This list of horror films, compiled by West Hollywood Library volunteer (and movie buff) Nuria, highlights the must-see movies representing horror's myriad subgenres. It's the perfect checklist for anyone looking to get a well-rounded sense of the genre.
THE OMEN by Richard Donner
Supernatural horror. The US ambassador to the United Kingdom unwittingly adopts a child who turns out to be the son of the devil. A classic of the genre featuring creepy set pieces and a superb soundtrack.
THE SHINING by Stanley Kubrick
Supernatural horror. A hotel’s caretaker and his family, including a psychic son, are haunted by the resident ghosts. The father slowly descends into madness as they become snowbound and the hotel exerts its pernicious influence. Based on a Stephen King novel, the film version features great shocking moments, a tense atmosphere and arresting performances.
JAWS by Steven Spielberg
Monster horror. A giant white shark prowls the waters of a beach community in their busiest weekend. The sheriff, a marine biologist and a local fisherman sail together to bring it down. One of the best qualities of this film is that the monster is not fully revealed until the end.
THE SIXTH SENSE by M. Night Shyamalan
Supernatural thriller. A child psychologist helps a frightened 8-year-old boy who is experiencing terrifying visions of the dead. Both touching and unnerving, this is one of the best examples of this genre.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON by John Landis
Werewolf horror / comedy. Two American backpackers get attacked by a werewolf in England. One gets killed and the other is bitten, doomed to transform into the beast every full moon. John Landis manages to handle deftly the tone of scary horror with funny comedy.
THE RING by Gore Verbinski
Supernatural horror. A female reporter investigates a cursed videotape. After watching it, the victims receive a phone call and seven days later they die. It’s a good remake of the original Japanese film, with one of the most arresting scenes of the genre at the climax.
FRANKENSTEIN by James Whale
Monster horror based on the classic book by Mary Shelley. Dr. Frankenstein animates a creature from dead human parts, but it gets out of control. The monster is misunderstood and hunted down by the village folk. Beautifully atmospheric, it’s one of the classics of horror.
SE7EN by David Fincher
Gruesome psychological thriller. Two detectives are on the trail of a serial killer who chooses his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Not technically a horror, but with some horrific moments. It offers a dark vision of human nature, and compelling characters.
SCREAM by Wes Craven
Part horror movie and part spoof of the slasher genre. A series of mysterious murders committed by a masked killer transforms a seemingly peaceful community into a place where no one is safe and everyone is suspect. It’s wonderfully inventive and self-referential.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR by Andrew Douglas
Supernatural horror. A young couple and their children move into a house that was once the site of a horrific series of murders. Over the next 28 days, they find that the house might be haunted by a murderous presence. This remake of the 1979 film is far superior to the original, with more interesting character dynamics and creepy special effects.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE by Tobe Hooper
Gory horror. Five friends visiting their grandpa's old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals. Terrifying and sadistic, this is the film that gave birth to Leatherface.
THE GRUDGE by Takashi Shimizu
American remake of the original Japanese supernatural horror film “Ju On”. An American nurse in Tokyo enters the home of an elderly catatonic woman to tend to her. Within this house is a vengeful supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim. As people die, the nurse must stop the curse before it's too late.
[REC] by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza
Found footage zombie horror. A young TV reporter and her crew cover the night shift at the local fire station. When the station receives a call about an old lady trapped in her apartment, the reporter and crew decide to ride along. The frenzied old lady attacks them with bites and the building is sealed off. The news crew, firefighters, and residents all become trapped inside with the infected people. It’s a good example of the sub genre of found footage, and was made into an American remake (titled “Quarantine”).
HOSTEL by Eli Roth
Gory horror. Three backpackers vacationing in Europe are lured to a hostel in a Slovak city, where reputedly the women are incredibly beautiful and have a taste for American men. When they get there, they discover the hostel is just a front for a sick and sadistic place.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT by David Slade
Based on a horror comic book. An isolated Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month each year. As the last rays of light fade, the town is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires bent on an orgy of destruction. Only the town's husband-and-wife Sheriff team stand between the survivors and the vampires.