The Scariest Movies Of All Time: Happy, Halloween!

With Halloween next weekend, we look back at the scariest movies that make us lock our doors and stay under the covers...

From 1970s horror to present-day satire, scary movies have always been a mainstay on our television screens. There’s just something intrinsically exciting about being in a dark room, watching a movie whose primary aim is to get you jumping at your own reflection in the mirror.

Why are we so in love with being scared? Maybe its the best way to cuddle up to the person next to you, as you pretend to be afraid, or maybe we just like to think we know better when we see scream queens of old battling a serial killer and wondering, ‘Why Don’t You Just Go Out The Front Door?!’

Either way, scary movies are classics, and with Halloween just around the corner, we’ve rounded up the scariest movies of all time for your viewing pleasure.

Poltergeist (1982)

‘They’re here.’

Better known as the film that taught you not to sit in front of the telly, Poltergeist is the quintessential haunted house film, except instead of a creepy old mansion, the house is in suburban California. Pretty much every scary movie trope is in this film: Creepy child? Check. Evil beings in the closet? Check. Haunted burial grounds? Check, check and check. The fact that so many clichés are present in the 1982 film does nothing to lessen the horrible feeling you get when little Carol Anne turns her head to announce, ‘They’re heeeeeere.’ Who ‘they’ are causes much concern for her confused parents and as the house slowly comes to life, we can’t help but wonder whether we should look to relocate as well…

It (1990)

‘Aren’t cha gonna say…hello?’

You know how we all have that inexplicable fear of clowns? Well we’re almost 99.99% sure that it’s down to this 90s horror. As Tim Curry sports some pretty out there red hair, he plays every kid’s worst nightmare: a clown that’s only goal in life is to kill children. Yikes. Based on the Stephen King’s novel, Pennywise The Dancing Clown torments and scares a group of boys from childhood to adulthood, until they can come up with a way to kill him once and for all. Guaranteed to have you cancelling on your nephew’s birthday party.

Psycho (1960)

‘A boy’s best friend is his mother.

Not only a scary movie classic, Psycho – by the great Alfred Hitchcock – is also considered one of the best movies of all time. Featuring an infamous first act where Janet Leigh’s character (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mum, just FYI) gets unceremoniously killed off in a motel’s shower, the movie takes an unexpected detour as we learn more and more about the deluded mind of serial killer Norman Bates and his frankly, odd relationship with his mother. Stay until the last scene folks – it’s a doozy.

Paranormal Activity (1970)

‘It was over our bed.’

Paranormal Activity was the surprise hit of Halloween 2007, as filmgoers flocked to see ‘found footage’ of a couple being terrorised by an unseen entity. With a budget of only $15,000 and starring two unknown actors, audiences were convinced that the couple, Katie and Micah, really did film themselves being haunted by a demon. Though it was quickly revealed to be a marketing stunt, the oh-so-real look of the movies combined with the hypnotic rhythm of watching sped up footage and waiting for the next big scare is just as compelling as ever. Even in 2015, the story of Paranormal Activity continues with the sixth and final installment coming out this Halloween.

Scream (1996)

‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’

A 90s classic, Scream loved scary movies so much, it decided to make fun of them. Featuring a cast who knew they were in a serial killer film – ‘No, please don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel! – the film did a killer (sorry) job of mixing comedy with horror, as audiences cowered behind their hands, while laughing at the jokes right after. Directed by the incomparable Wes Craven (who also created the Halloween classic Nightmare On Elm Street), it’s sad to know that even with four Scream films in the series, we’ll never get another as perfect and self-aware as the original.

The Exorcist (1973)

‘What an excellent day for an exorcism.’

The oldest film on this list, The Exorcist, released in 1973, is not for the faint of heart. The film tells the tale of a demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and the subsequent attempts to free her by an exorcism. Based on the novel of the same name, the movie is notable for including many-a-scene that are NSFW, including: a little girl cursing like a sailor, inappropriate use of a crucifix and scenes so gruesome that they could make you vomit. Nevertheless, The Exorcist is a horror classic and if you can get through it, you can get through any scary movie. Just watch it with the lights on…

The Shining (1980)

‘Redrum. Redrum. Redrum…’

Based on another Stephen King novel (he really does have a strange mind, that one), the film version of The Shining is probably better known, due to its slick and eerie direction by the late Stanley Kubrick. Going for more psychological horror than all-out scares, the film digs deep into the psyche of husband and father Jack Torrance, as we slowly watch his sanity slip away at the foreboding Overlook Hotel. As other characters populate the hotel over the course of his stay, we’re forced to ask ourselves: is Jack being manipulated by supernatural forces or was he always crazy enough to kill? With no clear answers, this film is will have you sleeping with one eye open…

Happy Halloween, folks!

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