For decades now, a copious amount of people have been drawn to horror movies. The horror film industry is a genre that has expanded a great deal, especially in the last 50 years. What started out as mainly monster films has broadened to many different types of horror films from slasher flicks, to monster movies, gore films, supernatural and psychological thrillers and so many more.
No matter what type of horror genre movies you tend to like, they all generally tend to gravitate towards evoking fear in their audience delivering exactly what every horror enthusiast loves: thrill and adrenaline.
From serial killers to ghosts to killer birds, flicks that methodically toy with our psyche will always be in high demand by people looking for a good scare. These are our picks for the 20 scariest films ever made.
20. Funny Games (2007)
Funny Games is a psychological thriller which is a remake of Michael Haneke’s 1997 Austrian film with the same title. This spine chilling thriller stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Michael Pitt and is about a family of three that return to their vacation home and end up being the victims of a home invasion. The psychotic invaders are two young men that show up dressed in white and are wearing white golf gloves. They end up forcing the family to take part in their sadistic “games” for their own amusement. What more needs to be said?
19. Inside (2007)
The french film À l’intérieur from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury is a frightening and sickening flick. It takes place on Christmas Eve, four months after Sarah and her husband were in a terrible car crash that only Sarah and her unborn child survived. As she prepares for the birth of her child, a woman knocks on her door, tries to force her way into her home, and torments Sarah through the night, trying to take away Sarah’s unborn child. Not the kind of film you’d want to show to and expecting mother.
18. Martyrs (2008)
Martyrs is another horrifying French film, this time about a young girl who seeks revenge against the people who kidnapped and tortured her fifteen years ago when she was a child. Now, years later, she takes her best friend, who was also a victim of child abuse, wither her on her vengeful rampage. Soon madness and delusion ensues, leading to a whirlwind of twists and turns. Martyrs is definitely not a film to watch if you have a weak stomach.
17. Possession (1981)
Possession stars Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani and is about a woman who begins to display intense and disturbing behavior after she asks her husband for a divorce. This film is quite Gothic and is filled with violence. It consists of raw emotion between the main characters. The film was not a box office hit by any stretch of the imagination, having made a measly $1,113,538 in theatres worldwide, but its complex story revolving around three main characters makes it a classic with more than enough scares for any horror fan.
16. ‘Thesis’ (1996)
Originally released in Spain and titled Tesis, this movie is a brilliant examination of the reasons why people are intrigued by death and the symbolism death represents. Thesis revolves around Angela (Ana Torrent), who stumbles across a snuff film in which a young girl is tormented until her death. She soon discovers that the girl on the video was a student at her school. Out of all the horror films that revolve around snuff films, this one stands out above the others.
15. Halloween (1978)
If you’re a fan of horror films, chances are you’ve seen John Carpenter’s Halloween a few times over the years. This cult classic begins on Halloween night in 1963. A young Michael Myers snaps and stabs his sister to death and then spends the next fifteen years in a mental institution. Myers returns to Haddonfield on Halloween in 1978 to kill his older sister Laurie played by scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Of all the sequels and remakes, nothing touches the experience created with the original Halloween film.
14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is about a young FBI agent, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), whose task is to interview convicted felon Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to get information about serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Hoffman’s character is a former doctor to serial killer “Buffalo Bill.” The film is full of a ton of twists and turns and is a creepy suspenseful thriller. It’s an intelligent example of cat and mouse.
13. The Orphanage ( 2007)
The Orphanage is a chilling film that takes place at a creepy orphanage. A young woman, Laura goes back to the orphanage she was raised in, hoping to open it up again and turning it into a home for children with disabilities. Together with her husband and adopted son Simon, Laura tries to open the orphanage, but soon discovers her son is communicating with an “invisible friend.” The film was praised by many for its lack of “cheap scares” and strong storyline, and it made several list of the top movies of 2007.
12. Hellraiser (1987)
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser starts off when Frank Cotton is offered a small puzzle box called The Lament Configuration by a mysterious man. Frank is told that once the box is open, it will unleash the gates to an unimaginable world but the man fails to tell him that it will also unleash the demons within the box. The demons enjoy capturing humans and tormenting them in the labyrinth of pain. Hellraiser turned its main antagonist Pinhead into one of the most terrifying characters in film and solidified the series as a go-to horror film everyone must watch.
11. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s cult classic The Thing takes place in the Antarctic and focuses on a group of American scientists. It’s not long into the film that they are taken away from their research and thrown into craziness, when two weird Norwegians show up hunting an escaped dog. They discover the Norwegians are killed and the dog ends up in their camp base and things soon go from crazy to dangerous. The scientists find that the “dog” is not a dog, but actually a shape-shifting organism which takes the form of its victims.
10. Sinister (2012)
Sinister follows Ellison (Ethan Hawke) a true-crime writer who moves with his family to a house where a family was hung to death on a tree in the backyard. Ellison comes across a box of home movies “found footage” of murders that puts him and his family in danger. He soon discovers the serial killer he is now researching dates back to the ’60s. The more he investigates the footage the more he realizes how much he is in over his head after finding out that the killer is an ancient being who takes the souls of children.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project has its main characters, Mike, Josh and Heather on their way to the supposed cursed woods of Maryland, supposedly in search of the notorious Blair Witch and anything else that may reside in the woods. The film is shot with a hand held camera which makes the film even more creepy. The directors leave you questioning the contents of the film the entire time. Are Mike, Josh and Heather experiencing the supernatural in some way? Have they completely lost their minds? Or are they victims of a vicious prank by suspicious town folk?
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper’s original horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is as terrifying now as it was 40 years ago. The plot revolves around five friends who go to visit their grandfather’s house in the country and fall victim to a family of sadistic cannibals. Hooper does an amazing job focusing on psychological terror rather than gore, leaving his audience horrified and in disbelief. Although it got mixed critical reactions upon its initial release, the film grossed an amazing amount of money in theatres, and quickly became the new benchmark for horror films.
7. Poltergeist (1982)
It’s not a surprise that Poltergeist is one of the best ghost stories ever made with the collaboration of creative genius’s Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper. The film examines the effects of a haunted house and how it changes the lives of the family that live in the house. The supernatural forces are anything but friendly and terrorize everyone in its way. Although this film spawned an entire series of films, it remains the most successful in the franchise. Poltergeist was nominated for three Academy Awards upon its release in 1982.
6. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock doesn’t disappoint as Psycho is easily one of the best horror flicks of all time! Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is tired of her life and leaves town, but after driving a long way and getting caught in a storm, she gets off of the highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The Motel manager Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is a peculiar young man who appears to be dominated by his mother. What occurs next will leave chills running down your spine for days. This film is best known for the iconic shower scene in which our protagonist gets an unwelcome visit.
5. The Birds (1963)
The Birds is another chilling masterpiece from Hitchcock and it tells the story of a rich socialite who follows a potential boyfriend to a small Californian town that eventually takes a turn for the worst when a bunch of birds start viciously attacking people. There is no real explanation as to why the birds suddenly turn vicious, but Hitchcock’s build up is the key to the suspense and makes this film terrifying. The film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% and is said to be one of the best thrillers ever made because of Hitchcock’s knack for using suspense to freak out the audience.
4. Repulsion (1965)
Repulsion was Roman Polanksi’s first English film and was genuinely terrifying. He portrays fear in a unique way; instead of using monsters and serial killers he uses madness and hallucinations to manipulate his audience. Repulsion revolves around a young woman by the name of Carol, who is left alone after her sister goes away on vacation, and soon finds herself surrounded by her own demons which brings her to question her sanity. The film was the first in Polanski’s “apartment” series, which was followed by Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976).
3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Speak of the devil...Rosemary’s Baby is another brilliant Polanski film that will send chills down your spine. It’s about a young couple who move into a new apartment. As they settle in they realize they have very strange neighbors and weird events keep occurring that can’t be explained. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) learns that she is unexpectedly pregnant and becomes overwhelmed with feelings that the unborn child she is carrying is controlling her life. The film was incredibly influential in that it spawned a slew of Satan and black magic themed films such as The Brotherhood of Satan, Mark of the Devil, Black Noon, and The Blood on Satan’s Claw.
2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shinning is probably one of the best psychological thrillers ever made and was an adaptation of Stephen King‘s original novel written in the late ’70s. The film is about Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) who becomes the caretaker of a hotel in a remote mountain area, accompanied by his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). Peculiar things start to happen when Jack’s son starts seeing horrific images driven by supernatural forces called “the shining.” Between writer’s block and the supernatural demons haunting him, Jack suffers from a breakdown and the entire situation for everyone becomes sinister.
1. The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist was named the scariest horror movie of all time since it first hit theaters in 1973 and for many people it still is over 40 years later. Young Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting strangely, and speaking in tongues, and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) is terrified and tries to find help for her daughter. Finally, she meets a priest (Jason Miller) who thinks Regan is possessed by the devil and decides to perform an exorcism. The Exorcist set the standard for all horror films to come and is still widely regarded as the best ever made. The scariest part? It was inspired by the true story of Ronald Doe’s exorcism in 1949.