OK, it took some sweat, a bit of unhealthy deliberation and much gnashing of teeth, but here it is–our list of the top 10 scariest movies of all time.
10. The Omen (1976)
The premise: If the antichrist does come to earth in the form of a little boy, he should have an angelic face, an English accent, be named Damien, and be able to get rid of his enemies in the most diabolical ways. At the end, we aren’t sure if his surrogate father, Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), has succeeded in killing the little tyke. Then, alas, there he is at his father’s funeral, turning and smiling at us. Score one for Satan.
The fear factor: The priest being impaled by a falling staff, the photographer getting his head sliced off by a wayward piece of glass, baboons attacking the car with Damien and his mother (Lee Remick) inside; and, of course, that menacing Latin choir music in the background whenever something awful is about to happen.
Best line: “Wrong? What could be wrong with our child, Robert? We’re beautiful people, aren’t we?”
9. Poltergeist (1982)
The premise: It starts with a happy family–dad (Craig T. Nelson), mom (JoBeth Williams) and three kids, including cute-as-a-button 5-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke)–who all live in a nice suburban neighborhood. One day, however, some pesky ghosties lead by a malevolent spirit invade their lovely home and kidnap poor Carol Anne. Now their only hope of getting her back rests on a diminutive, baby-voiced medium, who has successfully “cleaned” many houses of such evil.
The fear factor: Carol Anne being sucked into a vortex in her closet right after her brother is attacked by a hungry tree; a ghost hunter picking his face apart in the bathroom, and dozens of rotting corpses popping out of the ground in their coffins as the family tries to escape.
Best line: “They’re heeeeeeeeeere!” Natch.
8. Carrie (1976)
The premise: Based on Stephen King‘s first novel, it’s a pretty simple story, really, about an abused, unstable and very unpopular high school girl (Sissy Spacek), who also happens to be powerfully telekinetic-a dangerous combo. When Carrie’s enemies humiliate her at the prom by dumping buckets of pig’s blood all over her (yeah, not the smartest thing to do), she pretty much wipes out the entire school right there on the spot.
The fear factor: The pig blood thing; hundreds of high school students dying horrible, fiery deaths; flying knives pinning Carrie’s crazy mother to the wall; and the pièce de résistance, a grisly hand coming out of the grave and grabbing lone survivor, Sue (Amy Irving).
Best line: “It has nothing to do with Satan, Mama. It’s me. Me.”
7. The Ring (2002)
The premise: See, there’s this really creepy underground video tape floating around, and if someone is unfortunate enough to watch it, they’ll die in seven days–no ifs, ands or buts about it. As one of those unlucky few to have seen it, journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) tries to uncover the mysterious origins of the tape before her time is up–and she faces the ring.
The fear factor: The video itself, of course; the frightening phone calls immediately following the viewing, letting the victim know they have seven days to live; and finally, the girl climbing out of the well, out of the television and into your living room to kill you.
Best line: “I think before you die, you see the ring…”
6. The Evil Dead (1981)
The premise: Director Sam Raimi‘s horror classic starts with five friends, who spend the weekend in a remote cabin in the woods. While rooting through the cellar, they discover a tape and a decaying old book full of strange incantations, a Book of the Dead, as it were, which unleashes a powerful evil force into the deep, dark forest–a force intent on destroying every last one of them. Bummer!
The fear factor: It’s those trees again–in Dead, a few of them grab hold of a girl and rape her; and the same girl, now possessed by the evil dead (is there any other kind of dead?), trapped under the floor, trying to get out.
Best line: “We’re going to get you. We’re going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep.” [PAGEBREAK]
5. The Shining (1980)
The premise: Redrum! Redruuum! A Stephen King adaptation as seen through the eccentric eyes of director Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is set in the ominous Overlook Hotel high up in the Colorado mountains, a luxurious place whose deadly history is legendary. When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their weird little boy, Danny (Danny Lloyd), come to take care of the place during its long, cold winter hiatus, all manner of bad things happen.
The fear factor: Blood gushing out of an elevator; two twin girls chopped up on the floor; a horrible, corpse-like woman climbing out of a tub; and Jack, a maniac with an axe, whacking his way through the door to kill his terrified family.
Best line (in this case, lines): “Wendy! Darling! Light of my life! I’m not gonna hurt you… I’m just gonna bash your brains in”; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”; and the best of them all, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”
4. Alien (1979)
The premise: Talk about scary alien movies–this Ridley Scott film ranks as the best of them all. En route back to Earth, a mining freighter and its crew investigates a distress call on a distant planet–and end up bringing on board a very unwelcome guest.
The fear factor: The alien’s particular style of evolution, bursting from someone’s chest as a newborn to its final acid-dripping, double-jawed adulthood; hearing the alien killing one of the crew members rather than actually seeing it; the cat (it likes to follow the cat around); and the final confrontation with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), in her underwear, no less.
Best line: Its tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
3. Psycho (1960)
The premise: Alfred Hitchcock shocked movie-going audiences unmercifully with this classic, mainly because no one had ever seen something so graphic and so provocative, and it set the standard for all slasher/serial killer movies to follow. The film centers on Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a likable fellow who runs the lowly Bates Motel while his mother–supposedly–sits in the creepy house on the hill. When an attractive, buxom traveler (Janet Leigh) rents a room for the night, Norman goes just a little crazy (whee whee whee…).
The fear factor: The shower scene, duh; the detective getting stabbed in the face, and finally meeting “Mother.”
Best line: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
2. Halloween (1978)
The premise: Hell with the Freddys and the Jasons of the world. If you have to pick one of the best slasher movies out there, then John Carpenter‘s Halloween has to be it. The story of Michael Myers (no, not the Austin Powers guy) and his unrelenting pursuit of his poor teenage sister, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), is a cover-your-eyes, jump-straight-out-of-your-chair horrorfest.
The fear factor: Droopy, dead-eyed masks; big knives, coat hangers, and the fact that Michael just won’t die. Did we mention the big knives?
Best line:“It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
And our first choice…
1. The Exorcist (1973)
The premise: Forget about the other demon movies. Forget about any other horror movie. This film directed by William Friedkin, about a young girl possessed by the Devil, is by far the most frightening movie ever made. Not so much for the fact that the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) spouts obscenities and pools of green spew, but for the fact that it happens to an everyday, unsuspecting child. Simply by opening the attic, all hell breaks loose.
The fear factor: One thing, really: Possessed Regan, with her awful, slashed face, horrifying fiendish eyes and demonic voice, spinning her head 360 degrees, walking down the stairs like a crab, throwing her mother across the room and basically turning a sweet little girl into a monster.
Best line: “Your mother’s in here, [Father] Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.”
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