Spooky season is here, so it’s time to put on some horror films and get spooked. Here, we’ve curated a list of 15 horror films that will scare even the bravest of souls. We’ve got films that range from demonic possessions to body horror, slasher films, and even psychological horror.
Scroll along and take your pick; we guarantee you the scariest of nights!
1. The Exorcist
It wouldn’t be a list of horror films if The Exorcist wasn’t on it. The movie left its audience traumatized, nauseated, and fainting in theaters. Sure, it may not seem that scary and outdated now, but it’s a movie that still packs a creepy punch.
The Exorcist is about a child possessed by a demon after playing with an Ouija board and the numerous attempts to banish the said demon. It results in a gruesome, body horror, freak-of-nature movie. Mainly because the demon-possessed child twists and turns in ways that are not humanly possible. She even floats at some point.
There’s a lot of anxiety induced by this movie. Each scene seems to be filled with the tension of it. Plus, the movie’s production was induced to make the film feel as real as possible, with actors being physically dragged and the set being ice-cold. Some of the actors even retained actual injuries during filming.
James Wan has cemented himself as an iconic director in the horror franchise. He has created multiple horror movies that span their own universes. Insidious is one of those masterpieces that spawned four more movies, the latest being Insidious: The Red Door, released in July 2023.
The franchise centers around a family, with two primary characters that can traverse the astral plane and get haunted by malevolent spirits. The first two movies focus on a comatose boy who can travel between the two planes and his parents, who hire paranormal investigators for help. The third works as a prequel to the investigator herself, and the fourth is about her and her family as they get haunted.
In the fifth and last movie, we return to the boy as he is grown and in university when the hauntings start again. Insidious is well-known for its jumpscares and connecting plotlines, making it more satisfying if you’ve watched the previous movies.
3. The Conjuring
Now, here’s what James Wan is typically known for. The Conjuring universe is a convoluted one that spans multiple sequels and spin-offs that include the Annabelle and The Nun movies. The Conjuring itself has two more films that came after it, but this is where it all started.
The movie centers on the paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and the haunted Perron family that moves to a farmhouse in Rhode Island after encountering Annabelle. When they move into the house, weird and bad things happen to the family members as they wake up with bruises, get possessed, and witness full-on apparitions.
As exorcisms and a lot of chasing, screaming, and violence happen, we are graced with an ending that foreshadows this is just the beginning. Ed and Lorraine Warren being actual, real-life paranormal investigators adds to the story’s depth and anxiety.
A dark family drama mixed in with some supernatural elements and a touch of grief, we have Hereditary. It’s another movie where it’s hard for you to relax and take a breath, riddled with anxiety and stress from everything happening at once.
The movie follows a grieving family getting haunted by a demonic entity. The titular death of the family’s rather secretive grandmother/mother sends a lasting ripple through the family. Toni Colette nearly won an Oscar for her performance as Annie Graham, and rightfully so.
Truthfully, the details of this movie are best kept a secret, and its plot twist will leave you shocked and terrified at the same time. Hereditary is an excellent take on modern horror films, marking Ari Aster as a director to look out for in the genre.
5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Moving on to something more violent and terrifying within the slasher/serial killer realm, here’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This movie may be on the older side, but it is still an adrenaline-pumping horror movie inspired by the real-life murderer Ed Gein.
In a literal sense, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is literally about the mass killing of five people in Texas, done violently with a chainsaw. The killer is nicknamed Leatherface as he starts skinning his victims and wearing their faces. There’s a lot to digest with this title, especially if you add its disturbing soundtrack, screams, and gore splashing across the screen.
The movie is dubbed as one of the best horror films out there, influencing the genre as we know it. The franchise is still expanding to this day; there’s even a survival game on it that was released in August 2023.
This is the franchise that brings Jamie Lee Curtis the honorary title of scream queen. It also perpetuates the concept of ‘the final girl,’ which most slasher horror movies continue to replicate. Halloween’s first movie is the best one, as it is where the thrilling tale begins.
Each scene and shot is composed with the idea to keep its viewers guessing, garnering more fear and jumpscares in the process. The movie generates an overall feeling of unease as the killer stalks his prey, paired with a soundtrack of impending doom. We even start with pure violence as a child kills his sister wearing a clown mask.
As we know, Michael Myers makes his killings on Halloween and equips himself with a blank white mask. He stalks his prey and kills them mercilessly. So far, two characters are out to stop him – the babysitter, Laurie Strode, and the psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis.
7. The Ring/Ringu
Japanese horror films were booming in the late 90s and early 2000s. They were, in turn, adapted by Western media, but if you want true fear, do watch the Japanese ones. The Ring or Ringu is one of the more prominent horror movies to come out at the time.
The movie starts with an investigation of a mysterious death tied to an urban legend linked to a movie tape. After watching the tape, your phone will ring, and you will have seven days to live. You can pass the curse to someone else or die, but some people don’t take it too seriously and die anyway.
One of the more iconic scenes from the movie depicts a long-haired girl slowly crawling out of the TV. Although we’re curious how this movie would play out in modern times since movie tapes and VHS tapes are pretty much obsolete, it still makes for a thrilling watch.
8. 28 Days Later
We know a lot of goofy and funny zombie movies, but 28 Days Later shapes them into a different being entirely. Zombies with super speed and a lot of aggression are significantly more terrifying than your typical rotting, staggering undead.
Imagine waking from a coma to a deserted hospital in absolute shambles with no clue about what’s happening. You leave in confusion, and some ungodly creatures start chasing you. The world around you seems to be in an apocalyptic state of ruins. Personally, that sounds like a complete nightmare and absolutely unreal.
In this apocalyptic world where survivors have trust issues, and everyone struggles to stay alive, you will be riddled with anxiety. It’s a gory, disgusting, and terrifying time to be alive.
9. The Shining
Alright, even if Stephen King himself does not enjoy this movie adapted from his titular novel, it doesn’t mean you won’t. Honestly, separating the two would do you good, as they both bring different horror elements to life.
The Shining gives off evil vibes. That’s the best way to put it. Throughout the movie, you will be served some masterfully executed disorienting shots, pure violence, and a ton of aggression. The film follows a man and his family as he takes on the role of a caretaker in the wintertime at a resort hotel.
With Jack Nicholson’s masterful performance as Jack Torrance, the movie has plenty of iconic lines and shots. Plus, the man’s descent into madness is a frightening sight to behold.
You might be thinking, ‘Who would want to move into a house where someone was murdered?’ Well, in Sinister, you get your answer. Some people are just living precariously on the edge out there, which typically lands them in a fight for their lives.
As a true crime writer, Ellison Oswalt decides to relocate his family to a house where a family was brutally murdered. He plans to write a biography on the family and whatever happened to their missing daughter. Naturally, his family has no idea about any of this. However, as he finds footage of serial killings and starts to uncover some dark secrets, his family is now in danger.
The whole plot of summoning a demon and cultish themes throughout the movie will send chills down your spine. Indeed, any horror film involving children is a terrifying one.
11. The Human Centipede 2
To be honest, if you’re queasy, avoid this one. The scare factor is not demonic or ghostly but more of a man-made body horror situation. A lot of gore and violence is involved in the Human Centipede 2, and you will throw up your dinner and go hungry for days.
Following the first Human Centipede, this time, we have an obsessed fan replicating the movie with strangers he comes across. Just like its name implies, he creates a monstrous human centipede by surgically attaching one human to another, front to end.
The movie is in black and white, which is an interesting touch as it tones down the realism but amps up the violence. Truly, if this movie is in color, nobody can stomach it. Even in black and white, it proves to be a complicated watch.
Here comes our favorite horror clown! Your preference for the remake of the classic version doesn’t really matter here. They’re both equally great horror movies that play on Coulrophobia, aka the fear of clowns. This is another successful adaptation of Stephen King’s hefty novel, and contrary to The Shining, he enjoys IT.
The movie follows a demonic shapeshifting entity taking the form of a clown and terrorizing the lives of seven children in a small town. He takes on the form of each of their personal demons as he stalks, haunts, and tries to murder them. Pennywise the clown, enjoys tormenting them and feasting on terrified children.
This clown shows up every 27 years to get his fill, so the sequel features the same children as adults. They are now back to try and end his reign of terror while protecting other children from the trauma they had to endure. As one of the best horror films, it’s best to watch them back to back.
13. The Silence of The Lambs
There is an eerieness that fills the screen whenever Hannibal Lecter makes an appearance in a scene. That’s a testament to how good of an actor Anthony Hopkins is. Even if the man is separated from us or restrained, tension and fear still build purely from his presence.
The Silence of The Lambs is about an FBI agent hunting down a serial killer dubbed Buffalo Bill with the help of another notorious serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. This incarcerated cannibal is also a psychiatrist, which adds more twisted mind games into the mix. Additionally, throughout the movie, numerous acts of senseless violence and gore exist.
There’s a lot to digest in this movie, with the stress of deciphering clues and finding a killer, outright dismembered body parts, and even numerous traumatizing events for those involved.
It would be a crime not to have Alfred Hiitchcock’s Psycho on the list when discussing horror. Even if the movie is over 60 years old now. It’s a twisted movie of suspense and thrills, a tad bit of voyeurism, and numerous iconic sequences.
We start with a woman who embezzles a fortune and hides in a random motel. The Bates Motel is run by an unassuming man and his mother. But things get complex when she disappears, and a private investigator starts looking into her disappearance. What ensues is a series of murders and a dark, twisted secret.
Sure, we could easily tell you what happens with this one, but people tend to avoid it for being an old movie. The twist is a fun one, and Hitchcock is not known for being the ‘Master of Suspense’ for nothing. Watch it!
15. The Blair Witch Project
At the time, The Blair Witch Project was a unique take on the horror genre. Especially with the marketing team perpetuating the idea that it is actually real. But that is the movie’s selling point and what makes it so terrifying. The realism and the perfect blurring between reality and fiction enhance the audience’s anxiety.
Don’t worry, though, it’s purely fiction. The Blair Witch Project features a team of documentary makers camping out in the woods when supernatural things start harassing them. It’s mental torture; every scream and every shadowy figure you spot in the movie feels so real.
Since this movie rejuvenated the found footage horror film genre, more followed it—notably the Paranormal Activity franchise, which you should also check out for more jumpscares and realistic horror.
Are you spooked yet? Hopefully, you get an idea of what to watch for a horror movie night with your friends this Halloween! Now, if you’re looking for more horror films, here’s a list of disturbing movies to watch.
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