When you talk about scary films, everyone differs on what they find to be terrifying. Yet scientifically speaking, there are ways one can determine what the scariest movies in history are. The usual way to do it is to go off of the law of averages. What does the “average person” find to be scary? We then track down the films that did that well or better than others. Of course, this can be a lot of things. For example, some movies make you uncomfortable due to blood and gore. Yet there are others that contain very graphic content so disturbing you could not watch the movie another time.
The classic jump scare is common in scary movies, but sometimes this can be expected. This is why finding ways to do that without anyone expecting it is good. Using religious beliefs is a common trope in scary movies too, but you can also create a scary situation out of anything. This is why a horror movie could take place just as much at a camp as a religious building or graveyard. Entirely new, creative worlds can also be created that would not connect to real life. Those can also be terrifying. Regardless of what it is, the scariest movies all hit us in different ways. Let’s go over the scariest, according to science.
Released:October 18, 2002
The marketing for this film was pretty compelling, stating: “You cannot die until you see The Ring.” Of course, this did not work very well with the sequel, but still. The Ring was pretty interesting and quite revolutionary. It was a remake of Hideo Nakata’s “Ring” film. Of course, that was a Japanese version that did not really make its way into the United States. Therefore, Ehren Kruger and company felt it could be redone for the English-speaking world.
Originally based on Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel of the same name, the movie follows a journalist that decides to investigate a cursed videotape. It happens to be killing every viewer who sees it within seven days of viewing it. No one seems to know why which is why the movie adds a mystery within its horror. If you like a suspenseful take within your horror adventure, The Ring does that beautifully. It also might make you want to destroy the ’90s videotapes you might still have around your home.
We want to make it clear that we are discussing the original and not the remakes. While the remake is fine, most fans of the movie will tell you the original is better. The budget for Carrie was less than $2 million back in the 1970s, and it made a little over $30 million, making it quite successful for its time. It is also widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, horror or otherwise. It was actually adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name.
This was one of King’s first book to movie adaptations and certainly made him someone to go back to numerous times. Sissy Spacek was brilliant in the main role of Carrie White, the daughter of an uber-religious mother. Unpopular at school, she is often bullied and put through terrible situations by her peers. This all seems to unlock powers of telekinesis and more that she uses to punish her peers that mock her. No one is safe, and they will all regret their actions.
Creepy, uncomfortable, at times even just nightmare-inducing. The Silence of the Lambs was likely not meant to come off as a horror movie. Many would cite it as a “thriller,” ultimately. It uses a lot of psychological tricks to give us something that makes us more and more uncomfortable. The movie follows Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster. She is in FBI training but seems to be of use to the Behavioral Science Unit, so they pull her from training to assist in finding a serial killer.
To properly do this, the FBI feels they need a killer to find a killer. This is why Clarice is sent to speak with Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer. The idea is that he could likely provide some insight into helping them find a killer names Buffalo Bill, who kills young women and skins their skin from their bodies. Hannibal, played by Anthony Hopkins, is amazing in the role. There are tons of well-known lines in the film, but the way Hopkins says “Hello, Clarice” still gives us chills to this day! Truly it is one of the scariest movies ever made.
If there is a more disturbing movie, we are not sure what it is. Tom Six both wrote and direct the movie series entirely, but it was the first that truly disturbed the world. In fact, this movie is often referred to as the start of the “body horror” concept of this generation. Six thought of the idea when he made a joke about punishing a child molester by stitching his mouth to the anus of a fat truck driver. Seriously, that is how this all began.
The Human Centipede is a simple enough film concept. Basically, a crazy mad scientist/surgeon decides he wants to make a “human centipede.” This is made up of several people connected to each other with the middle sections having to stick their heads pretty much into or up the anus of the person in front of them. The same then happens to them. The only change is the person in the lead or the end, who does not have to do both. To do this, sometimes “the area” needs to be extended or a person has part of their face removed, such as their jaw. We’d go over this more, but we’d be demonetized.
When we reference this film, we are discussing the original and not an exact or similar remake. This is the 1960 Psycho film was directed by the infamous Alfred Hitchcock, a man known for multiple different suspenseful or horror classics. Though it came out in 1960 with technicolor in full swing, Hitchcock felt it needed to be black-and-white to offer a very unique feel to it. While there is some reliance on jump cuts, the most infamous part of the movie is a small shower scene where a woman is killed. This is thought to be the beginning of the slasher films where scantily-clad women are killed.
In fact, Psycho offered a lot of new acceptance to this behavior and deviance in films that were avoided previously. The movie revolves around Norman Bates and the Bates Motel. The man is psychotic but seemed to love his mother so much that he made sure she was part of his life…even after she died. He even takes on the personality of his mother at times to pretend in his mind that she is still there. Norman actually killed his own mother, as well as her lover, and potentially could kill others if he’s not stopped. Hitchcock helped to give us one of the most iconic and scariest movies of all time.
This Australian psychological horror film was a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2014. This led to the country of Australia releasing into theaters. Jennifer Kent is the writer and director of The Babadook, which was based on a short film she made called Monster. In some ways, Kent made a monstrous character that had some similarities to others from horror films in the past. But at the same time, she made something completely unique in other ways. The story follows Amelia Vakan and her 6-year-old son, Samuel. At one point, Samuel starts to display erratic behavior by becoming an insomniac.
He then becomes preoccupied with an imaginary monster, which he is so afraid of that he makes weapons to fight it. He even brings one to school that gets him in trouble. One night, Amelia reads a pop-up book called Mister Babadook. It is about a monster that’s a tall humanoid with a top hat and taloned fingers. He only torments those that are aware of his existence, to which they now are. Amelia believes it to be fake but Samuel does not. Soon after this, both realize the Babadook exists and must outlast his torment. One of the scariest movies in recent times, this film might make you an insomniac too.
While Jaws might not be your traditional horror movie, it is still one of the scariest movies ever made. In fact, it had such a major impact that some were afraid to go back into the water. It even had a negative impact on the human assumption regarding sharks. They are not blood-thirsty man-eaters. In fact, they actually do not care for our boney bodies. But this true fact is turned upside down in Jaws, as we follow a large shark that has a taste for humans.
In one of Steven Spielberg’s early hits, this film is based on a novel published just one year prior to the movie being made. The book was written by Peter Benchley, who helped with the screenplay too. Jaws might be one of the scariest movies of its time, but it is often forgotten about in that area. This is likely due to the Universal Studios ride and the massive publicity the movie now has in the world of pop culture. Yet if you sit down and watch the movie again, you’ll see how terrifying it truly is.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems to be a film that cannot have enough remakes or additions according to Hollywood. Yet this might be because the original was so successful. Seriously, it was made for no more than $140,000 but it ended up making $31 million at the box office. It is no wonder Hollywood wanted to keep pushing more out. Tobe Hooper directed, produced, and co-wrote the film. It literally put him on the map and allowed him to make other major hits later on.
The infamous Leatherface is our killer in the film, which became one of the original “slasher” movies. Funny enough, there was actually an attempt to cut out as much blood and gore as possible to get a PG rating. But it still attained an R-Rating, so just imagine what was cut! The movie follows a group of friends who end up falling victim to cannibals and was marketed as being based on true events, only making it more terrifying. Though not exactly true, some portions of the movie are.
Both co-written and co-directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, The Blair Witch Project stands out for its uniqueness in the world of horror. They had the idea that the story would surround student filmmakers who hike into the Black Hills of Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994. However, the students are present simply to film a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend. The idea was that since this was a documentary, it needed to be “filmed” by the students mostly.
That is why the film seems to be formatted mostly in a “recovered footage” type of way. Just like how you and your friends might film each other. Of course, the recovered footage makes sense considering the students are never seen again. Though odd the movie took place in 1994, the co-writers of the movie began writing the script in 1993. Which is the reason for the timing. The movie did very well on what was roughly a $500,000 budget, as it made $248.6 million at the box office.
Yet again, a movie based on a Stephen King novel. The man knows how to write a good story, clearly. The screenplay for The Mist was written by Frank Darabont, who also directed the movie too. He knew a thing or two about horror movies before taking on this project. While the movie involves a world that ends up being attacked by a mysterious mist that contains monsters, the ending is what we all remember. Darabont actually added this to the film version, as it was not in King’s novel. In fact, his decision took this from one of the scariest movies ever to a psychological shot to the face.
The end involves a family that we’ve seen mostly throughout. While they escape the mist, for the most part, an issue occurs that results in them now being surrounded by it. Assuming they are about to die, the parents believe they need to end the life of their family to spare them the horror of the monsters doing it for them. The Dad kills the two children and his wife, but before he ends his own life, the mist disappears and an army is there to help. After all that, it’s over and the mist (without doing anything) took everything from the man. King loved the idea, so gave his blessing for it to be in the movie version.
Sinister was directed by Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the movie with C. Robert Cargill. While Derrickson was known relatively well in the world of horror before this film took place, Cargill was not. He had done some movies but was mostly known as a film critic. This allowed Cargill’s career to take off. To be fair, Sinister clearly deserved to be given huge praise. It is often referred to as a “supernatural horror movie.” That is likely due to the obvious supernatural elements. Yet most horror movies utilize this in some form. The movie revolves around a true-crime writer names Ellison Oswalt and his family.
They move into a home where a family was murdered. He intends to make it a case for his new book. The Stevenson Family that lived there saw 4 members of the family killed but the fifth, Stephanie, just disappeared. Oswalt wants to find out what happened to her but comes across something horrific. In the attic, he finds a projector and several reels of Super 8 footage that depict the murder of different families. The person holding the camera is the one committing the murders, but who is it? A strange, ominous figure and mysterious symbol appear in all the films. Now, Oswalt must wonder, are he and his family next?
Written and directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary actually appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018. It ended up getting a ton of critical acclaim, allowing it to hit theaters that very summer. On a budget of just $10 million, the movie brought in $80 million. That was also having to go against major superhero films like Avengers: Infinity War among other hits. Aster went on to make other great movies, but Hereditary was his first major hit. It is a movie that hits you in the heart, then stabs you repeatedly. The movie follows Annie, Steve, Peter, and Charlie Graham in a series of insane events.
Charlie has a nut allergy and eats chocolate with nuts in it, going into anaphylactic shock. Peter is driving them to the hospital when Charlie sticks her head out of the window to get air. But Peter has to swerve where Charlie is decapitated by a telephone pole. His mother Annie resents her son for this, and later on, seems to get some mystical powers of sorts. This results in Steve being burned alive, and Annie beheads herself. All of this involves a mysterious cult, and much more. It is truly too insane for words but it is truly one of the scariest movies you’ll ever see.
The Evil Dead was mostly a comic book series but eventually made its way into the film world as an action-horror franchise. In 2013, this became the fourth movie in the series of films but acted as a soft reboot. Diablo Cody of Juno and Jennifer’s Body fame helped revise the script, and Sam Raimi along with Bruce Campbell stepped in as producers. The largely unproven Fede Álvarez, however, both co-wrote and directed it. With so many great names behind him though, people expected a lot.
The marketing for the film was “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” To be fair, it was one of the scariest movies of its time and far darker than the original Evil Dead films. Fans loved the new direction, allowing it to make $97.5 million on just a $17 million budget. While Fede did have a background in CGI, the movie only employs it for touchups. The rest is makeup and practical effects, which truly helped it all come off more organic. It is a terrific movie, but also truly terrifying.
The original Saw film actually began as a short film by James Wan. It did so well, he made a full film out of the concept. Of course, this was an independent film not connected to a major studio. Wan decided to have Leigh Whannell mostly write out the screenplay while he directed it. By January 2004, Saw appeared at the Sundance Film Festival where it did terrific among critics. That allowed it to have a fall release. On just a $1.2 million budget, the film made roughly $104 million at the box office!
The movie offers a psychological twist, where it puts people in often impossible choices. For example, a photographer and oncologist are chained up with a corpse in between them holding a revolver and microcassette. Both men find a tape in their pockets that both have different directions. The photographer is told to escape while the doctor is told he must kill the photographer by 6:00 or his wife and daughter will die. This is all designed by the Jigsaw Killer to test his victims and their will to survive. He puts them through “games” in one of the scariest movies you’ll ever see, which might make your brain hurt.
Release:July 8, 2005 (UK) and August 4, 2006 (USA)
The Descent is ultimately known as an “adventure horror film,” which does not tend to be very scary. They most involve a lot of jump scares. However, Neil Marshall, the writer and director of the film, wanted to change that. The film surrounds three thrill-seeking friends, Sarah, Juno, and Beth. They are done whitewater rafting one day when Sarah along with her husband Paul and daughter Jessica head out. Paul is suddenly distracted, causing a car accident that kills him and Jessica but not Sarah.
A year later, Sarah catches up with her friends along with a few others to go on a spelunking adventure. Soon, they all descend into a cave in the Appalachian Mountains. However, as they enter a narrow passage the cave collapses behind them. This effectively traps them, so they must navigate an unknown cave system to get out. Yet mysterious monsters called “crawlers” are picking people off. The cool thing about this movie is that it ends completely differently in the UK and U.S. formats, making people want to see both.
Can there really be a notable list of the world’s scariest movies that does not include one of the Friday the 13th films? Funny enough, this entire script only came together because studios and obviously other writers saw the success of the Halloween horror film. Thus, by the 1980s, scary movies were pretty common. The plot for the original film was simple enough, but that did not make it any less terrifying for those watching.
The story follows a group of camp counselors that are slowly being murdered one by one by someone. However, this summer camp had been abandoned for quite some time, so their decision to re-open it was bound to lead to tragedy. Of course, while unknown for a short time, we find out our killer is a man named Jason Voorhees. He wears a hockey mask, loves stabbing people with knives, and seems to be immortal. Who could make it out alive when Jason is after them? This original version still holds up, and that is why we believe it is one of the scariest movies ever.
When people claimed the comedian Jordan Peele wrote and directed a horror movie, it was quite surprising to hear. Peele claimed he wanted to make a horror movie that black people could love. While there are some funny parts in Get Out, it uses real racial tension issues to make things terrifying. Which only grows as the story unfolds. The movie centers around a black man and his white girlfriend. The girlfriend claims to love her boyfriend and wants to take him home to meet her family, which seems innocent enough. As they arrive, the boyfriend, Chris, sees a lot of wealthy white people.
While uncomfortable, nothing stands out to him until he sees a missing man up for auction. Realizing his girlfriend, Rose, is in on all of this, he tries to “get out.” Chris is taken out and awakens strapped to a chair in the basement. He is then forced to watch a video where Rose’s grandfather Roman explains that the family transplants their brains into the bodies of others to give them their preferred characteristics. He claims the host’s consciousness is in the Sunken Place, there but powerless. Now, Chris is next and must get out. But has to go through many to do it. Get Out is one of the scariest movies of the 2000s, hands down.
You should have known you’d see a Wes Craven film on our list. He is a master of horror, but one could say that The Last House on the Left was his first opportunity to prove this to people. Weirdly, this movie came out on August 30th back in 1972. Yet Craven ended up passing away on August 30, 2015. Talk about a coincidence, right? In this horror exploitation film, Craven pretty much did everything. He wrote, directed, and even edited the film himself. The movie revolves around the kidnapping and torture of Mari Collingwood on her 17th birthday.
This is done by a group of criminals led by Krug Stillo, played by David Hess. Exploitation films can be very difficult to watch, as they tend to show very gruesome acts taking place. Craven truly began this genre in horror, and the film is now considered controversial due to what Sandra Peabody was put through on set. David Hess and Marc Sheffler are method actors, so they actually put Peabody through some intense situations, making her endure some real-life abuse on the set of the film. This only helped to make it one of the scariest movies ever. It is still incredibly hard to watch.
If you want a film synonymous with the horror movie genre, likely the top movie people will think about is Halloween. It was the movie that put Jamie Lee Curtis on the map. Though it was not his first movie, Halloween was the hit John Carpenter needed to truly step out as a writer/director in Hollywood. He even made the soundtrack for the movie! The plot for this movie is rather simplistic, making it easy for young and old to watch and understand.
A mental patient named Michael Myers is said to have been committed into an insane asylum at just 6 years old. Why? He somehow murdered his teenage babysitter on Halloween night. Now, 15 years later, he manages to escape the asylum and decides to stalk a random female babysitter as well as her friends. All of this while being pursued by his psychiatrist and the authorities. Myers and will stop at nothing to kill again. This still ranks as one of the scariest movies of all time!
Writer:Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman
Release:September 8, 2017
While the “IT” franchise had already been in play beforehand, most fans of the franchise will say this reboot is the best one of them all.IT: Chapter One is, of course, based on the 1986 Stephen King novel of the same name. The film actually takes place in October 1988. It follows kids named Bill and Georgie. One day, Bill makes a paper sailboat for Georgia but it sails along the rainy streets of Derry, Maine. Georgie finally catches up to it when he sees a clown in the drain.
This is Pennywise: The Dancing Clown, and he convinces Georgie to come closer only to bite his arm off and drag him into the sewer. More unexplained child disappearances take place, and a group of friends led by Bill wants to investigate. Pennywise knows they are coming but he too is on the hunt. He uses their deepest fears against them, feeding off of them. In order to make it out alive, they have to overcome those fears. Obviously, this all results in one of the scariest movies of our time.
Similar to Blair Witch, the original Paranormal Activity decided to do some very interesting cinematography moves to help it stand out. Oren Peli wrote, edited, photographed, and directed the film. He even co-produced it with a few others. Truly, Oren’s scent is all over the movie. Originally, the movie was made for $15,000 and operated as an independent film. Then, Paramount Pictures acquired the film as they thought it could be a huge hit, and added a little over $200,000 to its production.
This allowed them to add in key, impressive content in post-production to add to the amazing film. The plot of the movie centers around a young couple who are haunted by some type of supernatural presence in their home. Unsure of what it is, they set up a camera to document what is haunting the place. This allows the film to utilize a lot of “found footage” to show what is actually going on. It is formed in a way that makes us wonder what happens when we’re not around or asleep. Making it one of the scariest movies of our time.
Stephen King is just peppered all over this list, as people loved taking his novels and making them into films. The infamous director and writer Stanley Kubrick decided to make the movie. With such a name behind it, this was going to be a hit. He also had a co-writer for the film, Diane Johnson, who was really making her film debut with The Shining. Adding in Jack Nicholson to star was a stroke of genius, as this movie truly put him on the map. “Here’s Johnny” still rings in our head!
The movie centers around Jack Torrance, who is both a recovering alcoholic and an aspiring writer. He accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel. Located in the Colorado Rockies, it’s a well-known area people enjoyed staying. His wife and son tag along, yet his son happens to be gifted with “the shining.” This gives a person psychic abilities that allow them to see into the hotel’s horrific past. After a major snowstorm, Jack slowly loses his sanity due to the supernatural forces around him. Now, his family has to try to make it out alive.
Wes Craven seems to be incapable of making a bad horror movie. A Nightmare on Elm Street is historically one of the most notable horror films ever. On top of this, the movie was Johnny Depp’s film debut. Of course, this is the story involving the infamous Freddy Krueger, a serial killer who just wants to kill people without anyone stopping him. The plot of this film revolves around four teenagers living on the same street in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio.
However, one should try to avoid ever sleeping here as these teens found out the hard way. A burnt killer, Krueger, uses a leather glove with some knife-like digits or blades. He invades their dreams to kill them, but by doing this, one will also die in the real world too. Therefore, if you die in your dreams, you die for real. Now, these teens must find a way out of the ordeal yet Freddy isn’t about to let that happen easily. This is still one of the scariest movies that still holds up today.
The Strangers is a small film series from the 2000s/2010s. But there were several other horror movies of the same name, many made outside of America. This is revolving around the 2008 version that follows two people, James and Kristen, who stay at a vacation home. Their world is turned upside-down as three masked criminals break into the home. This movie was actually inspired by real-life events regarding the multiple homicides committed by the Manson Family-Tate Murders.
It also involved many of the neighborhood break-ins, one of which happened to Bryan Bertino’s home. Yes, it happened to the director and writer of the film when he was a child! There were also some similarities to the Keddie Cabin Murders from 1981, even though Bertino did not use this as a reference. The movie is often known for its use of masks or sacks for masks, which makes it more terrifying. The Strangers still ranks as one of the scariest movies in history, especially with the real-life elements involved.
Truly terrifying to a point that some had heart attacks watching it, The Conjuring is one of the few films even jaded horror buffs were freaked out by. While James Wan, maker of the Saw series, directed the movie, it was the Hayes brothers who wrote the thing. Carey and Chad had been writing and/or producing films or television shows for years before this. But somehow, the idea for this film sort of just came to them. Unsurprisingly, their love for horror films led them to this script ultimately.
The plot revolves around Ed and Lorraine Warren, both of which are paranormal investigators and authors. They are known for being involved in very prominent haunting cases. In fact, we’re told they were involved in the real-life reports that inspired the Amityville Horror stories. Eventually, in 1971, they respond to a call for assistance from the Perron Family from Rhode Island. The family is experiencing disturbing issues in their farmhouse and needs the Warrens to help them stop it all.
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