Hollywood has been scaring people as part of cinema culture for as long as any of us can remember. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as scary movies have continued to become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades. However, deciding which movies are the top 10 scariest films ever made can be difficult, as much of it (like anything else) is a matter of opinion.
Hollywood knows even if a horror movie does not become a blockbuster, it will still have a pretty big opening weekend based on built in audiences. This is why Hollywood and all the major motion picture companies continue to crank out movies that scare us… they are taking our love of fright straight to the bank.
We all have our favorite scary movies. Some are classics, some are newer, and all scare us to death, yet we come back for more. So what are the top 10 scariest films ever made? I think we can agree that many on the list below are some of the most frightening movies we have ever seen.
The 10 Scariest Films Ever Made
10. “CARRIE” (1976): Most of us have been to some sort of prom, whether it was your own or someone else’s. However, prom night was never looked at the same way after the master of horror (Stephen King) allowed Hollywood to make “Carrie.” Sissy Spacek puts on a chilling performance of the mistreated and misguided title character. She is mistreated and made fun of, but little does anyone know that she has telekinetic powers. Remember the pig blood scene?
9. “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD” (1968): Yes, scary zombie movies are being put out at a wild pace right now, as zombies are the hot thing right now in Hollywood. However, George A. Romero started it all way back in the 60’s when he released “Night of the Living Dead.” This low budget Horror film went on the become one of the most talked about Zombie classic films of all time and has inspired such horror big guns as Sam Raimi and Wes Craven.
8. “JAWS” (1975): Not all horror movies have to involve demons, zombies and ghosts. Some of the most talked about horror movies of all time (as you will see as you read on) have nothing to do with any of those things. Case in point? “Jaws,” which left audiences thinking a lot differently about going into the water. If you don’t think Jaws belongs on this list, then take a few hours to go back and watch it again. The movie about a massive shark that terrorizes a coastal New England town went on to be one of the most popular movies ever made, horror or otherwise. There isn’t a person reading this who wasn’t scared to get in the water after watching this film. Not only that, but the title music on the soundtrack (da dum, da dum, da dum, da dum) has become one of the most recognizable pieces of music in the world.
7. “HALLOWEEN” (1978): Everyone is familiar with the name Michael Myers. This name is associated with one of the most evil villains that has ever been put on screen. Halloween not only gave us nightmares about someone in a wild mask trying to murder us, but it also introduced the world to Jamie Lee Curtis, who would go on to become a huge box office star in the decades to follow.
6. “THE THING” (1982): There are 4 movies on this list that have nothing to do with demons, ghosts, or any other image like that. As mentioned above for Jaws, not all horror movies have to go this route to be scary. Our second entry in the top 10 comes from John Carpenter and his classic horror masterpiece “The Thing.” Yes, the movie was recently remade for a third time, but honestly it couldn’t hold a candle to the John Carpenter version. Released in 1982, Carpenter brought in Kurt Russell, who was well known for making Disney films at the time but was looking to change it up a little, to head up a cast of characters that has to deal with suspicion, back stabbing and more. “The Thing” was actually a box office dud and was hated by many when it was first released, however, it turned into a cult classic and today is wildly considered a horror masterpiece. Carpenter's version was actually a remake itself.
5. “ROSEMARY’S BABY” (1968): Roman Polanski has had his fair share of legal troubles in his lifetime, and most of us actually know his name based on those legal troubles. However, before all of that happened he was responsible for directing one of the most horrifying movies to ever hit the big screen. “Rosemary’s Baby” was responsible for millions of people never looking at their children the same way again. The scariest aspect of the movie? We never really know what is real and what is imagined inside our main characters head during the film. Either way, a demon spawn child of Satan is apparently always a winner at the box office and with movie going crowds.
4. “ALIEN” (1979): There has been debate for years whether or not “Alien” should be included in a scariest movies list. The debate rages on, but this movie is indeed a part of many lists, and in this list it enters the top 5. So why is “Alien” on this list of scary movies? The fact of the matter is this: ”Alien” takes us to a place where no one in their right mind would ever want to be, much less have to experience. Put together all the aspects of the film; the huge spaceship with a creature running around, no help coming, stuck in the middle of space, and the fact that you didn’t know who would make it and who wouldn’t. All these aspects allow for Ridley Scott’s “Alien” movie to enter the top 5 scariest movies ever made. Try watching it and not squirming some. The movie also introduced us to the title character (Ripley) played by action goddess Sigourney Weaver.
3. “PSYCHO” (1960): Hitchcock is widely considered the greatest horror filmmaker of all time, and rightfully so, as he is responsible for several bone chilling movie tales. Perhaps none are scarier though than “Psycho,” his masterpiece from 1960 that includes one of the most shocking and disturbing horror scenes of all time (the shower scene). The debate on whether or not “Psycho” should be on this list is settled by the argument that there isn’t a horror director in the world that isn’t familiar with this movie or that hasn’t been influenced in one way or another by the film. There is even some argument that can be made why “Psycho” could even be number 1 on this list.
2. “THE SHINING” (1980): Not only was one of the scariest films of all time released in 1980, but also one of the most controversial and most talked about films of all time was released in 1980. Yes, they are one in the same, as “The Shining” is still talked about today as people try to decipher what exactly Stanley Kubrick was trying to say with his film. Kubrick was no stranger to controversy, nor was he a stranger to making very weird films (check out his filmography), but he was able to top everything else he did when he got Jack Nicholson to star in the adapted screenplay he wrote with Diane Johnson based on the Stephen King book of the same name. The final product was a simply terrifying film that continues to be hotly debated today. Kubrick may have known all the things he was trying to say in the movie, but no one else did.
1. “THE EXORCIST” (1973): Did you already see this coming? Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but even all these years later there really isn’t a point to argue that would make sense as to “The Exorcist” not being number 1 on this list, or any list, of scariest movies ever made. Widely considered to be the scariest and most disturbing movie ever made, “The Exorcist” was so twisted that it spawned massive uproar from every Christian and Catholic entity in the world. Even people who were not religious had major problems with the film. There is simply no way out of the images in the movie once you have seen it. While there are many scenes in the movie that are horrifying and that stand out, one of the scariest and most recognizable scenes ever created in a movie was staged when Linda Blair (main character) sits up in bed while being possessed and proceeds to spin her hear around a full 360 degrees. It simply brings chills and cringes to all who have watched it. On a final note about the film and what makes it stand apart; the good guys don’t even win in the end, as the Priest who is trying to help ends up getting possessed and jumping out the window to his death.
There are hundreds of scary films out there, some good, some bad. It can be hard narrowing films down, as all of them can scare you in one way or another. However, the above films are all good representations of the 10 scariest films ever made.
Did I miss any? What film do you think should be in the top 10?