|Readers' Picks - Top Scariest Movies|
|Readers have responded in force to my choices for the top scariest movies ever made. There was a lot of agreement on most of the choices, but there was also quite a bit of "How could you possibly leave out...?" So here are the readers' choices for the scariest movies ever made - good choices all. They are not all in the ghost or "spooky" genre, but nonetheless frightening in their own ways. See if you agree.|
Alien was definitely the scariest science fiction movie of its day, and if you haven't watched it 500 times, it might still give you a jolt or two and set your nerves a-tingling. The H.R. Giger designed creature was like nothing moviegoers had ever seen before, and it was brilliant how it was made to blend in with the bio-tech design of the ship. The scariest scene, of course, was the arrival of the baby alien during dinner. The sequels weren't bad either.
I haven't seen this one in quite a while, but I do recall that it was quite spooky. The always-good George C. Scott portrays a composer who has recently lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident. He moves into an old mansion where he hopes to concentrate on his work, but quickly learns that he is not alone. The house is haunted, it turns out, by the ghost of a child who lived there many years before. The subtle creepiness of this film makes it a favorite of ghost movie lovers.
This is one of the first so-called "slasher films" and provided its share of startling moments, mostly through editing. If you're like me and can't keep the plots straight among this one, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street (all of which spawned about 80 sequels each) this is the one about the teen summer camp, and the lunatic with the knife is Jason. Look for a young Kevin Bacon as one of the victim teens.
Blair Witch Project|
This film couldn't possibly live up to the hype that surrounded its release, and although this made it disappointing for some, it genuinely creeped out many others. Its documentary style broke some new ground in this genre and created some good moments of creepiness just through weird stuff going on and those distant cries and voices in the dark Maryland woods. Most of it works pretty well for a film that was mostly ad-libbed and shot on a shoestring budget.
Many people have forgotten what an effect this 1975 Steven Spielberg classic had on its audience: people were scared to swim in the ocean for months or even years after watching it. Jaws was one of the first movie blockbusters that had people lined up around the block to see it. Spielberg masterfully translated to film Peter Benchley's bestselling novel about a beach town whose summer tourist trade is threatened by a huge maneating shark. Although it might not be as frightening as it was in 1975, the film is so well-made that it merits multiple viewings.
of the Lambs|
This film won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1991 and Anthony Hopkins took home the Best Actor Oscar for his chilling portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. It has its bloody moments, but most of the intensity of this film is psychological, from Hopkins' politely creepy Hannibal the Cannibal to the revolting serial killer he agrees to help FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) catch. Director Jonathan Demme succeeds brilliantly at creating an atmosphere that keeps the viewer on edge from beginning to end.
Based on the supposedly non-fiction book by Jay Anson (it has subsequently been pretty much proven as a hoax), this film was dismissed by most of the critics, but many viewers consider it one of the scariest films they have ever seen. The story concerns a family that moves into a Long Island home that was the scene of a gruesome murder and where evil demonic forces still linger. If you've never seen the film, it might be worth a look.
of the Body Snatchers|
The town of Santa Mira, California has been invaded by aliens, but you wouldn't know it just to look around - and that's because the fiends from outer space are taking over human bodies! Fortunately, there's one guy (Kevin McCarthy) who catches on to the aliens' plot and tries desperately to get others to believe him. This 1956 film works so well because there's something inherently frightening about the idea that people aren't who you think they are and, as in The Exorcist, that some alien force can take over your body. The 1978 version is also quite good.
of the Living Dead|
I'm not a big fan of zombie movies, but this 1968 low-budget classic by George A. Romero was pretty effective. For some reason, the dead have risen from the grave and are relentlessly stalking the living in order to feast on their flesh. The few living in this film are barricaded in an old house where the flesh-eating ghouls are trying to enter through every doorway, window and crevice. There are many really creepy images. The film was remade in 1990.
Anthony Hopkins again, this time as a tortured, possibly psychotic ventriloquist who loses control of his dummy, Fats. You may have seen a "Twilight Zone" episode with a similar theme, but you've never seen anything like Hopkins' incredible performance as Corky, a successful entertainer who just can't keep his wooden friend quiet. Hopkins' slow, but frenetic descent into madness was worthy of an Oscar nomination long before Silence of the Lambs.
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