‘Tis the season for spooky stories, creepy cautionary tales, and murder mysteries.
Horror is a genre so often misunderstood, and anyone who considers themselves a fan of it can attest to that. Whenever I express my love for spooky, unsettling, or disturbing movies, I’m promptly met with a grimace and a remark along the lines of “How could you find enjoyment in something so terrible?”
But for lovers of horror, it’s not that we bask in the horrific-ness of it all, or even care for blood and guts. Rather, we’re swept up in the impending sense of doom, captivated by the suspense, and excited by the notion that nothing is really off-limits. A good horror movie catches us off-guard in the best way, leaving us both shocked and intrigued.
So what are the best, most frightening and shocking horror movies out there, you ask? Well, we’ve compiled a list and ranked them, from lightly creepy to downright terrifying.
The Village (2004)
A tiny community living in total isolation from the rest of the world never strays outside the territory they know – after all, they’ve been warned that dangerous creatures lurk just beyond the forest around their land. But soon enough, one of the villagers must travel through the unknown woods. Both artistic and unnerving, The Village is one that every scary movie fan needs to see.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A group of teens start making a documentary about the legend of a local killer, wandering around a small town and finding residents to interview. But things take a turn for the worst when they find themselves lost in the woods, and something evil seems to be on the prowl. The Blair Witch Project set the tone for the found-footage movie trend of the mid-2000s and beyond, making it a must-see.
28 Days Later (2002)
A man wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma for a month, only to discover that the world isn’t how he left it. 28 days earlier, a virus had broken out that ravaged the world, turning its victims into zombie-like creatures. We get a front-row seat as he seeks out safety, fights off the infected, and joins forces with a group of survivors. Thrilling, horrifying, and eerie, 28 Days Later will surely shock you.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
When a group of teens accidentally hit and kill a man with their car, they desperately try to dispose of his body before anyone finds out. Once the job is done, they agree to never speak of the incident again. However, a year later, one of them receives a startling letter, simply stating: “I know what you did last summer!” After that, it becomes clear that they’re being stalked by someone with ill intentions. As far as teen horror flicks go, I Know What You Did Last Summer is one to watch.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
When a young girl is hired to babysit for the night as the parents go out to dinner, everything seems fine at first…until she starts getting odd phone calls that become more and more threatening each time the phone rings – the man on the other end of the phone is out for blood. Once she decides to call the police, she gets the frightening news that the calls are coming from inside the house. When a Stranger Calls leaves viewers on the edge of their seats the whole time.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Set on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, a young woman named Rosemary and her husband move into a new apartment. Unfortunately, their new building and neighbors aren’t exactly what they’d expected. After she becomes pregnant and increasingly suspicious of her neighbors, she comes to suspect that they have sinister plans for her baby. Rosemary’s Baby is a truly unsettling, psychologically terrifying watch.
A totally normal, wholesome family’s world is turned upside down when they come to find that their 5-year-old daughter has been communicating with ghosts through their TV. At first, they seem harmless, but eventually, things get creepier. Once the little girl goes missing, the family is forced to contact a paranormal specialist. Poltergeist will undoubtedly make us look twice at our TV sets and wonder.
When murderer Michael Myers escapes jail after being locked away for 15 years for brutally murdering his sister, he returns to his small, picturesque hometown – the kind of town where nothing terrible ever happens. But now, he’s on the loose and on the prowl for his next victim. While countless sequels and retellings of Halloween have been made over the years, the original has a special magic that can’t be recreated.
Get Out (2017)
A black man goes on a road trip with his girlfriend to meet her very white, very privileged, upper-class family, and immediately feels out of place. While, at first, they seem like any other rich family, odd happenings and small clues lead him to believe he’s in danger and has to find a way to get out. Truly the first of its kind, Get Out is an entertaining, twisty, and perfectly unsettling watch.
The Grudge (2004)
When an American family moves into a new home in Tokyo in the hopes of creating a new life, there’s an unsettling feeling that immediately takes over – something about the house that just feels off. Soon enough, we find out that the house is haunted by a curse and supernatural happenings, and anyone who dares go near it is at risk of losing their life. The Grudge is a true classic and a must-see for anyone who loves a good scare.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddie Kreuger is best described as a “disfigured midnight mangler” who haunts teens as they dream. But the twist? He’s not just a nightmare we can wake up from, returning to the safety of our bed and real life. Instead, if Freddy Kreuger kills in dreamland, that means he also kills in reality. Filled with mystery and terribly frightening scares, A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t one to miss.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
A young married couple has just moved into a home in the suburbs. But soon after, they begin hearing strange noises at night and finding things out of place. When they decide to film their bedroom while they sleep in pursuit of answers, they come to find that there’s a malicious spirit preying on them. Paranormal Activity’s found-footage style is what makes it feel even more realistic, and therefore, chilling.
The Purge (2013)
It’s the night of The Purge, an annual event during which the government allows any and all crime – even murder – for 12 hours. But for an affluent family living in a gated community, it shouldn’t be an issue. After all, they’ve got a top-notch security system installed to keep them safe. But things don’t go according to plan, and soon enough, they find themselves terrorized by a group of killers hungry for blood. The Purge doesn’t depict a world any of us would want to live in, but it’s undoubtedly a classic.
The Shining (1980)
Jack is a writer who’s suffering a bout of writer's block. But the perfect opportunity to refocus comes along when he’s given the role of watching over a deserted hotel during the winter in Colorado, with his wife and young son in tow. But as time goes by, Jack starts to spiral, eventually morphing into a murderous psychopath who’s trying to off his family. Will his wife and son make it out alive? The Shining is one you can’t miss.
A woman who’s living alone in the woods enjoys a quiet, simple life of writing. One night, a bloodthirsty killer breaks into her home. The problem? She’s deaf and doesn’t realize there’s a murderer in her house. We watch as she discovers his presence and has to outsmart him without the benefit of hearing him or if what she’s doing to hide makes noise. While a lesser-known movie, Hush leaves the audience feeling just as vulnerable as its lead.
After a woman goes on the run for embezzling a large sum of money, she stops at an empty motel for the night. But it turns out the strange man running the motel and his overbearing, angry mother aren’t quite who they say they are. As one of the first of its kind, Psycho broke barriers and shocked audiences upon its initial release. All these years later, it’s still a classic worth the watch.
The Conjuring (2013)
A family moves into a remote farmhouse, but soon after becomes aware of an evil presence lurking in the home. They call upon the Warrens, a married couple who work together as demonologists and paranormal experts, to help them figure out what to do. Being loosely based on a true story, The Conjuring strikes a particularly spooky chord.
The Strangers (2008)
A young married couple arrives at a weekend getaway home, ready to unwind and reconnect. But the three masked killers who descend upon the house have different plans in mind. Suddenly, a place that offered the couple safety and security just a moment ago becomes the most dangerous place to be as they fight for their lives.
After a young woman’s family all tragically die, she travels with her friends to a rural town in Sweden as a way to escape her troubles. What starts off as a peaceful journey abroad becomes sinister, shocking, and savage as the town’s true colors are exposed. What makes Midsommar that much scarier is its beautiful, bright, colorful setting, juxtaposed with the sickening horror that ensues.
The Exorcist (1973)
A young girl randomly starts behaving oddly, demonstrating super strength, and speaking in an unknown language. Her mother tries to figure out what’s going on with the help of a priest who thinks she’s been possessed by a demon. With the girl’s life at stake, it’s clear that performing an exorcism is necessary. Widely known as one of the most horrifying movies ever made, The Exorcist is one that every single scary film buff should see.
A family’s dark and ominous secrets, unknown to them, are revealed after their grandmother passes away. But these aren’t the type of secrets that die with someone – instead, they live on through generations. Every frame of Hereditary brims with an overwhelming sense of dread and unease, never once offering the audience a chance to rest easy. Undeniably the most disturbing of them all, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart – it’s the sort of movie that sticks with you.
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