In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock adorned the poster for his latest movie with a very clear message: “It is required that you see Psycho from the very beginning.” You probably know why now: because Janet Leigh, an extremely famous actress who appeared on a different poster for Psycho, was shockingly slashed to death before you even hit the halfway point of the movie. From there, the horror genre was changed forever. Hitchcock's film pioneered the horror twist, innovated the use of scores in horror, brilliantly proved that not seeing everything can be even scarier, and maybe most importantly, asserted that these movies were winning commodities. Since then, horror movies have dovetailed into almost countless subsets, from thriller to sci-fi to supernatural, and on and on.
Rather than list off the best horror movies ever without any parameters, we wanted to do something a little different this Halloween. Which horror movies stood above the rest and dominated and defined the year in which they were released? With the genre taking on so many different shades over the past five-plus decades—and gaining in popularity and abundance as time went on—we were forced to make some difficult decisions. The Shining, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night all came out in 1980; Aliens, Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Fly each dropped in 1986. But for each year, there could only be one.
What you’re about to read is Complex's list of the best horror movies every year since Psycho. If you disagree with some of the calls we made, well, you know where to reach us. But yes, it is required that you read this from the very beginning...
Once you’ve read the list, watch some of the best horror movies of the last half-century on Shudder.