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The 30 Scariest Movies of All Time

Grab a blanket and a buddy (or five!), because you’re going to need both to make it through these films!

All of the following movies are proceeded by their dark reputations: they are the goriest, freakiest, and most terrifying horror flicks we could find. They’re sure to put you in the mood for Halloween!  Watch at your own risk, and be ready for nightmares, because the content of these films tends to linger…

30. Ju-on (2000)
The original Japanese version of The Grudge, Ju-on is the six-part chronicle of the tenants of a cursed house where a man killed his wife and son in a jealous rage.

29. The Crazies (2010)
A remake of a 1973 film, The Crazies is a classic Midwestern horror flick in which a small town in Iowa becomes infected with the “Trixie” virus. It’s basically a zombie movie, because everyone in the town gets turned into coldhearted killers, but the stakes get even higher when the cause of the virus is discovered.

28. [Rec] (2007)
In this Spanish horror film, a TV reporter and her cameraman follow emergency workers into an apartment building, only to be locked inside with a bunch of crazed zombie-like women who were infected by a diseased dog.

27. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
When a loan officer evicts a woman from her home in order to earn a promotion, the woman places a powerful curse on her that, after three days of escalating torment, will drag her down to the depths of Hell for all eternity.

26. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Shot like a reality TV show, Paranormal Activity is centered on a young couple who are dealing with some sort of supernatural presence in their home. The film is presented as “found footage,” from cameras they set up in their home, predominantly the one that records what happens while they sleep…

25. Poltergeist (1982)
This classic horror film focuses on a family whose house is haunted by malevolent ghosts—poltergeists. They start out seemingly friendly, moving items around the house to the family’s amusement, but eventually turn nasty, terrorizing the family and abducting their youngest daughter!

24. The Last House on the Left (2009)
This remake of a 1972 film follows the parents of Mari Collingwood, one of two girls brutally assaulted and left for dead by a gang led by prison escapee Krug.  When Krug’s gang unknowingly takes refuge at the Collingwood’s house during a storm, Mari’s parents take their revenge in an increasingly gruesome series of torments.

23. Hellraiser (1987)
In this English horror flick, based off of Cliver Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, an unfaithful wife comes face-to-face with her zombiefied lover, who is being pursued by demons from the sado-masochistic Hell he has managed to escape from.

22. The Descent (2005)
As if being trapped in a cave wasn’t scary enough (if you’re not a fan of confined spaces this movie will be especially creepy), imagine being simultaneously pursued by a strange breed of bloodthirsty predators.

21. The Strangers (2008)
Kristen (Liv Tyler) and her boyfriend James are staying at a remote summer vacation home.  He has just proposed, and after turning him down the two are still forced to awkwardly stay the night there together.  What was already a crappy night goes downhill when three masked assailants cut off all means of escape, break into the house and terrorize them.

20. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
When a group of friends show up at a remote cabin for a fun vacation, they end up awakening a family of zombies with a Latin incantation.  What they don’t realize is that they are in the middle of something so much bigger, and the ending will leave you stunned.

19. Carrie (1976)
She was the girl that everyone picked on.  Based on the Stephen King novel, Carrie follows the story of a mousy, abused, telekinetic teenager who gets pushed too far by her peers.  You should watch this for John Travolta’s role as well—Carrie was his first movie!

18. The Sixth Sense (1999)
If you  haven’t seen this classic psychological horror film by M. Night Shyamalan, you’re missing out!  A young boy who can communicate with the spirits of the dead seeks the help of a child psychologist (Bruce Willis).  This movie has one of the best endings in film history; it’s a must-see!

17. When a Stranger Calls (2006)
Don’t try watching this alone at home!  During a seemingly normal night of babysitting, a high school girl finds herself terrorized by an increasingly menacing prank caller.

16. Wolf Creek (2005)
This movie will make you never want to take a roadtrip in Australia.  Ever.  Supposedly based on true events, some backpackers stranded in the outback fall prey to a serial killer who takes them captive.

15. Deadgirl (2008)
A film that raises a slew of moral questions, this tells the story of two high school boys who spend most of their time daydreaming about their female classmates.  When they discover a mute, naked woman who can’t die, chained to a table in the basement of an abandoned psychiatric hospital, a debate ensues as to whether or not they should free her.

14. Teeth (2007)
A high school girl, still trying to figure out her own body, discovers she has a “vagina dentada” when she becomes the object of male sexual violence.  Is it a curse or a physical advantage?  A nasty, but nonetheless intriguing story about an otherwise defenseless girl being preyed upon by men.

13. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
In one of the most disturbing films you will ever see, two American girls find themselves at the mercy of a German doctor who surgically joins his victims mouth-to-anus, creating a “human centipede.”  

12. Friday the 13th (1980)
This is the film that started the massive Friday the 13th franchise.  Some consider it to be the first true slasher film.  It centers on a group of teenagers who are murdered one-by-one as they attempt to reopen a summer camp.  The villain of the movie is the hockey mask-wearing Jason Voorhees.

11. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Make sure you watch the original before you watch the 2010 remake.  The villain of this classic slasher film is Freddy Krueger, a serial killer who dispatches his victims with blades embedded in the fingers of a glove.  The worst part?  He stalks and kills you in your dreams!

10. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This infamous thriller stars Jodie Foster as a young FBI agent who must confide in the imprisoned killer Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins is absolutely chilling in this role) in order to bring another serial killer–one who skins his female victims–to justice.

9. The Omen (1976) 
An American ambassador slowly realizes that his child son is literally the Antichrist.  The original is said to be freakier than the 2006 remake with Julia Stiles.

8. The Ring (2002)
The first in the famous series, this cult horror classic follows Naomi Watts’ character, a journalist investigating a sinister videotape that gives all who watch it only seven days to live.

7. Hostel (2005)
This one’s not for a weak stomach.  When three backpackers arrive in a Slovak city, their hedonistic expectations do little to prepare them for the hell of torture and gore that awaits them.

6. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Based off of the 1977 film with the same name, this is the story of a family who becomes stranded in the southwest American desert, far away from any trace of civilization.  Some gruesome scenes ensue in which these naive suburbanites find themselves being stalked by hideous, murderous mutants.

5. Saw (2004)
Part twisted gore-fest, part psychological thriller, Saw is the first in a series of films surrounding the sadistic “Jigsaw,” who imprisons individuals in his lair and lays out a deadly game for them in which they must follow rules and objectives if they want to escape.  

4. Psycho (1960)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and perhaps the most famous horror movie ever made, Psycho tells the story of a young secretary who embezzles $40,000 and runs away to a secluded motel.  Her plans go awry when she encounters the motel’s disturbed manager, Norman Bates.

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Based on the 1974 original, a group of friends is hunted by a deformed, chainsaw-wielding murderer whose cannibalist family can only afford to eat what he kills.  This film is pretty gory, so save the snacks for later if you choose to watch it.

2. The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson slowly loses his mind and turns into a violent killer, his young son is haunted by visions of the past and future, and a fierce blizzard threatens to trap them all inside the isolated hotel which seems infused with a malevolent psychological presence.

1. The Exorcist (1973)
This film is almost 40 years old, yet it still has the ability to keep the best of us up for a night or two.  That’s saying something.  Filled with disturbing images, this is the story of a possessed young girl, whose mother desperately seeks the help of two priests to save her.

A Chicago native, Elizabeth is going into her senior year at the College of William & Mary, where she is majoring in Psychology and Literary & Cultural Studies. Last year she circumnavigated the globe and visited 12 developing nations with a study abroad program called Semester at Sea, honing her travel writing skills and chasing her dream of someday working abroad. Currently she is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine Winged Nation and the Philanthropy Chair of her beloved music sorority, Nu Kappa Epsilon. When she's not writing her butt off for class or for pleasure, she can usually be found practicing harp, watching Community, or hanging out with her Phi Sigma Pi brothers.