20 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die

"The horror... the horror..."

It's strange that we're able to derive so much pleasure from scaring ourselves senseless... and yet, fundamentally, that's why we're so fascinated with the idea of horror movies, isn't it? To see how much we can take? To tap into our darkest fears? To buy into a sort of unwritten challenge posed by the associated filmmakers... to prove something to ourselves about the nature of terror? To probe and deconstruct the boundaries of taste? Is that what horror's about? Without question, the horror genre remains one of the most universally appealing of all genres - there's something about it that seems to tap into our innate desire to torment ourselves. We like to rejoice in the aftermath of being scared (after all, having been made to jump, our next reaction is usually to smile or laugh). And horror movies have been around from the very beginning of cinema, of course, harking back to the silent era. In a controlled zone, fear is apparently fun. Horror is known for its ability to encompass a variety of themes - despite that fact that many critics and movie-goers are quick to write it off as one of the lesser cinematic genres, horror has been used to probe, dissect and cut into the fabric of our lives on countless occasions. It's true that some horror is tasteless, but isn't that real of all genres? True horror taps into our deepest anxieties, digs up old graves, pulls skeletons out of the closet, gives a face to our nightmares. So what makes a horror movie a horror movie? The lines are somewhat blurred (and you could argue about them for hours, no doubt), but for the titles we considered, we used one simple criteria, and one that marks the most essential element of a true horror film: it must have been made with the intention to genuinely frighten the hell out of you. We also left off any movies included on our sci-fi list that might've slotted in here. Also: no comedy/horror hybrids...

Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.