The 5 Horror Movies Martin Scorsese DEMANDS You Must Watch

A few of the genre entries that shaped the director's love of cinema

When interviewed Martin Scorsese prior to the release of Hugo (2011), they made careful note of the 85 classic movies he mentioned over the course of the conversation and what he had to say about them and ran a summary, a sort of quick and dirty Martin Scorsese history of film.

I will take any opportunity to plug Kill Baby Kill

I will take any opportunity to plug Kill Baby Kill

Amongst the titles discussed were five horror and thriller pictures.  Obviously, these are not the only movies of this type that Scorsese would recommend; the man is, after all, an avowed Mario Bava fan – even acknowledging Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) as a direct influence on his own The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) – yet not a single Bava picture came up in the discussion.  But this is a good sampling of the tastes of one of the great modern directors.


cape fearCape Fear (1962)

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Written by:  John D. MacDonald (novel), James R. Webb (screenplay)

Starring: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin

Scorsese liked this one enough to direct a re-make (1991); in the original vs. remake debate, both sides have some pretty fervent supporters.  The original has a fantastic cast, and Thompson was a very talented director, whose career never quite reached the heights that his mastery of tension merited.


cat peopleCat People (1942)

Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Written by: DeWitt Bodeen

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph

The first in the successful series of horror pictures which Val Lewton produced for RKO in the 40s, Cat People is one of the most nearly universally praised films in the history of the genre, and for good reason.  In direct contrast to the monster-heavy Universal horror series of the time, Lewton and his crew emphasized psychology and atmosphere, and produced sequences that remain genuinely chilling to today’s audiences.  Among those pictures, the three directed by Tourneur (which also include I Walked with a Zombie [1943] and The Leopard Man [also 1943]) are generally regarded as the shining gems.


Dial-M-for-MurderDial M for Murder (1954)

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Written by: Frederick Knott

Starring: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings

Hitchcock’s one stab at 3D filmmaking, and one of his experiments (along with Rope [1948]) at limiting a movie to a single setting, this is one of the stand-outs of the director’s long career.  It is tense, compelling story, and – you know what?  It’s Hitchcock; I really don’t have to say much more than that.


house-of-waxHouse of Wax (1953)

Directed by: André de Toth

Written by: Crane Wilbur (screenplay), Charles Belden (story)

Starring: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phillys Kirk, Carolyn Jones

The chase sequence from Baron Blood.  I have to make up for Scorsese leaving Bava out by bringing him up twice, okay?

The House of Wax-inspired chase sequence from Baron Blood. I have to make up for Scorsese leaving Bava out by bringing him up twice, okay?

The second of three big screen versions of this story (the first was director Michael Curtiz’s Mystery of the Wax Museum [1933], starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray), House of Wax represented the first time a major American studio produced a film in 3D.  Where the earlier version had been primarily a mystery, de Toth’s re-make downplayed the investigative aspects to emphasize the horror.  It was this picture that really elevated Price to the status of a major horror star, starting him on the path to his eventual iconic status.  One chase sequence was so brilliantly shot and assembled that no less a master than Mario Bava openly aped it in Baron Blood (1972).


peeping-tomPeeping Tom (1960)

Directed by: Michael Powell

Written by: Leo Marks

Starring: Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey

Because it was released around the same time as Psycho (also 1960), and the two films have some shared themes, there is an ongoing critical debate about which is the superior work.  However, the similarities between the two are superficial, and comparisons between them don’t hold up under serious scrutiny.  As Scorsese points out, the killer’s use of a weaponized movie camera, and his recording of his victims as they die, “tied in the motion picture camera as an object of voyeurism, implicating all of us watching horror films.”


Want to further your horror education?  Reading The Blood Shed regularly will be a good start.  And, while you’re at it, check out our Facebook page and our Official Kickstarter!

One Comment

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  • Josh Millican
    22 November 2014 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Very interesting article. When people see that a master like Scorsese praises horror and was influence by it, it goes a long way towards legitimizing the genre and silencing the naysayers.