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What makes for a truly great horror movie? Is it the jump scares and buckets of blood? A solid directorial voice? Creativity? Originality? Deeper layers of meaning? These are the questions critics might ask themselves when examining the genre from an analytical perspective. And as one will soon discover, their conclusions aren’t always tuned in to audience expectations. Nevertheless, critically acclaimed horror is usually unique in one way or another, and, therefore, worth checking out. After all, one can only take so many rote formulas and generic clichés, right?

There’s a little bit of everything on this list of top-rated horror films and then some. Movies like “La Llorona” and “Under the Shadow” juxtapose supernatural terror with real-life atrocities. By contrast, films like “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” let the slasher subgenre speak for itself. “Alien” incorporates sci-fi elements, while “The Babadook” and “Rosemary’s Baby” play upon psychological tropes. Meanwhile, horror comedies like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Little Shop of Horrors” have garnered critical acclaim and loyal followings alike.

To celebrate this genre in all its permutations and possibilities, Stacker compiled data on the top-ranked horror films of all time from Metacritic as of September 2022. They’re presented here in order of their Metascore, ranked from low to high. Metascores are only published in whole numbers, but ties are broken in decimals internally at Metacritic. Expect some surprises, and not just because audiences didn’t always agree with the critical assessments. Here are the best horror movies, according to critics.

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A human-like creature with sharp teeth and long fingers wearing a black long coat hisses at a man from inside a closet.

Unison Films

#100. What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

– Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

– Metascore: 76

– Runtime: 86 minutes

Horror genre tropes get the comedic touch in this beloved mockumentary out of New Zealand. It follows a group of ancient and modern vampires who struggle with a contemporary, relatively nonviolent way of life. A similarly acclaimed TV series adaptation followed in 2019.

John Goodman and a younger man and woman sit at a dining room table looking up like they hear a noise.

Paramount Pictures

#99. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

– Director: Dan Trachtenberg

– Metascore: 76

– Runtime: 104 minutes

The second installment in the Cloverfield franchise represents a stark departure from its found footage predecessor. Upon waking from a car accident, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself captive to a man (John Goodman) with suspect intentions. Like the first film, this one benefited from a purposefully elusive marketing campaign.

A closeup of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost staring at each other intently.

Rogue Pictures

#98. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

– Director: Edgar Wright

– Metascore: 76

– Runtime: 99 minutes

Edgar Wright arguably invented his own brand of horror comedy with this British cult smash. It tells the story of a down-and-out slacker named Shaun (Simon Pegg), who proves his worth during the zombie apocalypse. The film makes up part of Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which also includes “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.”

Robert Englund in a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street

New Line Cinema

#97. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

– Director: Wes Craven

– Metascore: 76

– Runtime: 91 minutes

Equipped with razors for hands, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) slices and dices his way into the nightmares of teenagers. He also happened to dominate a newly formed slasher market, spawning a franchise. Few, if any, of the sequels or reboots captured the humor and horror of Wes Craven’s original.

A little blonde girl holding a book of bedtime stories.

Laurel Tape & Film

#96. The Amusement Park (1975)

– Director: George A. Romero

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 54 minutes

Commissioned as an educational film about elder abuse, this Romero effort wasn’t released until 46 years after it was made. The story follows an elderly man (Lincoln Maazel) around an amusement park and captures his increasingly delirious state of mind. A critical darling perhaps, but it has a meager audience score of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A man in a trenchcoat stands in the middle of a circle of children staring at him blankly.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios

#95. Village of the Damned (1960)

– Director: Wolf Rilla

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 77 minutes

Based on a novel, this iconic British horror film welcomes viewers to the small village of Midwich. After a mysterious event, the local children begin to exhibit supernatural qualities. It was followed by both a sequel and a remake, plus it was parodied in “The Simpsons.”

Two women crouched over something buried in the ground in the forest.

Carver Films

#94. Relic (2020)

– Director: Natalie Erika James

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 89 minutes

This Aussie horror flick takes place in a remote country home and offers a unique examination of dementia. When checking in on grandma (Robyn Nevin), a woman (Emily Mortimer) and her daughter (Bella Heathcote) experience nightmarish visions. Irish Times critic Tara Brady called it “both an allegory and a nightmarish descent into this year’s creepiest movie home.”

A person with light eyebrows and blue eyes wearing a medical mask.

Les Films du Worso

#93. Evolution (2016)

– Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 81 minutes

This French horror drama takes place in a small seaside village that’s populated exclusively by women and young boys. When he discovers a corpse in the ocean, young Nicolas reexamines the local environment and its mysterious customs. Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s stylistic sensibilities enraptured critics, but the pacing was a little too glacial for some audiences.

Robert Pattinson standing in a doorway holding a baby.

Alcatraz Films

#92. High Life (2019)

– Director: Claire Denis

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 113 minutes

French auteur Claire Denis heads into deep space for this poetic blend of sci-fi and horror. As part of an interstellar experiment, a group of death row inmates embark on a dangerous mission. Critics loved the movie’s rich atmosphere and willingness to defy convention.

A person wearing a red hooded robe laughs while handing a child a card in the woods at night.

Alta Vista Productions

#91. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

– Director: Roger Corman

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 89 minutes

This Roger Corman outing is one of a number of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations from the prolific director and producer. Set in medieval Italy at the height of a deadly plague, it stars Vincent Price as the sadistic Prince Prospero. While trying to evade infection inside castle walls, the prince soon learns that no one is above their own mortality.

A man standing inside a home looking out of a big glass window.

Blumhouse Productions

#90. The Gift (2015)

– Director: Joel Edgerton

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 108 minutes

Joel Edgerton wrote, directed, and starred in this gripping Blumhouse thriller. When a business executive (Jason Bateman) reconnects with an old schoolmate (Edgerton), it kicks off a series of dangerous mind games. The movie’s psychological tension is more impactful than most horror tropes.

A man riding a horse in front of a large historic home with a woman on the porch.

Universal Pictures

#89. Nope (2022)

– Director: Jordan Peele

– Metascore: 77

– Runtime: 135 minutes

Jordan Peele’s third feature offers a clever mix of sci-fi, horror, comedy, and social commentary. As random objects begin falling from the sky, residents of Agua Dulce try to capitalize on their potential UFO sighting. Peele has hinted that he might revisit this story in future films.

A girl peers curiously at something around the corner with Jesse Plemons blurred in the background.

Likely Story

#88. i’m thinking of ending things (2020)

– Director: Charlie Kaufman

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 134 minutes

Adapted from a novel by Iain Reid, this psychological thriller puts a surrealist spin on both existential themes and classic genre tropes. It follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) to a remote farm for a nightmarish stay with her boyfriend’s parents. This is heady horror as only someone like Charlie Kaufman can deliver.

A girl looking into a computer screen with watering eyes.

Dweck Productions

#87. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2022)

– Director: Jane Schoenbrun

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 86 minutes

This unconventional horror film stars Anna Cobb in her debut feature role as a lonely teen named Casey. What begins with a viral internet challenge becomes a hallucinatory breakdown as the story unfolds. General moviegoers were far less receptive than critics, hence the film’s audience score of just 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Four people stand together looking concerned.

Alta Vista Productions

#86. Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

– Director: Roger Corman

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 80 minutes

Roger Corman and Vincent Price reunite for another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, with Richard Matheson back on scripting duties. While investigating his sister’s death in 16th-century Spain, a man (John Kerr) uncovers grave horrors. Consciously exploitative, the film nevertheless retains an authentic atmosphere.

Three men dressed like warriors walk with a sunset and pink sky in the background.

Lacmé

#85. Saloum (2022)

– Director: Jean Luc Herbulot

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 84 minutes

This Senegalese thriller takes place in 2003 against the backdrop of Guinea-Bissau’s violent military coup. Laying low in the wake of a dangerous mission, three mercenaries come up against a vengeful force. Director Jean Luc Herbulot “makes even old genre sights—like a flashlight beam scouring a darkened room—look almost new again,” wrote critic Glenn Kenny for Roger Ebert.

A little boy carrying a box with people and kids moving cages in the background.

El Deseo

#84. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

– Director: Guillermo del Toro

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 106 minutes

Upon losing his father to the Spanish Civil War, a young boy is sent to a haunted orphanage. In the vein of del Toro’s most acclaimed works, this one layers humanism, history, and horror. On Bloody Disgusting’s list of the Top Films of the 2000s, it lands at #18.

A man running with a mask on and waving a chainsaw in the air.

Vortex

#83. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

– Director: Tobe Hooper

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 83 minutes

One of the scariest movies ever made remains a raw and visceral experience, namely thanks to Tobe Hooper’s realistic approach. While visiting a gravesite in Texas, five friends come up against a sadistic family of cannibals. Despite the relative absence of blood and gore, the film renders an almost traumatic impression.

Two women and a dog in a plastic covered room pointing guns while wearing gas masks.

Animal Kingdom

#82. It Comes at Night (2017)

– Director: Trey Edward Shults

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 91 minutes

Critics and audiences don’t see eye to eye on this dramatic thriller, which takes place in the midst of a zombie-like outbreak. Living deep in the woods, a paranoid man (Joel Edgerton) and his family take in suspicious new houseguests. In lieu of cheap thrills, director Trey Edward Shults opts for a slow burn and shocking finale.

Anjelica Huston leaning in to taste from a spoon in a formal dining room.

Lorimar Film Entertainment

#81. The Witches (1990)

– Director: Nicolas Roeg

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 91 minutes

A young boy crosses paths with real-life witches in this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel. Under the direction of Nicolas Roeg, the film’s tone and visuals are much creepier than its PG rating would suggest. Executive producer Jim Henson (creator of “The Muppets”) died just before its release in the U.K.

A giant creature resembling a dragon and dinosaur terrorizing a city.

Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

#80. Godzilla (2004)

– Director: Ishirô Honda

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 98 minutes

Initially released in 1954, the original “Godzilla” wasn’t officially available to American audiences until 2004. While rife with spectacle, the film also examines themes of nuclear destruction and man vs. nature. It remains the longest continuously running movie franchise in history.

A man, woman and young boy and girl running through a disaster scene in a city.

Fox Atomic

#79. 28 Weeks Later (2007)

– Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

– Metascore: 78

– Runtime: 99 minutes

The sequel to “28 Days Later” unfolds six months after the “rage virus” was first unleashed. As various survivors try to repopulate London, the zombie-like infection rears its ugly head once again. When the U.S. military goes to extremes in its containment effort, the story takes on allegorical overtones.

A young boy and girl staring intently.

Twentieth Century Fox

#78. The Innocents (2022)

– Director: Eskil Vogt

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 117 minutes

In this Norwegian stunner, four children discover the supernatural. But as they test the boundaries of their newfound powers, innocent child’s play turns into something sinister. Variety’s Jessica Kiang said the film serves as “both a satisfying genre exercise and a minute observation of the process by which young children acquire morality.”

A woman with an ice pick in her grasp up in the air.

Seda Spettacoli

#77. Suspiria (1977)

– Director: Dario Argento

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 98 minutes

With its gothic palette and eerie score, this Italian horror classic retains a perennial atmosphere of unease. It goes behind the scenes at a prestigious dance academy to uncover something sinister. Critics and fans alike consider it one of director Dario Argento’s finest hours.

A dark haired man wearing a clear face mask standing in front of a mirror with a knife.

Overture Films

#76. Let Me In (2010)

– Director: Matt Reeves

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 116 minutes

Like its Swedish predecessor, this Hollywood adaptation centers on the unlikely bond between a bullied outcast and young female vampire. Blending heartfelt drama with shocking violence, it straddles two genres and defies easy categorization. Director Matt Reeves honors the source material while injecting just the right amount of original storytelling.

A little blonde girl screaming in horror.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#75. Poltergeist (1982)

– Director: Tobe Hooper

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 114 minutes

According to legend, Steven Spielberg ghost-directed this suburban ghost story. It chronicles a haunting and puts a novel twist on some good old-fashioned scares. There’s also sly commentary about America’s TV diet and cultural norms.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston stand together talking, her with a leather jacket and gloves on and he wearing all black with black long hair.

Recorded Picture Company (RPC)

#74. Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

– Director: Jim Jarmusch

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 123 minutes

Director Jim Jarmusch brings his indie sensibilities to the vampire subgenre and the results are predictably offbeat. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play vampires Adam and Eve, whose on-again, off-again romance is quite literally one for the ages. Already struggling to adapt in modern society, their love undergoes another stress test with the arrival of Eve’s sister.

Patrick Stewart and another man get a drink at a bar.

Broad Green Pictures

#73. Green Room (2016)

– Director: Jeremy Saulnier

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 95 minutes

Punk rock band The Ain’t Rights have just arrived at a skinhead bar in the Pacific Northwest and that’s the least of their problems. So goes this thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, who kicks things off with a grisly murder and then keeps the tension running high. The Daily Telegraph critic Patrick Smith called it a “pulverizing piece of Seventies-style grindhouse exploitation.”

A woman crying while climbing up a dark ladder.

Boulder Light Pictures

#72. Barbarian (2022)

– Director: Zach Cregger

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 102 minutes

Comedy icon turned horror director Zach Cregger delivered one of the wildest rides of 2022, in which a short-term property rental becomes the stuff of nightmares. Its premise was inspired by a self-help book called “The Gift of Fear,” about the various red flags women should look out for in men. The less one knows going in, the better the viewing experience.

A ghostly looking woman in a white gown standing in the woods.

El Ministerio de Cultura Y Deportes de Guatamala

#71. La Llorona (2020)

– Director: Jayro Bustamante

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 96 minutes

A former general and his family are literally haunted by ghosts from the past in this Guatemalan horror. The film takes inspiration from an ancient folktale as well as real-life historical atrocities. It’s not to be mistaken for less acclaimed “The Curse of La Llorona,” which makes up part of “The Conjuring” franchise.

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A pale bald man with long fingers and sharp teeth dressed in all black.

Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

#70. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

– Director: Werner Herzog

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 107 minutes

Employing lurid and saturated hues, director Werner Herzog updates a silent-era classic. Frequent collaborator Klaus Kinski takes on the title role and even uses the same makeup style as his 1922 predecessor. Upon moving from Transylvania to a remote German village, Count Dracula preys upon a new host of victims.

A woman wearing a dress outside at night covered in mud.

Causeway Films

#69. You Won’t Be Alone (2022)

– Director: Goran Stolevski

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 108 minutes

Macedonian Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski makes his feature debut with this disturbing and atmospheric period piece. In a remote 19th-century Macedonian village, a young girl becomes a witch. Detroit News critic Adam Graham describes it as being “like ‘The Witch’ by way of Terrence Malick.”

Natalie Portman standing in a dark hallway.

Paramount Pictures

#68. Annihilation (2018)

– Director: Alex Garland

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 115 minutes

Director Alex Garland followed up the cult hit “Ex Machina” with this similar blend of sci-fi and horror. When her husband goes missing, a biologist (Natalie Portman) must enter a mysterious realm to find him. Brimming with stunning, otherwordly visual effects, part of the experience of the film is figuring out what it all means.

Gina Davis crying with her hands pressed against a glass window.

SLM Production Group

#67. The Fly (1986)

– Director: David Cronenberg

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 96 minutes

A brilliant scientist (Jeff Goldblum) falls victim to his own ghastly experiment in this tale of love and obsession. By remaking a 1958 classic, director David Cronenberg found the perfect venue for his body horror fixations. The special effects practically drip off the screen and stick with the viewer long after the credits roll.

A group of filmmakers and castmembers walk through a field by a red barn carrying film equipment.

A24

#66. X (2022)

– Director: Ti West

– Metascore: 79

– Runtime: 105 minutes

In the spirit of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” comes this graphic slasher, which takes place in 1979. A porn crew rents out a rural guest house for their next shoot, only to incite murderous envy from their elderly hosts. It makes up part of a trilogy, and director Ti West is currently working on the final installment.

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Scarlett Johansson in a black short wig sitting on a bus as a man sitting behind her watches her.

Film4

#65. Under the Skin (2014)

– Director: Jonathan Glazer

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 108 minutes

A sci-fi movie quite unlike any other, this one juxtaposes hallucinatory visuals with stretches of stark realism. Graced with a human body and blank expression, an alien seductress (Scarlett Johansson) cruises Scotland in search of new victims. Viewers expecting the standard invasion fare are bound to be disappointed.

Two men hiking uphill towards a statue in the mountains.

Snowfort Pictures

#64. The Endless (2018)

– Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 111 minutes

Two brothers thought they were out of a wacky UFO death cult, but now a mysterious VHS tape has pulled them back in. Banking on the power of talent and creativity, the film squeezes palpable tension out of its micro-budget. The less one knows going in, the better.

A shirtless man arching over backwards and screaming while surrounded by a crowd of people.

Telewizja Polska

#63. Demon (2016)

– Director: Marcin Wrona

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 94 minutes

Inspired by Jewish folklore, this absurdist horror dramedy hails from Poland and takes place during a wedding. An unruly spirit lurks inside the groom and continues to disrupt the ceremony. At the movie’s core is a story of history and revenge.

Clay looking figures walking across a bridge in front of fire.

Tippett Studio

#62. Mad God (2022)

– Director: Phil Tippett

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 83 minutes

Visual effects wizard Phil Tippett reportedly spent 30 years bringing this stop-motion horror epic to life. It welcomes viewers into a savage and fully realized underworld, where a masked assassin embarks on a final mission. The project would have sat on the shelf forever if not for a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $124,000 in funding.

A man in a suit looks perplexed in a studio.

Illuminations Films

#61. Berberian Sound Studio (2013)

– Director: Peter Strickland

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 92 minutes

Director Peter Strickland pays homage to 1970s Italian giallo horror films with this psychological nightmare. It tells the story of a British sound effects engineer (Toby Jones), whose latest assignment uproots his grip on reality. An erratic narrative and jarring visual style together maintain the dream-like aesthetic.

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A man sits at a small table holding up a mirror to a guy across the table.

Rustic Films

#60. Resolution (2013)

– Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 93 minutes

Shot on a reported budget of just $20,000, this friendship-themed horror flick opens with a story of intervention. That gives way to a series of mysterious occurrences as a much graver plot unfolds. It’s all brought to viewers from the same filmmaking team behind “The Endless.”

Circus performers posing together.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#59. Freaks (1932)

– Director: Tod Browning

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 64 minutes

Director Tod Browning cast real-life sideshow acts for this unique and controversial effort. Hoping to inherit a fortune, a trapeze artist attempts to seduce a carnival performer. Infused with palpable pathos, the work arguably delivers sincerity over exploitation.

An angry man staring at himself in the mirror.

Maljack Productions

#58. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

– Director: John McNaughton

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 83 minutes

Follow a drifter (Michael Rooker) as he commits a series of murders in this disturbing cult classic. Tightly executed and totally uncompromised, the movie’s shocking authenticity is one of its best attributes. It was one of the first films to prompt the creation of an NC-17 rating.

A man driving a car with a woman pointing and waving in the passenger seat.

Nicolás Astiarraga P.C.

#57. Arrebato (1979)

– Director: Iván Zulueta

– Metascore: 80

– Runtime: 105 minutes

This freshly restored Spanish arthouse flick is waiting to be rediscovered by lovers of cult horror. It follows a drug-addicted filmmaker as he tries to capture his delirious state of mind on celluloid. Roger Ebert critic Carlos Aguilar writes that it “invokes cinema as an otherworldly entity that possesses, just as addictive and destructive as mind-altering substances injected into the bloodstream.”

A young boy hiding while a mom with bandages on her face opens the door.

Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH

#56. Goodnight Mommy (2015)

– Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 99 minutes

Things are not what they seem in this Austrian psychodrama. When their mother undergoes cosmetic surgery, two twin brothers are convinced that she’s been replaced by someone else. The National Board of Review named “Goodnight Mommy” one of its top foreign films of 2015.

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An extreme closeup of a crying woman’s face in the dark.

Haxan Films

#55. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

– Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 81 minutes

The found footage subgenre probably wouldn’t exist if not for this seminal indie film. It follows three documentarians deep into the woods as they search for a mythical witch. Preceded by one of the first viral marketing campaigns, it became a critical and commercial smash.

An angry and sick looking little girl.

Warner Bros.

#54. The Exorcist (1973)

– Director: William Friedkin

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 122 minutes

Audiences weren’t quite prepared for the horror of this benchmark blockbuster—not that it stopped them from attending in droves. It portrays the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair) and the two priests who try to save her. Winner of two Academy Awards, it remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time (when adjusted for inflation).

An old man sits wrapped in a blanket with cuts on his face.

20th Century Fox

#53. The Wailing (2016)

– Director: Na Hong-jin

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 156 minutes

The surprises keep coming in this beloved horror flick from South Korea’s Na Hong-jin. It takes place in a small village, where the arrival of a stranger coincides with a series of disturbing events. Don’t be intimidated by the 156-minute runtime, as the story moves at a brisk pace.

An older man and three young people stand holding hands wearing red jumpsuits in the dark.

Monkeypaw Productions

#52. Us (2019)

– Director: Jordan Peele

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 116 minutes

Director Jordan Peele followed “Get Out” by once again infusing the horror genre with social commentary and occasional comic relief. The story takes place in Santa Cruz, where a family of vacationers squares off against their doppelgängers. Featuring a highly acclaimed dual-role performance from Lupita Nyong’o, the film closes out with a twist ending.

A serious looking young woman with dark hair.

Say Ahh Productions

#51. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

– Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 99 minutes

Dubbed “the first Iranian vampire western,” Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature debut emanates with pure indie spirit. It takes place in the desolate town of Bad City and follows the exploits of a drifting vampire (Sheila Vand). The unique aesthetic and killer soundtrack make up for any narrative shortcomings.

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A middle aged woman sews a red dress on a vintage looking sewing machine.

Rook Films

#50. In Fabric (2019)

– Director: Peter Strickland

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 118 minutes

From the director of “Berberian Sound Studio” comes another surrealist nightmare in the giallo tradition. At the heart of the story is a cursed red dress, which unleashes terror as it passes from one owner to the next. Equal parts comedic and disturbing, the film makes for a sly satire of modern capitalism.

A monster that resembles a venus fly trap holds a woman in its tentacles.

The Geffen Company

#49. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

– Director: Frank Oz

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 94 minutes

Existing in a category all its own, this horror musical never loses its theatrical or comedic edge. To satisfy his alien plant (voiced by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops), a lonely florist (Rick Moranis) goes to murderous extremes. Steve Martin’s turn as a sadistic dentist is a performance not to be missed.

A blonde woman smiling.

M.E.S. Productions

#48. Revenge (2018)

– Director: Coralie Fargeat

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 108 minutes

Hailed by Vogue as an “exploitation movie for the #MeToo era,” this graphic feast doubles as a feminist parable. Assaulted and left for dead, a woman (Matilda Lutz) embarks on a blood-soaked warpath. Director Coralie Fargeat turns every dial all the way up.

A young dark haired woman with blood running from her nose.

Petit Film

#47. Raw (2017)

– Director: Julia Ducournau

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 99 minutes

A devout vegetarian (Garance Marillier) gets a taste of meat and goes full cannibal in this French horror drama. Indisputably graphic, the film also features plenty of subtext on the nature of innocence and experience. According to critic Kate Muir, it stays with the viewer “long after the sight of a nice trainee vet snacking on a fellow student’s severed finger has gone.”

Audrey Hepburn stands in front of a dressing table and mirror while a man wearing gloves talks to her.

Warner Bros.

#46. Wait Until Dark (1967)

– Director: Terence Young

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 108 minutes

Audrey Hepburn delivers an Oscar-nominated performance in this gripping thriller. Playing blind housewife Susy Hendrix, she must contend with three ruthless robbers as they search her house for drugs. Alan Arkin co-stars and gives a heralded performance of his own.

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Four people ride motorcycles in the dark with a red light beaming behind them.

SpectreVision

#45. Mandy (2018)

– Directors: Panos Cosmatos, Chris ‘Casper’ Kelly

– Metascore: 81

– Runtime: 121 minutes

Somber opening music and a dense visual palette set the tone for this hallucinatory saga. Upon losing the love of his life to a dangerous cult, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) unleashes the ultra-violent fury of his wrath. Come for Cage’s unhinged performance, stay for the string of psychedelic showdowns.

A dark haired woman in a transparent robe lays on a circular rug covered in pagan symbols with a knife next to her.

Anna Biller Productions

#44. The Love Witch (2016)

– Director: Anna Biller

– Metascore: 82

– Runtime: 120 minutes

Presented in a retro Technicolor style, this gothic horror comedy centers on a witch named Elaine (Samantha Robinson). Unintended disaster ensues when Elaine uses love spells to seduce a string of men. Just beyond the pulpy veneer is a clever exploration of society’s hang-ups and double standards.

A young girl with short blonde hair and a bandaid on her face sits with a serious look.

EFTI

#43. Let the Right One In (2008)

– Director: Tomas Alfredson

– Metascore: 82

– Runtime: 115 minutes

A bullied boy and female vampire forge a unique bond in this Swedish horror film, which inspired the 2010 English-language remake “Let Me In.” Dripping with atmosphere, it punctuates humane drama with sequences of grotesque violence. Those who don’t mind subtitles can skip the American version and go straight to the source.

A creature with a ram skull, fur and other bones sitting in a dark room with light coming in from above.

Mistik Jade Films

#42. Sator (2021)

– Director: Jordan Graham

– Metascore: 82

– Runtime: 85 minutes

Critics went gaga for this low-budget horror film, in which a supernatural entity tries to possess a small family. An audience score of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb rating of 5.2 suggests that general moviegoers were far less impressed. It’s drawn comparisons to “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Witch.”

An old man with long curly hair and facial hair in a dark cloak.

Emmepi Cinematografica

#41. Black Sabbath (1964)

– Director: Mario Bava

– Metascore: 82

– Runtime: 92 minutes

Boris Karloff presents a trilogy of featurettes from director Mario Bava, with notable differences between the Italian and American versions. The expressionistic use of color and steamy overtones are defining stalwarts of the giallo subgenre. A certain heavy metal band derived its name from this very film.

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John Krasinski in a cornfield.

Paramount Pictures

#40. A Quiet Place (2018)

– Director: John Krasinski

– Metascore: 82

– Runtime: 90 minutes

This unexpected blockbuster takes place in the wake of a catastrophic alien invasion by creatures who hunt by sound. In order to survive, a family must remain completely quiet at all times. The sequel arrived in 2020 to similarly strong reviews.

Johnny Depp sharpens his barber knife and Helena Bonham Carter sits in the chair talking with him.

DreamWorks

#39. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

– Director: Tim Burton

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 116 minutes

Director Tim Burton reunited with Johnny Depp for this adaptation of the Broadway horror musical. It tells the story of widowed barber Sweeney Todd (Depp), whose business is a front for a bloody revenge scheme. Depp’s work, along with Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as Sweeney’s cohort Mrs. Lovett, brought in rave reviews.

A troubled looking girl with shorts, a tank top and high heels on in the middle of the street.

Northern Lights Films

#38. It Follows (2015)

– Director: David Robert Mitchell

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 100 minutes

With its nightmarish premise and synth score, this indie horror classic draws upon the works of John Carpenter. The “it” that follows is a sexually transmitted entity, which takes the form of deadly human stalkers. Shot on a budget of under $2 million, the film debuted at Cannes and later earned a loyal cult following.

A levitating girl arched over backwards in a bedroom.

Escape Plan Productions

#37. Saint Maud (2021)

– Director: Rose Glass

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 84 minutes

The feature debut from director Rose Glass, this psychological horror film tells the story of a hospice nurse named Maud (Morfydd Clark). Going to religious extremes, Maud tries to save the soul of an afflicted patient. In his review for IndieWire, critic David Ehrlich described it as a “cross between ‘First Reformed’ and ‘The Exorcist.’”

A man in clear goggles holding a small taxidermied animal.

Amour Fou Vienna

#36. Taxidermia (2009)

– Director: György Pálfi

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 91 minutes

With a name like “Taxidermia,” graphic body horror is all but guaranteed. Hungarian director György Pálfi also brings plenty of dark comedy to this surrealist yarn, which spans three generations of idiosyncratic men. It’s best watched on an empty stomach.

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A woman in all black with her head tilted to the side and black eyes.

Universal Pictures

#35. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

– Director: Sam Raimi

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 99 minutes

“Evil Dead” helmer Sam Raimi returned to his horror roots with this supernatural tale. The victim of a deadly curse, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has just a few days to save her soul from damnation. Raimi’s hyperkinetic style and comic sensibilities lend the film a signature aesthetic.

A woman soaking wet from the pouring rain screams clutching her head.

Sigma Cinematografica Roma

#34. Tenebrae (1984)

– Director: Dario Argento

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 101 minutes

Italian director Dario Argento returned to the giallo subgenre he helped popularize with this subversive slasher. The story takes place in Rome and puts a horror writer in the crosshairs of a twisted killer. Originally censored and reedited for theatrical distribution in the U.S., it was critically reappraised decades later after being released in uncut form.

Willem Dafoe shirtless and exhausted.

A24

#33. The Lighthouse (2019)

– Director: Robert Eggers

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 109 minutes

Mental torment is its own kind of horror in this black-and-white psychodrama. Set off the coast of New England in the late 19th century, it chronicles the contentious relationship between two lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe). Playing to his strengths, director Robert Eggers effectively transports the viewer to another time.

A young woman in a tan cloak looking scared in the woods.

Parts and Labor

#32. The Witch (2016)

– Director: Robert Eggers

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 92 minutes

Before “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers churned out this slow-burn supernatural folktale for his feature film debut. Taking place in 17th-century New England, it depicts a devout Christian family on their farm while evil forces lurk in the wilderness nearby. Rendered with impeccable authenticity, Eggers made his mark as a detail-oriented director by employing Early Modern English for the film’s dialogue.

A woman stands looking out a window with the shadow of an X on her face.

Wigwam Films

#31. Under the Shadow (2016)

– Director: Babak Anvari

– Metascore: 83

– Runtime: 84 minutes

Babak Anvari’s feature directorial debut takes place in 1980s Tehran during the War of the Cities. Grappling with real terror outside their door, a mother and daughter face a new enemy from within. Even at its most supernatural, the story retains a theme of war-torn peril.

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A man with vampire fangs poised to bite the neck of a woman.

Vonnie Von Helmolt Film

#30. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2003)

– Director: Guy Maddin

– Metascore: 84

– Runtime: 73 minutes

A technical triumph, this ballet version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” employs silent-era paradigms. As wild as it may sound, the film is actually quite faithful to the source material. Roger Ebert credited its fragmented style with imparting “the sensation of glimpsing snatches of a dream.”

A woman in a bloody prom dress with a crazy look in her eyes.

Red Bank Films

#29. Carrie (1976)

– Director: Brian De Palma

– Metascore: 85

– Runtime: 98 minutes

Stephen King’s debut novel paved the way for this seminal horror flick, starring Sissy Spacek in the title role. Constantly harassed by her peers, Carrie unleashes her telekinetic power. It all builds toward one of the most legendary climaxes in horror movie history.

A bloody man shoves a long metal pole into the jaws of a giant creature.

Chungeorahm Film

#28. The Host (2007)

– Director: Bong Joon-ho

– Metascore: 85

– Runtime: 119 minutes

Long before “Parasite,” director Bong Joon-ho enraptured global audiences with this South Korean monster movie. Loosely inspired by an actual event, it generates a vicious sea creature out of 200 bottles of dumped formaldehyde. At the time, it was the highest-grossing film in South Korea.

A young man with tears running down his cheeks and a shocked look on his face.

Universal Pictures

#27. Get Out (2017)

– Director: Jordan Peele

– Metascore: 85

– Runtime: 104 minutes

A film that’s become only more prescient with time, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut combines social satire with gripping terror. While visiting his girlfriend’s well-heeled parents, a young Black man (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself the target of a diabolical scheme. Rarely do various tonal elements harmonize as seamlessly as they do in this Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay.

A man and two women look surprised as they listen to a radio with an large antennae.

ENBU Seminar

#26. One Cut of the Dead (2019)

– Director: Shin’ichirô Ueda

– Metascore: 86

– Runtime: 96 minutes

Working on a reported budget of around $25,000, Japan’s Shin’ichirô Ueda squeezed new life into the zombie subgenre. Equal parts clever and gruesome, the story follows a hack filmmaker and his crew as they try to make a horror movie on the cheap. That’s when the real zombies come out to play.

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A woman reads a story to her son at bedtime.

Screen Australia

#25. The Babadook (2014)

– Director: Jennifer Kent

– Metascore: 86

– Runtime: 93 minutes

A visual tour de force, Jennifer Kent’s feature debut walks the fine line between supernatural and psychological terror. It tells the story of a creepy children’s book character, who leaps off the page and not just in a figurative sense. Is the Babadook real or is it a shared delusion between a widowed mother and her son?

A family of paper dolls eats dinner at a table with burning bowls in the center.

Diluvio

#24. The Wolf House (2020)

– Directors: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña

– Metascore: 86

– Runtime: 75 minutes

According to IndieWire, this “grimmer-than-Grimm fairy tale” is “one of the darkest animated movies ever.” After escaping from a Nazi-run colony in the middle of Chile, a young woman enters a new house of horrors. The filmmakers use a full spectrum of styles and moods to examine the nature of trauma.

An amphibious creature touches and looks through glass.

Double Dare You (DDY)

#23. The Shape of Water (2017)

– Director: Guillermo del Toro

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 123 minutes

Straddling multiple genres, this Best Picture winner depicts the unlikely romance between a janitor (Sally Hawkins) and humanistic sea creature (Doug Jones). Set during the height of the Cold War, the fairy tale unfolds against a noirish backdrop. A notable technical element of the film is the Amphibian Man was brought to life by Jones performing in a carefully designed costume rather than through CGI and motion capture.

A woman dressed in white with a flower crown being tied up by a clown.

British Lion Film Corporation

#22. The Wicker Man (1974)

– Director: Robin Hardy

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 88 minutes

Not to be confused with the terrible remake, this cult classic set an early template for the folk horror subgenre. It follows a police sergeant to a remote Scottish island village with strong pagan ties. The film’s influence looms so large that director Ari Aster had to consciously avoid it when making “Midsommar,” which features similar themes.

A guy in a green hoodie sits with a tray of food at a table by himself looking depressed.

A24

#21. Hereditary (2018)

– Director: Ari Aster

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 127 minutes

This unique blend of domestic drama and supernatural terror announced Ari Aster as a new voice in cinema. When a family matriarch passes away, she leaves more than just her genetics behind. Toni Collette’s powerhouse performance is the foundational glue holding multiple threads together.

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Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw stand on a boat looking terrified at something in the water.

Zanuck/Brown Productions

#20. Jaws (1975)

– Director: Steven Spielberg

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 124 minutes

More than a critical and commercial smash, “Jaws” redefined the entire concept of blockbuster cinema. Various production issues forced Spielberg to show less of the shark during earlier scenes, which only made the film that much more terrifying. To this day, the movie continues to make swimmers afraid of the ocean.

A tiny little creature head on a regular sized man's body wearing a suit.

American Film Institute (AFI)

#19. Eraserhead (1978)

– Director: David Lynch

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 89 minutes

A true labor of love, David Lynch’s feature debut capitalized off of midnight screenings and a loyal cult following. It channels various moods and fears into the story of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), who grapples with the birth of a mutant child. Story takes a backseat to industrial textures and experimental dirges in what remains a completely singular work.

The killer, Michael Myers, wearing a white face mask and talking on the phone.

Compass International Pictures

#18. Halloween (1978)

– Director: John Carpenter

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 91 minutes

Before the endless string of sequels and reboots, there was John Carpenter’s original classic. Its synth-heavy score and masked murderer would become fixtures of the up-and-coming slasher subgenre. Even today, the film’s influence persists on screens both big and small.

A person completely covered with a suit on and cloth wraps all around his head with sunglasses on his eyes.

Universal Pictures

#17. The Invisible Man (1933)

– Director: James Whale

– Metascore: 87

– Runtime: 71 minutes

With great invisibility comes great insanity in this H.G. Wells adaptation. Director James Whale balances tension and comedy while introducing a number of groundbreaking (for its time) special effects. A 2020 remake starring Elisabeth Moss earned its own share of rave reviews.

A ghostly man looking through a window at a young boy in a coat and tie.

Twentieth Century Fox

#16. The Innocents (1961)

– Director: Jack Clayton

– Metascore: 88

– Runtime: 100 minutes

This adaptation of a Henry James novella stars Deborah Kerr as a governess named Miss Giddens. After moving into a new estate, Giddens is haunted by the spirits of two former employees … or is she? The movie is beloved by critics and filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, who put it at #10 on his list of scariest horror movies.

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Zombie looking people wandering.

Image Ten

#15. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

– Director: George A. Romero

– Metascore: 89

– Runtime: 96 minutes

Ground zero for an entire subgenre, George Romero’s low-budget horror flick never once uses the word “zombie.” It nevertheless establishes a number of important paradigms, pitting small-town folk against the walking dead. Controversial upon its release, the movie garnered critical acclaim over time.

John Hurt, wearing a space suit and helmet, investigates living pods in the ground.

Brandywine Productions

#14. Alien (1979)

– Director: Ridley Scott

– Metascore: 89

– Runtime: 117 minutes

A benchmark in modern filmmaking, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece follows the crew of spaceship Nostromo. What starts as slow burn sci-fi descends into the stuff of nightmares, as alien cargo picks off the crew one by one. In 2003, a director’s cut was released theatrically to its own rapturous reviews.

A little boy in a suit stares closely at a bloody knife.

Rizzoli Film

#13. Deep Red (1976)

– Director: Dario Argento

– Metascore: 89

– Runtime: 126 minutes

The blood flows red and deep indeed, courtesy of Italian horror legend Dario Argento. His most-acclaimed work sends a hapless pianist on the trail of a savvy serial killer. Despite some “nonsensical qualities,” critic Keith Phipps heralded the film’s “hallucinatory images and unforgettable setpieces.”

A man and woman backed into a corner stare at something together looking frightened.

Champs-Élysées Productions

#12. Eyes Without a Face (1960)

– Director: Georges Franju

– Metascore: 90

– Runtime: 88 minutes

In this French horror drama, a guilt-ridden surgeon tries to give his daughter a new face. With its poetic style and unsparing depictions of surgery, the film was influential for both its decade and decades to come. Critics to this day are still hashing out its hidden meanings and themes.

A colossal ape holding a small woman in its clutches.

RKO Radio Pictures

#11. King Kong (1933)

– Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper

– Metascore: 90

– Runtime: 100 minutes

A living legacy began with this 1933 adventure and its groundbreaking use of stop-motion animation. At the behest of a film crew, actor Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) travels to Skull Island and catches the eye of a monolithic ape. The rest is cinematic history.

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Children running away from a flock of birds.

Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#10. The Birds (1963)

– Director: Alfred Hitchcock

– Metascore: 90

– Runtime: 119 minutes

Chaos visits the town of Bodega Bay in the form of relentless birds, who attack for no apparent reason. Hitchcock revels in the buildup, pivoting from romantic dramedy to horror with suddenness and precision. The same artistic choices that initially befuddled critics are now viewed as masterstrokes.

An extreme closeup of a terrified woman's eyes.

Compton Films

#9. Repulsion (1965)

– Director: Roman Polanski

– Metascore: 91

– Runtime: 105 minutes

Alone in her London apartment, a hypersensitive woman (Catherine Deneuve) slowly descends into madness. Polanski cultivates a claustrophobic sense of space to express the character’s mindset. This was the first film in the director’s unofficial “Apartment Trilogy.”

A man and a human monster creation stare at each other on a hilltop.

Universal Pictures

#8. Frankenstein (1931)

– Director: James Whale

– Metascore: 91

– Runtime: 70 minutes

With help from his assistant Igor, a mad scientist reanimates lifeless body parts. This epoch-making adaptation introduces Boris Karloff as the legendary monster. Writing for the Village Voice, Elliot Stein calls it the “most influential horror film ever made.”

Two men in 1940’s clothing stare closely at each other.

Laokoon Filmgroup

#7. Son of Saul (2015)

– Director: László Nemes

– Metascore: 91

– Runtime: 107 minutes

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp provides its own brand of horror in this Hungarian World War II drama. Tasked with exterminating dead bodies, prisoner Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) seeks proper burial for a young boy. The movie won a host of major awards, including the Grand Prix at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

A worried man.

13 Productions

#6. Werckmeister Harmonies (2001)

– Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky

– Metascore: 92

– Runtime: 145 minutes

Mystery permeates every minute of this cinéma vérité-style nightmare, which consists of just 39 shots. When the circus rolls into a small Hungarian village, it sparks hysteria and rebellion among the locals. Director Béla Tarr claims the story is as simple as it appears, but most critics point to its philosophical underpinnings.

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A man in a suit and a woman in a strapless dress run down the street looking scared.

Solofilm

#5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

– Director: Don Siegel

– Metascore: 92

– Runtime: 80 minutes

Rife with subtext, this sci-fi horror classic touches down on humanity’s deepest fears. Aliens are slowly replacing humans with emotionless body doubles and almost no one’s the wiser. The film’s own producer swears it’s all just entertainment, but the sociopolitical allegory resonates nonetheless.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie talk in front of a brick archway.

Casey Productions

#4. Don’t Look Now (1973)

– Director: Nicolas Roeg

– Metascore: 95

– Runtime: 110 minutes

Director Nicolas Roeg’s giallo-like adaptation of a Gothic short story doubles as a meditation on grief and obsession. Tormented by their daughter’s death, a married couple (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) encounters a series of inexplicable phenomena during a trip to Venice. It all builds toward a horrific and shocking conclusion.

Frankenstein stares at his man-made monster bride, who has black hair with a silver lightening strike on the side.

Universal Pictures

#3. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

– Director: James Whale

– Metascore: 95

– Runtime: 75 minutes

Director James Whale arguably topped himself with this nuanced follow-up to 1931’s “Frankenstein.” To stay ahead of the competition, the famed mad scientist builds his monster a suitable mate. A TV Guide Magazine review dubbed the movie “one of the greatest films of its genre” that “remains a lasting tribute to the unique genius of director Whale.”

A short haired blonde woman talks on a pay phone.

William Castle Productions

#2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

– Director: Roman Polanski

– Metascore: 96

– Runtime: 137 minutes

A woman (Mia Farrow) thinks she’s pregnant with devil spawn in this gothic masterpiece. Steering clear of excessive violence and gore, Polanski inflicts psychological terror upon the audience. Farrow’s pitch-perfect performance likewise generates tangible despair.

A short haired woman screams in the shower.

Bettmann // Getty Images

#1. Psycho (1960)

– Director: Alfred Hitchcock

– Metascore: 97

– Runtime: 109 minutes

On the lam and stuck in the rain, a woman (Janet Leigh) pulls into Bates Motel to crash for the night. Her subsequent murder at the hand of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was the scene heard ‘round the world. Reviews were mixed upon the film’s initial release, but critics eventually caught up to Hitchcock and his game-changing vision.

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Article written by Jacob Osborn Stacker.com #ReviewJournal

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