If you’re looking for a movie to bring the chills in a serious way, you need to start with the classics. Yes, there are some amazing modern horror movies, but there’s something about the staying power of the classics and their ability to scare generation after generation, without fancy CGI monsters. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t also some modern horror movies that have become instant classics, too. Over the years, our collective definition of horror movies has changed and evolved, from the old school Universal creature features to modern social and psychological horror movies like Jordan Peele’s Get Out. If you consider yourself a true aficionado of all things horror, you’ll appreciate everything the genre has to offer.
Whether you’re looking for classic monster movies like The Bride of Frankenstein, iconic slashers like Friday the 13th and Halloween, sci-fi scares like Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or hilarious meta horror movies like Scream and Cabin in the Woods, we have you covered. Here are some of the most classic horror movies of all time that any self-respecting scary movie buff needs to see.
‘The Shining’ (1980)
All work and no play makes people go literally insane and attempt to murder their families—at least, that’s the lesson in 1980’s The Shining. The Kubrick adaptation of Stephen King’s book is a psychological mind trip—in the best and scariest of ways, of course.
‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
The demonic possession film has become a sub-genre of its own and the OG entry in the category is 1973’s The Exorcist.
‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968)
Adulting is scary enough on its own without adding demonic elements, like giving birth to the literal spawn of satan. That’s the premise of 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby though and it’s as horrifying as it sounds.
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)
A monstrous murderer who comes for you in your dreams and kills you in your sleep? It’s a real nightmare and, appropriately, the premise for the ’80s classic.
Stephen King’s supernatural horror novel became a classic scary movie when it was released in 1976, highlighting the horrors of adolescence, puberty, and high school in general.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that reinvents its entire genre. Saw was that movie for horror.
When it comes to slasher flicks, it doesn’t get much more classic than the original Halloween, which made the idea of a masked murderer the gold standard in scary movies and crowned Jamie Lee Curtis the Scream Queen.
Scream was the meta look at horror movies that horror fans had been waiting for—but also a pitch perfect scary movie in its own right. The ’90s hit became an instant classic.
‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
This modern classic about a family who moves into an isolated farmhouse is scary enough to have spawned a whole bunch of spin-offs (you can thank this film for the Annabelle series, for example) that will probably outlive us all.
‘The Thing’ (1982)
The scariest horror movies explore what it’s like to be truly trapped with a monster—and in The Thing, Antartica provides the horrifying remote setting for a series of attacks from a shape-shifting beast.
In space, no one can hear you scream. That becomes an issue when your space ship is overtaken by a ruthless killing machine hellbent on taking out your entire crew, one-by-one.
The Grudge’ (2006)
It’s thanks to this Sarah Michelle Gellar-led film that you still can’t hear that distinctive rasping sound without your heart racing. Admit it—it still haunts your nightmares.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
If you’re a fan of psychological horror, then you have to see The Silence of the Lambs, which puts the psychological aspect front and center, via iconic villain Hannibal Lecter and his conversations with FBI profiler Clarice Starling.
How can you escape when the thing chasing you is death itself? For the most part, you can’t. And when you try, death gets very creative about murdering you—at least according to this franchise about a group of friends who cheat death and then find themselves hunted down one-by-one by it.
‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ (1997)
Some of the best horror movies lean into the camp that’s inherent to the genre and few do it better than I Know What You Did Last Summer, a teen slasher flick about a group of friends who are stalked by a hook-handed killer after covering up an accidental murder they commit during a hit and run.
The original Jaws should be a camp fest, but even with an infamously malfunctioning mechanical shark as its villain, the Steven Spielberg classic is scary enough to make you jump, even today.
‘Get Out’ (2017)
Classics can be released any time. Case in point: Jordan Peele’s game-changing social thriller Get Out, which achieved instant classic status when it was released in 2017.
‘The Ring’ (2002)
For many millennials, this 2002 classic was our first experience of being really and truly scared out of our minds. Naomi Watts stars as reporter Rachel Keller, whose niece dies grotesquely after watching a videotape. Rachel watches the videotape, as do her estranged partner and kid…and the rest is horror movie history.
The Stephen King classic will reinforce every clown fear you’ve ever had.
‘The Strangers’ (2008)
Home invasion movies strike a chord because the idea of horror coming into our homes and invading our safest space is uniquely terrifying. The Strangers takes the concept to the extreme, following a couple who are terrorized by a group of invaders who target them at random.
‘Friday the 13th’ (1980)
Summer camp was never the same after the release of this slasher classic.
‘A Quiet Place’ (2018)
What would you do in a world where making any noise at all meant certain death? That’s the surprisingly-terrifying premise behind John Krasinski’s instant-classic A Quiet Place.
‘Child’s Play’ (1988)
A murderous doll, possessed by the spirit of a serial killer? Nothing not scary about that.
From Marie Claire US