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The 50 Greatest Horror Directors: #26-#50

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

26. James Wan

Born: 26 February 1977, Sarawak, Malaysia

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“It is too early to crown James Wan as a master of horror, as some have preemptively done […] But Wan is finally positioning himself at the front of a new class of horror directors, specifically the aptly dubbed “Splat Pack”. Wan’s newest films, in contrast to Saw and Dead Silence, demonstrate something approaching actual sophistication in filmic horror. His camerawork is improving, so as to provide an understanding of setting, context and visual space. He is utilizing makeup, visual effects (both new and old school) and soundtrack to great effect – audio is important in all filmmaking, but in horror most of all. Most importantly, Wan (with Insidious and The Conjuring) has demonstrated that he is starting to understand that elusive and often paradoxical truth of horror, in all medias: true fear lies in the unseen and the unexplainable, and as soon as you shine a light on our monsters, you risk defanging them. Wan is just now utilizing dread and anticipation to play with our fears, and it seems that he’s just getting started.” – Jonathan Ross (The Conjuring: The Evolving Career of James Wan, 2013)

Recommended Films
Saw (2004)
The Conjuring (2013)
Insidious (2010)
Dead Silence (2007)

27. Eli Roth

Born: 18 April 1972, Massachusetts, USA

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Eli Roth is one of the few major movie directors in America who has stuck to horror films throughout his career and remains unapologetically devoted to the genre. His exuberance comes through on screen with his penchant for graphic violence tinged with dark humor. His Hostel series is largely responsible for the coining of the term “torture porn” for exploitation movies that wallow in extended scenes of violent torture. Although his inspiration lies in the horror films of the ’70s and ’80s, Roth has managed to carve out his own niche as he constantly pushes the boundaries of the genre in mainstream cinema.” – Mark H. Harris

Recommended Films
Hostel (2005)
Cabin Fever (2002)
Hostel: Part II (2007)

28. Steven Spielberg

Born: 18 December 1946, Ohio, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The type of rollercoaster filmmaking which unleashes Spielberg’s seemingly endless arsenal of dazzling technical skills, visual stylistics, and narrative capabilities appears prominently in the director’s most flamboyant products, such as Jaws, the three Raiders films, and the two Jurassic Park movies. Here, to paraphrase William Blake, the road to excess leads Spielberg to the palace of box office riches. It also foregrounds the director’s most ingratiating relationship with his audience, as he masterfully whips frame after frame into a pleasurable confection of sights and sounds. […] For good or ill, Spielberg has emerged as a larger than life figure within American society, a cultural force that shapes our times and inhabits our dreams.” – Lester D. Friedman (Steven Spielberg: Interviews, 2000)

Recommended Films
Jaws (1975)
Duel (1971)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
War of the Worlds (2005)

29. Rob Zombie

Born: 12 January 1965, Massachusetts, USA

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The fact that Zombie is a director of substance is clear enough with a simple comparison with others of his generation. Hollywood films come and go, helmed by interchangeable, unrecognizable directors, while art films are content to test our patience with their trendy pretentiousness. Filmmakers carry on about the importance of their work and reference their friends and colleagues as influences, (or else pompously compare themselves to legendary directors who clearly outclass them); a stark contrast to Zombie, who in interviews respectfully cites directors like Roman Polanski, Ken Russell and Stanley Kubrick as inspirations, (once tantalizingly describing The Lords of Salem as being “as if Ken Russell directed The Shining.”) This is evidence of a man who knows film, and it makes him quite different from a hotshot film school grad enjoying his first press, or one who has merely learned how to map out a safe career in the film business. This difference is what separates auteurs from journeymen.” – Michael Yates (The Films of Rob Zombie, 2013)

Recommended Films
The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Halloween (2007)
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Halloween II (2009)

30. Neil Marshall

Born: 25 May 1970, Newcastle upon Tyne, England

2 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“There are some directors, such as Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, whose genius lies in their ability to shoot their movies in a big but intimate way. It’s a bit early to mention Marshall in the same breath, but that same quality of complete identification with the audience has established him, with “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent,” as the most exciting genre filmmaker to arrive on the British scene for many years. “He’s a person who’s always loved being part of the audience,” says his producing partner, Keith Bell. “He taps into something that he knows will be both horrifying and exciting for the people sitting in the cinema. He has an uncanny ability to produce something on the page that you know he will deliver onscreen.”” – Adam Dawtrey (Variety: 10 Directors to Watch, 2006)

Recommended Films
The Descent (2005)
Dog Soldiers (2002)

31. John Landis

Born: 3 August 1950, Illinois, USA

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“His horror films are fully in love with the monsters they portray. They are as easily identifiable for what they are as for what they are not: they are not full of corrosive images that will linger in your brain A la Cronenberg, or oppressive, atmospheric horror that will follow you long after you leave the theater. No, they are fun, wacky romps that celebrate the nature of monsters as one more side of what makes us human. Yes, John Landis has a heart big enough for all kinds, and that includes monsters. The lovingly detailed closeups of his creatures—shown, more often than not, in generous light—has not only the signature of a showman that wants his creations displayed, but also the primordial desire of the five-year-old kid who wishes a better look at Frankenstein’s monster or the Wolf Man. John Landis makes movies that he longs to watch. Horror situations that suddenly burst into a song-and-dance routine, or werewolf transformations that occur, not under the ominous score of Hans Slater, but to the bouncy notes of a rock ‘n’ roll song. He can’t help it. He’s here to entertain. And we are all grateful for that.” – Guillermo del Toro (John Landis, 2008)

Recommended Films
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Thriller (1983)
Innocent Blood (1992)

32. Stanley Kubrick

Born: 26 July 1928 (-1999), New York, USA

2 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Looking back on this remarkable filmography, it is clear that it has the distinctly architectonic quality of any great philosophical system: it says something about everything. All the facets of human nature are revealed in their wide-ranging diversity: high and low culture, love and sex, history, war, crime, madness, space travel, social conditioning, and technology. Yet, as internally diverse as Kubrick’s filmography is, taken as a whole, it is also quite coherent. It takes all the differentiated sides of reality and unifies them into one rich, complex philosophical vision that happens to be very close to existentialism.” – Jerold J. Abrams (The Philosophy of Stanley Kubrick, 2009)

Recommended Films
The Shining (1980)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)

33. Freddie Francis

Born: 22 December 1917 (-2007), London, England, UK

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“I fell madly in love with movies. I managed to get into the film industry, and when I arrived I had but one goal. Whether it was photography or directing, I wanted to do my best for the art and, in so doing, entertain an audience. My life and work is as simple as that.” – Freddie Francis (Freddie Francis: The Straight Story from Moby Dick to Glory, a Memoir, 2013)

Recommended Films
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970)
The Skull (1965)

34. Peter Jackson

Born: 31 October 1961, North Island, New Zealand

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Anarchic New Zealand-born director who has made a virtue of the title of his first film – Bad Taste. A few years earlier his films might have been condemned in a body as video nasties – but festival and critical approval has brought recognition and (almost) respectability to Jackson’s charnel-house work, a world in which slicing someone’s head off with a meat cleaver represents a tame demise… Lord knows where Jackson goes from here, but it’s going to be an exciting ride.” – David Quinlan (Quinlan’s Film Directors, 1999)

Recommended Films
Braindead (1992)
Bad Taste (1987)
The Frighteners (1996)

35. Robert Rodriguez

Born: 20 June 1968, Texas, USA

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“While his production budgets may have grown from $7,000 to $40 million (Sin City), Rodriguez indicates in his most recent interviews that he still strives for cost-saving measures, believing that creativity always results in a better film than padding the budget. This commitment to economy goes hand-in-hand with his equally famous penchant for guerilla-style filmmaking. This action-oriented, task-driven philosophy inspired Rodriguez to be his own crew on the movie, acting as director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, camera operator, and music editor. Rodriguez has continued in this jack-of-all-trades approach, assuming more roles in the filmmaking process than arguably any other feature director in history […] Yet these are all projects in which Rodriguez has been fully invested, as he seems less concerned with his place with critics than in making films he (and, importantly, his children) can enjoy. In his interview with Ramirez Berg, Rodriguez explains, “I’m not going to make movies for people to ‘appreciate.’ No one ever ‘appreciates’ anything you do. You’ve got to just do something for yourself. I mean that’s always where I’ve come from. For me it’s I want to do this, this will be fun, and I’ll try to make it enjoyable for a lot of people. And that’s what I’ll do.”” – Zachary Ingle (Robert Rodriguez: Interviews, 2012)

Recommended Films
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Planet Terror (2007)
The Faculty (1998)

36. Tim Burton

Born: 25 August 1958, California, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Burton is the most clear-cut example of the movie brat made by an age of horror, fantasy, animation, and effects. There is not really a hint of the straight world in his films, and those who miss such things should face the possibility that Burton (and his contemporaries) have never noticed such a thing. In other words, photography for him is only a way of making effects. He does not understand that it was ever reckoned as way of recording nature. Everything in a Burton film expresses the distorted feelings of a resolute, inescapable loneliness – his world is constitutionally warped and explosive.” – David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002)

Recommended Films
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Beetle Juice (1988)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Frankenweenie (2012)

37. Larry Cohen

Born: 15 July 1941, New York, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Cohen’s frequent use of satire has often led film critics to misunderstand the nature of his films. He denies that his work belongs to the horror genre and believes that every generic excursion he undertakes transcends formula to make it more critical of American society. If Cohen develops the radical implications in Hitchcock’s cinema, he also employs the master’s humour in his own special way.” – Tony Williams (Senses of Cinema, 2003)

Recommended Films
It’s Alive (1974)
God Told Me To (1976)
The Stuff (1985)
Q (1982)

38. Ken Russell

Born: 3 July 1927 (-2011), Southampton, England

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Ken Russell’s movies offer both brazen sensationalism and food for thought; they horrify yet inspire. Even during moments when the plot drags or the foils between good and evil get too simplistic, viewers plugged into Russell’s nervous system can count on continual jolts of sound and vision that few directors can pack with such command. Through it all, Russell maintains a simultaneously impish and intellectual sense of humour. And a man so willfull and consistent about being “vulgar” and “excessive” at the expense of “decorum,” and who has done so in most cases without any regard to what is “fashionable” or even “bankable,” needs and deserves an appraisal that values his quirky aesthetics.” – Joseph Lanza (Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films, 2007)

Recommended Films
The Devils (1971)
Altered States (1980)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
Gothic (1986)

39. Ti West

Born: 5 October 1980, Delaware, USA

2 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Over the course of nine years and six feature films, Ti West has become a household name in horror. His films transcend the lines of mere genre fare by infusing an angle of realism while creating a genuine atmosphere for his actors to shine. West has said that most of his films begin as character driven dramas, then eventually evolve into horror stories. This way of thinking allows him to keep his audience planted in real life even when the characters are being chased by vampire bats, targeted by snipers, engaging with devil worshipers, investigating ghosts, or meeting a cult. West’s stylistic choices and ability to tether you into his stories plant him firmly within horror’s Next Wave. These filmmakers that are driving DIY indie horror right now are using aesthetic judgments to weave the audience into the storyline – thus resulting in more realism and more intelligent plots.” – Shaun Huhn (Horror Spotlight: Next Wave’s Ti West, 2013)

Recommended Films
The House of the Devil (2009)
The Innkeepers (2011)

40. Jesús Franco

Born: 12 May 1930 (-2013), Madrid, Spain

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Dedicated fans adore the impetuous, punkish spontaneity of his work, but for the same reason sceptics find him hard to take seriously. Even Howard Vernon expressed reservations when interviewed in 1977: “It’s like a woman who brings a child into the world, and then, in the middle of the birth, she takes a knife and says ‘I’m bored’ – so she cuts out whatever comes first and only has half a baby!” Yet while perfect craft may have fallen by the wayside, Franco’s speed unleashed a blizzard of extraordinary images. Ultimately there’s something truly otherworldly about his films; they give us precious glimpses of a stranger, more delirious reality. Jess Franco was the anti-Kubrick – wayward, impulsive, impatient – but he shared with the master procrastinator one special quality: a cinematic vision as personal and unique as a retinal photograph.” – Stephen Thrower (Jesús Franco: creator of erotic horrors who had a unique cinematic vision, 2013)

Recommended Films
Gritos en la noche (1962)
Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Paroxismus (1969)
Miss Muerte (1966)

41. Takashi Shimizu

Born: 27 July 1972, Gunma Prefecture, Japan

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Takashi Shimizu is one of the new breed of Japanese horror directors who mimic the evocative strategies of 1940s producer Val Lewton, preferring to suggest menace and violence rather than directly depict it. Shimizu is extremely fond of the work of director Steven Spielberg and, somewhat surprisingly (at least to this observer), cites E.T. as one of the key influences on his work in film […] Shimizu resists being typecast as a horror filmmaker and hopes to branch out in other genres as his career progresses; one nevertheless gets the distinct feeling that the “dreamy” edge he brings to his horror films, reminiscent of the surrealist works of David Lynch and other outré auteurs is ideally suited to the subject matter he chooses.” – Wheeler Winston Dixon (Film Talk: Directors at Work, 2007)

Recommended Films
Ju-on (2002)
The Grudge (2004)
Rinne (2005)
Marebito (2004)

42. Ishirô Honda

Born: 7 May 1911 (-1993), Yamagata, Japan

2 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Throughout Rodan and indeed all of Honda’s Kaiju films, an important theme emerges in the importance of cooperation and teamwork in the face of adversity. Time and again in Honda’s films we see humanity thriving only when collaborating to overcome whatever it is – usually space invaders or giant monsters – that is trying to keep us from peaceful survival. This even extends to Honda’s more straight-faced science fiction offerings where Japan and the United States join forces to stop the invaders and prevent the enslavement of mankind. This Japanese/United States cooperation is an extension of the theme that Honda would later come to favor [… ] It’s obvious that international relations were something that were near and dear to Honda’s heart. It is no coincidence that in the films where the human characters cannot get along – such as The H-Man or the brilliant and bleak (and my choice for Honda’s greatest film) Matango – things turn out decidedly less positively.” – Izo (Introducing – Ishiro Honda, 2012)

Recommended Films
Gojira (1954)
Matango (1963)

43. Don Coscarelli

Born: 17 February 1954, Tripoli, Libya

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Due in a large part to his role as director of the Phantasm series of movies, Coscarelli’s has become a name worthy of being mentioned alongside the great auteurs of horror such as John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen. What he shares with these directors, alongside an obvious relish for the strange and uncanny that’s reflected several times in his choices below, is a devil-may-care approach to following his own vision at any cost (and often lack of it) and a willingness to follow his muse down some extremely unlikely avenues. What separates him from his contemporaries, however, is his dreamlike approach to narrative construction and the muted, nightmarish ambience that often permeates his films” – Mat Colegate (A Cinema Baker’s Dozen: Phantasm Director Don Coscarelli’s Favourite Films, 2014)

Recommended Films
Phantasm (1979)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Phantasm II (1988)
John Dies at the End (2012)

44. Jack Arnold

Born: 14 October 1916 (-1992), Connecticut, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“We cannot lose sight of the limitations within which a director worked. These very limitations, however, are the key to appreciating a contract director’s achievement, for it is the pressures of these limitations that provoke and define a director’s artistic response. In Jack Arnold’s case this response necessarily varies according to the limits and opportunities presented by each successive project. Beginning his career with a scarcity of resources, he developed a particularly lean, efficient narrative style, typified by extreme deliberation and very low shooting ratio. He developed a very fluid camera, its move- ments designed for effective narration, but with an eye to “one take” economy. He learned to increase the apparent scope of his pictures with ingenious but inexpensive effects work, and turned his early stage training to good purpose by eliciting fine performances, often from otherwise undistinguished talents.” – Dana M. Reemes (Directed by Jack Arnold, 2012)

Recommended Films
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
It Came from Outer Space (1953)
Tarantula (1955)

45. Frank Henenlotter

Born: 29 August 1950, New York, USA

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Somehow, it seems wrong to single out two of Frank Henenlotter’s more “horror-comedy” films as examples of the writer/director’s style — which, in a sense, is fitting. Henenlotter’s a guy whose crew has abandoned him on two separate projects because they found what he was making to be in such poor taste that they refused to be a part of it. You can complain all you want about how his films are juvenile and gross and unpolished and what have you. But don’t you want to see a penis-shaped monster suck the brains out of a woman through her mouth like he were a very evil boner and she were giving the world’s worst blowy? Doesn’t the thought of seeing something so uniquely low and disgusting intrigue you? Don’t you want to see a man with no shame, no sense of good taste and no self-restraint at work?” – Simon Abrams (SIMON SAYS: Is Frank Henenlotter a horror genius or a sick man?, 2011)

Recommended Films
Basket Case (1982)
Brain Damage (1988)
Frankenhooker (1990)

46. Jean Rollin

Born: 3 November 1938 (-2010), Hauts-de-Seine, France

5 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“The deeper I delve into the cinematic universe of Jean Rollin, the better I understand that the usual terminologies of “horror” and “terror” simply don’t apply…Rollin’s horror films aren’t frightening, nor were they meant to be. His vampires may be predators of the night, but they are always sympathetic, companionable, even sexually available, waiting for us with open arms that don’t seem quite so cold as the people we often meet in daylight. Instead…Rollin’s work belongs to those specifically French realms known as Melodrama and the Bizarre. They are also deeply indebted to the concept of the Serial, itself a storytelling tradition native to France, especially within the pulp tradition.” – Tim Lucas (The Bizarre Melodrama of Jean Rollin Lucas, 2012)

Recommended Films
Les raisins de la mort (1978)
Le frisson des vampires (1971)
Fascination (1979)
Vierges et vampires (1971)
La morte vivante (1982)

47. Herschell Gordon Lewis

Born: 15 June 1929, Pennsylvania, USA

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“In the muddled morass of executive story conferences, deal-making, plotline pitches and the like, filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis is like a cool breeze on a sweltering summer day. Listen to his personal tales of cinematic censure and you have to smile, even laugh. Of course, he can make you cringe as well, if you look at some of his pictures; and whether you’re cringing at the blood and guts or the sheer technical imcompetence on display doesn’t matter, because in spite of everything, Herschell Gordon Lewis’s stature as a schlock showman is secure. You have to admire his inherent honest. He’s never pretended to be something other than what he is. He knows his movies are trash, and he’ll be among the first to admit it with a twinkle in his eye.” – Randy Palmer (Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore: The Films, 2006)

Recommended Films
Blood Feast (1963)
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
The Wizard of Gore (1970)
The Gore Gore Girls (1972)

48. Sergio Martino

Born: 19 July 1938, Rome, Italy

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“It’s obvious Martino had a penchant for exploitative fare laden with copious amounts of sex and violence. It therefore comes as no surprise, given that Martino was most prolific in the Seventies and Eighties and not afraid to experiment or dabble with different genres, that the director is perhaps most famed, and rightly so, for his work in the horror/thriller arena; specifically his violent and stylish gialli. Produced throughout the Seventies – arguably the Golden Era of the exclusively Italian sub-genre, several of these films featured memorable collaborations with the director’s muse at the time, the alluring and equally prolific actress, Edwige Fenech. Perhaps because of Martino’s willingness to experiment and work in different genres, not really allowing himself to be associated with one kind of film in particular, he doesn’t really receive the recognition that he should for his contributions to Italian genre cinema. Regardless of whether he was directing a giallo or a gun-ho sci-fi action flick, Martino still directed with flair, style and the desire to give his audiences what they wanted – namely, thrills, chills and cleavage. Lots of cleavage.” – James Gracey (Sergio Martino – Italy’s Unsung Exploitation King , 2010)

Recommended Films
Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1971)
I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973)
Tutti i colori del buio (1972)
Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (1972)

49. Michele Soavi

Born: 3 July 1957, Lombardy, Italy

4 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“Soavi has made clear his desire to keep breaking new ground with each film rather than repeating himself through endless sequels. Yet it is equally clear that all of his films cling to a definite thematic thread, and while this thread is one of the oldest in narrative film—ordinary people responding to extraordinary circumstances—Soavi winds it through the fantastic settings and situations in his films to weave a unique and glittering cinematic cloth. These may seem strangely pretty descriptive terms for horror films, but Soavi stands among the few genre directors who truly lives up to such a standard of beauty, as well as one of terror […] Because of his interest in portraying his own interior vision through the sensibilities of his characters (and because of his own experience as an actor) Soavi is more an actor’s director than most other Italian horror directors. This translates on screen to works of fear blended with fantasy that have an emotional range far broader and deeper than the standard shocks found in much of modern horror.” – Jim Pyke (The Films of Michele Soavi, 1996)

Recommended Films
Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
Deliria (1987)
La chiesa (1989)
La setta (1991)

50. Alexandre Aja

Born: 7 August 1978, Paris, France

3 films featured in The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films

“As part of the “splat pack,” a new generation of film-makers who do not shy away from gratuitous gore and disturbing images, Aja also provides the supreme example of the cross-cultural nature of contemporary horror. which seems to have entered the global marketplace as an exotic newcomer with hopes of making it its permanent home. […] Aja brings his European influences to the genre, employing a variety of catchy styles of world music in counterpoint to the images he creates, building suspense by drawing upon horror codes and conventions established by Alfred Hitchcock and his followers, and turning the screen into a richly colored bloody canvas. He also satisfies gore-hounds with an unflinching portrayal of brutality. […] One reason for his appeal and something that sets him apart from the rest of the splat pack is his sense of composition and style. He is certainly aware of the mannerisms of the filmmakers that preceded him, but his work is not merely derivative. His films are hybrid in several senses, making him a synecdoche for the globalization of cinema, stylistically as well as in the marketplace.” – Steffen Hantke (American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millenium, 2010)

Recommended Films
Haute tension (2003)
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Piranha (2010)