5. Get Out (2017)
Perhaps it’s unfair to include “longevity” as a criteria for judging these films when one of them is as relatively new as Get Out, given how impossible it is to know how the film will be contextualised in decades to come, but Jordan Peele’s feature debut has already proven some of its importance and of course its quality, earning it the number five spot here.
At the time of Get Out’s Best Picture nomination, race relations seemed more tense than they had been for decades in the United States and the horror genre was well and truly on the rise once more after close to twenty years of bland and samey studio driven fair (Black Swan being the exception that proved the rule), creating the perfect melting pot for a TV comedy star to blow apart the “norms” of Oscars season with his timely, finger on the pulse, allegorical horror of race and race relations in the United States.
Get Out was a memorable moment in modern cinema, not just an exceptional horror film, and while it didn’t quite have the impact of the films still to come on this list, it remains a must-watch modern classic of not only horror but of cinema as a whole.
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4. The Sixth Sense (1999)
It was a film that launched the career of its screenwriter-director M. Night Shyamalan and for better or worse ensured a slew of twist-laden horror films; one of the most culturally impactful and instantly recognisable horror films of all time… The Sixth Sense.
“I see dead people” is the kind of quote that is recognised even by people who don’t watch horror films, or films in general, and the twist of (spoiler alert) Bruce Willis being dead all along has rightfully taken its place in the zeitgeist as an era-defining and form-defining moment. Sure, the way this film has been mocked in popular media across the two decades since its release has watered down its effectiveness somewhat, and the way Shyamalan fixated his career on recreating its mastery has put a dampener on rewatching this film, but so far as a one-off masterpiece of tension and creativity go there are few that can rival this spectacular horror film, and even less that have managed to prove so pivotal to the popular culture of their time.
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3. Jaws (1975)
An undoubted audience pleaser, and a tense and genuinely horrifying one at that – one need only look at how the fear and hatred of Sharks spiked at around the time of this film’s release for proof – Jaws could have easily been the number one film here, but it sits at number three because of how we consider it to be way more of a blockbuster than a horror, a universally beloved watch-party type offering, a great but not necessarily challenging film.
Steven Spielberg shaped the industry with Jaws, its lasting impact on cinema being larger than any other film on this list from a genre and distribution point of view. This was the first blockbuster, its convention-busting promotional campaign had people queuing around the block to see it (which only attracted even more attention) and the product on the screen was about as phenomenal of a monster movie as has ever been made. It was the making of Spielberg as one of Hollywood’s biggest and most successful ever names, and remains as quotable and enjoyable today as it has ever been.
There is arguably something lost when a film appeals so much to so many, but in the case of Jaws it’s hard to argue that an absolute masterpiece was made, that the Best Picture hype was truly deserved.
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