Horror is arguably cinema’s most influential genre. From the German Expressionist pictures of the 1920s to the modern A24 and Blumhouse films, horror has shaped how we see the art of film and thus shaped how we see our world, the monsters it has created as iconic as any in the past century, the tropes and the scares etched into each of our brains. Yet, in over 100 years of the genre pushing boundaries, developing new camera techniques, popularising set design principles and making unforeseen advances in make-up, CG-use and so on, the genre – perhaps owing to its inherently testing nature – has only ever produced six Best Picture nominees at the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences overlooking classics like Psycho, The Omen, Halloween, Alien, The Shining and many, many more over the course of its own 90-plus year history. The six lucky films it has selected, of which two were nominated in the 70s, two in the 90s and two in the 2010s, are of course classics in their own right, though their nominations seem as much about trends in the industry as they do about quality in of itself, each of the three decades mentioned being clearly defining moments for the genre in American cinema.
In this edition of Ranked, we’re looking at all six of these Best Picture nominated horror films and judging each in terms of individual quality, contextual importance and audience longevity to decide which is the best horror ever nominated for Best Picture and, first, which is the worst.
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6. Black Swan (2010)
This is a classic horror film, but all the films on this list are classic horror films and this is arguably not even Darren Aronofsky’s best horror – that honour instead going to Requiem for a Dream – so Black Swan starts off our list.
The elements of body horror subtly woven into the fabric of this psychological horror-thriller make for some of the very best cinema of the 2010s, and Aronofsky’s intelligent telling of the story of famed ballet “Black Swan” in an allegorical movie like this is nothing short of genius. Natalie Portman is exceptional, the cinematography incomparable on this list, the score appropriately pulsating, and its Best Picture nomination absolutely deserved, but in the context of the horror genre there are dozens of more memorable releases that didn’t even earn a Best Picture nomination and five more memorable and impactful movies that did.
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