My dad gave me unsolicited advice decades ago. “You don’t watch a movie to be scared.” I found that puzzling considering that he was a certified movie buff. I didn’t probe any further and decided to take his suggestion at face value.
But, contrary to my father’s belief, there are people who get a kick out of being frightened out of their minds. There is without a doubt a market that loves being scared shitless. The recent box office success of Stephen King’s It attests to this.
One can presume that due to It’s success other studios will follow suit. They should be warned, though. The presence of blood, gore, violence, psychopaths, and demons in a movie doesn’t guarantee box office success. Like any other motion picture classic or masterpiece, an excellent horror film goes beyond scaring people. It should be special.
But, how does one recognize a “special” movie? Is there a scientific test? There is none, of course. The method is simply by exclusion, meaning identify those that suck and take them away from the best of the best list. Using this approach, it’s reasonable to expect that the premier horror movies would not feature films like Paranormal Activity 4 or Jason X. An article entitled “15 Awful Horror Movies That Just Weren’t Scary” from WhatCulture.com provides a sampling of horror flicks that arguably fall out of crème de la crème category.
But, there are those that remain in our consciousness. They are the films that can make your heart beat faster. They can make you cringe in terror. To those curious, I present below the 10 scariest movies of all time. Proceed at your own peril.
10) The Conjuring (2013) – This one tells the story of paranormal investigators and demonologists called upon to help a family living in secluded farmhouse. And while the movie makes use of one of Hollywood’s tried-and-tested settings in the horror genre, i.e. the haunted house, that doesn’t stop the motion picture from scaring the bejesus out of its viewers.
9) The Ring (2002) – This film presents an interesting premise. A viewer watches tape. Afterwards, he or she receives a phone call in which his or her death is foretold to happen in seven days. Now, to learn whether there is truth to this, a reporter investigates and watches the clip. She, as expected, has seven days to crack the mystery or else.
8) The Blair Witch Project (1999) – The movie tells the story of three film students that go to a small town in order to verify tales about “a legendary local murderer” called the Blair Witch. The project however goes awry; the students get lost in the woods. And in trying to find their way back, terrifying noises terrorize them. All these were recorded in the students’ handycam. It is this recording that moviegoers get to watch.
7) Psycho (1960) – This one is a must-see, because of its director: Alfred Hitchcock. Watching the movie’s iconic shower scene is worth the price of admission.
6) It (2017) – This Stephen King movie tells the story of how children’s darkest fears come to life. So, whatever you are scared of, it can come to existence and get you. A word of advice though: stay away from clowns.
5) The Shining (1980) – Like Psycho, The Shining is a classic. How so? Two reasons: Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson. If their team-up doesn’t elicit interest, then see how Nicholson proved his worth as an actor by portraying a homicidal maniac.
4) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Some consider the film “as one of the greatest—and most controversial—horror movies of all time.” If that doesn’t make you interested, then google the name Leatherface. That will give you an inkling of what the film motion picture is all about.
3) Halloween (1978)– This movie is one of the known slasher films of all time. It tells the story of a psychopath named Michael Myers who as a six-year-old murdered his 16-year-old sister. He got incarcerated for that, but upon turning 21, he escaped and returns to his hometown and engages on a killing spree. You may forget how the story goes, but I’m sure the image of Michael Myers will remain in your memory.
2) Alien (1979) – In the strictest sense, Alien possibly shouldn’t be considered as a horror movie. Some feel it is a work of science fiction. But, regardless of its actual classification, Alien will always be primus inter pares (first among equals). Because aside from my top choice, there is no other motion picture that scared the shit out of me. Why? Simple. In the film, an alien—a three-inch slimy worm like entity with razor sharp teeth—bursts out of a living person’s chest! I repeat. An alien, for god sakes, bursts and gnaws its way out of person’s chest!! ‘Nuff said.
1) The Exorcist (1973) – Finally, we’re at number one, and to me there is no other movie that should occupy the top spot than The Exorcist. Because if you want to see how a demonic possession may look like, in all its terrifying detailed glory, then watch this film.
So, there you have it. Listed above are 10 of the best horror movies of all time. You may disagree with my list, you may even have your own catalog. But what can’t be denied is the raw power that these movies bring. They affect us the most. I know that, because my dad told me so.
I had the chance to talk about films with him again a several years ago. Our discussion eventually focused on horror flicks, and he said there was one that gave him nightmares for weeks. The movie was The Exorcist. At that point, I finally understood why he never wanted to watch a scary flick again.