The best horror directors, ranked

The horror The genre is quite difficult to perfect. A winning mix of suspense, terror, interesting stories, characters we care about, and a theme or character that chills us to the core are all challenging achievements. In addition, the horror genre is possibly the most subjective film genre out there. Audiences will have a different perception of what’s scary and what’s not. Whether it’s ghosts, monsters, masked stalkers, or a more personal fear, filmmakers face a major challenge in discovering what terrifies the majority of their audience.

Update September 2, 2023: The scary season has started early and this list has been updated with even more great masters of horror.

However, a great director can pull this off seamlessly and even create a whole new fear that audiences didn’t know they had. The greatest horror directors have gifted us with hit after hit of legendary horror films, given viewers their own horror masterpieces, and even created some of the greatest horror franchises of all time. But which horror directors are the best? Let’s find out!

13 Mike Flanagan

Karen Gillan in Oculus 2013
Relativity Media/Sierra/Affinity

Hailed by both critics and the horror community, Mike Flanagan shines in his character-based horror projects. Fans have lauded the director for his writing and directing, and claim that any film bearing Flanagan’s name is guaranteed to be a quality film. Although he is a successful director with fans and critics, many casual viewers do not know the director or have never seen many of his projects. He is best known for his Netflix original horror series. The Haunting of Hill Househis successor, The Haunting of Bly Manorand the coming The Fall of the House of Usher. Flanagan was also behind the creepy, character-based Netflix series midnight fair, which was acclaimed by fans and critics as usual, with horror legend Stephen King giving a glowing review of the series.

Related: The scariest horror movies of the decade so far

Casual audiences may not be aware that Flanagan is behind hit horror films like… oculus, silence, doctor sleepAnd Gerald’s gamewhich horror fans claim is among the most underrated horror films of the past two decades for its precise pacing, perfect use of suspense and suspense, and personal, character-driven stories.

12 David Cronenberg

Videodrome Kiss TV
Universal images

A pioneer (and possible creator) of the body horror subgenre, David CronenbergDisregard for decency and rules runs through his entire career. He’s only made a few films outside the genre spectrum, and yet he does an excellent job of showing the dark side of humanity when faced with the unspeakable. It’s been more than 20 years since he’s dabbled in anything remotely reminiscent of pure horror, and it’s time for the Canadian director to make a comeback.

11 Sam Raimi

The Evil Dead Cellar Ghost
New Line Cinema

Modern audiences may recognize it Sam Raimi as the man behind the iconic and popular Spiderman trilogy and more recently Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, the director is popular in the horror community, and fans praise Raimi for his unforgettable characters and the crazy and funny nature of his films.

Raimi’s films have become cult classics with the hit evil Dead Franchise that spawned a remake, a hit TV series, video games, and numerous guest appearances by Ash Williams throughout pop culture. Sam Raimi has directed other horror films besides The evil Dead franchise to critical success with dark man And drag me to hell. While Sam Raimi’s style isn’t for everyone, the acclaimed director is certainly loved by critics and horror fans alike.

10 Dario Argento

A scene from Suspiria
Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

The pioneer of Italian horror and giallo movies, Dario ArgentoHe has a very interesting career dedicated entirely to horror. Only a few times did he experiment with something else, but he didn’t seem to enjoy it that much. His classics Suspiria, inferno And phenomenaare among the most interesting films of their kind and clearly speak to Argento’s ability to create otherworldly horror scenarios. In 2022 he released his first film in 10 years and of course it was a horror film.

9 Tobe Hooper

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre of 1974
Bryanston Distribution Company

Tobe HooperThe legacy of iconic and chilling horror films paved the way for how we view horror films today. Creating insane killers and ghosts in a suburban home, Tobe Hooper set a standard for horror films that many directors are still trying to emulate. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 and poltergeist 1982 is considered by fans and critics to be among Hooper’s finest works because of its chilling imagery, chilling realism, and Hooper’s chilling directing.

8th Brian DePalma

Piper Laurie in Carrie
United artists

Widely regarded as a wannabe Alfred Hitchcock, Brian DePalmaThe entire work speaks for itself. Sure, he uses some of Hitchcock’s elements and outright mimics the use of music, editing, and sometimes composition, but for homage purposes that’s all good. If you had the chance, wouldn’t you want to pay tribute to your idols? More of a suspense filmmaker, De Palma’s ability to create suspense is palpable in classics like… blow out And Dressed to killBut carrie is a horror masterpiece and no one can deny it.

7 James Wan

Madison Wolfe in The Conjuring 2
Warner Bros. Pictures

Reinventing horror for a modern audience The incantation And insidious and kickstarting Seen franchise with frequent collaborator Leigh Whannell, James Wan is one of the best modern horror filmmakers today. Not only do we offer audiences some of the best modern horror movies, we also offer some of the best and scariest horror movies of all time. Wan shines with his use of suspense, suspense and cinematography. Fans praise the director’s authentic horror style, which gives each film an effortlessly spooky feel. The best thing about him is that he is not afraid to explore other territories, as he proved with 2021 Malignant.

6 Guillermo del Toro

The backbone of the devil Guillermo del Toro
Warner Sogefilms

A Mexican import with a very strong passion for monsters, Guillermo del ToroDavid’s cinematography is unique and immersive, bringing depth to other worlds only he could create. His stories are all based on characters, but the director ensures he can explore the darkness within humans with duality-based scripts that feel like beautiful yet terrifying portrayals of our worst nature. The Devil’s Backbone, The shape of the water, Kronos, pan’s labyrinth, And hellboy stand out among his best works to date. He is the only winner of an Academy Award for Best Director on this list.

5 Jordan Peele

Go out and cry Daniel Kaluuya
Universal images

Jordan Peele stunned critics and horror fans alike with the ingenious and important Exit. After an incredibly successful comedy career, no one could have anticipated just how much Jordan Peele would shock the world with his first foray into horror. We didn’t think he could make three critically acclaimed genre films. The horror community has praised Peele’s compelling and intelligent stories, as well as the director’s precise and important visual style, which makes each shot feel whole and important.

4 Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho dead Marion
Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense, not the master of horror. But we go further and call him a horror filmmaker because of his achievements in classics like Psycho, Rope, Rage, And The birds. Through the darkness his characters portrayed and the imaginary worlds he created to make us feel threatened by something uncontrollable, he managed to bring out the horror. His use of music as a cinematic element is bold and essential, but there’s also his composition and camerawork that constantly unsettles everyone.

3 George A Romero

Night of the Living Dead by George Romero
Continental Sales

Zombie films are an important and integral subgenre of horror film, with many zombie films considered to be the best in the genre. However, without the incredibly influential people, zombies would not have become as big as they are today George A Romero. George A. Romero, celebrated as the inventor of the zombie film, terrified audiences with the release The night of the living dead in 1968 and introduced moviegoers to a whole new breed of horror film.

Related: 10 horror movies that should get a prequel

Romero’s zombie films created a hugely successful culture that is now loved and treasured by horror fans. Whatever your favorite zombie movie is, there’s a good chance you have George A. Romero to thank for it.

2 John Carpenter

Halloween 1978 (2)
Compass International Pictures

John Carpenter is perhaps the most revolutionary filmmaker in the horror and sci-fi genre with iconic films such as Halloween, the thing And The fog. Halloween is one of the most important horror films of our time, and many film schools are still studying the iconic piece of cinema. Critics and audiences have praised Carpenter’s vision and ability to build suspense. Many fans claim that the score for Halloween (also composed by Carpenter) is one of the most iconic film scores of all time, and the director’s perfect use of it in the film underscores just how influential and iconic it is.

1 Wes Craven

Freddy Krueger A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven brings together everything that makes a great horror director: interesting stories, terrifying and iconic characters, spooky music, precise suspense and suspense, and a flawless vision that shines through in every film. Behind some of the best horror franchises of all time A nightmare on Elm Street, The hills have eyes And ScreamWes Craven really made his mark on the horror genre and established himself as one of the finest and most influential horror directors of all time.

Scream Hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the best slashers of all time, it pays homage and parody to all the films in the subgenre before it. Many fans praise the director for offering audiences a fresh and unique take on a genre full of lackluster killers with no memorable villains.

Lindsay Lowe

Lindsay Lowe is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Lindsay Lowe joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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