The 50 Scariest Movies Of All Time

Photo: bbernard / Shutterstock
Group of friends watching the scariest movies

Scary movies: You either love them or hate them. From jump scares and gore to scary dolls and haunted houses, the scariest movies have it all.

Horror films date back way before "talkies" were even an idea. Silent films had a good hand in the creation of the horror genre.

Many may claim to be scary movie fanatics, but how many of you can name the first horror film?

The piece of work that is considered to be the first depiction of the “horror” genre was an 1896 short film by French filmmaker Georges Méliès called “Le Manoir du Diable." The title translates to both “The Haunted Castle” and “The House of the Devil.” 

The film was only 2 and a half minutes long! That’s a far cry from the 2 hours long monster movies and artsy psych thrillers of today’s day and age.

Whether you’re into these films for the heart-pounding jump scares or just as an excuse to cuddle up with a certain someone, it doesn’t really matter. If you like them, then this is the list for you.

So find your scaredy-cat buddy and pop some popcorn for the 50 scariest movies of all time.

From classics to slasher films...we got you covered.

1. The Exorcist (1973)

Photo: YouTube

William Friedkin’s adaptation of the novel by William Peter Blatty follows the events of a 12-year-old girl who has been demonically possessed and her mother who seeks out 2 priests to help cure her.

A Rotten Tomatoes America poll voted the 1973 horror film The Exorcist as the scariest movie ever made. The film was also the first horror film to be nominated for best picture at the academy awards. 

Not only is the film itself scary, but the mass hysteria that followed after its initial release caused chaos in America. Though it has dated tactics, the film is still chilling to see, especially for first-timers.

RELATED: 13 Super-Scary Movies To Watch On Netflix On Friday The 13th

2. The Conjuring (2013)

Photo: YouTube

The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, is a film based on the alleged real-life exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple who investigated paranormal events. The two are summoned to the home of Carolyn and Roger Perron and their five daughters who have moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. The manifestations grow from benign to fatal as the Warrens discover the house's grim history.

3. The Shining (1980).\

Photo: YouTube

The film directed by Stanley Kubrick follows the family of writer Jack Torrance who becomes a winter caretaker at an isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He settles in with his wife, Wendy, and his son, Danny. Jack ends up discovering the hotel's dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

Stephen King has a dozen horror films made based on his novels, but The Shining is one of the best psychological thrillers to date. It has the iconic Jack Nicholson performance and masterfully captures Jack Torrance’s descent into madness in a way that creeps under your skin.

4. The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

Photo: YouTube

This film directed by Tom Elkins is the horror movie with the most jump scares clocking in at 32.

The film is about a historic Southern home's new residents, played by Abigail Spencer and Chad Michael Murray, who come face-to-face with a malevolent force.

The film is based on a true story of the events surrounding the Wyrick house of Ellerslie, Georgia, which were published in the book "The Veil: Heidi Wyrick's Story." It was also featured in "The Haunting," a weekly series on the Discovery Channel.

5. Psycho (1960)

Photo: YouTube

This film directed by legendary (and problematic) Alfred Hitchcock follows Phoenix secretary Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, who is on the run after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to take off with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis, played by John Gavin. Crane is traveling on the back roads to avoid the police when she stops for the night at the ramshackle Bates Motel and meets the polite but highly strung proprietor Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, a young man with an interest in taxidermy and a difficult relationship with his mother.

After seeing the iconic scene, you won’t want to close your eyes in the shower anymore.

6. Get Out (2017)

Photo: YouTube

This film directed by the talented Jordan Peele follows characters Chris and his girlfriend, Rose. She invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with her parents, Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family's behavior as nervous attempts to deal with the interracial relationship, but as their time together progresses, Chris finds out disturbing truth that he never could have imagined.

7. The Witch (2015)

photo: YouTube

The film directed by Robert Eggers is set in 1630 New England and follows the family of a farmer, his wife, and their several children. One day their youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family puts blame on Thomasin, the oldest daughter who was the last person to see him.

With suspicion and paranoia takes over and the twin siblings Mercy and Jonas suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan's faith, loyalty, and love to one another.

8. Hereditary (2018)

Photo: YouTube

In this film by Ari Aster and starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Gabriel Byrne, the Graham family’s grandmother passes away, leaving her daughter and grandchildren behind to unravel the cryptic and terrifying secrets of their ancestry. The movie follows the family as they try to outrun a sinister fate they inherited.

9. The Birds (1963)

Photo: YouTube

Alfred Hitchcock's bird apocalypse leaned on visual effects. The movie stars Tippi Hedren in her debut acting role as Melanie Daniels, a socialite who follows a handsome lawyer to a bayside town. In the town, various killer birds end up taking out their rage on human flesh.

Yeah, the film’s premise sounds absolutely ridiculous, but its legacy lives on and remains one of the spookiest thriller-horror movies out there.

10. A Quiet Place (2018)

Photo: YouTube

This film directed by one of its leading actors John Krasinski follows Evelyn and Lee who are determined to find a way to protect their children from sinister creatures that hunt by sound. The family does their best to fight back, but how can you do that when the slightest whisper can bring death?

11. A Quiet Place Part II (2020)

Photo: Youtube

The brilliant and thrilling sequel to the box office winner A Quiet Place, Part Two follows The Abbot family after the deadly events of the last film. The family continues their fight for survival in silence as they were forced to venture into the unknown. However, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats to them.

12. Things Heard & Seen (2021)

Photo: Netflix

This film was co-directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Things Heard & Seen is about a young artist and her husband who discover horrible dark secertes about the house they recently moved into. 

13. MA (2019)

Photo: YouTube

MA is an American psychological horror film produced, co-written, and directed by Tate Taylor. The film is centered on a  lonely middle-aged woman who befriends some teenagers and decides to let them party in the basement of her home. However, Ma comes with some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober, don't curse, and never go upstairs. They must also refer to her as Ma.

But too much of a good thing turns rotten quickly, same goes for Ma. Her hospitality soon turns into obsession, “What began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma's place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on Earth.”

14. Don’t Breathe (2016)

Photo: YouTube

Rocky, played by Jane Levy, Alex, and Money are three Detroit thieves who get their kicks by breaking into the houses of wealthy people. Money gets word about a blind veteran who won a major cash settlement following the death of his only child. Figuring he's an easy target, the trio invades the man's secluded home in an abandoned neighborhood.

Finding themselves trapped inside, the young intruders must fight for their lives after making a shocking discovery about their supposedly helpless victim.

15. The Empty Man (2020)

Photo: YouTube

An ex-cop on the trail of a missing girl mistakenly stumbles upon a secretive group attempting to summon a supernatural entity. Events soon turn terrifying.

16. Us (2019)

Photo: YouTube

Following the success of “Get Out,” Jordan Peele gave the world another psych horror film called "Us."

Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child with her husband and daughter. Adelaide is haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, and she grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. These fears soon turn real when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of their own.

I got chills just writing that!

17. It Follows (2014)

Photo: YouTube

This movie takes sexual intercourse into the monster movie genre. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, the film follows carefree teen Jay played by Maika Monroe. Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend Hugh, played by Jake Weary, for the first time. She soon learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse.

Jay's friends don't believe her seemingly paranoid ravings until they too begin to see the phantom assassins and band together to help her flee or defend herself.

18. False Positive (2021)

Photo: YouTube

False Positive is about a couple that is having difficulties with fertility until they find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle. But after finally becoming pregnant, Lucy begins to notice something sinister behind Hindle's charm, and she sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about him and what she finds will scare you to your soul.

19. The Visit (2015)

Photo: YouTube

The film directed by M. Night Shyamalan follows two young children who are sent to visit their grandparents on a remote Pennsylvania farm for a week-long trip. After arriving the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in a deeply disturbing activity, and the youngsters' chances of getting back home to their single mom look less and less likely with every minute that passes.

20. Insidious (2010)

Photo: YouTube

Directed by James Wan, Insidious follows parents played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as they take drastic measures when it seems their new home is haunted and their comatose son becomes possessed by a malevolent entity.

21. Wrong Turn (2003)

Photo: YouTube

Friends Jessie, Carly, Scott, Evan, and Francine were traveling until the group stumbles upon car trouble in West Virginia of all places. Seconds later, motorist Chris crashes into their disabled vehicle. The group is stranded and soon discovers that they're being stalked by a mob of backwood cannibals. The woodsmen are hungry and fierce, and they'll be eating well unless the group of young adults can outsmart them.

Gives me the creeps...

22. Host (2020)

Photo: YouTube

This film directed by Rob Savage follows six friends who accidentally invite the attention of a demonic presence during an online séance and begin noticing strange occurrences in their homes. The entire film is shot in a chat room-like format making the film even eerier. 

23. The Invisible Man (2020)

Photo: YouTube

Directed by Leigh Whannell and starring "Handmaid’s Tale" actress Elisabeth Moss, this film is about a crazed scientist who stages his suicide in order to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend while using his ability to turn himself invisible. The police refuse to believe Moss’s Character so she decides to take matters into her own hands and fight back.

24. Spiral (2021)

Photo: YouTube

Spiral is one of the newer thriller/horror films directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. The movie follows Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks and his rookie partner as they take charge of an investigation into grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city's gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer's morbid game.

Takes "Scream" to a whole new level.

25. Scream (1996)

Photo: YouTube

Speaking of Scream, the original film that inspired many spin-offs and sequels was directed by Wes Craven. Craven revitalized the slasher film genre in this iconic classic horror movie about a masked serial killer. This scary movie not only manages to scare its audience but also manages to be funny and clever whilst having a masked knife maniac stalk high-school students in middle-class suburbia.

RELATED: 25 Best Scary Documentaries & Paranormal Movies To Watch (& Where To Find Them)

26. Halloween (1978)

Photo: YouTube

The movie that made Jamie Lee Curtis the queen of horror films.

This classic horror movie directed by John Carpenter is centered on Michael Myers who brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith, in 1963. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith's Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims. Jamie Lee Curtis’ character fits the bill, but she isn’t letting Myers off so easily.

27. The Babadook (2014)

Photo: YouTube

This horror movie was directed by Jennifer Kent and was based on her short film “Monster.” It follows a family that witnesses the tragic death of a father and husband. The movie surrounds the son who manifests a fear of a monster lurking within the darkness around him and his widowed mother.

28. 28 Days Later (2002)

Photo: YouTube

A group of misguided animal rights activists frees a caged chimp infected with the "Rage" virus from a medical research lab. When London bike courier Jim wakes up from a coma a month after, he finds his city all but deserted. On the run from the zombie-like victims of the Rage, Jim stumbles upon a group of survivors, including Selena and cab driver Frank, and joins them on a perilous journey to what he hopes will be safety.

Directed by Danny Boyle, its sequel “28 Weeks Later” followed in 2007.

29.The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Photo: YouTube

The best "Purge" film by far. In this film directed by James DeMonaco, we follow several characters who are in the lower class as they try to survive the one night where all crime — including murder — is legal. 

Leo, a sergeant who lost his son, plans a vigilante mission of revenge during the mayhem. However, instead of a death-dealing avenger, he becomes the unexpected protector of four innocent strangers who desperately need his help if they are to survive the night.

30. It Comes At Night (2017)

Photo: Youtube

After a mysterious apocalypse leaves the world with few survivors, two families are forced to share a home in an uneasy alliance to keep the outside evil at bay — only to learn that the true horror may come from within. Apocalypse meets trust issues sums this movie up.

31. The Strangers (2008)

Photo: YouTube

In this movie, anything that can go wrong does go wrong. It follows the couple Kristen and James who go on a nice family vacation, but the stay turns out to be anything but nice. A mysterious and dangerous woman, a fatal mistake, and three masked torturers leave Kristen and James struggling for survival.

32. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Photo: YouTube

A paranormal film about four film students who investigate a local legendary murderer, the Blair witch, when things go suddenly wrong.

33. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Photo: YouTube

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Another slasher film from Wes Craven, who turned it into a “solve the mystery” movie.

The film is about a town where several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, a disfigured midnight mangler who preys on the teenagers in their dreams killing them in reality. Nancy investigates the matter and suspects that a dark secret kept by her and her friends' parents may be the key to unraveling the mystery.

34. The Grudge (2004)

Photo: YouTube

“The Grudge,” directed by Takashi Shimizu, is about a family who moves into a new home where supernatural events happened in the past. However, the house soon starts terrorizing the Wiliams family as it is the site of s curse that claims the lives of anyone who trespasses.

Though the film has a 2020 remake, the original still sends chills down your spine.

35. The Evil Dead (1981)

Photo: Youtube

The first film of director Sam Raimi’s trilogy follows Ashley "Ash" Williams and four others who hiked into the woods to a cabin for a fun night away. The friends end up mistakenly releasing a flood of evil and must fight for their lives or become one of the evil dead that has risen. 

36. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Photo: YouTube

This dramatic horror movie directed by Roman Polanski tells the story of a greedy husband and a woman who ends up giving birth to the devil.

37. The Nun (2018)

Photo: YouTube

Director Corin Hardy takes religion to a whole new level with this terrifying horror film. The movie is about an investigation into the case of a young nun who takes her own life. Together a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate uncover the abbey’s unholy secret and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

38. It (1990)

Photo: YouTube

The original movie based on the Stephen King Novel first takes place in 1960 when seven pre-teen misfits fight an evil demon that poses as a child-killing clown. Flash forward 30 years and the group reunites to stop the demon once and for all when it returns to their hometown.

The film was remade in 2017 and had a sequel in 2019. The novel was even made into a miniseries, but as far as the scariest adaptation goes, that first film still gives me the creeps.

39. Poltergist (1982)

Photo: YouTube

Ghosts communicate with The Freelings through the television set of their suburban home. Though at first, the ghosts seem friendly, things soon turn vicious and when the Freelings five-year-old daughter goes missing the family reaches out to some experts for help. 

40. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Photo: YouTube

Directed by the King of Zombie movies George A. Romero, this first zombie movie of his follows a group of people holed up in an abandoned home when the living dead surround and find ways inside to prey on human flesh.

41. Martyrs (2008)

Photo: YouTube

The movie is about two young women who are on a quest to find the cult who tortured them as young girls to catch a glimpse of the afterlife. However, the women end up falling right back into the torture chamber once again.

This film has a history of being notoriously hard to watch and many don’t make it to the end. The film directed by Pascal Laugier wastes absolutely no time as it hits you with ghost jump scares, revenge kills, and lots of gruesome blood within the first 20 minutes.

42. The Thing (1982)

Photo: YouTube

In 1982, the master behind “Halloween” John Carpenter made a monster movie that made sure no one would be going to Antarctica anytime soon. This sci-fi horror film has a shapeshifting alien, that slaughters all human life in its path.

43. Haunt (2019)

Photo: YouTube

Directed by the brilliant writers who brought you “A Quiet Place,” Scott Beck and Bryan Woods invite you to their newest haunted house.

The movie follows Harper, played by Katie Stevens, and her friends as they go through a haunted house that preys on the group’s deepest fears. As the movie progresses, the friends realize that the monsters are real and the house is run by a satanic cult.

44. Final Destination (2000)

Photo: YouTube

Okay, yes, some of the final destination moves are ridiculous, but they do get you thinking about all the horrible ways you could die. After a group of people cheats death by getting off a plane that was meant to explode the moment it got off the ground. But don’t worry, the grim reaper comes for them in the most terrifying, gruesome, and horrible ways you can imagine. 

45. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Photo: YouTube

The slasher film was directed by Tobe Hooper. It follows Sally along with her brother and a few friends who set out to investigate the vandalization of Sally’s grandfather’s grave. The group stays at Sally’s old farmhouse where they discover a group of crazed, murderous outcasts living next door. They end up being attacked one by one by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface man, who wears a mask of human skin and must band together and fight before it’s too late.

46. Parasite (2019)

Photo: YouTube

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, who is the recipient of four Academy Awards, this award-winning horror film is about greed and class discrimination. 

47. Ready or Not (2019)

Photo: YouTube

This movie co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett makes becoming part of the family on your wedding day the scariest thing in the world. It follows Grace, who just got married to the man of her dreams. However, there’s a catch to officially becoming part of the family. Grace must hide from midnight to dawn while her in-laws hunt her down with guns, crossbows, and other weapons.

It takes the most dangerous game to a whole new level. They also throw a few laughs in there for you. 

48. Crimson Peak (2015)

Photo: YouTube

Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic horror film has such a cult-like following it has to be included in this list.

The film follows Edith, a young newlywed woman who can communicate with the dead, who is swept off to her husband’s remote mansion in the English Hills to live alone with his sister Lucille. The three cohabit the gothic mansion as Edith begins to witness mysterious and sinister events.

The opening line “Ghosts are real, that much I know. I've seen them all my life…” just gives you the creeps.

49. Hush (2016)

Photo Netflix

It’s the best horror film of 2016 in my humble opinion. Directed by none other than Mike Flanagan, the film follows a deaf writer who lives a solitary life in the woods as she fights back against a masked killer who showed up at her window. 

50. The Ritual (2017)

Photo: Netflix

Four friends reunite to hike through the Scandinavian woods after the tragic passing of one of their own when they take a wrong turn. This turn ends up leading the group into a forest full of Norse legend, where an ancient evil exists and stalks them at every turn

RELATED: 10 Best Movies About True Scary Stories & Where To Watch Them

Deauna Nunes is an assistant editor who covers pop culture and news & entertainment for YourTango. She's been published by Emerson College's literary magazine Generic. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.