Variety’s Top 100 Movies of All Time includes 9 (maybe 10) Horror Films

Fangoria! Woo!

This past December, for the first time in its 117-year history, the venerable trade publication, Variety, probably the most prestigious journal covering Hollywood, released its Critic’s ratings for THEIR Top 100 Films of all Time. And believe it or not, a HORROR movie is rated #1! I was not optimistic that horror would be well represented. Still, I think our genre got a decent amount of respect, particularly given the black sheep status regularly given to horror movies.

The list is loaded with Best Picture winners and films that have long been considered stone-cold classics. Any movie that has ever worn the crown of “Best Movie Ever” is on this list. The love of foreign films shows up in this list, and for the most part, this is a pretty diverse list. There are some significant surprises, including Pink Flamingos, Bridesmaids, The Road Warrior, and My Neighbor Totoro. I think this list is much better than the list for the American Film Institute’s 100 Films for 100 years. I think the Variety list is quite daring by comparison, and much more willing to adopt more recent movies.

Of course, readers of The Scariest Things will be most interested in what HORROR movies got the golden ticket. Some I expected, but there were a couple of pleasant surprises. Here they are, with their rankings.

  • Alien #97
  • The Shining #90
  • Pan’s Labyrinth #84
  • King Kong #68
  • Carrie #64
  • Rosemary’s Baby #56
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre #49
  • The Silence of the Lambs #35
  • Blue Velvet #20 (Horror?)
  • Psycho #1 (WOW)

First Reaction: A bit surprised at how many horror movies there are. It’s not like our genre gets a lot of respect. Variety represents the highbrow of cinematic journalism and is a definitive pure Hollywood inside power broker. We were pretty much guaranteed not to get the ’80s franchise favorites. I did not expect to see Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or least of all Friday the 13th get within shouting distance of this list.

I’m really happy about Pan’s Labyrinth, a masterpiece often underrated for being the important piece of dark fantasy storytelling that it is. Also, big props to Variety for recognizing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and embracing the grindhouse influence on cinema. And since we claimed, reluctantly, Blue Velvet in The Scariest Things Top 100, we will claim it as horror for the Variety list as well… kinda… sorta.

Snubs? Here are the horror movies that woulda, coulda, and shoulda:

  • The Thing
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Hereditary
  • Get Out
  • Frankenstein (or Bride of Frankenstein)
  • The Exorcist
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (77)
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Aliens
  • Se7en

I think Alien ended up blocking the lane for The Thing, which is The Scariest Thing’s #1 horror movie of all time. Frankenstein was supplanted by King Kong as the great golden age horror movie. Rosemary’s Baby apparently claimed The Exorcist’s spot, as the Variety staff claims that the Polanski film was scarier (I disagree). Spielberg didn’t do particularly well in the Variety list, getting only E.T. and Saving Private Ryan on the list, and I thought Jaws really deserved a slot. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre probably wears the mantle for startling modern indie horror, and thus nudged Night of the Living Dead off the Pedestal.

I’m actually surprised that Se7en didn’t crack the list, with the super stylish and star power of that film. David Fincher is a Hollywood darling, and he got zero films in the list. Both Get Out and Hereditary may be too new to the scene for the critics to understand their impact, but I would have thought that Get Out carries all those intangibles (including an Oscar) that few horror films can muster. Check back in 20 years if Variety does this again.

But before we horror fans go all up in arms about the injustice of our favorite films not being included, consider these landmark films not making the list, and there are a lot of Best Picture Winners and revered movies here. In many cases, I think there were comparable offerings from the same director or actors that Variety felt were better representatives of that filmmaking team and others where another film from the same genre earned its place in front of it. Still, there are some HUGE films that did not make the cut.

Action / Adventure:

  • Ben Hur
  • From Russia With Love (Goldfinger represents Bond for Variety)
  • The French Connection
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Deliverance
  • Rocky
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Right Stuff
  • Die Hard
  • The Legend of the Drunken Master
  • The Untouchables
  • Heat
  • Gladiator
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Speed
  • Training Day
  • Black Panther (All Marvel Movies! Batman, for the DC win)
  • John Wick
  • The Revenant


  • It Happened One Night
  • Animal Crackers (or ANY Marx Brothers)
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Airplane!
  • Tootsie
  • Ghostbusters
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • A Christmas Story
  • Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
  • Clerks
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • The Wedding Singer
  • There’s Something About Mary
  • The Hangover

Dramas: (To be fair, many of the most significant dramas got in)

  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
  • Taxi Driver (WOW… Not on the List)
  • Raging Bull (Also WOW)
  • Ordinary People
  • Amadeus
  • Schindler’s List (Likely replaced by Shoah)
  • Sophie’s Choice (Also Shoah)
  • Broadcast News
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Sex Lies and Videotape
  • Philadelphia
  • Basic Instinct
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Big Night
  • Fight Club
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Hidden Figures
  • Argo
  • Spotlight

Musicals and Disney Animation

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • The Court Jester
  • West Side Story (either one!)
  • My Fair Lady
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Grease
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Chicago
  • La La Land


  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • An Officer and A Gentleman
  • Say Anything
  • Mississippi Masala
  • Clueless
  • The Princess Bride
  • Ghost
  • Like Water for Chocolate
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Before Sunrise
  • Amelie
  • Love, Actually
  • The Notebook
  • The Big Sick
  • Crazy Rich Asians

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • From the Earth to the Moon
  • Forbidden Planet
  • This Island Earth
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • The Planet of the Apes
  • Star Wars (Though The Empire Strikes Back comes in at 30)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Blade Runner
  • Brazil
  • The Terminator
  • Back to the Future
  • The Matrix
  • Being John Malkovich
  • The Return of the King (WOW, a big omission)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Serving for All Potter Movies)
  • Memento
  • Avatar
  • Gravity
  • The Martian
  • Arrival
  • The Shape of Water
  • Dune (2020)

War Movies:

  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Patton
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Das Boot (C’MON! Really? Not on the List?)
  • Ran
  • Platoon
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Glory
  • Braveheart
  • The Thin Red Line
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • The Hurt Locker


  • Shane
  • The Searchers
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Tombstone
  • Unforgiven

Of course, there will be plenty of people to question my snub list. As Variety says, feel free to get frustrated and argue with what I may have left out. True admission: I have a bit of a golden age blind spot, so anything before 1960 I am not well-versed in. For me, and from the horror perspective, when considering the entirety of the snubs, I think horror did alright. And, we can hold up the big foam finger and shout “We’re #1!” Suck it, Citizen Kane!

Added bonus: There is a great YoutTube Interview with Jamie Lee Curtis for her reaction to her mother’s screaming face on the Cover of the Top 100 list. (Though this is mostly about the making of Everything Everywhere All At Once… which seems to be destined for a list just like this one some day.)

Categories: Movie News, Top 100Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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