Top 15 Scariest Movies Ever Made
As I type this article Halloween is right around the corner. Now last year around this time I revealed my top 15 list of “Scariest Video Games”. This year I felt it fitting to reveal which movies I found to be the absolute scariest movies ever made! Now like all my top 15 lists I never list movies I haven’t seen, so if you feel a movie is missing from this list leave a comment. Chances are I either didn’t see it or we have a difference in opinion and quite honestly I love reading different views. So don’t be shy to challenge my list for any reason. I should note this is not a list meant to include thrillers. There is a fine line between horror and thrillers that sometimes mash together but for example I consider “Silence of the Lambs” and “Psycho” to be thrillers and “Elmo in Grouchland” to be horror. Anyway it’s time to turn on all the lights, make sure all the doors are locked and read through my top 15 scariest movies ever made!
15. “Carnival of Souls” A chilling independent horror film made in 1962 by Herk Harvey is a cult classic starring Candace Hilligoss. It’s about a woman who is the only survivor of a car accident. She awakens to find herself in a strange realm of the world, somewhere between the living and the dead. As she tries to solve the mystery of her situation she also discovers that she has become some sort of magnet for spirits. Something about organ music makes everything creepier and this movie has plenty of it. It’s final few scenes are incredibly haunting and you won’t soon forget them. It’s a little old school, heck it was old school for 1962 but it’s a great horror film anyone can enjoy.
14. Rosemary’s Baby Another horror film from the 60’s makes the list with “Rosemary’s Baby”. Ever had neighbors that were always up in your business? Pretty annoying right? What if you had neighbors that told you how to raise your child? Pretty obnoxious I assume? What if your neighbors told you that your child was the spawn of Satan? Some mothers might actually agree with them actually, but the other 15% would be outraged! That’s the plot of this cradle based horror from the cradle robber himself Roman Polanski. All potential jokes aside it’s a magnificent film and considered universally as one of the scariest movies of all time.
13. A Nightmare on Elm Street was one of those movies I saw as a kid that my parents told me not to watch but I watched anyway. And of course had terrible nightmares that I thought were more than nightmares because of the absolutely horrifying premise of this Wes Craven classic. For those who don’t know “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is about a group of teens being killed off one by one in their sleep by the evil Freddy Kruger a vengeful spirit of sorts who was burned alive for being a Roman Polanksi without the classic films on his resume to force film buffs to respect him. This film also started the film careers of Johnny Depp and Sharon Stone but among other things also sadly started one of the worst horror franchises ever made. Still this movie isolated from the rest stands out as a terrifying ghost story.
12. Halloween is the 1978 film by John Carpenter about Michael Myers a hilarious Canadian born actor who went on to portray Austin Powers and Shrek. Just kidding! It’s obviously about a crazy serial killer who returns to his suburban hood to kill fairly attractive teenagers. There is a minimalist sense of the motion picture and the violence is surprisingly tame when its featured on screen and that makes it all the more scary at the end when it becomes Jamie Lee Curtis vs. Myers. It’s a perfect Halloween movie as well. DUH!
11.Night of the Living Dead is the ultimate indie zombie film directed by now horror legend George A. Romero. The 1968 classic put zombies on the map in film and also remains quite possibly the best zombie film ever made (though maybe not the scariest) and paints a very interesting picture about people’s failure to cooperate because of petty differences. The zombies move slow, but they still manage to always over run people who have never played a single game of flag football in their life. There have been other good movies made about zombies but this one is the definitive zombie pic.
10. The Omen Let’s try and forget the 2006 remake and focus on the excellently shot, acted and directed 1976 horror template on all things involving your child being a potential vessel for Satan. First of all if your child’s shadow makes an ominous inhuman figure you should probably give him or her back to the stork it came from. Or leave the kid in a basket with a note for your caring neighbor Rosemary to pick up. Either way “The Omen” starring Gregory Peck has some of the best use of lighting to create a scary atmosphere with strikingly beautiful cinematography from Gilbert Taylor. Taylor also was the cinematographer for “Star Wars” and “Dr. Strangelove”. So check it out if you’ve ever had the itch to be scared while taking great notes on how to angle a camera.
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers both the 1950’s and 1970’s versions of this tale based on the book “Body Snatchers” are perfect for their genre and both have very scary and unforgettable endings. The plot revolves around alien pods that land in a small California town and take over the population, making them emotionless near zombies that walk around in human skin. How do they take over your body? All you have to do is fall asleep for a few moments and then they have you. Now there was a remake of these two films starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig called “The Invasion” it’s not nearly as bleak as these two originals nor as entertaining. So avoid it, and instead watch these two, you’ll be happy you did as you lay awake afraid to fall asleep.
8. The Sixth Sense you can tell when a movie is good, when people wait years and years to start spoiling the ending in mainstream culture. In quite possibly Bruce Willis’ best performance he plays a psychiatrist tasked with helping a kid played by Haley Joel Osmet in an iconic role work through his emotions as he claims that he can “see dead people”. This 1999 film is one of the few horror films to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. It is my opinion one of the greatest films of the 90’s and one of the greatest films ever made. It is a horror movie that makes you think, can make you cry and leave you with such a satisfied feeling about life and love. That’s something few horror films can do but make no mistake there are some horrific moments in this film that will send chills down your spine.
7. 28 Days Later has recently become a hipster’s guide to making a good zombie movie. Just about any hipster filmmaker you meet who wants to make a horror movie will mention either this film or “Dawn of the Dead” as the inspiration for the film their making, and that’s fine because this is probably the scariest zombie movie ever made. Maybe not the best, but the scariest. It made Cillian Murphy a household name and he’s still only been in about 5 blockbusters if you include a confusingly small cameo role in “Tron: Legacy”. That’s because this zombie film explores the science of the disease itself and finally answers the question “Well what happens if the zombies eat everything?” Part thriller, part horror, part action/adventure it’s the zombie movie for the guy always asking “well why do zombie movies work that way?” Did I mention it’s really scary?
6. The Exorcist I’ve heard many say that “The Exorcist” is an overrated horror film, and that may be so but that still doesn’t mean that it’s not one of the most well crafted horror stories ever made. Even non-religious people find this tale of possession unsettling and let’s just say it that girl is creepy as the Satan possessed head twisting maniac. It’s iconic for a reason, because grown men and women were urinating on themselves as they watched the events of this film unfold. Lesson learned, don’t play with Ouija boards. Also interesting note my dad late one night ended up stranded in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. and he and his friends found themselves on the steps that were used for the famous exorcism scene. He spoke how eerie it felt just to be on those steps, and I agree. Think of the poor blokes who live there though.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre first off let’s just cut the crap about this movie being based on a true story. It’s not, its almost complete fabrication! Now Leatherface is slightly based on the action of a real killer, but loosely based, very loosely based. So to all my friends who keep making up stuff about this family truly existing and there being only one survivor and all that jazz shut up and read something. The remake of the 1974 classic is quite scary as well and gets added points for having Jessica Biel but it’s still not as good as this frightening version. Any horror movie that can make something scary in broad daylight deserves a lot of credit. The sequels should be heavily ignored.
4. The Shining made in 1980 and based off the novel of the same name it’s hard to argue that “The Shining” has one of the biggest horror legacies in pop culture history. The image above sums up the movie quite nicely, even people who haven’t seen the thing understand the immense tension and fear displayed in this film. “All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.” It’s a movie you can’t and shouldn’t watch alone. It became the catchphrase of the late Johnny Carson and made all women afraid to date writer’s who have a tendency to go to remote places to focus on writing. Way to make it harder than it already is for me Jack.
3. The Thing when people ask me which film I think is the scariest ever made “The Thing” is always one of the first images that pops into my head. John Carpenter was not messing around when he made this 1982 masterpiece about scientists in Antarctica who accidentally dig up an alien life form that has been trapped in ice for thousands of years. This monstrous extra terrestrial has a talent, and that talent is killing people and then assimilating into their cells. Then the creature takes over that person, looks like the guy, talks like the guy and perhaps even can mimic the memories of said person. Paranoia runs rampant, the gore is spectacular, the gross out creature shots are a marvel to behold and it remains the movie that can still give me nightmares from time to time. Will I see the 2011 remake? Perhaps, it’s pretty good source material but Hollywood does have a tendency to mess up simple stuff.
2. Alien made in 1979 by Ridley Scott was almost a misfire. Early versions of the scripts didn’t even have the famous Ripley character and instead dealt with a giant tentacle like moth ball that ate anything in it’s path. Think the Kraken mixed with the blob, and also was going to be boldly progressive and hint at male homosexuality among sailo– I mean deep space astronauts. But eventually the script was ironed out a bit and it became a movie that would forever change how aliens were portrayed in movies and create a whole terrifying sub genre in itself. Now part of me wanted to put “Aliens” the James Cameron flick on this list but that is a bit more action than horror and besides “Alien” truly feels like a horror film. The tension, the mystery, the bleak undertones and cinematography complete with a musical score that would make any man look over his shoulder. “Alien” changed movies, that in itself in an accomplishment. But the fact that it is ridiculously scary also is a plus.
1. Jaws when this Steven Spielberg directed film debuted in the summer of 1975 it literally created the summer blockbuster. It caught like wildfire and Jaws mania was everywhere. Almost nobody knew that Spielberg was almost fired numerous times for taking the film over budget and well beyond it’s planned schedule. It ended up being made for 9 million dollars but ended up making over 470 million. Hollywood tends to have a short term memory about budget problems when the movie ends up making an enormous amount of cash. Still “Jaws” to me is the scariest movie ever made because….it could actually happen. As frightening as I find “The Thing” and “Alien” chances are I’ll never run into anything like that. And if I do I have a simple solution: torch it. But on average 4 people a year are killed in shark attacks. Sure most shark attacks are not like in this movie and I should responsibly point out that sharks generally have no desire to eat human flesh. (I did multiple science projects on sharks as a kid.) Sharks can be brutal killing machines and the movie still gets my heart racing even though I know it by heart at this point. I have family members who were afraid to take baths after seeing the film. It also has convinced me to never go more than waist deep into the ocean or skinny dip in shark infested waters. No matter how sexy the woman is.
Honorable Mentions: The Howling, Aliens, Friday the 13th, Car, The Thing From Another World, Paranormal Activity, The Others, Signs, Dracula, Dawn of the Dead, Amityville Horror
Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below!
—Matthew S. Robinson