For a horror movie to be frightening is a challenge for those who make them. However, to create a horror film that is not only frightening but also able to influence the entire genre itself… that is a rare feat to be sure.
While some films are influential because they were the first of their kind, others introduced new and innovative ways of serving up nightmare fuel. Either way, it cannot be denied that without these 13 films the horror genre might not be what it is today, and they forever serve as a reminder to those who make horror that there is always room for something new and fresh.
What follows are 13 of the most influential horror films ever made, in no particular order. (After all, how can I possibly put one above the other?)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920):
In 1920 Robert Wiene made horror history when he directed what is known as the first ever horror movie. This silent foreign film is part horror and part German expressionist cinema… and even today it successfully serves up the scares through its utterly creepy film noir style. It tells the story of a seriously deranged hypnotist who uses his sleepwalking patient to commit murders. To say that this movie influenced the horror genre would be an understatement. It was the first of its kind and ushered in this new genre with epic style. Anyone who is avoiding this movie because it is old, silent, and black and white is truly missing out.
Don Coscarelli directed what is easily one of the most innovative horror films of all time. Incorporating elements of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and… a big heaping dose of strange, this horror classic has become a favorite of nearly every fan of the genre. It tells the story of an evil undertaker whose supernatural powers allow him to turn his victims into dwarf-like zombies that mindlessly do his bidding. However, his intentions to take over the world are interrupted by a meddling teenager, and all sorts of otherworldly chaos ensues. This movie is as much surrealist art as it is horror and is often cited as an inspiration to many horror directors that came after.
The Blair Witch Project (1999):
In 1999 Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez were responsible for what is generally regarded as the first found footage horror movie and forever influenced the genre in good – and awful – ways. What followed its release was a deluge of found footage that hoped to mirror the success of Blair Witch. As expected, horror movie fans cringed while the general public showed up in droves for each and every one. On its own, The Blair Witch Project was an innovative and impressive movie for the small budget it was created on. In addition to ushering in a completely new sub-genre, it changed how movies can be marketed. Using the internet to create a viral marketing campaign, they were able to convince the general public that the kids featured in the movie were, in fact, missing and the movie featured their last terrifying moments on earth.