deep Red

1975 ‧ Horror/Mystery ‧ 2h 2m

Deep Red
Deep Red: A musician and a reporter join forces to solve the case of a murdered psychic medium Seda Spettacoli, RCS MediaGroup, Cineriz

A musician and a reporter join forces to solve the case of a murdered psychic medium.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "The kinetic camerawork and brutal over-the-top gore that made Dario Argento famous is on full display, but the addition of a compelling, complex story makes Deep Red a masterpiece."

12. Eyes Without a Face

1960 ‧ Horror/Drama ‧ 1h 30m

Eyes Without a Face
Eyes Without a Face: An accident causes the disfigurement of a once-beautiful woman, triggering her father to sacrifice many innocent girls in an attempt to reconstruct her face Champs-Elysées Productions, Lux Film

This 1960 French-language horror follows the story of a once-beautiful woman who is disfigured during an accident, triggering her father to sacrifice many innocent girls in an attempt to reconstruct her face.

Upon the horror movie's 2003 re-release, the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum referred to the film as "absurd and as beautiful as a fairy tale."

11. King Kong

1933 ‧ Adventure/Fantasy ‧ 2h 5m

King Kong
The giant ape, star of the Radio Picture 'King Kong', shown in comparison to eight normal sized apes, to emphasize its colossal size Getty Images/General Photographic Agency

A film crew arrives at a mysterious island for a shoot and discovers a giant prehistoric ape that becomes enamored with one of their team.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "King Kong explores the soul of a monster—making audiences scream and cry throughout the film—in large part due to Kong's breakthrough special effects."

10. The Birds

1963 ‧ Horror/Thriller ‧ 1h 59m

The Birds
American actor Tippi Hedren and a group of children run away from the attacking crows in a still from the film 'The Birds' directed by Alfred Hitchcock Universal Studios/Getty Images

Birds begin attacking children at a birthday party and this escalates into an apocalyptic assault on an entire town by the feathered creatures.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Proving once again that build-up is the key to suspense, Hitchcock successfully turned birds into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history."

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9. Repulsion

1965 ‧ Horror/Drama ‧ 1h 46m

French actress Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in 'Repulsion', directed by Roman Polanski, 1965 Getty Images/Silver Screen Collection

A woman who suffers from a fear of men is left alone in her apartment by her sister, where she surrenders to insanity.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Roman Polanski's first English film follows a schizophrenic woman's descent into madness, and makes the audience feel as claustrophobic as the character."

8. Frankenstein

1931 ‧ Horror/Sci-fi ‧ 1h 11m

British actor Boris Karloff (1887 - 1969) as Frankenstein's monster in 'Frankenstein', directed by James Whale, 1931 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

An ambitious scientist creates a living being from assorted body parts, without realizing the monster has a madman's brain.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff's legendary, frightening performance as the monster."

7. Son of Saul

2015 ‧ War/Drama ‧ 1h 57m

Son Of Saul
Actor Geza Rohrig and director Laszlo Nemes attend the "Son Of Saul" Photo Call during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at the Ryerson Theatre on September 10, 2015 in Toronto J. Countess/WireImage/Getty Images

In this Hungarian Holocaust drama, a Jewish worker at Auschwitz attempts to find a rabbi to give a child a proper burial.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "Grimly intense yet thoroughly rewarding, Son of Saul offers an unforgettable viewing experience—and establishes director László Nemes as a talent to watch."

6. Werckmeister Harmonies

2000 ‧ Drama/Mystery ‧ 2h 25m

Werckmeister Harmonies
Visionary Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr has directed the "Werckmeister Harmonies" Getty Images

A strange circus stirs a Hungarian town into a rebellion when a promised act fails to take place.

The Christian Science Monitor's David Sterritt writes: "[Director Bela] Tarr wants to stir the imagination and awaken the conscience of his audience rather than divert us with easy entertainment."

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

1956 ‧ Sci-fi/Horror ‧ 1h 20m

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956
Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter in Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives/Getty Images

A small-town doctor discovers his community is being replaced by emotionless alien automatons.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror."

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4. Bride of Frankenstein

1935 ‧ Horror/Sci-fi ‧ 1h 15m

Bride of Frankenstein
Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein Getty Images

After his wife is kidnapped, Dr. Frankenstein races to create a new creature to rescue her.

Time in 1988 overruled the magazine's original review to declare the horror movie "one of those rare sequels that is infinitely superior to its source."

3. Don't Look Now

1973 ‧ Horror/Thriller ‧ 1h 50m

Don't Look Now
Don't Look Now: A couple still grieving over the accidental death of their daughter arrives in Venice, where they encounter a psychic Paramount Pictures Studios

An adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier 1971 short story, Don't Look Now follows a couple still grieving over the accidental death of their daughter on holiday in Venice, where they encounter a psychic.

Timemagazine's Jay Cocks wrote: "Don't Look Now is such a rich, complex and subtle experience that it demands more than one viewing."

2. Rosemary's Baby

1968 ‧ Horror/Psychological horror ‧ 2h 17m

Rosemary's Baby
A poster for Roman Polanski's 1968 horror film 'Rosemary's Baby' starring Mia Farrow Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

After a young woman becomes pregnant, she suspects her neighbors have sinister plans for her baby.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states: "A frightening tale of Satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds, thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon."

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1. Psycho

1960 ‧ Horror/Thriller ‧ 1h 49m

American actress Vera Miles stars as Lila Crane in the horror classic 'Psycho', directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 Archive Photos/Getty Images

A woman on the run after embezzling money checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother in this Alfred Hitchcock classic.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus states the horror is "infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace and art, Hitchcock didn't just create modern horror, he validated it."

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