The best horror movies come in numerous terrifying flavours. Some capitalize on people's fear of ancient demons and evil forces, others on specific fears related to the modern world, and even some on our hidden insecurities. Whichever the flavour, these films can scare the living daylight out of audiences. The horror genre is constantly changing and exploring new issues as society evolves.
Good horror movies have a combination of some well-though aspects, including a great storyline, excellent acting, good sound editing, and most importantly, something that captivates and effectively scares the viewer.
The best horror movies
What are the scariest movies of all time? If you are looking for a film to scare and thrill you at the same time, here is a look at 15 amazing films from the horror genre.
15. A Quiet Place (2018)
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A Quiet Place follows a young family that must avoid some brutal creatures with supernatural hearing hellbent on hunting down the last of humanity. The film is directed by John Krasinski and produced by Michael Bay.
The film's storyline revolves around Evelyn's family members as they creep through everyday life silently. Every sound they make could very well be their last. While the premise sounds quite simple, it makes for amazingly good muscle-clenching tension.
What makes the movie scary? Based on the film's premise, humans are quite loud. The sounds that one takes for granted could be the ones that lead to their demise. Rarely does the soundtrack in a film grip viewers' attention this much. The look of horror when one of the kids turns on their toy in a forest is enough to let viewers know just how much silence means in the movie.
14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street tells the story of several teenagers who fell prey to a night creature that attacked them in their dreams, after which they would die in real life. The creature, known as Freddy Krueger, is the main villain in this gripping horror film that has one on the edge of their seat throughout its runtime.
After some investigation, Nancy suspects that a dark secret between her friend's parents and herself might be key to unravelling the mystery of the deaths. Still, can she act fast enough before it is too late for everyone?
What makes the movie scary? Typically, one's bed is supposed to be a safe place, a fortress of rest and peace. However, the movie makes one shudder at the very idea of falling asleep. The cast members' desperation as they struggle to remain awake highlights the horror. With sleep, nightmares are awaiting, and inside those nightmares, a menacing horror lurks, looking to end your life.
13. The Witch (2015)
The film's writers and director describe it as a 'New England folk tale,' although it is more of a scary folk tale from the terrifying parts of the earth. The Witch follows a Puritan family that gets evicted from their colony.
The man of the family, William, takes his young family and heads deep into the woods to start a new life on a farm. Well, what could go wrong? As it turns out, quite a lot. What follows is a sequence of events that tensely unravel the mysteries of a dysfunctional family coupled with the prospect of an external force following the happenings from behind the trees.
The family's youngest son disappears under mysterious circumstances, forcing the rest of the members to blame Thomasin, the eldest daughter who was watching the kid. Thomasin's siblings then begin to suspect her of being a witch.
What makes the movie scary? There are no talking dolls, no jump scares, and none of the conventional scary stuff. Still, the film manages to perfectly construct every scene of a family desperately looking to survive in the wilderness. Everything about the movie is just perfectly scary, from the visuals to the music. Everything is so thrilling, from the monstrous goat known as Black Philip to the unnerving shrill voices of Thomasin's siblings.
12. Host (2020)
With the coronavirus pandemic, there was always going to be a horror movie touching on the new working from home lifestyle. Well, Host tells the story of six friends who unintentionally invite a demonic presence during an online séance. They then begin to notice strange occurrences in their homes.
The film's plot primarily revolves around a seemingly routine Zoom call gone very wrong. The film is relatively short but still manages to tell the story captivatingly. It also seemingly takes inspiration from REC and paranormal activity, both of which involved horror on the screen.
What makes the movie scary? Thanks to worldwide lockdowns and quarantines following the coronavirus pandemic, most people can fluently handle online meetings. The scariest part of Host is that it's terrifyingly relatable. The film's immense use of modern tech raises the tension even further, making it one of the best new horror movies.
11. Saw (2004)
The sequels to this film are widely associated with torture and some extremely gross scenes. However, the original film has very few similarities with these films. It is remarkably restrained in its storyline and depiction of horror.
The film follows oncologist Lawrence Gordon and photographer Adam Stanheight who regain consciousness and find themselves chained to pipes at both ends of a nasty bathroom. They realize that they are captives of a sadistic serial killer and must complete his puzzles to remain alive. While all that happens, Gordon's wife and their young daughter are forced to watch his predicament via a closed-circuit feed.
What makes the movie scary? Put simply, in such a film, one often finds themselves playing the puzzles with their hero. What would you be willing to do to save your life, and is your hero willing to take that chance? The tension is heightened by the villain's terrifying painted cycling and a sequence of the terrifying jump scares in horror movies.
10. The Babadook (2014)
The film tells the harrowing story of a grieving young widow trying to look after her young son after her husband's death. She has to do this while battling her son's incessant fear of a monster lurking in their house. She soon discovers a terrifying presence hovering around her.
What makes the movie scary? Like in some of the best horror films ever made, The Babadook is not only about scaring the audience but also exploring the parallels between depression and grief. The most horrifying scenes in the film have little to do with monsters or creatures but rather with the prospect of a mother losing control of her son.
It is a well-written film that engages the audience. As the movie nears its end, you will know what you are scared of, even if you did not have a clue when the film began.
9. The Descent (2005)
The Descent follows Sarah and her friends as they go exploring caves in North Carolina. After the tragic death of her family, Sarah has had a year riddled with severe trauma. Her friends decide to take her on an adventurous caving trip (yeah, it sounds like a bad idea from the very beginning).
The six then begin to come across strange paintings, possibly suggesting a previous expedition. Everything is okay until they discover that they are not alone in the underground caves. Underground predators lurk in the caves and have developed a taste for human flesh.
From the moment Sarah and her friends make that realization, it becomes clear that getting back from under the Appalachian Mountains is extremely unlikely.
What makes the movie scary? The setting in The Descent is what makes it one of the scariest movies of all time. The film's depiction of claustrophobia is horribly realistic, even before the discovery of other creatures lurking in the caves. Every fall of rubble from the caves' roofs to the dimly lit corners inside the caves only heightens the tension.
8. 28 Days Later (2002)
The movie tells the story of a group of animal rights activists as they free a caged chimp infected with a deadly virus. Later, a bike courier wakes up from a month-long coma to find his entire city deserted. He then escapes from zombie-like creatures and stumbles across survivors of the virus. They must then embark on a dangerous journey to safety.
What makes the movie scary? Well, everything about the entire film feels like a very bad nightmare. This is compounded by the heartbreaking soundtrack employed throughout the movie. The infected people are extremely horrifying in this depiction of a modern-day apocalypse. Throw in the excellent performances by the cast, and you have one of the best scary movies of all time.
7. REC (2007)
The film begins with a crew of a morning television show following a team of firefighters when they receive a call about a woman behaving peculiarly in her apartment. Angela, the late-night TV host, and her cinematographer follow the fire service people into the apartment. However, the building is sealed off when a woman is confirmed to have been infected with a virus that gave her superhuman strength.
What makes the movie scary? The events in the movie unfold slowly, making it hard to realize just how tense the story has become. Like The Descent, this film has elements of extreme claustrophobia that add to the thrill and tension.
6. Scream (1996)
Wes Craven revitalized and practically reinvented the slasher horror genre with this film. Scream is a combination of clever, funny, and outright scary writing, direction, and production. The film follows a masked maniac who stalks high school students.
One year after her mother's demise, Sidney and her friends begin to receive some strange calls. They later realize the calls come from a maniacal serial killer in a black robe and white mask. The killer's call sessions often involve several questions, the primary one being the receiver's favourite scary movie. The killer is also renowned for scattering pieces of human flesh all over the small town of Woodsboro.
What makes the movie scary? The scares in this film are largely unpredictable, making it one of the top horror movies ever. Most victims to the slasher's knife do so in astonishing regularity. In addition, the killer's end game makes the film even scarier as viewers wonder who will survive to the end of the film.
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
In their search for a local legend, three amateur documentarians head to the Black Hills Forest to find the fabled Blair Witch. Throughout their investigation, they interview the local townpeople and collect clues to support the existence of the fabled witch. However, their project takes an unprecedented turn when they all disappear in the woods after hearing some strange noises.
One year later, there is still no sign of them. The only items that have been recovered include the tapes that have the raw footage they collected. Who knows what happened to the three documentarians, and was there a supernatural being in the forest?
What makes the movie scary? As strange noises drift through the trees in the forest, imagining what awaits the trio is quite scary. Additionally, the film cleverly blurs the line between reality and fiction. Every scream, shaky video shot, and everything the three found in the woods make one feel like Heather, and his friends actually went into the woods and never returned.
4. Hereditary (2018)
When Annie's mentally ill mother passes away, she and her family all mourn her loss and turn to different ways of handling their grief. Annie and her daughter even flirt with the possibility of the supernatural. However, they begin to have horrifying experiences linked to the emotional trauma and sinister secrets they inherited from older generations. The film follows Annie and her daughter as they try to outrun the evil fate they may have inherited.
What makes the movie scary? Well, home is supposed to feel safe, but not in Hereditary. Nowhere seems safe in the entire film. Additionally, the movie barely lets audiences take a break. Nowhere in the film's two-hour run does one feel safe from what is coming next. Every scene in the film feels like a threat of something sinister waiting to happen. Every conversation sounds like a prelude to something horrific.
3. The Shining (1980)
One cannot mention top horror movies without mentioning The Shining. It is inarguably one of the best horror movies of all time. The film follows Jack Torrance, recovering alcoholic and writer suffering from persistent writer's block. After landing a job as an off-season caretaker, he drags his wife and son to the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. As the hotel shuts down for the low season, the manager gives Jack a tour.
The hotel's chef, Mr Halloran, warns Jack about the hotel's abandoned rooms, particularly the off-limits Room 237. However, Jack does not overcome his writer's block. Instead, he begins to lose his mind and experience eerie visions and strange occurrences. Soon the voices in his head start to demand sacrifices. Can Jack turn into a murderer?
What makes the movie scary? There is a reason The Shining is one of the scariest horror movies of all time. The entire movie feels evil. From Jack's performance as a man slowly but surely descending into madness to the eerie hotel corridors, nothing in this film feels safe.
The viewer is always thinking about what will come next, chopped up humans? Blood-stained walls? What is in the off-limits Room 237? This movie stays with you long after you are done watching it and is definitely one of the terrifying movies of all time.
2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The film follows Sally, her brother, and their friends, who set out to check out Sally's grandpa's grave. They intend to investigate the possible vandalism of the grave. On the way, they take a detour to their family's old farmhouse and realize that a group of murderous outcasts lives in the house next door.
The group is attacked by Leatherface, a murderous chainsaw-wielding terror wearing a mask fashioned from human flesh. Sally and the rest must do everything they can to escape.
What makes the movie scary? Contrary to what one might imagine, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has very little blood. Still, the sheer desperation of Sally, her brother, and their friends as they try to escape Leatherface's horrific murder schemes makes for amazing viewing.
1. The Conjuring (2013)
What is the scariest movie ever? The answer is The Conjuring (2013). In 1971, Roger and Carolyn moved their family into a decrepit farmhouse in Rhode Island. Soon after, strange occurrences begin to take place in and around the house, quickly escalating into unimaginable terror. Out of desperation, Carolyn enlists the help of Lorraine and Ed Warren, two renowned paranormal investigators.
The Warrens find out that the entire area in and around the farmhouse is under demonic haunting that has now targeted Carolyn's family. To stop the evil force, Loraine and Ed must summon all their spiritual strength and skill to defeat the evil at its source before it destroys everyone in the house.
While the evil manifestations in The Conjuring begin slowly, the events soon escalate in terrifying fashion, especially soon after the investigators discover the farmhouse's ghastly history.
What makes the movie scary? Well, everything. First, the film is based on true events. That alone is enough to make it unbelievably scary. When your mind keeps reminding you that the events unfolding before your eyes are based on something that happened, that right there is enough horror. The film also has some of the most effective jump-scares in movie history. Lastly, The Conjuring has arguably the best sound editing of modern-day films coupled with an excellent screenplay.
The best horror movies combine numerous aspects to scare audiences. These include sound editing, terrifying sets, jump scares, and emotional storylines that connect the viewer to the characters in the film. The horror genre is certainly quite popular since it provides the thrill that numerous viewers seek in a movie.
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