Among horror film directors, few are more influential and prolific than them Dario Argento. With over half a century of films under his belt (his first came in 1970), Italian director Argento has become a popular purveyor of giallo, a subgenre of horror thriller that focuses more on psychocrime and mystery, usually with a slasher twist. Several Italian directors, such as Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci helped set the standard for giallo films, but none made more of an impact than Argento.
Now, at the age of 82, Dario Argento is back with his first new film in a decade, the last coming in 2012 Dracula 3D. his latest, dark glasses, coming to Shudder this month. In honor of that accomplishment and his historic contribution to horror, here are the top nine films of his legendary career.
9. Four Flies on Gray Velvet (1971)
In this giallo is a man named Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandons) kills a stalker in self-defense. Then he is stalked by a witness who starts killing everyone in his life. This isn’t one of Argento’s better-known films, but it’s certainly one of the strangest. The characters are a little absurd and the comedy is a little off the beaten path, but in typical Argento fashion, it’s a beautiful film, rich in color and possessed of a chilling atmosphere. The great score of Ennio Morricone helps make up for the film’s shortcomings. While this third Argento film doesn’t garner the same respect as his first two, it has that usual Argento flair that draws you in and shows that even his misfires are still hits.
8. Inferno (1980)
Filmed primarily in Rome, this film is set in New York City. There, a woman who lives in an apartment building where an old witch once lived has disappeared, and her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) searches for answers. The characters and plot aren’t the most exciting, but few horror films are as visually stunning as this second installment in Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, all of which have a witch-centric focus. The ghostly shades of blue feel like their own haunting character. The weird camera angles and tricks are impressive, if a little over the top. While this is a step down from the first in the trilogy, suspiracyits beauty more than makes up for its flaws.
7. Phenomena (1985)
This film has more American star power than any other Argento film, with a fifteen year old Jennifer Connelly act alongside donald pleaseadored by his starring role as Doctor Loomis in Halloweenhow it performs. We don’t have your typical slasher in this one. Yes, there is one who kills students at a school in Switzerland. Most intriguing is the protagonist who wants to stop the killer. Connelly plays a college student named Jennifer who can communicate with insects and uses this power to track down the killer. It sounds a little silly, but in Argento’s hands it works. It’s a creepy slow burn and also has one of the best performances by a chimpanzee you’ll ever see. There is no CGI here as in nopebut a real chimp who befriends Jennifer and saves the day.
6. Tenebrae (1982)
This slasher stars an American writer named Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is being pursued by a killer who is hunting him and those involved with his latest book. horror regularly John Saxton (A nightmare on Elm Street, Black Christmas) co-stars with a recurring Argento favorite, Daria Nicolodi, as two people who work for Neal. If you want your blood and guts horror movie get it here. Argento doesn’t hold back on blood. Even without the clever killings, it’s a big mystery that takes the viewer on a quest to find the killer. The heartache of the shocking finale is tempered by another beautifully shot, fabulously scored film leprechaun.
5. Cat-Nine-Tails (1971)
Argento’s second film is also the second in his so-called “animal trilogy”. Argento has called it the least popular of his films, but critics and audiences adored it. Here two men (Karl Malden and James Francis) follows nine leads (hence the title) into the unsolved murder of a doctor who was pushed in front of a moving train. This is a fun puzzle where each of the nine tracks leads us along with the protagonists on a path full of distractions and more twists and turns. This story is more straightforward, with nothing supernatural or overdone. It’s the characters that draw you in the most, especially the simple chemistry between Malden and Franciscus.
4th Opera (1987)
One image stands out more than any other in this film, one that even graced various versions of its promotional posters and has haunted audiences’ nightmares ever since. It’s that of a woman with her mouth taped shut, needles on her cheeks, and her eyes swollen with fear. You know immediately that you have chosen the classic Argento. The visual hype does not disappoint. Here, an actress named Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is kidnapped several times by a killer who holds her and holds her eyes open with needles while he forces her to watch him commit his gruesome crimes. It’s a squeamish watch with Argento’s signature tension and gore, but it’s made even better by the original and beautiful setting of an opera house. For the next several decades, Argento’s films were hit-and-miss. This was his last classic.
3. The Bird with Crystal Feathers (1970)
Argento’s first film is also among his best. This one, while not containing as much of the bright red blood of so much of his later work, helped launch the giallo movement of the ’70s. The first film in his “Animals Trilogy”, this film is a classic Argento crime thriller centered on a writer named Sam (Tony Musante), who witnesses a woman being murdered in an art museum. The killer, as many of Argentos would be, is invisible, identified only by the black gloves they wear and the knife they hold. Interestingly, Argento always played the killer’s gloved hands in his films. While the praise Argento received on its debut was more of a thriller than a straight horror, many reviewers compared it to him Alfred Hitchcock.
2. Suspiria (1977)
Argento has made two all-time horror classics. You can choose whether this one or the next is his best, and no choice would be wrong. This, the first in the “Three Mothers” trilogy, is his most famous, with its cinematography and use of color studied by film students for decades. It even had a successful remake starring it Dakota Johnson in 2018. However, nothing compares to the original. Here, one of horror’s best final girls, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harpers) is an American dance student who moved to Germany to train at a dance academy. Coincidentally, the studio is run by a coven of witches. co-written by him deep red Star, Daria Nicolodi, and with a spooky score of frequent collaborators, Goblin, this is an immersive nightmare you won’t be able to turn your back on. The razor scene alone is one of the most disturbing things you will ever see.
1. Deep Red (1975)
Argento’s best film is similar to many others he’s done, but done perfectly. Here we have the much-used plot of a man (David Hemmings) Witness a murder and then become entangled with the killer. Everything that works for Argento in his Giallo creations is top-notch, from the complex and bewildering Hitchcock mystery, to the gorgeous visuals, the brutal violence, the iconic goblin music, to the great chemistry between Hemmings and costar Daria Nicolodi. It’s packed with memorable scenes, from the nightmare fuel of a doll running straight at you, to the grisly finale where the killer is shockingly revealed and then finished off in the most gruesome of ways. Argento’s work oscillated between slashers and the supernatural, but this gory-filled mystery checks every box of what makes a giallo film great.
https://collider.com/best-dario-argento-films-ranked-inferno-suspiria/ 9 Best Dario Argento Films Ranked, From Inferno to Suspiria