There are several different categories you can safely use to separate people by interest. There are those who put both socks on and then their shoes, versus those that put one sock and one shoe on at a time (yeah, it’s a real thing). People who like country music and those that hate it. Those who love seafood and those who can’t even stomach the smell. Yada, yada the list goes on.
Among all these airtight groupings, lies the frightening topic at hand – those who like scary movies and those who can’t hack them. If you find yourself in the latter category, I’m sorry you’re missing out. For my horror movie lovers out there, this list is for you.
Here are the best scary movies of all time. But be warned, this isn’t going to just be a hodgepodge blog blob – no, siree. We’re going to categorize the best scary movies by sub-horror genre. Now, let’s make like Jigsaw and play a game.
Horror genre: Slasher
From the movie’s eerie yet simple score (composed by John Carpenter himself, no doubt) to Jamie Lee Curtis as the first official scream queen to a psychotic killer in a white spray painted William Shatner mask … Halloween is a slasher masterpiece. The low budget film helped kick off the origins of the slasher genre, and it remains to this day one of the all-time great, spawning a murderous list of fellow slasher icons, like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Chucky and Ghost Face … just to name a few.
Runner up: Scream
Speaking of Ghost Face, when Scream was released in 1996, the horror world was reinvigorated with a movie that poked fun of the genre’s stereotypes and brought not one but two killers into the murderous mix.
Horror genre: Monster movie
Winner: The Thing
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, John Carpenter owned the horror genre. From Halloween’s butcher knife-wielding Michael Myers to The Thing’s monstrosity of a creature-imitating alien, Carpenter was pressing all the right horror movie buttons. What makes The Thing so perfect is not only the isolation the viewer feels throughout the film, but the edge-of-your-seat “who is the monster?” once it inhabits someone’s body. That tense feeling of the unknown leads to a classic case of who’s who and the cutting-edge practical effects for the time still hold up in today's CGI overload.
Runner up: Jaws
If a monster movie can sweep the nation and actually make people afraid of going into the water, then I’d say that’s a job well done. Plus, the music … epic.
Movie genre: Paranormal
Winner: The Shining
I still remember as a kid the moment I found out that “Redrum” was murder backwards. The whole movie shifted and I felt like I was falling into hysteria and cabin fever just like good ol’ Jack Nicholson’s character. Then there were the creepy twins in the hallway, the blood-spewing elevator and don’t even get me started on the old lady in the bathroom. The Shining messed with viewers heads back in the day and still makes me avoid staying in any hotel room numbered 237. Nope, hard pass.
Runner up: The Ring
Biggest kudos to The Ring was that it actually made me switch my static screen from white fuzz to blue glow … I wasn’t about to take any chances with Samara walking out of that TV screen.
Horror genre: Found footage
Winner: Paranormal Activity
On a shoe-string budget of approximately $15,000, Paranormal Activity raked in $193.4 million at the box office, making it the most profitable film ever made, based on its ROI. It went on to show that you don’t need major Hollywood talent or crazy special effects to strike horror gold (or any movie gold for that matter). The idea of someone standing over me for hours on end while I sleep still creeps me the hell out.
Runner up: The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project will forever go down as the horror film that started the found footage craze. And while the movie doesn’t hold up nearly as well as it did back in the 90s, it takes second place based solely on what it did for the genre. Plus, it made people think twice about where they casually camped for a while.
Horror genre: Possession
Winner: The Exorcist
Parents were furious when The Exorcist came out in 1973. There were crude gestures with a crucifix, a little girl spewing vulgarities and vomit, and that’s just scratching the surface. With some great practical effects and a terrifying demonic voice coming out of a cute little girl, The Exorcist still possess the top spot in the possession genre.
Runner up: The Conjuring
Annabelle. That’s all you need to know. Sure, that terrifyingly creepy little doll wasn’t the focal point of this first movie, per se, but the universe of films that The Conjuring created (seven, if you’re counting) is unmatched by today’s horror standards. And Annabelle is hands down the creepiest part about the franchise.
Horror genre: The occult
One of the newest films to grace a top spot in this list, Hereditary tells the unnerving story of a family with ties into witchcraft. But if you think it’s just your typical witch story, you’re in for a wide-eyed awakening. With plenty of jump-out scares and “what’s going to happen next” terror, this film left people wishing there was a category on their 23andMe forms for “history of family witchcraft.”
Runner up: Children of the Corn
What’s creepier than a bunch of children who are part of a religious cult in a remote town that believe everyone over the age of 18 must die? Nothing, that’s what.
Horror genre: Gore (Torture)
In the mid 2000s, a new horror genre tortured its way into the movie market eliciting over-the-top gore. Sure, horror movies of the past, particularly slasher films, had their fair share of gory torture scenes, but this new genre upped the disturbing nature of it all. And Eli Roth’s Hostel topped them all. The idea that a secret society of millionaires spend huge sums of money to kidnap and torture traveling tourists … crazy but possible? It had everything from slicing achilles, removing eyeballs, cutting off fingers and more, and in such a detailed and realistic way that had never been done before. It also made people think twice about traveling abroad and calling it a night at the local hostel.
Runner up: The Devil’s Rejects
Rob Zombie successfully made the crossover jump from rock musician to horror director with this movie’s predecessor, House of 1,000 Corpses. But what his first film lacked in substance, its sequel made up for in gory, blood-splattered droves.
Horror genre: Sci-fi/space horror
While the Alien franchise has since moved on to be more action/adventure based, the movie that started it all and put Sigourney Weaver on the map was at heart, little more than a horror film. And a really good one. The feeling of total isolation among the crew as each member gets picked off one by one by the alien makes this film so special to the sci-fi horror genre. I mean, who can forget the first time they witnessed the epic chest-bursting scene? That’s the stuff nightmares are made of, people!
Runner up: Event Horizon
A rogue spaceship with a ragtag crew that finds a gateway into hell – yeah, that sounds terrifying. And awesome. And this movie is both.
Who would have thought that one genre could have so many sub-genres? And this probably isn’t even all of them – there are also satire horror films like Cabin in the Woods, zombie movies like Night of the Living Dead and virus outbreak films like 28 Days Later. With such a laundry list of frightening films that span the decades, some of these horror masterpieces are more than 30-40 years old. Which means that if you’ve got an original VHS copy of any of these films that you want to preserve, now is the time to do it. And Kodak Digitizing can help.
So make sure you preserve the memory of the first time you screamed during Alien or jumped out of your seat watching The Thing. Because if you don’t act fast, these murderous, monstrous and maniacal memories may fade away forever.