Best American Horror Movies of 1960s, Ranked | YTS YIFY

ytsfreeSeptember 23, 2022

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Horror as a genre is arguably the most reliant on its time period. What constitutes scary is defined very differently by each generation. As horror cinema adds different standards of special effects or masters the craft of jump scares, some movies may look more funny than scary to modern audiences.


Still, horror classics of the 60s have a special place in modern cinema. The 60s in the US were a time of uncertainties, paranoia, and rapid changes, which, of course, reflected on the big silver screen. These movies were psychological and stylish, serving as a major source of inspiration for modern films, like, for instance, Shutter Island, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Love Witch, which is a tribute to 60s horror in general.

Though it often seemed that international horror from the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan ruled the genre, there are still many American horror masterpieces from this decade — the adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe starring Vincent Price, the low-budget masterpiece Carnival of Souls, the colorfully unforgettable Queen of Blood, and the completely bonkers Spider Baby all come to mind. Nonetheless, we’ve reduced this list of he most prominent American horror movies from the ’60s to the essential films which defined the decade, the country, and the genre.

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5 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Standing in line with All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is one of the greatest films that criticize the Hollywood film industry, uncovering its ugly underbelly: how it chews people up and spits them out into oblivion when it’s done with them.

In this psychological thriller, horror interweaves with drama, fighting for genre supremacy, just as the leads fight each other. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were horror first-timers, but the movie got high praise not only for directing but also for their breathtaking acting, as well as the general style and original aesthetics of the Hollywood backstage which reflected the gloomy depth of human madness.

Related: Best International Horror Movies of 1960s, Ranked

Baby Jane has become a cult LGBTQ+ classic – in particular thanks to Charles Pierce, one of whose stock impersonations was Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson. This legacy was also honored in Rupaul’s Drag Race in an iconic skit in All Stars Season 2. After all, both horror and drag rely on performing in a heightened reality.

4 The Birds

Any list of the best American horror movies would be incomplete without Alfred Hitchcock, the maestro of menace. Hitchcock knew how to lure in and surprise his audience, exploring and exploiting the population’s fears and anxieties like few other directors. It’s a common understanding that The Birds are a veiled metaphor for the Cold War and particularly for Americans’ state and turmoil during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With that context, The Birds is fairly considered one of the scariest movies about animals. But what exactly makes The Birds so sinister?

Firstly, this movie is unique for its use of sound – or lack thereof. The Birds has no full-fledged soundtrack. Another trick is not the scenes of murders themselves but the ominous shots of the numerous flocks of birds. Hundreds of birds in one shot create a distinct sense of panic. And finally, there’s the absence of justification. The film ends, but viewers have no idea why the birds started attacking people and to what end. This mystery makes people ponder over the meaning of the movie, create different theories, and try to decode what was actually going on in the head of the great Hitchcock. Horror is more unnerving when it’s not fully explained.

3 Psycho

Psycho was a result of Hitchcock’s desire to do something experimental, different, unexpected, and absolutely challenging. The end product became one of the most important horror movies of all time, unlike any of his previous films. The age of Old Hollywood cracked and burst in 1960, with Alfred Hitchcock, ever the critic and perfectionist, being at the forefront of it. His Psycho is one of the most innovative films in the history of cinema, influencing countless future filmmakers.

Related: Scariest and Most Important Horror Movies of All Time

This psychological horror is a real feast for movie gourmets: the story is tense and unpredictable; the mise-en-scènes is staged with a jeweler’s precision; actors gave the performances of a lifetime, fooling viewers, making audiences believe and sympathize with them; the cameraman, handpicked after working only on TV shows only, was nominated for an Oscar for his stylish black-and-white cinematography; and of course, last but not least is Bernard Herrmann’s nervous, imaginative score. Try to get those screeching violins out of your head.

2 Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski is a terrible human being. Rosemary’s Baby, however, is not just about him, and it remains a wonderful movie, deserving of praise. Jordan Peele named Rosemary’s Baby one of his favorite films and a major inspiration for his Get Out. Vulture investigated how this film’s influence seems inescapable, and for good reason — any movie about motherhood, let alone horror movies about motherhood, stumbles upon the question if Rosemary’s Baby hadn’t already said the same thing, and better.

A marriage of Hollywood narrative cinema and European experimentalism, this movie plunges the viewer into the dangerous waters of human nature and twisted reality. Domesticity and pregnancy are juxtaposed to rape, murder, and satanism, masterfully increasing the sense of paranoia. Despite their eccentricity and caricatural talkativeness, sweet Roman and Minnie turn out to be diabolical villains. It’s both Rosemary and the viewer who feel cornered, a victim of gaslighting, and unable to trust anyone, from neighbors and doctors to the closest loved ones.

1 Night of the Living Dead

George Romero laid the foundation for the popularization and active use of the appearance of zombies in films. Night of the Living Dead, without a doubt, revolutionized the horror film genre and set the stage for movie zombies to grow a cult of their own. From the term ‘living dead’ to forging a canonical image of a zombie as a slow, unintelligent creature that craves flesh and can die only from a blow to the head, Romero’s vision has influenced countless films and television shows. Filmed for a laughably meager budget, it (accidentally or by design) became a true cinematic legend.

For instance, making one of the first horror movies led by a Black man was not Romero’s intention. However, having Duane L. Jones as a lead changed the whole thing drastically. Jones, concerned with his character’s aggressiveness, actively developed the script, refusing certain lines and even personally rewriting them. Combined with the then-recent assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the ending transformed this movie from a B-flick into a social tragedy and a biting satire.

Since its inception, the zombie genre remains a little black dress of cinematic social commentary, as The Conversation eloquently described it. True to its nature, one of the pioneers of the genre, Night Of The Living Dead is one of the best examples of them all when it comes to social commentary in horror movies.

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