Not a Movie Snob - The 10 Scariest Movies of All Time

Posted on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 06:00 PM

The 10 Scariest Movies of All Time

Well, it's Halloween. That means costumes, candy, spooky music and horror movies. I've been watching horror for a long time and am in no way desensitized. In fact, I find that as I get older, certain movies get scarier. Certain movies get cheesier as well of course. There are a couple movies I watched recently that used to scare the short pants off of me that I can't now understand what I found so scary. But that's aging I guess, as we change, so does what scares us. I'm more worried about cholesterol and being out in the sun too long without sunblock now than I am about ghosts and the dark.

Still, movies are just as powerful as they ever were and while in some ways An Inconvenient Truth was the scariest film of 2006, for the hour and a half I was in the theatre watching Paranormal Activity in 2007, things like climate change and gluten seemed like pretty small potatoes compared to demons pulling you out of your bed in the middle of the night and dragging you down the hall. My blood pressure went up just writing that last sentence.

So here's my very subjective list of the ten scariest films I have ever seen:

10. Ghostbusters 2

This one might be one of the more controversial choices on the list, as it isn't necessarily a horror film. In fact, I've watched this with my kids a number of times and it doesn't even seem to phase them. It is however, a very scary film, always has been. Sure it has laughs and cheesy moments and a basic superhero template. But you take a look above at that cheerful looking gentlemen and tell me that isn't one of the scariest paintings in the history of cinema. And he hasn't even moved yet.

9. Dead Birds

I've showed this little indie gem to a number of people at different times and they all laughed at me. Apparently I'm the only one who thinks this movie is scary. I don't know why, I've seen this movie three or four times and still haven't watched it all the way through without looking away at some of the scarier parts.

8. Wes Craven's New Nightmare

This was the first horror film I ever saw. I think I was ten or so. Maybe a little younger. And it screwed me up. You see that picture up there? I couldn't sleep for weeks without worrying that as soon as I drifted off those claws would come tearing through my sheets. I watched it recently and it holds up. A little too well. I'm currently sleeping without sheets on the bed.

7. Candyman

This is the only movie on the list I didn't get around to watching recently to test it's scare factor on my current self. However, this was a movie I watched in my teen years in our basement with the lights out when I was home alone because I wanted to scare myself. Teenagers can be stupid. I was too scared afterwards to get up and turn on the light. I sat in the dark shivering until my parents got home. Then put on an episode of Carebears. Probably.

6. The Silence of the Lambs

Here's another movie I watched as a relative youngster. My parents of course expressly forbade me to watch this movie, which then of course made me want to watch it more. I rented it behind their backs one night and began watching it. At the moment of the famous reveal of Dr. Lector (pictured above), I turned off the movie, went upstairs, handed over the tape and confessed. The startling image didn't leave my head for weeks. Punishment enough.

5. The Shining

Not only is The Shining the best horror film of all time, it's still one of the scariest. The twins, the inhabitants of room 237, the bartender, the madness, the maze. This film is packed end to end with pure classic cinema and it deserves to be watched and studied as many times as you can handle doing so.

4. The Ring

Here's another movie that screwed with my REM for an extended period of time. It's one of those movies that's so scary it's hard to watch on a regular basis, but so well made, it's hard not to watch on a regular basis. I hadn't seen it in a couple of years, but it has lost none of its punch and in some ways is more relevant now than ever.

3. The Blair Witch Project

Revolutionary in so many ways, including kicking off the whole 'found footage' genre, this film is still absolutely terrifying. Every good horror movie has an experience attached to it and here's mine for this one: I went and saw this in the theatres with some friends. Scariest film I had ever seen on the big screen hands down. They dropped me off at home afterwards. We lived across from a ravine which at night looked like a forest. No one was home, which was unusual at 10 at night on a weekday. The house was pitch black. We had no outside light. I sat on the front steps with my eyes fixed on that ravine for an hour until my parents got home. Not because I was locked out, but because I wasn't going in there alone. Why do I punish myself so?

2. Paranormal Activity

I chose to include a still of a random crowd watching this movie at a theatre, rather than a still from the actual movie, because this was what the theatre looked like that I saw Paranormal Activity in. A packed house of twenty somethings and teens, jumping, screaming, and, yes, running for the exit. A cool experience, a crazy experience, a terrifying experience. This movie was so scary I didn't even bother watching the sequels. I wasn't brave enough.

1. The Exorcist

You can't kill the king. Regularly touted as 'the scariest film of all time' (by no one more than the studio itself) this actually is the scariest movie of all time. I think there's three cuts out there now, all slightly different, but all just as scary. I don't remember watching this for the first time, but I remember watching it every time since and as frightening as it is and as indelible as the images are, it happens to be one of the best made films of all time as well. Never mind that it's almost 40 years old, this film is timeless and so are its scares.

So there you go. As you can see, most of the films on this list come with a back catalogue of traumatic experiences (or at least temporarily frightening ones) associated with watching them. And while at the time I more often than not wished I hadn't exposed myself to things people had said I shouldn't, I now realize they helped and continue to help form my appreciation of the power of film.

I'm still not letting my kids watch The Exorcist though. Not until they're 30.



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to