Ranking 10 Best Giallo Movies, According to Reddit – Collider

Dive into the nightmarish world of ‘Giallo’ films.
Giallo refers to a subgenre of Italian films that emerged in the 1970s, beginning with the success of Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Influenced by the work of Agatha Christie, Giallo movies generally include serial killers, mystery, eroticism, and artful cinematography. The phrase literally means "yellow," a reference to the subgenre's origins with pulp Italian crime stories published with yellow covers.
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In 2020, the largest horror subreddit, r/horror, held a poll to vote for the best Giallo movies. The resulting top 10 contains plenty of quintessential Giallo movies to sink your teeth into. Fans of the genre, or newcomers looking to give it a try, should find some gems to enjoy.
Stage Fright is a slasher movie directed by Argento protégé Michael Soavi, who had previously acted in several of Argento's films. It centers on a theater troupe putting on a musical about an owl-headed killer. However, the line between fiction and reality blurs as one of the cast members dons the owl mask and butchers people in real life.
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The premise is nothing special, but the movie stands out due to its abundance of memorable imagery, especially the owl costume (which might have inspired Under the Silver Lake) and an assortment of murder weapons, including a pick ax and a chainsaw. Not to mention, like many Giallo films, it breezes by at 86 minutes long.
A young Jennifer Connelly stars in this movie as Jennifer, a girl with psychic powers and the ability to communicate with insects. After her roommate at their elite Swiss boarding school is murdered, Jennifer tries to use her abilities to catch the killer. A large portion of the budget was spent on the bugs seen in the film, including spiders and scorpions imported from Africa. It's truly an entomophobe's nightmare.
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Argento's knack for striking imagery is again on display, and he makes good use of the color blue throughout the movie. On release, most critics considered Phenomena inferior to Argento's best work, but its reputation has improved in the intervening decades. It's also had a second life on home video. The Blu-Ray version released in 2017 was very popular.
This proto-slasher occurs on a university campus, where a killer is stalking the students. The murderer wears a mask and offs people by strangling them with a scarf. It's the signature film of director Sergio Martino, who worked on dozens of movies from the 1960s til the early 2000s.
Torsois one of the trashier Giallos, but that's also its charm. It may not be as thought-provoking as other films on this list, but it's still beautifully shot and features two phenomenal scenes: one depicts an attack in a foggy forest, and the other focuses on one of the characters watching helplessly as her friends are killed. Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of the movie, as is Eli Roth, who says it influenced his film Hostel.
Don't Torture a Duckling was directed by talented horror filmmaker Lucio Fulci, who also made The Psychic and The Beyond. It revolves around a series of child murders in a small Italian town, driving its inhabitants into a frenzy. Locals quickly turn against each other, hurling accusations and airing old grievances. A police officer and two others begin digging into the case as the situation grows increasingly volatile.
Of all the Giallo masters, Luci had the biggest passion for schlock. His movies are packed with bloody, gruesome practical effects. But he also engages with some complex themes. Like many giallos, Don't Torture a Duckling explores religion and is skeptical toward priests and the church. It's also a commentary on life in a small town and the vicious politics that can take root there.
Opera is yet another movie by Dario Argento. In the film, a masked killer stalkers an opera house, picking off victims one by one. The murderer even attacks some of the opera's pet ravens, which are being used for a production of Macbeth.
There's a great scene toward the end of Opera where the birds get revenge on the killer. One of the main characters, Marco (Ian Charleson), sets a flock of ravens loose in the opera house during a performance. The birds recognize the killer who assaulted them, so they unleash avian mayhem upon him, gouging out one of his eyes. The early bird catches the eyeball.
Sam (Tony Musante) is an American ex-pat living in Rome. He witnesses a murder, so he and his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) put on their amateur detective hats and start investigating. In the process, they meet an assortment of oddball characters. Although there were earlier Giallo films, like Mario Bava's 1963 movie The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the first to find to be a hit, both critically and commercially. It put the genre on the map.
Here, Argento gleefully shows off his skill at ratcheting up the tension. The best moments in the film aren't the violent scenes but rather the calm scenes just before them, where Argento builds up the anticipation and the dread. At his best, he rivals Hitchcock as a purveyor of macabre thrills.
Blood and Black Lace is an early Giallo film by Italian horror master Mario Bava, who also directed the excellent anthology film Black Sabbath. It takes place at a fashion house in Rome, plagued by scandals, where a masked killer begins preying on the models.
The film helped establish several key Giallo tropes, like the killer always wearing gloves. It also has a unique visual style that makes bold use of primary colors. Indeed, Bava blends an arthouse sensibility with a B-movie enthusiasm for gore. This proved to be an effective combination. Blood and Black Lace influenced several directors and has been directly referenced by Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodóvar, and, of course, Dario Argento.
Tenebrae (Italian for "darkness") is another film by—you guessed it—Dario Argento. It follows mystery writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), who is on tour in Rome to promote his latest book. However, he becomes entangled in the search for a serial killer who appears to have been inspired by his novels. Argento got the idea for the movie after he started receiving death threats from some of his fans.
What sets Tenebrae apart is its meta quality. It has been interpreted as Argento's response to criticism of his earlier movies, especially allegations that his work was overly violent. On release, it was banned in the UK and censored in the US, but in recent years the original version has been reappraised. Many fans and critics have since ranked it among Argento's finest work.
Suspiria might be Argento's most beloved movie. It follows Suzy (Jessica Harper), a young ballerina who begins studying at an elite dance academy, but a series of murders turn the school upside down. Suzy begins investigating and eventually stumbles across a conspiracy involving black magic. It's like Black Swan, but with more witchcraft and stabbing.
One of Argento's most visually stylish and vivid films, Suspiria uses bright, hyper-stylized colors and over-the-top imagery alongside a killer soundtrack by the band Goblin. It acquired cult status over the decades and influenced several filmmakers, including Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino who remade it in 2018. Guadagnino's version ditches the bright colors for a muted, wintry aesthetic but is still well-crafted and worth watching.
Deep Red is another cult classic Giallo film from Argento. A jazz pianist (David Hemmings) witnesses a murder by a killer wearing black leather gloves. He and journalist Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) set out to identify the culprit and stumble upon a web of mysteries in the process. Argento's directorial pyrotechnics are on full display here, including a camera that never seems to stop moving. He also tosses in a truly evil-looking doll for good measure.
The film influenced several horror directors. In particular, David Cronenberg imitated one of the deaths in Deep Red with the head-exploding scene from his movie Scanners. Halloween II similarly copied a kill scene where a character is murdered with scalding water. Deep Red is also a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who said the film "rattled" him as a teenager.
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Luc Haasbroek is a writer and videographer from Durban, South Africa. A lifelong movie nerd, he’s written for sites like Paste and Briefly. Luc has also worked behind the camera on short films and other projects. When not writing or watching LOTR marathons, Luc hangs out with his cats and generally forgets where he’s left his keys.


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