Top 10 Horror Films from the USA

Nia Jones checks out the best American Horror films including Rosemary’s Baby, Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…

10. Dawn of the Dead (Romero, 1978)

Dawn of the Dead, Top 10 Films, Best Mall Movies,A near-flawless zombie invasion film – fast paced, suburban and super violent. Its influence has been felt in almost every foray of zombie flick ever since. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ may have changed the face of the horror genre, but Dawn of the Dead is the film Romero will be most remembered for.

9. The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)

The Thing, Film, John Carpenter, Jack Russell, The Thing is pure nihilistic terror, a treasured Sci-Fi- horror classic with a perfect plot; a creature from another world that morphs into the likeness of those it murders. Bold and visually excessive, John Carpenter creates a claustrophobic and suspenseful cinematic atmosphere; mixed in with plenty of paranoia.

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)

Nightmare on Elm Street, film, horror, wes cravenA film which largely relies on the exploration of the unconscious mind’s archetypal horrors and fears. The myth of the bogeyman is personified by Freddy Krueger, an evil being from another world who kills people through their dreams with gloves that have knife blades as each finger.

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Film, Horror, Tobe Hooper,A group of five teenagers en route to their grandfather’s (rumoured) desecrated grave encounter the homestead of the charming ‘Leatherface’ and his cohorts. An ultimate nightmare at the hands of a sadistic cannibal clan, what the family lack in social graces, they more than make up for in power tools.

6. Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)

Frankenstein, 1931, American Horror, Mary Shelley’s classic story of man playing God has to be the most influential in regards to the horror genre. Brimming with a morally lined narrative James Whale’s primitive yet chilling interpretation of Frankenstein shocked audiences in its day, but even now still enthrals with its truly eerie sequences.

5 Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

Jaws, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Stephens, You're gonna need a bigger boat, Top 10 FilmsA fast-paced nautical thriller, which made most people too horrified to venture into the sea for a dip. Before we even see the 25-foot, 3-ton great white killer shark savage its first victim our ears are a mortified by composer John Williams’s menacing and unforgettable two note film score.

4. Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)

Halloween, Film, John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis,Halloween was a truly ground-breaking horror film for its time, John Carpenter paces the narrative gradually and doesn’t rely on the usual gore and blood. The viewer’s imagination keeps the terror flowing as we follow asylum escapee and deranged killer Michael Myers on his murderous Halloween night spree.

3. Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968)

Rosemary's Baby, The Devil, film, Roman PolanskiThe genius of Polanski’s directing immerses us completely in the view point of Rosemary herself. We share her suspicions about flamboyant neighbours the Castavets, her fears and the change in her character. Cleverly a horror film rooted not in the dungeons of a gothic castle, but in mundane everyday life.

2. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)

The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, American Horror Cinema, A truly scary and atmospheric horror film. Aspiring writer Jack Torrance takes employment as the caretaker of the secluded Overlook Hotel for the winter- taking along his wife and son. The situation takes a sinister turn when the demons of the hotel’s past give Jack a complete and violent personality change.

1. The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist, William Friedkin, Top 10 Films, A masterpiece, evoking sheer terror along with brilliant directing and performances; the film narrative itself is wonderfully gripping. Blatty’s scriptwriting is sublime, representing the crisis of faith that the characters all encounter with realism. More than just a horror film that keeps us all wondering exactly who or what might be lurking out there.

Written and compiled by Nia Jones

What are your favourite American Horror Films?

Top 10 British Horror Films of All Time
Best Horror Films from:
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Scandinavia | Italian Giallo | USA | Canada

About the Author
Nia Jones is a writer, playwright, journalist, fortean, film fan & assistant editor of The Spooky Isles

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    CineGirl Reply

    Nice list Nia. So many of my favourites are here but the king of the genre has to be The Exorcist!

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Can’t really argue with the list. Exorcist is very over rated imo but I’m obviously in the minority on that one. Well written list and as I mentioned, can’t argue with it. I’d personally have Halloween, Jaws, NOES and TCM higher. But that’s the fun thing about lists, everyone has a different opinion.

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      CineGirl Reply

      Each to their own of course but I’ve never felt such intense, far-reaching fear from watching a movie as I gave watching The Exorcist. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of work.

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        ArchE Reply

        Ha… Took the words right out of my mouth. Indeed, why am I even bothering to blubber… In other words wax lyrical about a movie Nia has already so eloquently celebrated. But here I am doing so anyway.

        The great films stand the test of time. The Exorcist is a perfect example of cinema ageing like a fine wine. Those that say it’s funny – most modern, young audiences whose horror film education began with Scream and continued through the work of James Wan – simply aren’t watching properly.

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    Courtney Reply

    Great list! I actually watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time this Halloween and what a delightfully terrifying treat! Complete minimalism, yet still captivating and chilling.

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    ArchE Reply

    Well, I say, nice job Nia! There’s a great deal of good work to choose from when it comes to America but you’ve nicely distilled the country’s finest into this intriguing top 10.

    I’m in agreement with your number one. I wouldn’t alter you top 3. I might be tempted, however, to bring Night of the Living Dead into the mix in favour of Dawn. I’d also swap A Nightmare on Elm Street for another Wes Craven film The Hills Have Eyes.

    While I’m not altogether sure just how you get these into a top 10 without omitting some important films I feel a leaning towards Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Psycho and The Blair Witch Project.

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    Callum Reply

    Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are my favourites.

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    Reeker Reply

    No, Evil Dead? Friday the 13th?

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      Movie Martin Reply

      Evil Dead is good but Evil Dead 2 is better.

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    Luce Reply

    The exorcist is scary as hell

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      Movie Martin Reply

      Had sleepless nights for months after first watching it as a teenager.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    I think one of the Friday the 13ths should make the list. IMO, part IV or the so called “Final Chapter” is such a terrific film and I think it benefits from director Joseph Zito calling the shots. Jason in this one is a little more brutal and the tension in the film is a notch higher than the others. Still, can’t fault the list here but I’d probably have this one in there.

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      Movie Martin Reply

      IV is like III which is not much different to V. They’re all the same in my eyes. The only one worth watching is the original. None deserve a place on this top 10 – an overrated franchise/villain. Give me Freddy or Myers any day.

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    Movie Martin Reply

    Can’t fault the list. The Exorcist is a perfect film and easily the best from the US.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Outstanding list, Nia. It is very nice to see Carpenter’s “The Thing” included here. I Such an amazing horror film and it is in my top 50 films list.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Getting back to Friday the 13th just for a second, they are not all the same. The first four have a much different feel than the others. And 4 is a cut above. The Nightmare on Elm Street series is awful except for the ones that Craven directed. As for Halloween, it’s close to Friday the 13th in terms of quality films, but for my money, Friday still wins out.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Looking back at this list it is very similar to mine (Top 10 Influential American Horror Films) look for it in the archives here. Just the order of films is different. Great minds think alike❗️

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