Happy Halloween, everyone! Today for the conclusion of Fright-A-Thon 4, we’re celebrating with the best horror movie from every decade that we’ve had horror movies! We’re going from the 1920s all the way to the 2020s, so join us for this trip down horror’s history.

1920s: Nosferatu

F.W. Murnau’s classic take on Dracula is still one of the most eerie and atmospheric horror movies ever made. Basically, every other horror movie since this one owes a bit to it. Killer stalking victims slowly? That’s Max Schreck going up the stairs. It’s often imitated and might be “slow” for modern audiences, but this is a stone-cold classic that sets the genre up right.

1930s: Bride Of Frankenstein

Upset alert? In a decade that has both Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff, we get Bride of Frankenstein taking the spot for the decade. Why is this film important? Because it set the standard for horror sequels going forward. If there’s one thing that the horror genre is known for, it’s sequels. Here, we get a sequel that not only ups the ante on the first film, but also introduces one of the most iconic characters in horror history, the Bride of Frankenstein. Elsa Lanchester‘s performance is among the best in film’s history and the iconic hair and makeup make this film one of the best ever.

1940s: Cat People

One of the most influential horror flicks ever, Cat People beats out plenty of Universal Horror sequels as the best of the 40s. This is the first contemporary, urban, American horror film out there. This isn’t about the supernatural of old horror stories, this is as modern as it got when it was made. This is frightening in a different way than most horror movies of its time. Instead of relying on kooky or wacky characters, it has an eerie and mysterious quality. Add into it the masterful use of light and shadow by Director Jacques Tourneur and Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca and you get the best horror movie of the 1940s.

1950s: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

The 1950s is really where horror started to get good. Real-life fears of communism, aliens, nuclear war, and other topics bled into the films of the decade. There were far too many great choices for this decade like The Thing From Another World, Night Of The Hunter, Godzilla, The Blob, The Fly, The Tingler, and House On Haunted Hill. Invasion of the Body Snatchers does the crippling fear of communism and other social anxieties better than any of the other films here though. Kevin McCarthy‘s performance as the film goes on starts as heroic and ends up with him stark, raving, mad. Horror is always at its best when it taps into fears of the time, and none of the 50s does it better than this.

1960s: Psycho

Psycho - 101 Scariest Movie Moments

For this decade it’s another battle of two titans, Psycho vs. Night Of The Living Dead. Both are immensely influential on a wide variety of audiences and genres. Both are also so unlike most of the movies made around them. The edge goes to Psycho because it was pushing the boundaries on a lot of filmmaking in 1960. The “shower scene” is the most talked about in the film, but it offers up plenty of other Hays Code-pushing scenes. Psycho paved the way for Night Of The Living Dead, so that’s what pushes it over the top. Alfred Hitchcock had quite the decade, but he started it with his best film.

The 1960s also had the Hammer Horror films that are almost equally excellent, but Psycho is just too damn influential on so many other horror movies.

1970s: The Exorcist

The 1970s is really the start of a boom period for horror movies that hasn’t stopped since. Movies like Duel, Straw Dogs, Blacula, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, The Last House On The Left, Halloween, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Black Christmas, The Crazies, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, The Amityville Horror, The Omen, Jaws, Suspiria, and The Hills Have Eyes all stand tall as massive achievements of the genre. However, there is still one movie to this day that scares the ever-living hell out of people. That movie is The Exorcist. William Friedkin crafted a horror movie that is not only as scary as anything out there, but also was a critical, and commercial success. It’s still one of the only horror movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

1980s: The Thing

The Thing (1982) Directed by John Carpenter Shown: Kurt Russell

If the 70s were impossible to pick a best movie, the 80s are even harder. But, in a decade that has slashers, aliens, remakes, reboots, supernatural, and almost every other genre, you have one movie that stands above the rest. John Carpenter‘s The Thing is the best horror movie of the decade and the best horror movie ever made. It combines all the hallmarks of a horror movie, a great cast, horrific creature effects, an impending sense of dread, and an ending that’ll make you want to drink whiskey straight from the bottle. It might have been a commercial and critical flop at the time, but through the years, people have come to recognize the true greatness of John Carpenter’s masterpiece.

1990s: Scream

The 90s saw the horror genre bare its roots, rules, and reinvent itself. After seven decades, it needed something to reset the entire circle. Enter Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven. Craven had seen first-hand the horror genre cannibalizing itself. The icons of the past were in the comedy portions of their life cycle. Freddy Krueger wasn’t scary anymore. Michael Myers was dealing with the Cult of Thorn. Jason Voorhees had gone to hell… and Manhattan. What was left was a genre that needed a refresh. Scream pulled back the curtain, very much like pro wrestling did in the 90s and 2000s. People knew the rules, they were wise of the tactics that filmmakers used to scare you, so what did it do? It gave away all the secrets and forced filmmakers to make new ones.

2000s: Trick ‘r Treat

The 2000s are a strange decade for horror flims. There are more than ever, but finding the best one isn’t as much of an exercise as other decades. You’ve got plenty of remakes, sequels, and others, but when it comes to high-quality horror movies, its kind of short. However, between 28 Days Later, Saw, Friday the 13th, Slither, Final Destination, Paranormal Activity, and others, you get some good choices. Trick ‘r Treat is on another level though. The movie oozes, bleeds, and sweats Halloween spirit. Sam is an icon of the holiday, and we haven’t had another movie with him in it. Thanks to Spirit Halloween, and lots of fans, it looks like we’re getting closer to a sequel.

2010s: Ready Or Not

samara weaving in ready or not

Particularly toward the end of the decade, horror shed whatever issues it had in the 2000s and gave us some heavy hitters. Halloween, Evil Dead, A Quiet Place, Mandy, Happy Death Day, It, Midsommar, Train To Busan, Get Out, Us, and plenty of others took established horror and gave them a new lease on life. It’s an embarrassment of riches for fans of the genre, where it seemed like every week, there were great horror movies getting released. The very best though, was Ready Or Not. Coming from Radio Silence, this darkly comedic, still just as thrilling story of a family, and how they got their money, takes the cake.

2020s: Evil Dead Rise

There’s a lot of pressure on anyone making a sequel to Evil Dead. When you’re making a movie that takes the series away from the backwoods and slams it right into the middle of Los Angeles in a high-rise apartment building, that pressure ramps up considerably. Luckily for all of us, Lee Cronin got the memo, and made one of the most mean-spirited, bloody, horrific horror sequels ever. Evil Dead Rise doesn’t just follow in the footsteps of Sam Raimi‘s classic films, it takes the torch and runs with it. The 2020s aren’t done yet, but there’s been a horror renaissance of sorts. Horror movies are leading the charge at the box office and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

In a world where we’re faced with horrific things outside and on the news every day, horror movies offer us an escape from that for just a little bit. That’s really what the Halloween season is all about. We take some time out of our year to strap pumpkins, killers, and anything else to our houses/homes. The Halloween season might be over after tonight, but that just means that the Great Pumpkin and all their friends can come out to play next year.

Happy Halloween!

For more on Halloween, make sure to check out the rest of THS Fright-A-Thon!

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