9. Ben - Night Of The Living Dead
Zombies had their place in cinema history since at least the 1930s (earlier if you count Frankenstein), but never had they been treated as a roving, anonymous hoard with no anima beyond the desire for human flesh. But the zombies were just the overbearing, exterior threat for the survivors holed up in a farmhouse. They represented war, racism and political chaos infringing on the heroes. The real fear comes from the living, full of actual prejudice and power-hungry.
After spending the first half-hour with Barbara, a young girl who witnessed her brother's death at the opening, we're introduced to Ben (Duane Jones), the de facto leader of the upstairs. That Jones was African American, according to director George A. Romero, was happenstance; he just happened to be the best actor that showed up.
But nevertheless, Night of The Living Dead made history by casting an African American male lead in a horror film, and it plays out as well as you'd imagine it would in 1968 - the year Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK were assassinated. Barbara appears to be in shock and unresponsive to Ben - fearful, even - and the reasons are layered, leaving audiences with the lingering question they'll ask more than once upon viewing the film: Did that happen because he was black?