13 Scariest Movies of All Time

It’s not our list, Entertainment Weekly has compiled a pretty good list of what they think are the scariest flicks to date, including some video clips. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Exorcist
  2. Halloween
  3. The Shining
  4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  5. Alien
  6. Silence of the Lambs
  7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  8. Night of the Living Dead
  9. Psycho
  10. Seven
  11. Jaws
  12. The Thing
  13. Rosemary’s Baby

35 replies on “13 Scariest Movies of All Time”

  1. rickyjames says:

    Alien Gets My Vote As #1
    The original Alien came out 23 years ago and let me tell you, seeing Ridley Scott’s masterpiece on the big screen for the first time was mindbogglingly scary. The audience screamed bigtime, and that’s the only film I’ve ever been in where the perceived fear was communal rather than individual. The other four on the list above Alien were supernatural horror flicks that depended on a specific actor with some gimmick to be the Bogeyman – a hockey mask, pea soup, razor fingers, whatever – pah, that’s not horror. Alien was different in a way that’s hard to understand now – remember, it was only 2 years after Star Wars first came out. When the baby Alien came out of John Hurt’s chest and ran off the table, the audience was totally blown away in a manner not seen anymore. He was the STAR – Sigorney was a nobody then – and doing THAT to the STAR so EARLY scared everybody SH*TLESS. And it got more horrific in a hurry from there. Great horror is about psychology, not cheap shocks and camera cuts and special effects, and Ridley Scott created a psychological atmosphere in Alien that has never been equalled.

    • codejnki says:

      Re: Alien Gets My Vote As #1
      Alien (as opposed to the three that followed) is unique in that through out the whole film the ailen itself has almost no screen time. The fear is generated through the use of lighting and camera movement to give you the feeling like the alien could jump out and get you any second.

      It’s one thing to show you on the screen a guy getting hacked to bits by an alien. It’s completely different when you see someone with a look of terror on thier face, you aren’t shown the alien, and then cut to something completely different. Your mind is what constructs the horrible fate for that poor sap, which often times is worse than the filmmakers would have ever shown on screen.

      That is real horror.

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: Alien Gets My Vote As #1
      Stephen King described Alien as H.P. Lovecraft in outer space, and I have to agree. I think it’s one of the most Lovecraftian movies out there — much more so than some of the flicks with his name on it.

      I didn’t actually know John Hurt was a big star at the time — that’s very interesting. Thanks for that bit of trivia. I do so love those movies (well, I and II anyway)

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Alien Gets My Vote As #1

        I didn’t actually know John Hurt was a big star at the time — that’s very interesting.

        John Hurt was far and away the biggest star in Alien at the time. He was HUGE in Britain and quite well known in the US as well at that time. The two biggest things he was known for in the late 70s before Alien was an absolutely magnificent performance as the crazy Roman emperor Caligula in the classic BBC/PBS television miniseries I, Claudius (rent and watch – it’s worth it) and being Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the drug/prison movie Midnight Express, which came out the year before Alien. He went on after Alien to make a ton of movies (being nominated for another Oscar in Elephant Man) and most recently had a role in the first Harry Potter movie. John Hurt is an actor’s actor.

        • rickyjames says:

          Something else about John Hurt in Alien…
          I forgot to tell the best part about John Hurt in Alien. He was such a big star that the rest of the cast went into the movie assuming the picture was going to revolve around him – after all, he IS the one that goes out on point to explore the downed spaceship. Ridley Scott secretly rigged John Hurt with special-effect blood squibs and then had the cast film the spagetti supper scene as one of the first things they did when they showed up on the set, even before they had received and read their scripts. Scott told them you’ve been in suspended animation for X years, ad lib being a team together again, no scripted dialogue. So they did. Only Scott, Hurt and the camera crew really knew what was going on. When Hurt chokes, the rest of the cast really thought he had choked on the spagetti – then Scott fired the blood squibs. A lot of the horror reaction shots in that scene were real, not acting. THEN Scott hands out the scripts showing that Hurt was gonna be AWOL for most of the movie…

          • TechnoGirl says:

            Re: Something else about John Hurt in Alien…
            Hey, GREAT background info about the Alien movie!
            Was it really 23 years since it first came out? Oh..frick…I of course was there when it premiered in Atlanta …too damn old….

            You are sooo right about the audience reaction to the alien out of the chest bit back then….you could hear the screams of the audience and it was like…Holy Crap! I actually hid my eyes from it and I don’t think it was until maybe the second time I saw it on TV that I actually looked at the whole thing.

            Alien gets my vote for scariest with Night of The Living Dead a close second! (Hint: NEVER watch NOTLD when you’re home alone and it’s thunderstorming outside…just don’t…trust me)

            • rickyjames says:

              Night of the Living Dead…

              too damn old…Night of The Living Dead a close second!

              Too damn old is right…but at least we got to share it with a first run audience instead of a made-for-TV cropped tape on a VCR in the living room long after the secrets had leaked out into pop culture. I TOTALLY agree with Night as being a close second to Alien. That film was made in one weekend for $70K – the original Blair Witch project. I still have the creeps thinking about when they open the basement door and there’s the little girl eating her father’s…well, I always thought it was his kidney. And the SHEER GUTS it took to put the black guy as the hero in the 1960s when that was made… and the sheer guts it took to end it the way it did…truly a horror masterpiece. At least I’m not old enough to have seen THAT one first run…it was a drive in flick anyway, scarier stuff was happening out there among the cars…

  2. kyptin says:

    It?
    I have seen few of these movies, but when discussing scary movies, I always hear Stephen King’s “It” mentioned. Many people I know claim it is the scariest movie ever, and that they have been scarred for life (especially in regards to clowns) by that movie alone. Anybody agree?

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: It?

      I have seen few of these movies, but when discussing scary movies, I always hear Stephen King’s “It” mentioned. Many people I know claim it is the scariest movie ever, and that they have been scarred for life (especially in regards to clowns) by that movie alone. Anybody agree?

      Not really. I felt the book “It” was very scary, and indeed one of the scariest books I have ever read. I read it at a fairly young and impressionable age, so I found it profoundly terrifying. However, I found the movie to be mediocre and not at all frightening. (Giant, cheesy stop-motion spider… didn’t do it for me.)

      The scariest movies I have ever seen personally are “The Exorcist,” “The Exorcist III,” “Ghost Story,” and “The Amityville Horror” (when I was a kid.) “Poltergeist” also still gives me the willies.

      • dgswensen says:

        Re: It?

        Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention Suspiria, an Italian horror film by Dario Argento which goes right at the top of the scariest movies ever list. I don’t know why I didn’t mention it in the last post, but it is by far one of the freakiest movies I’ve ever seen. (Just came out on DVD, too, incidentally.)

  3. fiziko says:

    My pick
    Of the eight movies on the list I’ve seen (1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13) I’d have to say that Psycho was the scariest. In fact, The Shining was the only other movie in that list that even got to me.

  4. is says:

    The Ring
    I’ve heard that the Ring is a very scary movie, psychologically at least. I haven’t seen most of these, as I am not into horror and generally avoid the genre. Has anyone seen the Ring? I’m curious.

    The exorcist… that was absolutely freaky, WAY more freaky than Se7en, which didn’t do much for me. I didn’t see the rest.

    • bigwolf says:

      Re: The Ring
      I’ve seen The Ring, and it is indeed a very scary movie. For much of the movie, it leaves what is happening to your imagination which of course makes it much scarier. There is a lot of originality in it, and many of the images will stay with you far longer than you might wish for comfort… It’s definitely scarier than some of the slasher-type flicks they have in this list.

      • ROBB99 says:

        Re: The Ring

        I’ve seen The Ring, and it is indeed a very scary movie. For much of the movie, it leaves what is happening to your imagination which of course makes it much scarier. There is a lot of originality in it, and many of the images will stay with you far longer than you might wish for comfort… It’s definitely scarier than some of the slasher-type flicks they have in this list.

    • Cherrysweetness8 says:

      Re: The Ring

      I’ve heard that the Ring is a very scary movie, psychologically at least. I haven’t seen most of these, as I am not into horror and generally avoid the genre. Has anyone seen the Ring? I’m curious.

      The exorcist… that was absolutely freaky, WAY more freaky than Se7en, which didn’t do much for me. I didn’t see the rest.

    • Cherrysweetness8 says:

      Re: The Ring
      Hey,
      I saw The Ring, Its the scaryest movie i have ever seen, and i mean nothing scares me,im a horror movie freak, but that movie,It really keeps u on ur seat, exspecally the ending AHHHH…..

      • maul488 says:

        Re: The Ring
        the ring was a terrible movie, if u thought it was scary u were either very very high or drunk, it was a bad movie. the best part is when the mother is like, WHY DID U WATCH THAT, and the kids like, i culdnt sleep. hahaha, very classic.

  5. kcbaltz says:

    What about The Blair Witch Project?
    I know the movie started to look silly a few months after it was out, but if you saw it near the beginning and didn’t know what to expect, it was terrifying. How many people were truly scared to go camping after that? And the movie didn’t have any onscreen violence.

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: What about The Blair Witch Project?
      Unfortunately, I didn’t see Blair Witch until the hype machine had taken off — so my expectations were too high. I didn’t find it all that frightening. It was certainly freaky in places, and the ending was nicely done — but overall I was underwhelmed.

      It was 100,000 times the film that the sequel was, however.

      • Dave says:

        Re: What about The Blair Witch Project?

        Unfortunately, I didn’t see Blair Witch until the hype machine had taken off — so my expectations were too high. I didn’t find it all that frightening. It was certainly freaky in places, and the ending was nicely done — but overall I was underwhelmed.

        The hype machine did in fact cause the problem. If you saw it before it took off, it was scary as Hell — at least ’til you saw that one Steak ‘n Shake commercial with Heather in it, and it clicked once and for all that "Blair Witch" really WAS just a movie.

        It was 100,000 times the film that the sequel was, however.

        Concur. The only good thing about the sequel was the really cute goth chick. ;)

  6. Boglin says:

    Halloween in second?
    It doesn’t take much to scare me. Out of the films on the list I’ve seen, they’ve all given me nightmares. I was scared the first time I saw Tremors and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Heck, James Whitcomb Riley poetry gives me the willies. But, Halloween didn’t scare me in the least. I know this film has a huge following, so I assume that there must be something I’m missing here. If it was supposed to be a psychological thriller, I must be too dense to get it; can someon explain it? If it was just a slasher, why did it beat out the gorier flicks on the list?

    • dgswensen says:

      Re: Halloween in second?
      Halloween established most of the slasher film conventions that are extremely passe now. The unkillable, anonymous villain, the high body count, the open ending, and so forth. They are all time-worn cliches now, and thus barely interesting, but at the time Halloween came out there really wasn’t anything else like it. That, I think, is what makes it such an influential film and why it has such a huge following.

  7. vesper says:

    scariest movies of all time
    i have seen 10 out of the 13 “scariest movies of all time” and in my opinion none of them really hit the spot. for once id like to see a movie that actually scares me. has anyone any ideas!?!?

    • amccabe32 says:

      Re: scariest movies of all time

      i have seen 10 out of the 13 “scariest movies of all time” and in my opinion none of them really hit the spot. for once id like to see a movie that actually scares me. has anyone any ideas!?!?

      I’ve got pretty much the same problem as you. Movies just do not scare me like I wish they would. I mean, when Hanibal is eating the guy’s face in Silence of the Lambs? Come on, that is just ridiculous. The only one that I have seen recently that affected me in any way was The Evil Dead. I honestly had to do a quick check of my house after watching it to make sure there weren’t any zombies roaming around. Give that one a shot. Otherwise, I’m open to other suggestions, too.

      • ShortyBug says:

        Re: scariest movies of all time
        I have a scary movie for ya. “Lost Souls” with Wynonna Rider. Any movie with the anit-christ is just plain scary. But this one is great! Also, “Bless The Child” was pretty freaky in parts. Oh, and I just saw that Angelia Jolie movie “taken” I think it’s called. Very good for a new movie. But I think one of the scariest movies I have ever seen is called “THEY”. It’s about night-demons and is very good. It kept me on the edge of my seat!

  8. camaro6914 says:

    JAWS????
    Overall a good list, but hwat is the deal with Jaws? I saw that movie when I was in my ealr years around 6 or 7 and sure maybe I was afraid of the water for a few months but to say that Jaws was one of the 13 scariest movies of all time is ridiculous. A good replacement might be Event Horizon. A little on the cheesy side at the very end but overall good suspense and psychological mayhem.

    • tigerscans says:

      Re: JAWS????
      The thing that I liked about JAWS was that the “monster” wasn’t seen until halfway through the movie. There are many stories regarding why that is. The most plausible is that they were having a lot of difficulty getting the shark to actually work. I like to think it was a stroke of genius on Spielberg’s part. I do respect him as a film-maker.

      A few interesting film’s not showing on the list are The Birds, Vertigo and North By Northwest for the Hitchcock devoteés, and Midnight Lace and Wait Until Dark for “thriller without monster” films. I’m probably showing my age here. Oh well.

  9. maul488 says:

    what?
    although every other site has the exorcist as the scariest movie, that does not mean u have to say it is. i laughed my ass off at that movie, it was terrible. and another thing, how can u put rosemary’s baby at number 13? that movie was a kagillion times more scary than any other movie on that list.

    • tigerscans says:

      Re: what?
      I agree that Rosemary’s Baby was better than many of the films on the list. I think it falls into the same area as The Exorcist as a religiously based horror film. The Exorcist still scares me to this day. I purchased the original DVD and The Version You’ve Never Seen Before. I only watch them during the daytime. I would agree that it is the scariest movie that I have ever seen. I dont know if those old classics will ever be topped. Many films rely too much on special effects and not enough on using the mind as a tool of horror.

      • Dracolique says:

        Explain this to me please
        I dont think that the post two spaces up from this one was properly interpreted, so let me put my own two cents in. What is with ‘The Exorcist’? Why is it everywhere I go, it is invariably listed as one of the top three scariest movies of all time?

        I watched it for the first time about two years ago, and, after everything I had heard about it, I was totally prepared to be scared out of my gourd and have nightmares for weeks… but to be honest it was one of the stupidest films I have ever seen… there was ONE scene that was mildly disturbing, and that was the backwards crabwalk down the stairs, but the rest of the movie left me sitting there wondering when it was actually going to get any good.

        It also had some of the most pathetic acting Ive ever seen… maybe that was it… I have a hard time getting into a movie if I dont find the characters believable.

        NEway, if you all want to see a REALLY scary little flick, there is a short cartoon preceding one of the ‘Godzilla’ movies (I cant remember which one) called ‘Bambi Vs. Godzilla’. I know it sounds kind of corny (and it is), but when I saw that for the first time, it caught me so completely unawares that I Shat myself, and went into a siezure so bad that I blew a vein in my forehead and almost drowned in my own blood. Point is, can someone PLEASE explain all the love for this TRULY crappy film ‘The Exorcist’??

        • RedRum says:

          Re: Explain this to me please
          Well The Exorcist is pretty crap but the old version is really scary! They released a new version some years ago because the original was too scary!
          I think The Shining is creepy! ‘Danny’ the little kid freaked me out so much!
          But the #1 scariest movie for me has to be, Psyco! Woah, I nearly blew my head of watching that! Freaky shit or what!!!

  10. RedRum says:

    Ooops
    I forgot to say that The Ring didn’t freak me out at all! It was a baby film!!! And Jaws! Definitly not scary!
    Well… I was dcared a bit when I watched The Ring because afterwards the phone rang and then they hung up! Just as it finished too! I jumped a mile!!! Lol

  11. Khryssi says:

    Re:scariest movies of all time

    There’s one movie that isn’t on any list and is (I think) one of the scariest movies of all time. It’s called “The Changling” with George C. Scott. It came out around 1980. Very cool story, good acting and very scary. Definately one to rent on Halloween!

    • ShortyBug says:

      Re:scariest movies of all time
      “Lost Souls” with Wynonna Rider is very very scary! Any movie about the anti-christ is just freaky! Also, that Angelia Jolie movie called “Taken” was really great. But here is my top five list:
      1.They
      2.Blair Witch Project
      3.The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre
      4.Lost Souls
      5.The Ring / The Grudge

  12. jimmywad says:

    scariest movies
    im trying to find the scariest movie of all time like one that will make it hard for me to sleep after seeing it
    would anyone be able to tell me wat they think is the scariest movie they hav eva seen

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