Italian Horror Film Directors: Top 10

by DylanRitemyer | created - 03 Jul 2011 | updated - 03 Jul 2011 | Public

This is a definitive list of the top 10 Italian Horror filmmakers. These men created a new style and tone in horror films and their influence will be felt for the rest of time.

1. Riccardo Freda

Writer | Il cavaliere misterioso

Riccardo Freda was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Italian parents. Educated in Milan, he became a sculptor, then a newspaper art critic. He began a career in film in 1937 as a screenwriter and production supervisor. He moved into directing in 1942, beginning a career that lasted some 40 years. ...

Lust of the Vampire (1956) The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) The Ghost (1963)

Often overlooked, Riccardo Freda was the first filmmaker to bring gothic horror to the Italian audience with 'Lust of the Vampire'.

2. Mario Bava

Cinematographer | Reazione a catena

Italian director Mario Bava was born on July 31, 1914 in the coastal northern Italian town of San Remo. His father, Eugenio Bava (1886-1966), was a cinematographer in the early days of the Italian film industry. Bava was trained as a painter, and when he eventually followed his father into film ...

Black Sunday (1960) Blood and Black Lace (1964) Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971)

A master of cinematic effects, Mario Bava introduced the world to the 'Giallo' film; a precursor to the slasher.

3. Dario Argento

Writer | L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo

Dario Argento was born on September 7, 1940, in Rome, Italy, the first-born son of famed Italian producer Salvatore Argento and Brazilian fashion model Elda Luxardo. Argento recalls getting his ideas for filmmaking from his close-knit family from Italian folk tales told by his parents and other ...

Deep Red (1975) Suspiria (1977) Opera (1987)

Arguably Italy's most artistic horror filmmaker, Dario Argento perfected the Giallo and supernatural film.

4. Lucio Fulci

Writer | Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza

Lucio Fulci, born in Rome in 1927, remains as controversial in death as he was in life. A gifted craftsman with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of dark humor, Fulci achieved some measure of notoriety for his gore epics of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but respect was long in coming.

Abandoning ...

Zombie 2 (1979) The Gates of Hell (1980) The Beyond (1981)

The Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci brought a level of violence to his films not seen in his day.

5. Umberto Lenzi

Director | Superseven chiama Cairo

Born in Massa Marittima, Italy on August 6, 1931, Umberto Lenzi was a movie enthusiast since his early grade school years. During those years, he founded various film fan clubs while studying law. Lenzi started out as a journalist for various local newspapers and magazines. Lenzi put off his law ...

Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972) Deep River Savages (1972) Nightmare City (1980)

At first a maker of grisly thrillers, Umberto Lenzi gave the world the first Cannibal film. A genre which pushed the boundaries of artistic freedom in cinema

6. Sergio Martino

Director | 2019 - Dopo la caduta di New York

Talented, prolific and versatile writer/director Sergio Martino has made a vast array of often solid and enjoyable films in such diverse genres as horror, comedy, Western and science-fiction in a career that spans over 40 years.

Martino was born on July 19, 1938, in Rome, Italy. His grandfather was ...

All the Colors of the Dark (1972) Torso (1973) The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

A talented filmmaker, Sergio Martino brought a new or extreme twist to whatever sub-genre he worked in.

7. Bruno Mattei

Director | Rats - Notte di terrore

Born in 1931, Bruno Mattei grew up in Rome, Italy, where his father owned a small film editing studio. At age 20 Bruno started working odd jobs at his father's company as his assistant, then went on to other small spots. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a film editor, and soon found...

SS Girls (1977) Violence in a Woman's Prison (1982) Rats-The Night of Terror (1984)

A genre master, Bruno Mattei was often known for making inferior, non-licensed sequels to Hollywood blockbusters

8. Joe D'Amato

Director | La morte ha sorriso all'assassino

Joe D'Amato was born Aristide Massaccesi on December 15, 1936, in Rome, Italy. At age 14 he began working for his father, a chief electrician and later the founder of the company A.C.M. By going to school in the daytime, Massaccesi worked afternoons part-time as a stagehand and stage cameraman ...

Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973) Beyond the Darkness (1979) Antropophagus (1980)

Probably the sleaziest of the Italians, Joe D'Amato actually made more softcore pornography than horror.

9. Lamberto Bava

Director | Body Puzzle

Lamberto Bava was born in Rome, Italy, and was the first of a third generation of Italian filmmakers. His grandfather, Eugenio Bava (1886-1966), was a cameraman and optics effects artist during the early days of Italian silent cinema. His father, Mario Bava (1914-1980), was a legendary ...

A Blade in the Dark (1983) Demons (1985) Delirium (1987)

The son of Mario Bava, Lamberto made his own mark with well-made and suspenseful horror films

10. Michele Soavi

Director | Deliria

Born in Milan, Italy in 1957, Michele Soavi's parents separated when he was little and he lived with his mother who remarried a painter. Interested in his stepfather's interest in painting, Soavi began an interest in creative arts in his school. During his teenage years, he decided that the cinema ...

StageFright (1987) The Church (1989) Cemetery Man (1994)

Representing a new generation in Italian Horror, Michele Soavi seemed to lose his way as of late