Judging what the scariest movies of all time are is a hotly debated topic. Certain subject matters or movie scenes that keep people from turning the lights off in their house for weeks might not even phase others. That said, some movies did their job in effectively scaring the pants off of everyone who saw them when they first came out. The following scary movie gems are responsible for more psychological trauma than any mental disorder there is – which is precisely what makes them so much fun.
“Jaws” This 1975 Steven Spielberg film spawned a national phobia overnight. Starring Roy Scheider as a police chief in a quiet beach town dealing with a gigantic, deadly Great White shark, its believable story made millions afraid to dip their toes in the sand. The film chronicles several shark attacks, a panic, and the ensuing deadly hunt for the creature. What makes it one of the scariest movies of all time, though, is the score. Those infamous two notes that came before encounters with the shark cast a sense of dread and fear that no score before or after it has matched.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Filmed by Tobe Hooper without the assistance of a major film studio in 1974, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is among the most successful independent horror films of all time. It stars Marilyn Burns and Paul Partain as siblings traveling through the Deep South who encounter what must be the most deranged family in history. The movie's main evil character, affectionately named “Leatherface,” is so effective because of the mystery that surrounds him. Unlike Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, Leatherface is never seen as a person, only a murderous force. This clever writing combined with the film's astoundingly creepy and bizarre atmosphere places it among the scariest movies ever.
“The Shining" This horror classic was originally a novel written by Stephen King, and was adapted for the screen by legendary director Stanley Kubrick. It stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a hotel caretaker who moves his family into the isolated Overlook Hotel for the Winter off-season. As the long, desolate winter wears on, Torrance begins to lose his grip on reality as the hotel's gruesome history is revealed. Most of what makes this movie so scary, besides the great writing and directing, is how believably insane Nicholson's character becomes. Add in the truly creepy events at the isolated hotel, and you have yourself a genuine recipe for fright.
“The Exorcist” No list of the scariest movies of all time is complete without “The Exorcist.” The film stars Linda Blair as a young girl who becomes horrifically possessed by a demon, and follows a Catholic priest's attempts to rid her on the spirit. The film itself is downright terrifying, often hard to watch, and occasionally vulgar. But the scariest part, without a doubt, is the fact that the film is based on the true story of a young boy's exorcism in the 1940's. If that doesn't creep you out at least a little, then nothing will.