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18 Scariest Horror Movies of the Past 50 Years, Scary Horror Movie Mom... Skip to content

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The Scariest Movies of the Past 50 Years

18 films that made us scream — and gave us nightmares!

  • The Haunting
    Courtesy of MGM

    'The Haunting'

    1963: Paranormal experts (pictured from left: Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris, Richard Johnson) investigate — and stay in — the ultimate haunted house.

    1 of 19
  • The Changeling
    Everett Collection

    'The Changeling'

    1980: A grief-stricken composer (George C. Scott) retreats to an old country estate to be alone — only to learn he’s anything but.

    2 of 19
  • The Shining
    Warner Brothers/ Everett Collection

    'The Shining'

    1980: A timid wife (Shelley Duvall), a psychic son (Danny Lloyd, from behind) and a father (Jack Nicholson) who is slowly going mad — all locked away in a remote hotel during winter … What could go wrong?

    3 of 19
  • The-Exorcist
    Everett Collection

    'The Exorcist'

    1973: A priest battles an unrelenting demon for the soul of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair, pictured) in a Catholic-sanctioned exorcism.

    4 of 19
  • Jaws
    Everett Collection


    1975: The classic man-versus-nature drama, complemented by the most tension-filled movie score ever.

    5 of 19
  • Amityville Horror
    American International Pictures

    'The Amityville Horror'

    1979: In an allegedly true story, a family (that’s Margot Kidder as the mom) moves into a nice suburban house and discovers that the previous family hasn’t left … exactly.

    6 of 19
  • Rosemary's Baby
    Everett Collection

    'Rosemary’s Baby'

    1968: A pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) slowly descends into a nightmare as she wonders about the true origins of her baby.

    7 of 19
  • Poltergeist
    MGM / Everett Collection


    1982: “They’re here!” What a 5-year-old (played by Heather O’Rourke) sees that others can’t is what will keep you up at night.

    8 of 19
  • The Thing
    Universal/Everett Collection

    'The Thing'

    1982: Science fiction horror set in Antarctica, where an extraterrestrial “thing” becomes exact replicas of the researchers working there. Paranoia ensues. (Pictured: Kurt Russell, transformed by The Thing.)

    9 of 19
  • Carrie
    Everett Collection


    1976: Stephen King’s first published novel became the film that forever gave prom queens a bad name. Here, Sissy Spacek's Carrie with her prom date, played by William Katt.

    10 of 19
  • Silence of the Lambs
    Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

    'The Silence of the Lambs'

    1991: Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance as the psychiatrist turned cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Fava beans, liver and a nice chianti, anyone?

    11 of 19
  • Deliverance
    Warner Bros/Everett Collection


    1972: Four city slickers (Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and, pictured, Jon Voight) canoe down a Georgia river and run into seriously disturbed backcountry locals.

    12 of 19
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    Everett Collection

    'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'

    1978: Aliens are replacing the human population of a small town with body doubles, minus thoughts, emotions and personality — and only one man knows the truth. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams (shown) star in this remake of the 1956 original.

    13 of 19
  • Alien
    20th Century Fox/Everett Collection


    1979: A very mean extraterrestrial (that’s it at left) sneaks aboard a spaceship and invades more than just the crew quarters. The creature’s kind continues to battle star Sigourney Weaver in three sequels.

    14 of 19
  • The Blair Witch Project
    Artisan Entertainment/Everett Collection

    'The Blair Witch Project'

    1999: Three film students venture into Maryland woods to hunt down the legend of a child-killing witch, only to become the ones hunted.

    15 of 19
  • Halloween
    Everett Collection


    1978: A killer (named Michael Myers) escapes from a psychiatric hospital and stalks his targets, while chilling piano notes play over and over.

    16 of 19
  • The Ring
    Dreamworks/Merrick Morton

    'The Ring'

    2002: Watching eerie images on a videotape means death in seven days. The Gore Verbinski-directed terrifier is a remake of the Japanese thriller Ringu.

    17 of 19
  • Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak
    Courtesy of Universal

    'Crimson Peak'

    2015: The higher the collars, the deeper the gore: Visionary director Guillermo del Toro delivers a chilling gothic romance about a Gilded Age American heiress (and ghost-story writer) named Edith Cushing. After her creepy new British sister-in-law warns her, “Never go below this level!” of their haunted manse, guess what she does next?    

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  • Entertainment End-Slide
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