Joker: The highest-grossing R-rated movie ever at over $1 billion in worldwide box office, and also the most nominated movie at the 2020 Oscars. Not bad for a comic-book flick from the man who gave us three Hangovers. If you’re looking for more movies like Joker, the obvious place to start would be its direct influences: The Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese psychotic joints, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Throw in ’90s Cape Fear for a full triumvirate.
As you’re undoubtedly aware, Joker was not universally beloved by critics as far as Joaquin Phoenix vigilantism flicks go (though those who loved it, loved it). For that, turn to Lynne Ramsay’s Certified Fresh You Were Never Really Here, where Phoenix plays a fearless hired gun who tracks down missing girls at any cost. And if you like your lawless justice even grubbier, go with the Charles Bronson action classic Death Wish, or the churning slow burn of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs.
Beyond Scorsese, Joker director Todd Phillips has cited post-Vietnam War ’70s cinema in general as an influence, and that decade had no shortage of man-against-the-system stories. Look upon One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network for proof.
Network also serves (and so does Dog Day honestly) as an indictment of media, a major and pervasive presence in Joker. Nightcrawler, Natural Born Killers, and Christine (not the one about the scary car) are the ones to watch if that’s where your interest in Joker lies.
Or if you’re just interested in seeing psychotic breakdowns, or breakdowns of psychosis, the medium of movies have long been a playground for the disturbed. American Psycho, Entertainment, and One Hour Photo go for the jugular, while The Vanishing, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Man Bites Dog truly try to get under your skin with their clinical explorations of madness.
Of course, Joker is still a story torn from the pages of DC Comics and in that vein we recommend checking out Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. It’s got Mark Hamill reprising his signature villain role, animated at his most intensely violent. (Ah, if only The Killing Joke adaptation were good!)
And as for our suggestion of UHF, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s foray into film spoofery… Imagine a world where Arthur Fleck actually achieved success in his professional ambitions. What would that look like? We think it’d be a little zany, a little weird, a little something like what the clown prince of music offers in his 1989 cult classic.
Critics Consensus:Natural Born Killers explodes off the screen with style, but its satire is too blunt to offer any fresh insight into celebrity or crime -- pummeling the audience with depravity until the effect becomes deadening.
Synopsis: Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are two young, attractive serial killers who become tabloid-TV darlings, thanks to a sensationalistic press... [More]
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Critics Consensus: Bracingly elevated by a typically committed lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here confirms writer-director Lynne Ramsay as one of modern cinema's most unique -- and uncompromising -- voices.
Synopsis: A contract killer uncovers a conspiracy while trying to save a kidnapped teen from a life of prostitution.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Driven by populist fury and elevated by strong direction, powerful acting, and an intelligent script, Network's searing satire of ratings-driven news remains sadly relevant more than four decades later.
Synopsis: In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) discovers that he's being put out to pasture, and... [More]
Critics Consensus: The onscreen battle between Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher serves as a personal microcosm of the culture wars of the 1970s -- and testament to the director's vision that the film retains its power more than three decades later.
Synopsis: When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor.
Synopsis: When inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) leads a bank robbery in Brooklyn, things quickly go wrong, and a hostage... [More]
There’s all manner of method to the madness in our selections of the scariest movie scenes ever. Some use high amounts of gore. Others deliver unnerving calm and quiet before shattering the senses. A few feature amazing monster makeup and effects. The one common thread between them all: They work. And work not just at producing a moment of fear, but sustaining that fear, sometimes for minutes on end, to drill deep into our psyche and staying there for decades. These are the stuff of nightmares, what we see when we close our eyes at night. These are the 25 scariest movie scenes of all time. Warning: spoilers abound!
What’s the scariest movie scene you’ve ever seen? Tell us in the comments.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.)
The scene: The chest burst
One of the things that sets Ridley Scott’s sci-fi nightmare apart from the other horror fare of its era is its relatively slow burn, playing on the claustrophobia of space and the fear of the unknown. So it comes as a shock to the system when a “facehugger” hurtles out of an egg and attaches itself to John Hurt’s Kane, puncturing the atmospheric dread with a visceral jump scare. But the moment that became indelibly stamped in pop culture history comes just a few scenes later, after the facehugger has detached itself and Kane is recovering from the incident. As the crew enjoys a meal together, Kane suddenly begins to choke and convulse on the table, and a small, lizard-like creature bursts through his chest and scrambles away, effectively birthing a horror villain that would terrorize space crews for decades to come.
(Photo by IFC Midnight/Courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: Baba breaches bedroom
A lot has been written about The Babadook: It’s a story about grief, and it’s a story about feminism; it’s less a horror film than a domestic drama; and somehow through it all its central bogeyman has emerged a wonderfully camp gay icon. We’re all for it. But in the midst of the think pieces and the movie’s surprising afterlife, one thing often goes overlooked: The Babadook is just a really, really scary horror traditional horror flick, too. Take the scene in which the Babadook (dook, dook) taunts Amelia (Essie Davis) in her bedroom. On paper, it’s nothing we haven’t seen in any Conjuring or Insidious flick, but as executed by director Jennifer Kent and acted by Davis (robbed of an Oscar nom, and yes we’re still sore) it’s almost unwatchably tense. Sound and darkness work overtime to drum up the suspense before the Babadook himself appears, jerkily terrorizing the woman on the edge of a breakdown.
(Photo by Artisan Entertainment/courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: Putting babies in the corner
Anyone who tells you this super-low-budget 1999 phenom isn’t actually scary just hasn’t watched it all the way to the end. Because if you can sit through the moment Heather discovers Mike standing in the corner of that abandoned house and not tear the leather off your La-Z-Boy’s arms then you’re a much tougher horror-watcher than we are. The traumatizing screams and image of Mike standing ultra-still in the corner are scary enough – add in the fact that none of it is explained and this is a fright-filled finale for the ages.
(Photo by New Line Cinema / courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: The nun comes to life
Taken on its own merits, The Conjuring 2 was a solid movie, even if it didn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor. But it’s somewhat telling that its most memorable scare came courtesy of an entity who spends much of the film on the fringes of the primary story and whose presence was so immediately chilling that it spawned its own spin-off movie. The scene in question takes place inside the Warrens’ (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) own home, when Lorraine experiences a vision in which she is trapped and attacked by the demon nun Valak. Director James Wan milks the tension for all its worth, as a dark shadow moves across the walls and positions itself behind the painting of the nun’s face before it lunges at Lorraine with a shriek. We all checked our pants after that.
The scene: Monsters revealed
Neil Marshall’s The Descent is considered by some the scariest movie of the past 20 years, and for good reason. The movie hooks us in with its claustrophobic setting – a tiny and very unstable cave system somewhere in Appalachia – and its dynamic group of women with their complicated pasts and relationships. Then, when it has us right where it wants us… MONSTERS. And f—king scary ones at that. The movie’s most intense scene is also the first time we see these humanoid beasties, and Marshall masterfully mixes slow-building dread, dramatic distraction, and a helluva jump scare for the big reveal. We’re so caught up in the drama over Juno getting the group lost that we almost don’t notice that thing standing RIGHT THERE.
The scene: The ending
Up until the very end, you don’t know what the exact nature of the threat is in Don’t Look Now. You’re only aware that something sinister creeps on the fringes, vaguely menacing Donald Sutherland’s character as he wanders Venice with his wife after the accidental drowning of their young daughter in America. It’s the uncomfortable way people talk to him. Or is that just how it always feels in a foreign country? It’s in the way light reflects onto the camera. Or isn’t that how light always bounces around? It’s in Sutherland’s unsettling visions of his wife and daughter. Or is he just processing grief? But it all snaps into place for Don’t Look Now‘s vein-icing final sequence, giving terrible logic and clarity to the preceding 100 minutes.
(Photo by Warner Bros./ Courtesy: Everett Collection.)
The scene: Spinning heads
William Friedkin’s controversial film, based on a novel that fictionalized purportedly true events, is famous for the raucous reactions it inspired from terrified audiences who nevertheless flocked to see it in droves. It managed to entertain just as effectively as it scared the pants off of everyone, and perhaps no scene captures that special magic as well as the moment when Linda Blair’s possessed Regan – after having performed a rather sacrilegious act with a crucifix – spins her head 180 degrees to face her frightened mother (Ellen Burstyn). Regan does spin her head again later, during the climax of the film, but this first scene is so vulgar, violent, utterly shocking, and ultimately horrifying that it’s impossible to pull your gaze away from the screen.
(Photo by Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France)
The scene: Face/off
Director Georges Franju started his career as a documentary filmmaker, an invaluable skill set for his second narrative feature Eyes Without a Face. It’s the story of a desperate father who, after disfiguring his daughter in a car accident, spends his night killing women, slicing off their faces, and attempting to attach them to his daughter’s. The concept is gross enough, but the way Franju uses his calm and deliberate camera (indeed, like shooting a documentary) during the film’s infamous central surgery scene gives the fictional proceedings the sheen of reality.
The scene: An allergic reaction
Like Alex Wolff’s Peter in the movie, we were left completely speechless and frozen the first time we saw THAT MOMENT in Hereditary. We’re being vague for now, because it’s such a recent film and the moment is such a spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading now…. OK, if you’re still with us, you know what we’re talking about: Charlie (Milly Shapiro), struggling for breath in the back seat, pushes her head out of the car window and connects with a passing telegraph pole. The whole sequence, from the chocolate cake at the party to the wheezing in the car to the moment of impact, is brilliantly choreographed, but this is one of those scares that was also heavily aided by the film’s publicity. Charlie was at the center of the marketing campaign, leaving viewers to think she would be a central figure right through to the end; when she gets it about a third of the way in, we suddenly know that anything can happen in Hereditary. If Psycho broke the “don’t kill your main character” rule, and Scream stepped all over the “don’t kill your biggest star” rule, Hereditary went one further: Don’t kill the kid.
The scene: The opening scene
Much has been made of Spielberg’s expert use of the unknown and unseen in Jaws, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the movie’s opening scene in which a woman is jerked to and fro by something moving beneath her in the black abyss. (Stuntwoman Susan Blacklinie had hooks attached to her Levi’s and was being pulled by divers.) The scene is also the first time the world got to hear that iconic John Williams score, its pulsing slow-build instantly becoming a mood-building classic. We eventually went back in the water after seeing Jaws, but never at night.
(Photo by Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: A transcendental experience
Martyrs was part of the New French Extremity movement, where a wave of filmmakers put out horror films hit harder than ever before. Part home invasion, part torture porn, all blood and gristle, Martyrs details a cult-like group who torture young, beautiful women to the brink of death to uncover insights into the afterlife. It all comes to a head with the final sequence, where one of the main characters is flayed alive. Worse: She survives. Even worser: The experiment actually works, as the character enters a transcendental state. The knowledge she gleans about the afterlife and passes on, however, proves too much for the living.
The scene: Annie breaks Paul’s legs
When it comes to visceral gross-out scares, the Saw films may win for degree of difficulty and Hostel (remember that one?) may be the king of holy-f—k gore. But for impact, nothing beats Rob Reiner’s Misery, in which barely a drop of blood is spilled and not a single eyeball plucked. We’re cringing just remembering the moment Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes’ places a block of wood between a tied-down Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) feet and breaks his ankles with the swoop of a giant sledgehammer. The crunch! The unnatural bend of the ankle! The slow and methodical description of “hobbling” that Wilkes gives before she takes her epic swing! Jigsaw ain’t got nothing.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: The 21st night
Oren Peli’s game-changing found-footage film did for the bedroom what Blair Witch did for the woods. The fast-forwarded footage of Katie (Katie Featherstone) standing by her bed and watching Micah sleep was the reason some of us got separate bedrooms – with locks – from our loved ones for months after the hit film’s release. But the movie saved its best shock for last: On night 21, a now fully possessed Katie leaves the bedroom, lures Micah out with a torrent of screams, and then – after a seemingly endless silence – throws him at the screen and proceeds to eat him. Well, at least we think that’s what might happen. Like Blair Witch’s unexplained finale, this one leaves us with lots of theories to chew on.
The scene: The shower kill
Hitchcock didn’t invent the slasher, but we’ll be damned if he didn’t perfect it with Psycho and its seminal scene: Marion Crane’s iconic shower death. Even after you analyze the hell out of it – the Hershey’s chocolate syrup in place of blood; the edits that never once show knife penetrating skin – the moment loses none of its ability to shock. The key is the build-up, that wonderful shadow of Norman behind the curtain, and then the brutality: those quick-cut thrusts matched by that iconic burst of Bernard Herrmann’s score.
The scene: Dragged into darkness
This is a found footage nightmare set in a quarantined building in Barcelona where a zombie virus infection is breaking out. Our protaganist Angela is a newscaster who at first merely wants to report on the mysterious closure of the building, and then becomes the news herself when she ges swept into the quarantine. [REC] is a roller coaster of a film, culminating in its final scene, presented in eerie quiet and night vision, as Angela, seeming like she just might make it out, is dragged into the darkness while the dropped camera rolls on. It’s such an effective moment, it was of course spoiled on the theatrical for the American remake Quarantine.
The scene: The cursed video
It took us far longer than seven days to wipe the images from this bizarro piece of video art from our minds. Gore Verbinski’s U.S. remake of The Ring is full of excellent creepouts – Samara emerging from the TV; the distorted victims’ faces – but the ace up its sleeve is the video at its center. This unnerving mish-mash of static, random ominous imagery (a tree aflame, a woman brushing her hair), and insistent screeching is truly dread-inducing. Even after it’s been aped by the opening sequence of nearly every season of American Horror Story, the Ring video still makes an impact.
The scene: Mother and child
The tension rises and falls throughout Rosemary’s Baby, never allowing the viewer to quite settle in and fully process what’s happening. A demonic rape her, some weird juice there, just to keep the viewer discombobulated. It all reaches a boiling point in the dream-like coda, when Rosemary wakes up after giving birth, in her empty apartment. She finds a hidden room where her husband and neighobrs have gathered, all in on the conspiracy for her to deliver Satan’s child, and welcome her in. You never see the baby, but Rosemary’s line says it all: “What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes?!”
The scene: ‘Do you like scary movies?’
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s genre-reinvigorating classic kicks off with what many consider the greatest opening scene in horror history. Plot-wise, it’s basically When A Stranger Calls, ’90s-style – girl is alone in the house, receives stalk-y phone call, happens to have encyclopedia knowledge of the film genre in which she suddenly finds herself – but Craven brings so much smart and bravura skill to the direction of it that it kicks complete ass even decades later, after we’ve seen the countless imitators that followed and the shock of having a big-star snuffed out in the first 10 minutes has worn off. Credit too to Ghostface voice Roger L. Jackson, that perfectly placed pan of Jiffy Pop, and to Williamson’s script, a step-by-step screenwriting masterclass in how to ratchet up tension. “The question who am I, the question is where am I?”: Chills to this day.
The scene: Jack on the attack
Kubrick stuffed his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel with so many scary moments and images, trying to pick just one could drive you to Jack Torrance levels of craziness. But we’re doing it anyway. While the Grady twins in the hallway are spooky as hell, and we still can’t erase the image of the bathtub woman from our minds, we had to go with the movie’s most iconic moment: Wendy trapped in a bathroom as Jack hammers at the door. Kubrick’s swinging camera, Jack Nicholson’s mania, and Shelley Duvall’s totally convincing fear combine to make this the most terrifying scene in one of cinema’s most terrifying movies.
(Photo by United Film Distribution Company /courtesy Everett Collection)
The scene: The big reveal
For much of its runtime, Sleepaway Camp plays like any other teen slasher of the 1980s, with a bunch of kids who are summarily executed one-by-one by a mysterious killer. If some of the kills are overly creative — death by a thousand bee stings? a curling iron in the hoo-ha? — none of them compares to the twist at the end of the film, which comes from way out of left field. The quiet, young, bullied girl at the center of the movie, Felissa Rose’s Angela, is not only revealed to be the killer, she’s also outed as a man, dressed up as the opposite gender by his demented aunt.
The scene: Leatherface appears
The Texas Chain Saw Massacare is considered one of the most punishing, sickly transformative experiences in horror. And it’s not even 90 minutes long. And nothing happens for like the first 30 minutes. But once Leatherface appears, the movie never lets up afterwards. His grand debut happens inside his house, when a stupidly intrepid young adult enters looking for fuel for his car. Leathface pops out from a hallway and hits the dude in the hammer, the body crumpling and then twitching on the ground. Leatherface drags the body into the butcher room, and slams the door. There’s plenty of more scares to come, but this opening salvo is as disturbing as they come.
The scene: Getting something off your chest
John Carpenter was well into his groove by the time he made The Thing, and he put all of his talents on display to contribute one of the most influential entries in the “body horror” genre not directed by David Cronenberg. We get our first glimpse of the “thing” fairly early in the movie when it absorbs a pack of huskies, and we see it again when it attempts to assimilate Peter Maloney’s Bennings. But the big scare comes when Charles Hallahan’s Norris appears to have a heart attack, and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) attempts to revive him with a defibrillator. Norris’ chest opens up like a giant mouth, complete with teeth, and rips Copper’s arms off before Kurt Russell’s MacReady blasts it with a flamethrower. Thanks to some top-notch practical effects and the judicious use of a jump-scare, the scene remains the most memorable and viscerally disturbing in the movie.
The scene: The truth
Forget everything you know about The Vanishing. Oh, that was fast — as if you’ve never seen the Jeff Bridges/Sandra Bullock kidnap thriller before. It was a lousy movie with the distinction of being a remake…with the same director. George Sluzier was brought to Hollywood to direct the remake, and it’s easy to see why: the 1988 Dutch original is a chilling, methodical examination about the mundane face of pure evil. Naturally, the American version has none of that. It also doesn’t have the original’s ending: When the hero finally confronts his girlfriend’s kidnapper, who offers him the opportunity to find out what happened to her. The answer is one of the most terrifying scenes in movie history.
The scene: The phone calls
Pop in When a Stranger Calls and for the first 20 minutes, you’ll think you’re watching the scariest movie ever made. Carol Kane plays the babysitter, and she keeps on getting increasingly menacing calls to check on the kids upstairs. When she gets the call traced, naturally it’s coming from inside the house! Think this scene won’t work anymore because it’s been parodied and referenced to death since? Think again. It remains a masterclass in editing and suspense. The rest of the movie is pretty lousy, but that opening act can still dial up the tension decades later.
The scene: The burning
Not quite a masterpiece these days but definitely a classic, The Wicker Man follows a prudish police officer as he investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a remote English island populated by pagans. As he follows the clues and contradicting statements of the village people, he edges ever closer to the titular wicker man, a sacrificial vessel to be burned at dusk. Even if you can get who gets put inside it, the sheer intensity and terror of the scene is still something to be witnessed.
Look, we know that it’s the time of year when everyone and their sister has a list of the best horror movies of all time. This time out, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to take a slightly different tack. Using our weighted formula, we compiled a list of the best-reviewed fright fests from each year since 1920 — the year The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which created the template for horror cinema, was released. This wasn’t an easy assignment — there were several years, like 1932 and 1960, that boasted a slate of classic films (and a few others, like 1937 and 1938, in which we had trouble finding any solid contenders). What was the best horror flick the year you were born? Check out our list — if you dare.
Critics Consensus: Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set a brilliantly high bar for the genre -- and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.
Synopsis: At a carnival in Germany, Francis (Friedrich Feher) and his friend Alan (Rudolf Lettinger) encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari (Werner... [More]
Critics Consensus: One of the silent era's most influential masterpieces, Nosferatu's eerie, gothic feel -- and a chilling performance from Max Schreck as the vampire -- set the template for the horror films that followed.
Synopsis: In this highly influential silent horror film, the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck) summons Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Evocative direction by Jacques Tourneur collides with the low-rent production values of exploitateer Val Lewton in I Walked with a Zombie, a sultry sleeper that's simultaneously smarmy, eloquent and fascinating.
Synopsis: Canadian nurse Betsey Connell (Frances Dee) is hired to care for Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon), a woman on a Caribbean... [More]
Critics Consensus: Infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace, and art, Hitchcock didn't just create modern horror, he validated it.
Synopsis: Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away... [More]
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely designed and fastidiously ornate, Masaki Kobayashi's ambitious anthology operates less as a frightening example of horror and more as a meditative tribute to Japanese folklore.
Synopsis: Taking its title from an archaic Japanese word meaning "ghost story," this anthology adapts four folk tales. A penniless samurai... [More]
Critics Consensus: Three auteurs descend on the works of Poe, each putting on a ghoulish show -- adapting The Tomahawk Man's tales of dreams and fright, with Fellini's segment particularly out of sight.
Synopsis: In one chapter of this three-in-one feature inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's tales, a countess (Jane Fonda), shunned by a... [More]
Critics Consensus: Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original.
Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though it deviates from Stephen King's novel, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a chilling, often baroque journey into madness -- exemplified by an unforgettable turn from Jack Nicholson.
Synopsis: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Those unfamiliar with Alejandro Jodorowsky's style may find it overwhelming, but Santa Sangre is a provocative psychedelic journey featuring the director's signature touches of violence, vulgarity, and an oddly personal moral center.
Synopsis: In Mexico, the traumatized son (Axel Jodorowsky) of a knife-thrower (Guy Stockwell) and a trapeze artist bonds grotesquely with his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
Synopsis: Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice... [More]
Critics Consensus: Overblown in the best sense of the word, Francis Ford Coppola's vision of Bram Stoker's Dracula rescues the character from decades of campy interpretations -- and features some terrific performances to boot.
Synopsis: Adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel. Gary Oldman plays Dracula whose lonely soul is determined to reunite with his... [More]
Critics Consensus: The delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen and his zombified mother, Dead Alive is extremely gory and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Peter Jackson's affection for the tastelessly sublime.
Synopsis: Overprotective mother Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), spying on her grown son, Lionel (Timothy Balme), as he visits the zoo with... [More]
Critics Consensus: Full of creepy campfire scares, mock-doc The Blair Witch Project keeps audiences in the dark about its titular villain, proving once more that imagination can be as scary as anything onscreen.
Synopsis: Found video footage tells the tale of three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) who've traveled to... [More]
Critics Consensus: With little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skin, thanks to director Gore Verbinski's haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.
Synopsis: It sounds like just another urban legend -- a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling... [More]
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.
Synopsis: In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from... [More]
Critics Consensus: As thought-provoking as it is visually compelling, The Witch delivers a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers.
Synopsis: In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer, his wife and their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly... [More]
Critics Consensus:A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that's as original as it is scary -- and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.
Synopsis: If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by... [More]
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, girls in tan speedsuits! Mass hysteria has gripped the nation since the hyperventilating presence of a femme Ghostbustersswooped in with a trailer, becoming the most disliked in YouTube history. Would a Mannequin remake cause the same tribulation? Only time will tell.
For now, as the Ghostbusters franchise crosses the mainstream once again, we look at 24 more ’80s movie remakes, ranked worst to best by Tomatometer! (Only original properties included — no Annie or Conan — while movies like 2011’s The Thing, which explicitly extend the original plot, are excluded.)
There isn’t a whole lot of new content available on streaming services this week, but we do have a couple of well-received television shows, as well as a handful of classics on Fandor and some Oscar nominees available for purchase. Read on for the full list:
René Clément’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel The Talented Mr. Ripley stars perennial cool dude Alain Delon as Tom Ripley and Maurice Ronet as Philippe Greenleaf, the young playboy Ripley tries to convince to return to San Francisco.
Jennifer Salt and Margot Kidder star in this Brian De Palma thriller, in which a reporter becomes entangled in the lives of a pair of separated Siamese twins when she witnesses what she thinks is one of them committing a murder.
This Certified Fresh offering from Pixar is set on an alternate version of Earth where dinosaurs have survived extinction; the story centers on Arlo, a timid Apatosaurus who finds himself lost after chasing a caveboy into the wilderness. In order to find his way home, he must befriend the feral boy and face his fears.
The 2010 Best Foreign Language Film winner The Secret in Their Eyes is being remade…as Secret in Their Eyes, a murder mystery starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. As Americans, we don’t need definite articles in our movie titles, but we do occasionally need help thinking up stories to shoot, prompting this week’s 24 Frames gallery of foreign thrillers versus their Hollywood counterparts.
There aren’t many big new releases available this week on home video, but we’ve at least got one seasonally appropriate release (Deliver Us from Evil), along with a well-received indie dramedy and a handful of smaller films. In addition, we’ve got the complete series of a classic sitcom and a couple of noteworthy releases from the Criterion Collection, including a Jacques Tati compilation. Read on for details:
Scott Derrickson has recently chalked up a number of scary movies as writer and/or director, including 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2012’s Sinister, and Devil’s Knot, which premiered earlier this year. Sinister is his best reviewed work thus far, and his latest offering, Deliver Us from Evil, posed no threat to that title. Eric Bana stars as a police officer named Ralph Sarchie who begins investigating a series of mysterious crimes that all seem to be linked. As he digs deeper, he uncovers the supernatural cause of the city’s strange occurrences and teams up with a local priest to fight it. Critics agreed that Derrickson got some mileage out of his knack for chilly atmosphere, but also felt the film unwisely relied on overly familiar scare tactics, resulting in a mediocre 28 percent Tomatometer score. Special features include a commentary track, a profile of the real life Ralph Sarchie, whose experiences inspired the film, and a few making-of featurettes.
Back in 2007, director (and former bassist for Irish band The Frames) John Carney scored a surprise indie hit with Once, a thoughtful, melancholy drama about two musicians who share a brief time together. This year, he brought us Begin Again, another story about a pair of musical souls who meet, connect, and make music, but with a lighter touch. Keira Knightley is struggling and newly single songwriter Gretta, who impresses record exec Dan (Mark Ruffalo) so much that he signs her to his label. Faced with opposition from his partner (Mos Def), Dan suggests he and Gretta record her album independently, and the two begin an unlikely friendship. Begin Again was Certified Fresh by the critics at 82 percent; though many felt the film didn’t quite hit the high notes of Once, they were charmed by the chemistry between Knightley and Ruffalo. The only two special features available are a making-of doc and a few music videos, including co-star Adam Levine’s rendition of one of the film’s songs, “Lost Stars.”
Also available this week:
Life of Crime (66 percent), starring Jennifer Aniston and Will Forte in an ensemble caper comedy about a kidnapping gone awry when the corrupt land developer being squeezed decides he’d rather not pay the ransom.
Zach Braff’s famously crowd-funded Wish I Was Here (46 percent), starring Braff and Kate Hudson in a dramedy about a thirtysomething man coming to grips with his adult life.
James Franco’s Child of God (37 percent), starring Scott Haze and Tim Blake Nelson in an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel about a Tennessee man whose life misfortune isolates him from society.
Good People (12 percent), starring James Franco and Kate Hudson in a thriller about a couple in debt who discover a bag of cash and keep it, running afoul of the thief who stole it in the first place.
The Prince (0 percent), starring Bruce Willis and John Cusack in a thriller about a retired assassin who jumps back into action when his daughter is kidnapped by his old rival.
Shout! Factory is releasing the Complete Series of WKRP in Cincinnati for all you fans of classic sitcoms. The Emmy-nominated series, which ran from 1978-1982 and followed the eccentric staff at a struggling radio station, aired successfully in syndication for years after its cancellation.
And lastly, two rereleases from the Criterion Collection: George Sluizer’s 1988 thriller The Vanishing (100 percent) is available in a new DVD and Blu-ray; and a DVD and Blu-ray box set of The Complete Jacques Tati, which contains all six of the French director’s films, including Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (100 percent) and Playtime (100 percent), as well as seven of his short films and a ton of special features.
It won’t reach theaters for over a year, but DreamWorks is already working on building a buzz for its next animated offering, Monsters vs. Aliens.
The studio unveiled a still from the 3-D feature — and announced the names of the stars lending their voices to its characters — in a press release yesterday. The “monstrously talented lineup” behind the Rob Letterman-directed feature, debuting March 27, 2009, includes:
Oscar® winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Rendition) as Susan Murphy, a.k.a. Ginormica; Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie (TV’s “House,” Stuart Little) as Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.; Will Arnett (TV’s “Arrested Development,” Blades of Glory) as The Missing Link; Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Superbad) as B.O.B.; Rainn Wilson (Juno, TV’s “The Office”) as Gallaxhar; Emmy winner Stephen Colbert (TV’s “The Colbert Report,” Bewitched) as The President of the United States; Golden Globe winner Kiefer Sutherland (TV’s “24,” Phone Booth) as General W.R. Monger; and Paul Rudd (Knocked Up, Night at the Museum) as Susan’s boyfriend, Derek.
The studio’s announcement heralds the arrival of Ultimate 3-D, DreamWorks’ “proprietary production process of authoring its animated films in 3-D from start to finish.” All this technical wizardry will be employed in service of the following plot:
When California girl Susan Murphy is unexpectedly clobbered by a meteor full of outer space gunk, she mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall and is instantly labeled a “monster” named Ginormica. The military jumps into action, and she is captured and held in a secret government compound. The world learns that the military has been quietly rounding up other monsters over the years. This ragtag group consists of the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.; the macho half-ape, half-fish The Missing Link; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B.; and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. Their confinement time is cut short however, when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins storming the country.
As a last resort, under the guidance of General W.R. Monger (on a desperate order from The President), the motley crew of Monsters is called into action to combat the aliens and save the world from imminent destruction.
Apparently the only thing wrong with Michael Haneke‘s "Funny Games" is that it isn’t in English — so get ready for the Americanized version, which will pair the original director with stars Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. So maybe it’s more of a British-ized version.
From Variety: "In "Funny Games," which starts in September, Roth will play a father and husband who tries to protect his family after two psychos invade their cabin during a vacation."
Michael Haneke will be returning to direct his own remake, clearly unaware of what happened when George Sluizer tried to do the exact same thing with his film "Spoorloos." (It turned into "The Vanishing.")