Bava’s other giallo entries are also essential, including The Girl Who Knew Too Much, with future Enter the Dragon and A Nightmare on Elm Street star John Saxon; Five Dolls for an August Moon, with frequent giallo vixen Edwige Fenech; and slasher prototype Twitch of the Death Nerve, a.k.a. Bay of Blood. But the deliciously lurid Blood and Black Lace is maybe the ultimate embodiment of what makes these films so damn titillating—and since it’s by Bava, it’s also eye candy at its finest.


A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

Lucio Fulci is maybe best-known for his films that are classified as straight-up horror: The Beyond, Zombi 2, The House By the Cemetery, etc., but his giallo game was also strong. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is our top Fulci pick; it’s about a woman whose freaky dreams become even more terrifying when she imagines she’s murdered her seductive neighbor... and the crime, perpetuated by an unknown assailant, takes place in real life. SHRIEK! A police investigation involving not-so-helpful “hippies” and psychoanalysis of a decidedly psychedelic nature soon ensue. (Madness, the fear of going mad, and the fear that others believe you’re going mad are all frequent giallo plot points.)

Fulci’s other giallo films of note include the wondrously bizarre Don’t Torture a Duckling, which also features Lizard star Florinda Bolkan (playing a hot witch) and showcases Fulci’s apparent fascination with Donald Duck, which later resurfaced when he made The New York Ripper. And if you’re ever in the vicinity of the weirdest thriller Fulci ever made—that’d be the leotard-and-leg-warmer-filled descent into violence that is Murder-Rock: Dancing Death—do not hesitate to drop everything and watch it.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

Obviously a Dario Argento film had to make this list—though like Fulci, he’s more known for his horror output, especially the visually striking Suspiria, which has become a classic. But Argento has a deep affection for giallo, too—he even made a film literally titled Giallo in 2009. His most influential genre efforts, though, came earlier in his career, and none more so than his 1970 debut film, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

After an American writer witnesses a brutal attack in Rome, he’s drawn into the police investigation and soon realizes he’s being targeted by a mysterious killer in a twist-filled tale that also includes fashion models (again), the art world, exotic birds, and raincoat-wearing fiends. Argento’s fondness for artfully-deployed yet garish color schemes is already in full flower, as is his distinctive use of unsettling music.


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage was a critical and commercial success, and Argento went on to make two more standout giallo films, The Cat o’ Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, in quick succession. A decade later, he made another giallo that’s worth adding to your list: Tenebre. Like Bird, it’s about an American author who gets wrapped up in some seriously freaky business, with all the requisite gory plot twists; it co-stars John Saxon as well as the delightful Daria Nicolodi, Argento’s then-wife and frequent collaborator. It’s also maybe the most meta film Argento ever made, since the main character is depicted as deflecting criticism over the extreme violence in his books. Ripping soundtrack, too.


Seven Blood-Stained Orchids

Director Umberto Lenzi’s name is most-often associated with the European cannibal-movie genre, though he also made several poliziotteschi (a.k.a. Euro-crime) films and the memorably horrific zombie flick Nightmare City. Plus, the prolific filmmaker also made this loose adaptation of Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, a story by British writer Edgar Wallace (King Kong), which is a giallo through and through.

It’s about newlyweds who are menaced by (you guessed it) a black-gloved killer, and it contains a scene involving a drill that’s absolutely on the level of brutality that you’d expect from a guy who went on to make a film entitled Cannibal Ferox, a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly. Impressively disturbing stuff.