That's right, we've gathered the scariest horror movies of all time including films like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Exorcist," "The Ring" and other terrifying tales to help plan a movie marathon that'll leave you checking for monsters and serial killers under the bed.
What makes a proper horror film? Well, according to David E. Tolchinsky, professor of radio-TV-film at Northwestern University, a well-done horror movie is one that has deeply-felt fear at its core.
“Sometimes good horror films aren’t scary when you watch them, but they stay with you for a long time and scare you in your dreams,” Tolchinsky tells TODAY.com in an email.
Tolchinsky also says that a good horror movie is one that makes you feel uncomfortable or has dramatic effect even without the supernatural elements, like the sadness of a suffering child or failed marriage in “The Sixth Sense” or the racism at the core of “Get Out.”
The bottom line? Whether it's gory, frightening, thrilling or creepy, if it scares the pants off you, mission accomplished.
So, settle in with a bowl of popcorn and get ready to pull the covers over your head because fright night is here ... and there's no turning back. In no particular order, here they are, the scariest horror movies of all time.
'Donnie Darko' (2001)
Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) has got issues with just about everyone. Even so, the loner strikes up a love relationship with Gretchen (Jena Malone) and a finds a freaky new pal in the form of a guy dressed up as a rabbit. Yep, you read that right. A bunny. From there it all goes downhill. This 2001 classic horror film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore and Mary McDonnell. This is horror for deep thinkers.
‘Infinity Pool’ (2023)
Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman star as James and Em Foster, a couple enjoying a beach getaway but all is not what it seems at their paradise retreat. There’s a sinister plot involving seduction and death brewing and it’s positively criminal. Who'll make it out alive? The answer might surprise you in this total creeper of a film.
'The Blackening' (2023)
Taking a page from the "Scream" playbook, Dewayne Perkins' "The Blackening" pokes fun at horror movie tropes while scaring the pants off you at the same time. The plot revolves around a group of friends who vacation together over the long Juneteenth weekend only to discover they're being stalked by a serial killer on a deadly mission.
'Knock at the Cabin' (2023)
What would you do if you were asked to save the world, but at the cost of your family's lives? "Knock at the Cabin" poses exactly that question and learning the answer will keep you on the edge of your seat. This M. Night Shyamalan thriller stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge.
'The Menu' (2022)
Starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, fine dining has never been more terrifying than in "The Menu," a horror movie and dark comedy that explores just how far a chef is willing to go to prepare a one-of-a-kind meal.
After Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents in a tragic car crash, her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) creates Megan, an AI toy companion to keep Cady safe from harm. Before long, Megan develops a mind of her own. Anyone who gets in her way better watch out.
'Scream VI' (2023)
Courtney Cox reprises her role of Gale Weathers in "Scream VI," the sixth installment in the "Scream" franchise. She's joined by Jenna Ortega playing Tara Carpenter and the pair, along with other Ghostface survivors, attempt to make a fresh start. But, of course, things don't go as planned after Ghostface resurfaces yet again.
'The Invisible Man' (2020)
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), flees an abusive relationship only to discover that despite the death of her controlling ex-lover, she still can't escape his torment. What Cecilia can't see might be more terrifying than what she can.
'It Follows' (2014)
A teen hookup results in abduction and a sinister curse that only ends when passed on to someone else. High-schooler Jay Height (Maika Monroe) must beat the clock and fend off supernatural stalkers if she hopes to survive.
'Jacob's Ladder' (1990)
"Fatal Attraction" director Adrian Lyne presents this 1990 horror film about Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) who struggles to separate reality from his tortured past. Verging on the edge of madness, Singer attempts to discover the truth about who he is and how to stop the nightmares.
This recent release from A24 takes place in 1979 and follows a group of young filmmakers who travel to a remote cabin in Texas in order to make an adult movie. Things go nightmarishly wrong when their elderly hosts turn out to be anything but welcoming.
Brother and sister horse wranglers, Otis and Emerald Haywood, investigate some supernatural happenings and try to capture evidence of UFOs in Jordan Peele's sci-fi thriller "Nope."
Nearly 45 years after its release, John Carpenter's "Halloween" still remains the gold standard for all horror movies. After escaping from a mental hospital, Michael Myers returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night and goes from house to house on a bloody killing spree.
‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968)
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment on Central Park to start a family. Things go south, however, shortly after Rosemary becomes pregnant. Something’s brewing in the neighborhood and it just might be satan. Ruth Gordon and Ralph Bellamy also star in this 1968 classic.
Ridley Scott directs this prequel to "Alien," a deep-space expedition to a distant planet goes awry when scientists discover an ancient alien species known as "The Engineers." Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba star in this sci-fi horror film.
After losing a child, Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) adopt 9-year-old Esther. It all seems too good to be true until it's discovered that Esther isn't what she seems. At all. Manipulative and sociopathic, Esther has her own hidden agenda and soon everyone's lives are in danger.
'Orphan: First Kill' (2022)
Born with a rare disorder that makes her appear much younger than she is, Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) escapes from an Estonian psych ward. She heads to the U.S. where she assumes the false identity of "Esther," the missing daughter of wealthy couple Tricia and Allen Albright (Julia Stiles and Rossif Sutherland).
In space, no one can hear you scream — and everyone’s screaming, like a lot in this sci-fi horror movie that stars Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, an astronaut battling a shape-shifting stowaway.
'The Exorcist' (1973)
Made nearly 50 years ago, "The Exorcist" still holds up and remains one of the scariest movies of all time. It's film that you can't unsee once you've seen it — including Regan's (Linda Blair) 180-degree head turn. Truly terrifying, the plot revolves around a young girl who becomes possessed by an evil demon.
'Night of the Living Dead' (1968)
The flesh-eating zombie movie that launched a thousand imitations, George Romeo's "Night of the Living Dead" remains just as gruesome and unsettling as it was back in 1968. The original black-and-white version remains the best, so don't settle for anything else.
If you've ever enjoyed sticking your head out the window while riding in a car, you will absolutely never do it again after watching "Hereditary." Starring Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne, this horror movie is beyond disturbing. But it also gets at universal themes, like what we inherit from our family and parts our ourselves we can't run away from.
'The Witch' (2015)
In 17th-century New England, a Puritan family settles on an isolated patch of land near a forest inhabited by a witch. An infant goes missing. Then, the family's eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) starts acting ... strange. This takes the whole Hansel-and-Gretel thing to a new level.
'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974)
Don't even think about eating before watching this gruesome '70s horror movie about a family that makes a career out of carving strangers up with a chainsaw. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is a staple in the slasher horror genre, so prepare yourself before meeting the villain called "Leatherface."
During the eternal daylight of Sweden's summer season, a small village celebrates its once-every-90-years summer festival. A group of vacationing friends travel to the town to participate only to find out that the festival activities are more grisly than they could have ever imagined.
'The Cabin in the Woods' (2011)
A friends' getaway to a remote cabin in the woods turns into a nightmare after it becomes overrun with killer zombies. To make matters worse, it's all part of a sinister science experiment controlled by an underground laboratory.
A relaxing beach trip turns into the fight of their lives after an unsuspecting family is stalked by murderous versions of themselves. This Jordan Peele film is a masterclass in suspense and mystery. Who are the tethered? What do they want? What do they say about human nature? These are the questions you'll be chewing on. And you'll never listen to the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" the same way again. Promise.
With tons of truly horrifying imagery and torture, this '80s horror film is about a puzzle box that unleashes a group of demons looking for blood and flesh sacrifices.
Two men wake up imprisoned in a strange bathroom, a dead body between them, and no idea how they got there. It's all part of the Jigsaw Serial Killer's sadistic plan that involves – yep, you guessed it – the grisly use of a hacksaw.
'Evil Dead' (1981)
There are no holds barred in this '80s horror classic. Chock full of completely gory, gruesome scenes, the plot revolves around a group of friends who plan a retreat at a remote cabin in the Tennessee woods and, as so often happens in horror movies, they accidentally wake the dead while they're at it.
'An American Werewolf in London' (1981)
A backpacking trip in Britain gets, uh, hairy after two Americans are attacked by an unidentifiable creature while walking at night. During a full moon. One dies, the other is injured, and instead of getting better, he discovers a whole new set of problems. “An American Werewolf in London” is the first film to win an Oscar for “Best Make-up,” a category created the same year the movie was released.
'The Conjuring' (2013)
"The Conjuring" is based on the real-life work of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the paranormal investigators in this movie — and in all its many sequels, including an entire spin-off about a demonic doll.
‘The Conjuring 2’ (2016)
In this 2016 sequel to "The Conjuring," ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren travel across the Atlantic to help a London mom with a frightening supernatural problem. An evil spirit has been haunting her home and, worse, possessing her children. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson star in "The Conjuring 2."
'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
Along with "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street" is a seminal addition to the slasher film genre. Freddie Krueger, the series' razor-blade-gloved murderer, is a horror icon. This is a must for anyone looking to check off all the horror movie classics.
'The Ring' (2002)
If you watch it, you're dead within seven days. Journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) seeks to understand why when her niece and three friends die mysteriously after viewing the "cursed" videotape. Of course, she watches it, then must beat the clock in order to survive. It's worth watching both the American remake and the 1998 Japanese original.
This Stephen King movie (adapted from the book by the same name), is a PSA on why to never, ever allow your paper boat to be swept into a storm drain. Every 27 years, It emerges to prey on the people of Derry, Maine. The most recent "It" adaptation divides King's long novel into two parts: One following a group of middle schoolers taking down the monster, and another when they're adults summoned back to do it all over again.
'The Fly' (1986)
Years before Jeff Goldblum played a mathematician in "Jurassic Park," he played a scientist in "The Fly" who inadvertently swaps DNA with a fly and, in extremely gruesome detail, becomes one.
After moving into a new house, the Lambert family's oldest son, Dalton, suffers a fall that leaves him in a coma. In the months that follow, supernatural events begin to occur. Despite moving houses again, the family's troubles persist until a ghost hunter figures out that Dalton is captive in an alternate realm called "The Further."
'Child's Play' (1988)
It goes without saying that dolls with knives are unsettling — and "Chucky" sets the mold. Chucky is a red-headed toy possessed by a serial killer on a mission to murder everyone it encounters.
Writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his young family move into a new house, but only Ellison knows that it's the scene of a ghastly murder. Horrible things happen after he discovers a box of snuff films in the attic and Ellison soon realizes his family is caught in a "sinister" plan.
'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)
Three film students traipse out into the Maryland woods looking for a mythical witch and find way more than they bargained for. Meta and scary, "The Blair Witch Project" is a horror-film must. An indie film, "The Blair Witch Project" cost only $60,000 to produce and went on to earn nearly $250 million at the box office.
Filmed cinéma vérité style, this "found-footage" movie chronicles a group of friends and their desperate attempt to stay alive after an alien-like monster attacks New York City.
'10 Cloverfield Lane' (2016)
The unofficial sequel to "Cloverfield," this follow-up features John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as survivors of the alien apocalypse, trapped together in an underground bunker. A tense psychological thriller, the film will keep you guessing right up until the end.
'The Haunting' (1999)
"The Haunting" follows a group of insomniacs who stay at a spooky old mansion as part of a sleep study. When the lights turn off, that's when they realize they're not alone in the mansion.
'Paranormal Activity' (2007)
Another horror movie filmed in a "found footage" style, "Paranormal Activity" is about Micah and Katie, a husband and wife who find themselves at the mercy of a demon who stalks them as they sleep.
'Friday the 13th' (1980)
Kill, kill, kill ... now, now, now. An evil serial killer wearing a hockey mask is murdering the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, one by one. Is it the ghost of Jason, a young boy who drowned in the lake years before? Or something much worse? This 1980 film features Kevin Bacon as a young camp counselor prior to his breakout role as "Ren" in the movie "Footloose."
'Friday the 13th Part 2' (1981)
The second movie in the "Friday the 13th" franchise ends up being nearly as fun as the first when sole-surviving camp counselor, Alice, returns to Camp Crystal Lake only to find out that the murdering is far from over.
'War of the Worlds' (2005)
What begins as a freaky lightening storm turns out to be the end of the world in this sci-fi horror film, which features alien octopods rising from the ground and using human blood to fertilize the earth ... and Tom Cruise in a starring role.
'The Babadook' (2014)
After reading a terrifying bedtime story about a boogie monster named "Mister Babadook," a son and his mother discover that he's real – and living in their house.
Wes Craven, writer and director of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," directs this 1996 horror film that parodies other horror films. Playing off slasher film tropes (think "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th), "Scream" pokes fun at the genre, while still being a worthy contender.
'The Thing' (1982)
If you're planning a trip to Antarctica, "The Thing" is sure to make you reconsider. An old-school classic, this scary horror movie stars Kurt Russell as MacReady, an arctic researcher trapped with a killer alien able to disguise itself as his teammates.
'The Shining' (1980)
All work and no play makes Jack (Jack Nicholson) a dull boy and, unfortunately, it also puts him in an extremely bad mood. Maybe it's the work — or maybe it's the spirits at the Overlook Hotel, where Jack and his family are staying over the course of a long winter. Stanley Kubrick's 1980 take on Stephen King's book "The Shining" is both thought-provoking and scary.
'The Lost Boys' (1987)
There's only one problem with living in the California beach town of Santa Carla – all the damn vampires. Campy, scary and gory, "The Lost Boys" is a classic.
'A Quiet Place' (2018)
What's worse than aliens taking over the world? Aliens with super-sonic hearing that take over the world, then killing anything that makes a sound. This is unfortunate for Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) who must protect their young family – and keep them extremely quiet – if they hope to survive.
'Salem's Lot' (1979)
A two-part miniseries released in the '70s, "Salem's Lot" is based on the Stephen King novel by the same name and is available to stream on Amazon. Despite being a bit dated, it still packs some super-serious scares in this tale of a small New England town overrun by vampires.
‘Get Out’ (2017)
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading to meet his girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. And if he's being honest, things feel kind of weird. This groundbreaking Jordan Peele movie, which is also a commentary on race in the U.S., is a good reminder of why you should always listen to that little warning voice in your head telling you something's wrong, before it's too late.
'The Amityville Horror' (1979)
Before putting a deposit down on your dream house, make sure there isn't a massive fly infestation or pig with glowing eyes floating outside your bedroom window. More important, however, double check with the realtor that no mass murders have occurred there that'll lead to evil spirits stalking your family, as what happens in "The Amityville Horror," inspired by a real crime.
'The Mothman Prophecies' (2002)
This slow-burn horror movie, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, isn't full of gore or jump-scares. Instead, it's a psychological thriller that promises to haunt you for days, maybe weeks, after watching it.
'What Lies Beneath' (2000)
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star as a husband and wife who own a very nice lakeside cottage. Too bad it's haunted – or at least Pfeiffer thinks it is. Apparitions appear and supernatural events occur, but only when she's by herself. Are they real or is it all in her head?
After absconding with $40,000, an embezzling woman books a room at a motel managed by a guy with significant mommy issues. Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" defines the horror movie genre along with rendering showers unsafe for the rest of all time.
"The Sixth Sense" (1999)
Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) sees dead people. A lot of them, actually. That's when child psychologist, Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) intervenes to help. If the twist hasn't been spoiled for you, watch it before it is.
Turns out farms can be surprisingly scary places, especially when uninvited visitors hide among the corn stalks and your baby monitor picks up transmissions from outer space. This M. Night Shyamalan film is a terse, sci-fi thriller.
'World War Z' (2013)
From start to finish, it's nonstop action in this epic battle between the dead and undead. Brad Pitt stars as a United Nations investigator who must figure out how to stop the zombie apocalypse before it's too late.
'Fright Night' (1985)
What's the deal with Charley's (William Ragsdale) creepy new neighbors? They keep strange hours and own a coffin for starters. Beyond that, a lot of women are turning up dead in mysterious ways. Are his neighbors — gasp — vampires? Charley enlists the help of a vampire hunter to find out.
All is well with the Freeling family, until youngest daughter, Carol Anne, starts a conversation with a blank TV screen. In this movie written by Steven Spielberg, the Freelings rely on each other to survive their newly-haunted house.
'The Omen' (1976)
Is it a girl, a boy or the antichrist? Unfortunately, for Robert and Katherine Thorn (Gregory Peck and Lee Remick), the result is not the one they're hoping for Born with the devil's "666" on his head, it seems the couple's adopted son isn't just difficult, but comes to them straight from hell.
'The Descent' (2005)
A group of women head to the Appalachian Mountains to go cave-diving and end up trapped inside a cave after it collapses. As they try and navigate their escape, they discover that they're not alone down there. The movie is chilly, and not only because it's set in a cave.
Within the mythology of this movie, saying the name "Candyman" five times while looking in a mirror unleashes a throat-slashing monster. Still, everyone does it anyway to find out if the urban legend is real, including research student, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who finds out the hard way that it is. "Candyman" was remade in 2021.
'The Purge' (2013)
America is a crime-free utopia thanks to once-a-year "purge" that allows people to commit any and all crimes (including murder) during a 12-hour grace period known as "the purge." Ethan Hawke stars as a wealthy businessman who must protect his family when their security measures fail.
'28 Days Later' (2002)
After a chimp carrying a deadly virus is freed from an experimental lab, the world pretty much dies off in 28 days, except a handful of survivors, including Cillian Murphy ("Peaky Blinders"). Along the lines of the "Walking Dead" or "I am Legend," it's kill or be killed in this zombie flick.
'The Ritual' (2017)
When one of their friends is murdered in a robbery, a group of men take a hiking trip to Sweden in his honor. Things deteriorate after they become lost in the woods and realize they're being hunted by a sadistic cult seeking human sacrifices.
This recent release stars Daisy Edgar Jones as Noa, a young woman trying to navigate the dating scene. After finally meeting the perfect guy, she discovers he wants something more from her than just a relationship. He wants her flesh. Heads up, the "ew" factor is off the charts with this one.
'The Strangers' (2008)
After attending a wedding, a couple stays at a remote vacation home which turns nightmarish when they're assaulted by a trio of strangers bent on murder and mayhem. "The Strangers" plays on the palpable fear of a home invasion.
'The Haunting in Connecticut' (2009)
Problems arise after a family moves to a Victorian home that once served as a funeral parlor. From ghostly apparitions to unexplained injuries, things unravel as supernatural forces take over.
'The Black Phone' (2021)
Finney (Mason Thames), a 13-year-old boy, is abducted by “The Grabber,” a crazed child-killer (Ethan Hawke), who locks him in a basement with a mysterious black phone. Even though it’s disconnected, the phone rings and Finney discovers that all its callers are all unearthly.
A bout with bacterial meningitis leaves Maddie (Kate Siegel) deaf and mute at the age of 13. After penning a successful novel, Maddie leaves New York City for a desolate cabin in the woods where she’s stalked by a masked killer bent on making her his next victim.