It’s that time of year again! That’s right, Halloween is just around the corner and it is time to revisit your favorite horror movies and watch some great new ones. It seems as though another scary movie is in theaters every week, but do they actually make you jump from your seat? Do they make your blood run cold? We think you might need a refresher on which horrific movies will leave you spooked well beyond October 31st! Check out the top 25 most chilling horror movies of all time. Be prepared to sleep with lights on…
1. The Exorcist-1973
The undisputed crowned queen of all horror films tells the blood curdling tale of a girl possessed by a demon. The movie's original record-breaking box office in the US was matched by international audiences to be one of the highest earning films in history.
It launched multiple careers into the Hollywood stratosphere and is embedded in the minds of every baby boomer forever. You never forget the first time you saw it, and like the Kennedy assassination- you never forget where you were when you saw The Exorcist! The most epic film in the genre of possession horror is a must see if you’ve never seen it, and a must see again if it’s been more than 20 years since you’ve seen it last. Did you know the vomit in the film was made of pea soup?
2. The Omen-1976
The Devil’s bloodline needs to persevere, and where is a more perfect place for that than in a well to do family desperate to have children? This chilling masterpiece, which was followed by multiple sequels due to its popularity, didn’t need special effects to bring a deep chill to your already still body.
This type of classical horror, so simply and masterfully executed, is not only successful at keeping you awake at night, but makes you suspect sinister causes behind your own children’s mischief. Tip - if the family dog is unexpectedly growing at your own son....run to get a DNA test!
Psycho is considered a classic not just in the horror genre, but a classic, period. Ask anyone in the world - what is the most famous shower scene of all time, and you’ll get a unanimous answer as we all recollect the knife-slashing sound effects blending with screaming as blood mixes with running water.
Brilliantly portrayed by Anthony Perkins, he is not the first nor the last mama’s boy in film history, but certainly the most memorable one.
4. The Shining-1980
Jack Nicholson’s haunting face is the universal symbol for this world-wide masterpiece. The movie’s beautiful beginning is set in a picturesque mountain setting, as a writer agrees to take care of a secluded hotel during a long winter. He casually dismisses the hotel’s gruesome history about the previous caretaker who killed his entire family, but his small son has a premonition which soon unravels into a living nightmare for the family.
The Shining is one of the few movies that left an eternal reference to not one, but two of its scenes – the creepy twin sisters in the hotel corridor, which have been adapted to hundreds of other “horrific” analogies, albeit usually in satire , and of course, Jack Nicholson’s maniacal face breaking through the door and jeering “Here’s Johnny”. Did you know Robert Deniro declined the role because it caused him nightmares?
5. Rosemary’s Baby-1968
A true American classic featuring a true American legend - Mia Farrow. Who can’t relate to a happily married young couple expecting their first child! As events begin to unfold, the beautiful and obedient young wife becomes tormented by the constant severe pain, nightmares and unexplained scratches on her body, annoying busybody neighbors, and seemingly uncaring and highly unconventional doctor. And WHAT is that persistent smell?! If you ever look at raw meat and deem it appetizing, check if your spouse is missing a glove!
This gory horror film immediately grabs your attention with an impossible dilemma – if you have a choice to kill your friend (in a terrible slow and gruesome way) or, if you don’t, your family dies – what would you choose? The story centers around the "Jigsaw Killer" , who instead of just killing his victims, captures them in a trap, where they are subjected to physical or psychological torture.
The low budget film, costing around $1m, was so successful that it went on to gross over $100m in the box office and generated eight sequels! This is one of the highest-grossing horror film franchises in history and has generated over $1 billion in box office sales.
7. Silence of the Lambs-1991
A horror film with multiple Academy Awards is a rare find indeed! The top cast of Oscar-winning actors keeps us glued to the television as we cringe and gasp and unwittingly become fascinated with the evil yet highly intelligent Dr Hannibal Lecter (that oddly enough rhymes with cannibal).
And I reluctantly admit that I felt a tiny hint of delight at his spectacular escape. Is it ethical to use the help of one deranged serial killer to hunt down another deranged serial killer? Asking for a friend…
8. The Hostel-2005
What makes this movie so incredibly scary is its portrayal of realistic horror. While not a well-known film, it wins our pick for the most enduring impact it will leave in your mind. This film isn’t about supernatural powers or special effects, but rather about exposing the most evil tendencies in human nature and what horrific acts humans can commit when not being watched.
As the movie is set in Europe and starts out with a light romantic flare, the viewer is in for a big surprise if you’re not aware you’re watching a horror movie. Any plans to backpack through Europe and stay in hostels? Um.. not for me, thanks…
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street-1984
Usually when we have nightmares about being killed, we expect to wake up alive and well. That is, if you don’t have dreams about your childhood abuser Freddie Krueger who has come back to haunt you.
In this classic slasher film, Freddie Krueger invades his victims dream and kills them..but there’s a catch. If they get killed in the dream, they wake up dead. To this day, the movie is infamous for its terrifying plot...and let’s not forget it was Johnny Depp’s acting debut.
Are you scared of clowns? What about murderous ones? Based on Stephen King’s novel, the film tells a story of a not so friendly clown named Pennywise who lives in the sewer system and comes out of hibernation every 27 years to feed on the children of a town in Maine called Derry.
The film set numerous box office records and grossed a whopping $700 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing horror film of all time! A sequel, IT Chapter Two was released on September 6, 2019. By the way, if you thought it odd to make a horror film from an innocuous object like a clown, you would be wrong. Fear of clowns is a known phenomenon in psychology, it’s called Coulrophobia.
11. Texas Chain Saw Massacre-1974
Perhaps the most cost-effective biggest bag for the buck on this list, at a shoestring budget of only $140,000 (and quickly grossing over $30m, $150m in today’s dollars) this is the undisputed champion of the most scary slasher film in history.
If the fact that this is loosely based on a true story doesn’t scare you enough, the movie is so terrifying and violent that it was banned in many countries including England. What do cannibalism, torture and power tools have in common? Well, they blend together in a grisly depiction of events that could be someone’s potential reality.
Our all-time favorite perennial rerun that beat two records (a) the musical score which has cemented its permanent place in the universe as being synonymous with menacing suspense, and (b) generated the highest number of sequels starring the same actress, our beloved Jamie Lee Curtis, as she managed to miraculously survive one string of murders after another! The only such case where for 4 decades the same actress stars in a series of sequels.
But while our star gracefully ages - We need to ask… Let’s see the face behind the mask! What IS the age of Michael Myers? But I’ll stay tuned till he retires. Oh keep my day job you say? Fine. Did you know - the Halloween franchise is the highest-grossing horror franchise in history, followed by our other pick on this list -Friday the 13th
13. The Conjuring (Series)-2013
It begins the way most supernatural horror films do... Your traditional family moves into a new home and little by little strange occurrences seem to raise suspicion. What you probably didn’t realize is that this movie was based on a true story; back in 1971 Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the film, went to investigate the case of the Perron family who moved into a dilapidated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters and dog.
Soon they discover that the house belonged to an accused witch named Bathsheba who evidently sacrificed her one week old child to the devil and killed herself. Records show that there have been several murders and suicides on the property, yet the house the movie was based on was recently just a home for a couple who ended up suing Warner Bros because of the vandalism done to the house ever since the movie’s release.
14. Scream - 1996
Unlike most horror films that are low budget and feature mostly unknown actors, Scream has a fairly notable cast and a healthy share of well-known stars who play High School students being stalked by a crazed serial killer in a frightening mask. The film cleverly blends black comedy, mystery, and slasher horror, plus has recognizable references to several other favorite horror movies.
So if you’re a horror fan - be sure to watch this if you haven’t already. The film’s plot was actually inspired by real events, several grisly murders by the Gainesville Ripper, a serial killer in Gainesville Florida, which gives it a major boost in our book!
15. The Blair Witch project – 1999
The first incredible fact about this movie is its financial success, at a cost of only $60,000 it grossed over $250 million at the box office, making it one of the most successful films of all time. The second notable achievement is that it used an innovative technique of ‘found footage’, which was later emulated by multiple horror films.
The found footage in this horror mystery is the video footage that is found one year after the disappearance of 3 student filmmakers, while filming a documentary about a local legend known as Blair Witch. Since the footage is found a year later, I think we can guess if this a happy ending, or not?
16. The Ring-2002
Have you ever died from watching a video? Imagine receiving a phone call from a voice that informs you that you’ll be dead in seven days. When four teenagers mysteriously die after watching the same video tape, a newspaper reporter starts to get suspicious and attempts to seek out the explanation.
Will she have enough time to save her own life? Maybe we’re better off keeping our eyes off the television screen anyway. Before you die, you see...The Ring
17. The Babadook-2014
This Australian movie reached across continents to mesmerize its viewers and, unlike most horror flicks, appeals to mostly female audience. In addition to being a horror film in its own right, it also explores complicated psychological struggle of a young widowed mother who, both - loves her son and hates him at the same time while blaming him for her husband’s death. Once you start watching it you find that it’s impossible to walk away until you find out how it ends. And the ending is sure to surprise you.
If you don’t think you’ll ever need to use the bathroom again, then you might be okay with watching this movie. Otherwise, we promise you will be scarred for life..well maybe not for life but you won’t be able to look in a mirror again for a very long time.
Ex-cop Ben Carson used to look into mirrors all the time, but when he decides to take a security job at an old department store, he notices some strange images in the reflections of the mirrors...you’ll have to watch to find out what happens next but we will say that Carson never looked into a mirror again. Conclusion: Brush your teeth 100 times before seeing this movie.
19. Get Out-2017
Get out isn’t your typical horror movie. It will make you jump, it will make you scream, but it will also make you laugh at times. Jordan Peele, originally a comedian, makes his directorial debut with this film which follows Chris, an African American, who is visiting his Caucasian girlfriend Rose’s family for the first time.
After noticing strange behavior from the family estate’s African American workers, he soon figures out the family holds a very disturbing secret and realizes he needs to “Get Out” of town immediately-if he wants to live, that is. The movie grossed $255 million worldwide and was nominated for several awards. Spoiler alert: Chris and Rose don’t live happily ever after.
20. Friday the 13th – 1980
Friday the 13th is an epic, need we say more? The title has crossed over into popular culture and proliferated into numerous merchandising and entertainment industries. Of all revered horror images, Jason’s hockey mask is among the most recognizable in the world.
How far will a mother go to avenge the death of her young son, who drowned in a lake while his camp counselors were playing hanky panky instead of watching him. Second highest-grossing horror franchise of all time (following Halloween - the champion in this category). However, the race is not over and this has the potential to take the number one spot again because… there are 12 movies so far in the franchise, so clearly we know there will be another for a total of … 13?!
If supernatural films don’t scare you, give this one a try. There’s no doubt that this movie will scare the brains out of you and make your jaw drop with its numerous jump scares and unexpected plot twists. In this first installment of the Insidious Franchise, a couple moves into a new home with their two sons and new-born daughter.
Soon, the family starts noticing some paranormal activity and even start hearing noises through the baby monitor. The couple soon learns that their son has inexplicably entered a comatose state and has been possessed by demons whose mission it is to inhabit his body.
22. The Devil’s Advocate-1997
If I tell you that Charlize Theron takes off her clothes, will I get your immediate attention? Add Al Pacino into the mix, and does anyone still doubt that this is a must-see? Something seems eerily familiar…. scratches on the body of a beautiful woman, again? Is this the same amorous devil teleporting from Rosemary’s baby, in search of a sleepy innocent blonde?
The similarity wasn’t accidental, in fact the director cited Rosemary’s Baby as being an inspirational influence for this film. Did you know, the famous courtroom scene was filmed in New Jersey’s Bergen County Court House, and this same courtroom has been featured in multiple films, so if you’re a Bergen County NJ resident getting summoned for jury duty - don’t bail out (no pun intended).
The most known film adaptation of all Stephen King’s novels, Carrie tells a story of a shy 16 year old teenager named Carrie White who is bullied at school. Much to the surprise of her classmates and herself, Carrie soon realizes she can summon telekinetic powers when being provoked, and that she can use them to her advantage.
After a cruel game organized by a group of popular kids, Carrie carries out her revenge during the most famous prom in film history. Her tormentors sure got the punishment they deserved, and those who survived will never be at peace again. The movie became a classic largely due to its relevance to both adults and teens, as everyone can relate to kids who are lonely, cliques that are popular, and mothers who may be a tad bit overbearing.
As the modern-day omnipresent Jessica Chastain makes her debut in her first horror film, she can attest to the well known saying ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, as she is kind enough to adopt her husband’s orphaned nieces.
Jessica’s dreadful realization towards the film’s ending comes bundled with a couple of adorable little girls making this possibly the first ever family-friendly horror movie. Except…make sure to leave the lights on when you go to sleep and no matter what - don’t look under your bed!
25. A Quiet Place-2018
Making a sharp pivot from comedy, John Krasinsky directed and starred in this thriller with his real life wife Emily Blunt. Can you live in a world where making any kind of sound would get you killed by murderous extraterrestrial creatures with a heightened sense of hearing.
Let your creativity kick in … your life depends on it. Here’s an idea for parents of badly behaved noisy kids - let them view this movie without parental supervision, oh and in the dark.