There really are such a thing as good scary movies you have to see to believe. You hear others talk about them or a friend tries to describe them to you, but you eventually realize that descriptions are not enough to satiate your desires and there is only one thing you can do... watch. The true allure of the horror genre is its ability to allow one to experience terror in relative safety which is why so many great horror films remain so popular. Any of those listed below would be a great choice to watch with friends or all by yourself (if you’re feeling brave). Although the movies are numbered, they are in no particular order and will be revealed to you over several articles, so be sure to check out the other parts if you like this one. I hope you enjoy reading this list as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.” ~H.P. Lovecraft
Horror Films Every Fan Has To See
1- Dawn of the Dead (1978): The zombie virus has spread everywhere and humanity is on the verge of losing the battle. We follow a group of four people who decide to run and barricade themselves in a shopping mall. In the end it is human nature that is the downfall of the group as a biker gang overruns their position. This is one of the few horror flicks that you could watch once a week and still find it enjoyable. One of the best zombie movies ever created.
• Cringe Scene: Early in the movie a SWAT team is raiding an apartment building where residents are ignoring martial law. One of the doors gets opened and a zombie comes walking out. The zombie’s wife is nearby and goes to embrace him. The zombie delivers two very graphic bites. Once you see this dreadful scene there will be no illusions about what type of film you’re watching.
• Memorable Quote: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
• Trivia: Most of the movie was shot in the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. Many diehard fans still go there to visit the area, although it is very different from the way it once was.
2- The Silence of the Lambs (1991): An eager FBI trainee seeks the advice of an imprisoned serial killer to help to help catch someone much worse. This is perhaps one of the best crime movies ever made that teeters so closely to all out horror.
• Memorable Confrontation: Dr. Lecter is taken to see Senator Ruth Martin to give her details on what the person who has her daughter looks like. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is an exchange between them in which Lecter mentions her nipples. This scene shows how truly evil Lecter is.
• Memorable Quote: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”
• Trivia: Jack Crawford’s character was based on real life detective John Douglas.
3- Hellraiser (1987): A young girl accidentally summons a group of demonic beings and must offer up someone else in her place to keep from being taken to Hell. Based upon the novella “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker who also wrote and directed the film, it proves to be one of the scariest movies ever made as it not only frightens but also disturbs. Several other Hellraiser movies have been made, but only Hellraiser II is really worth your attention.
• Introductions: The first time Kirsty solves the puzzle box we get a good look at all four of the Cenobites and realize just how intelligent and polite these monsters are - which makes them even scarier.
• Memorable Quote: “Who are you?” “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.”
• Trivia: Doug Bradley, who played the Lead Cenobite in the credits, was given the name of Pinhead by fans.
4- Poltergeist (1982): A normal American family is terrorized as a powerful spirit reaches into our reality and takes their little girl. The family, along with some help from some parapsychologists and a spiritual medium must risk their lives to get their daughter back from the spirit world. I recently watched this film again (at night) and it is still scary as hell. Poltergeist II is the only one of the sequels worth your time.
• Creepy Scene: Carol Anne begins to touch the TV and all of a sudden a spiritual hand jumps out at her. Watch this in the dark and see if you don’t jump - at least a little.
• Memorable Quote: “It lies to her. It tells her things only a child can understand. It’s been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is The Beast.”
• Trivia: The franchise is said to be cursed because several people associated with it died prematurely.
5- Suspiria (1977): A ballet student travels to Germany to study at a prominent dance school and slowly comes to realize that the staff is actually a coven of witches. Scary movies are rarely this beautiful, including the death scenes. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the film unless you see it.
• Memorable Scene: There is a scene in the movie where a girl dies and falls through a beautiful stained glass skylight window. It is so violent yet so beautifully shot.
• Tagline: “The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92.”
• Trivia: Originally the ballet school was for girls no older than 12. The studio balked at this as they felt a film this violent involving children would be banned. Dario Argento (director) raised the age limit to 20 but didn’t do any rewrites on the script, hence the childlike dialogue.
6- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): A group of friends out to visit their grandfather’s old homestead run into a family of cannibals. The picture has been called one of the most influential horror films in history as it practically paved the way for the slasher genre. There were several sequels made and although a few were a bit corny at times they were entertaining to watch, though none can compare to the original except for perhaps Part Two.
• One Heck of An Entrance: A boy is slowly making his way towards an open doorway after hearing a noise when all of a sudden Leatherface comes out and attacks. He quickly subdues the boy and drags him behind the metal door where he violently slides it shut.
• Narration at Beginning of Film: “The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
• Trivia: The chainsaw used by Leatherface was a Poulan 245A with a piece of black tape covering the logo to avoid possible lawsuit.
7- Psycho (1960): Psycho is a black and white film directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. A secretary (Janet Leigh) steals money from her employer and decides to hide out at a motel whose owner (Norman Bates) has cracked. Hitchcock surprised people when he killed off a big star so early in the film, something scary movies didn’t really do at this time.
• Memorable Scene: The shower scene and the death of Janet Leigh.
• Memorable Quote: “It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”
• Trivia: Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel anonymously from Robert Bloch for only $9,000 US. He then bought up all the copies of the novel he could find to keep the ending a secret.
8- Nosferatu (1922): This film is officially the first film adaptation of the famous Bram Stoker novel, Dracula. If follows the book quite heavily even though there were key changes made to try to avoid copyright problems. Despite being a silent film, it is considered to be one of the creepiest adaptations ever made. Virtually every list of good scary movies that's worth its salt always seems to have this one on it.
• Eerie Scene: Count Orlok is slowly walking in through a doorway and with each step getting closer to his victim. You just have to see it as describing it doesn’t do a whole lot.
• Creepy Quote: It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps…a little blood.
• Trivia: The film barely escaped total destruction because of a court case brought on by Bram Stoker’s widow on copyright infringement. She won the case and all original prints were ordered destroyed. By this point, though, the movie had already been circulated around the world.
9- Gremlins (1984): A father gives his son a unique pet as a Christmas present along with three very important rules to keep. The rules are not kept and chaos ensues. A lot of people may not agree that this should be on the list. As someone who remembers watching it when he was 10 years old, I can tell you that I was scared.
• Scary Moment: Mom slowly looks into the kitchen to see a gremlin eating batter out of a mixing bowl. She quickly hides as the gremlin turned its head because it thought it heard something. This always creeps me out for some reason. You realize that these little things are dangerous.
• Tagline: Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous.
• Trivia: This film (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) was the major cause the MPAA created a PG-13 rating, as a lot of people felt the violence shown was too much for a PG rating and not enough for an R rating.
10- An American Werewolf in London (1981): Two happy go lucky tourists from America are seeing the sights of Britain when attacked by and infected by a werewolf. This one probably won’t be enjoyed by someone who prefers full-on horror as there is quite a bit of comedy mixed in.
• Memorable Scene: The werewolf transformation. Nuff’ said.
• Funny Quote: I will not be threatened by a walking meatloaf!
• Trivia: The studio wanted John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd cast as the leads. Landis, thankfully, did not take their advice.