Although they are not always met with great critical acclaim, horror movies have seen moviegoers flock to the theaters for decades. To some, the thrill of the scare makes the movie an exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat experience. However, there are some iconic horror movies that offer much more than just jump scares and blood and guts.
Often times, the scariest movies come with a deeper meaning and complex undertones that make us question the world we live in. Every few years, a horror movie will shock audiences to their core, leaving a long-lasting impact on cinema. The movies in this list are considered to be some of the best horror pictures of all time, from both critics and fanatics.
The late 60s into the early 70s was home to some of the scariest movies ever made. However, horror movies were still not a major talking point amongst critics. But this all changed when William Friedkin‘s The Exorcist was released in 1973. The disturbing horror told the story of Regan (Linda Blair), a 12-year-old girl who becomes possessed by a sinister and mysterious entity. As she slowly turns into a completely different person, her mother seeks the help of two priests.
The Exorcist was a truly terrifying cinematic experience unlike anything seen on film before. The film is notorious for causing audience members to pass out while watching the movie. In fact, ambulances were often stationed outside of movie theaters to tend to people who were fainting or having panic attacks. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, taking home two. Furthermore, it is still highly regarded as a classic to this day.
Many may argue that The Shining is more of a thriller than a horror. However, it is widely considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made. Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece is an adaption of Stephen King‘s novel of the same name. In the film, Jack Nicholson portrays Jack Torrance, a writer who takes his family to an isolated hotel for the winter. Here, he begins work on his next book. However, things slowly start to go awry when a sinister presence descends him into violence and madness.
The Shining offers much more than frenzied horror. What makes the film so disturbing is the slow and seemingly unstoppable descent that happens before our eyes. As Jack’s wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), begins to fear for her family’s safety, their son begins to see horrifying premonitions. With a looming soundtrack of dread, and eerie visuals that haunt the mind, The Shining stands out as a true work of cinematic genius. Furthermore, Shelley Duvall’s performance in the film holds a notorious level of authenticity, as she claims she was pushed to exhaustion through the intense and demanding filming process.
Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece and to this day, is recognized as one of the scariest and best movies ever made. Psycho undoubtedly changed the landscape of the horror genre for good. The movie tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who steals $40,000 from her employer and ends up at the Bates Motel. Here she meets the eerily quiet Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his overbearing mother. The plot twists and turns in unexpected ways, leaving viewers shocked and utterly disturbed.
Psycho pushed horror movies into the conversation of critical acceptance, as it garnered four Oscar nominations including Best Director. Furthermore, the infamous shower scene remains one of the most talked-about moments in cinema history. Overall, the film is a true testament to Hitchcock’s ability to terrify audiences. Even to this day, Psycho continues to be a staple in the horror genre.
The Blair Witch Project
Over the last two decades, the found footage niche has pushed its way forward in the horror genre. However, no movie has managed to emulate the film that started it all off – The Blair Witch Project. The 1999 film follows three student filmmakers who venture into the woods of Maryland to investigate a local legend known as the Blair Witch. As they trek deeper into the forest, strange events begin to plague their journey. To this, they soon realize that they are not alone. What set this film apart was its use of a low budget, which was spun into a marketing tactic. The filmmakers decided to shoot the film as a documentary, captured entirely on one hand-held camera.
The Blair Witch Project was marketed as actual found footage which led many to believe that it was a genuine documentary. The film became an instant success, earning a staggering $248 million at the box office. Even today, The Blair Witch Project remains a masterpiece in low-budget cinema, influencing countless filmmakers to take on new and creative ways of storytelling.
Hereditary is a 2018 horror movie that follows the story of the Graham family who are dealing with the loss of their secretive grandmother. As events unfold, they begin to uncover the terrifying truth about their family’s past and the sinister fate that awaits them. The film’s success is largely attributed to its well-crafted story, subtle scares, and outstanding performances from the cast. Since its release, Hereditary has quickly gained a cult following. Furthermore, it garnered heaps of critical acclaim, which is something horror movies don’t typically receive. Critics praised the film’s cinematography, direction, performances, and originality, and many have hailed it as a horror masterpiece and one of the scariest horror movies ever.