Halloween has to be the geekiest holiday ever, and not just because you can dress up as your favorite superheroes and storm troopers, but because so much of what is traditionally considered geek culture revolves around the themes exhibited in late October. And nothing better prepares you for this grand holiday then a month's worth of scary movies. For this reason, we decided to compile a list of our 30 scariest movies of all time. The list was made based off of votes from not only the writers here at the site, but also writers and editors from Geek Magazine, plus a few actresses and directors as well. This resulted in over 100 different movies being nominated, and then voted on and narrowed down to 30. Geek Magazine contributor Brian Kronner compiled the list, and I will be assisting in giving a rundown on each of the scary movies as we make our way to Geek's Scariest Movie Ever.
Counting down from the start of our top 30 towards the scariest:
#30 – The Orphanage
The Orphanage is not your typical scary movie. First of all, it is in Spanish. Not unlike a couple other movies on this list. Second of all it’s pretty slow paced, with an eerie crawl that amplifies the fear the characters feel in the film. Those emotional scares that really hit deep in your chest, while toiling around in your brain like a song you can’t forget. El Orfanato tells the story of Laura (Belén Rueda), an orphan who returns to her childhood home with her husband and adopted son in order to care for kids as she was. When her son finds an imaginary friend and then goes missing, Laura is forced to learn more about her son’s imaginary friend, and the horrifying circumstances that occurred at the orphanage after her adoption.
The scares are unique in that they aren’t always directed at making you jump in your seat like some of the films that love to hit you with cheap scares. The unknown and slightly macabre scares, stained with a certain homage to ’70s Spanish cinema and some very beautiful shots really heighten the mood and keep you guessing as to what’s really happening at the orphanage. A great film to start off our look at the scariest movies. - S. Fraser
#29 – Scream
While in no means the first slasher flick of its kind, there is no doubt it brought a resurgence to the mainstream horror market. Wes Craven, who has been a long running name in horror, especially since his earlier outing with the next movie on our list, presented us with a tale of horror and suspense that firmly set its roots in the generation of the ’90s. Whether you’re dealing with the virginal Neve Cambpell, the movie nerd Jamie Kennedy played to perfection, or the typical too cool for school boyfriend played by Skeet Ulrich, the updated horror themes resonate perfectly with fans of the genre and the new fans that Scream introduced horror too.
The movie was almost a critics look at horror films in general, often playing on the repeated themes and nuances of the classic horror flick. Sure, re-watching the film today the scares may feel slightly diminished after all the horror it brought to us in the ’90s, but in my youth the scares were real and will always be remembered. - S. Fraser
#28 – Nightmare on Elm Street
Another one from Wes Craven, who has a few films on this list that we all consider to be scary, though they didn’t prod that fleshy bit in the back of our minds responsible for terror quite like 1984′s Nightmare on Elm Street. It tells the legendary story of iconic horror man Freddy Krueger, who haunts the nightmares of his victims with his fiercely clawed hand and devilishly hilarious wit. Nightmare tackled some of our biggest fears by patrolling the uncontrollable subconscious of our dreams at the whim of a vengeance obsessed psychopath, and fed on the fear of never knowing whether this is reality or simply another nightmare.
Krueger was a terrifying and supernatural threat that differed from most slasher flicks that involved ‘human’ murderers terrorizing campers or preying on slow moving females. He attacks his victims in their most vulnerable and peaceful state. This awoke a primal fear in movie goers everywhere, afraid to go back to bed in case this time the bed bugs really did bite. - S. Fraser
#27 – Insidious
James Wan’s Insidious relies on those jump out of your seat thrills that cut to the very core of your being. While a lot of opinions on the film are divided, most can agree that there are moments in the film that surprise you despite yourself. It offers a new twist on the classic haunted house story by presenting us with a haunted child. He becomes a beacon for malevolent entities that torment a family as these demons try to inhabit the body of the spirit wandering child. As the family discovers what causes these frightening episodes, they engage in the worst possible move in any haunted horror story. A seance of sorts, which increases the scares and introduces us to the main demonic forces of the film.
Our fear of the unknown, the demonic, and the invisible worlds around us keep this movie terrifying and unique. The psychological scares are matched with a frighteningly horrific score that electrifies the mood, keeping you on the edge of your seat. A scarefest for anyone looking for something a little different.
- S. Fraser
#26 – Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods was the typical horror scenario turned on its head in an unusual way that made you question who the monsters really were. When a stereotypical group of college kids spend a weekend at a cabin, they encounter horrors the likes of which… well… everyone has pretty much seen before. When the conspiratorial subterfuge is finally revealed and we get a peak at the real story behind the terror homage, it’s clear that this is anything but a typical cabin in the woods. Scares follow every turn not only with the monsters we see, but with the inconsistencies that start to alert our group that things are not quite what they seem.
Watching the clinical and unsympathetic way the technicians carry out the ritualistic killings of our unsuspecting college students is a bit of a statement on the desensitization of our society, but it isn’t the only scare. With a collection of almost every possible horror cliche imaginable running wild throughout the movie, it’s no surprise Cabin in the Woods made our list. – S. Fraser
#25 – The Fly
David Cronenberg’s loose remake of the classic 1954 film of the same name, The Fly introduces us to Dr. Seth Brundle (brought to life by Jeff Goldblum) a quirky scientist working on a world changing invention; a teleportation device. He of course experiments on himself like good scientists tend to do and ends up spicing his DNA with a common housefly, setting off a series of horrifying changes that transform Brundle from the Scientist in to the Experiment. As the alien DNA starts to rewrite Brundle’s genetic code, the process starts off small, and horrifically gets worse as the special effects crew deliver some great monster movie magic.
The horror of the film comes not just from the grotesque transformation of Brundle from human to fly, but also his reaction to his body’s metamorphosis. While others see it as horrifying and disturbing, Brundle is continually excited and curious about his change, even going so far as to try and change his love interest (Geena Davis) into a similar creature. The film may touch on your gag reflex as much as it does your horror nodes, but that’s really just another factor in a great horror film. - S. Fraser
#24 – The Omen
It doesn’t get much creepier than Damien Thorne. Here is a movie that, especially if you’re religious, can send chills up your spine. Based on prophecies from the Bible, this is the story of a Hell-Spawn born with the sign of the beast and destined to bring about the end of the world. From his bodyguard rottweiler to his crazy ass nanny, Damien is able to exude evil without even opening his mouth most of the time. The classic birthday party scene where the first nanny kills herself is one of the single most classic scenes in horror history.
“It’s all for you!”
The presence of Gregory Peck helped lend credence and legitimacy to a film genre that is often overlooked in terms of quality acting. This is not just a scary movie. This was a great film, and the psychological games it plays with you have created lasting effects. Unfortunately the 2006 remake (released on 06/06/06) lacked the same heart and was largely forgettable. - B. Kronner
#23 – The Strangers
It’s Dennis Reynolds y’all! Okay, that was just for the Always Sunny fans, but Glenn Howerton is in here, and has nothing to do with why this terrified people back in 2008. This is a story about seclusion and how easily you could be made a prisoner in your own home…err…cottage. Three psychopaths are outside and they want to play a game. You’re involvement was sealed because you answered the door to that creepy chick in the Dollface mask. There is nothing supernatural here, just some good old fashion terrorizing by the locals, who have no motive, and just want to kill you for fun. There is something inherently scary about that.
It’s easy to laugh as Jason Voorhees hacks up some teens who were smoking dope and having unprotected pre-marital sex – they had it coming, but to have done nothing wrong? To have broken no horror movie tropes to instigate this harassment, and still have to pay the consequence? That’s just not fair, and proves the unavoidable is scary. Scott Speedman (Underworld) and Liv Tyler (Aerosmith’s loins) are both quite likable in the lead roles as a troubled couple who is easily identifiable with, and therefore easy to root for. - B. Kronner
#22 – The Grudge/Ju-On
First of all, I just have to say that in my opinion, Ju-On: The Grudge is better than the American remake. However, with that being said, the remake does a pretty great job of bringing the tone and feel of the original to Hollywood. This is largely in part to the remake having the same director as the original, which is a rarity when it comes to these kinds of films. The story follows a cursed family, who at the time of their deaths were filled with rage and sorrow. This obviously turns them into vengeful spirits, who unleash their fury all over the unsuspecting family that reside in their haunted domicile. When the careworker of the dimensia-ridden matriarch starts experiencing some of the creepiness, the scares really start to pick up.
I don’t know if it’s the constant eerie creepiness of the cursed family, or the crazy ghost cat things that bring on the scares. I mean, I really dislike cats. This movie did not help that at all. And with a very believable performance from
Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar, it’s easy to be drawn into the web of events that lead to one of our scariest films ever. - S. Fraser
#21 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Here is a prime example of a solid remake. With all the vitriol spewed towards remakes in general, the 1978 version of Body Snatchers is far scarier than the still awesome 1956 original. Both movies do a great job of portraying a subtly terrifying situation, but the ’78 seems to feel more frightening now. A big part of the lasting creepiness comes from the brilliant casting. Aside from Alien’s Veronica Cartwright – Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, and Donald Sutherland make up what I assume is the tallest film trio to ever be in a movie not about basketball. Unlike modern horror, it doesn’t rely on gore and violence, but instead scares you with perpetual suspense and mystery.
Much like what I imagine a Hitchcock Sci-Fi movie would’ve been like. Similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, you never know who you can trust. That, and the overwhelming magnitude of the whole situation, coupled with the helpless feeling it gives the viewer is what cemented Invasion of the Body Snatchers on our list of scariest movies. - B. Kronner
That does it for the first part of Geek’s 30 Scariest Movies Ever! We hope it has given you a few ideas to watch this Halloween season. Be sure to check back tomorrow for another 10 of our scariest picks!