The word "scary" is a subjective term and when it comes to scary movies, it's even more subjective. For that reason, you shouldn't take this list as a definitive ranking but more as a guideline. Some of these are easy family friendly films while others you might want to watch with the lights on.
#11. Hocus Pocus is a favorite family friendly Halloween movie starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as three witches who were executed for practicing witchcraft and vowed to return 300 years later. As promised they return and it's up to three kids and an immortal cat to stop them.
#10. Ghostbusters is a classic comedy that centers on 3 paranormal scientists played by Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Harold Ramis who form ghost capture service called "Ghostbusters". It's filled with hilarious one-liners, comedic scares, and the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. A remake was released last year but the 1984 version is the one you need to see.
# 9. Beetlejuice is highlighted by the performance of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice -- a sleazy ghost hired to get rid of a bizarre family that has moved into the house of a recently deceased couple. Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Winona Ryder star in this horror-comedy directed by Tim Burton.
#8. Scream is a scary, yet fun take on the teen slasher film. it gave us the rules for surviving a horror film -- Don't drink or do drugs, stay pure, and don't say "I'll be right back".
#7. Halloween/Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street - The original teen slasher films - All of them are considered classics of the 1980 and they set the tone for horror films that still resonates today.
#6. The Paranormal Activity Series - A series of 5 found footage style films that all tie into each other. It's enough for a movie marathon or just watch the original and be awake for the rest of the night.
#5. The Shining - If you're ever offered a job as the caretaker of a luxurious hotel that was built an ancient burial ground. Don't take it. That's the lesson of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It's not a jump scare kind of movie but it's a slow burning creep out featuring one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances as he descends into madness.
#4. It the 2017 remake that has set the record as the most successful horror movie of all time. It is still in a few theaters. It has everything you'd want from a horror film -- frights, a scary clown, comedy, a scary clown, creeps, a scary clown, teenagers in trouble, and a scary clown. Did I mention the scary clown? Just want to warn you.
#3. The Exorcist - This is the pinnacle of classic horror films that all fans of the genre need to see at least once. It's very controversial and at time, gross. After forty-four years, it still regarded as one of the scariest movies ever and just as scary is the story of making the movie.
#2. The Evil Dead Trilogy - Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 are legit scary movies. Taking place in an isolated cabin, with the accidental release of an ancient evil spirit, Evil Dead is a serious horror film. Evil Dead 2 has a nearly identical plot with the same lead actor, Bruce Campbell, and takes a campy approach. Army of Darkness picks up at the end of Evil Dead 2 and is more comedy than horror. Another set of films considered to be the among the greats 40 years later.
#1. It’s the series that’s on everybody’s mind this Halloween - Stranger Things - Available only on the Netflix streaming service -- It's not quite horror, not quite sci-fi, but a blend of both. It has occupied popular culture for the last year and a half and the fever over it has peaked again with the release of a new season just last weekend. If you haven't heard of this you've been living under a rock. now you need to crawl out from that rock and watch this series. It belongs in the discussion of horror.
Remember that scary is subjective. In that vein, I also asked some of the staff here at THV11 for their favorite scary movie. Here is that list (synopsis from IMDB.com):
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown – 1966, NR. The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween while Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin.
Casper – 1995, PG. A paranormal expert and his daughter bunk in an abandoned house populated by three mischievous ghosts and one friendly one.
Halloweentown – 1998, TV-G. After learning she is a witch, a girl helps save a town full of other supernatural creatures.
Young Frankenstein – 1974, PG. An American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that he is not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body.
Edward Scissorhands - 1990, PG-13. A gentle man, with scissors for hands, is brought into a new community after living in isolation.
Signs – 2002, PG-13. A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.
House of the Long Shadows – 1983, PG. An American writer goes to a remote Welsh manor on a bet that he can write a classic novel like “Wuthering Heights” in 24-hours. While he is there, he discovers that the manor has several odd inhabitants.
Dial M for Murder – 1954, NR. An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to murder his wife. When things go wrong, he improvises with a brilliant Plan B.
The Birds – 1963, PG-13. A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people
Cube – 1997, R. Six complete strangers of widely varying personality characteristics are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps.
The Fury – 1978, R. A government agent is determined to come to his son’s rescue when a sinister official kidnaps him to harbor his extremely powerful psychic abilities.
The Amityville Horror – 1979, R. Newlyweds move into a large house where a mass murder was committed, and experience strange manifestations which drive them away.
Fright Night - 1984, R. When a teenager learns that his next-door neighbor is a vampire, no one will believe him.
The Omen - 1976, R. Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil’s own son?
The People Under the Stairs – 1991, R. Two adults and a juvenile burglar break into a house occupied by a brother and sister and their stolen children and become trapped.
The Descent – 2005, R. A caving expedition goers horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.
The Cabin in the Woods – 2012, R. Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for, discovering the truth behind the cabin in the woods.
The Strangers – 2008, R. A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants.
Drag Me to Hell – 2009, PG-13. A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.
Ravenous - 1999, R. In a remote military outpost in the 19th century, Captain John Boyd and his regiment embark on a rescue mission which takes a dark turn when they are ambushed by a sadistic cannibal.
The Cell – 2000, R. An FBI agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.
Audition – 1999, R. A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.