The 10 Best 70s Horror Movies
It was announced last February that The Horror Master himself, John Carpenter, was bringing back iconic masked killer Micheal Myers to torment another generation of babysitters. A new Halloween is due October 19th, this time written and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), co-written by Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), and produced (and perhaps musically scored!) by Carpenter. It also will bring back the original star, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. The original Halloween was a truly iconic piece of ’70s horror film making, along with many others of the decade. Here, we take a look at the 10 best 70s horror movies which broke new ground for scares and in many cases, introduced filmmakers who have become legends.
The definitive Ridley Scott film, other than maybe Blade Runner. This film has the perfect blend of sci-fi, slasher, and monster film all rolled up into one terrifying nightmare. This movie was so scary when it came out that there are stories of people in the audience getting up from the front row and moving back a bit, just to get further from the terror. Starring Sigourney Weaver as the now famous Ripley, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, and Ian Holm, this film is still terrifying. Like space, it’s cold, dark, silent, and treacherous. The best part of this film, is the mystery that surrounds it all. Mystery which has been ruined by sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. Seriously, sometimes not every question needs to be answered. Some things are better left alone (which is kind of like how this film’s plot develops.) In fact, if you have the choice, watch the theatrical version of this instead of the director’s cut. It leaves just a bit more to the imagination.
Do you have a rough home life? Have you ever been made fun of, laughed at, pushed around, or ignored? Have you ever felt like you were just gonna snap? Then this movie is for you. Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, it concerns a young girl (Sissy Spacek) living under her religious tyrant mother (Piper Laurie) and picked on relentlessly by her classmates. Only shy little Carrie is harboring a deadly secret which is ready to pop. When it does it comes on like an after-school special hosted by GWAR. Director Brian De Palma’s trademark visual style creates an atmosphere where you can fully experience the character’s emotions in detail, and witness every angle of the carnage. It’s a bloody tale of getting even with everyone who’s made your life a living hell. Remember, vicariously living through a fictional character’s vengeance is always healthier and safer for everyone in general. Watch now on Hulu.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Biting satire. Killer effects. Arguably the finest zombie movie ever made. George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead set the undead bar high. It stars Gaylen Ross, David Emge, Ken Foree, and Scott H. Reiniger. During a zombie outbreak a group of survivors take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall, and try to create a life for themselves… for a while, at least. From its opening scenes (which are still gut-wrenching), to its insane climax, to its haunting end, this movie broke through the gory barriers its predecessor missed and established Romero as a true horror master. The effects by Tom Savini also paved the way for makeup artists for years to come.
The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection), and starring Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, and Linda Blair in the historical role of Regan, the power of Christ compels you to watch this movie. A young girl has been going through a significant change in her life, and two priests will test the limits of their faith to help her. This movie was so effective in its scares that people to this day still think that the actual devil is hiding in the film. It has aged incredibly well, and is still more disturbing than any torture-porn or jump-scare ghost stories of the past decade.
Out of all the movies on this list, this one is hands-down the most copied. Many people maintain that this film alone started the “slasher” genre. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and P.J. Soles, it concerns a killer named Micheal Myers who murdered his sister 15 years prior, and who returns to his hometown after escaping from an institution to kill again. Co-writer of Friday the 13th, Victor Miller, has stated that in writing that script he was riding off the success of this movie. This movie, along with his many other nightmare-inducing films, is the proof that John Carpenter is indeed The Master of Horror. He created an almost supernatural presence in Micheal Myers, but still managed to keep it all grounded. The result is a dark night of sheer terror, and a movie which stands the test of time (and a classic musical score from Carpenter himself.)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Director Wes Craven’s second film. A family, driving to California, wrecks their car in an abandoned section of desert, or so they think. The setting itself becomes a character. The desert is bleak, desolate, and isolated. The tension mounts for a long time. Then, when everything happens, it happens fast and never lets up. It’s an unsettling walk down the line where good and evil are blurred. Director Alexandre Aja successfully remade the film in 2006. This is one of those instances where a modern remake is actually faithful to the source material, while simultaneously turning up the action to 11. Watch now on Amazon.
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, this film concerns sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) of Amity Island working with a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and an old sea-faring fisherman (Robert Shaw) to hunt down and kill a man-eating great white shark. Not only is this one of the best monster movies ever made, but it also proves that even when Spielberg is “just making do” with what’s given to him he’s still a visionary. In fact, it boggles the mind when you realize how little the monster is actually shown. Again, imagination is more effective than even the best (worst?) puppet. Plagued with production problems right from the start, the finished product is almost a miracle. The famous two-note score by John Williams is probably the best monster theme ever written. Also, the monologue given by Shaw’s Quint is a reminder that one person telling a scary story is enough to move an entire audience.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first film. Two girls head to the city for a concert. While attempting to pick up “party favors,” they are kidnapped and subjected to horrendous mental and physical torture. The violence in this movie is some of the grittiest of the time. The almost documentary-style realism still makes some scenes difficult to watch, almost like a “snuff” film. In fact, some distribution companies in Germany tried to release it as such. There are also scenes which are strangely quite funny in between. Craven shows the dynamics of good versus evil and that they’re not far removed, much like he addresses in his second film. While it may not be Craven’s best made movie, it is definitely his most important.
By the age of 24, Don Coscarelli wrote, produced, directed, shot, and edited this true labor of love, resulting in one of the most original horror movies of all time. A teenage boy knows something is up at the local mortuary, and what he and his brother find is actually a fate worse than death itself. All of it surrounds the strange figure known simply as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). The dreamlike atmosphere and over-the-top scenes are some of the most fun and weird in any scary movie short of the Evil Dead series. Not to mention, another fantastic synth score which captures the time and creepy vibe of the film. It may not be the most finely chiseled entry on the list, but it is good scary fun.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Who will survive, and what will be left of them? A group of young friends and siblings are taking a trip through Texas to visit their grandfather’s grave. Along the way, they run into a family that’s… set in their ways. No sequel or remake has ever come close to Tobe Hooper’s original film. For all it shows, it still leaves the viewer to wander in their own mind. What happens behind closed doors is always worse than you could ever see. Feelings of dread fuel this movie. From the minute the movie starts, you’re along for the ride and hopefully you make it out alive. This movie leaves the viewer feeling like the characters on screen: in a state of shock. Watch now on Amazon.
Do you agree with this list? Any other iconic films we’re leaving off? Let us know in the comments.