The 31 Scariest Movies Ever

Today: The countdown begins with numbers 31 through 25, plus a few suggestions from readers

What is that one movie that scares you? This is the question I have asked countless people in the last month. Friends. Family. Readers. Co-workers. I expected to hear the same movies over and over; instead, I was surprised by the wide array of choices.

While some find the newer, Hollywood gorrific movies to be the worst, some said that the Hitchcockian, less-is-more motto is always the scariest. Some named standard, horror fare; others named non-traditionally scary films like The Wizard of Oz. (Mostly because of the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys.)

What has fascinated me about this process is discovering how truly individual “scary” is. Some people are scared of clowns and vampires; others, of everyday people. (Personally, any movie that has people being chased scares the crap out of me.)

So today, and for the next four weeks, I will share with you the 31 Movies that I think are the scariest. You will see classic horror, suspense thrillers, movies you’ve seen, and maybe some you haven’t.

With only 31 slots, many films will not make the cut. But let me know what you agree with, and, more importantly, what you don’t. Who knows? Maybe your choice will be in next week’s post. Enough chit-chat. Let’s go!

31. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter ditches the Frankenstein-like monster of the ‘50s version and introduces us to a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. Carpenter also gives us a scene where a doctor’s arms are bitten off by a man’s chest.

Yes, by his chest.

Which also was not in the original.

30. Dead Ringers (1988)
Just saying “crazy, gynecologist twins” may be enough to give some of you the shivers. But as Philly mag senior editor and fellow Post blogger Sandy Hingston says: “The twins’ behavior is so disturbing and depraved and yet believable. And because of how they march onward toward their doom, not even putting up a fight as their lives unravel. It’s stuck with me for more than 20 years.”

It’s a twisted, unsettling, and horrifyingly beautiful movie from the brilliant mind of David Cronenberg.

29. Pet Sematary (1989)
I asked my brother (Tim Mettey) to explain why this movie scares him so much. This is what he had to say: “Come on. A cute, adorable little kid is the monster at the end, when earlier all you wanted to do was pinch his cheeks. Plus, Herman Munster is in it and unfortunately has his Achilles slashed by the little kid. Ooooouch.”

To this day I can still hear the line, “Now I want to play with yoooou!”

28. Session 9 (2001)
Evil entity. Abandoned psychiatric hospital. Lobotomies. Asbestos. David Caruso. Each is frightening on its own; but together, they are the basis for this truly terrifying, less-is-more film.

27. It (1990)
Tim Curry’s Pennywise played a starring role in many of my childhood nightmares. While I had already read the book (of course I had—my parents banned us from reading Stephen King), this miniseries vividly brought to life one of King’s scariest characters. And made me be fearful of my parents’ shower drain.

26. [REC] (2007)
A television reporter and her cameraman follow firemen on a response call. Soon they are trapped inside a quarantined building where people start turning into zombies. As is true for many on the list, forget the U.S. remake (2008’s Quarantine). Instead take a look at this Spanish original. It’s everything a fun fright-flick should be.

25. The Omen (1976)
No question, Damien is one scary, pasty kid. But, for me, the Nanny scared me even more. This satanic Mary Poppins is more likely to cut your throat than sing you a lullaby.

Stay tuned for next week as we countdown from 24 to 18. Until then, here are some suggestions of movies not on the list:

From Victoria M.: The Other from 1972. I still don’t like to be around pitchforks.

Nancy S.: The Changeling. George C Scott, Melvyn Douglas, widowed man who lost his family in a tragic accident moves into an old house: spooky and unexplained sounds, séances (one of the best séance scenes EVER), ghosts, and a child’s wheelchair. Admittedly, not so scary the second time around, but nerve-wracking the first time through.

Andy Zahn (Philly mag’s Senior Art Director): Deliverance. Ned Beatty in his tighty-whities. ‘Nuf said.