Best Horror Movies: 1970s

Written by Jason White

This list was a lot more difficult putting together than it was the Top 10 80s Horror List. The reason for this, I think, is because I don't have the same nostalgia or attachment to 70s horror that I do with 80s horror. There are also plenty of serious classics within the 70s, which makes it difficult to choose from. There are some movies, you will note, that did not make the list. The reason they are not there is because they didn't really do anything for me. Remember, this is nothing if not an opinion piece. Nonetheless, I want to read what you think is the best of 70s horror movies.

10. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Who can forget Vincent Price as the insane, bald-headed Dr. Phibes as he searches out for revenge. One reason I love 70s horror movies is for some of the color experimentation that the set designs took. Dr. Phibes is no exception. It’s a color bomb that exploded and left its gooey shrapnel all over the place. And the story? Well, following Phibes on his mad mission is just plain old fun. Brilliant film!

9. Phantasm (1979)

Maybe it’s the old goth in me, but I love graveyards and cemeteries (there’s a difference between the two, look it up!). Especially at night. Especially in horror movies. So Phantasm seemed like something right up my alley. And it was. This is the first installment of four parts and is, perhaps, the most fun to watch. The second Phantasm movie was a big influence for the Warner Bros television series Supernatural. I don’t think that this little tidbit is mentioned anywhere as fact, but I dare you watch it and then watch Supernatural and then come back and tell me there isn’t a big similarity between the two!

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

One thing I love about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is how everyone thinks it’s so gory. If you’re one of these people, then I challenge you to go back and watch it again. You’ll be hard pressed to find much blood at all. Director Tobe Hooper filmed it in such a way that when the really gory stuff should have been splattering the cameras, he left all that for the viewer’s imagination to take over. Don’t believe me? Give it a re-watch and see for yourself.

7. Carrie (1976)

Stephen King is somewhat of a prophet, I think. In Carrie, we have Carrie White who’s coming of age story in high school is a very unhappy one. Her mom is religiously insane and locks her up in a closet whenever her daughter needs to ask the Lord to forgive her of her sins. At school, she is bullied mercilessly to the point where when someone tries to do something nice for her, she thinks it’s a trick. In the end her face is indeed painted red (so to speak – and yes, pun intended), so it's no wonder that she turns her newfound powers on everyone in the only way she knows how to fight back. Seems way too much like modern times.

6. Halloween (1978)

I’ll admit that I love gore in the movies I watch. But sometimes you really don’t need it at all. Just like with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween doesn’t have that much gore at all. In fact, there’s not a very high body count, either. What John Carpenter did was give us the very beginnings of the slasher movie with killer POV shots. And in this one, the beginning Michael Myers POV shot is especially very well used and creepy.

5. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Zombies! Although this isn’t my favourite of the zombie genre, that award goes to Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead would certainly make the top five or ten. There’s just something about living in a mall with free range to every freaking store within that appeals to me. Oh, and zombies chomping down on Mexican biker gangs inside said mall, too. There’s nothing better, really.

4. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist was, perhaps, one of the first truly brutal horror films to ever shine its darkness upon the silver screen. This one was so bad that one viewer in the UK passed out while watching and broke his jaw in his fall. He sued Warner Bros who later settled out of court. It surprises me that people, mainly from younger generations, think that this movie is boring. Seriously. WTF!

3. Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento’s Susperia is a film that acquires a special sort of taste. When I first watched this film, I hated it and wondered why anyone would like such tripe. For some reason I was pulled back into watching the film repeatedly. There was just something about it that I needed to figure out. And in the interim, I fell in love with it. It is a strange story told with, as Dr. Phibes, a myriad of colors and odd characters. To be honest, I’ve seen the film quite a few times now, and I still don’t fully comprehend everything it has to offer. But I still love it.

2. Alien (1979)

I was about eight years old when I was out with my mother and grandmother visiting a friend of theirs. It was winter. Night time. I remember this so well because while there they thought they’d put on a television show for me to keep me entertained while they jibber jabbered. At the time I was afraid of anything that was remotely monster-like, and they all thought, while flipping through the TV Guide that a movie with the title Alien might be something that would entertain a youngster such as me. They didn’t realize it was This Alien, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. They turned it on at a good time, too. Right when the we learn that Ash is a cyborg and is losing his shit, trying to stuff rolled magazines down Ripley’s throat. Then one of the crew members knocks Ahs’s head off after hitting him in the head with a fire extinguisher, where it hangs off the back of his back on threads of skin.

“Oh dear,” my grandma said.

And I cried. A lot. I was inconsolable.

 1. Jaws (1975)

I remember renting this movie in the early to mid 80s after I had gotten over my fear of monsters, and it played in high rotation. There’s some scenes in this movie that still blow me away and disturb me. That and the story, along with Spielberg’s direction, is nearly if not perfect. It also makes great summertime movie watching, or even during the winter if you’re looking to depress yourself by showing a movie that takes place at the beach.

Honorable Mentions

Frenzy (1972)

Black Christmas (1974)

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

What 70s horror do you think deserves to be on this list?