Unveiling Five of the Scariest Horror Movies of All Time

The horror movie genre tends to be somewhat polarizing, with viewers being besotted with or despising them, with little to no common ground between those extremes. Film critics often ignore horror films or are hypercritical of them, and you rarely see online sports betting sites list a new scary movie as one of the favorites to win an Oscar

Look away now if you are not a horror fan because this article is not for you. Over the following few hundred words, we will embark on a bone-chilling journey into five iconic horror movies that have etched themselves in the annals of fear and have sent shivers down the spines of millions of terrified viewers. Each film is scary in its own right, whether through supernatural means, psychological terror, or the tried and trusted visceral gore! You have been warned!

The Exorcist (1973)

The 1973 cult classic The Exorcist kicks off our horror journey, and what a movie to start with. William Friedkin's direction shattered conventions and set new standards for psychological horror; The Exorcist is a masterpiece from start to finish. The supernatural horror is based on William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name. Blatty won an Academy Award for "Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium" and a Golden Globe for "Best Screenplay – Motion Picture."

At its core, The Exorcist explores faith, doubt, and demonic possession. Back in the 1970s, there was nothing like The Exorcist, and it soon became a hot topic of public discussion. The infamous crucifix scene was sacrilegious, while the head-spinning and vomiting scene used special effects rarely seen in cinema.

Audiences screamed and were stunned at what they had seen on the silver screen, while religious groups called for the movie to be banned. The hype surrounding the groundbreaking film resulted in The Exorcist becoming the first horror movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Ultimately, it missed out to The Sting, but The Exorcist will forever be a winner with scary movie aficionados. 

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock was the grandmaster of horror movies, with Pyscho arguably his best work. Released in 1960, Pyscho is a psychological thriller that follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she checks into the ominous Bates Motel. Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates is incredible and adds an extra layer of unease to the film.

Psycho showcases Hitchcock's mastery of building tension, which, coupled with Bernard Herrmann's iconic score, results in viewers sitting on the edges of their seats. Everything culminates in the infamous shower scene, a moment that forever altered the landscape of horror cinema despite most of the scene being left to the audience's imagination.

If you can watch the "78/52" documentary, do so because it gives an unprecedented look at the shower scene. The amount of thought and planning, and then the execution involved, is remarkable, to say the least.

The Shining (1980)

The Shining is arguably the best psychological horror movie ever made, one that has spawned several parodies and memes, in addition to the "Here's Johnny!" catchphrase. The Shining is adapted from Stephen King's novel, with the legendary Stanley Kubrick tasked with bringing the story to life for moviegoers.

Released in 1980, the film immerses viewers in the eerie isolation of the Overlook Hotel, where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) succumbs to evil supernatural powers. Amazingly, Nicholson did not receive any award nominations for his fantastic portrayal of his unhinged character.

Kubrick's attention to detail and Nicholson's superb performance create an atmosphere of impending dread that begins with the opening credits and leaves a lasting impression once everything fades to black.

Like Psycho, The Shining has an excellent documentary highlighting the level of thought that went into producing the movie. "Room 237" allows you to step behind the camera and learn why Kubrick shot the film in the manner that he did; it is genuinely insightful. 

Halloween (1978)

The 1978 version of Halloween has cult status among horror fans due to it redefining the slasher genre. Director John Carpenter did not receive any Academy Award or Golden Globe nominations but will forever be remembered for creating a horror masterpiece.

Halloween introduces the masked killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle), a hulking giant of a man, who escapes from a psychiatric hospital where he is spending time for the brutal murder of his sister. Myers embarks on a quest to terrorize the small town of Haddonfield, hacking, slashing, and eviscerating his victims, of which there are many.

Carpenter's minimalist approach, the film's haunting score, and Jamie Lee Curtis' portrayal of Laurie Strode, the archetypal "final girl," laid the foundations for the countless horror movies that followed.

The Babadook (2014)

Although Jennifer Kent's 2014 horror movie The Babadook failed to receive any mainstream award nominations, horror fans look back on the film with great affection. Shot and produced against a mere $2 million budget, The Babadook grossed over $10 million at the cinema while gaining a reputation for being an actual horror movie.

The Australian film revolves around a mother and young son grappling with the sinister presence of the Babadook, a mysterious humanoid monster lurking in their home. Essie Davies plays Amelia Vanek, a troubled and exhausted widow, while Noah Wiseman plays the six-year-old Samuel; having the young child central to the story and horrible action adds an unsettling layer to the narrative.

This modern cult film is often discussed in the same circles as art-horror, with similarities drawn to Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Let the Right One In (2008), and Antichrist (2009).


Not everyone enjoys horror, and not every horror fan likes every branch of this chilling genre. Yet the five movies in this article will appeal to all horror film fans. The Exorcist pushed every boundary imaginable, Psycho set a new standard for suspense and how horror movies were shot, while The Shining's meticulous attention to detail makes it stand out from the crowd.

Slasher fans have Halloween to thank for many modern titles, with those who love being terrorized by ghosts, ghouls, and monsters needing to look no further than The Babadook if they want their blood to run cold.