Why do people repeatedly pay money to be scared for two hours? Because they enjoy it—at least that’s what one study says. Whatever the reason, horror films have time and again delivered hours of excitement, fright and oddly enough, enjoyment. In honour of all that’s scary and gory, we have put together our list of the most terrifying horror films of all time.
#10: The Shining
You’ll forgive The Shining for not following Stephen King’s novel to the letter, but despite its differences, you will most certainly experience dread and foreboding while watching, and that’s why it’s in this list.
This is the film that started the standard of supernatural serial killer films, some of which are also included in this list. Forget the nine sequels that followed—the original Halloween is the only one worth watching, whose success has never been replicated.
#8: Dawn of the Dead
This is easily one of the best zombie films ever. What sets Dawn of the Dead apart is that it’s both critically and commercially successful. And actually scary.
#7: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Don’t get confused—while the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is considered one of the best remakes ever, the 1956 classic is what’s on our list. The original Body Snatchers film is unique since it was one of the first that successfully combined science fiction and horror, and remains scary until today.
#6: A Nightmare on Elm Street
The idea of nightmares having an effect on reality is downright unsettling and director Wes Craven uses this to great effect in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film became so successful that it brought about several movie sequels, a TV series and even a crossover with Friday the 13th.
#5: Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead is the blueprint of all zombie films, but its importance doesn’t end there. The George Romero classic also came with outstanding editing, convincing gore and political undertones.
#4: The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead is a 1981 film about five friends spending a weekend in a cabin. While there, they unwittingly resurrect evil spirits. Like several classic films, The Evil Dead originally received mixed reviews, but eventually became a cult hit, bringing about sequels and even a musical.
Forget the U.S. version. The definitive scare-the-living-crap-out-of-you version is Ring or Ringu, a 1998 Japanese horror film that spawned several adaptations and sequels in several countries, and triggered a revival of horror films in Japan. Until today, the original is unmatched.
Not to be confused with the 1986 sci-fi action film Aliens, the 1979 science fiction horror classic Alien is the one which is ranked two in our list. While both films star Sigourney Weaver, it was Alien which impeccably combined science fiction and honest-to-goodness frights.
#1: The Exorcist
It doesn’t matter if you watch in the middle of the day in an open field filled with over a hundred people and several costumed mascots. The concept alone is frightening enough: a young girl is possessed by a demon. The rest of the movie is gripping terror.
The Exorcist will haunt you even in your sleep.