50. "Arachnophobia" (1990)
Spiders. John Goodman with a blowtorch. Who’s scarier? I’m sure we could ask Roseanne, but that’s the subject of a much more frightening movie. Anyway, as anyone who has er, squashed a spider can attest, things with eight legs are creepy. Gross. Big ones that fly through the air when provoked? Even worse.
49. "The Innocents" (1961)
There are few films that deal with insanity as deftly as this. Based on Henry James’s "The Turn of the Screw," are the ghosts in this film real, or just imagined by the nanny and the creepy children she’s sworn to protect? While there are a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments, most of the scares come from the gothic atmosphere.
48. "The Other" (1972)
Bad things begin to happen to people close to young twins Niles and Holland Perry. Don’t expect to jump out of your seat scared, but this psychological thriller takes a decidedly darker turn when their grandmother, realizing that one of the twins is “evil,” tries to protect the other.
47. "Freaks" (1932)
The story line about love and betrayal at a traveling circus is pretty tame. The scares come in the form of a cast of real human “freaks” essentially playing themselves. With the exception of the ridiculous "chicken woman" seen at the beginning, the film employs no special effect. The scene in which the freaks seek revenge marks the film’s creepiest moment.
46. "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" (2000)
Blah, blah. Save your breath. Yes, "The Blair Witch Project" was good, but wasn’t it a little gimmicky? I mean, if you find someone stupid enough to believe that crap was actually a "real film found in the woods," then you could also probably convince him or her that you spend your weekends in the clown car at the local circus. "Book of Shadows," on the other hand, is dark, creepy, original, and smart. Yes, smart. Trust us.
45. "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971)
How could a kid’s movie sneak onto this list, you ask? What about the Oompa Loompas? What about all the whimsical sets and family-friendly ending? Apparently you haven’t seen this film in a while. The scene on the freaky ferry boat is ridiculously scary – especially if you are a kid. We still can’t eat chocolate without crying like hysterically.
44. "The Wicker Man" (1973)
A British police officer heads off to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Of course, he uncovers evidence of something more ominous going on and ends up getting a place of honor at a druidic ceremony - inside the wicker man. This is not one of those thrill-a-minute movies. The pace is slow, but the payoff at the end is well worth it.
43. "The Blob" (1988)
The posters for this movie carried a simple tagline: "Scream now, while there's still room to breathe." Get your Rosie O’Donnell jabs out of the way - we don’t want to hear them. ‘The Blob,’ contrary to popular opinion, did not resemble and did not care about your petty human humor. It just wanted to eat you alive. Still laughing? We didn’t think so.
42. "28 Days Later" (2002)
For a while we struggled to justify the inclusion of this flick, which is scary in a way that bends the definitions of the horror genre. Sure there are some monsters (mostly of the human variety), and a few moments that had us jumping off our seat, but the fear is generated here by the eerie landscape of a deserted England; by the societal implications of a country torn wide by biological warfare; by the gothic subtext of the penultimate scene. This was where Cillian Murphy got his start, and “28 Days Later” is worth watching for that alone.
41. "Ghost Story" (1981)
Four old guys, members of a group called the Chowder Society, have a dark secret – a secret they’ve kept for 50 years. We won’t reveal the secret, but let’s just say that a certain dead woman is back to exact revenge. Oops. Looks like we let the cat out of the bag.
40. "Rosemary’s Baby" (1968)
Roman Polanski wrote the screenplay to this classic, which deserves credit for its sheer audacity: the devil on earth? We thought that honor went to Derek Jeter. But seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this: Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into an apartment in a building with a bad reputation (was it in Allston?). Bad things happen. Watch the movie for details.
39. "The Brood" (1979)
This one centers around a husband trying to uncover a shady psychiatrist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife. Sound good so far? Wait ‘til we get to the bloody attacks committed by a brood of mutant children. They’re like teletubbies covered in mucus, minus the handbags and those stupid antenna things.
38. "Eraserhead" (1977)
Considered the greatest cult movie of all time, “Eraserhead” is not your average horror movie. The film employs bizarre imagery to create a deeply unsettling tone. We dare you to not reach for the remote in the scene of Eraserhead trying to feed his misshapen “son.” It might go down in history as the single most disturbing movie scene ever. Even by art-house standards, this flick is a tough pill to swallow.
37. "Amityville Horror" (1978)
A family moves into a perfectly nice house in Amityville, New York. Then things begin to happen: black goo comes out of the toilet, flies appear (does this have anything to do with the toilet?), a voice tells a priest to "get out," and something with glowing red eyes peering through the windows at night. Sure it was an "Exorcist" rip-off, but it was "based on a true story!" That’s got to count for something.
36. "The Devil’s Backbone" (2001)
Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro conjures up scares-a-plenty in this tale of a young boy secluded in a haunted orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. This is a dark film in which, surprisingly, the ghost is one of the less frightening aspects of the film. Most of the horror comes from the diverse human elements affected by the war.
35. "Jeepers Creepers" (2001)
Scarecrows? Check. Two stupid kids? Check. A monster with a huge underground lair full of skin he is using to make a giant skin suit? Check. Inevitable carnage? Check. This flick was dismissed by most critics as cheesy, corny, crappy – you name it. But at heart, "Jeepers Creepers" is a movie that knows what it is. And that makes it that much better.
34. "Pet Sematary" (1989)
When you’ve penned the book behind the Jack Nicholson screamer "The Shining," people start closing their eyes in advance. That’s not always such a bad idea. "Pet Sematary" is an oft-overlooked horror gem, which elicits chills less through a constant barrage of suspenseful plot jolts than a dead-on portrayal of the darker side of human nature.
33. "Open Water" (2003)
A simple plot is sometimes the best. The film tells the story of a married couple on a Caribbean diving expedition left in the open ocean accidentally. They assume someone will discover they’re missing and start searching for them. Wrong! Sure, the circling sharks are scary, but the sense of being hopelessly forgotten left us squirming.
32. "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
Here’s the gist: In the dreams of his victims, a murderer named Freddy stalks the children of the members of the lynch mob that killed him. Sounds boring? Just wait for the scene when Johnny Depp gets swallowed by his bed and spit out in a giant spray of blood. Awesome! Plus, those claws Freddy has are kind of creepy.
31. "The Fly" (1986)
What do you get when you cross a classic Kafka tale, a lot of goop, Geena Davis, and Jeff Goldblum? No, the answer’s not "Reading Rainbow." "The Fly" is a psychological thriller as it flips human morality on its head (think twice before you crush that little ant under your foot). The movie also has enough special effects to make your stomach churn; and that maggot scene, well… you get the idea.
30. "Salem’s Lot" (1979)
Turns out vampires are a lot like cockroaches. One moves to town, and the next thing you know there are dozens of them creeping around feeding on the locals. This is the premise of our favorite Steven King story. The movie, while flawed, still has some great scary moments including a "dead" kid scratching at his friend’s second story window. And, as an added bonus, it stars David Soul who played Hutch in "Starsky & Hutch." Dy-no-mite!
29. "Gates of Hell" (1980)
As the title suggests, the gates of Hell are opening and “odd” things begin to happen in the town of Dunwich. We’re not talking like dogs and cats living together, we’re mean crazy stuff like – a girl (for no apparent reason) hurling up her own intestines. If you’re a fan of graphic gore and bad lip-synching the Italian-made “Gates of Hell” might be your favorite film.
28. "Altered States" (1980)
William Hurt plays a scientist who woofs down hallucinogenic drugs and floats in an isolation chamber to ... do something. We’re not entirely sure why. What we do know is that when the experiment goes awry (and don’t they all?), his body begins to transform into some sort of howling blob. Yuck. Somebody should have told him to just say no to drugs.
27. "Session 9" (2001)
A cleaning crew working at an abandoned mental hospital is an obvious recipe for scares. You just know that something bad is going to happen. And happen it does. It’s only at the end do we - the audience - realize how crazy one of the crew members has been since the beginning. As an added bonus the film was shot at the former state hospital in Danvers, Mass.
26. "Scream" (1996)
Yeah, "Scream 2" was utter junk, and "Scream 3" only marginally better. But Wes Craven’s original foray into a horror flick that doesn’t involve ghosts, icky swamp things, or monsters (at least not non-human ones) is sheer brilliance. Try watching the opening scene with Drew Barrymore at night, without the lights, alone. And make sure to pick up the phone if it rings.
25. "Mothman Prophecies" (2002)
Strange things are happening in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. For one, Richard Gere can’t figure out how he got there. Then there are the shadowy winged figures lurking around. And finally, the phone calls from someone (or something) with a creepy insect-like voice. Did we mention the phone wasn’t plugged in?
24. "Videodrome" (1983)
Everyone loves TV, but not as much as the hero in this story. In typical David Cronenberg fashion, the protagonist melds with his television. Symbolic? Sure. Hallucinatory? Of course. Creepy? Extremely. What follows is a big splattery mess chock full of blood, violence, and some sort of human VCR hybrid. Don’t ask, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
23. "Seven" (1995)
It may be the cast (Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow) that does it for 'Seven,' or it may just be the outrageous amount of visual profanity on display: blood, guts, and severed heads. Not to mention a really fat dead dude and a corpse who's not quite kicked the bucket. Plus, the sun didn't shine for the whole movie.
22. "War of the Worlds" (1953)
This is without a doubt the best, and scariest, sci-fi flick from the '50s. Based loosely on H.G. Wells’ classic cautionary tale, the film follows the world's failed efforts to stem an invasion from Mars. The film offers plenty of scares, but the biggest has to be the encounter with a Martian in the abandoned farm house.
21. "Saw" (2004)
Initially rated NC-17, before being re-edited, "Saw" follows the travails of two men held captive by Jigsaw, a serial killer who presents his victims with a terrible choice. Avoiding the slasher flick clichés (teens being pursued by axe-wielding maniac), the film delves into darker psychological territory while still maintaining an unhealthy level of gore.
20. "Event Horizon" (1997)
This movie is visceral; gritty; graphic. The plot is complicated; intelligent; and rewards the viewer who pays close attention to the film. Unfortunately, the above ingredients probably cancelled out the enjoyment of the majority of the folks who rented this flick –after all, we all like a dose of stupidity and a glossy sheen to our horror. Oh well. If you’re still searching for the best futuristic scream-fest since "Alien," look no further.
19. "Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters)" (2003)
Never has a menstrual cycle been presented as more terrifying or as, well, a harbinger for doom, death, and ghosts. This Korean masterpiece, directed and written by Ji-woon Kim, is elusive, subtle and horribly, horribly frightening. It centers around two deranged sisters, one deranged step-mother, one deranged father, and one deranged phantom. Oh, and some birds. Scary ones.
18. "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)
Jodie Foster never signed back onto the “Lecter” franchise, and that’s all the more reason to watch the original as many times as you can stomach it. Lecter versus Starling. Hopkins versus Foster. Buffalo Bill, in night-vision goggles and a human-skin suit, versus the world. All that psychological suspense aside, we know you jumped 35 feet in the air when Lecter snapped suddenly at the glass… Go on, fess up.
17. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)
What sets this movie apart from other slasher films? Perhaps it was Leatherface’s human skin mask, or maybe it was the roar of the chainsaw, or it could have been the "based on a true story" line at the beginning. Who can say? What is certain is that this is extremely scary movie – especially Leather’s happy-dance at the end of the movie. Jason could learn a few things.
16. "Hellraiser" (1987)
Mix one skinless escapee from Hell, a sexy heroine, and an evil "rubik’s cube" and you have the basic recipe for one of the most original horror stories to hit the big screen. Despite a limited budget, "Hellraiser" features striking visuals. Perhaps the most iconic of which is the Cenobites – a group of bondage gear clad demons who literally tear their victims apart piece by piece.
15. "In the Mouth of Madness" (1994)
The plot here is unimportant – some guy finds out some other guy’s books are opening up some other reality, where monsters abound and things are getting all weird. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it before. Here’s the important part: There is a scene where the protagonist is out driving on a road at night. He hears a clicking sound. He rolls down the window. A bike rolls up next to him with a gray haired creature at the helm. The creature leers at the protagonist. You’d scream too, you big sissy.
14. "The Changeling" (1980)
The late George C. Scott plays a man who retreats to a long-abandoned mansion following the accidental death of his family. Did we fail to mention that the mansion is haunted? The movie’s reliance on a creepy atmosphere, as opposed to more visceral fright tactics, makes this a favorite among horror movie junkies.
14. "Jacob’s Ladder" (1990)
Tim Robbins stars as a Vietnam vet suffering from disturbing hallucinations. How disturbing you ask? Well, he keeps seeing monstrous figures waving to him from passing trains. Later, at a party, his girlfriend looks like she’s dancing with some sort of alien. The only one he can turn to for help is an angelic chiropractor played by Danny Aiello. Yikes! Now that's scary.
12. "Jaws" (1975)
Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. Good movie. Scary music. And Roy Schneider, playing a stressed-out sheriff to a small beach community steals the show here, even when Richard Dreyfuss sticks his mug into the picture. As for the shark, well, yeah, that’s frightening. But who has time to be nervous about sharks? What about jelly-fish? They have no brains! Good god, now that’s terrifying.
11. "The Exorcist" (1973)
Spinning heads. Vile expletives. Buckets of vomit. Sound like your last blind date? It was worse for Ellen Burstyn and Max Van Sydow, who had to play opposite Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." When this puppy first hit the silver screen, people were running out of the theater in droves. Now we call those people sissies. But as approximately 6,453 previous "Scariest Movies of All Time" lists have noted, this movie is scary.
10. "Quartermass and the Pit" (1968)
Workers building a new London subway station discover a suspicious metal object buried in the earth. A German rocket from WWII? No such luck. It’s an ancient Martian space craft responsible for the neighborhood’s reputation for being haunted. Take our word for it; this flick is way scarier than it sounds.
9. "The Shining" (1980)
It goes without saying that a haunted hotel is going to feature lots of frights and director Stanley Kubrick doesn’t disappoint. Sure, Jack Nicholson trotting around the empty halls sporting an axe and demented look in his eyes is pretty scary, but for us, the biggest jolt comes when Shelley Duval discovers his new novel consists of the line "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" written over and over and over.
8. "Halloween" (1978)
It was all downhill from here on out for Jamie Lee Curtis. And we mean that. Would she ever scream like this again? Hide in a closet while a very persistant Michael Myers spent about oh, say, 78 minutes trying to hack through the door? Did we mention she's related to the killer? Little known fact: John Carpenter wrote the theme song himself. Genius like that doesn't come along many times in a lifetime, folks.
7. "Evil Dead II" (1987)
Sam Raimi is now a famous Hollywood director, but long before he directed 'Spiderman' he all but invented the horror/comedy genre with this 1987 classic. The film features cult-movie icon Bruce Campbell as a hapless hero defending himself from hordes of demons. Ever been on roller coaster? That's what watching 'Evil Dead II' is like -- lots of screams.
6. "Dawn of the Dead" (1978)
Director George Romero single handedly created the zombie genre with 'Night of the Living Dead.' But it was the sequel, 'Dawn of the Dead' that he really cranked the scares up exponentially by featuring some of the goriest scenes ever committed to film. It's no wonder the film was banned in 17 counties.
5. "Alien" (1979)
Sigourney Weaver: hot. Alien monster: ugly. Throw them together in a futuristic, highly stylized space battleground: beautiful. And terrifying. "Alien" was important not least because it showed that the science-fiction horror genre was one of possibility -- this movie was also intelligently rendered, psychologically powerful, and, well, gross. Where else can find a bloody creature being birthed from a human surrogate? (for the answer, see number 39, "The Brood")
4. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978)
Why is my family acting so strangely? Why do they keep insisting that I go to sleep? What are these strange plants I see suddenly sprouting up? These are the important questions dealt with in this classic sci-fi thriller. Incidentally, if you are a big fan of uplifting endings (like the one tacked on to the original 1956 version) . . . consider a different flick.
3. "The Ring" (2002)
Naomi Watts. Very good looking, yes. Sassy? Yep. Try squaring her off against a weird chick who really wants to climb out of a well and kill people and eat their guts. OK, well maybe she doesn't want to eat their guts. But she does a good job of killing a lot of people in this cinematically beautiful horror romp - and she scares the bejeezus out of Naomi Watts in the process. Hey, that little kid playing the doomed son is cute, but kinda freaky. Extra points for that.
2. "Ju-on" (2000)
Dateline, Japan: Jealous of his wife's love for another man, a man brutally kills his wife and young son. Better than the Sarah-Michelle Gellar slog-fest ('The Grudge') that followed this flick, 'Ju-on' is edgy - it even allows you some time to get comfortable before the heavy breathing, black blood and phantasmagoric pre-schoolers start popping out of the woodwork like drunk termites. Put on a helmet, and dive in.
1. "The Thing" (1982)
"Scariest movie . . . ever!" We mean it. The film follows a crew stationed at an Antarctic base stalked by a shape-shifting alien. Which member of the crew is the alien? The crew doesn’t know, and neither does the audience until the creature begins one of its stomach churning transformations. If the scene where the guy’s head sprouting insect legs to escape doesn’t give you nightmares consult a therapist immediately.
JASON VOORHEES, FTW!