Can you feel that chill in the air?
Autumn is here, which means it’s time to get back into the spooky swing of things, just in time for Halloween. While there are thousands of creepy, gross, and downright ridiculous horror movies to sift through this October, there are a few that stand above the rest for all the right reasons—with those reasons being that they’ll scare you into keeping the lights on at night.
These are our picks for the top 10 scariest horror movies of all time.
10. The Blair Witch Project
The camera work alone is enough to leave you disoriented in the ‘found-footage’ classic from 1999. The film relied on amateur actors and an extremely short script to create the realism that permeates the movie. Audiences left the theatres terrified at the time of its release, kick starting the re-popularization of the found footage genre for years to come. The film follows a group of student filmmakers who go out to investigate an urban legend in the infamous Black Hills, only to never be seen or heard from again.
You might be shaking your head at this one, but Halloween was one of the first films recognized in the “slasher” genre that we know today. This film relied on suspense to keep you on your toes, rather than the special effects and gore that can often be seen in modern slasher films. This tension created a film that will leave you squinting at the screen, waiting for Michael Myers to appear with his trademark mask and slow, deliberate walk.
8. The Ring
The American adaptation of the wildly popular Japanese horror film Ringu left audiences shocked and terrified after its release in 2002. This was largely due to the breaking of the fourth wall that’s included in the film, making the viewer feel as if they’re a part of the story, rather than watching from a safe distance. It’s easy to feel paranoid while watching a movie about a videotape that curses the person who watches it to die 7 days later, so approach this one with caution if you’re the nervous type.
An instant classic, The Conjuring takes the ‘haunted house’ story to the next level. This 2013 film has a slow build that culminates in an explosive final act, relying on the use of suspense and surprising camera work to keep you engaged––and afraid––throughout the film. The story follows a family that’s plagued by a dark entity after moving into their new home, which continues to torment the family in more ways than one as the movie progresses.
6. The Shining
Even if you’re not a horror fan, chances are you’ve heard of The Shining. This 1980 classic from Stanley Kubrick is a quintessential member of the horror genre, with iconic stills from the film such as the twins in the hallway, and the wave of blood pouring from the elevator still remaining instantly recognizable to this day. This film blurs the line between the paranormal and the psychological, leaving you to ask yourself what actually happened to cause the main character to lose his mind.
This film combines two horror genres, leaning into the paranormal and the slasher-film style to create this disturbing––and terrifying 2012 feature. The movie pulls inspiration from many different classic horror films, using cursed found-footage as a plot device, similar to The Ring and The Blair Witch Project. The movie follows a true-crime writer’s desperate journey to write another best-selling novel, which leads him and his family into the scene of a crime and the hands of the paranormal forces that haunt their new home.
If you feel a bit sick to your stomach at the thought of this movie, you’re not alone. The 2018 film left audiences disturbed and deeply unsettled following its release. With shock after shock, this film does not take you where you believe you’ll go, but rather to deliberately disturbing examples of a family whose reality is crumbling beneath them. Between the shocking imagery and the unexpected plot twists, Hereditary is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
This 1974 film follows a group of young friends as they go to visit the grave of one of their grandfathers––when they get there, however, they find a crazed group of outcasts living next door who begin to hunt them down one by one. The film’s villain, leatherface, is a chainsaw wielding apparition of your worst nightmares, and one that left audiences scared for years to come. You’ll seldom find a top 10 horror list that this movie isn’t on.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street
While it may seem cheesy now that special effects have come so far, A Nightmare on Elm Street remains a film with one of the most frightening premises: a villain that chases you in your dreams. With a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a concrete placement in the metaphorical Horror Hall of Fame, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic that still delivers the scare-factor to this day; relying on suspense, mystery, and––of course––it’s infamous ‘bad guy’, Freddy Krueger.
1. The Exorcist
The 1973 film The Exorcist remains to be one of the most profitable horror films ever made. This movie is nearly as terrifying today as it was on its release date, relying on atmospheric horror, rather than cliche jump scares, to build suspense and tension for the viewer. While there have been plenty of possession films since its release, The Exorcist was one of the first to present this now-popular horror concept on the big screen.