No surprise to any of my friends that this one kicks this list off. Romero rules.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had the glorious opportunity to watch Chiller Theater every Saturday night. When Chiller debuted this zombie classic, I was plain old "sceerd" out of my mind and spent most of the night making sure the door and the windows were locked. I'd even look outside to make sure that none of the undead were coming across the lawn to our house. This film also seems to represent a theme in my taste: people who are isolated who do not quite realize the danger that they are in until it's almost too late.
Saw this beauty in SF when it first was released and can remember coming out of the theater like I was just riding a rollercoaster. The horror of the spider-crab-like face hugger was just so revolting and horrifying. Then one by one, the creature takes the crew until poor Ripley is all alone. Riveting pacing at the end. The theme of people isolated and in danger-bingo!
3. The Thing
Isolation, anyone? An Arctic team is in mortal danger before realizing it after an alien lifeform invades their camp. The alien can morph into anything and...anyone. Paranoia divides the team and the tension builds. The special effects are the old school latex gore, but work monsterously. CGI would have ruined this master film. This film sent several shock waves up my spine.
4. The Fog
One of two films that the Eclectic Guy household traditionally watches every Halloween. Low tech effects by today's standards, but this tale of ghostly revenge never ceases to send those little blasts of adrenaline. There's something in the fog alright and they're not selling insurance neither. Love every frame. Isn't this an isolated town as well? Aren't they in trouble before they realize it? Is there something in this that I should look into my own background?
A few college buddies of mine and I drove down to Wheeling to catch a new horror flick. Although tame by today's standards, in 1978, it was a whole new level of horror movie. I was so disturbed by this film that I damaged my car just backing out of a parking space. On the way back, we were all silent, still stunned by what we had seen.
There's that isolation theme again. What does it all mean doctor?
Well, gentle readers, there's my five. What about yours?
Honorable mentions: Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, An American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead 2004, Chamber of Horrors, Last Man on Earth, The Tingler.