There is fun horror, there is funny horror, there is bad horror, and there is scary horror. Nothing suits the month of October more than a truly scary horror film. They are definitely few and far between, with only a select few in existence that continue to terrify audiences year after year.
Here are the scariest horror movies of all time…
10. The Descent (2006)
The newest film on the list, this is one of the finest European horror movie imports of the last decade, and definitely the scariest. This movie will make you think twice about exploring uncharted territory in underground mines. The special makeup effects are astounding.
SCARIEST MOMENT: The night vision shot of the first creature.
9. The Fly (1986)
The original is a cult classic with Vincent Price at his smirking best, but the remake with Jeff Goldblum is a gore-ific masterpiece. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Make-Up, this magnificent morality tale, which features one of the saddest endings of any horror movie, has Goldblum slowly, and disgustingly, becoming a human fly. What’s scarier than that?
SCARIEST MOMENT: The fly jumps through the hospital window.
8. Psycho (1960)
While most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films were classified more as suspense thrillers than horror films, Psycho and The Birds tend to be known more as the latter. While the shower scene will remain as one of the most frightening moments ever committed to celluloid, the later kill at the top of Mother’s staircase is almost equally shocking.
SCARIEST MOMENT: Do you have to ask?
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The documentary like approach director Tobe Hooper brought to this memorable slasher movie still works wonders today, as the whole thing feels more damn real than The Blair Witch Project. For those who’ve never seen this film, take note — while it is definitely scary, most of the gore is implied and not shown, surprising given the suggestive title.
SCARIEST MOMENT: Leatherface’s first reveal behind the sliding door
6. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s brilliant science fiction film from 1979 has rarely been topped in the three decades since it’s been released. This is how horror is done, with a slow build-up and an unshakeable sense of dread. The scares are few and far between, but when they happen, they are genuinely thrilling. Sigourney Weaver is excellent in this, her first leading role, and her final showdown with the alien is one of the best moments of the series.
SCARIEST MOMENT: The chest bursting scene. Yuck!
5. The Exorcist (1973)
It’s known by many as the scariest movie of all time, but come on — it’s those last forty minutes or so that’s truly frightening. While this movie remains a classic and by far one of director William Friedkin’s finest works, the terror takes just far too long to get going to call this the number one scariest movie ever. But once that bedroom gets dark and freezing cold, there’s no turning back.
SCARIEST MOMENT: Regan rising through the air
4. The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi might be famous for directing three Spider-Man movies, but he started his career by helming this low-budget, innovative splatter movie. While attention might be given to the excessive (yes, very excessive) gore splashing against characters for ninety minutes, there are a number of frightening moments, particularly ones that don’t gravitate toward blood and guts at all.
SCARIEST MOMENT: The demonic presence’s cackling
3. Halloween (1978)
While Halloween III: Season of the Witch barely missed the list (totally kidding), the original chiller is here to stay. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, this film remains one of the very few that is frightening not only during its night scenes, but its ominous day scenes as well. Starting with one of the greatest long takes in horror cinema, and ending with one of the most terrifying open endings ever, Halloween will forever be the best horror movie ever made and easily one of the scariest.
SCARIEST MOMENT: The Shape appears in the shadows behind Laurie
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Yes, it’s true — there was a time back in the early 1980s when Freddy Krueger was actually scary. The guy became a punch line by the time parts 4 and 5 rolled around, and no matter how many sequels and remakes will continue to beat this poor character to death, the original Nightmare remains one of the most frightening movies ever. Everyone sleeps, and everyone dreams. What’s scarier than a creepy scarred killer chasing you in your dreams night after night, knowing there’s no escape, and knowing if he kills you, you won’t wake up, but be dead forever? Not a whole lot.
SCARIEST MOMENT: Freddy jumps up behind Nancy’s bed after she awakens from her dream
1. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s epic horror masterpiece is not only scary, but it scars you for life. No other movie fills the viewer with such dread throughout its long but never dull two-and-a-half hour running time. Jack Nicholson has always been a lunatic on screen, but the character he plays here will forever be his King of Complete and Utter Insanity. Filled with one bizarre, nightmare-inducing image after another, the movie preys on you all the way through its final, haunting tracking shot. Scariest movie of all time? Hell, yes.
SCARIEST MOMENT: Five words: “Come play with us, Danny.”
2 thoughts on “What are the ten scariest films of all time?”
Yes, I agree. What’s most brilliant about TCM is that it only suggests gore without actually showing the chainsaw piercing through the victims’ skin. It’s all implied. Simply brilliant. Though merely implying violence, I imagine even that was too much for audiences to handle at the time.
Nice list 😀
The shining, hmmm. I’m not so easy scared maybe. Often real life scares me more.