Halloween is at our doorstep, and as always, the perfect accompaniment to gratuitous sugar intake is a movie that will scare your pants off. So, whether you’re alone with a big bowl of popcorn, cuddled up with a loved one on the couch, or partying with your best group of friends, here are a few of the films—in no particular order—that will help the festivities get a whole lot scarier. Happy screaming!
Ridley Scott’s original space thriller is classically terrifying, in that what we’re dealing with is unfathomable and unyielding. There are far too many movies, including the sequels to Alien, where the chinks in the armor of the villain are understood and exposed too quickly. In Alien, the protagonists are being hunted down and taken out, one by one, by something intelligent and unstoppable, and all that’s left to do is guess who’s next.
IMDB: 8.5 Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Silence of the Lambs is proof that the enduring quality of a great fright film is believability. Jodi Foster and Ted Levine play their roles to perfection, but it is Anthony Hopkins’s seemingly dormant malice that is just viscerally terrifying. And when he finally releases the inner monster, the fear reverberates and ignites all that was unsettling throughout the entire film. Silence of the Lambs, top to bottom, is intense. Get used to the edge of that seat.
IMDB: 8.6 Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
The Thing (1982)
You know that The Thing is going to be a classic from the moment it begins and you hear the intense theme that’s quintessential John Carpenter. One of the great components of this film is the whodunit? factor, spelled out in the journal entries of Kurt Russell’s character, where nothing is safe and nothing can be believed. The biting cold of the Antarctic, the seclusion of the camp, and the constriction of the compound, amount to a palpable claustrophobia. It will remind you that you have to, on occasion, breathe.
IMDB: 8.2 Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Blair Witch Project(1999)
One of the main reasons why this movie was a hit in theaters, and remains a cult-classic spook-pic today, is that by shooting it as a documentary, its believability is implied. Documentaries are universally known as being based in reality and truth. So, while watching this movie, we suspend disbelief and dive into a window of actual occurrences. And when the implications are as severe as real life, the fear of every little thing is compounded ten-fold. And that’s how Blair Witch hits you and leaves you feeling unsafe, the subtleties.
IMDB: 6.4 Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Scream is a meta slasher film that deconstructs the rules and pitfalls of other scary movies and proposes questions that the viewer then keeps in mind. This is very effective in thickening the shroud of confusion and doubt and really hammering home the notion that everyone is a suspect. Scream has a fun, albeit sometimes campy, set of characters, and more than a few great spook scenes.
IMDB: 7.2 Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece has the burdensome dichotomy of being both beautifully shot and terribly disturbing. The Shining follows the violent, winding degradation of a man into psychosis as he sits as caretaker for a hotel with an evil history. Kubrick’s framing of shots and his careful selection of composition is not only haunting while watching the movie, but forms images that echo fear on afterward. While Jack spirals further and further down the path to insanity, we’re taken right down with him.
IMDB: 8.5 Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
The fear of the unknown is an underlying element in every horror film, and that’s largely what makes haunted house movies so frightening. And Insidious is just that: frightening. Every scene, every turn, is an opportunity to jump out of your seat, because there’s nothing formulaic about the way this movie approaches frightening its audience. And conceptually, the film has an interesting and refreshing take on the genre.
IMDB: 6.8 Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
No Halloween scare list would be complete without this original. The personified evil, Michael Myers, the intelligently fearful Dr. Loomis, and the innocent heroine Laurie spell out a classic must-watch for the holiday. There is nothing to understand about Michael Myers that would in any way explain him. There no way of reasoning with him, no way of stopping him, and that is exactly what makes him so shockingly scary.
IMDB: 7.9 Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Often cited as the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist reigns without loss with each passing year. The disturbing aspects of the actual possession aside, the most dreadful aspect of the film is the exposure of Father Karras’s privacy. The private aspects of his life are used against him both during the exorcism as well in the dream sequences, which are edited to chilling perfection.
IMDB: 8.0 Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Much like Insidious, The Conjuring is another modern haunted-house classic. It takes a more direct approach in collecting its scares, but the end result is effective all the same. It is always wrenching to see danger surround the indefensible, which is why having many children in a house that’s stained with malicious spirits is never a good thing—and neither is trying to traipse around in the dark after watching it.
IMDB: 7.5 Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Nightmare on Elm Street(1984)
IMDB: 7.5 Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
IMDB: 8.2 Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Dawn of the Dead(2004)
IMDB: 7.4 Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
IMDB: 8.6 Rotten Tomatoes: 96%