Top 10 Scariest Films Ever Made

What makes a scary movie scary? Writer Dan Grant takes a look at ten of the scariest films ever made in an attempt to answer that question.

“Hey… you wanna see something really scary?” says Dan Aykroyd in Twilight Zone: The Movie before turning into a flesh-eating demon. It’s one of the best openings to a horror film because you least expect it from a guy like comedian Dan Ackroyd. What makes the scene even better is the demon make-up being so horrifically creepy – a face of someone long-time dead, released from the ground with the stench of decay and the moist, worm-bitten skin of a corpse.

Audiences have been delighting is scary movies since the early part of the 20th century when Nosferatu was drinking the blood of his helpless victims. But the beauty of horror is how it affects people in different ways – The Exorcist is the scariest film ever made for a lot of people, while others find it oddly amusing. Likewise, The Sixth Sense has become the poster child of recent horror cinema for its effective scares, but in some quarters it is thought of as mediocre. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, REC and a host of other horror films have divided audiences. So what makes a scary movie scary?

Writer Dan Grant takes a look at ten of his favourite horror films and asks the question: why do they scare him so much?

10. The Gates of Hell (Fulci, Italy, 1980)

fulci, horror, gates of hell,

Lucio Fulci is Dario Argento’s protege who some believe is an even better director than Argento. Count yours truly in that camp. Fulci makes similar films to the master but some of them, especially this one are better than anything Argento has ever made. When you have zombies that not only eat your brains but they strip you of your flesh, use a drill to find your brains, induce people to throw up their insides and then make the earth turn black, you are dealing with some very serious individuals and a brilliant man behind the camera. I find Italian horror films to be different that American ones. They are more visual, they are more disturbing and they pay much more attention to detail. This is the pinnacle of Italian horror.

9. The Changeling (Medak, Canada, 1980)

chnageling, film, medak, haunted house, scariest films,

Discover More: The Changeling (Review)

I hadn’t seen many haunted house movies before this one but after experiencing how The Changeling made me feel, I had to go out and rent as many of the haunted house classics I could find. The Changeling is everything that The Haunting (1999) should have been. This film creeps you out and sometimes more than you can handle. Where as The Haunting used 80 million dollars worth of special effects, The Changeling used lighting, sound, subtlety and an intriguing and scary story to achieve the ultimate in horror, scares, chills, and shivers.

George C. Scott plays a man who has just recently lost his wife and young daughter to a freak accident on the highway in the dead of winter. He leases a rather large house supposedly for some solitude so he can work on his musical piece. But then strange things begin to happen. At first he passes them off as just an old house having a personality of its own. But when the noises persist at the exact time of day and for the same amount of time, he gets suspicious. After doing a little research, he realizes that not only is the house haunted, but it may be trying to tell him something. And this is where the story becomes creepy. I haven’t really felt a sense of unease in many movies. The Blair Witch was one of them, and The Changeling made me feel similar to that experience. What this film does to perfection is uses what it has to its advantage. There are lots of darkly lit rooms, strange noises that apparently come from the upstairs bedroom, and bouncing balls. The Changeling is a scary movie and it would have been without the ball, but when you put the ball into the scenario, you are frozen with fear. And for the first time in the film when the ball comes into frame, Scott looks petrified. Before this incident, he seemed bewildered, almost curious. He couldn’t understand why all this was happening. But after the ball, he is frightened. Even if whatever it is that is haunting this house seems to be somewhat friendly towards him, he is still scared.

I found myself yelling at the screen, “Get OUT!” I wanted them to leave the house. That is the sign of good film making. My recommendation is to watch this with all the lights off on a stormy night. You will be afraid.

8. The Amityville Horror Part 2 (Damiani, USA, 1982)

amityville horror, 31 days of horror,

I always get some raised eyebrows when I mention this film as one of my favourite horror films. But the reality is that this is much scarier than the first and it is a very well made film. The first film concentrates on the family moving into the house years after the Montelli murders, this film tells the story of how they were murdered. The theory is that the house possessed the son and he went on a violent murderous spree. This film does a perfect job of perpetuating that myth. The first hour is absolutely terrifying. It has so much atmosphere and chilling scenes that I couldn’t understand why people hated this film so much. The room in the basement is dark and dingy and the camera works to make you feel that something is in that house with them. When the mom is ironing and she feels something touch her arm and then the wind, that was a perfect scene. It was frightening. But the highlight of this film is when the family minus Sonny goes to church. It is here that Sonny gets stalked by an unseen force. When he goes up the stairs and then down and then back up again into his room, it bothered me and it literally gave me chills. The camera work is so creative that you really can’t tell where the demon is. Is it on the ceiling, behind him, in front of him, where? That was a brilliant sequence in the film and it solidifies this film as one of the ten scariest films of all time.

7. The Last House on the Left (Craven, USA, 1972)

last house on the left, wes craven, 31 days of horror,

Watching Last House on the Left is an exercise in terror. Wes Craven wrote, directed, produced and edited this film, and although it is scary, it has to be said that it is without a doubt the most disturbing film I have ever seen. I have seen Salo, Men Behind the Sun and Cannibal Holocaust and they can’t match the intensity of this film. To watch films that degrade human beings is tough. This film degrades, dehumanizes and reduces them down to peons or trash that you toss out the window. This was 1972. The climate was changing then and this film reflects the anger in society at the time. It’s brutal, tough to watch, unflinching in its approach. This is Craven’s second best film and one that many haven’t seen. The remake is good but it can’t duplicate the sheer gut wrenching terror that this film has in abundance. Although this has a “happy ending” where the parents get their revenge, by the time it happens you have been dragged through 90 minutes of sheer desperation that you just want it to end. A word of caution, it is not for the faint of heart.

6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, USA, 1974)

texas chainsaw massacre,

This film was a dark disturbing look at a family gone mad. They have no reason, no remorse and no pity for doing the things that they do. The only thing I can even think of is that they have all worked at a slaughter house and the daily grind of taking an animal’s life has desensitized them to the value of life, whether it be human or animal. I found it quite interesting that the film goes into great detail on how a cow is killed. Because what that does (besides gross us out) is show how sadistic a process it is to get our meat from the animal that it came from to the cellophane wrappers in the grocery store. When these butchers do the same thing to the humans in the story, it becomes more real, more disturbing and more eye opening. It makes the characters helpless. And it is easy to live vicariously through the characters in this film, especially the main character (Sally). You can see how mad she has become by going through what she has. She has been brutalised in almost every way you can imagine. Physically, she is a mess, but psychologically she would never be the same after her experience. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a rare film that shows that you don’t need special effects or even a large budget to make a scary film. All you need is some ingenuity, a vision and a horrific story. Texas Chainsaw Massacre has all three.

Fancy more horror: check out Top 10 Films’ Best British Horror Films

5. Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, USA, 1984)

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Fred Krueger, as we all know, was a child molester who was hunted down by the local Elm Street parents after he beat the court system on a technicality. They trapped him in his basement and lit his house on fire and then watched him burn. Somehow he comes back and haunts their children’s dreams and murders them while they sleep. This sets up the premise of the film. Writer-director Wes Craven said he got the idea while reading a story in an Asian newspaper about kids dying in their sleep and telling their parents that they knew something bad was going to happen to them in their dreams. It is an interesting concept and because it is done to perfection here, it has now become one of the cornerstones of American horror. There are few horror films that are better than this one. This is perfect on every level and it actually makes one of my top 50 films of all time. Wes Craven is a genius. He has the propensity to make an iconic film once every decade. This is his crowning achievement. “Come to Freddy….”

4. The Ring (Verbinski, USA, 2002)

the ring, japanese american remake, naomi watts,

Discover More: The Ring (Review)

Let’s just get right to the point. The Ring is the scariest horror film I had seen in 20 years. Horror had been enjoying a healthy revival at this time and that was in part to phenoms like Scream, The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense. That is a good thing. What isn’t so good is some of the cheap crap that has come out since then. For every film like The Sixth Sense and Blair Witch, you have a plethora of other films that have no idea what true horror is really about. Too many film makers think the best thing to do with horror is make a rockin’ hardcore soundtrack and give us buckets of blood because this disguises the fact that most of them can’t pace a film or invoke true chills. Gore Verbinski’s The Ring returns to the roots of horror and pays homage to the early greats like Halloween and Psycho but almost goes a step past the greats, not quite but almost.

The Ring does something that only a handful of horror films have done, and that is it stays in your subconscious hours and days and weeks after you watch the film. Gore Verbinski and Ehren Kruger have combined to make a masterpiece of modern horror that goes beyond anything that has come out for the last twenty years. This film is that good. For a guy who grew up loving films like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, I have been yearning for a film like this. A film that not only is a great scary film but a film that is a pure kinetic experience, one that makes me look behind me at my silent television sitting in the corner of the room. Is Samara there? When my radio begins to go haywire and search for stations on its own, is that Samara? The Ring may have it’s roots in Japanese horror, but it owes much of its pedigree to all horror greats of the past, whether they are American, Canadian, Japanese or Italian. There is a bit of it all in here and the results are a vigorous energy that cannot be duplicated by any film of the last 20 years. When you have a girl crawling out the TV, I’m not sure how you get over that petrifying fright.

3. Halloween (Carpenter, USA, 1978)

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Discover More: Comparing Halloween 1978 with Halloween 2007 | Analysis of the Slasher film

John Carpenter took a low budget film and he scared a generation of movie goers. He showed that you don’t need budgets in the 8 or 9 figures to invoke fear on an audience. Sometimes the best element of fear is not what actually happens, but what is about to happen. What was that shadow? What was that noise upstairs? He knows that these are the ways to scare someone and he uses every element of textbook horror that I think you can use. I even think he made up some of his own ideas and these should be ideas that people use today. But they don’t. With the advent of CGI, many modern film makers no longer see the need to use lighting and detail to provoke scares. The effect is not the same. You can’t be scared by a giant special effect that makes loud noises and jumps out of a wall. It’s the moments when the killer is lurking, somewhere, you just don’t know where, that scares you. Halloween succeeds like no other film in this endeavour. There is no better film out there that uses every horror tool available. There is very little gore in this film but the lighting and the soundtrack, including the ominous main theme are enough to stay in your mind days after you watch it. It has not dated itself and this is the true paradigm to which all horror films should compare themselves to.

2. Jaws (Spielberg, USA, 1975)

jaws, film, horror, scariest films ever made,

Discover More: 10 reasons Jaws might be the best film ever made

Simply put, this is the best film ever made and it makes my number two scariest film of all time. This film is the personification of fear.

I saw this film when I was about 8 years old. And what I remember most about it, is thinking that I had found the most frightening film that I had ever seen. When I asked my parents if there really was a Jaws and they reassured me there wasn’t, I still thought they were lying ( and they were, he does exist, I’m sure of it ). To this day, almost 30 years later, I am still frightened to go swimming. I have been to the Caribbean many times. In my youth, I went to the Bahamas with my high school graduating class and once to Acapulco for March Break. Neither time did my classmates or friends venture into the water because of me. ” Did you know that most shark attacks happen in three feet of water of less? ” I asked them. Needless to say the hotel pool was well utilized on both trips.

Jaws is perfect on every level of film making. It has incredibly well developed characters, so well that we feel their fears and their bravado when we are supposed to. The direction is some of the best I have ever seen. We are but marionettes in Spielberg’s fingers. When he wants us to feel, he pulls our strings and masterfully we feel scared or horrified or even amused. A perfect example of this is the killing of the Kinter kid, the second death of the movie.

The scene starts off shortly after Chrissie Watkins is killed. There are people playing on the beach and in the water. Brody ( the police chief ) is sitting tentatively, on edge, waiting, fearing something is going to happen. He hears screams from a young girl. But of course they are playful screams. Then we see a man playing fetch the stick with his dog. Finally we meet Alex Kinter. He goes out on his raft into the water. Then we see the shots from under water. It’s as if something is approaching. We’re really not sure if we are being teased here or not. But then we see a stick floating in the water and the man calling out for his dog. But he is not there. Then we see more kids splashing and then we cut to a shot approaching the Kinter boy on his raft from under water. And the music. And then…… well, we all know what happens. Now that is a director masterfully manipulating us.

Jaws stands up to and surpasses any film these days that is considered brilliant and it eclipses anything that came before it. This film should have cleaned up at the Oscars. Besides that, it is the one film that scared me more than any other film did, until 2004.

1. Open Water (Kentis, USA, 2003)

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I had been dying to see Open Water ever since I first heard about the raves it got at the Sundance Film Festival. Being scared of the ocean, I found the premise terrifying. I first saw Jaws when I was about ten years old and it has stuck with me. To put it mildly, it scared the you-know-what out of me. Jaws is one of the most primal movies out there and it not only attacks your conscious, but your subconscious as well. I know that the chance of getting attacked by any shark, let alone a Great White the size of Bruce are slim to none, but that hasn’t stopped me from refraining to set foot in the ocean for 20 years. So having said that, you can begin to understand how and why Open Water is the scariest film I have ever seen. It attacked me at every level, eventually metamorphosing me into a child clinging to the chair beside me and lifting my feet off the ground as I watched the film in the theater. Primal emotions are surreal because you forget that you are human and it leaves you at the mercy of what haunts you. Sharks haunt me, and they eat away at me, literally and figuratively. This is a film that gets inside of you and it won’t let go. Fear of the unknown has to be the worst state of mind, and this film captures the desperation of what it is like to be isolated, helpless, and at the mercy of nature and the wild. On a subconscious and conscious level, this is a mind bending experience.

The story is that two married divers get stranded in the middle of the ocean when their diving expedition leaves without them. They are faced with the grim prospect of surviving in the middle of the ocean and are surrounded by sharks. There is no CGI in this film. Those are real sharks swimming around the two actors. When the fins break water in front of them, those are real, curious 10 foot sharks in front of them. That was enough to turn me into a helpless child. This is not a better film than half of the films listed on this publication, but it is scarier. When you are terrified of the villains in the film and those villains get perilously close to the characters, it’s like having a fear of spiders and watching dozens of them crawl all over your skin. I have seen Open Water twice. Once in the theater and once at home. Both times had the same affect on me. I won’t be seeing it a third time. I might wind up in the back of an ambulance with heart failure. This is the scariest film I have ever seen.

Honourable Mentions include:
The Shining
The Blair Witch Project – See out Top 10 Found Footage Horror Films here
Aliens
Evil Dead
Suspiria
Paranormal Activity 1 and 2
Friday the 13th The Final Chapter

Your turn – what is the scariest film you’ve ever seen?

Written and compiled by Dan Grant. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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This top 10 is part of 31 Days of Horror:

Want more HORROR? How about BRITISH HORROR? Check out our top 10 British Horror movies of all time!

About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Rodney Reply

    Ohh, controversial to say the least!

    Dan, I’d argue the point about Open Water – sure, it is scary, but is it scarier than the others you’ve mentioned (or even scarier than those you haven’t) – I can’t believe Argento’s Suspira or Deep Red never made the Top 10 at least (props for an honourable mention, I guess, for Suspiria), while putting in Verbinski’s carbon-copy of Ringu is an easy out. Ringu (the original Asian version) and its sequel are two of the scariest films ever, in terms of psychological horror, at least, so I can easily suggest giving them a shot if you can find them on DVD. Verbinski’s version is a direct copy of those vastly superior films.

    I’d have had Jaws in my Top 10, for sure, and I know Dan S would have found a way to make it number 1 (hi there Dan!)but I think were I to make up a similar list, I’d have included The Birds (Hitchcock), The Strangers (recent remake) and Deep Red (Argento), and dropped off Open Water and Nightmare On Elm Street. I’d probably have tried to include Quarantine (the remake of REC, and a version of the story I think is actually an improvement over the original – sacrelige to some, I know, but there you have it!), the original Alien (Aliens is scary, but less psychological than Alien was) and Hellraiser.

  2. Candice Frederick Reply

    the changeling, jaws, Halloween, the ring, nightmare on elm street are all great!

  3. Castor Reply

    Interesting list. I’m most stumped by the absence of The Exorcist, a movie that I haven’t dared finished since I first saw a few minutes of it years ago ahha. The next horror movie on this list I will probably watch is The Ring. I’m already shuddering 😀

  4. Dirtywithclass Reply

    I looked through this rather quickly, but i just have to say i am glad The Exorcist wasn’t on this list. Not because i think its a bad film, i just happen to feel it has gotten extremely overrated

    I will try to check out the ones on this list i haven’t seen tho. One movie that i would put it my list that isn’t on yours is the original Pulse. I haven’t seen the american remake, but i cant imagine it being beteter

  5. Will Reply

    Fun list! I still have never seen a Fulci movie so maybe I’ll start with Gates of Hell. I love that a Carpenter movie got so high on the list. For me, I think The Shining trumps them all though.

  6. Sir Phobos Reply

    I see a few familiar people in the comments. Sweet.

    Alright, what’s the scariest movie I’ve ever seen? I’d have to deliberate a LOT more on that. I can give you a list of the scariest, though:

    The Abandoned, Darkness, The Exorcist, Flatliners, The Fog, Hellraiser, Jacob’s Ladder, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Rosemary’s Baby, Session 9, The Shining, The Thing…I could go on.

    Yes, those were alphabetical. I was looking at my DVDs and picking some of the scariest ones. I’m making the same distinction you did for some of your choices – scariest for me, personally. Not necessarily the most well-made. They could also be, but that wasn’t why I was picking them.

    On to your list…

    I really like Fulci, but I haven’t seen too many of his films yet. Holy crap, I want to see Gates of Hell now.

    I really have to veto Last House on the Left. I think you’re right about the brutal honesty of the movie, but at the same time, it wasn’t done very well. You can really tell the budget and how early it was in Craven’s career. I’m a firm believer that just because certain themes are present in a movie doesn’t automatically make it good. They have to be presented well, and Last House is pretty rough around the edges. Still, if it grabbed you like that, then my opinion can’t really change that.

    I also disagree with your assessment of The Ring. I love the movie, but I really don’t see Psycho or Halloween in that movie. Up a bit in the comments, Rodney said it was much more evocative of the original, which I agree with. I still think it’s probably the best horror remake yet, so that’s where Rodney and I part ways. Is it better than Ringu? Ehh….probably not. But it’s at least close, which is high praise.

    I could quibble with the rest of the list, but overall I like it. Good show.

  7. Andina Reply

    My scariest movie would be Ringu (original Ring) the 1st and the 2nd. Don’t think I want to revisit. The ghost can appear in daylight and make scary gestures. Haven’t watch the remake one.

  8. Louise Reply

    I’m never normally that scared by horror films but 28 Days Later scared the absolute beejesus out of me.

    I’ve got a friend who is terrified of Little Shop of Horrors – plants scare him. I think what you find frightening in films relates very closely to what scares you in life and your experiences. I’ve not seen Open Water but I’m pretty sure that I’d spend a lot of the film tutting about the poor diving practices and not focusing on the story.

  9. Dan Reply

    It is interesting how the scariest films people list in their top ten’s vary so much. In Dan’s list I see a fear of haunted houses, sharks and psychopath families as being his chief movie tormentors.

    …haunted houses usually work for me – The Amityville Horror films are creepy, as is Poltergeist and, of course, The Changeling which Dan highlights above.

    But the scariest film ever made for me is – The Exorcist. It was many years before I could bring myself to watch the film alone, having seen it for the first time on VHS on a little TV in school! Now I think it’s an astonishing piece of work – it is wonderfully well-crafted, hauntingly terrifying, and has a depth that goes beyond most horror films. It also looks better than many horror films thanks to Friedkin’s tyrannical obsessiveness as a director. There is also nothing more frightening than Regan’s possession (and the make-up effects are the best I’ve ever seen – matched only by one other film – An American Werewolf In London).

  10. Dan Reply

    @Rodney: Alien would definitely make my list.

    @Candice: Have you seen the original Japanese version of The Ring, Candice?

    @Castor: I can completely understand your unwillingness to go back to The Exorcist. I’m always surprised by people who think it is funny or not scary at all.

    @Dirtywithclass: I think The Exorcist gets hindered by its reputation more than its ratings with critics. As you say, it is rated very highly, and you can even see positives despite feeling it is overrated, but I think its detractors are trying to go against the grain more than anything. It is like saying Citizen Kane isn’t a good film.

    For me, The Exorcist isn’t just the scariest film ever made, or even the best horror film. It is actually one of the greatest films ever made when you consider the influence it had on audiences, its history/reputation (being banned in the UK), its influence on film, as well as the performances (Ellen Burstyn Jason Miller and Linda Blair are all brilliant), the sound design and music, the cold, withdrawn photography and Friedkin’s wandering camera, Blatty’s amazing script and the direction of the whole thing. I see no faults in it.

    @Will: I think I’ve seen one Fulci film which I didn’t like so I haven’t gone looking for anymore.

    @Sir Phobos: Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad you listed The Exorcist as one of your scariest films. I’ve added the film Let’s Scare Jessica To Death to my list of films to see.

    @Andina: I agree about the original Ring – very creepy.

    @Louise: Absolutely. So many people state Arachnophobia as their scariest film and that surely comes down to a fear of spiders.

  11. DEZMOND Reply

    Danzel, I surely didn’t need to see that photo at Number 10 🙂

    THE RING wasn’t scary at all for me, but Freddie Krueger gave me the biggest creeps. I was afraid of dark because of him in my childhood 🙂

  12. Dan Reply

    @Dezmond: I struggled to find a single image from that film that was non-graphic in its violence or gore. This was the least disgusting…believe it or not! But I think I’m going to change it anyway. It’s too graphic for me as well.

  13. Jonny Reply

    Are you havin a laugh??? Jaws and Open Water as the top 2 scariest films of all time??? No way. I think you are letting your own fears take over as i would not consider either these films as being scary. Other 8 films are all appropriate in this category and would definitely be up there.

    Whats that behind you?? Aaaah its a shark look out!!!

  14. MarkusWelby1 Reply

    A very unique list with a lot of stuff that would be considered off the beaten path. I still need to see “The Changeling” after always hearing people heap praise upon it. I love any film that can do a lot with a little. One of my favorite haunted house flicks has to be “The Legend of Hell House” with Roddy McDowall. You don’t see a lot of spooks, and the actors have to sell you on the fear. “Blair Witch” has to be one of my all time scariest movies for that reason. You have to use your imagination, and it’s what I didn’t see in those dark woods that scared the hell out of me.

  15. Tony Storm Reply

    as weird as it sounds, i didnt find most of these scary at all, with the exception of the ring and the changeling, those two are great, i did like most of them tho but im just talking on the OMG WTF WHAT THAT factor

  16. Dan Grant Reply

    Hey guys, Thanks for all of the comments. I’ll try to answer a few of your questions and address some of the comments.

    In no particular order:

    Yes, Open Water terrifies me. It left me paralyzed with fear. No film has ever done to me before. JAWS ruined my love for the water, Open Water ruined it even further.

    I liked Ringu immensely. But the Ring, in my humble opinion is much more frightening and is a better made film.

    Blair Witch terrified me and it is so close to making my top ten, as is Aliens, The Shining and other odd ones like Jaws 2. As for Paranormal Activity, the first scared me, the second destroyed me. They might make my list as the years go by.

    The Exorcist did not frighten me in the least. I found it to be a poorly acted film with some very questionable logic. I realize I am in the uber-minority on this one but that’s why it’s fun to write these lists and hear your rebuttals.

    Thanks again for the comments.

  17. Dan Grant Reply

    I just have one question. Wasn’t The Changeling a Canadian production? I know Kassar and Vajna are not Canadian, but I believe it was nominated for a slew of Genies. I could be wrong.

  18. Sir Phobos Reply

    @Dan I don’t know if you looked at a trailer or read up on Let’s Scare Jessica to Death at all, but I’ll just let you know that it’s more about atmosphere and mood than out-and-out scares. For me, at least, it’s just one of those that slowly got under my skin.

  19. Dave Reply

    Ashamed to say I haven’t seen 4 of these top 10,must add them to my lovefilm,very happy to see some Argento in the list,the man is a genius

  20. Scott Reply

    Hi Dan,

    I am SOOOO not good at scary films. In fact I still haven’t watched anything for your Month yet. I know I am rubbish.

    I have seen JAWS and ELM St, but the others I know nothing of!! Maybe I need to grow a pair

    Scott

  21. Dan Grant Reply

    I love Argento and I think some of his films are some of the best horror films ever made. Suspiria is just ridiculously awesome, so much so that David Fincher “paid homage” to one of his shots in Panic Room. I also like a lot of Mario Bava films as he too was a protege (I think).

    I have seen a lot of the gore fests like Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, Men Behind the Sun, Antropophagus and some of the other Cannibal movies and while I find them gory they are not overly scary, so they don’t make my list.

    Another film that should have been listed as an honourable mention is The Fourth Kind and perhaps Stir of Echoes. I know The Fourth Kind is a gimmick but it still scared the hell out of me and SOE got lost in the 1999 craze of Sixth Sense/Blair Witch but it was a very powerful film with some genuine scares.

    I’m also a big fan of Halloween 2 and 4 and of the first 5 Friday the 13ths.

    I find all the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels to be garbage except for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

    Horror is my favourite genre and it’s great to see the comments here.

  22. Dan Reply

    @Dan: I agree about Halloween 2 – I like it too. I think I like either no. 4 or 5 also but can’t remember which. H20 is also pretty good. It was nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis return to her most famous role.

    In terms of the Nightmare on Elm Street films – I’ve always thought no. 3 was pretty good – the one about the kids who are taking part in some sort of dream experiment. A New Nightmare is also brilliant.

  23. Dan Grant Reply

    Yes, you are not alone on the love for Nightmare on Elm Street 3. I find it passable but there is still too much humour in that film and although many people liked it, I just found it out of place. Of all the sequels (minus New Nightmare) it is the best one, but still not that great imo.

    Some other good films are Orca The Killer Whale and a slew of foreign horror films like Dead Snow just to name one.

    I really liked My Bloody Valentine and with the added scenes on the SE DVD, it is really one of the best horror films of the last 30 years.

  24. Dan Reply

    @Dan: Is that the original My Bloody Valentine or the 2009 remake? I do like the original film. It’s one of the better slashers.

  25. Dan Grant Reply

    Dan:

    The remake is okay, but it pales in comparison to the original imo.

    The original MBV intially had an X rating and the film board would not release it due to (at the time) some very violent images and a lot of blood. Then, years later, they finally restored about 5 minutes worth of cuts into the film and the result was oodles and oodles of gore. It elevated an already good horror film to a bloody fantastic one. Here is one synopsis of it from Chud.com

    http://www.chud.com/17712/dvd-review-my-bloody-valentine-special-edition/

  26. Dan Heaton Reply

    I’ve only seen four of these, which is surprising since I’ve seen a decent amount of horror films. I was surprised to see Open Water at the top, but I did find it scary. Have you seen The Others? It’s not gory in any sense but had some big scares.

  27. Dan Grant Reply

    @Dan Heaton: How many Dan’s come to this site? Seems like an awful lot. lol.

    Yes, I have seen the Others and I liked it too. But when you start taking every single horror film that qualifies as scary, my list could top 100 perhaps. I thought it did a very good job of painting the atmosphere with a fine fine palette of genius, but it does not quite make my top 20 scariest films.

    If I had to choose a few other films that would make the list, in no particular order, it would be:

    The Shining
    Paranormal Activity (both)
    Suspiria
    The Fourth Kind
    The Blair Witch Project
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003
    High Tension
    The Evil Dead
    Phantasm
    Friday the 13th the Final Chapter (my all time fave Friday)
    Aliens
    Ringu
    Mothman Prophecies (very personal one)

    And many more.

  28. Dan Grant Reply

    And btw, if anyone does want to follow me on twitter, it’s @baumer72. I love talking horror movies, any time.

  29. Elissa Reply

    I love this list! I don’t personally agree with everything on here (as much as I love Nightmare on Elm Street, I really think it’s kind of silly) but that’s what I love so much about this genre. There’s a little something different for everyone.

    Although I might have to disagree with Fulci being better than Argento. I’m a little bit in love with Argento’s use of color and Goblin in his soundtracks. Gates of Hell is pretty wonderful though.

    Now I’m going to have to watch Amityville 2. I’ve seen the first (many times) and a couple of the sequels, never this one though. I will check it out.

  30. Raghav Reply

    I’m so glad you mentioned Open Water which is such an underrated horror. As for my list, horror for me has always been about the “atmosphere”. I can see the scariest of movies in the day time and it nothing. One of my scariest experience was watching Jeepers Creepers in a matinee show in USA and being the only one in a 200+ cinema theater. I decided to sit in the middle so I could not escape easily if in case anything came 😉 So yeah Jeepers Creepers comes to mind for that reason

  31. Dan Grant Reply

    I too thought Jeepers Creepers was full of atmosphere and some of it, especially the ending, was really freaky. I love that so many people have so many different films that they consider spooky.

    Damn I love horror.

  32. Adanta Reply

    I do not consider most of these movies scary (I’m really hard to scare) But I do know something that scares absolutely everybody s***less
    The Collector.
    Scariest movie ever. Guaranteed.

  33. Alfie Pacino Reply

    ‘The Entity’ by a measured mile is the scariest film ever.

    ‘Black Christmas’ worthy of a mention

  34. andy Reply

    Some real similarities being personal fears motivating peoples top ten, I get that, something in the shadows gets me and the thought of something there, sounds and the use of angelic little girls in places they should not be creeps me out, films like Ghost ship and Ghost house had me hiding behind the cushion!

  35. niels Reply

    I have not seen the original “Last House on the Left” or “Gates of Hell”, but of the other ones I would have only included Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and maybe “The Ring”.

    Off the top of my head I would have these 10 in no particular order:

    The Shining (no question!)
    Alien
    The Orphanage
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper’s)
    The Blair Witch Project
    The Ring
    Ju-on The Grudge (original Japanese version, although it’s structured very oddly)
    Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven’s)
    Jeepers Creepers

    and the last 10-15 min of Paranormal Activity and the first half of “Insidious”

    Niels

  36. Nebular Reply

    Nice list, but it doesn’t contain arguably the scariest horror movie ever – [REC] (2007).

    You should check out last 2010’s The Reef. It’s twice as intense as Open Water, and probably the best shark flick since the original Jaws.

  37. Anna Reply

    The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever!!!!!.

  38. Katie Reply

    Evil Dead is the scariest movie ever!!!!!.

  39. Daniel Reply

    i’ve three word that will knock all this movies down, A Serbian Film.

  40. mark Reply

    Last House on the Left was banned in Australia until the early 2000s -must admit I was disappointed when I finally caught up with it … not because of its cheepnis, but due to that ridiculous comic subplot involving the hillbilly sherrif (where was Slim Pickins when you needed him?). Plus I think Craven is over-rated.

    Mothman Prophecies had some lovely, creepy moments in it, but the good bits were pulled down by some lame drama elsewhere in the script(Will Patton was wasted).

    Man Bites Dog was pretty terrifying despite being very funny and damned clever.

    Also liked Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, despite being a big fan of the original.

  41. mark Reply

    Thinking about it, there is another in this category worth considering …. The Sentinel, which was directed by Michael Winner and released in 1977.

    Read the book about 25 years ago; saw it on video at the end of the 1980s and thought: ‘so so’. However, about two years ago, I stayed up late on a Sunday night and watched it on Fox. I was surprised – it was genuinely creepy.

    Normally I’m not a Winner fan … he helped put Bronson’s career in a downward spiral with Death Wish II (1982) and, in some of his better 1970s films, a number of his wide angled compositions revealed the boom and mike.

    Still, The Sentinel is an interesting curio … it has an interesting cast (Jeff Goldblum has a small role, as has Chris Walken; Burgess Meredith is good and Ms Raines is a beauty) plus it has all the elements of a good, old fashioned good (church) vs evil (hell) horror story.

    A guilty pleasure for the highbrow amongst us …

  42. AP Reply

    Thanks for the list – a few there I’ve not heard of, and may check out.

    Open Water is a good call, and it’s not just about the sharks, but also just the evolving terror of the two characters’ realisation that they probably aren’t going to get rescued.

    I’d also second the nominations of The Exorcist, Alien and Blair Witch.

    One I’d throw into the debate is The Omen (original version). Have seen it a few times and that lad still gives me the creeps. The music too.

  43. Claire Reply

    I’m sorry but Open Water was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s so boring, all they do is sit in the ocean for 2 hours until sharks pull them under and eat them.

  44. mark Reply

    Damn it Claire, you should have issued a spoiler alert – I was going to get this out, but now I know how it ends.

    I think someone in Hollywood should remake this with a happy conclusion – possibly with the couple being rescued by Navy SEALS (led by Kevin Costner) as they are on their way to Pakistan to kill Osama. A possible nominee for director of this project is George Sluizer – after all, anyone who is willing to completely bastardize one of his own films for the American market could easily rework this stuff.

  45. Neal Damiano Reply

    Nice list …..but to leave The Shining off is ludicris. It is essential to a top scariest film list. One of the most frightening films ever made!

  46. Meggie Reply

    What a fantastic list! It’s so nice to see some different titles up here, rather than a whole bunch of the usual suspects.

    I’ll definitely be hunting down The Changeling and Amityville Horror part II, so thank you for the recommendations.

    I must say, though, that for me personally, The Exorcist is the one film I’ve seen that had the ability to scare me half to death. I can’t even look at a picture of that girl without getting The Fear!!!

  47. Dan Grant Reply

    Daniel said:
    i’ve three word that will knock all this movies down, A Serbian Film.

    I’ve seen Serbian Film and it is right up there now with Last House on the Left as the most disturbing film I have ever seen. I don’t want to ruin it for those who plan on seeing it but I don’t know how to say this without doing so……but when you do things to kids, or worse infants, then you have crosse the line. This film did cross the line. I haven’t gotten some of the very disturbing images out of my head, so eys, I can understand why SF would make somebody’s list.

    As much as I love all the comments, those of you criticizing what I find scary, my comment to you is this. There is nothing universal that scares people. It’s different for everyone. Some can watch Arachnophobia and piss themselves because they are terrified of spiders. Others will watch The Exorcist and not be able to sleep at night. Sharks terrify me. To me, when i am swimming even in a lake, the JAWS theme is in my head. I’m petrified of what might be swimming beside me or even worse below me. That’s why Open Water did it to me. My opinions are not wrong, just like yours aren’t for liking something like The Exorcist more. Fear is subjective.

    Thanks for all the comments everyone.

  48. David Minogue Reply

    Great list, even though it was made for television I would add the original Salem’s Lot, it freaked me out when I first saw it as a child and still did when I watched again a few years ago, the extreme close up of the vampire’s face in the prison cell scene still scares me.

    I would also add Carrie, Poltergeist, Burnt Offerings and Event Horizon

  49. Dan Grant Reply

    David:

    Yes, all good choices. I too liked Salem’s Lot. The book is even better. If they ever make a good film about IT, I’m sure that will be up there too.

  50. Neal Damiano Reply

    Going back to this list I got to say …what about the original Friday the 13th that movie scared the life out of me. Ever watch that movie as a kid home alone for a few hours in a dark house Dan! The freaky music and the first person camera style I get chills now just reminiscing. The original was frightening!! But nice call on Texas Chainsaw Massacre definitely a truly bone chilling film! Last House on the Left ( original) degrading and perverse violence to the max!

  51. Dan Grant Reply

    Neal:

    I’m glad you mentioned Friday the 13th. The first four terrified me as a kid. I really love the first 4 and even the next two (5-6). I think the best and most terrifying Friday the 13th is the Final Chapter. I think Joseph Zito did things in that one that Miner and Cunningham would never have done on their best day. That one truly is frightening.

  52. Colin Biggs Reply

    No one ever thinks of Open Water when they think of horror films, but damn if that film didn’t leave me cold for hours afterward.

  53. Scott Lawlor Reply

    Damn that was a fine list!!

    Considering I always state I HATE horror movies and being scared in general, I seem to have seen quite a few of those

  54. Dan Grant Reply

    Thanks for chiming in guys.

    I just bought the Halloween II BR SE and it quite impressive. The SF alone are worth the $30 I spent on it.

  55. Dan Grant Reply

    I had to come back and comment on The Reef. Yes, it is a very good movie and it has some truly terrifying moments. But it is not as scary imo, as JAWS and Open Water. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Shark Movies though….very well done.

  56. Dan Grant Reply

    So, seeing as it is that time of year, does anyone have any other comments about their favourite scary movies?

  57. nipper Reply

    The 1986 remake of The Fly was not only scary, it was really sad too.
    Also, the castration scene in Hard Candy was terrifying….
    And don’t leave out The Birds,whose ending suggested the end of msnkind.

  58. Dan Grant Reply

    Had to come back here and say that IT is now getting made into a two part movie, and if it is done right, I’m sure it will be a terrifying experience…..maybe it’ll make a future list.

  59. Holly Sheridan Reply

    Hmmm there are quite a few overlooked films on this list (The Shining,The Evil Dead), but I have to agree with you on ‘The Ring’. I watched that first when I was 12 years old and couldnt be alone anywhere for weeks afterwards. Even when the film was playing on the TV I couldnt turn it on for fear I would accidently flick on the channel that was showing it. 12 Years later I still shudder when any girl with long dark hairs leans forward and it covers their face.

  60. Dan Grant Reply

    Since Dan bumped this….I didn’t necessarily over look any films, Holly. I agree that the Shining and Evil Dead are terrific horror films but they didn’t scare me quite as much as these ones do. Although the REDRUM scene is truly iconic.

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