31 Days of Horror: Rayzor’s Top 25 Italian Horror Films

First thing, I have not seen every single Italian horror movie.  But, of my 500 Horror Films in 2019, I have watched about 40, which is roughly about 25% of the horror I have watched in 2019.  So, with that my collection has grown and my interest in the genre, well…Italian made horror and Giallo films has grown.  I have watched so much, it is crazy, crazy enough to make a list of 25.  I am a big fan of ranking things and ranking movies, so here we are again, another list.

So, with this, I want this to be something a horror fan looking to get in to Italian horror, kind of a checklist of sorts.  Now, not all of these are great and to be honest, not really too many of these are too good.  But, there are some great reasons to watch these.  Some of the films are ultra gory and on the banned list in the UK, “Video Nasty”.  There are others who are innovators in the slasher genre, even before it was a thing.  A few from the godfather of gore, Lucio Fulci, which I adore.  Then, Argento, what can we say about Dario Argento?  His movies are so alluring, beautiful and entrancing.

25. Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

This, is a terrible movie, so many scenes of stock footage and a stolen theme from a classic, Dawn of the Dead.  But, there is something about this movie that is pleasing.  I am sure most would think, this movie does not belong on this list, well it is my list and cheers to my brother inlaw.  It seems to be one of the films that is so bad, it still isn’t good.  But, worth checking out.

24. Zombie 3 (1988)

Wow, I am starting this list off with some real crappy movies.  Zombie 3 is not good, but for some reason I like it, but I cannot figure out why.  When I was at Days of the Dead, I saw a shirt from Pallbearer Press and it called to me, I needed the Zombie 3 shirt with the flying zombie head.

23. Contamination (1980)

A blatant ripoff of Alien.  But it is fun in that Italian way.  We get some good gore, some really long drawn out scenes, that make you wonder…why won’t they just leave?   There is another reason to come back, a great performance from Ian McCulloch.

22. Tenebrae (1982)

More of a giallo than anything, but there are some great gore scenes.  Not to mention this one has a great twist.  This is my first Argento entry on this list and it is a damn good movie, start to finish.

21. Nightmare City (1980)

This is a movie you could play on a continuous loop, seriously.  Not because it is that good, no, it is because of the way the movie begins and ends.  Nightmare City has the worst make up effects I have seen.  But, it is a pretty good movie overall.

20. Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Well, some may wonder why Cannibal Holocaust is not on this list.  I get why it is highly regarded, but I just didn’t care for it, vs Ferox.  Cannibal Ferox is more of an Italian horror film, completely fictional, rather than a “found footage” type.  There are scenes that are just…nuts, like a man getting his dick cut off, then he becomes a badass, oh and then he gets put in a table and the cut the top of his head off.  Yeah, it is a fucked up movie and I didn’t mention all of the crazy parts.  The music is wonderful and gives you a sense of doom.   That is one thing about Italian horror, the music is usually great.  But, it isn’t my favorite of the Cannibal craze movies, see #16.

19. The Church (1989)

Michele Soavi is a student of Dario Argento, in way.  Not to say the Church is like an Argento movie, but you can see some of an Argento influence.  This is actually one of three versions of Demons 3, but Michele Soavi insisted the film not be a part of the Demons series.  He wanted it to be “sophisticated”, so he re-wrote the entire screenplay and removed all connection to the Demons series.

18. The New York Ripper (1982)

This is such a bizarre, sexual movie, with a great ending.  Very different from what we had seen from Fulci in the last 3 or 4 years.  This is a giallo vs a zombie gore fest.  Totally worth watching and get ready for a strange ride.  The 4k restoration is very good and worth the money, thanks Blue Underground.  Quack, Quack, Quack…oh and the killer quacks at the cops.

17. Opera (1987)

Opera is a wicked and intense film with a wonderful soundtrack from  Brian Eno, Claudio Simonetti, and Bill Wyman.  Oddly enough Opera is the most commercially successful film in Italy.  It is a good movie, I am not sure what I would categorize this as, but it doesn’t matter.  It is a good movie, I saw it on Shudder and really enjoyed the film.  The later Italian films seem to have a significant drop off, this is an exception.

16. Eaten Alive (1980)

There is no secret, I am not a big fan of the Cannibal sub-genre at all, but a couple have slipped in that I like.  Eaten Alive is one of those, and it is mostly because the cult aspect.  There is some very good gore, but this is one with a decent story.  I mean, I did not like Cannibal Holocaust at all and the story is legit.  This is good and a fun time.

15. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

The lead is an asshole.  Not a bad movie at all, earlier Italian horror movie that really is very good if you give it is shot.  Honestly, it may be one of the better overall movies on this list.  Not my favorite, but I love it!

14. Zombie Holocaust aka Doctor Butcher MD (1980)

When it comes to damn good Italian gore horror movies this one is a great.  It works as a bridge, between the dying cannibal horror movies and the zombie gorefest movies.  Think about it, the cannibal movies were most of the 70s and the zombie movies picked back up with Dawn of the Dead and of course Lucio Fulci’s Zombie or Zombi 2.  With some great gore, a decent story and of course Ian McCullough, Zombie Holocaust is a must for Italian fans, especially Lucio Fulci fans, even if this is a Marino Girolami.

13. Burial Ground (1981)

As I said in the last entry, the Italian film genre went from the gore galore being from the cannibal craze to zombies!  This one is something else, something hard to even try explaining.  But, I am not doing full reviews here, Burial Ground could have only come from the early 80s.  There are some silly one-liners and great gore…all topped off with a 23 year old playing a 10 year old biting his mom’s nipple off.

12. Don’t Torture A Duckling (1972)

This one blew me away.  From the beginning I went in and didn’t really think much.  Based on the title it felt like it did not offer much, but I heard from many friend how good it is.  I don’t want to go in to this, it is very good and my history with Lucio Fulci has been all gore.  This surprised me, a very Giallo style film, with a great ending.  This one keeps you guessing to the end.

11. Suspiria (1977)

The visuals, the score and the story, Suspiria is a great atmospheric horror film the messes with your senses.  It is often thought of a Argento’s finest film.  The idea of the Three Mothers is terrific, while this is more self contained when it comes to the Three Mothers, it is a great film that should be studied by filmmakers.  Is it Argento’s masterpiece?

10. Deep Red (1975)

No, Deep Red is Argento’s masterpiece.  I think the average horror fan or Argento fan may have passed this one up.  It could be they follow the masses in saying Suspiria is the best.  Deep Red is pure suspense, this movie defines what a Giallo film really is.  With a great mystery that you try to figure out, but you cannot, I tried.  The ending will shock you.  Deep Red is a must for Italian horror fans.  I’ll bet newcomers will watch this and ask, “is this horror”?

9. Torso (1973)

Torso is a Giallo that also plays as an early slasher.  This one is about a manhunt for a killer in a mask with a psychosexual disorder.  The killer red-and-black foulards(I looked it up) but is a damn scarf, he uses this to strangle his victims, who are all female.  After he kills them he mutilates them.  I think there should be a little respect and credit due, it may be dressed up as a Giallo, this is a slasher, before the slasher genre was really established.  This movie needs more respect and needs to be seen by a bigger audience.

8. Anthropophagus (1980)

Strange, bizarre and outrageous.  Those are, well maybe the describe this movie.  I love it, for the wrong reasons.  It is ridiculous in many ways, like a bunch of Italian horror, but it also has a sinister story with a great ending.  The worst part of the ending, it is spoiled by anyone who as seen the poster art.  I 100% recommend this movie to anyone who is in to the Italian movies.  Check it out, this is one messed up movie.

7. Demons (1985)

From the top of the movie, on the train, it tells me, we are in a for a ride.  Demons is one of hell of a ride for sure.  It mostly takes place in a movie theater and so much happens.  The effects are so damn good, and where the story may lack, the effects and kills take center stage.  Demons is so much fun and it spawned the strangest batch of…sequels?  There are so many versions of Demons 3 and nothing really lines up with the first and second.  I love Demons, but not as much as…#4.

6. Inferno (1980)

I talked about Suspiria and Deep Red a being Argento’s best earlier.  But, hey this is my list of my favorite Italian horror films and Inferno is my favorite Argento.  It carries on the story of the Three mothers and dips in to the mythology more than Suspiria.  Not to mention we see the other two mothers in the film, even if there is a third movie.  The visuals may not be up to the standards set in Suspiria, but this is a worthy sequel and it is painful knowing we didn’t get the third movie, well until 2007.  I love Inferno, it is a good sequel and just, for some reason, something I like better than Deep Red or Suspiria.

5. Zombie (1979)

Brace yourself, there are three Fulci films in the top 5.  Starting with the movie that is probably the most popular and well known.  Zombie is an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead, when really it would be more of a prequel, if you want to watch them in some kind of order.  Zombie is great in many ways.  So many iconic scenes, like the splinter scene and well, lets just talk about zombie vs shark.  Ian McColluch is in this and he is wonderful.  I could call this the perfect zombie movie, but it isn’t.  But damn it, this is one of the top 5 zombie movies of all time.

4. Demons 2 (1986)

Like I said, this is my list.  Demons 2, I prefer it to Demons.  It is a strange sequel, that is kind of meta.  I saw this before I saw the original, this is a running theme with me.  But, even so, I like the way this one plays out better, the high rise apartment, the birthday party and the transformation scene with Sally.  So, if not better, it is on par with the original movie.  This is the only direct “sequel” and it is terrific.

3. City of the Living Dead (1980)

For a long time I have gone back and forth over which Fulci movie is my favorite, or even the best.  Here’s the thing, the Gates of Hell movies are so damned good and Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti did one hell of a job, kinda.  The movies, even House by the Cemetery are all very good.  The only thing about these movies, they don’t connect.  Citly of the Living Dead is so good, Father Thomas opens the Gates of Hell and all hell breaks loose.  The effects are so damn good, I 100% believe this is so much better than Zombie.  But, let’s not look at them as a separate movies, but one big movie.  Actually, I did some work to make sense of the series and have the ultimate viewing order.

2. Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve ( 1971)

I prefer the second title Twitch of the Death Nerve, but Bay of Blood make sense.  When I talked about Torso, I mention it deserves a look at an early slasher.  Well, how about one even earlier?  This movie is 100% slasher classic from Mario Bava, who may be one of THE first bit time Italian horror director.  So many great movies come from Bava, but the slasher lover in me prefers this one to any of the others.  Of course, some things from this have been copied by other slashers from the 1980s.

1. The Beyond (1981)

This is a no doubter, I have talked about it, this is Lucio Fulci’s finest movie.  It has every bit of gore and effects from City of the Living Dead and Zombie, with more story.  This movie has the bleakest endings of all time.  The characters are so good and the tone of the movie is dark and unforgiving.  Mix all of this with a wonderful score, it may be possibly the best of Fabio Frizzi’s career.  The Beyond is 100% the best film of Fulci’s career and a can’t miss for gore hounds.  It is on Shudder and you should watch it.

So, this is my personal list of favorite Italian horror movies.  I am still just hitting the edge of foreign cinema.  I know there are many Japanese, Spanish and French movies to check out.  I wanted to do a 25 foreign list, but the only films that were not Italian, Tombs of the Blind Dead films, along with Pieces.  So, with the 500 of 2019, maybe I will get a few more foreign films in before the end.

Thanks for checking this out.

About Ray Marek III 504 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)