Halloween is here. It is a time we let our horror fantasies go wild. What better way to do than watch a really good horror film with our family and friends. So, I thought of putting together a list of scary films that you can watch again and again without ever getting bored. There are classics and then there are favorites no matter the genre – some of most cherished films are usually both.
The contour of horror has always adapted to the fears of the time and place, but the best are oftentimes the result of filmmakers who don’t capitalize on transitory trends but take something silly seriously. A few spawns of the most berated genre – one nevertheless emerging out of necessity every decade – are popular because they suck. Certain films may not leave a momentary impression (or instead resonate with insane interest, like Get Out most recently) and still end up worth reacquainting ourselves with. Great horror leaves subtleties for numerous revisitations, long after the scares are fresh. With that said, here’s the list of top rewatchable Halloween films. You can watch several of these best family Halloween movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. The Witch
The Witch is the only horror film this decade that will without doubt become a modern classic, if it hasn’t already. Less than three years ago Robert Eggers – tapped to bring Nosferatu out of his coffin – designed one of the most impressive debuts of the decade irrespective of type. The production and costume detail, perfectionist cinematography, period-accurate dialogue and plausible performances congregate into an elegant historical film, devil goats and all. Add strands of feminism, fanaticism and coming-of-age and the painterly potency of The Witch is easily appointed to cinematic prestige.
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Possession, the all too unseen 1981 film by Andrzej Żuławski, has nevertheless been deemed a fundamental viewing among horror junkies with passing decades. Żuławski’s haunted drama is marvelously shot, assigning a forcefully fluid realism to Lovecraftian puzzlement – the camera’s every movement is grounded and glorious, even the most elaborately ostentatious shots. The film is both obvious – in reality it’s a caustic dissection of divorce at its most demanding – and beautifully baffling elsewhere. Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill as the married couple from hell are utterly devoted to playing the discontented, progressively psychotic cheater and the shell-shocked cuckold respectively.
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8. American Psycho
Horror comedy needs a seat at the table here. While flicks like Young Frankenstein and Shaun of the Dead have their own substantiated right to recognition, American Psycho is a bravura expression of a true niche genres. Mary Harron‘s film bears a bracingly dedicated performance from a never better Christian Bale and wields a ravenously biting commentary on capitalism, classism and every other facet of excess defining America now and thirty years ago. You’re bound to obsessively quote Patrick Bateman, chortle hysterically at the black humor or become baffled again by its brain-bending ending every time – only one of the 21st century’s paramount horror features could have that effect.
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7. Carnival of Souls
Herk Harvey’s one and only impact on horror has aged exceptionally well and retained all of its mercilessly mysterious value – if you’re going to create but a single film, it’d better be good enough to merit an entire career. Carnival of Souls is captivatingly exact, its imprint of guerrilla filmmaking set to maintain the film’s significance past the praise of David Lynch and George Romero. The populist mode of horror back then had been primarily preoccupied with B-movie classics – few had been very experimental, faultlessly performed or, least of all, scary and ethereal. Carnival of Souls’ tightly disciplined fable is a foremost example of the near-forgotten artistic potential for horror in the early 1960s.
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The master of suspense’s one true horror film – sorry but The Birds doesn’t quite count – is the progenitor of the slasher and furthermore a sublime benchmark for challenging an audience. Illustrated flawlessly with extraordinary chiaroscuro, Psycho nevertheless grasps at the more audacious functions waiting in a widely colorized age – impractical structure, intelligent twists, distorted morals and bewildering performances. Even against the seminal classics of an indispensible period of Hitchcock’s filmmaking (North By Northwest, Vertigo and Rear Window) Psycho is the most modern and essential of the director’s essence.
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5. The Thing
One way or another, John Carpenter helped mold the shape of contemporary horror. Countless Carpenter films could have qualified for this list and many meet mandatory requirements for must-watch October favorites – minor classics like In the Mouth of Madness and They Live spring to mind alongside the quintessence of Halloween. The Thing just happens to be his most exquisite work, traversing across several subgenres in horror (apocalyptic, psychological, body, sci-fi) with deliberate stimulation once the terrifying premise begins to unfurl. The practical effects are a beloved testament to the era’s success through constraints – the film is the most justifiably cited source arguing the superiority of their cherished tangibility to computer-generated monsters. The supernatural guessing game is a comfortable challenge to keep track of every time. The Thing is superb filmmaking by any definition.
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A few movies of Mario Bava and Sergio Martino might have been in the running, but Dario Argento’s 1977 film Suspiria is the pinnacle, lasting work of the Italian Giallos and the stylistic specifics of the luxuriant genre. It’s a Technicolor masterpiece as ravishing as it is removed, exuberantly composed of opulent sets and splendidly saturated hues. Not very much performance, witchcraft or murder really takes place at the deadly coven dance academy but the film’s languid pace and cheesy dubbing are part of the charm upheld by the vibrantly vivid visuals and Goblin’s ghostly electronic score. Suspiria is kind of scary in select scenes yet its capacity to live up to revisits is founded on Jessica Harper’s innocent magnetism and Argento’s “so absurd, so fantastic” sense of aesthetically dictated direction.
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It’s not a horror movie that jumps to people’s minds at the mention of the genre but Steven Spielberg’s only real foray into fearful waters is a watershed film achievement. Jaws was deemed the first blockbuster and is still outstanding as an eternal work for American cinema. Spielberg came into his own as a world-changing talent and has rarely been the worse for wear – Jaws will always be one of the surest displays of his engrossing virtuosity. Though it becomes an adventure film partway through the predatory bloodshed, the teethed terror of the 1975 film has not subsided for forty years and never will thanks to Spielberg’s classic sensibilities.
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2. The Exorcist
The “scariest movie ever made” would assumedly fall short of an overblown reputation but even on an umpteenth viewing there’s little evidence to say otherwise about The Exorcist. William Friedkin’s daring follow-up to The French Connection was a formative moment for both horror and the genre’s steady reputation as a respected area of cinematic art. It remains one of the highest grossing domestic releases of all time (second of its breed next to Jaws when adjusted for inflation) and was the first horror film to score a Best Picture nomination – it also holds up to damn near every component of its stature. The special effects are timeless, the scares stay strangely disturbing and the dynamic realization has an invested interest in character and tension. The Exorcist is one of the clearest communications of the crisis of faith and evil in all of film, and that makes it a masterpiece and more.
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1. The Shining
Stanley Kubrick’s uncompromising piece de resistance lays aside the precipice of filmmaking achievements. Horror or no, The Shining is a masterwork by any known measure, equal to Kubrick’s own prestigious repertoire. It’s simply the finest fusion of psychological and supernatural terror ever filmed. The movie’s also one of the most analyzed movies of all time – Room 237, along with more widely accepted interpretations, are evidence enough of this – and reacquainting with it is never the same expedition it was before. The impossible architecture, formalist and spectacularly controlled cinematography, bombastic performances and unapologetic assumption of adaptation define The Shining as more than a Stephen King flick, ghost story or psychosomatic headtrip – its atmospheric spell can’t undone once it’s cast and the ceaseless maze never forms the same path twice. It’s horror’s most immortal moment.
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