Because it is Halloween, it’s an excuse to talk about horror movies. I turned 29 this year so I have made a list of 29 horror movies that have made an impact on me thus far in my life. These movies are selected for different reasons, some objective and some truly subjective. Horror movies (with comedies) are some of the toughest movies to recommend because everyone has different definitions for what is quality and entertaining.

There are going to be some on this list that you don’t care for, but that is just too bad. This is my list and these are movies I am either scared or compelled to watch again when the sun sets and when the October moon rises.

King Kong (1933)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

Is King Kong scary by today’s standards? No, not at all. However, in the context of its time, King Kong was a terror fest and it is totally understandable. There are scenes in the movie of a giant gorilla eating humans, stomping them with his feet and tossing them like feathers. King Kong entering into the native village breaking down the doors is fantastic cinema. It is entertaining and there is a time and place for everyone to watch this movie.

Psycho (1960)

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5 Stars)

Music matters. Psycho was one of the first movies to teach me that a score matters. The audio competent to any movie is key, but for horror movies, it is even more important. Everyone has classic trivia facts about Psycho and I thought I was the coolest for throwing out the tidbit about the toilet and the chocolate sauce. But just speaking from a movie sense, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller was a shocker to me when I first saw it because I had no idea the shower scene death of the main character Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) happens halfway through the movie.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.0/5 Stars)

We have to put the first main stream zombie movie on this list. Night Of The Living Dead introduced me to George Romero and the concept of different types of zombies in movies. They don’t need to be fast, bloody, grotesque or vile. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” is a line that I mutter from time to time when I am by myself. The scene in the basement with the child is a testament to a type of sad horror. Making the main hero Ben (Duane Jones) a black man in the era this movie was made makes Night Of The Living Dead even more of a social commentary, even though Romero didn’t make out an overarching theme.

The Exorcist (1973)

Stanko Rating: A+ (5.0/5 Stars)

Before I saw Hereditary (2018), I always said that The Exorcist was the best made horror movie. In terms of the way it looks, the way it feels, the acting and the story, everything about The Exorcist is top tier. The spider walk down the stairs is iconic. It also happens way later in the movie than I thought. I am very excited with The Exorcist reboot coming out. It is going to be like a “legacy sequel” from David Gordon Green, the same director of Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021). This Exorcist sequel is going to be a direct sequel of the original. We are going to get Linda Blair back as Reagan. Let’s go.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

I recently rewatched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and this movie is disturbing as all hell. When that final survivor is screaming in terror in the back of the pickup truck, I want to be driving her away from Leatherface as fast as possible. The dinner scene is disturbing and the truly real, visceral feeling of the mess and disgust in the home of the cannibals make me want to clean everything everywhere. The filming of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was an absolute disaster with the heat, humidity and long hours. The stress of the shoot makes it way into the final product and makes this horror seem far to real.

Jaws (1975)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

Do I really need to go into why Jaws is awesome? Jaws still terrifies a certain generation from going into the water. It is a summer classic. It is undeniable. I remember watching this on a grainy TV and now I make a point to watch it every July.

The Omen (1976)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

This movie scared the bejeezes out of me the first time I saw it. The Omen was one of my first dives into older horror and the creepiness that oozes from Damien (Harvey Stephens) sent shivers up my spine. I remember that I watched the remake of The Omen (2006) with some high school friends and since it was bad, I wanted to take a stab at what it was trying to replicate. The original is much better. Much, much better. Also The Omen has a strong theme song. One that is much underrated.

Halloween (1978)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

Halloween is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is my go-to Halloween holiday movie and is easily in my top three favorite horror movies of all time. Halloween makes the most out of a little and uses suspense and pace to perfection. Michael Myers is pure evil and watching Halloween is pure entertainment. The beginning of the slasher genre was one of the jumpstarts to me enjoying my horror movies.

Alien (1979)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

Ridley Scott, welcome to my life. Alien was the second movie I ever saw directed by Scott, with the first being Gladiator (2000). From this moment I realized I really loved Scott’s directing style. Alien is another superb example of how a director with a strong vision and plan can make the most out of a small space and a stellar cast. Using practical effect, Scott creates one of the most horrific movie monsters of all time, the Xenomorph. The alien emerging from the Kane’s (John Hurt) stomach is one of the most iconic science fiction movie scenes ever. Also, has there ever been a more badass female lead character in a horror movie that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)?

The Shining (1980)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

Isolation is a terrible thing. The Shining diverges heavily from Stephen King’s novel, but none the less it is still terrifying in its our right. Stanley Kubrick does something that I truly love, as is made evident by this list and my other reviews, Kubrick makes the environment a character within itself. The Overlook casts a shadow over everything and its darkness covers everything up for Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). The man is unhinged. The man is deranged. The Shining is not scary in terms of jump scares. It is scary showing that anyone in any state of mind can be affected by the environment around them. Remember, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

The Thing (1982)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

Practical effects galore! Ambiguous ending for the win! John Carpenter’s The Thing is a throwback to an older movie for its time. Centering around an alien that no one understands and can truly beat, it is up to MacReady (Kurt Russell) and co. to try and survive in the harsh Antarctica landscape. I did not think I would have to Kurt Russell movies on my list, but I am not surprised there are two John Carpenter movies. The Thing is a great snow day movie. It is a great hot chocolate movie.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5 Stars)

Another late 1970s and prime-time 1980s horror director on my list? No, it could not be me. Oh wait, yes it is me. Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street is a truly fun horror movie watch. Maybe it is because Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is such a loud mouth baddie that you can’t help laughing at or with him? Also massive credit to Craven for bringing to live some really creative kills. We have a ceiling fan of blood being spilled and a young Johnny Depp being chewed up and literally funneled out. A Nightmare On Street is also just a really unique premise. People usually go to sleep to get rid of scary thoughts or experiences, but I don’t think you would if you had a burned finger blade wielding coming after you.

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Stanko Rating: A+ (5.0/5 Stars)

Balk all you want. Most consider The Silence Of The Lambs to be a thriller, but has there ever been a scarier movie villain than Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins)? The Silence Of The Lambs is one of m favorite movies of all time and it is one of the most well respected movies of all time. This is a horror movie that won best picture at the Academy Awards. This movie won five total awards at the Oscars. Silence Of The Lambs is one of those movies that everyone has to see. Everyone has to experience it. Let everyone deal with Hannibal Lector getting inside their heads.

Scream (1996)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.5/5 Stars)

Scream is the horror movie that taught me it was okay to break all the rules. Scream can get onto this list and many others just from its opening scene, which has to be one of the best in horror movie history. Scream uses horror movies on their own to create a dialogue around the expectations people have when they are watching scary movies. You don’t know the rules? Watch Scream and you’ll find out how to survive. Then there is the end of Scream, which is a legit surprise to anyone watching it. If you love movies, let alone horror movies, Scream is an awesome bloody good time.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

A Blair Witch Project is a learning movie for movie. The first time I watched it I did not like it. I was in high school and banging out movies every night rather than during homework. Last year I rewatched The Blair Witch Project for the first time since then, and man-oh-man was I wrong. Just straight up wrong. The Blair Witch Project is so fucking scary it isn’t even fair. The anxiety sewed into the found camera footage is unruly. It is not fair to the audience. The Blair Witch Project showed me that feelings can change on movies. First impressions are not set in stone. And before closing this one out, here is a message to all Paranormal Activity (2007) fans: The Blair Witch Project is twice as scary as the scariest moment in Paranormal Activity. Check it out.

28 Days Later (2002)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.0/5 Stars)

Fast zombies. What a concept! 28 Days Later takes the zombie genre and flips it on its head. I remember 28 Days Later for two things. The first is the sequence where Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up and walks around desolate London. It is mysterious, scary and beautiful to look at. The second is the scene with the crow dropping blood into Frank’s (Brendan Gleeson) eyes and him going mad being infected by rage. That sequence shook me to my core and is still the hardest part of the movie for me to watch. While rewatching 28 Days Later a few months ago, it grew on me how well writer Alex Garland transitions between zombies being the villains and humans becoming the villains. Often it is stated in the obvious when someone hints that the monsters aren’t the worst things out there (AKA Cillian Murph’s character in a (Quiet Place Part II (2021)), but in 28 Days Later, Garland and director Danny Boyle allow the audience to surmise it.

The Descent (2006)

Stanko Rating: B+ (3.5/5 Stars)

I watched The Descent when I started liking horror movies and it made me change my mind about it. The Descent is claustrophobic and scary the entire way. You don’t know what it is coming, and when you find out what’s at the end of the climb, you’ll feel like slipping back down into the darkness.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Stanko Rating: B- (2.5/5 Stars)

The Hills Have Eyes was the first horror movie I ever saw in theaters. I went with two other friends and the mom that had to escort us into the theater was reading a book sitting three rows in front of where we were sitting. I remember being terrified of The Hills Have Eyes when it first came out, and then upon rewatch, it still holds up as a very solid remake. Wes Craven made the original in 1977 and this mid 2000s remake is gorier and more violent than its predecessor. The Hills Have Eyes is on my list because it was the first of the terrifying theater experiences I’d have in my life.

The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

The modern day version of Scream (1998), The Cabin In The Woods breaks the rules, turns a story on its head and gives the viewers a comedic, thrilling, bloody good time. Every sense of expectation is broken when the story cuts away to Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) for the first time. You want to get in on the bets on the killing freaks and the televisions looking in on the other countries expand the lore that could surround The Cabin In The Woods. A major shoutout needs to be paid to Fran Kranz who plays the the stoner Mark; often the doofus of the group is not sympathetic, but breaks that mold and has you and laughing and cheering from the first sip of his thermos.

The Conjuring (2013)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5 Stars)

The Conjuring is proof that scares don’t need to be gory. After a decade where the main avenue of scares was limb dismemberment and body manipulation, James Wan came to save the day from his own creation. Ed Lorraine (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) lead the parade of a new franchise with a truly terrifying home invasion and spectral tale. The clap sequence in the basement is top notch thrills. The Conjuring universe has made over 1.92 BILLION DOLLARS! I remember watching The Conjuring alone in parents living room in the dark of night and let me tell you, it was a wonderfully unpleasant experience.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Stanko Rating: B (3.5/5 Stars)

Do you want to be freaking the fuck out? Watch Bone Tomahawk. This western appears simple on its face, but once the cannibalistic Troglodytes get into the picture, the pretty landscape turns into hell on earth. Bone Tomahawk was shot in 21 days but the surprisingly deep cast of Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, David Arquette, and Fred Melamed take that sprint and make the most of it. Patrick Wilson said on a podcast with Lights Camera Barstool that he wished they had more time on the ending of Bone Tomahawk, but damn if it isn’t already incredibly disturbing.

The Witch (2016)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5 Stars)

Hello A24. It is really nice to meet you. The Witch introduced me to A24 studios and Anya Taylor-Joy and so for that I am in debt. Set place in the truly decrepit early colonial times, The Witch makes family drama the most horrific thing on the planet. Add in a pinch of overzealous religious fervor, this story has everything that I really enjoy in a horror movie. Director Robert Eggers is known for making his environment dark and ethereal, and such is the case here as well. Following The Witch he made The Lighthouse (2019), which totally nuts and one could argue belongs on this list. In 2022 he has The Northman coming out and I will be in line to see that.

Get Out (2017)

Stanko Rating: A+ (5.0/5 Stars)

Get Out was a phenomenon and rightfully so. There were an absurd amount easter eggs articles and symbolic deep dive articles and videos explaining the masterpiece of Jordan Peele’s writing and directing. Get Out also marked the arrival of Daniel Kaluuya as the megastar that he is. The man does not miss at all. No matter what movie he is in, he is a scene stealer. But back to Get Out, can we talk about the layers in this story. From the subtle hints that directly relate to the story to its attack on our societal pitfalls and crutches. I mentioned in The Exorcist little blurb how Hereditary jumped it in terms of directorial perfection, but I was mistaken. Get Out had two years of horror movie superiority.

It (2017)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

It blew my expectations away. I saw It on opening night, and then went two nights later with friends to the theater again. Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is creepy as all hell and no one should be able to contort their face the way that he can. Also for It to be able to nail a young case and have no major weak points is a huge kudos to director Andy Muschietti and the casting department. Remember, while Pennywise is the one killing folks, often parents are the villains.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5 Stars)

What a movie theater experience thrill ride. A Quiet Place is innovate in the way it makes silence a major character of the story. Experiencing that drama and surprise in a theater surrounded by fellow watchers who didn’t know what to expect. A Quiet Place gets its fair share of shock and awe too with prominent figures dying. A Quiet Place gets a name on this list for showing me a new way a terrifying story could be told.

Hereditary (2018)

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5 Stars)

Hereditary is the scariest movie I have seen since it came out in 2018. I stand by the fact that Toni Collette could have and arguably should have been nominated for an Oscar. When the shock of what happens to Charlie (Milly Shapiro) finally settles in, you as the viewer find yourself in a vortex of confusion and anxiety. Hereditary is scary as fuck. Ari Aster introduced himself to the world with this movie and he will be back for more.

Midsommar (2019)

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

Scary things do happen in the day time! Midsommar is the scariest break-up movie I have ever seen. When the sacrifice falls off the cliff hits the ground, everyone who was watching the movie was as gobsmacked as the deceased. I remember watching Disturbia (2007) with my sisters and Martha made the statement that nothing bad happens in the day time. Well Martha, if you are reading this, don’t watch Midsommar because your entire outlook will change. Midsommar also comes from the twisted mind of Ari Aster; for such a kind looking fella, his mind is a jumbled horrific mess. Aster’s next movie is Disappointment Blvd. and whenever it is released I’ll be there spooked out of my shorts.

Ready Or Not (2019)

Stanko Rating: A- (4.0/5 Stars)

It is alright to have some fun! When a movie exceed expectations, man that is just a wonderful surprise. Ready Or Not is a horror comedy that puts the innocent game of hide & seek in a completely different context. With Samara Weaving in a wonderfully attractive role as a sassy bride, Ready Or Not blends some small jump scares with fun violence and snappy dialogue. The in-fighting between the wealthy game board family is filled with spite and the over-the-top character bits. Ready Or Not just forces you to root for Grace. Can she survive the bloody mess? Everyone wants her too.

The Invisible Man (2020)

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

The Invisible Man is a prime example of how a reboot of an old school story is totally capable when its in the right hands. The Invisible Man is directed by Leigh Whannell who also helmed the wonderfully violent Upgrade (2018) and the franchise continuing Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015). Whannell lets lead actor Elizabeth Moss work, and work she does. Like Toni Collette, I think it was totally plausible to nominate Moss for an award for her work in The Invisible Man. She acts with space, and I mean that literally. Whannell makes empty space a character, much like how John Krasinski did with silence during A Quiet Place. Moss acts with that empty space like it is a person and that is a talent not many people can do at all.

What movies are you watching for Halloween? Let me know!

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