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The 50 Greatest Horror Directors: #1-#25

The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films: Introduction | #1-#100 | #101-#200 | #201-#300 | #301-#400 | #401-#500 | #501-#600 | #601-#700 | #701-#800 | #801-#900 | #901-#1000 | Full List | Sources | The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Horror Films | Top 50 Directors

1. John Carpenter

Born: 16 January 1948, New York, USA

8 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“It is strange to think that John Carpenter, having directed such well-known cult classics such as Escape from New York, Halloween and The Thing has remained one of the most under-appreciated directors in Hollywood. But like other mavericks, this is because he’s ignored critics, stayed true to his vision and continued making movies that he would like to see.” – Steven Paul Davies (A-Z of Cult Films and Film-Makers, 2001)

Recommended Films
Halloween (1978)
The Thing (1982)
The Fog (1980)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
They Live (1988)
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Christine (1983)
Vampires (1998)
Masters of Horror: John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns (2005)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)


2. George A. Romero

Born: 4 February 1940, New York, USA

10 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Although an erratic talent, George Andrew Romero remains important for his virtually single-handed development of the horror film from a form where menace was suggested and shadowy to a newly visceral genre in which gore and violence are largely explicit… Romero may be seen to have taken up where Hitchcock’s Psycho and the Italian Mario Bava left off” – Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)

Recommended Films
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Martin (1976)
Creepshow (1982)
Land of the Dead (2005)
The Crazies (1973)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
Monkey Shines (1988)
The Dark Half (1993)


3. Wes Craven

Born: 2 August 1939, Ohio, USA

10 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Although film purists may argue that well-schooled wunderkinder such as Brian DePalma, Francis Ford Coppola or John Carpenter are more accomplished than the self-taught Craven because in a pinch they paint a more complex composition, few can legitimately deny the combined visceral and intellectual punch of Craven’s best film work. More to thepoint, no other director working in contemporary Hollywood has so successfully and so artfully reinvented himself, his style and his genre in a span of two and a half decades.” – John Kenneth Muir (Wes Craven: The Art of Horror, 2004)

Recommended Films
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Scream (1996)
The Last House on the Left (1972)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
New Nightmare (1994)
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Scream 2 (1997)
Scream 3 (2000)
Scream 4 (2011)


4. Dario Argento

Born: 7 September 1940, Rome, Italy

11 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Argento is often referredto as ‘the Italian Hitchcock’ as he has made a name for himself creating scenes of terror and tension. Though Hitchcock’s work is marked by its staunch linearity, focused plotting, narrative and logic, in Dario Argento’s films these are often usurped in favour of atmosphere, technical prowess and provocative imagery.” – James Gracey (Dario Argento, 2010)

Recommended Films
Suspiria (1977)
Profondo rosso (1975)
Tenebre (1982)
Inferno (1980)
Opera (1987)
L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970)
Phenomena (1985)
4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)
La sindrome di Stendhal (1996)
Trauma (1993)
La terza madre (2007)


5. David Cronenberg

Born: 15 March 1943, Toronto, Canada

10 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Cronenberg’s work is seldom very coherent, let alone plausible, in hypothesising about human evolution, but the best is imbued with a cool, nightmarish logic, based on the premise that as technology develops, new diseases, desires, even a new flesh, will arise… Cerebral, visceral and subversive, his work remains in the vanguard of modern horror.” – Geoff Andrew (The Director’s Vision, 1999)

Recommended Films
The Fly (1986)
Videodrome (1983)
The Brood (1979)
Shivers (1975)
Dead Ringers (1988)
Scanners (1981)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Rabid (1977)
Naked Lunch (1991)
eXistenZ (1999)


6. Mario Bava

Born: 31 July 1914 (-1980), Sanrema, Italy

12 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“He used light, shadow, color, sound (on – and off – screen), movement and texture to lead his viewers down uncharted paths into a kind of collective dream. Critics often compare movie-watching to dreaming but, in Bava’s case, the comparison actually means something. When we dream, we’re often swept into indescribable situations, without time for deliberation or reflection. We’re left in states of bliss or terror, or both at the same time. When we wake up, we realize that we’ve been riding these emotional states like surfers riding a wave. This is how I experience Bava’s best films.” – Martin Scorsese (Mario Bava : All the Colors of the Dark, 2007)

Recommended Films
La maschera del demonio (1960)
Sei donne per l’assassino (1964)
I tre volti della paura (1963)
Reazione a catena (1971)
Operazione paura (1966)
La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963)
Lisa e il diavolo (1973)
La frusta e il corpo (1963)
Terrore nello spazio (1965)
Schock (1977)
Il rosso segno della follia (1970)
Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga (1972)


7. Lucio Fulci

Born: 17 June 1927 (-1996), Rome, Italy

9 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The films of Lucio Fulci, the Italian horror filmmaker, are usually lumped in with those of other ‘gore’ specialists, but it seems to me that this is just one component of Fulci’s work. Running through all his films is a strangely dreamlike, hyper-violent abandonment of narrative, which seeks to disrupt normative social values, perhaps as a result of Fulci’s youthful excursions into Marxist political thought.” – Wheeler Winston Dixon (Film International, 2012)

Recommended Films
Zombi 2 (1979)
…E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà (1981)
Paura nella città dei morti viventi (1980)
Non si sevizia un paperino (1972)
Lo squartatore di New York (1982)
Quella villa accanto al cimitero (1981)
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (1971)
Sette note in nero (1977)
Un gatto nel cervello (1990)


8. Roger Corman

Born: 5 April 1926, Michigan, USA

11 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Corman has always been a man about his work, pouring enthusiasm into the process and displaying little care for the accolades. He was, however, concerned that people didn’t mix up “low -budget” with “B” pictures, a thing of Hollywood’s block -booking past. He taught others to appreciate the freedom that comes with free, the resourcefulness bound by lack of resource. He might not have sought out the attention, but as he matured into an elder -statesman and grand -mentor of the indie movement, he certainly never turned it down.” – Constantine Nasr (Roger Corman: Interviews, 2011)

Recommended Films
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
House of Usher (1960)
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
X (1963)
The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
The Haunted Palace (1963)
Tales of Terror (1962)
The Raven (1963)
Premature Burial (1962)


9. Terence Fisher

Born: 23 February 1904 (-1980), London, England

13 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Terence Fisher is important because he was the director best suited in film history to deal with the gothic tradition and its related field of Christian allegory. His own personal worldview was essentially the same as that underlying the gothic novels. He shared the same concerns about human autonomy and the illusions of perfectibility and science. He was also fascinated by classic mythical figures like the serpent goddess and the redeemer hero. His films do not follow their mythical or literary sources literally. Fisher developed his own approach, complete with a near repertory company of actors and technicians, which drew heavily on the gothic sources.” – Paul Leggett (Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion, 2002)

Recommended Films
Dracula (1958)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
The Mummy (1959)
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)


10. Tobe Hooper

Born: 25 January 1943, Texas, USA

7 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“[Tobe Hooper] managed to combine the possibility of richness in mainstream narrative filmmaking with the radical disciplining impulses of a staid and serious-minded, beautiful formalism, and the radical view of a film as not just entertainment but as critical edification, cinematography not as a way for emotional or stylistic appeals but of a means of manifesting delicate idea, meaning, and wisdom through the allegorizing and sublime capacity of the camera and film language.” – Tobe Hooper Appreciation Society

Recommended Films
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Poltergeist (1982)
Salem’s Lot (1979)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
The Funhouse (1981)
Lifeforce (1985)
Eaten Alive (1977)

11. David Lynch

Born: 20 January 1946, Montana, USA

6 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Perhaps the most original and imaginative director to emerge from America in recent years, David Lynch reveals an uncanny ability to draw upon his own inner fantasies and create strange, sinister worlds at once unreal and oddly familiar. If the films’ precise meaning is sometimes less than clear, their power and invention remain virtually unparalleled in contemporary mainstream cinema.” – Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)

Recommended Films
Eraserhead (1977)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Lost Highway (1997)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Inland Empire (2006)


12. Alfred Hitchcock

Born: 13 August 1899 (-1980), London, England

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Though he seemingly cared little if backdrop scenery was obviously artificial, he was a superb technician, expert at orchestrating the irruption of menacing, life-changing chaos into a complacent, deceptively safe and ordered world.” – Geoff Andrew (The Director’s Vision, 1999)

Recommended Films
Psycho (1960)
The Birds (1963)
Frenzy (1972)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

13. Sam Raimi

Born: 23 October 1959, Michigan, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Everybody remembers the old adage that there’s nothing new under the sun, as well as its show business corollary, that there are really only seven types of stories to vet. Yet Raimi’s enthusiasm and innovation, particularly in the realm of the visual, successfully expresses familiar stories in fresh ways […] As a result of Raimi’s energy and innovation, the audience feels exhilarated and drawn into the tale. Film critic Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times noted in 1987 that Raimi is a “dynamo who knows how to make a movie as cinematic as possible,”and in the age of interchangeable, over-edited, all -hype, no -substance entertainment, that’s a quality worth championing. Weaned on a diet of movies while growing up in suburban Michigan. Raimi actually trained himself to become not a latter-day horror maestro, as some reviewers have attempted to pigeonhole him, but rather a consummate entertainer; a storyteller who could hold his audience rapt. “I just wanted to entertain the audience,” he famously commented once, “give them surprises and fun — an all-out show.”” – John Kenneth Muir (The Unseen Force : The Films of Sam Raimi, 2004)

Recommended Films
The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead II (1987)
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Army of Darkness (1992)

14. Tod Browning

Born: 12 July 1880 (-1962), Kentucky, USA

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Tod Browning was the genuine article. No mere studio hack, Browning was a hard-working and efficient director with a genuine penchant for the weird. As Freaks showed us, he overindulged too quickly. His biggest hit, the film that put his name on the map and recognizable today, Dracula, was almost immediately followed by the film that opened up too much. He loved what he loved, and the rest of the world didn’t jibe with it. Perhaps this is the most important move a filmmaker can make. Live and create by your own personal passions. But be prepared if the world rejects it.” – Witney Seibold (Free Film School #70: The Weird World of Tod Browning, 2012)

Recommended Films
Freaks (1932)
Dracula (1931)
The Unknown (1927)
The Devil-Doll (1936)
Mark of the Vampire (1935)

15. James Whale

Born: 22 July 1889 (-1957), Worcestershire, England

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Facing discourses which through the 1930s became increasingly xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Communist and isolationist in the midst of rising world fascism, Whale’s career can ultimately be read within the context of a New Deal USA attempting to restore a “manly” ideal to its endangered culture. And yet, as Whale noted, since Hollywood was built of plaster of Paris, he was able to feel that maybe Buckingham Palace was too. The discursive agent and product that was and is James Whale, his persona and his films, created just such a world, a light, elaborate, deliberately hollow, indeed deceptive world which did more than amuse its auteur. Rather, that world showed that Buckingham Palace and many other institutions were indeed made of plaster, ready to be shattered, or at least cracked, by the power of parody, critique and style.” – David Lugowski (Senses of Cinema, 2005))

Recommended Films
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Old Dark House (1932)

16. Roman Polanski

Born: 18 August 1933, Paris, France

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Polanski’s work might be seen as an attempt to map out the precise relationship between the contemporary world’s instability and tendency to violence and the individual’s increasing inability to overcome the isolation and locate some realm of meaning or value beyond himself… From his own isolated position – as a man effectively without a country – Polanski tries to confront the probems of isolation, violence, and evil, and to speak of them for an audience prone to their sway.” – J.P. Telotte (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1991)

Recommended Films
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Repulsion (1965)
Le locataire (1976)
Dance of the Vampires (1967)
The Ninth Gate (1999)

17. Joe Dante

Born: 28 November 1946, New Jersey, USA

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Universally well-liked and lauded, by his fans and contemporaries alike, Joe Dante is a filmmaker whom those who grew up in the eighties, in particular, hold very dear to their hearts. A master of kids horror, a creature feature aficionado and a staunch defender of horror, and film in general, Dante doesn’t let the ever-changing Hollywood landscape – he recently described working there as the equivalent of working in a bank – affect his passion, or enthusiasm for making the films he wants to make. He truly marches to his own beat, rarely following a strict formula, saying what he thinks without fear of reproach, championing others, and incorporating a number of different styles and influences in his output, all of which he manages to make his own.” – Joey Keogh (Horror Icon of the Month: Joe Dante, 2014)

Recommended Films
The Howling (1981)
Gremlins (1984)
Piranha (1978)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
The ‘Burbs (1989)

18. Jacques Tourneur

Born: 12 November 1904 (-1977), Paris, France

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The best pictures which he directed were those of suspense and genuine terror, though he also did well with those that had a great deal of action. He wisely resisted scenes with long patches of dialogue. When confronted with such scenes, he typically frowned and said, “It sounds so corny.” – DeWitt Bodeen (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)

Recommended Films
Cat People (1942)
Night of the Demon (1957)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
The Leopard Man (1943)
The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

19. Brian De Palma

Born: 11 September 1940, New Jersey, USA

6 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The conventional dismissal of Brian De Palma—that he is a mere “Hitchcock imitator”—though certainly unjust, provides a useful starting point, the relation being far more complex than such a description suggests. It seems more appropriate to talk of symbiosis than of imitation: if De Palma borrows Hitchcock’s plot-structures, the impulse is rooted in an authentic identification with the Hitchcock thematic that results in (at De Palma’s admittedly infrequent best) valid variations that have their own indisputable originality.” – Robin Wood (International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, 1991)

Recommended Films
Carrie (1976)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Sisters (1973)
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
The Fury (1978)
Raising Cain (1992)

20. Clive Barker

Born: 5 October 1952, Liverpool, England

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Clive Barker proved himself a polymath of the perverse — an artist who was wilfully determined not to fulfil expectation, but to persist in offering a personal vision that, by the sheer force of its creativity, would delight and terrify, excite and repulse, confront and challenge, and ultimately enrapture an ever-growing audience.” – Douglas E. Winter (Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic: The Authorized Biography, 2007)

Recommended Films
Hellraiser (1987)
Nightbreed (1990)
Lord of Illusions (1995)

21. Guillermo del Toro

Born: 9 October 1964, Jalisco, Mexico

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Guillermo del Toro’s films juxtapose the world of the fantastic with horrific reality… All del Toro’s films thus far employ a certain form of magical realism, available to particular age groups, occupations, creeds, or forms. Yet the nature of these worlds is always related to the protagonists entering them. Thus vampire hunters and scientists are met with damp sewers in an urban underworld, whereas children and humanity-friendly demons see a broader spectrum of creatures good, bad, and ambivalent. Del Toro’s coda appears to be that monsters exist in the eye of the beholder.” – Lauri Loytokoski (501 Movie Directors, 2007)

Recommended Films
El espinazo del diablo (2001)
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
Cronos (1993)
Blade II (2002)
Mimic (1997)
Hellboy (2004)

22. Stuart Gordon

Born: 11 August 1947, Illinois, USA

6 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“With his cinematic debut Re-Animator in 1985, Stuart Gordon instantly proved himself to be a filmmaker with a unique style and vision. Now quarter of a century old, the picture still shocks with its graphic violence and splatter effects which are infused with a jet-black sense of humor which simultaneously enhances the sense of brutality yet makes it too absurd to be truly offensive. This disarming mixture, along with a strong control of working within limited budgets and a deft handling of actors, puts Gordon head and shoulders above many other directors working within the horror genre.” – Christopher O’Neill (An interview with director Stuart Gordon, 2010)

Recommended Films
Re-Animator (1985)
From Beyond (1986)
Dagon (2001)
Dolls (1987)
Castle Freak (1995)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

23. William Castle

Born: 24 April 1914 (-1977), New York, USA

6 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“William Castle may very well be one of the few exceptions whose legacy of horror showmanship has outlived that of the works he created. His love of Hollywood was shown not through the films he directed or produced, but for his artful promotion of them. His contribution to the industry of film went beyond his films. Most were mediocre at best and are rarely, if ever, counted among the best Hollywood has offered. But Castle’s contribution is noteworthy because he extended the film going experience beyond what was happening on the screen. How the crowd reacted to the images there and their participation made each showing different. While some laughed at his fare of horror, others avidly participated in its scares, enjoying the movie-going experiences he offered.” – John Law (Scare Tactic: The Life & Films of William Castle, 2007)

Recommended Films
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The Tingler (1959)
Strait-Jacket (1964)
Homicidal (1961)
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
13 Ghosts (1960)

24. Takashi Miike

Born: 24 August 1960, Yao, Japan

6 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Though critics have pegged him as a genre filmmaker, Miike is reluctant to accept that distinction and prefers not to categorize his films as it may limit their appeal and impact. Miike’s films are also frequently targeted for their excessive and often gratuitous violence, though the director sites that the inherent honesty in that violence is more sincere than what he feels is his contemporaries’ romantic misrepresentation of current culture, viewing cinema as an important outlet for such images.” – Rovi, Fandango

Recommended Films
Ôdishon (1999)
Saam gaang yi (2004)
Koroshiya 1 (2001)
Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu (2003)
Chakushin ari (2003)
Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (2001)
Bijitâ Q (2001)

25. William Friedkin

Born: 29 August 1935, Illinois, USA

2 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The success, both critical and commercial, of William Friedkin’s films has been uneven since the release of his first feature in 1967. Although his works span several different genres, they share some common thematic and technical characteristics. His heroes are nontraditional and find themselves in unconventional situations or environments foreign to the average viewer. Technically, Friedkin often seems more concerned with creating mood and establishing atmosphere than with the progress of the narrative or character development. His great attention to detail and characteristic use of long establishing shot sequences do create mood and atmosphere but often do not contribute to the film as a whole.” – Mari Saeli (International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, 2000)

Recommended Films
The Exorcist (1973)
Bug (2006)