On the road to becoming a horror film buff, you’ll encounter zombies, vampires, serial killers, lots of jump scares, no shortage of psychological thrills, a few cults, a little parody here and there, and more than one invisible man. And if you’re charting your own course, you’ll probably spend a not insignificant amount of time with characters and stories that are boring, bad, or simply not scary.
To help streamline your journey, Rotten Tomatoes has sifted through a century’s worth of horror movies and compiled a list of the best ones, based on a formula that factored in release date and number of reviews (any movie with fewer than 20 Fresh reviews failed to qualify at all).
Topping the list was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, whose terrifying shower scene is infamous even among people who’ve never actually seen the film. It’s not the only Hitchcock creation to make the top 50: 1963’s The Birds, starring Tippi Hedren, came in 38th place.
Hitchcock isn’t the only director with two movies in the top 50. Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) took second and fourth place, respectively; Robert Eggers earned the 15th spot with 2019’s The Lighthouse and the 31st spot with 2015’s The Witch; and Boris Karloff’s portrayal of Frankenstein's monster helped land James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and its 1935 sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, in 14th and 11th places. Roman Polanski and Ari Aster both charted twice, too.
Frankenstein was one of just three films in the top 50 with a perfect 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and the only one released in the 20th century. The other two, Host and His House, both premiered last year.