In 1896, pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès set out to scare the bejeebers out of audiences with a short film he called Le Manoir du diable that is often credited as the first horror film. With his "House of the Devil," not only did he do just that, but the innovative filmmaker also unknowingly unleashed a whole new genre of filmmaking onto the world that would go on to become one of the most proliferative in the history of film.
Ever since Méliès' creepy images flickered on a wall somewhere in Paris, audiences have been clamoring for the next thrill, the next fright or some new way of getting their "horror freak on." And fortunately for an ever-increasingly sophisticated and skeptical audience, horror filmmakers keep on delivering.
Everyone has a different threshold of "horror," and everyone has a different way of having that threshold breached, so keep that in mind while perusing our list of the scariest horror movies of all time. You may not find your favorite on the list, and you may not think that every entry included is scary, but remember that each movie listed, at one time or another, scared the pants off someone, somewhere.
If you don't see your favorite scary horror movie on the list, you can let us know about it by posting in the comments section at the end of the article.
The Shining - Numerous memorable scenes come to mind, ("redrum", "all work and no play", "man in the bunny suit") - but they all add up to the scariest movie of all time.
Silence of the Lambs - The most visceral fear comes from one's own mind, and this one is the king of psychological horror. We recommend watching it slathered in lotion while listening to a Sparklehorse CD.
Se7en - Wonder if FedEx would really make that delivery? It's been reported that the studios balked at the ending, but Brad Pitt refused to complete filming with a different final scene. Good move, Brad!
Psycho - The most prominent representative of the genius of Hitchcock. Janet Leigh's shower scene is often mentioned as one of the most frightening scenes ever filmed for a movie.
The Ring - A ringing phone will scare you for days after seeing this one. A clean change of underwear anyone?
Halloween (1978) - So scary it spawned no fewer than 8 direct sequels, not to mention numerous acknowledgments in other Hollywood productions. William Shatner should be proud of that!
Frankenstein (1931) - Combines a beautifully simplistic tale, with the potent topic of man vs. nature, to create a horrific fairy-tale that continues to mesmerize more than seven decades after its release.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006) - with the threat of nuclear disaster and its effects on humans largely forgotten, how successful would a remake featuring villains mutated by radioactive fallout play to today's generation of horror fans? Well, it worked back then and it works today.
Carrie (1976) - Mixes telekinetic powers with our innate fear of high school ridicule to create a classic horror masterpiece. This was the first Stephen King novel to be adapted for the big screen.
Bad Ronald (1974) - An ABC, made-for-TV movie. The premise alone is the star of the show and is guaranteed to keep you awake for a few nights. Hard to get your hands on it though, as it's not yet been distributed on DVD.
Jaws (1975) - Forced a whole generation to stay out of the water. Is it safe to go back yet?
Night of the Living Dead (1968) - The Royal King Mother of all zombie movies. Anyone hungry!
The Birds (1963) - The film's tagline alone says it all: "Suspense and Shock Beyond Anything You Have Seen or Imagined!" Ooooo, scary!
The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Although it turned out to be the biggest sham in filmmaking history, it was scary nonetheless.
The Changeling (1980) - You'll never see a wheelchair the same again! The movie is based on events which supposedly took place at a house in Denver, Colorado, in the 1960s. The Chessman Park neighborhood in the movie is a reference to Cheesman Park in Denver, where the original haunting transpired. Not the 2008 movie of the same name starring Angelina Jolie.
Friday the 13th (1980) - Must be scarier than Halloween because it spawned more sequels! By the way, not the 2009 remake.
Signs (2002) - Crop circles, Shyamalan and Aliens, Oh My! Unfortunately, This was the beginning of the end for M. Night.
Paranormal Activity (2007) - Works on the often overlooked idea that what you don't see is scarier than what you do. It's scary, and it's unsettling. And besides, you've been getting too much restful sleep lately anyway.
Alien (1979) - Ever wonder about that indigestion you get from time to time?
The Descent (2005) - The translucent-skinned humanoids resemble a creepy cross between Gollum, Spock, and Vladislaus Dracula's naked, flying-monkey devil-brides featured in Van Helsing. A descent into madness in more ways than one.
The Devil's Rejects (2005) - Sequel to House of 1000 Corpses. One of the few instances of a sequel surpassing the original. Also contains some of the best one-liners in a horror movie.
A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Many don't classify it as a true horror movie, but it's terrifying nonetheless. Kubrick's best movie? Naughty, naughty, naughty! You filthy old soomka!
Videodrome (1983) - Cronenberg horror that relates the troubles of society to television. Was he a visionary?
The Thing a.k.a John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) - This remake of the 1951 original was largely dismissed by critics and audiences when it first came out, probably because Spielberg's E.T. had just been released two weeks prior. A great example of how characters should be written in horror movies.
Quarantine (2008) - Undoubtedly, one-hour martinizers and upholstery cleaning companies around the world will make a fortune laundering soiled trousers and wet theater seats. A scene-by-scene remake of the foreign-made [REC] which was a better film, by the way.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - The 1974 Tober Hooper version, not the 2003 version. Another film "based on" the life of real-life serial killer Ed Gein. What a popular serial killer he was!
Wait Until Dark (1967) - Yes, Audrey Hepburn can do "scary." A great example of how to leave it up to an audience to unravel the mystery themselves. Stephen King once declared this the scariest movie of all time.
Rosemary's Baby (1968) - Filmed at The Dakota building, in Manhattan's Upper West Side where John Lennon was fatally shot some twelve years later. A coincidence?
Freaks (1932) - Not so much scary as it is disturbing. Ever seen a man with no arms and no legs roll a cigarette?
The Blob (1958) - When viewed with a nostalgic attitude and with one corner of your mind thinking back of sitting in the tuck-and-roll seats of a '57 Chevy parked at the drive-in theater, The Blob will endear itself to classic sci-fi fans more and more each time it is viewed.
Drag Me to Hell (2009) - Say what you will about the cheesey title, but Sam Raimi returns to form with this delightfully funny and refreshingly scary slasher flick. Welcome back, Sam!
Ju-on (2000) - The Japanese version. Don't bother with the Sarah Michelle Gellar American remake. When someone is killed in a bout of resentment, the resulting rage accumulates in the place where the dead once lived. He who comes in contact with the curse loses his life, and a new curse is born. The Japanese prefer to believe places become haunted, whereas American filmmakers think people are haunted.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - The rare instance of a remake that's better than the original. Must... stay... awake...
28 Days Later (2002) - Danny Boyle's breakout flick is a dystopian tale that opens four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, leaving only a handful of non-infected survivors try to find sanctuary. Not a zombie movie... they're not zombies... don't call them zombies.
The Mist (2007) - From a Stephen King Story. Hard to recall an ending to a movie causing such polarization of viewers. Say what you will about it, they couldn't have ended it in any other way.
I Walked With a Zombie (1943) - Made in 1943, this Val Lewton production, directed by Jacques Tourneur, features disturbing atmosphere that sees its female stars, Christine Gordon and Frances Dee, taking a long and lonely walk through some haunting fields of sugar cane.
The Wicker Man (1973) - A creepy-crawly little film that, despite its myriad production problems, went on to become a cult fave and one of Great Britain's most popular horror films. Don't confuse it with Nic Cage's ridiculous 2006 version. The soundtrack is equally freaky.
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror) (1922) - Where the legend of Dracula began, with Max Schreck's Count Orlock, the phantom of the night that drinks the blood of his victims. This silent movie was the predecessor to the perhaps more easily "watchable" Bela Lugosi version of Dracula. Count Orlock also appears on our list of the Best Movie Monster and Creatures of All Time.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Wes Craven’s sweet dreamscape premise behind A Nightmare on Elm Street is what continues to work in this little jewel of horrific fun from 1984. Terrifying and clever (even if that intelligence is somewhat dated), Nightmare – trying to reign in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween series – offers a bit more humor and modern-like psychosis for fans of slasher films by introducing audiences to the wise-cracking psychotic nature of Freddy Krueger. By the way, it's now on sparkling blu-ray.
The Wolf Man (1941) - Lon Chaney Jr.'s rendition from Universal's vault of classic horror staples, not to be confused with Joe Johnston's 2010 remake. Interesting tidbit: The Wolfman battled a bear in one scene but unfortunately the bear ran away during filming. What few scenes were filmed, were included in the theatrical trailer.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) - This South Korean horror masterpiece features one of the most chilling quotes ever: "As much as you hate it, I'm the only one in this world you can call mother, got it?"
Insidious (2010) - Don't let your son go into the further. Nothing good will come of it.
Prometheus - Scott is onto something so close to being perfect that one can’t help but let the film slide on its few shortcomings and sit back while its themes gestate.
Have additional information, want to know what others are saying, or don't agree with something we said?
Read or post comments about the Scariest Movie Ever on the
List of the Scariest Movie Ever Discussion F