Robert Wise's atmospheric and eerily photographed haunted house drama is one of the most unsettling ghost stories ever filmed, with unforgettable imagery, fascinating characters and a story that leaves a lot to the audience's overactive imagination.
A family of cannibals lays waste to a group of travelers in Tobe Hooper's seminal horror thriller, which challenges many of the conventions of the genre and still, after all these years, feels more like a snuff film than an exploitation flick.
If you think Children of the Corn is scary, you've never seen Who Can Kill a Child?, a very similar but even more frightening version of the killer kids narrative that pre-dates Stephen King's short story by a year. The movie takes place on an island of murderous moppets, who do unspeakable things that would give King's homicidal pre-teens nightmares.
David Lynch's first film is an uncomfortable journey into helplessness and anxiety, about a hapless bastard who winds up taking care of his deformed child in a miserable apartment filled with his own stifled dreams and overactive fears. It may not be a proper horror movie by any traditional definition, but it's so unsettling it doesn't matter.
Dario Argento's operatic supernatural thriller doesn't play by the rules, offering unthinkable imagery and outlandish violence as it tells the story of an isolated ballet academy, populated by nubile victims and an all-powerful witch.
John Carpenter's original thriller is a masterpiece of precision, a simple set-up and pay-off that shows a serial killer escaping from an asylum and killing off unsuspecting babysitters. So simple, it inspired a genre. So scary, it still terrifies to this day.
Stanley Kubrick's loose adaptation of Stephen King's classic horror novel is as an elegant haunted house film, with ethereal cinematography spiked by horrifying moments of violence and madness. Jack Nicholson plays the patriarch of a family taking care of a hotel for the winter, and he falls prey to isolation, alcoholism and supernatural forces that want him to kill his wife and son.
Tobe Hooper brought spook stories into suburbia with Poltergeist, a film that seems light and magical until the killer clowns attack and the skeletons pop out and the guy starts clawing his own face off. Many kids were traumatized when their parents let them watch Poltergeist too early.
Michael Rooker plays Henry, a prolific sociopathic murderer who moves in with an equally twisted man and his innocent sister. The two men join up for a killing spree, and it's only a matter of time before she finds out, but the real horror of Henry isn't the suspense, it's the matter of fact portrayal of the title character's violence. He hardly seems fazed by it, and neither does the film.
Is The Exorcist III as nuanced and thoughtful as the original? No, but thanks to an impressive cast and some unexpected and dreamlike direction by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel, it's actually even scarier. A serial killer is on the loose but his crimes don't make any sense, and the investigation leads the police to a group of elderly people in a hospital who couldn't possibly be involved... could they?
Tim Robbins stars in a film with some of the most disturbing imagery ever captured on film, playing a Vietnam veteran who thinks the government may have experimented on his mind during the war. It's the only thing that could possibly explain these visions, unless of course there's another, scarier possibility...
This Japanese ghost story suggests that an act of violence could be so horrific that it affects everyone who comes in contact with it, even long after the victims are dead. Ju-On is the story of a haunting that is passed from person to person like a virus, creating an apocalyptic chain of events that might just doom us all.
Neil Marshall's impossibly claustrophobic thriller The Descent is already terrifying before the monsters show up. It's the story of a group of spelunkers who get trapped in an underground cavern and have crawl further downward in the hopes of discovering a way out. But they're not alone down there...
This innovative spook story reinvented the found footage genre with its simple tale of a man who doesn't take his wife's fears seriously, and winds up aggravating a supernatural presence in their house. The cast's fear is palpable, and the use of simple, unbroken camera angles creates a sense of expectation that director Oren Peli breaks at just the right moments. And just the wrong ones.
Lucky McKee's terrifying feminist parable tells the story of a seemingly normal family who find a feral woman in the woods, drag her into their basement, chain her up and try to tame her. It's a dark and depressing story of utter misogyny, featuring frightening performances and a conclusion that might just leave you in a fetal position.