Essential Horror

The films on this ‘Essential’ list are important in terms of their global impact on the horror movie genre, either for their box office draw, artistic merit, cult credibility, or simple shock value.

This selection has been compiled from a wide range of choices by critics and fans worldwide and does not merely reflect the opinions of individual HORRORPEDIA editors or contributors.


Many of these movies are not without flaws and the list is not meant to be a ‘best of’, or fully comprehensive; it simply offers a snapshot of significant fright films to seek out if you have not yet seen them.

Our ‘Recommended’ films are those that we recommend as being better than the average genre fare. These are listed on a separate page here

Both listings are ongoing works-in-progress, subject to amendments…


28 Days Later is a 2002 British zombie horror film directed by Danny Boyle. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland, and the movie stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, and Christopher Eccleston.


A critical and commercial success, 28 Days Later is credited with reinvigorating the zombie sub-genre [read more]


30 Days of Night is a 2007 American supernatural horror film based on the comic book miniseries of the same name. The movie was directed by David Slade and stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and Danny Huston. The story focuses on an Alaskan town beset by vampires as it enters into a thirty-day long polar night… [read more]

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a 1971 British horror film starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Terry-Thomas and Hugh Griffith. The screenplay was written by James Whiton and William Goldstein, with additional uncredited scripting by director Robert Fuest. Its art deco sets, dark humour and knowing performance by Price have made the film and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again cult classics. [read more].


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Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott. Dan O’Bannon wrote the screenplay from a story he had written with Ronald Shusett, drawing influence from previous works of science fiction and horror. The film’s title refers to its primary antagonist: a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and kills the crew of the spaceship Nostromo… [read more]



Aliens (USA, 1986) – coming soon

i'm walking on sunshine

American Psycho is a 2000 American-Canadian black comedy psychological thriller-horror film co-written and directed by Mary Harron (The Moth Diaries), based on Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name.

The film received generally positive reviews and was a financial success, with critics mainly praising the screenplay and Christian Bale’s performance. It has now achieved cult status, any initial controversy surrounding it giving way to an appreciation of the film’s satirical qualities [read more]

An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 American comedy horror film written and directed by John Landis. It stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne.

Two young Americans, David Kessler (Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Dunne) are on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, the pair venture deep into the moors at night.

They are attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon [read more]

Audition is a 1999 Japanese psychological horror film directed by Takashi Miike and starring Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina. It is based on a Ryu Murakami novel of the same title. Over the years, the film has developed a cult following.


For its unflinching graphic content, Audition has been likened to the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery and Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses. However, the torture scene in the movie is very brief, and only a few shots show the actual torture, focusing more on Asami’s sadistic enjoyment of it [read more]


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The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a 2016 British-American horror film directed by André Øvredal (Trollhunter) from a screenplay by Ian B. Goldberg (Dead of Summer) and Richard Naing. It stars Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch and Ophelia Lovibond.

In small-town Virginia, police are called to a gruesome crime scene where a family has been massacred in their own house. In the basement, an even more disturbing discovery is made: the partially buried corpse of a nude woman… [read more]

4 Comments on “Essential Horror”

    1. In the Mouth of Madness is in our Recommended Horror Films list because although we feel it has genuine merit, it’s not “Essential”

  1. What a great list! I should definitely watch some I haven’t watched yet. And among new horrors, I’d mention The Conjuring 2. Yes, there are quite ordinary horror tricks in this movie such as inverted crosses, monsters in a tent and doors closing right behind your nose. But the plot and beautiful shooting cover these small flaws.

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