Classic Horror Movies That Still Hold Up


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They don’t make ‘em like they used to. In an era long ago, horror movies relied upon mood, environment, and practical effects to get their diabolical points across. Sadly, those days are over, and most of what gets released these days in the “horror” genre are CGI-heavy sequels and reboots that are frankly just not scary.


If horror cinema had a golden age, it was decades ago, and while you might think movies from that era would be dated and not remotely frightening, you’re wrong. Many horror movies made in the second half of the 20th century remain devastatingly effective and will still get you to watch them through your fingers. Here’s our list of horror movies that may be decades old but still hold up as well as they did the day they were released.

Image Credit: IMDb.

1.’Night of the Living Dead’ (1968)

Made on the most shoestring of budgets, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead” was the first proper zombie movie, and it singlehandedly created a genre that’s still with us today. What the film lacks in state-of-the-art effects, it makes up for with a surprising story, a grim ending, and an all-around grubbiness you can only get from shooting in black and white. If you watch this movie for the first time today, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is, and all of your predictions about which characters live or die will be wrong.

Image Credit: IMDb.

2. ‘The Exorcist’ (1973)

“The Exorcist” was released in 1973 and famously saw audiences run screaming from the theater, fainting, and throwing up. Then, all those same people revived themselves, got back in line, and returned to the theater to see it again. The movie has a reputation for being unusually transgressive, and some things happen in it that are still too much for some audiences to tolerate (that crucifix scene, for example). It says a lot about the filmmakers’ talents, the actors’ performances, and the effectiveness of pea soup at grossing people out.

Image Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain.

3. ‘Halloween’ (1978)

Like “’Night of the Living Dead” a decade earlier, “Halloween” was made on a pitifully small budget that was not even enough to renovate a modest kitchen. However, that worked in director John Carpenter’s favor, as everything this movie accomplishes in terms of scaring the audience is done economically and sometimes amounts to nothing more than a shadow being cast here, someone sitting up there, or even just the sight of someone standing next to a bush. “Halloween” literally makes something out of nothing, and none of the slasher movies it inspired have come anywhere close to being as effective on ten times the budget.

Image Credit: IMDb.

4. ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974)

The title of this movie alone was probably enough to keep some filmgoers from seeing it, but when you watch it today, there’s almost none of the gory violence that the title implies. Yes, the red stuff does make an appearance in a couple of key scenes, but it’s – dare we say – tastefully done and relies on camera angles to trick the viewer into thinking more graphic violence has been shown than there actually is. What comes through loud and clear about this movie that contributes to the atmosphere of terror is its grubbiness, which you can almost smell as you’re watching the film and makes you feel like you need a long, hot shower afterward.

Image Credit: IMDb.

5. ‘The Shining’ (1980)

Stephen King famously hated this Stanley Kubrick adaptation of his novel, which depicts an alcoholic writer holed up with his wife and son in an empty hotel for the winter. It’s true that the movie takes a lot of liberties with King’s story, but as a piece of filmmaking, it’s brilliant and shows off all of Kubrick’s directorial expertise. Avoid this movie if you don’t like high-pitched noises, screeching violins, or Jack Nicholson yelling at Shelley Duvall. And stay out of room 237!

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6. ‘Alien’ (1979)

Despite taking place in outer space on a futuristic spaceship, “Alien” is really, at its heart, a haunted house movie that replaces the ghost with a menacing extraterrestrial. Now 45 years old, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of at least a couple of this movie’s most famous scares, but it isn’t dated at all, and everything from the script to the pacing to the terrifying alien design by Swiss artist H.R. Giger remains unique and compelling. If you like the movie and want to see the sequels, we advise you as strongly as possible only to watch 1986’s “Aliens” and then tap out after that since all the sequels and prequels that came after are garbage and an affront to the original film.

Image Credit: IMDb.

7. ‘The Fly’ (1986)

David Cronenberg’s body horror masterpiece about a scientist who accidentally merges with a fly during an experiment is gross, grotesque, and gory, so if you’re squeamish, stay far away. However, if you decide to dive in and brave all the free-flowing bodily fluids, you’ll find a surprisingly touching story that was inspired by Cronenberg’s emotions after seeing his father pass slowly from cancer. We hope no one you’re related to will ever transform into a human-sized fly, but if you’ve had to say goodbye to someone who looked less and less like themselves as the disease progressed, you will find this movie very cathartic.

Image Credit: IMDb.

8. ‘Suspiria’ (1977)

“Suspiria” has a lot of problems. The story is incoherent, and many things happen that simply don’t make any sense. However, as a piece of filmmaking, there’s never been anything like it, including the other films director Dario Argento made or its 2018 remake. Argento uses a color palette for the entire film, which was taken from Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which gives the movie a unique look that no other horror movie has. In fact, it almost has more in common with the grotesque artwork of Francisco Goya or Hieronymus Bosch than it has with any other film. If you watch it, ignore the plot and stay for the artistry.

Image Credit: IMDb.

9. ‘Re-Animator’ (1985)

Easily one of the goriest movies ever made, “Re-Animator” is based on the work of writer H.P. Lovecraft, but you’d never know it. It takes place in the present day (well, 1985, anyway) and concerns a medical student who’s invented a glowing serum that can bring the dead back to life. All fine and good, except in this case “life” means the revived person gets up off the mortuary slab and starts fatally attacking people, only to be killed as gruesomely as possible. What makes this movie hold up is that it has a great tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about itself and is willing to engage in stupid slapstick gags with large intestines and the heads of decapitated bodies, making it a kind of combination of “Dawn of the Dead” and a “Three Stooges” movie.

Image Credit: IMDb.

10. ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981)

Like many movies on this list, 1981’s “The Evil Dead” had an ultra-low budget, making many gore effects look laughably dated. There’s even claymation at one point! Rather than try to make the kindergarten art class special effects look real, filmmaker Sam Raimi goes all-in on them, giving the movie a look you won’t see anywhere else. He also shoots at disorienting angles, uses unusual lighting, and employs any other low-cost device at his disposal to give the film a one-of-a-kind mood. It’s not the most realistic-looking horror movie you’ll ever see, but you won’t forget it when it’s over.

Image Credit: IMDb.

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