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IMDb's Top 10 Horror Film Masterpieces

Horror has continued to scare and enthrall with movies that are designed to chill or unsettle audiences. Dealing with supernatural beings, such as ghosts, demons, and monsters, many are also grounded in reality, grappling with disturbing topics such as serial killers and home invasions. From literal what-you-see-is-what-you-get takes to more metaphorical territory, the genre continues to serve up a dose of entertainment that latches onto concepts and ideas with staying power.

Top 10 Horror Movies According to IMDb

Some of these horror films haunt us as the credits roll and for days afterwards as their effect reverberates. While The Babadook, Get Out and Hereditary have signalled what's been classified as elevated horror due to its insidious finesse, there are some classics that remain front of mind when it comes to discussions around the greatest horror movie ever made. The genre's efficacy often comes down to personal taste, subject matter and even stylistic elements but there are some undeniable horror masterpieces that almost anyone can agree on.

A good way to narrow the playing field is to refer to The Independent Movie Database, better known as IMDb, which hosts a running Top 250 movies list that covers many of the films generally considered to be the best of the best by user ratings. While this consensus style ranking isn't perfect - slanted towards the mainstream taste and the demographic of the website's users, it does serve as a great starting point for those wanting to watch films of great style and substance over Halloween. This list of 10 genre classics represents some of the most-talked-about horrors movies of all-time.

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological horror film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in an Oscar-winning performance as one of the most iconic villains in cinema history. It tells the story of Clarice Starling (Foster), a young FBI agent who's tasked with tracking down a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill with the help of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins), an imprisoned cannibalistic psychiatrist.

The film is a masterclass in suspense and psychological terror, incredibly well-made, thought-provoking... a must-see. Demme's direction is taut and assured and he creates a truly chilling atmosphere. Foster and Hopkins give outstanding performances and their "mind games" scenes together are electric and truly unsettling.

2. Psycho (1960)

Psycho is suspense and horror masterpiece, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh as well as Anthony Perkins in a complex, disturbing and memorable performance. The film follows Marion Crane, a young woman who steals $40,000 from her employer and goes on the run. She stops at a remote motel run by the disturbed Norman Bates, and soon finds herself caught in a nightmare.

A master of suspense, Hitchcock's direction is inspired and he creates a truly unsettling atmosphere with some landmark cinematic moments. The shower scene is one of the most iconic and suspenseful scenes in cinema history, which still has the power to shock and scare audiences today.

3. Alien (1979)

Alien is a timeless sci-fi horror classic that still holds up today as one of the most suspenseful and terrifying films ever made. Set in the future, the film follows the crew of the commercial spaceship Nostromo as they investigate a distress signal from a distant planet. Upon arriving, they discover a derelict alien spacecraft and a single egg containing a deadly creature.

Alien is a suspense and atmosphere masterpiece from director Ridley Scott starring Sigourney Weaver in a career-defining turn as Ripley. A truly claustrophobic, shadowy and unsettling world, the film's iconic design work from H.R. Giger and a chilling lead performance by Weaver have ensured its status as the stuff of legend.

4. The Shining (1980)

The Shining is a psychological horror masterpiece directed by the legendary filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick. This adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel journeys with the Torrance family, who move into a haunted hotel for the winter. Starring Jack Nicholson as a frustrated writer undergoing a form of cabin fever in arguably his most iconic performance, the charming father gradually descends into a psychotic rage, while his wife and son fight to survive.

The Shining is a slow-burning horror epic that relies on atmosphere and suspense to create tension. Kubrick's direction is masterful, and he uses a variety of techniques to create a sense of unease and dread. The film's iconic imagery, such as the Grady twins, blood-gushing lifts and the hedge maze has become seared into popular culture.

5. Aliens (1986)

The sequel to the acclaimed deep space sci-fi horror, Aliens is a worthy follow-up directed by James Cameron with Sigourney Weaver reprising her iconic role as Ripley. The follows the crew of the spaceship Sulaco as they investigate a distress call from a human colony on the planet LV-426. They soon discover that the colony has been overrun by xenomorphs, a deadly alien species.

Cameron has delivered yet another masterfully crafted film with excellent acting, directing and special effects. Aliens is a thrilling and suspenseful film edge-of-your-seat must-see that established the xenomorph's place in science-fiction horror.

6. The Sixth Sense (1999)

The Sixth Sense is a supernatural thriller film starring Bruce Willis and introducing Haley Joel Osment, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It tells the story of Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who treats a young boy named Cole who has the ability to see and speak to dead people.

Best known for its shocking twist, arguably the most iconic in film history, this is a meticulously crafted suspense thriller and a deeply moving and insightful exploration of grief, loss and acceptance. A self-confessed fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Shyamalan's direction is assured, the atmosphere is palpable and the performances from Willis and Osment are both superb.

7. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter's The Thing is a masterpiece of horror filmmaking, a claustrophobic, paranoia-fueled thriller about a group of American researchers in Antarctica who are hunted by a shape-shifting alien creature. Having directed the influential Halloween, Carpenter had already established himself as a pioneer of the genre, branching into science fiction to create an absolute classic that stands the test of time.

A slow-creeping sense of dread and suspense permeates this iconic horror, which also serves as a meditation on paranoia, isolation and the fear of the unknown. Infusing this see-sawing uncertainty into the atmosphere, the filmmaker captures the sense of isolation and distrust as a witch hunt ensues between the research team members. Gruesome and disturbing transformations created using practical effects add to the horror film's greatness.

8. Jaws (1975)

Jaws is a landmark horror directed by Steven Spielberg, featuring memorable performances from his cast in Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. It tells the story of a small seaside town that is terrorized by a great white shark as the town's police chief teams up with a marine biologist and a local fisherman to stop the shark before it kills again.

One of the most popular and influential horror movies ever made, Jaws has left a mark on Hollywood and the stigma associated with these predators. Tapping into the fear of the ocean's depths, Spielberg has created a supenseful and truly terrifying horror, building tension until unleashing gruesome shark attacks with a soundtrack and imagery that still haunt pop culture almost 50 years on.

9. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist is a groundbreaking horror that remains one of the most disturbing and terrifying films of its genre. This horror masterpiece is directed by William Friedkin and stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair in a chilling career-defining performance. The story tells of a young girl possessed by a demon, who becomes the subject of an exorcism when the two priests are called in to help.

An unforgettable and emotionally resonant film experience and exercise in terror, Friedkin immerses audiences in the world of The Exorcist through atmosphere and tension. Aided by excellent performances, this horror is psychologically disturbing with the director speaking to its power to shake the foundations of those who aren't firmly planted in their belief system.

10. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby is a classic psychological horror directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow in a tour-de-force performance. A dark and unsettling tale, it journeys with a young woman who falls pregnant only to suspect that a Satanic cult want to sacrifice her child. A masterclass in suspense and dread as a young mother questions her sanity amid suspicions of her husband and neighbours, Rosemary's Baby is both claustrophobic and unsettling.

Entrenching audiences in an increasingly isolated and paranoid atmosphere, one's emotional resonance with Rosemary and her plight make for powerful and disturbing psychological horror. Having a far-reaching influence with its claws in modern horrors like Hereditary, Polanski's horror may have aged but leverages timeless fears and themes so expertly, that the retro feel is more haunting than distracting.