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7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

PoppaScotch 55 Comments

Us horror goons are a sick group of people.  We watch films that most of society disregards because they contain scenes of rampant sex and violence that we find entertaining.  Movies that leave the masses scared to death on Halloween are our Tuesday night time-wasters.

We like to think we’ve seen it all when it comes to the scares, but every once in a while, a movie comes along that is different from the rest.  It makes even the biggest horror fans uncomfortable, or dare I say… scared.  It reminds us of our youth when we were way too young to be watching horror movies, sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to watch re-runs of Tales from the Crypt on late night HBO.  So after some deep thought, I thought I would present to you a list of 7 Truly Terrifying Horror films that will make even the most seasoned horror veteran jump three feet out of their seat.

Oh yeah, there are SPOILERS ahead, so due a quick glace to make sure you’ve seen them all.  If you haven’t, than shame on you.

7. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Dir: Scott Derrickson – 2005) 

Why it’s scary:  Exorcisms are always a tricky thing to pull off in films because often they come off as laughably terrible acting.  However in this surprisingly good horror film from 2005, a young college student becomes possessed by an evil spirit and inexplicably dies during the attempted exorcism.   We bounce back between those events and the court proceedings of the priest who performed the exorcism that lead to Emily Rose’s death.  What I found so effective was the way that the “Law and Order” feel of the court scenes worked magnificently to ground the movie in reality.  It also made us question if the girl was possessed at all.

Scariest Scene: When Emily Rose (played by a pre-Dexter Jennifer Carpenter) has a “presence” push down on her while she is lying in her bed.  Something about the way she crumbled onto the floor just got to me.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

6. [Rec] (Dir: Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza – 2007) 

Why it’s scary:  The look and style of the film helped added to the realism obviously, let’s just get that ten pound gorilla out of the room.  For those of you that feel the gimmick is overused, you can’t overlook the absolute dread of the situation combined with one of the tensest atmospheres I have ever seen.  Everyone in the apartment is confused and scared out of their mind doing whatever they possibly can to try to hold themselves together but in the end, their inability to distinguish an epidemic from a minor inconvenience becomes their downfall.

Scariest Scene:  I know it’s a cheap scare tactic that has been used in a billion films before, but when that body hits the lobby, I had to change my shorts.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

5. The Exorcist (Dir: William Blatty – 1973) 

Why it’s scary:  Considering it was release 36 years ago and it still terrifies people definitely tells me that this movie is not to be taken lightly.  Something about the idea of a young and innocent girl being possessed by pure evil to the point where she jams a crucifix up her…  well you get the point.  It’s still shocking, and Regan’s voice is still creepy to this day.

Scariest Scene:  That little diddy I casually mentioned just now will do, or when she rises the bed four feet off of the ground, or when Regan walks down the stairs in a reverse crab walk… you know what the god damn movie is scary.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

4. Session 9 (Dir: Brad Anderson – 2001) 

Why it’s scary:  Atmosphere.  Atmosphere.  Atmosphere.  A giant and abandoned mental hospital (in real life AND the movie) serves as the basis for an asbestos cleaning crew to take care of a difficult removal job in a very limited time frame.  However, the cleaning crew starts to hear and see things.  They become enamored with the building to the point of obsession with each member showing their psychosis differently.  You never know if what you are seeing can be trusted and it will keep you on your toes until the end.

Scariest Scene:  Any scene involving one of the tape playbacks.  Something about the voice changing and the crackle of the old technology give me goose bumps

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

3. Candyman (Dir: Bernard Rose – 1992) 

Why it’s scary:  There are not many things more terrifying than the booming voice of Tony Todd as the physical manifestation of the wrongs committed against others in the history of America.  Combine that with the old game “Bloody Mary” and you have one of the smartest and scariest films to come out about the effects of urbanization, out casting members of society, and greed that has ever been released.

Scariest Scene:  When Helen Lyle goes from an almost possessed dream sequence to waking covered in blood at a strange apartment in the projects having no idea how she got there (the blood belonged to a disemboweled dog and a baby).  The scene comes out of nowhere which makes it even more jarring and disorienting.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

2. Poltergeist (Dir: Tobe Hooper – 1982) 

Why it’s scary:  For me, ghost movies are always scary.  I know that a hockey mask wearing psycho isn’t standing n the bushes.  I know that the world isn’t going to be overrun with zombies (probably, I have a plan just in case though) but I do not know for a fact that ghosts do not exist.  Knowing that at any moment when my back is turned that all the chairs in the dining room may impossibly stack them in the blink of an eye still scares me to this day.

Scariest Scene:  The scene that will forever be ingrained in my head is at the end of the film when Craig T. Nelson confronts his boss on his lawn saying the lines: “You son of a bitch. You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones. You only moved the head stones! WHY!? WHY!?”.  In the shot, we only see a close-up of the boss’s eyes in a paralyzed state of shock and fear.  Absolutely.  Brilliant.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

1.      Paranormal Activity (Dir: Oren Peli – 2007) 

Why it’s scary:  Gutsy as the #1 pick?  You better believe it.  The reason that this takes precedence is not just because it’s fresh in my mind, but because it scared the living crap out of me.  I have seen literally thousands of horror films for over a decade and nothing terrified me more than this movie.  I think it came from the fact that everyone in the world knows someone who heard from someone that they have seen an unexplained ghost related activity.  To see it actually unfold in an unconventional way made it easy to put myself in the movie.  I’m not kidding one bit when I say that this is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen, and maybe will ever see.

Scariest Scene:  I have never been so freaked out before in a theater when the footprints (in powder) walked into the bed room.

7 Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time

Now remember horror and fears are both two extremely personal feelings.  Someone else may look at this list and say that every one of these movies were lame and not frightening at all and that’s perfectly fine.  In fact, it would be nice if instead of telling me how terrible my picks are and how much of a wuss I am, why don’t we all share what terrifies us?  There can’t be anything emotionally scarring about that?  Right?

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55 Comments

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      1. infidel August 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        You have to be the biggest pussy I have ever seen on a horror site!

      2. Tiago August 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

        Great list. Both the Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Exorcist are truly scary movies. The others not so scary to me, but great movies. The House of the Devil is very scary, that soundtrack ambience creeps me out, also Shadow People was a modern movie I found somewhat scary.

      3. pizzainacup August 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm

        …if you’re ten years old.

        Moreover, Poltergeist and The Exorcist are two of the most overrated Horror films of all time. In general, these films would only “scare” a preteen.

      4. Miss_Lisa August 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        I’ve often wondered if The Exorcist would scare me if I saw it for the first time today, instead of when I was a teenager. Thanks for including Session 9, I love that movie!

      5. zombieneighbor August 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        In Poltergeist it was the clown scene that scared me. I also really liked that you had Session 9 on the list because I can still remember the day I watched it. It was on a road trip and we had brought a little tv with a VHS player on it. It was during the day and I was watching it with my brother and I remember looking over my seat to make sure no monsters crawled in the back since the last time I saw it. My mom also took a picture of us watching it and I’m clutching a pillow with my eyes bulging out haha. I should rewatch it and see if it still has the same effect on me; but any movies with hospitals always freak me out. I wonder if that’s why…haha. Nice list!

        • adylou August 6, 2014 at 4:30 am

          I agree that the clown scene was scary. Even when they parodied the clown in Scary movie (2 I think) i still got chills. I’m not a clown fan

        • david August 7, 2014 at 1:54 am

          Yeah, the clown seen was scary fun. And the part when the guy riped his own face off, not scary, but man, that was so insanely hard to watch.

      6. Lucid August 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm

        I like most of this this with the exemption of: REC, Paranormal Activity and Session 9. I like those movies but really don’t think they belong on a “Most Terrifying Horror Films Of All Time” list. but as you pointed out, this is a list of movies you found terrifying not me. other then that I enjoyed the descriptions and photos.

      7. Solomon Grundy August 18, 2014 at 9:49 pm

        You listed William Blatty as The Exorcist’s director. That’s wrong. It’s William Friedkin. Blatty was the writer, though, of both the novel and the script.

      8. Andrew August 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

        This is a terrible list. Seriously… One of the worst I have ever seen.

      9. DK August 30, 2014 at 11:40 pm

        “The Exorcist” belongs on such a list. The rest, I feel, do not.

        “Session 9″? “Candyman”? Seriously? “Session 9″ had a promising premise, and floundered on the exposition, yielding a dull and fairly nonsensical flick. “Candyman” did receive a certain amount of critical acclaim, so perhaps it’s got more to it than I give it credit for.

        If I might be so bold, I’d recommend “Audition” (オーディション) (Takashi Miike, 1999) for inclusion. This all-too-plausible slow burner probably put at least some male viewers off dating for years, much like “Psycho” managed to make some people leery of showers, and “Jaws” single-finnedly reduced New England coastal tourism by millions of dollars.

        Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” ( 올드보이 ) (2003) is a well-imagined, innovative, and sublimely executed film that yields horror upon horror right to the end. The same is true of his earlier “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” ( 복수는 나의 것 ) (2002).

        John Carpenter’s remake, “The Thing” (1982) remains a benchmark in special effect realism and still has some of the trippiest, horrifying transformations in horror film. I doubt either the acting or the pacing can be faulted. The conclusion is disturbingly anti-climactic and bleak.

      10. taralundrigan September 1, 2014 at 6:11 pm

        Don’t you love how you pointed out that these were your choices, and instead of people responding with rude comments telling you how lame your list is to talk about what scares them instead….but no one listens?? They still rip you and your list apart. People are assholes.

        I am 100% with you. Having experienced the paranormal firsthand myself, I was truly terrified when watching the Paranormal Activity movies. I have seen thousands of horror films, truly disturbing things, but none of them made me want to keep the lights on at night the way those movies did. No, I am not a pussy. I just believe in the paranormal, and watching those movies was like watching my worst nightmares come to life.

        Some more movies that terrified me:

        Frontier(s), 2007 & Martyrs, 2008 – the french no how to make a scary film.

        Lovely Molly, 2011 – there was something about the mood of this movie that really disturbed me.

        Absentia, 2011 – I really want to watch this film again because I don’t remember much of it, except that it stuck with me and that it really creeped me out.

        The Descent, 2005 & The Descent Part 2, 2009 – these movies are scary. The situation that these ladies find themselves in is nothing short of terrifying.

        Splinter, 2008 – the one monster movie that really stuck with me.

        Baby Blues, 2008 – this movie is disgusting, and terrifying. This story made me sick to my stomach like no other, and the fact it could be a real scenario makes it even worse.

      11. DK September 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm

        Hey, I thought I for one was being reasonably polite. Thank you for including me in your rant.

      12. Lenny Simmons September 28, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        Paranormal activity is the most overrated pile of shit ever made

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

          I completely agree I refuse to watch the PA drivel. But that said I do recognize it has a massive and passionate following. Not my list but I can understand why he listed it

        • Brandon Blake
          Brandon Blake September 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm

          One Direction ALSO has a massive and passionate following… so that’s not saying much.

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

          rofl. Well said my friend.. well said.

      13. Curtis Graham III September 28, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        “Candyman” is good but hardly scary. “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was lame and didn’t even scare my wife, who is frightened of the idea of demonic possession. “Poltergeist” is SOOOOOOO overrated it’s pathetic. And “Paranormal Activity” was a rip-off of the ’60s film “The Sound of Horror” mixed with every ghost story cliché.

      14. Norman W. Kriedman III September 28, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        Worst list I’ve read in years. Seven most terrifying of all time and four out of the seven are made after the year 2000. Who made this list a 12 year old?

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm

          I commend the author for being brave enough to share his list and face criticism for not sharing the same views as our readers. With respect why not share your own suggestions rather then hurling insults at him? I do not agree with all his choices either.

      15. Vincent Tubito September 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm

        No no no

      16. Mdu Nzima September 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

        What is the name of the movie where there’s a ghost that come-out of the TV screen and a storyline about horses…that isht scared me

        • Shayla September 28, 2014 at 9:57 pm

          The Ring?

      17. Marshmallow September 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

        John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness scared me greatly. Perhaps because I was experiencing paranormal events at the time? V/H/S 2 stuck with me a little more than usual as well.
        I find myself in the quandary of not being scared by many films I see now, and yet I do not care to see the more extreme ones (Salo, A Serbian Film, Cannibal Holocaust, the August Underground films… I’ve no desire to see any of these). Is there anything you would recommend as some sort of middle ground between the tame or overdone “mainstream” fare and the truly depraved and disgusting?

      18. Doug Magee September 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

        Candyman, really?

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm

          Candyman was amazing! ( fyi I am not the list author ). Other films I would put on the list would include IT and Martyrs

        • Carl McBride
          Carl McBride September 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

          Not a fan of many movies on this list, but the one that I just don’t get that normally makes it on many lists I’ve seen is Session 9….I’ve tried to like it but I just can’t. Some of mine are
          The Conjuring
          It
          Descent
          Exorcist
          Die Hard 5
          Witchboard

      19. Bryce Smooth September 28, 2014 at 2:06 pm

        This is the worst list of “most terrifying movies” ever. You should feel ashamed to call yourself a horror fan.

      20. Brandon Blake September 28, 2014 at 2:06 pm

        I get this is a personal opinion list. But the bar for what is “most terrifying” has been set extremely low.

      21. Norman W. Kriedman III September 28, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        I have a question for everyone, I can’t seem to make a firm stance on it myself and wondering what you all think. I think we’d all agree at the time of release “Jaws” was definitely one of the most if not the most terrifying films but how do we feel about it being included into the “horror” genre or a list of this nature.

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

          JAWS is without question terrifying and worthy of this list

      22. Tim Bearden September 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        I remember the first time I saw Paranormal Activity. Someone walked in the room about an hour and fifteen minutes into it and asked “What’s this?” I responded “Paranormal Activity” they looked at the screen for a second “Any good?” I looked them straight in the eye “Nothing has happened yet. Unless your scared by noises.”

      23. Daniel Johnson September 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        I think he is taking the atmosphere angle here rather than the horrific. On that level, I think he’s pretty spot on with his modern selections. All of these movies have the atmosphere nailed. Even Paranormal Activity had its moments. Session 9 is incredibly underrated; it’s quite a good film. Candyman was helped along by Phillip Glass’ minimalist score which is great. Rec comes from a claustrophobic angle which it is also successful with. Of course there are better examples but I still think this is a nice list.

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

          great comment.

        • Brandon September 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

          I liked the list and the reasons why too. I would switch out Paranormal Activity with Blair Witch Project. I saw that before it was officially out and had some friends that grew up close enough telling me it was real. I actually had thought it was some bootleg video that was making its rounds. [REC] was awesome. Still haven’t watched Exorcist because the whole idea creeps me out. To add to the list I saw Wolf Creek after going to Aus and could imagine that happening which is terrifying enough. Atmosphere is what does it for the list for sure. Who hasn’t seen something odd that they question. Would like to see the list added to. Oh yeah and the Evil Dead remake is a good modern movie.

      24. Bryce Smooth September 28, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        My list, top 12, not necessarily “terrifying” but just solid horror flicks.
        12: The first half hour of Jeepers Creepers
        11. Sinister/ The Bay (can’t decide, they both have one defining scene that left me speechless)
        10: Splinter
        9: Pet Semetery
        8: Frozen (the ski lift one)
        7: Dead End
        6: Wolf Creek
        5: The Hills Have Eyes (original and remake)
        4: Martyrs
        3: Last House On The Left (original)
        2: Evil Dead (2013)
        1: Eden Lake (made me feel like shit for days)

        Totally subjective, but definitely better list than the one posted

        • Amaury Canales
          Amaury Canales September 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm

          Nice list.

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

          GREAT list. Yours would parallel mine

        • Horror-Movies.ca
          Horror-Movies.ca September 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

          although I have still not seen Eden Lake ( shameful )

        • Bryce Smooth
          Bryce Smooth September 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

          Glad you approve!

        • Bryce Smooth
          Bryce Smooth September 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

          There 2 scenes in particular in it that just leave you feeling like trash. And the ending is also a total shocker.

        • DK October 1, 2014 at 6:50 am

          “Splinter” was inventive and interesting, which in horror is rare. As for “Frozen” I’ll support anything that educates the American public on just how vicious wolves can be.

          “Wolf Creek” – what ruined it for me was knowing that the serial killer could not have lived in that shambolic mess as depicted, because the flies would have been ATROCIOUS.

      25. john September 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        10 pound gorilla? Tensest? Lol. Now that is scary.

      26. Hano Rokpony September 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm

        Most of the movies on this list suck

      27. James Oiler September 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

        Your list is crap.

      28. Ed Hooper September 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

        Scary is relative, people used to run screaming from the frankenstien movies and faint dead away at the tingler which now seems ridiculous, I love them but don’t find anything of merit in the paranormal activity movies, then again I’m old.

      29. Brian Keath September 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        Good list, all those movies are creepy. Two more good ones would be pet semetary and the grudge they both freaked me out, that’s why I love them.

      30. Mark Comeau September 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Awful list. Paranormal activity #1 over the exorcist?! Obviously a 20 yr old kid who doesn’t know movies made this list. What about The Shining, The Changeling and Alien?

      31. Pamela Gormley September 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        That’s a crap list, Paranormal activity? Come on lads!

      32. Eddie Bordeaux September 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

        No mention of “Insidious” or its sequel, I am disappoint. Seriously though, aside from”The Exorcist”, completely off-base.

      33. Crush Kickbullet September 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm

        For films like Poltergeist and The Exorcist, it isn’t really about the amount of fear these filmmakers can squeeze out alone. These films rely heavily on atmosphere as much as cheap scares. That being said, some of MY favorites rely on that same principle. In NO particular order:

        1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
        2. Day of the Dead
        3. In the Mouth of Madness
        4. Poltergeist II
        5. Frailty
        6. Alien
        7. Slither
        8. Ravenous
        9. Phenomena
        10. The Sentinel
        11. Blood Creek
        12. Return of the Living Dead

        • Herner Klenthur
          Herner Klenthur September 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm

          Great and very thoughtful comment.

      34. bigspoonybard September 30, 2014 at 2:26 am

        I want Poltergeist to be scary. I really do. There’s so much I like about it, but the soundtrack completely kills it. It’s practically a family comedy score. I’m pretty sure it was cribbed to make the Home Alone score.

      35. Marco Ettore Tognato September 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        I loved this article. Now I’m really looking forward to see “Session 9″ and “Candyman”.
        But I don’t agree with the inclusion of “Poltergeist” (you’re right, bigspoonybard): I found it rather ridiculous from beginning to end, too long and tedious. While watching it, I thought I was seeing a saccharin Spielberg film: only afterwards I realised it was made by the same guy of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and I was upset. Now, I don’t judge a horror film by the scary-meter, but “Poltergeist” isn’t even horror: it’s boring family entertainment. But of course, I respect your choices and maybe now I will re-watch it with a new perspective in mind. After all, tastes are tastes (do you say that in English too?). My Top 7 scares are:

        07. Antichrist
        06. The Haunting (1963)
        05. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
        04. The Hitcher
        03. [Rec]
        02. Alien
        01. Lost Highway

        Of course I’m referring to the creeps I got when seeing them the first time.

      36. william October 13, 2014 at 12:08 am

        lol the only reason that people even say the list sucks is because they dont know anything about reall horror let something like that happen to them and see if they still agree, they would be the first ones to cry about it