Robert Thorn Played by: Gregory Peck
Film(s): The Omen (1976)
Played with sublime gruffness and unfolding layers of guilt by Gregory Peck (who, along with Richard Donner, believed he was making a thriller, rather than a supernatural horror), Thorn gives The Omen a rock-solid foundation on which to ladle the scares. It's hard to imagine anyone but Peck selling the 'When the Jews return to Zion' speech. Just ask Liev Schreiber.
Ben Played by: Duane Jones
Film(s): Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George A. Romero's debut was groundbreaking for the horror genre in a number of ways, including its protagonist. It's hard, now, to overstate the impact that Duane Jones's Ben had at the time. Not only was he a black hero at the height of the Civil Rights movement, in the same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, but he was a black hero who was smart, sassy, proactive, and who survived. That is, of course, until Romero's pointed ending, in which Ben is 'mistaken' for a zombie and shot by a bunch of rednecks.
37 Laurie Strode Played by: Jamie Lee Curtis
Film(s): Halloween (1978)
Jamie Lee Curtis' stalked 'sitter becomes, arguably, less interesting later when she's saddled with being Michael Myers' stalked sister. But she's still the resourceful, indefatigable horror heroine to beat.
Shaun Riley Played by: Simon Pegg
Film(s): Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Simon Pegg is a very British hero. Penchant for tea? Check. Cricket bats? Check. Watching the telly? He may make terrible decisions that get plenty of red on him and his friends, but Pegg imbues the hapless, ever-so-slightly lost Shaun with such likeability that we're with him every step of the way as he tries desperately to prevent 'Of The Dead' from becoming his new surname.
Henry Frankenstein Played by: Colin Clive
Film(s): Frankenstein (1931)
Although he shouts "It's alive!" in a manner that sparked hundreds of imitators, Colin Clive's Henry Frankenstein isn't the insaniac that many screen Frankensteins are. He's clearly one bolt short, but Clive plays Frankenstein as a driven, hungry young scientist who is almost immediately consumed by regret and guilt once he sees what he has created. Perhaps because audiences in the 1930s needed someone to root for, Clive is alive by the movie's end, and is more heroic still in Bride Of Frankenstein, where he's coerced into continuing with his experiments.
34 Dracula Played by: Bela Lugosi
Film(s): Dracula (1931)
"Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make." Bela Lugosi made an impact that few actors have equalled before or since as the scheming, fiendish Transvylanian c(o)unt in Tod Browning's 1931 version. Based on a stage play, Lugosi's is by far the most verbose of screen Draculas, wrapping that magnificent Hungarian accent around lines like the above while, with his burning stare and Ray Reardon hair, he's possibly the most iconic screen vampire of them all. Maybe even more so than Christopher Lee's version.
Sgt. Howie Played by: Edward Woodward
Film(s): The Wicker Man (1973)
Why does Sgt. Howie burn so easily? Because he's made of Wood! Ward. Dammit. Anyway, The Artist Formerly Known As Eewah Woowah is hugely impressive in Robin Hardy's classic as the puritanical Scottish cop whose moral rectitude and outrage at the pagan rituals he finds on Summerisle is outweighed only by the sheer size of the brick in his boxers when he spies the Wicker Man and realises his imminent fate. Oh, Christ! Oh, Jesus Christ!
32 Sadako Played by: Rie Inō
Film(s): Ring (1998), Ring 2 (1999)
The most chilling of the stream of raven-haired J-horror ghosts, Sadako is the ultimate video nasty. Hideo Nakata's original Japanese version is much more terrifying than Gore Verbinski's American remake precisely because it has the balls not to show us Sadako's face, trusting instead that a close-up of a vengeful eye will be enough to make us rush to unplug the telly.
Dr. William Weir Played by: Sam Neill
Film(s): Event Horizon (1997)
It's clear that Sam Neill's Dr. William Weir is a mite crazy even before he gets on board the ship that he created; a ship that has become, literally, a gateway to Hell. He's plagued by visions of his dead wife, something that's only exacerbated by the presence on board, a presence that soon claims the good Doctor and puts the 'Weir' in 'weird'. Before you can say 'Jurassic Park', Weir has plucked his eyes out and is running around naked, bumping off the crew one by one with gay abandon while hissing lines like 'Where we're going, we won't need eyes to see'. Who'd have thought a naked, eyeless Sam Neill would be so terrifying? Don't answer that.
30 Eli Played by: Lina Leandersson
Film(s): Let The Right One In (2008)
Lina Leandersson's wicked inversion of the girl next door, reinvented as an age-old vampire trapped in the body of a wide-eyed teen, forms a morbid and mutually dependent relationship with her young death-obsessed neighbour, Oskar.
Jack Goodman Played by: Griffin Dunne
Film(s): An American Werewolf In London (1981)
"Have you ever tried talking to a corpse? It's boring." Griffin Dunne's ever-decomposing zombie best friend lights up American Werewolf every time he appears, putting the 'dead' in deadpan.
Pinhead Played by: Doug Bradley
Film(s): Hellraiser (1987)
Although his impact was watered down by a phalanx of terrible sequels, it's no surprise that Doug Bradley's demonic torturer - billed simply as 'Lead Cenobite' in the first movie - became the focal point of the Hellraiser series. His appearance alone is startling, as is the deep, treacly British accent, but Pinhead's a fascinating character far removed from Freddy or Jason or any other 80s movie monster. He's not, initially at least, a stalk'n'slasher, but a complex character who's only interested in one thing: meting out punishment to those who deserve it. Or is it pleasure? As far as Pinhead's concerned, it's one and the same thing, the kinky bastard.
27 Regan Played by: Linda Blair
Film(s): The Exorcist (1973)
In many ways, expecting Linda Blair to forge a successful career post-Exorcist was unfair, because this is a role, and a performance, that 99% of actors could never top. Blair is extraordinarily brave as the young girl corrupted by Pazuzu, going to a host of dark places and enduring a number of indignities with the fearlessness that only children can possess. Yes, Dick Smith's astonishing make-up and Mercedes McCambridge's rasping voice does some of the heavy lifting, but without Blair's rock-solid base upon which to build, Regan wouldn't have half the lasting impact she does. Also, some of the most affecting scenes show Regan pre-transformation, when Blair perfectly captures the panic of a young girl who doesn't understand why her body is, all of a sudden, betraying her.
26 Rosemary Woodhouse Played by: Mia Farrow
Film(s): Rosemary's Baby (1968)
An unforgettable Mia Farrow is the gentle soul driven to distraction and madness when she suspects that she's at the centre of a supernatural conspiracy. Of course, she's absolutely bang on about that, but the most disturbing moment in Roman Polanski's movie comes at the end when the conspiracy is revealed and Rosemary comes face-to-face and eye-to-lizardy-eye with her baby, the scion of Satan, and begins cooing like any devoted mother would. We've got a feeling those two are going to end up on Jeremy Kyle any day now.
Quint Played by: Robert Shaw
Film(s): Jaws (1975)
Robert Shaw was a force of nature as a man, so it's only fitting that his most memorable screen role follows suit. Quint, the Ahab-a-like shark hunter who becomes obsessed with hunting down the Great White munching on tourists in Amity, has one of the most memorable entrances (nails down the blackboard) and exits (bitten in half, blood spurting from his nose in distressing fashion) in movie history. Inbetween, Quint is a roaring, raving maniac, singing old sea shanties and snarling for New England. And then comes the speech about the Indianapolis, the origins of which have been forever debated. But here's one thing that's incontrovertible: whoever wrote the words, Shaw says 'em with a gusto and a gravitas that tips Quint over from larger-than-life a-hole to tragic hero. Genius.
Nancy Thompson Played by: Heather Langenkamp
Film(s): A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Heather Langenkamp is the original Dream Scream Queen, the first nemesis of Freddy Krueger, smart enough and plucky enough to take on the four-fingered fiend not once, not twice, but three times (if you count Wes Craven's brilliant New Nightmare, in which Langenkamp plays herself). The key to confronting Freddy seems to be in Nancy's demeanour. From the off, she seems a lot older, wiser and more self-assured than her years. She's far from the flighty teenagers who usually populate movies like this, and that level-headedness comes in handy when she's confronting Krueger in his boiler room, or running up porridge stairs.
Bum Played by: Bonnie Aarons
Film(s): Mulholland Drive (2001)
Inexorable nightmare logic and an atmosphere of utter dread leads to this massive jump scare behind the Winkies diner. If you're wondering how a character that appears in just one scene can be so high up on this list, just count the nightmares.
The role that made a star out of Susan Alexandra Weaver, Ellen Ripley (of course, we don't learn that she's called Ellen until Aliens) is a put-upon, long-suffering but steely warrant officer on board the good ship Nostromo, who finds that she must step up to the plate when a slimy bastard with acid for blood starts treating her crew as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Ripley has always been painted as an indomitable force of nature, but what's interesting about Alien, in particular, is how willing Weaver was to show that she's absolutely bloody terrified, even as she musters up the courage to blow the thing out of the goddamn airlock.
Rhodes Played by: Joe Pilato
Film(s): Day Of The Dead (1985)
Joe Pilato's blackhearted soldier is insane when we first meet him, and only spirals downwards from there, his raging bloodlust way more dangerous than any zombie. His comeuppance, yelling "CHOKE ON 'EMMMMMMM!'" at a group of zombies as they rip him in two and feast on his intestines, is iconic, influential and still not half of what the bastard deserves.