Scary movies are not my area of expertise but I’ve always liked scary movies. When I say scary movies I mean more thrillers. I prefer them to horror films. I don’t like gore, I prefer to be scared off my couch or disturbed. I like thrillers that leave you thinking about them long after the films over. None of the films on my list are gory but most will scare you out of your pants. A lot of them set the tone for thrillers that came after them and if you have any interest in movies you should watch every single one of the films on this list if you haven’t already. Here my list of my top 10 best scariest films of all time.
The Exorcist by William Friedkin is about 12 year old Regan (Linda Blair) who becomes possessed by the devil. Her mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), desperate to save her daughter turns to two priest to conduct an exorcism after doctors are unable to cure her.
I had made it up to my early twenties without watching it. I had to write a paper on it for my Intro to Film class.
I can still remember the day I watched it for the first time. On one October night I sat down and watched the special edition dvd with 11 minutes of scenes and images taken out before the films theatrical release. I was not prepared for what I saw. Possessed Regan was as scary as it gets. Demonic images would pop out of nowhere in the middle of the scene like if the celluloid it was filmed on was possessed. I managed to finish the first draft of my paper that night because I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep for a week after that. This film stands the test of the time. It still manages to scare me after all these years.
A video tape filled with nightmarish images leads to a mysterious phone call telling the viewer they have seven days to live. Journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is asked to investigate the death of four teenagers who mysteriously died exactly one week after watching the tape. Rachel discovers the tape during her investigation. After watching it herself she gets the same foretelling phone call telling her she would be dead in 7 days.
I can’t remember what compelled me to watch The Ring at night at my sisters house. I am pretty sure it had something to do with school. This is another film I cannot forget seeing. This is probably the only film in which I leaped out of my seat while watching it. This film is eerie, suspenseful, and just plain scary. The dead girl that comes out of the tv still freaks me out. I get freaked out just thinking about her. An awesome watch if you want to not sleep.
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy move into the Bramford apartments in New York City despite warnings from their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) who tells them of the buildings strange history. After some strange events that occur Rosemary becomes pregnant with what she believes is a demonic child.
This film deserves all the acclaim it received. It isn’t violent or gory but that is not a bad thing. It’s brilliance comes from how it shot. Roman Polanski makes the most mundane things like talking on the phone terrifying.The film is very calculated to create suspense and just plain creep you out. A must watch for anyone interested in film.
A serial killer is on the lose in the small town of Woodsborro and no one is safe. Now the killer know as “Ghostface” turns his focus to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
This is the only slasher movie on my list because I am not necessarily into slasher movies. Yes, I liked Halloween but I saw that as an adult. I saw Nightmare on Elm Street as a kid and it still scares the hell out of me. I have images of the film burned into my brain. This is why I am not a big slasher movie fan but for Scream I will make an exception.
What makes this film so great is its self-awareness combined with comedy. It satirizes the genre that director himself (Wes Craven) is so well known for. It’s violence is not over the top or gory. It is a cleaver film that plays on the genres conventions.
This found footage film that basically started the genre revolves around three college students who’ve traveled to a small town to collect documentary footage about the local legend known as the Blair Witch. They disappear but their footage and sound equipment is discovered a year later.
What more can one say about this film except it is soil your pants scary. You know it’s good when know that you are watching a fiction but then you begin to think, “Is this for real? It really feels like for real”. It’s that whole being in the woods in the dark thing that really gets me. Oh, and I will never for the life of me forget the last scene and final shot of the film. So eerie.
6) Jaws (1975)
A man-eating white shark attacks beachgoers in the fictional New England resort town of Amity Island. The local police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) teams up with oceanographer Matt Hopper (Richard Dryfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to hunt down the shark and end the carnage.
Jaws was the start of the Hollywood Blockbuster. It changed everything and scared everyone out of the water all at the same time. I can’t begin to explain the effect this film has had on me. I love the water. Once I get it in it’s hard to get me out but at the same time I have always had a fear of it too, the Ocean to be more specific. I can honestly say this all stems from seeing Jaws. In this film director Steven Spielberg is a master of scaring the crap out of you without actually showing you anything scary. He basically sets up the scary scene and lets your mind do the rest. All he had to do was show someone disappearing from the surface of the water and that was it. It was all about the setup. A genious film, even after all these years.
7) The Birds
The Birds follows socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) as she pursues a relationship Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) to a small Northern California town. Things turn strange when birds begin to attach the locals.
It is because of this movie that I have had a fear of birds. It’s only recent years that the fear has subsided somewhat but I still don’t trust the buggers. How can you not get freaked out about the thought of birds all of a sudden attacking for no reason? Hitchcock’s execution is unmatched. The king of suspense makes a seemingly normal thing like walking home from school terrifying.
8) Alien (1979)
Alien is about very scary looking alien that stalks and kills the crew of a commerical spacecraft. The crew must to stay alive in deep space where no one can hear you scream.
Terrifying alien stalking people in deep space, how can that not be scary? This is the scariest space film that I have every seen. That alien is scary enough to haunt your dreams. This film is dark, suspensful, and subervsivally delves into issues of sex and reproduction. There is more to this film than meets the eye and that’s why it is on this list. Oh and the soundtrack is awesome. It’s part of the reason you get scared!
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) , a F.B.I. trainee, looks to imprisoned serial killer and cannible Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to provide insight that might help her catch another serial killer known as Bufflo Bill (Ted Levine).
I don’t know what’s scarier, a serial killer or a cannibalistic serial killer. The best part of the film lies in the fact that it is both psychological thriller and outright horror film. Not only are you physically frightened but you are also emotionally frightened. I believe that the way this film messes with your mind is the reason why its so goddamn scary. Get out of my head Hannibal!
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicolson) move his family to the isolated Overlook hotel after taking on the job of winter caretaker at the hotel. Jack hopes to cure his writers black amongst all the isolation. Little does the family know that the Overlook has an evil presence that drives Jack insane and violent while his boy, Danny (Danny Lloyd) is haunted by images by the hotels horrifying past.
From the start of the film you just know that nothing good will come out of them going to this hotel in the middle of nowhere. Nothing seems quite right. The eeriness that permeates the film is what make this film so great. Director Stanley Kubrick manages to provide a slow but progress deterioration of Jacks mental state, transitioning from just eerie to crazy with such ease. The pace of the film is intentionally slow to bring you gradually to the violent and chilling end of the film. It doesn’t get much better than that, kids.
I hope you liked my list. These are all classic films in their own right and influenced all the films that came after them. Maybe by watching these films you can better appreciate your favourite modern horror or thriller films.