The Twenty Scariest Movies Of All Time

This article originally appeared on Culture Brats on October 31st, 2011. But we're bringing it back (along with a few others) to get you ready for Halloween!

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to compile and rank the twenty scariest movies of all time.

Did your favorite make the... cut?

Find out below!

20. Night Of The Living Dead
19. Evil Dead
18. Jacob's Ladder
17. Halloween
16. The Hitcher
15. Psycho
14. Jaws
13. The Thing
12. Amityville Horror
11. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
10. 28 Days Later
9. Hellraiser
8. Silence Of The Lambs
7. Poltergeist
6. Nightmare On Elm Street

5. Alien

The beauty of Alien is that it takes a bunch of typical old movie tropes, mixes them around, and turns them sideways into a beautifully made science-fiction horror film that really stands out from its brethren. Previously, most "creature" films were B-movies that were cheaply made and, well, kind of campy. Alien stands on a whole new level.

The H. R. Geiger-created creatures are astonishing in design, and Ridley Scott uses them so well by slowly teasing glimpses of the monster. A tail here, a slithering body there, skittering sounds, and then BAM! a facehugger. Scott deliberately uses a slow pace to heighten the tension so when you finally DO see the alien in its full glory, it's beautiful and horrifying all at the same time.

And the aliens are all real, not computer generated. Now, I'm a fan of well done CGI, but I think that Alien gains some credibility because the big alien was actually played by a guy (a really really tall guy) in a spectacularly built suit. This wasn't some terribly cheap looking rubber crocodile type thing. The attention to detail and time spent to create some outrageous effects really paid off. Who didn't jump at the chest burster? The actors actually did: they hadn't been warned about what exactly was going to happen, so when that thing burst out of Hurt's chest, the shock you see on film is totally real.

Speaking of the cast, most horror movies feature a cast of hot young teens, but Alien adds some weight and texture by using a cast of talented adults. Ian Holm, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, and the debut of Sigourney Weaver gave the film a seriousness and gravitas lacking in most horror films. These are bored, hardworking miners, just living a hard life and trying to get by, until things go horribly wrong. And oh yeah, they're all trapped together in a spaceship.

Finally, you can't talk about Alien without talking about Ripley, a female lead in a horror film who kicks some serious ass. No scream queen or slutty girlfriend victim is this lady. Ripley was a game changer, the first real action heroine to hit the big screen. Taken as a whole, Alien is just a really great film that also happens to be creepy as hell. Watch it alone in the dark and see, because this baby may have been released in the late 1970s but it's still monstrously good.--Archphoenix

4. The Blair Witch Project

What made The Blair Witch Project so scary wasn't what you saw -- it was the stuff you didn't see. Unlike most of the movies on this list, you never actually get to see a monster or anything to be afraid of.

Blair Witch was about a group of filmmakers who went into the woods to shoot a documentary about the local legend and were never heard from again. One year later, the only thing that remains is the footage from their weekend. Shot in grainy black and white, Blair Witch feels claustrophobic and menacing. This film was about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the dark, fear of things you couldn't see. Every snapping twig caused you to jump, scream, and for some unlucky film goers, even faint.

One of the first movies effectively marketed on the Internet, nothing mentioned that it was a movie. That stickman was all over the damn web. The most remarkable things about this movie is the fact that many people who bought a ticket for The Blair Witch Project thought they were going to see an actual documentary. Which made it even scarier.

A legend about a fake legend was born.--Chris

3. The Ring

Three of the hardest things for a movie to do to me are gross me out, startle me, or truly scare me.

Gross-out movies were all the rage when I first started getting into horror movies in junior high and high school. I got my horror cinema initiation during the rise of the splatter-fest, when Friday The 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare On Elm Street were leaving a trail of bloody teenagers a mile long. I never really found the blood all that scary as long as it was really over-the-top. I found most of those movies to be fun, occasionally even funny. (Today's splatter films--the Saw movies and, even worse, the Hostel movies are too real to be at all fun, in my opinion.)

Startling the audience is a tactic that most horror movies use at least once or twice per film. I'm pretty well attuned to the trick, so it's tough to get me to jump. I found myself laughing through most of Paranormal Activity 3 because I found it hilarious that a whole film could be built on the wind-up-the-tension-and-have-a-cat-jump-out-at-you trick. So, yeah... I might jump from time to time, but that's not really scary.

Most filmmakers seem to think that either blood and guts or startling are enough to pass for "scary," so it's a huge treat when a truly scary movie comes along. The Ring was one of the creepiest, scariest, and most disturbing films I've seen. The premise--a secret videotape that when viewed results in death seven days later--is pretty cool in and of itself. The backstory of the creepy little girl (always a good start on a journey to "scary") is compelling and dark, and the twist at the end where you think that it's over but it's not was, in this case, so well done I really didn't see it coming. (In fact, I was prepared to be disappointed that the solution was the old "putting the spirit to rest" gag.) On a personal level, there's also the weird twitchy movement/filming of Samara (the creepy little girl) when she shows up that really affects me on some frightening level that I can't explain.

Even the imagery from the video tape that the characters watch in the film is scary. It's included as an Easter egg on the DVD, and it creeps you the hell out when you watch it. I mean, you KNOW it won't hurt you to watch it...but, even so, there's something in the back of your head screaming for you to shut it off before it's too late.

So, yeah... The Ring is hella-scary. (The Japanese movie it's based on, Ringu, and the sequel not so much.) If you want to give yourself nightmares this Halloween season, skip Paranormal Activity 3 and see this instead. You won't sleep for a week.--Dave

2. The Exorcist

Few films really scare me. Even as a child, I actually enjoyed being frightened by movies like Poltergeist and any zombie flick. But no other movie scared the bejesus out me like William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist. I was obviously too young to see this movie in theaters when it premiered and six years later when it was re-released. It was a critical and financial success; it was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning two.

I think I was in high school and decided to watch it on HBO. Oh man, was that a mistake.

The story is of a tormented little girl named Regan (Linda Blair) that has made a new "imaginary" friend. But then her behavior turns a demonic corner, and her family turns to a priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). They rule out normal psychosis, and they decide to perform a rite of Exorcism to free Regan of the demon that possesses her.

It is a grueling task, and Regan exhibits all kinds of supernatural abilities like levitation, speaking backwards, her head doing a complete 360 degree turn, and of course, the infamous pea soup barfarama. Just writing this stuff makes it all seem kinda laughable, but when you're watching this tormented little girl put the fear of Satan in these two priests, it's enough to make you soil your pants.

The two priests battle the devil, battling for her very soul. In the end, they are both victorious and defeated.

Living in St. Louis, the story that inspired both the novel and the movie holds some local significance to us. The real life Exorcism is said to have happened here in town in 1949 and at two locations: the old Alexius Hospital and a residential home in Bel-Nor in North City.

The Exorcist is one of those films that has struck such a visceral nerve in our society. It plays on our fears of ultimate evil, an evil we cannot so easily defeat. But as terrifying as it is, the pea soup scene is both grotesque and an iconic piece of cinema history.--Jay

1. The Shining

Wow, what a beautiful hotel! Man, this place is sweet. And it's so secluded up here in the woods. My family is going to love it here, and I'll finally have some time to work on that novel.

Hey buddy, what's going on with your finger? Why is it talking in that funny voice? Kids today... such an imagination. Go play with that friendly chef for a while, OK?

Doo da-doo... just drivin' my Big Wheel through the halls. This is great... I can go forever! Just gonna turn around this corner and CHRIST JESUS WHO THE FUCK ARE THEY! Shit, they scared the crap out of me. Looks like they just want to play but OH MY GOD WHAT'S WITH ALL THE BLOOD! GAH!

Shit, I thought I'd be able to write here, but it's going nowhere. Plus my wife seems like a real bitch lately. Makes me... so... .ANGRY. If only there was someplace I could go to get a drink. Oh, well, hello there! Your name is Lloyd? Sure is a nice bar you have here. What do you think about my wife?

You know, people keep talking about Room 237, like there's something freaky in there. I'm gonna go check it out. Whoa, helllloooo hot stuff. Ok, fine maybe just one little smooch just don't OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR SKIN DISGUSTING EWWW EWWWW! Now I REALLY need a drink. Hi, my name is Jack... what's your name? Grady? What do you mean I should "correct" my wife and child?

Oooooohhhh... I get it. Let me think about that...

OK, I'm freaked the fuck out up here. My husband has got the crazy eyes all the time, and that kid of mine keeps saying "REDRUM" in the FREAKIEST GOD DAMN VOICE and I want to go home! I'd better go find Jack and talk to him. Hey, what's this? Is this the novel he's been working on? "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?" What the OH MY GOD JESUS GET AWAY FROM ME SHIT LEAVE ME ALONE!!! Must... get his... unconscious... body... to the... meat locker...

Whatdoido whatdoido crap crap crap. What's with the kid, now he's writing "redrum" on the wall? As if I don't have enough... wait, in the mirror it's OH SHIT IT SPELLS MURDER FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!

GAH! HE'S OUT! HE'S GOT AN AX!! HE'S QUOTING CARSON! Danny, get the fuck out of the window! Mommy's right behind you (oh jesus oh jesus oh jesus)!


You're a popsicle now, muthafuckaaaaaa...--CroutonBoy

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