Top 15 Scary Movies of All-Time
For the longest the horror genre has played an implicate role in the movie industry, a genre that dates to the late 1800s and early 1900s, basically since the beginning of the existence of films. As films and movies progressed over time, so has the horror genre. From originally being mostly silent films, like the Phantom of the Opera, to the development of iconic characters and subgenres, like Frankenstein and Dracula or vampires, werewolves, slasher films, demonic possessions, and zombies, in this article we will breakdown some of the all-time greatest horror films, or scary movies of the more modern era, beginning during the 1970s.
Top 15 Horror Films of All-Time
1. The Exorcist (1973)
Aptly described as the greatest horror movie ever made, The Exorcist sees two reluctant priests take on a horrific demonic entity after it infects a young girl, setting a terrifying chain of events into existence. Even though the film is almost 50 years old, its influence can still be aptly seen across the genre with its atmospheric tension, makeup and acting still the benchmark for horror films of today.
2. Halloween (1978)
The film that started a franchise that endures to this day, 1978’s Halloween introduced the world to the bulky and brutal Michael Myers, an unstoppable killing machine. Returning to his hometown after a stint in jail, the townspeople have no idea the carnage about to be inflicted upon them. Featuring a star turn by Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Halloween laid the foundations of the slasher genre, presenting a terrifically entertaining film that scores high on both kills and characterization.
3. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Another slasher franchise starter, 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street sees the clawed killer Freddy invade the dreams of a group of teenagers, prompting them to band together to survive this demonic entity. Fresh, irreverent and filled with hair raising thrills, Nightmare on Elm Street is a potent horror film that manages to punch above its weight, breaking free of the cliches that started to plague the genre back in the 80s.
4. The Evil Dead (1981)
Before Sam Raimi changed the landscape with his Spiderman trilogy, he brought us one of the most iconic horror movies of all time in the shape of Evil Dead. The film sees a bunch of friends in a secluded cabin inadvertently release demonic entities. As the bodies start to drop, only one will survive. Funny and grotesque in equal measure, The Evil Dead’s influence on the horror genre is undoubtedly undisputed.
5. The Texas ChainSaw Massacre (1974)
Bloody, disgusting and revolting, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre prompted a series of boycotts against the film for depicting horrific violence on screen. The plot involves a group of friends who stumble right into the hands of masked killers when their vehicle breaks down in a remote area. Noted by critics as a perfect example of on screen cataclysmic terror, the film is rightfully considered a classic today.
6. Friday the 13th (1980)
Introducing the hockey mask killer Jason Vorhees to the world, Friday the 13th (1980) set the roots for another slasher franchise. The setting is Camp Crystal Lake where a bunch of teenagers find themselves stalked and murdered mysteriously. The acting is great and the kills are creative and the film never feels like a second grade parody of some of the other slasher franchises in existence at the same time.
7. Poltergeist (1982)
Directed by Toobe Hooper, 1982’s Poltergeist sees malevolent spirits invade a family home to abduct a little girl. Written by the infamous Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist received near unanimous critical acclaim upon release with critics praising its set design, atmosphere and special effects. In the years since, it has been agreed to be one of the most potent ghost stories ever made in American cinema.
8. Carrie (1976)
A Stephen King adaptation that works really well, Carrie (1976) sees a promising young woman go down a dark road of revenge after she discovers she has telekinetic powers. Gripping and sad in equal measure, Carrie is much a story about a traumatic superpowered individual as it is a comment on bullying and antisocial behavior. The film’s iconic blood drench scene still remains one of the most disturbing scenes in all of the genre.
9. Hellraiser (1987)
One of the most visually horrific films ever made, the original Hellraiser sees a young couple move into an old house, encountering a deformed monster and his disciples who force them to do their bidding. Grotesque and shocking, the film is a tour de force in visual storytelling, using jaw dropping makeup and special effects to bring to life the fantastical story.
13. The Omen (1976)
This 1976 classic from Richard Donner sees Gregory Peck play a father who inadvertently switches his stillborn baby with an orphan, only to realize that the new child might be a literal incarnation of the Anti Christ. Disturbing, atmospheric and featuring a great score, The Omen is one of the finest horror films to come out of Hollywood since its early days.
10. Scream (1996)
Wes Craven’s reinvention of the slasher genre isn’t just a good movie, but speaks volumes about the prevalence of cliches in the genre. When Sidney, a do-gooder college student has her family and friends threatened by a slasher in a very peculiar mask, she will have to confront her demons and fears if she is to survive. Containing sharp wit and even sharper kills, Scream is a delight from start to end and spawned four sequels and a TV series.
11. The Ring (2002)
A remake of the Japanese horror film of the same name, The Ring (2002) sees the irreverent Naomi Watts in the role of a journalist as she investigates a dangerous and mysterious videotape. With a moody atmosphere and creepy characters, The Ring takes the best aspects of the Japanese original and repurposes them for a global audience.
12. Paranormal Activity (2007)
A low budget production that was full of jumpscares, Paranormal Activity heralded the return of found footage horror movies after the genre almost died out in the wake of the Blair Witch Project. A couple capture strange occurrences throughout their house through CCTV cameras leading to a terrifying finale that will shock you to your core. Paranormal Activity proved there is no shortage of creative ideas in the genre and even low budget productions can shock the audiences in a big way.
14. Child’s Play (1988)
1988’s Child’s Play introduced the world to Chucky, a demented doll possessed with the spirit of a serial killer hellbent on killing till eternity. When an innocuous little kid becomes the new owner of Chucky, all hell will break loose before the adults realize the truth. Featuring terrific performances and impressive puppetry, Child’s Play is a classic, spawning a franchise that continues to this day.
15. Pet Sematary (1989)
Based on the pretty well known Stephen King story, Pet Sematary (1989) introduced groundbreaking special effects to bring the demented pets to life. Stephen King adaptations have always been hits and misses but Pet Sematary manages to break the mold, both by incorporating characters we genuinely care about and believable effects that sell us the creepy story. The film is a romp from start to finish and one of the more memorable films from 1989.