10. Saw (2004)
Say what you will about all of the sequels, but the original “Saw” was a groundbreaking film for several reasons. It asked the simple question, “What would you do to survive?” And then took that question to terrifying extremes. In addition, the twist at the end is one of the most surprising and effective twists ever seen in the horror genre.
9. The Ring (2002)
Based on a 1998 Japanese Horror film titled “Ringu,” “The Ring” was the first to really showcase the Japanese to American horror film transition, plus it was just really scary. The Ring used some very effective techniques to bring subtle yet terrifying effects to the screen. The final few moments of this film go on record as being some of the scariest, jump-out-of-your-seat moments on film ever.
So it may be more thriller than horror, but “The Silence of the Lambs” is still a terrifying look at serial killers and their twisted minds. A huge success, this film was only the second horror film to be nominated for Best Picture (the first being “The Exorcist”) and it was the first to actually win the Oscar.
No list of Halloween movies would be complete without this one. The original “Halloween” with “Queen of Scream” Jamie Lee Curtis is more than 30 years old but still one of the best films to enjoy every October 31st. Simple, effective, terrifying, and memorable, “Halloween” remains a chilling reminder that on this day, “Everyone deserves a good scare.”
6. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King knows a thing or two about horror, and the winning combination of Stephen King with Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick leads to one of the scariest films in the history of cinema. Nicholson’s careful and slow descent into madness is a study in brilliance, and the horrified reactions of his son and wife add to the effectiveness of this terrifying film.
Perhaps nothing is scarier than the original 1974 version of this “based on a true story” film about a group of friends being hunted down and terrorized by a maniac with a chainsaw. The raw, visceral quality of the film adds to it’s effectiveness, creating a movie that you truly don’t want to watch alone.
4. Psycho (1960)
How many films can claim that they actually made people avoid taking a shower? The famous scene, though really quite tame by today’s standards, stands as one of the more terrifying moments ever captured on film. Of course Alfred Hitchcock knew a thing or two about suspense and horror, as proven time and time again, but “Psycho” is the best, with it’s twisted plot and incredible acting courtesy of the legendary Anthony Perkins.
One of only a handful of truly terrifying films in the science fiction horror genre, “Alien” spawned a huge franchise as well as five additional films. It’s the first “Alien” though, that gets marks as one of the best Halloween films ever, with it’s far ahead-of-it’s-time special effects and leading lady Sigourney Weaver.
If you have never seen Tod Browning’s 1932 film, then this is a must-see. It made headlines for its use of actual carnival performers, as real people with deformities playing real “Freaks.” The film’s well known “One of us! One of us! Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble!” scene is still haunting to this very day. The film had a less-than-stellar performance at the box office, but it has found life as a cult favorite, even though it was banned in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
It’s at the top of just about every list of best horror films, and it deserves every single accolade and mention. “The Exorcist” is one of the most chilling and terrifying horror films ever made, and it’s due largely to the talent of a young Linda Blair. Of course, Director William Friedkin knew what he was doing, and the story by William Peter Blatty was brilliant on it’s own, but it was the combination of all these talents that lead to one of the most memorable and terrifying films to ever grace the big screen.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.