The best scary movies of all time don’t make it easy for you to sleep well. The best scary movies are a lot sneakier. They sneak into your thoughts while you are getting ready to settle down for the night and force you to think twice before turning off the light. The best scary movies implore us to explore our fears and develop a few new ones.
Compiling decades of movies down to a list of 10 is not easy. However, caution has been taken to include old and new as well as we have made sure there’s a delectable spread of horror subgenre. Here you have monsters, slashers, demons, ghosts, and rare horrors that lurk in the dark. Additionally, we have included psychological folk frightmares to send you into the night with. Enjoy the list of the best horror movies of all time.
Even if it’s become so commonplace to announce it that it feels disingenuous, the fear of clowns is a real thing. 2017’s movie IT which was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, went on to beat The Exorcist’s 44-year record as the highest-grossing horror movie ever. It finds itself in the number 10th place in this list. This big-budget adaptation by Andy Muschietti drew on nostalgia and told its story of children scarred by trauma. A healthy dose of jump scares, impressive set pieces, and top-notch CGI and you’ve got a recipe for a horror film that’s both full of scares and fun.
Before the much acclaimed The Conjuring, James Wan and Patrick Wilson worked together on this supernatural thriller about a young boy who falls into a coma and starts channelling a malevolent spirit. The story itself wasn’t the most ground-breaking but it was infused with a compelling enough mythology that it spawned three more instalments. Wan admitted that Insidious was meant to be something of a corrective to the outright violence of Saw. It compelled him to craft something on a more spiritual level, and the end result is an effective chiller featuring what is frequently regarded as one of the best jump-scares ever graced the screen.
Scientific Study, a research study about horror films, crowned Sinister the scariest of all time. Before Sinister, director Scott Derrickson had racked up a few horror films, a couple of which earned cult followings. Sinister is a small-scale haunted house story about a true-crime writer who moves his wife and kids into a house where a family was murdered, only to find that this new place might already have a rather evil spirit. Writer C. Robert Cargill had a nightmare after watching The Ring and it inspired him to write the script on the same. The Sinister shares a minor similarity with The Ring with those creepy snuff film angles. But the dramatic reveals and creepy set-pieces far outweighed any recycled genre tropes that might have been present. Also, there’s are reports that count Sinister among the scariest film ever made. So it must count out for something.
There’s a reason the franchise is still going strong after more than 40 years. Halloween is frequently ranked as one of the earliest examples of the slasher genre as we know it today. While it may not feature the same kind of realistic gore we’ve come to expect of films in that category, it packs a lot of tension and some inventive thrills in a relatively small-scale package. The film’s legacy is also fairly unmatchable. Michael Myers’ mask has become the stuff of a cult. Also, the giant, unstoppable killer and the “final girl” have become ingrained in horror history.
It’s not easy to take something that works well for one culture and try to translate that formula successfully for another, but Gore Verbinski did that with The Ring. It’s a remake of Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s acclaimed thriller about a cursed videotape, and Verbinski’s take kept the original film’s striking visual imagery; the ghost of a young girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face, and it scared the hell out of audiences no matter where they were from. For many, it served as an introduction to East Asian horror cinema. It features a committed performance from Naomi Watts who then was up-and-coming.
This low-budget slasher directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper, very loosely inspired by the crimes of Ed Gein has a cult following of its own. Its grimy aesthetic helped lend it an air of authenticity, which made it all the more frightening. The massive, menacing presence of Gunnar Hansen’s Leatherface set many trends and paved the way for other brutes like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. There have been multiple attempts since to breathe new life into the franchise. However, none have equaled the original in its sheer, over-the-top, power tool-inspired horror.
Well, many of Stephen King’s novels and stories have been adapted for the big screen. Several of them are considered classic today but the mother of them all is easily Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. A masterpiece of set and production design and a genuinely unnerving take on the traditional haunted house story, The Shining features a host of memorable images and an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson. The movie’s relatively few jumps scares are still absolutely chilling. However, its true power lies in the way it seeps under your skin and makes you feel Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness. It’s rightfully considered one of the greatest horror films ever made.
James Wan is a master of the horror genre, directing films like Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious. THE CONJURING is an inspired-by-true-events chiller based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens, best known for their work on the strange case that inspired the Amityville Horror movies were portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who grounded the effective jump scares and freak-out moments with believable world-weariness. Together, Wan and his lead pair found fresh terror in familiar genre tropes. The end result is a sprawling cinematic universe that only continues to grow.
Hereditary was writer-director Ari Aster’s directorial debut. It’s a dark family drama about the nature of grief weaved within a supernatural horror story. Toni Collette gave a stellar performance as bedevilled mother Annie. It suffices to say that Hereditary struck such a nerve with audiences and it instantly turned Aster into a director to take note of and it has shot up to second place on this list.
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It is not much of a surprise that The exorcist is at the topping the list of best scary movies of all time. The jury is still out on the same. An adaptation of the eponymous novel; this William Friedkin’s movie is about a demon-possessed child. The attempts to banish the said demon went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated horror movie ever. It was also the first to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Aside from its critical and commercial credentials, the movie is well-known for the mass hysteria it inspired. There were protests over its controversial subject matter. There were reports of widespread nausea and fainting in the audience. Despite its somewhat quaint effects, there is no denying the power the movie continues to have over those who watch it for the first time.
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