Across Parts I to IV, we’ve counted the best slasher movies of all time from Number 50 to Number 11. Now it’s time to list the best of the best as we’ve finally made it to the Top 10. Not surprisingly, familiar classics make the grade with maybe one or two surprises. Wes Craven, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper – the masters of horror are well represented. Some of the horror genre’s greatest icons are here, too. Below are the 10 best slasher movies ever made.
10 – X (2022)
The newest movie on this list, Ti West’s X belongs at the Number 10 spot for several reasons. First and foremost, X is just a good movie – not a just a good horror movie, but a good movie, period. Like his past work, West methodically ratchets up the tension to a wild payoff in the third act. In addition to genuine scares and gory death scenes, X also feels refreshing – it’s not clear where West is going with the story. Another reason X places so high is that it’s the most recent example of how clever filmmakers can continue to adapt the slasher formula and maintain some relevancy. Simply put, West subverts the slasher’s sexual politics. Instead, X casts a light on conservative sexual mores and its hypocrisy.
9 – Candyman (1992)
Just when the slasher looked like it was on life support, Candyman re-imagined what we thought the subgenre could be. In the early 90s, the few slasher movies still releasing into theaters, like Dr Giggles, embraced the cheesy excesses of the subgenre. Comparatively, Candyman was a genuinely disturbing, visceral horror movies. Based on Clive Barker’s short story, writer and director Bernard Rose combined slasher sensibilities with more ‘serious’ horror aesthetics and commentary on race and social class. In addition to Phillip Glass’ haunting score, Candyman gave horror fans an iconic villain and Tony Todd’s memorable performance. Two underwhelming sequels proceeded an excellent remake.
8 – Black Christmas (1974)
Discussions about the roots of slasher movies often highlight Psycho and Peeping Tom as precursors, followed by Italian gialli and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Often forgotten in the conversation is early 70s Canadian horror movie, Black Christmas. Many of the familiar slasher narratives are present – the psychosexual killer, a terrible past incident, and young victims. Despite its age, Black Christmas also remains an intense, disturbing horror movie. Director Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things) includes a handful of iconic jolts. And ‘Billy’ may the scariest horror movie villain you never actually see.
7 – Deep Red (1975)
It wouldn’t be a Top 10 slashers list without a Dario Argento movie. Of all his Giallo movies, Deep Red stands as Argento’s most significant contribution. The story is pure pulp thriller – a musician picks up the pieces of an investigation after witnessing the brutal murder of their psychic neigbhour. Not surprisingly, the story gets a bit muddled though the killer’s reveal is clever. But Argento conducts a masterful symphony of dizzying shots, brilliant colors, and intricately staged murders. And longtime collaborators Goblin provide the score adding to the thriller’s idiosyncratic atmosphere.
6 – Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Taking up where Wes Craven’s Scream left off, Cabin in the Woods is one the best deconstructions of the horror genre. It’s right there in the title – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard riff on the horror trope of bad things hacking up dumb teens at isolated rural cabins. The humour is irreverent, the gore is over-the-top. With The Cabin in the Woods, you get to watch a stellar cast work with a clever script and a wicked ensemble of horror movie baddies. Goddard’s final all-out monster battle in the climax is one of the best horror scenes in recent memory. And Sigourney Weaver’s ‘You work with what you have’ line is classic. I’m still waiting for a merman spin-off.
5- Friday the 13th (1980)
Yes, there’s a good argument to be made that Friday the 13th shouldn’t make the Top 10. Yes, it’s a derivative movie that lacks the craftsmanship or subtext of other slashers at the top of this list. But if Friday the 13th didn’t necessarily contribute anything original to the subgenre it certainly did one thing – made it marketable. That is, Friday the 13th married the stylish deaths of gialli with John Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s unexpected box office success opened the door for countless imitators and kickstarted one of horror’s most successful franchises. Today, Harry Manfredini’s landmark score is synonymous with horror. And Tom Savini’s special effects delivered some of the best death scenes in horror at the time. Don’t forget, Friday the 13th also gave us one of horror most iconic villains.
4 – Scream (1996)
Head over to Rotten Tomatoes and you’ll see that Scream 2 actually holds a higher TomatoMeter score. But Wes Craven’s original is the top of the Scream franchise. Period. Simply put, Scream was a game-changer for the genre at a time when horror was lukewarm with audiences. Drew Barrymore’s small part remains one of the best opening scenes in horror. Not since Janet Leigh took a shower at the Bates Motel has a horror movie swerved audiences. Williamson’s scripts is genuinely clever and funny. Everyone in the cast completely nails it. And Craven’s balancing of horror, humor, and mystery is expert. This is the movie that re-invigorated horror while also giving us an iconic villain in Ghost Face and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, one of the genre’s best protagonists.
3 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973)
No matter how much time passes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains among the most influential horror movies ever made. Tobe Hooper’s classic is the rare example of a movie that has lost none of its ability to shock. Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street – each of these movies owes some debt to it. Along with filmmakers like Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and William Friedkin, Hooper pushed the genre in new direction. Not as violent as the title suggests, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gave us one of horror’s most frightening villain alongside a raw, stripped-down approach to the material. Hooper’s little independent horror movie virtually created its own subgenre of hillbilly horror.
2 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
When Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, the original ‘Golden Era’ of the slasher was in its back half. It’s mix of the supernatural, a more brutal 70s-style horror, and familiar slasher trope reinvigorated the subgenre. Like Friday the 13th, Elm spawned one of horror’s most enduring franchises. In addition, Craven introduced the world to one of horror’s most iconic villains – Freddy Krueger. Nearly 40 years later, A Nightmare on Elm Street one of the scariest horror movies ever made. The mythology of the film and its antagonist, its basic premise, and instantly recognizable music score all combined to give the genre an instant classic.
1 – Halloween (1978)
Our Number One selection requires little explanation. If the horror movies that proceeded it laid the groundwork, John Carpenter’s Halloween is the movie that brought it all together. Everything that followed shares some DNA with it. And as a viewing experience, Halloween is a masterpiece of horror filmmaking. Michael Myers, or ‘The Shape’, as an inexplicable force of nature like fate was a perfect re-imagining of the concept of ‘The Boogeyman’. From its memorably haunting score to Michael Myers himself, it’s the perfect horror movie. Picking the ‘best of’ is always going to be subjective. And other slasher movies could certainly lay claim to the top spot. Nevertheless, Halloween deserves its Number One status.