The 50 Greatest Horror Movies: Rotten Tomatoes vs. the Petri Dish

Rotten Tomatoes has posted its list of the 50 Best-Reviewed Horror Movies Ever, and like any Movie List, there are some bones to contend with. Just for fun, here's RT's Fearsome Fifty (with the occasional editorial blather), followed by my own completely personal and utterly subjective list. I shall cop out and put mine in no particular order...

Rotten Tomatoes' 50 Greatest Horror Movies:

50) The Innocents (1961): No argument from this corner on its inclusion, but it should be way higher.
49)Dead of Night (1945)
48) The Dead Zone (1983)
47) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
46) A Tale of Two Sisters (2003): Haven't seen it.
45) Carrie (1976): Evilspeak is more fun, but if you've been slugging it out alongside me for the last two weeks you know that already.
44) Eraserhead (1976)
43) The Exorcist (1973)
42) Three Extremes (2005): Haven't seen it.
41) Fright Night (1985)
40) Ringu (1998)
39) House of Wax (1953)
38) Shadow of the Vampire (2000): Dafoe's vampiric Max Schreck still brings me joy, but the rest of the movie? Eh.
37) Peeping Tom (1958)
36) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): A modestly interesting shocker whose merits have been disproportionately inflated by twenty-some years of sequels and pop-culture inundation.
35) Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2003):Guy Maddin's offbeat ballet adaptation of the vampire mythos is an inspired addition to this list (though I'd put it just below my Top 50, meself)
34) Near Dark (1987): Great cast, some good moments, but kinda dates badly for me.
33) The Wicker Man (1973): What, no love for that masterful 2006 remake with Nicholas Cage??! Just kidding.
32) Halloween (1978)
31) Misery (1990)
30) Cat People (1942)
29) The Sixth Sense (1999)
28) Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979): Critics might as well be Nubian slaves, feeding grapes to Werner Herzog and fanning the German auteur's brow with ostrich feathers for all the Hosannahs he gets. But his static remake of one of the scariest movies ever, with a wheezingly-overwrought Klaus Kinski at the epicenter, is a real low point amongst his works.
27) Slither (2006): James Gunn's playful creature feature is one oozily-walloping good time, but the modern skew to this list puts it way higher than I would.
26) The Blair Witch Project (1999)
25) Dracula (1931)
24) Ginger Snaps (2001): Haven't seen it yet.
23) Don't Look Now (1974)
22) The Descent (2006): Haven't seen it yet, but I have it on great authority that it rocks.
21) Dawn of the Dead (1978)
20) Eyes Without a Face (1959)
19) Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
18) The Birds (1963)
17) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
16) Nosferatu (1922)
15) Jaws (1975)
14) Frankenstein (1931)
13) Silence of the Lambs (1991)
12) Freaks (1932)
11) Night of the Hunter (1955): Again, horror movie or no? Not that I'm arguing that it's any less than magnificent or anything...
10) Repulsion (1965)
9) Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)
8) The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
7) The Evil Dead (1982)
6) 28 Days Later (2003)
5) The Devil's Backbone (2001)
4) Rosemary's Baby (1968)
3) Shaun of the Dead (2004)
2) King Kong (1933): Should be at the top of any list of Great Films, but is this a horror movie, or a fantasy/adventure? I'm with the latter.
1) Psycho (1960)

And my personal list, in no particular order:

1) Frankenstein (1931)
2) Dawn of the Dead (1978)
3) The Thing (1982): Mainstream critics stupidly fixated on the gore like a clutch of blue-haired knock-kneed old ladies when it first came out, but time has utterly vindicated John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 sci-fi creeper. Paranoid, tense, flawlessly engineered, and bracingly uncompromising in its nihilism, it just might be the best horror film of the 1980's. So why isn't it on RT's List, already?
4) Suspiria (1977)
5) The Invisible Man (1933): James Whale's mordant black humor glows with more dark luster here than in anything this side of his Bride of Frankenstein. Claude Rains (or should I say, Rains' voice) is brilliant.
6) The Haunting (1961): The alpha and omega of all haunted house flicks. Director Robert Wise's sublime thriller sports disorienting black-and-white photography and the finest (and most nerve-rattling) use of sound ever to grace a horror film. Right up there with The Innocents in the pantheon of the Sixties' finest horror movies, so its omission from RT's list utterly stymies me.
7) The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
8) The Wolf Man (1941): There are more gothically rich Universal horror films out there, but Lon Chaney's sincere, melancholy performance--and that awesome make-up--still get me every time.
9) Nosferatu (1922)
10) Frankenstein Created Woman (1967): Hammer Films' most perfect crystalization of horror film as dark fairy tale; colorful, involving, and richly, achingly sad.
11) Horror of Dracula (1958): Talk about a battle of the titans. Christoper Lee's vampire prince (throw in the towel, Gary Oldman) and Peter Cushing's intrepid Van Helsing (enclosed please find your walking papers, Hugh Jackman) square off, with colorful and thrilling results.
12) Masque of the Red Death (1964): All of the Roger Corman Poe adaptations are pretty damned great, but this one is the closest thing to a full-bore nightmare masterpiece that the ever-practical Corman helmed.
13) The Mask (1961): I'm still waiting for this low-budget--and immensely scary--Canadian horror opus to make it to DVD.
14) The Innocents (1961)
15) The Mummy (1932): The most elegant--and dreamily romantic--horror film ever made.
16) The Dead Zone (1983)
17) Wild Zero (2005): With all due respect to Slither, this gonzo Japanese rock and roll/gutmuncher/action flick hits the sublimely junky horror-good-time button even harder.
18) Goke, Bodysnatcher from Hell (1968): Japanese horror did not begin with (to paraphrase director Adam Green) wet Japanese kids. A vampiric alien picks off the survivors of a plane crash, and the horror has tendrils (OK, invasive puddles of silver ooze) that extend well beyond the crash site. Nihilism to rival Carpenter's Thing, a pointed cry of anger at the Vietnam war, and some ickily-effective (if primitive) make-up magic. Never mind Rotten Tomatoes: I'll just settle for someone putting this chilling psychedelic nightmare out on domestic DVD.
19) Cat People (1942)
20) White Zombie (1932): Irresistibly atmospheric, and one of Bela Lugosi's finest hours on film.
21) Psycho (1960)
22) The Birds (1963)
23) Carnival of Souls (1962): Carnival of Souls is NOT on RT's List?! Who's minding the store here, a bunch of crackheads who share the names of several nationally-recognized critics???! For the love of God.
24) The Sixth Sense (1999)
25) Freaks (1932)
26) Phenomena (1986)
27) The Exorcist (1973)
28) Black Sunday (1960): Mario Bava's masterpiece, one of the great black-and-white horror tone poems of all time, and the ultimate showcase for the spectral magnetism of Barbara Steele.
29) Black Sabbath (1963): Bava--one of horror cinema's great visual craftsmen--gets no love from Rotten Tomatoes, but this eye-poppingly sumptuous (and timelessly creepy) anthology gets major man-love from yours truly.
30) Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965): With all due respect to Dead of Night, the most wonderfullest omnibus horror movie of all time. STILL NOT OUT ON DOMESTIC DVD--the only reason I can see for RT giving it the ol' snub.
31) The Devil's Backbone (2001)
32) Uzumaki (2000): My favorite of the new wave of Japanese horror by a landslide, this immersive fever-dream of a movie succeeds in large part because, unlike Ringu, it never breaks its spell by trying to explain itself.
33) The Howling (1981): Joe Dante's best synthesis of horror and humor, with plenty of in-jokes for the fans, still-impressive transformation scenes, and (all partisan bias aside) the criminally-underrated Belinda Balaski's best work on film.
34) An American Werewolf in London (1981): The trailblazing (and Oscar-winning) Rick Baker effects are just the icing on this very funny and surprisingly affecting cake. Between this and The Howling, I smell a major anti-werewolf bias, Rotten Tomatoes.
35) Phantasm (1979): Seldom have I seen a low-budget horror movie with so much unbridled creativity bursting at its seams.
36) Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)
37) Re-Animator (1986): Stuart Gordon plumbs the depths of depravity for some of the most demented yocks you'll find in a horror film. Jeffrey Combs' hilarious Herbert West is a mad doctor for the ages.
38) Pit and the Pendulum (1961): The second Corman Poe adaptation is (to my mind) the scariest, with a closing shot that still gives me the willies.
39) Theatre of Blood (1973): Vincent Price voraciously digging into The Bard as a Shakespearean actor taking bloody revenge on his critics? No wonder those lily-livers at RT omitted this.
40) The Phantom of the Opera (1925): How could Lon Chaney, the greatest character actor in silent film, roll snake eyes on the RT List? The unmasking scene is still one of the scariest moments captured on film.
41) Vampyr (1932): Dutch auteur Carl Dreyer sculpts the darkest and most gauzily-feverish of cinematic dreams here.
42) Curse of the Werewolf (1960): Oliver Reed's best early performance, and further evidence of Rotten Tomatoes' unconscionable discrimination against the lycanthrope.
43) Fright Night (1985)
44) Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986): Heresy to pick this over the pioneering original, but it brings me even more entertainment than Hooper's first cannibal saga.
45) M (1930): Like Night of the Hunter, you could probably argue this one's classification. But if RT can pick the former, then the magnificent Peter Lorre's most chilling (and curiously heart-wrenching) performance in director Fritz Lang's still-horrifying thriller should be right up there on the same list.
46) Alien (1979): Rotten Tomatoes, read my lips: W. T. F?!!?!! Why ain't this on your list?
47) Frenzy (1973): Psycho and The Birds rightfully get a lot of terror accolades, but this brutal Hitchcock thriller is--slug for slug--almost as scary as the former, and even scarier than the latter.
48) The Wicker Man (1973)
49) Village of the Damned (1960): All the more sublime for introducing the most coldly terrifying of threats in the pastoral tranquility of a quaint English village. Again, figured this one would be a no-brainer for any Top 50 Horror Film List...Unless it's RT's.
50) The Fly (1958): Cronenberg's humdinger of a mucous-fest remake has more visceral impact, but for more deep-rooted primal chills the original can't be beat. "Help me...Heeellp meee..."



Vince said…
The Rotten Tomatoes list does skew too much toward the modern, but yours more than makes up for it. Goke was on TCM just the other day. And I'll second the recommendations that you catch The Descent and particularly Ginger Snaps at the first opportunity. Happy Halloween!
I concur with Mr. Keenan--I prefer your list over RT's, simply because you've achieved a better balance between older and modern horrors.

Seeing your well-written rave about The Innocents (1961) has inspired me to add it to my horror movie viewing this evening (I've never seen it: I own a copy, but have never unwrapped it). The only thing more surprising than this shocking bit of news is that I've seen Ginger Snaps and you haven't (it's a well-made flick, though the ending didn't completely satisfy me).
Elisson said…
Glad to see Dead Zone on your list. I've always felt that this was Stephen King's best novel, horrifying in a very intimate, personal way and yet touching as well. The movie is by no mean a flawless adaptation of the book, but it captures its feeling of melancholy just perfectly.

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