Though the 1980’s are frequently considered to be the greatest ten years of horror, it’s the decade prior that perhaps bears the most classics. If you search through 70’s genre films, you’ll find multiple movies that are both popular and influential still today. Despite the greatness of these films, however, only 10 have cracked my list- and trust me, omissions were brutal. Here are my choices for the 10 greatest 1970’s horror films. Share your personal picks with us in the comments and on social media!
10. Phantasm (1979)
Don Coscarelli built something special on the back of this locally financed independent film. Establishing a cult audience rather quickly, the surreal horror film led to multiple, decade-spanning sequels, with the franchise sticking around until the final installment was released in 2016. Phantasm introduces viewers to an uncompromising strangeness, characters that we love and root for, and one of horror’s most iconic villains. Its budget may not be on par with some of the films on this list, but Phantasm unquestionably belongs among the 1970’s horror elite.
09. Carrie (1976)
The first film based on the work of Stephen King remains one of the greatest adaptations 42 years later. Directed by Brian De Palma, Carrie helped launch the careers of Nancy Allen and John Travolta, and was such a success that it garnered Academy Award nominations for Sissy Spacek in the titular role, and Piper Laurie as her psychotic, abusive mother.
08. Suspiria (1977)
Dario Argento is the king of Italian horror, and not only is Suspiria among the greatest films that 1970’s horror has to offer, it may just be the legendary filmmaker’s best film, period. One of the most visually striking horror films of all time, Argento utilizes color, peculiar angles, and blood aplenty to craft a truly unique genre experience. The musical score, which Argento composed in collaboration with Italian prog-rock band Goblin, is also a standout.
07. Don’t Look Now (1973)
If you can remain happy during and after viewing Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, you might not be human. Though there are elements of horror, including one of the most frightening sequences of the decade, the film is, in large part, a psychological exploration of grief and the effects that the loss of a child can have on a relationship. It’s arguably the most depressing horror film ever made, but it’s masterfully executed by Roeg, and the performances by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland remain two of the greatest that horror has to offer.
06. Alien (1979)
“In space no one can hear you scream” is the appropriate tagline for what is frequently considered to be one of the scariest films ever made. Whereas the sequel by James Cameron is mostly an action film, Ridley Scott’s original feature is a claustrophobic, tense, and downright horrifying experience. The cast, from heroine Sigourney Weaver to John Hurt, is top notch- often credited as being one of horror’s greatest ensembles. Nearly 40 years later, Alien remains Ridley Scott’s greatest picture, and that’s saying a whole lot.
05. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper‘s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a triumph of rawness and grit. Featuring one of the most iconic villains that the slasher subgenre ever provided fans, the film terrified audiences who bought into the “true story” approach, and the sequences of violence and grotesqueness appeared so authentic that theaters hesitated to even show the picture. Though far too many sequels have made their way to a cinema (Only a few being worthwhile), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has withstood the test of time.
04. Jaws (1975)
Jaws is generally considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, and with Steven Spielberg at the helm, that opinion comes as no surprise. Featuring richly detailed characters and elements of action and adventure in addition to the terror of a monstrous great white shark, Jaws drew such a crowd that it essentially created “blockbuster” film-making. Though the horror aspect doesn’t hold up as well in 2018 as it did in 1975, Jaws remains a masterful film that belongs on any list of 1970’s horror.
03. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. In every sense of the word, George A. Romero remains legendary. Crafting SEVERAL horror masterpieces and becoming synonymous with zombies as a whole, the filmmaker was a pioneer of the genre- and Dawn of the Dead might just be his greatest film. As a stinging social commentary on material society, Dawn shines brighter than most. Romero, though, doesn’t let his voice get in the way of scaring the hell out of us, and that balance is what makes Dawn of the Dead truly special.
02. Halloween (1978)
If Halloween isn’t the greatest horror film ever made, it’s damn sure close. Despite its lower budget, director John Carpenter has continued to terrorize audiences with his creation for nearly 40 years, wringing maximum suspense and genuine tension out of each passing second. Michael Myers is one of horror’s greatest villains, if not THE greatest villain, and Laurie Strode is its most iconic final girl. There’s a reason that 2018’s sequel has so much buzz around, even considering the lower quality of other sequels: It’s because Halloween is a masterpiece.
01. The Exorcist (1973)
For many people, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist remains the scariest movie of all time. You’ll hear no complaining out of us. Featuring arguably the great ensemble performance in horror history, the film went on to receive multiple Academy Awards nominations. The Exorcist is heartbreaking, disturbing, and scary as actual hell. It’s the very best that 1970’s horror has to offer.