Favorites, bests, whatever you want to call them, these are my top 5 (at least 5, sometimes more) from every genre and sub-genre I could think of worth mentioning. The list comes to a total of over 225 of my all-time favorite films. Every single entry here I would consider essential viewing, at least once. There’s an understandable amount of crossover, as something like Total Recall could easily be considered Sci-fi as much as I consider it Action, or Kill Bill could easily be considered Revenge as much as Martial Arts. My thought’s regarding crossover are pretty simple. On the whole, if a movie feels more like X than Y, I’ll put it in category X. And don’t bother trying to make a stink like “Rain Man isn’t an X movie!” cause genre’s are a little loose and I don’t care. There’s no doubt some great movies left off this list, but I’ll be counting on the Grog’s top 500 for suggestions to fill it in.
I’ve also included a “where to start” for each category. This will sometimes be my favorite, or the best, but more than likely a fun, exciting, easy to get into film. If it’s something you’ve seen before but not in years, it’s time to revisit that film. Since this blog is directed at horror/film fanatics some of them will be completely irrelevant.
Paranormal / Supernatural:
Killer / Slasher:
Arthouse / Mindfuck horror
Classics (pre - 1960):
Giant beasts battling giant robots, or terrorizing buildings and sucking people’s insides out, it’s hard to beat a good monster movie.
- Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
- King Kong (both)
- The Mist
- Pacific Rim
- The Blob (’88)
Where to start: The Blob. It’s a non-conventional monster but the havoc wreaked is astronomical.
Setting up some of the creepiest tales ever told, Horror and Science fiction (when done right) are a match made in Hell.
- The Thing
- Event Horizon
- The Fly (‘86)
- From Beyond
Where to start: I feel like everyone has seen the Thing, but if you haven’t, start there. Otherwise go with Re-Animator or The Fly. Two of the best mad scientists ever put to film.
I don’t care for that long debated fight between fast and slow zombies. Both have exceptional films and terrible ones. I’ve included a few of both.
- Dawn of the Dead ('78)
- 28 Days Later
- The Battery
- Return of the Living Dead
- Zombi 2
Where to start: For fast zombies [REC] is hard to beat. For slow zombies Fulci’s Zombi 2 has the greatest reveal of worm covered corpses that currently exists.
The absolute best in sexually charged horror. Forget Twilight or True Blood, this is where I’d go for vampires.
- Interview with the Vampire
- Let the Right One In
- The Lost Boys
- Fright Night
- From Dusk till Dawn
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- The Hunger
Where to start: I have a hard time saying anything is better than Interview with the Vampire. If you’ve already seen that check out Jim Jarmusch’s recent Only Lovers Left Alive.
Paranormal / Supernatural:
Some ghosts, some demons. All masterfully atmospheric and creepy to no end.
- The Exorcist
- Paranormal Activity
- Rosemary’s Baby
- The Sentinel
- Silent Hill
- Session 9
Where to start: If you like the slow burn, I can’t recommend The Sentinel more.
Killer / Slasher:
I’m not sure Misery belongs here but I couldn’t leave it off this list. These make up my favorite/best films featuring either a killer protagonist or slasher villain.
- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
- Black Christmas
- Nightmare on Elm St.
- House of 1000 Corpses
- Sleepaway Camp
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Maniac (2013) (Yes, over the original)
Where to start: Henry no doubt. H:POASK would be in my top 5 all time horror films.
Usually told from the cop or detective’s perspectives, these movies can be incredibly intense, and also show that the good guys don’t always win.
- Silence of the Lambs
- True Detective
Where to start: If you’ve got the time for a short TV series, watch True Detective. If you’re looking for a film watch Silence of the Lambs or Zodiac.
A Serbian Film would take the cake for disturbing, but my favorite super disturbing flicks have a little more substance to them.
- Cannibal Holocaust
- The Girl Next Door
Where to start: Martyrs. It’s emotionally exhausting for sure, as all of these films are, but Martyrs has an underlying beauty and incredible ambition that set it apart from the rest.
Movies where the gore might as well be a character in itself. If you’re looking to zone out to some blood and guts, this is where to go.
- Dead Alive
- Tokyo Gore Police
- Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky
- The Evil Dead
- Guinea Pig 2: The Flowers of Flesh and Blood
Where to start: The Evil Dead is the obvious pick here, but I’m gonna have to go with the incredibly over the top Riki-oh.
Movies that might make you crazy while your protagonist goes crazy. Smart thrillers that keep you guessing long after the credits roll.
- The Shining
- Jacob's Ladder
- Altered States
- Black Swan
- The Signal ('07)
Where to start: The Shining of course. The Signal from 2007 is great for a lesser known picture, I haven’t seen The Signal from 2014.
The only thing that goes better with Horror than Sci-fi is comedy. These are the best films for a lighter night of violent fun.
- Shaun of the Dead
- Young Frankenstein
- Tucker and Dale vs Evil
- Evil Dead 2
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space
- Black Sheep
- Cabin in the Woods
- Night of the Creeps
Where to start: Night of the Creeps. Tom Atkins’ best film in my opinion.
Sometimes completely nonsensical, but you won’t find more beautiful, more nightmarish horror anywhere else.
- City of the Living Dead
- Nightmare City
- The Beyond
Where to start: Suspiria for the beauty, City of the Living Dead for the gore.
Terrible effects, ridiculous storylines, crude violence, scummy characters… trashy, sleazy flicks like these aren’t for everyone, but they can also be the most fun you’ve had watching a movie.
- Basket Case
- The Toxic Avenger
- Brain Damage
- Street Trash
- Class of Nuke ‘em High
- Troll 2
Where to start: The Toxic Avenger, a love story built around bullies and radioactive waste. Troma’s magnum opus.
You can make animal horror serious or goofy, and both can be equally fun. Lake Placid could easily be considered horror-comedy, but films like Jaws and The Grey lead you into darker territory.
- Lake Placid
- Piranha 3D
- The Grey
Where to start: Alligator. Robert Forester takes on a giant Alligator surviving in the Chicago sewer system. Too much fun.
Small doses of horror in bite sized little packages. Anthologies can pack a lot of variety into a feature length time-slot.
- Trick 'r' Treat
- 3 Extremes
- Twilight Zone: The Movie
- Terror Eyes
Where to start: Trick ‘r’ Treat. Incredibly well written and edited. It’s kinda like Pulp Fiction if Tarantino was reading Tales from the Crypt comics instead of pulp crime novels.
Arthouse / Mindfuck horror
These films take psychological horror to unimaginable levels, and can’t be watched on the fly. You’ve definitely gotta be in the right mood to experience any of these.
- Beyond the Black Rainbow
- Naked Lunch
Where to start: Eraserhead. There’s no easy way into this sub-genre, but Eraserhead is the perfect place to see if you might enjoy more..
Classics (pre - 1960):
There’s a variety of actual genre’s here but these are my favorite older horror films.
- Creature from the Black Lagoon
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- Plan 9 from Outer Space
- The Most Dangerous Game
Where to start: The Most Dangerous Game is a great start. The film actually was a favorite of the infamous Zodiac killer, so go watch Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ afterwards.
The definition of justified violence. Tales of extremely wronged people trying to bring on their own brand of justice.
- Blue Ruin
- I Saw the Devil
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- Last House on the Left
- Death Proof
- Lady Vengeance
- Sushi Girl
- Thriller: A Cruel Picture
Where to start: The Count of Monte Cristo. The ultimate tale of revenge, Jim Caviezel’s portrayal is great, and Guy Pearce plays a real piece of shit.
When it comes to comedy I’m a much bigger fan of darker, off-beat humor. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a more straight forward comedy, complete with potty mouth fools such as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
- The Sasquatch Gang
- Wet Hot American Summer (and everything else Stella does)
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Cecil B. Demented
- The Slammin’ Salmon
- The Life Aquatic
- Club Dread
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- Gentlemen Broncos
- Ghost World
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Saving Silverman
Where to start: Wet Hot American Summer. It’s got an amazing cast of would-soon-be hot shot actors and an incredible sense of humor.
Hand drawn to stop motion and computer animation, these selections span more than 50 years of film history.
- Alice in Wonderland ('51)
- The Nightmare before Christmas
- Spirited Away
- My Neighbor Totoro
Where to start: Alice in Wonderland, as timeless as it is imaginative.
Some of the most imaginative films on this list, These films bring the fantastical and make it as real as can be.
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- Jason and the Argonauts
- Being John Malkovich
- The Princess Bride
- Time Bandits
Where to start: Hands down, Willow. One of my favorite childhood films. A fantastic adventure filled with dragons, wizards, witches, knights, and… giant snowballs?
Probably the most relatable of any genre, everyone strives to go on a grand adventure.
- Indiana Jones (Original 3)
- Lord of the Rings (All)
- Jurassic Park
- Star Wars (Original Trilogy)
Where to start: If you haven’t seen this entire list by now then I can’t help you.
- Mullholland Dr.
- Girl, Interrupted
- Fight Club
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Synecdoche, NY
- American Beauty
- Charlie Wilson’s War
- Leaving Las Vegas
- The Life of David Gale
- The Royal Tenenbaums
Where to start: The Shawshank Redemption. Masterful in every way.
Sci-fi including extra-terrestrials or traveling outside of our immediate planetary neighborhood.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Starship Troopers
- District 9
Where to start: Starships Troopers for something a little more fun. Contact though is a personal favorite, written by Carl Sagan.
Down to earth (literally) science fiction that doesn’t skimp on story or quality.
- Children of Men
- The Jacket
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- The Matrix
- 12 Monkeys
- Dark City
- Source Code
- Vanilla Sky
Where to start: Children of Men. Really this entire list is incredible. Sphere is another personal favorite, though it didn’t get a great critical response.
Something I hope to never be a part of, these films portray the best and worst of it.
- Apocalypse Now
- Full Metal Jacket
- Saving Private Ryan
- Black Hawk Down
- Inglorious Basterds
Where to start: Gladiator, but if you’re looking for something a bit more modern then Saving Private Ryan.
I usually prefer action movies that are smartly written, but I do enjoy the occasional zone-out mindless “shoot em up” such as Dredd.
- Total Recall
- Terminator 1/2
- Mission Impossible
- Lethal Weapon
- Resident Evil (All)(Yes… all.)
Where to start: Mission Impossible, the action is incredible, but the twists and turns really put it above the rest.
I admittedly have not seen enough Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies. There’s really no excuse.
- The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
- Kill Bill
- Shogun Assassin
- 5 Deadly Venoms
Where to start: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. If you’ve never seen it, there’s a reason you’ve heard of it.
The best of the bad guys.
- Pulp Fiction
- Donnie Brasco
- The Departed
- Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
- The Usual Suspects
Where to start: I feel like Donnie Brasco is left out of too many conversations about gangster flicks. An incredible true story backed by wonderful performances.
Not just for girls anymore, these Romantic Comedies feature well rounded, relatable characters for everyone.
- Chasing Amy
- Silver Linings Playbook
- High Fidelity
- The Wedding Singer
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Where to start: The Wedding Singer. Set in the 80’s and featuring a great soundtrack, this is Adam Sandler toned down to a much more manageable level, and it works great.
Adam Bickford is the Co-founder of Piggybank (getpiggybank.com), as well as an avid horror and film enthusiast. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Miranda and Daughter Evelyn.