Our favorite horror movies of all time

Every week we pick our coworkers' brains to get a sense of what they're all about and get advice along the way. This week we asked their favorite horror movies of all time.

Jason Parker
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
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The Shining

Editor's note: Every week we pick our coworkers' brains to get a sense of what they're all about and get advice along the way. This week we asked their favorite horror movies of all time.

As far as horror movies go, "The Shining" (Warner Bros.) might be as close to perfect as you can get. Despite author Stephen King's dislike of the movie, Stanley Kubrick's ability to illustrate Jack's slow spiral into madness is pure genius. I still get the chills every time I see page after page of "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy."

  • Andy Altman, associate editor
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I doubt anyone else will pick this, but I have to go with Todd Browning's "Freaks" (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). That scene with the armless and legless dwarf slithering through the mud with the knife in his mouth creeps me out every time.

  • Jon Chaikin, senior manager, direct marketing and merchandising 


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It Follows

It's hard to make a good movie with a unique hook in the 2010s, nevertheless a horror movie. "It Follows" (RADiUS-TWC Dimension Films) gave me everything I wanted from a horror movie -- a unique premise paired with a plot that kept me excited to see how it would pan out. It's one of those rare horror movies I would actually watch twice (yeah, I'm weird).

  • Andrew Krok, associate auto news editor for Roadshow
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The Frozen Dead

So many great horror movies have "Dead" in the title: "Evil Dead," "Shaun of the Dead," "Night of the Living Dead." And then this 1966 gem that ran constantly on Saturday afternoons back when I was a kid and we had only five channels -- "The Frozen Dead" (Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK), Warner-Seven Arts (US)). It has Nazis! It has mad scientists! It has a mad scientist using a girl's head to re-animate frozen Nazis! But more than anything, my impressionable kid brain fixated on a pegboard of severed arms that the scientist could somehow control remotely. Did "Citizen Kane" have a scene of disembodied, moving arms? You wish.

  • Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, contributing editor
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The Thing

John Carpenter's "The Thing" (Universal Pictures) reignited my childhood (current) fear that my family members were all secretly aliens that shed their human form after I went to bed. Add Antarctica, a badass score, and a bearded Kurt Russell and you have horror magic. Oh yeah and a dead man's chest cavity opens up mid-defibrilator and bites a dude's arms off! Can't beat that. Wait, then his head pulls itself off his body and moves across the floor using it's tongue so...

- Nic Henry, video producer

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In the Mouth of Madness

Since Nic already called dibs on what is arguably the greatest horror movie of all time, "The Thing," I'm going to offer for your consideration another Carpenter classic, 1994's "In the Mouth of Madness" (New Line Cinema). It's a deeply unsettling tale about an insurance investigator looking into the disappearance of a horror writer. It brings in the best, madness-inducing, reality-warping themes of Lovecraft's mythos. Do you read Sutter Cane?

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The Babadook

Childhood frights coming to life freaked me the hell out in "The Babadook" (Entertainment One, IFC Films, Icon Productions). Plus, it's a genuinely good movie regardless of the horror aspect -- it tells the story of a mother struggling to raise her son, and both characters are well written and well acted. The grounded characters make the final act that much more terrifying. The final scene was a bit of a miss for me, but almost everything else was pure horror bliss. It took me hours to fall asleep that night. 

  •   Andrew Gebhart, senior associate editor

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If I had to pick a single representative all-time horror flick, I'd go with Italian director Dario Argento's 1977 classic, "Suspiria" (Amazon Studios). It's part slasher film, part supernatural thriller, part acid trip. Argento, then at the height of his powers, sets the surreal tone with a brooding '70s synth score that literally whispers "Witch!" if you listen carefully. Crazy camera angles and long, eerie tracking shots mix with bold lighting -- danger is foreshadowed with red filters. The single best shot comes early on, when a moment of perfect editing and sound effects makes an automated door at an airport seem like the most dangerous thing in the world. 

  • Dan Ackerman, senior editor
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It was the movie that made a generation afraid to swim in the ocean and frankly, it still creeps me out to go into water where I can't see the bottom. Stephen Spielberg's "Jaws" (Universal Pictures) seemed like a teeny-bopper horror flick when it came out, but it has a great story, amazing acting, and one of the best scenes of any movie anywhere when they're below deck on the boat at night. I swear, when Quint (Robert Shaw) tells the story of the USS Indianapolis, the acting is so exquisite it totally sucks the air out of the room. 

  • Jason Parker, senior editor
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Pitch Black

We went to see "Pitch Black" (USA Films) because it sounded small and trashy yet was the only movie in the local paper with a five-star rating. Turned out not to be a typo! This movie has everything from the iconic Vin Diesel performance to a female main character who's allowed to have flaws to dramatic use of an orrery.

  • Kelsey Adams, senior copy editor
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Event Horizon

My parents took me to see "Event Horizon" (Paramount Pictures) when I was 11, not realizing it has a heavy dose of horror mixed in with a sci-fi plot. The movie, staring Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill, follows a crew of astronauts sent on a rescue mission after a missing spaceship, the Event Horizon, spontaneously reappears nears Neptune. Turns out the ship and its crew were testing an experimental engine and -- SPOILER ALERT -- accidentally traveled through hell, picking up something evil along the way. The film was generally panned by movie critics, but it made an impression on young me and continues to be one of my favorite horror flicks.

Carrie Milhalcik,  associate editor

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In my deepest nightmares, a freaking crawling hand attaches to your face, impregnates you with an embryo that literally bursts its way out of your chest and kills you immediately.  It then grows to the most frightening creature that has elongated domed head, a tongue made of teeth, acid for blood, and a sharp tail. "Alien"  (20th Century Fox) was a horror film in space with the best tag line ever thought of.  "In space no one can hear you scream."  Yes there was an awesome sequel made but unfortunately the films got worse after that.  A lot worse.  But the original is still one of the best horror films I've seen.

  • Mitchell Chang, senior video producer
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Night of the Hunter

"The Night of the Hunter" (United Artists) is a 1955 masterpiece that was poorly received by critics and audiences at the time, and sadly was the only film its director (famous character actor Charles Laughton) ever made. Robert Mitchum gives one of his greatest performances as the serial killer Reverend Harry Powell and the whole movie is completely unsettling. 

  •   Rebecca Fleenor, executive assistant

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Blood Freak

"Blood Freak" (Variety Films) is my favorite, not because of how good it is or how scary it is, but because it fails SO spectacularly at being a horror movie. Every time I watch it, I notice something new that is just terrible. I'm really more interested in how and why this movie got made; watching it prompts those questions once every minute or two. To be fair, it's the only horror movie I've seen in which the titular monster sports a giant papier-mâché turkey head. Oh, and it has a narrator who looks like a mixture of Mike Brady, Vincent Price and cheap booze and cigarettes. And -- well, go watch it yourself and thank/hate me later.

  • Jeff Sparkman, senior copy editor

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Ginger Snaps

In the Canadian horror film "Ginger Snaps" (Motion International), two teenage sisters -- Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald -- obsessed with death get their worlds turned upside down when Ginger is bit by a werewolf. Ginger goes through mental and physical transformation, which includes becoming sexually aggressive towards high school boys and violently attacking them. Her sister spends most of the film trying to find a cure to her sister's new werewolf state. There are two more movies in the series one in modern times with Brigitte as the main character and another the serves as a prequel with the sisters in 1815 taking shelter in Fort Bailey during a werewolf attack. 

"Ginger Snaps" is my favorite horror movie series because of its strong female cast and dead-on satire of teenage life. Plus the use of lycanthropy to parallel menstruation and puberty in the films, as well as the showing the perils of sister rivalry, makes for an interesting feminist critique as well. 

  • Bonnie Burton, contributing editor

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While I only recently found out that "It," based on a Stephen King novel, was not an actual movie but rather a two-part miniseries, it still is my favorite scary movie of all time.  Seriously what is scarier than a clown?  A clown with mangled, bloody, disgusting teeth that lurks in storm drains? Nothing, that's what. Growing up, my best friend and I watched this movie endlessly for who-knows-what-reason, aside from torturing ourselves and ruining dreams and circuses forever.  

  • Danielle Ramirez, senior production manager
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The Mist

There are so many, but I have to choose "The Mist" (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). It finds the ability to tap into the deepest darkest fears of the human mind while throwing horrifying creatures at you. The premise was never to give a good scare though ... rather to force you to question your own judgement. I was inconsolable for hours after the conclusion of this movie.  (Oh, and make sure to watch the black and white directors cut. Stephen King himself said Frank Darabont's version was better than his original novel.)  

  • Bryan VanGelder, studio production manager and sound engineer 

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Kill List

"Kill List" (Optimum Releasing (UK), IFC Midnight (US)) draws on the creeping horror of 1970s chillers like "The Wicker Man," but Ben Wheatley's nerve-jangling tale of two hitmen begins like a crime thriller before evolving into something altogether weirder, darker and more harrowing. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.

  • Richard Trenholm, senior editor
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The Cabin in the Woods

"The Cabin in the Woods" (Lionsgate) is one of my favorite because it simultaneously sends up horror movie tropes while actually being scary. Five friends end up at a remote cabin … a cabin in the woods. It was co-written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed). It stars Chris Hemsworth pre-Thor (though it wasn't released until after the first Thor film) and has wonderful cameos by Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker and Richard Jenkins. That's all I want to say because if you've seen this film, you know why. And if you haven't, you will soon learn all about the cabin in the woods.

  • Patrick Holland, associate editor
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Texas Chainsaw Massacre

"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (Bryanston Pictures) scared the holy bejeezus out of me when I first saw it, which I believe was when I was 13. I was completely blown away by how creepy everything was, and being a youth growing up in the back woods of the Deep South, the entire story was more than plausible. The dinner scene in particular makes my skin crawl. Watch it at least once a year. I still flinch at the sound of a chainsaw.

  • Chris Robertson, director of product management
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The Witch

In Robert Eggers' "The VVitch" (A24), a New England Puritan family in exile finds themselves under attack by mysterious forces. I love everything about this film. The attention to detail is superb, relying on primary sources for the language, and working with historians for the costumes (which were hand-stitched and hand-woven) and agricultural practices of the time to imbue the film with authenticity. The tale is stark, tense, intense and riveting, and Eggers doesn't waste a single second of time on that screen.

  • Michelle Starr, senior editor

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"Eraserhead" (Libra Films International) is David Lynch's first feature film and arguably still his best. Unlike most horrors that are mostly done for entertainment, this thing is truly horrific, can't be unseen and stays with you forever. Kubrick used to show it to "The Shining" cast "to put them in the mood" before filming. Shot in black and white, it also has an outstanding sound design later imitated by Fincher in 7even and by the Coens in Barton Fink (great movies by themselves).

  • Vladislav Atroshchenko, senior content manager

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When a Stranger Calls

Perhaps it was the timing of its release in 1979. That was peak slumber party time for me and the walk-up to my babysitting career. But no film has traumatized me as much as "When a Stranger Calls" (Columbia Pictures), about a psychopathic killer terrorizing a babysitter. Perhaps the only thing as scary as the line "Have you checked the children?" is the movie's climax: Pan in on rotary-dial phone. Babysitter answers "Leave me alone!" And the police officer on the line says "We've traced the call. It's coming from inside the house." Cue creepy violin. 

I'm still freaked out. 

  • Michelle Meyers, associate news editor

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