In July 2022, on the heels of the premiere of his third feature “Nope,” Jordan Peele went viral when he responded to a tweet calling him the greatest horror director of all time. “Sir, please put the phone down I beg you,” the writer/director wrote. “Sorry. I love your enthusiasm, but I will just not tolerate any John Carpenter slander!!!”
That’s just one of many examples of Peele professing his love for classic horror cinema. Even before he established himself as one of the industry’s top filmmakers, Peele was always open about his love for the sometimes taboo genre. In recent years, he has used his newfound status as a darling of the horror community to wax poetic about the many scary subgenres he enjoys. From 1980s slashers to meticulously crafted contemporary psychological horror, Peele’s appreciation for the art of the scare only seems to increase as his filmography grows. And the filmmaker is far from a passive viewer: Peele’s films are littered with references to famous horror mainstays, and his online fans have a field day unpacking the various homages.
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Peele’s trajectory to becoming one of the most acclaimed directors currently working in Hollywood is not something many would have predicted ten years ago, when he was one half of the Comedy Central sketch series “Key & Peele.” Co-created by Peele with his fellow “Mad TV” alum Keegan Michael Key, the show ran for five seasons to critical acclaim, snagging two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody. For a lot of people that would be a career peak, but it was just the beginning for Peele.
In 2012, Peele founded Monkeypaw Productions, which produced “Key & Peele” and has since grown into a powerhouse production company — responsible for supporting work of Black directors like Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”). In 2016, Monkeypaw produced “Keanu”: a film Peele co-wrote and starred in with Key. In 2017, Monkeypaw produced Peele’s directorial debut, 2017’s “Get Out.” A frightening, funny thriller that critiqued clueless white liberalism through classic horror movie conventions, the movie was an immediate critical smash, and has only grown in esteem since. The Best Picture nominee won a coveted spot in Sight & Sound’s critic’s poll of the 100 best films of all time in 2022.
And Peele hasn’t rested on his laurels; his follow-up’s “Us” and “Nope” received similar critical acclaim, lauded as some of the best films of their respective years. His fourth feature, currently untitled, is heading to cinemas on Christmas Day, 2024. No other information about the movie — including the plot or who is in it — has been announced, but it’s a safe bet that no matter what, it’ll get people talking.
If you’re a new horror fan looking for a primer or simply seeking to round out your knowledge of the genre, you could do a lot worse than watching Peele’s favorite films. Keep reading for a roundup of 20 movies that have inspired the “Nope” director.
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