Top 10 Best Scariest Horror Movies Ever Made

Jun 7, 2009

The Bottom Line The scariest, most terrifying top 10 best horror films ever. These are masterpieces of terror and suspense, including monsters, zombies, psychotics and slashers.

Spine-tingling, terrifyingly scary horror movies are the stuff of Saturday nights and Halloween, but they can also be the stuff of suspense, story telling and outright spectacular cinema. Horror is one of the biggest, most enduring genres in cinema and there have been hundreds of excellent examples of the style going back all the way to Hollywood's very beginnings in the early 20th century. Lots of great movies out there, including all the monster, slasher, zombie, psycho sub-styles --- but these 10 are my personal favorites. Hope you enjoy 'em too!


As always, I count 'em let's roll 'em

1. The Exorcist (1973)
Regan: Linda Blair

Horror movies are filled with evil monsters and terrifying slasher villains, but none of them seriously top Satan himself in terms of raw evil. The most terrifying horror movies are those that bring the evil right into neighborhoods and homes that aren't very different from our own. So, when the devil posesses a young girl, what's a parent to do? Linda Blair was outstanding in her portrayal of Regan, the good girl turned evil antichrist. Mom takes her to doctors, but the problem isn't medical --- it's spiritual, and for that, she needs a priest....maybe several. By the way, I've heard this movie is banned by censorship boards in Britain, so I particularly recommend that all British citizens make a concerted effort to watch it over the internet or at least rent a copy next holiday abroad. Movies other people don't think you should watch are ALWAYS the best movies!


2. Dracula (1931)
Count Dracula: Bela Lugosi

There've been plenty of vampire movies over the decades, and even several bearing the "Dracula" name --- but the model all others aspire to is the one forged by Bela Lugosi in 1931. The harder other Draculas try to avoid being compared to Lugosi, with their own unique twists on the character, the more film fans will crave for back-to-back double-bill screenings to see for themselves. The magnificent settings, filled with decay, neglect, and decrepitude work together to build up the audience's sense of repugnance, as well as a sense of otherworldliness that helps accept the idea of blood-sucking mutants of the night. A brilliant classic!


3. Frankenstein (1931)
The Monster: Boris Karloff

When I read Mary Shelley's book on which the Frankenstein movies were based, "the creature" never struck me as horrifyingly hideous, but Boris Karloff's defining interpretation is the picture that millions of horror fans have, eversince, carried in their darkest dreams. Many horror fans believe a 1935 sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is even more spine tingling. I love the classic Frankenstein, though, and it's ground-breaking vision of "the creature" is the reason why (after all, even the 1960s comedy series, The Munsters, based Herman on the look pioneered by Karloff in Frankenstein.


4. Halloween (1978)
The shape: ??

Slasher films tend to be my least favorite type of horror films --- they're just too simplistic and formulaic: all you need is a lunatic with a knife and a few teenagers to get sliced up. In the end, the murderous villain gets killed / incinerated / blown up / arrested / thrown in an asylum, never to be seen or heard from again....until the sequel. The slashers really came into their own in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with a string of popular teen terrifiers --- but few with quite the impact of the original "Halloween". This was John Carpenter's defining moment and it set the tone for terror for an entire generation of Carpenter fans in particular, and horror fans in general.


5. Psycho (1960)
Norman Bates: Anthony Perkins

Screeching violins, like fingernails on a chalkboard, still give me the heebie jeebies, as memories of the classic shower scene spring to mind. There've been bloodier, gorier slasher flicks over the decades, but none with the raw terror of Hitchcock's gran obra. Anthony Perkins delivers a masterful portrayal of the evil that can lurk in the hearts of men --- even young, personable, shy young men who seem like the kind of guy you hope your daughter dates. Well, provided he isn't too devoted to his mother, that is...


6. Peeping Tom (1960)
Mark Lewis: Karlheinz Bohm

Working two jobs might consume the life of most humans, but not Mark Lewis, who avidly pursues his hobby of arranging the murders of young women as he captures their expressions at the time of death, providing Lewis with endless hours of home movies that entertain and delight his sick brand of voyeurism.


7. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Ben: Duane Jones

This is one of the most fascinating raw expressions of horror I've ever seen. The production is cheaply tacky, though not just plain bad like some amateur rip-offs and fake amateur films that occasionally pop up. The premise is simple: the dead come to life and are hungry to feast on living flesh. There've been numerous sequels and imitators over the years, but few zombie movies can claim to have had nearly the cinematic impact of George Romero's low-budget classic!


8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface: Gunnar Hansen

Ahhh, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the most horrifying, macabre movies of psychopathic mass murder ever filmed. The story is simple: a group of teens in a rock and roll party van are taking a leisurely trip through back-country west Texas --- where the rattlesnakes aren't the only deadly risk to worry about. The teens figure a friendly looking home in the distance might be a good place to borrow some gas, but unfortunately, the residents need their gas for their chainsaw, which they plan to fire up real soon now...  Theoretically inspired by the true tale of Wisconsin mass murderer, Ed Gein, Leatherface and his family take murder to a sadistically terrifying new level.


9. The Shining (1980)
Jack Torrance: Jack Nicholson

Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of horror, The Shining, is a brilliant horror flick filled with psychological twists as a family that moves into a mountain resort hotel as off-season caretakers discovers that being built on an ancient burial ground is not something to be casually dismissed. Especially not when the spirits of the long-dead turn out to be less dead than one might hope. Nicholson turns in one of the most memorable performances of his colorful career as he sinks deeper and deeper into possessed insanity.


10. Ringu (1998)
Reiko Asakawa: Nanako Matsushima

Four years before American audiences would be insulted by the mediocrity of FearDotCom there'd be Ringu (itself inspired by Stephen King's The Twilight Zone). Instead of a web site though, it's a videotape that launches the curse. Watch the tape, prepare to die. Simple as that. Can Reiko discover the source of the curse, and right historic wrongs in time to prevent the imminent destruction of her own family? Tune in to see where the ghost shows up next...


Best of the Best?
I have a lot of fun with "top 10" movie reviews, but this is one of the hardest I've tackled because there is such a wealth of brilliant pictures from which to choose. I'm particularly distressed about leaving out the original "Nosferatu", Lon Chaney's "The Phantom of the Opera", and the sublime French horror flick "Les Diaboliques".

Still, 10 is 10, and I've applied a little discipline to keep myself down to the core set of what I consider to be my favorite, most significant movies in horror. As always though, I'd love to hear your comments about whether these are suitably scary to you, or whether I've forgotten about something really horrifying. Let's chat horror...

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