The Top 10 Scariest Movies of All Time

Let’s get to it. Here are the 10 scariest movies of all time.

1. The Exorcist (1973)

Although this film was made in 1973, The Exorcist has a ton of frightening special effects that are just as scary when viewing today. The movie’s seriousness juxtaposed with the freakish antics of a possessed child make for very scary moments.

There is a great sensory feeling to this movie that often is missing in the horror genre. The background music is used for subtle effects versus cheap thrills. The “possession” scenes actually carry little to no music at all.

The plot includes a 12-year old girl in Georgetown being possessed by a demon. The girl must undergo an exorcism from a mysterious Catholic priest. It seems like tame stuff but really is wickedly frightening when watching the shocking scenes in this film. The voice and sounds emitted from the possessed girl are the scariest parts of the movie. The deep voice of the demon penetrates through the little girl mixed with various strange animal noises.

2. Psycho (1960)

A brilliant film by Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho is synonymous with the horror genre. Hitchcock is a master at building suspense and varying points of view for dramatic affect. All of his tricks are displayed in this film to include strange voiceovers in Marion Crane’s head as she goes through the day. Is what the boss and policeman say really happening or just in her head?

Halfway through the film, Crane goes to the relaxing Bates Hotel. In possibly the most famous movie scene of all time, Crane is killed in the shower. With still one hour left in the film, what could possibly be left?

Without giving too much away, the movie still has lots left to include jealousy, insanity, and some around creepy moments. This twisted flick is easily on of the scariest ever.

3. The Shining (1980)

The iconic film moments in The Shining such as “Here’s Johnny” and “red-rum, red-rum” will stay with you for a lifetime. Quietly building its plot and story line, the film sucks you in deep.

Jack Nicholson puts in a wonderful performance as a family man and writer that never made it. He has strange visions of a haunted house variety at their hotel resort. Or does he? His outbursts are so over the top that they are almost like one of those acting classes where the instructor tells the student to try the craziest thing that they can think of. Of course, Nicholson pulls it off in haunting fashion.

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Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick and adapted from a Stephen King book, there are several theories as to the themes and messages in the film. Regardless of the film’s point, it is creepy and crazy as hell.

4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A very, very dark film that is both thought provoking and frightening. Another brilliant film by Stanley Kubrick that is adapted from a fantastic book. This is a truly eerie and creepy film set in a strange future. The main character Alex sets out every night with his crew committing beatings, rapes, and “ultraviolence”. There is nothing whatsoever redeemable about the gang or the society that lets them thrive.

Nightmares are hard to top the scenes and characters of this movie. The slang used in the movie is brilliant and the terms “horror-show” and the “old-in-out” will live forever in infamy.

Although the film seems to be a satire, it is so hardcore and effective in its message that the viewer can only be scared to death. The mixing of Beethoven and “Singing in the Rain” with horrific violence tops out the creep factor in this movie.

5. 28 Days Later (2003)

An amazing and very original horror film, 28 Days Later truly grips the viewer into its apocalyptic vision. Although the movie could be stereotyped as a zombie/vampire/virus movie, it really has its own thing going.

Many movies have tried to depict an end of the world type scenario. This one pulls it off and the eerie, quiet of an empty London is not scary, but frightening. This movie is frightening because it seems like something that could really happen at any time. A diseased monkey releases a worldwide epidemic that produces the “Infected”. This movie is so good that it is like a nightmare that you are hoping to wake up from.

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6. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

A freaky movie that skips in time between New York and Vietnam, Jacob’s Ladder is a complex horror film. Tim Robbins (Jacob) plays a postal worker who experiences strange flashbacks from Vietnam and starts to see weird creatures in real life. An intellectual and philosophy major, Jacob starts to put things together through the movie along with the viewer.

This disturbing film has so many subtle moments that you may need to watch it a couple times to appreciate its true complexity. Although very scary and haunting, this movie does not completely wrap all of its loose ends. Is it purposely mysterious about the visions and reality versus hallucinations? I think so and it is all the better for it. Highly recommended and worth multiple viewings!

7. The Strangers (2008)

Is there anything scarier than a loud knock on the door in the middle of the night? Add to that, being in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. This knock sends this frightening, creepy film into a whole scare-fest that is a joy for us horror film lovers.

It would be virtually impossible to watch this film and not be scared. In addition to an abundance of scares, the movie is haunting and frightening in its ability to depict a real-life tormenting by several sociopaths. There is nothing scarier than being in the hands of someone that doesn’t care about you, anyone else, or possibly even themselves. Fantastic acting, directing, and music add to an excellent film.

8. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Although the brilliant marketing and gimmick of this movie is gone now, The Blair Witch Project is still an amazing, subtle and totally scary movie experience. Shot on a very, low budget in the forests of Maryland, the concept of the movie was very original and risky.

The risk was that much of the acting is ad-libbed and the actors only had a vague outline of the plot of the movie when thrust into the woods. As the three filmmakers (actors) get lost in the woods, we can feel the foreboding terror of something amiss in the woods. The subtle, slightly out of place, building horror is what true horror films should strive for. No cheap tricks, overblown music, or over the top effects. Horror fans will always enjoy a viewing of this one.

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9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Anthony Hopkins plays the role of the maniac “Hannibal Lecter” in this film better than one could think possible. Not necessarily a straight horror movie, there is something so haunting and scary about Lecter that this film surely deserves a spot in the top 10 horror list.

The acting by Jodie Foster and Hopkins are out of this world. Although the movie spirals down some wrong paths outside of Lecter’s scenes, the Foster-Hopkins scenes are so good and so scary that it is worth watching just for the guilty pleasure of the chemistry between those two. How can you forget the scene of Foster slowly walking the hall to Lecter’s cell and meeting what seems to be if not the devil, a true demon.

10. Let the Right One In (2008)

A beautifully crafted vampire story, Let the Right One In is set in Sweden and includes wonderful imagery with the ever-present snow in a suburb of Stockholm. A complex love story between a vampire and a boy (yes, similar but different than Twilight) ensues, as there are many, many disturbing images.

The setting of the movie in dark, snowy Stockholm is the perfect background for dark, dark movie. Although there are plenty of “curl your toes” type scary moments, there is lots of sadness, melancholy, and true beauty in this story. Make sure you see it before it is ruined by the inevitable re-make.