(Ch)Op-Ed #11: The Top 12 John Carpenter Horror Films

John Carpenter could be my favorite horror filmmaker of all time. He even ranks up there with Oliver Stone, Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino, as my picks for top 5 directors of all time. I have such fond memories of Big Trouble in Little China. I saw it so many times on TV when I was growing up. I watched Escape from L.A. strictly for Bruce Campbell, then went back to watch Escape from New York. I even love Chevy Chase in Memoirs of an Insvisible Man 

I guess the point I am trying to make, is I absolutely love every single film he made, with the exception of #11 and #12 on this list. Which films are they? What did I leave out? Remember, this is for horror films only, so some of his finest movies might not make this list! After all, this IS a horror website! 

12. Ghosts of Mars (2001)


“200 years in the future, a Martian police unit is dispatched to transport a dangerous prisoner from a mining outpost back to justice. But when the team arrives, they find the town deserted and some of the inhabitants possessed by the former inhabitants of the planet.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 24% 

IMDb: 4.9 

Profit: 14 million dollars box office vs. 28 million dollar production costs 

Ghosts of Mars was painful for me to watch.  

11. The Ward (2010)


“An institutionalized young woman becomes terrorized by a ghost.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 33% 

IMDb: 5.5 

Profit: 5.3 million dollars box office vs. 10 million dollar production costs 

Despite an interesting twist ending, the movie is slow and not very scary. 


10. Village of the Damned  (1995)


“A small town’s women give birth to unfriendly alien children posing as humans.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 30% 

IMDb: 5.6 

Profit: 9.4 million dollars box office vs. 22 million dollar production costs 

A tepid remake that stands as the last theatrically released film of Christopher Reeve before his accident. 

9. Christine (1983)


“A nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind of its own and his nature starts to change to reflect it.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% 

IMDb: 6.3 

Profit: 21 million dollars box office vs. 10 million dollar production costs 

Boring and makes a much better book than a movie. 

8. The Fog (1980)


“An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 75% 

IMDb: 6.8 

Profit: 21.3 million dollars box office vs. 1.1 million dollar production costs 

Ghostly pirates don’t do it for me, but Adrienne Barbeau always does.  

7. Body Bags (1993)


“Three short stories in the horror genre: the first about a serial killer, the second about a hair transplant gone wrong, and the third about a baseball player.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% 

IMDb: 6.2 

Profit: N/A – TV Film

“The Gas Station” stands as one of the best segments in ANY anthology film. The other stories pale in comparison, but are decent in their own right. 

6. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)


“An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer’s books have on his fans is more than inspirational.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 58% 

IMDb: 7.1 

Profit: 8.9 million dollars box office vs. 8 million dollar production costs

A long 95 minutes with some cool imagery and a Lovecraftian touch, it fails to come together. 

5. Vampire$(1998)


“Recovering from an ambush that killed his entire team, a vengeful vampire slayer must retrieve an ancient Catholic relic that, should it be acquired by vampires, will allow them to walk in sunlight.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 42%

IMDb: 6.1

Profit: 20.3 million dollars box office vs. 20 million dollar production costs

James Woods steals the show in a stylish fun movie that often goes from night to day and back to night whenever it suits the story.  

4. They Live (1988)


“They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

IMDb: 7.2 

Profit: 13 million dollars box office vs. 3 million dollar production costs

A tremendous action filled film thats message is as relevant today as it was in 1988. Wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper stars in his most iconic role. 

3. The Thing (1982)


“A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

IMDb: 8.2

Profit: 19.6 million dollars box office vs. 15 million dollar production costs

Perhaps the best remake of all time, Kurt Russell turns in a star making performance in a tense special effects powerhouse of a film. 

2. Prince of Darkness (1987)


“A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open the container, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all humanity.” 

Rotten Tomatoes: 61% 

IMDb: 6.7 

Profit:  14.2 million dollars box office vs. 3 million dollar production costs 

The most unnerving film on this list and the best representation of Satan, without even fully showing him, in any film ever made. Still haunting and frightening after all these years and repeated viewings. 

1. Halloween (1978)


“Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

IMDb: 7.7

Profit: 70 million dollars box office vs. 300,000 dollar production costs

The one that started the slasher craze of the 80s, perhaps the scariest, most influential, and most iconic film on the list, spawning an extremely lucrative franchise and numerous copycat. 

What do you think of the list? What would you change? Here’s hoping to us seeing one more film from the maestro. I would hate to end it on those last 2 films. 

About RetRo(n) 61 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.