Whether you get excited by horror movies or love to endure the terror in order to enjoy a euphoric relief at the end, the fact is, you can’t stop watching them. And what is a better time to watch horror movies than Halloween? Here are the 25 scariest horror movies to get spooked during Halloween:
No great scariest horror movie list will ever be complete without The Exorcist, so why not start the list with this horror masterpiece from William Friedkin. When young Regan MacNeil (played masterfully by Linda Blair) starts showing increasingly disturbing behaviour, her mother enlists two priests to use the power of Christ to compel the demon out of her daughter’s body. What an excellent day for an exorcism. Whether you think it’s a straight-up horror movie, a psychological thriller, a meditation on faith, or some unholy combination of all three, one thing’s for sure: The Exorcist is unnerving as all hell. The menacing and satanic vocal stylings of Mercedes McCambridge add even more shock value to the movie. Whichever way the wind blows for you personally, to watch The Exorcist is to enter into a theological battleground and all the pain, puke, and trauma that entails. The haunting tubular bells score makes things even spookier. Death metal pioneers Possessed wrote a song called ‘The Exorcist’ as a tribute to this movie. Dialogues from this movie were also sampled in the song ‘Church of Deviance’ by Swedish technical death metal band, Spawn of Possession.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is “an exercise in the pornography of terror.” At least that is what James Ferman of the British Board of Film Certification called the film. He meant to criticize the film, but man is that a compliment to a horror movie. The words ‘pornography’ and ‘terror’ grabbed everyone’s attehtiom. It was also a rebuke from a film rating board. However, what separates this film from the pack of pretenders for the scariest horror movie crown is not only that it was the game-changing first, but that it is the best. The film doesn’t just elicit an emotional response it demands it. Whether its the dark humor of the dinner scene, the horror of Leatherface’s initial reveal, or the relief when our blood-soaked final girl scrambles away. Over 40 years later, Tobe Hooper‘s classic slasher is still a visceral experience of bodily horror. The iconography is so entrenched in our collective fear that a chainsaw is the most nefarious sounding power tool cluttering the aisle of your local hardware store. While Silence of the Lambs had Hannibal Lecter turned cannibalism bourgeoisie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre wriggled it around the Texas dirt like pigs. That’s the beauty of the film; its violence is tactile. Close at hand in the corridors of the Sawyer family home, unprepared hippies beware.
News of remakes is typically met with derision sight unseen, and while Hollywood has earned than cynicism over the years even a casual glance at some of cinema’s best and most memorable films reveals more than a few remakes among their ranks. Our scariest horror movies list here features a few remakes, and each stands not only against the original but also proudly in the genre itself. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, John Carpenter‘s 1982 fusion of horror and sci-fi builds much of its fear and tension through ideas of paranoia and mistrust, but its minimal cast of characters and isolated locale add an extra layer of hopelessness. Toss in a mesmerizing cast of performers (including Kurt Russell in his third of five collaborations with Carpenter) and a master-class in practical effects from Rob Bottin that still captivates to this day, and you have an endlessly suspenseful and thrilling experience. Ignored upon release, as great works of art sometimes are, the film has long since come to be revered for the classic it is. Whether viewed as a remake or simply as a new adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.’s short story, the movie remains a masterpiece.
Stanley Kubrick’s smorgasbord of horror is perhaps the only non-franchise film that has inspired enough imitators, documentaries, recuts, and homage episodes to populate a multi-day viewing marathon–plus a horror film festival set at two of its iconic hotels to boot. There is no way it won’t make the scariest horror movies list. The story, based on one of Stephen King’s earliest novels, is creepy in itself, overstuffed with silent twins, waterfalls of blood, a sweet-but-spooky psychic kid, and much more. But with Kubrick’s deliberate pacing, John Alcott’s vivid cinematography, and Jack Nicholson’s frenzied performance, the surreal, claustrophobic experience builds to a perfect fever pitch. Every moment of this movie, from “Here’s Johnny!” to “REDRUM” to “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” have been co-opted as pop cultural signifiers that seem unlikely to ever die, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
With so many slasher films, you wonder why the terrorized parties don’t just run as fast they can out of the situation. What makes Alien particularly scary is the idea that the Nostromo crew have nowhere to go. They’re on a spaceship in which a sneaky monster is out to kill for its own evolutionary survival. And yes, Alien is basically a slasher movie in space, with Ripley being more final girl than action heroine in her first instalment. But it’s not just a proto Jason X, as the movie is also pure science fiction, as well, with its believable scenario of a blue-collar space mission, bureaucratic android, and the wonder of life beyond our galaxy — emphasizing the fear and danger of the unknown that comes along with the curiosity. It belongs on every scariest horror movies list.
“I don’t think you appreciate the gut reaction people have to these things, Martin. It’s all psychological. You yell ‘Barracuda,’ everybody says ‘Huh? What?’. You yell ‘Shark’? We’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.’ Perhaps nothing else encapsulates the essence of this Spielberg classic than these words from Mayor Vaughn in the movie itself. There’s an infinite ocean resting just outside your doorstep, and escaping the horrors of your daily life is as easy as plunging into its cool graces. Clothes optional. But what evil lurks beneath its welcoming, warm waters? Nature. Hungry, and without remorse for your attachment to dogs or children. Steven Spielberg established himself as one of Hollywood’s great, populist directors by embracing B-Movie schlock with A-Movie craft. Jaws earns its fears through the aquaphobic police chief at its center. In witnessing Brody’s failure to save the Kintner boy from the belly of the beast we immediately relate to his sense of shame, and the eventual mission to hunt down the monster. He may need a bigger boat, but at least he has a couple of miscreants mad enough to join him on this venture. When John Williams’ relentlessly iconic score finally pays off with that chum chomping maw we’re all ready to face down the leviathan with Chief Brody. Horror gives way to heroism and it has to be one of the most satisfying climaxes in movie history. “Smile, you son of a bitch.” Yes, it features an animal as a villain, it’s still one of the scariest horror movies ever made.
Alfred Hitchcock’s roadside motel classic is a masterwork in suspense and structure, a film school staple that’s both technically flawless and narratively fulfilling. Anthony Perkins is hypnotizing as Norman Bates, the iconic disturbed motel manager with major mommy issues, and Janet Leigh deserves praise for an impressive performance that goes beyond the infamous shower scene she’s remembered for. Psycho is at its core a study in duality, so perhaps it’s appropriate that, with its 1960 release, it denotes a fissure between the candy-colored Hollywood hits of the 1950s and the emergence of the newer, edgier film diaspora of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Psycho isn’t often considered Hitchock’s best (that title usually goes to Vertigo), but its potent mix of visual misdirection, precisely orchestrated suspense, and powerful, lived-in performances can’t be beat. A classic entry into the scariest horror movies list.
This movie is so perfectly and hilariously crazy that it’s impossible not to feel the impish joy in this imagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s story. The film is grotesque and features some disturbing scenes but it’s extremely playful. You couldn’t have more fun watching a dead cat get re-re-animated. There’s a scene where a re-animated decapitated doctor places his head between the legs of the 80s scream queen Barbara Crampton. Of course she was naked during the scene. This production owned its lasciviousness. A genuine horror comedy is hard to get right, especially one that is so perverse. Jeffrey Combs, as mad scientist Herbert Gordon, and Crampton’s chemistry with Stuart Gordon’s script and direction is unmistakable. Re-Animator succeeds on that connection. Despite its grossness, it is fun to watch. And, it’s probably why they teamed up again to make From Beyond. Which was brilliant as well. US thrash metal band Rigor Mortis wrote a song called ‘Re-Animator’ and it featured a sampling of a Jeffrey Combs dialogue from the movie. It’s somewhat campy and some might argue against its appearance on the scariest horror movies list, but we will put it anyway.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Another exorcism movie that’s supposedly based on a true story, this one stars Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose, a country girl who goes away to college and then becomes possessed by the Devil.
The inspiration for the film came from the story of Anneliese Michel, an allegedly possessed woman who died from starvation after a series of unsuccessful exorcism attempts in 1976. Jennifer Carpenter’s ability to contort her body as her character falls more and more under the spell of evil forces is so mesmerizing and disturbing at the same time that it should have definitely won an award. Definitely one of the scariest horror movies ever. Don’t watch it around 3:30 AM.
A lot of purists prefer the original Japanese version of this movie. However, this remake starring Naomi Watts is an incredible horror movie on its own.
This movie (along with several others from the early 2000s) marked a transition from slasher and monster films to a more psychological approach that relies on suspense and anticipation over in-your-face jump-scares. The visuals of the girl crawling out of the TV screen have haunted millions of nightmares across the globe. One of the scariest horror movies ever.
This entry on the scariest horror movies list is aptly called Halloween. In the late 70’s, director John Carpenter was hired to direct a horror film intended to have the same impact as The Exorcist. With the assistance of then-girlfriend Debra Hill, Carpenter got to work on a script titled The Babysitter Murders. Fortunately, that awful title was scrapped and replaced with Halloween and a legend was born. Michael Myers is the villain of Halloween, but the film is less about a serial killer than what he represents. Michael is pure evil — and pure evil needs no motive and cannot be stopped. It was only his third feature, but Carpenter showed he had already mastered the craft. The film’s minuscule budget of $300,000 could’ve been a hindrance, but Carpenter used it to his advantage. This isn’t an overly violent and bloody slasher. There are no disposable characters here. When there is a kill it serves a purpose, it means something and it creates a beautiful rhythm and pace to the movie. It wasn’t the first and it certainly wasn’t the last, but when it comes to slashers Halloween is a cut above the rest.
An adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-selling novel of the same name, Roman Polanski’s first foray into Hollywood is a masterclass in paranoia and satanic panic. When it was released in 1968, Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan were in the mainstream consciousness and inciting fear of devil-worship among concerned citizens. Polanski’s film tapped into this hysteria marvelously, thus creating a timely nerve-shredding conspiracy thriller told from the point-of-view of a petrified, pregnant, protagonist. Polanski successfully puts the viewer in her shoes and we experience her ordeal as the horror unfolds. The movie also inspired the satanic cult subgenre of the 1970s, which is another reason to be thankful for the existence of Rosemary’s Baby. An extremely influential entry into the scariest horror movies ever list.
By the mid-nineties, there was no denying that horror was getting played out; creature features, Hitchcockian thrillers, B-movies, cult and camp, and teen slashers had all been done to death. Then Wes Craven’s Scream flipped the script by taking meta-horror mainstream, proving that one can make a scary movie and make fun of scary movies at the same time. The killer’s film-buff-baiting question, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” and Drew Barrymore’s prompt disembowelment kicked off a franchise that has so far included three sequels and a TV series. For horror fans, so much of the joy of Scream comes from seeing genre tropes (virgins live, partiers die, and for the love of god, don’t split up) deconstructed by teens with way better survival skills than most slasher protagonists. The original cast, including Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, and Rose McGowan, have the best group chemistry of any ‘90s horror ensemble, and keep the And Then There Were None-but-in-high-school plot fun and freaky. It spawned quite a view underwhelming sequels but the first instalment is definitely one of the scariest horror movies ever.
Dawn of the Dead
Watching Dawn of the Dead for the first time might be underwhelming for some. If for no other reason than to witnesses just how much has been copied and ripped-off from the horror classic. Every signature beat of this film has been seen elsewhere since its release whether that is the form of video games, television shows, or other zombie films. Dawn of the Dead is the iconic start of many zombie tropes we see today. The film takes place years after the events of Night of the Living Dead and follows four survivors as the try to make a life for themselves inside an abandoned shopping mall. While director George Romero’s previous work was in B&W, Dawn of the Dead is in full gory color. Behind the effects was Tom Savini, whose work was instrumental in capturing the horror of the zombie apocalypse. Outside of the blood and gore, Dawn of the Dead worked as a social commentary on material processions. There’s no question of Dawn of the Dead’s influence on the genre and how it remains a cornerstone of horror films to this day. One of the scariest horror movies with zombies.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy Kruger is terrifying, and this film is very much pure nightmare fuel. The shot of the angled ceiling over Nancy’s bed as Freddy flexes against the membrane to our reality immediately became one of my all time favorite cinema moments. Nancy is tough, resourceful, clever and rightfully terrified. Freddy is the nightmare man. Thirty three years on and those effects still kill; from the blood explosion, to the nightmare arms, to the bath tub, to that ceiling shot, to all the kills. This film anchors the most consistently high quality horror franchise. What else to say? Wes Craven was the best at making the scariest horror movies. The resulting franchise featured the spectacular song ‘Dream Warriors’ by 80s metal band Dokken in the third instalment.
The Evil Dead
This cult classic horror movie amalgamated the essence of Friday the 13th and The Exorcist in a low budget format. The premise of the movie was the usual ‘unsuspecting youngsters stumble upon a haunted cabin in the woods’. However, Evil Dead pushed the plot to its goriest extremes (atleast for that time). low-budget cross between The Exorcist and Friday The 13th, The Evil Dead took the prevailing horror trope of five teenagers under supernatural siege in a cabin in the woods to the goriest extreme imaginable. It all starts when some typical horror movie dumbasses unleash arcane and evil forces by playing a tape of ancient incantations. Pro tip: If you ever find a tape with ancient incantations in an abandoned cabin’s basement, you will be better off not playing it. The movie did inspire the incredible song ‘Evil Dead’ by death metal legends, Death. When all is said and done, the ‘tree rape’ scene will still be one of the most disturbing things ever put to film. This cult classic belongs on every scariest horror movies list.
The stark, nihilistic tone of 70’s horror reached its peak in this unremittingly eerie tale of Biblical prophesies, death-by-photography and the devil-child Damien, protected from all attempts to destroy him by Satanic sects and dark forces. The menacing choral soundtrack alone was terrifying enough without the self-sacrificing nannies, speared priests and secret scalp 666s. The decapitation of photographer Keith Jennings, while not as extreme as modern day gratuitous gore, is still one of the most masterfully shot death scenes in horror movie history. One of the many reasons why The Omen is one of the scariest horror movies of all time.
Silence Of the Lambs
This is one of those movies which everybody must watch at least once in life. It’s a triumph of cinema in almost every aspect. Few movies can send a shiver down your spine like Silence of the Lambs.
The combination of Anthony Hopkins as the seductively grotesque Hannibal Lecter, Jodie Foster as the take-no-nonsense Clarice Starling, and some…ahem, lotion in the basket makes this a highly enjoyable roller coaster of freak-outs. Based on the popular novel by Thomas Harris, it’s truly one of the best psychological thrillers and scariest horror ever.
Based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, this movie revolves around the story of Carrie White, a small-town girl living in a house with a mother who is a religious nutjob.
Carrie discovers some deadly and diabolical powers in herself as the movie’s plot thickens. In essence, Carrie is also a great revenge flick. After all, which girl wouldn’t want to telekinetically throw things at people who made fun of her period stains in high school? The shock value and viscera practical effects make it one of the scariest horror movies ever.
Before the series turned into a long and drawn out torture porn extravaganza with unwatchable montage of ludicrously graphic self-mutilations as people were forced to gouge and slice themselves out of impossibly elaborate traps as punishment for uploading too many vines with them dabbing (or something like that), James Wan’s original Saw was a smart, sleek horror masterpiece. Sorry about the long and unending sentence, it was meant to mimic how long and unending the Saw series had become.
This twisting ‘jigsaw’ puzzle of a film introduced us to one of the most nightmarish villains in movie history, the Jigsaw Killer. The film was more than just gore and torture porn, as two men chained by the legs in a dilapidated bathroom raced to unravel the connection between them before the fatal ‘game’ was over.
While it’s filled with shocking and legendary imagery, perhaps nothing matches up to Amanda slashing her way into a paralysed man’s stomach to get the key to unlock her reverse bear trap, otherwise known as ‘bastard braces’. One of the goriest and scariest horror movies ever.
The best/worst part about The Conjuring? How much of it is true. Set in 1971, this movie introduces us to the Perrons, a large family that moves into a creepy Rhode Island farmhouse and gets all kinds of haunted. Real-life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) roll in to get rid of the demonic presence lurking in the house, and it’s all extremely nope-nope-nope from there.
But how real is it? According to Lorraine, realer than real: “The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening,” she told USA Today. “It still affects me to talk about it today.” This is definitely one of the scariest horror movies.
It fully ruined everyone’s childhoods by introducing the world to Pennywise, a deranged clown who eats children faster than normal people eat pizza. Thanks It, people don’t laugh at clowns anymore. The 80s original is a good movie but the remake is far better for those who really love getting spooked.
Welcome the post-It world, where clowns don’t put a smile on anyone’s face. And clown movies are featured on the scariest horror movies list.
Jordan Peele’s wildly successful directorial debut isn’t so much scary as it is highly unsettling, disturbing, and steeped in some horrifying truths about racism in America.
The movie centres around Chris and Rose, an interracial couple. When they visit Rose’s white parents, Chris quickly realizes that there is something strange with Rose’s family and friends. He soon finds out that he is being auctioned off to the neighbourhood white people and all hell breaks loose. Not one of the scariest horror movies in literal terms, but definitely terrifying.
This might not be the first ever ‘fake snuff’ film, however Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 Cannibal Holocaust is probably the most famous. The film featured a ‘recovered tape’ which showed some explorers venturing into the Amazon rainforest to interact with allegedly cannibal tribes of the region. No point mincing words here, this movie is hard to stomach. The documentary style of the movie, coupled with the casting of real indigenous people as actors led to wide-spread rumours that the on-camera deaths were real. The snuff film rumours led to the film being confiscated within 10 days of its premiere and eventually being banned in 40 countries. Deodato was charged with obscenity and murder. (It probably didn’t help that the four main actors had contract provisions demanding that they stay out of the media for a year.) Once again, cast and crew members had to appear before an Italian court to prove that their film’s special effects were just that. Even after Deodato broke the actors’ contracts and brought them onto an Italian television show, he still had to explain how he pulled off one of the film’s disturbing impalement. Only then were the murder charges dropped. The brutal and gruesome animal deaths shown in the movie however, were real. It technically might not be one of the scariest horror movies ever, it’s definitely the most disturbing.
Blood on Satan’s Claws
Released in 1971, Blood On Satan’s Claw is the one of the three movies along with Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man, that spawned (and almost entirely made up) the small horror subgenre now known as ‘folk horror’. This film shared the central theme of Christian forces struggling to suppress a mushrooming pagan revival in England. The Satanic influence is grotesque and visceral in this movie. The spiritual pestilence in the air mostly afflicts the younger villagers. The pagan youngsters who retreat to the woodland and participate in “their games” – sexual violence and sacrifice. This film features the most erotic sequence of British horror. It features the local priest Reverend Fallowfield being seduced by the pagan cult leader Angel Blake. Blood on Satan’s Claws presents British paganism in its most graphic and quite honestly, worst form. A scene in which a teenage girl is raped, while the whole cult, plus two demented old folk, look on, feels over the top and extremely unsettling even today. So brutal was the scene that the filmmaker declared that he’d have shot it differently today. Not very well known among the casual horror fans, it’s definitely one of the scariest horror movies ever.