Dario Argento is one of the most influential Italian directors of all time, let alone one of the best horror directors of all time. His films, while lacking in coherent plot at times, are always overflowing with style. Like his Italian contemporaries, the style over substance permeates even his best works. Every one of his films, with varying degrees of nonsensical goofy plot nuances, are beautiful works of art. His teaming with Goblin during his golden age always helps with the atmosphere that his films bask in. While his earlier films are better than his later ones, there are still hidden gems to be found. Below is a list of his top 10 films according to one of his biggest fans….me! Feel free to critique my list or add and subtract whichever ones you feel do or don’t belong.
10. Dark Glasses aka Occhiali neri (2022)
“Diana, a young woman who lost her sight, finds a guide in a Chinese boy named Chin. Together they will track down a dangerous killer through the darkness of Italy.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
The opening alone is enough to make us salivate at the possibility of a return to form, but the silliness of some of the setups will place it near the bottom of the heap.
9. The Card Player aka Il cartaio (2004)
“A Rome policewoman teams up with a British Interpol agent to find a crafty serial killer who plays a taunting game of cat-and-mouse with the police by abducting and killing young women and showing it over an Internet web cam.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
An unpopular opinion here, I love the interesting look of the film, and the various cat and mouse aspects of the killer. Also, the excitement of buying it on bootleg DVD shortly after it’s release, will always remind me of how unique I felt seeing it before ANYONE ELSE!
8. Sleepless aka Non ho sonno (2001)
“A retired police detective and a young amateur sleuth team up to find a serial killer who’s resumed a killing spree in Turin, Italy after a 17-year period.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Nursery rhymes, children, and dwarves, all intertwine in this serial killer film that sports gore, fun twists and turns, and yet another bootleg DVD I watched straight from Europe!
7. Trauma (1993)
“A young man tries to help a teenage girl find the serial killer who murdered her parents before the killer comes after them.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
The second American film he directed, this was the first Argento film I actually saw, and the beheadings were fun but with subsequent viewings, I question the casting of his daughter , Asia, at such a young age.
6. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage aka L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970)
“An American expatriate in Rome attempts to unmask a serial killer he witnessed in the act of an attempted murder – and is now hunting him and his girlfriend.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
His earliest masterpiece and easily the Giallo that not only launched his career, but an entire genre of films, it’s one of the many Argento films scored by Ennio Morricone.
5. Opera aka Terror at the Opera (1987)
“A young opera singer is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Gory, beautiful, and memorable, this has perhaps one of the most iconic scenes of his career – the pins under the eyelids!
4. Phenomena aka Creepers (1985)
“A young girl who has an amazing ability to communicate with insects is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
The film that I’ve seen the most on this list, due to the amazing soundtrack by Goblin, the Donald Pleasance and Jennifer Connelly casting team up, the wonderful creepy crawly aspect, and then there’s the chimp.
3. Tenebrae aka Unsane (1982)
“An American writer in Rome is stalked and harassed by a serial killer who is murdering everyone associated with his work on his latest book.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
The somewhat autobiographical film features some devious sexual scenes, multiple brutal kills, as well as star turns from Daria Nicolodi and John Saxon, this is a fine return to his Giallo roots.
2. Deep Red aka Profondo Rosso (1975)
“A jazz pianist and a wisecracking journalist are pulled into a complex web of mystery after the former witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
The first appearance of his future wife and frequent collaborator, Daria Nicolodi, his first of eleven films with Goblin or Simonetti, and arguably his best kills, some of his best camerawork and style, I wouldn’targue if this was number one on your list.
1. Suspiria (1977)
“An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Simply watch the opening scene in the rain, and tell me this is not one of the most beautiful scenes in horror movie history, with the perfect marriage between sight and sound, dancing to the iconic Goblin while setting the stage for his most stylish supernatural film, while launching his Three Mothers Trilogy.
There you have it. My list. Noticeable exceptions include Cat o’ Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (all great giallos and better FILMS than many on this list, but lighter than the others in term of gore, style, and memorable moments). Also missing is Inferno (overrated), Stendahl Syndrome (another Asia Argento vanity project), Two Evil Eyes (a marriage with Romero that just didn’t work) and Do You Like Hitchcock? (an attempt to return to his roots that simple fell flat). He truly has some clunkers there in the later years, including Giallo, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula 3D, and Mother of Tears.