It’s that time of year again. Fall decorations are coming out. Pumpkin spice is taking over, and scary movies are begging your attention. As a connoisseur of horror films, these are the ones that have stood out over the decades as having major creepy vibes and hair-raising experiences. Have you seen them?
1. Carrie (1976)
Sissy Spacek played an incredible Carrie for Stephen King’s horror novel come to life on the big screen. The film has been remade twice, and they do not compare to the chill the original delivers.
A massive part of that is that no one, and I mean no one, can play Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, as terrifying as Piper Laurie. The music is extraordinarily spine-tingling, from moments at the prom to the final act.
And that ending? Talk about unexpectedly scaring the breath right out of you. This film is a classic with fabulous ’70s fashion and music.
2. The Skeleton Key (2005)
One of the most unsettling endings I’ve ever seen, The Skeleton Key, is terrifying. Somehow, they took your worst nightmare that you weren’t even aware existed and traumatized you for life with it. It’s an ending that you can’t shake, and at some point, despite the terror, you will watch it again.
Kate Hudson and Gena Rowlands give bone-chillingly believable performances. It follows a home hospice nurse (Hudson) who moves into a plantation home in New Orleans where Hoodoo rituals, spells, and its previous inhabitants have created a supernatural horror story like no other.
3. Sinister (2012)
Whoa, to this film. Sinister is undoubtedly the most unsettling horror I’ve ever experienced. The soundtrack is haunting, and the music lingers long after it’s over. Ethan Hawke delivers a remarkable performance as a true crime writer who moves his family into the home of a murdered family.
He finds tapes, and each one is creepier and creepier. The ending is the most shocking, and no other horror story has stayed with me like this one. It’s guaranteed to make every hair on your body stand up.
4. Halloween (1978)
Halloween is the first in a popular horror film franchise that follows the story of Laurie Strode (Queen of Scream — Jamie Lee Curtis) and her psychopathic brother, Michael Myers (Nick Castle — original), stalking and hunting in his hometown.
The fall leaves changing and Halloween night setting make this a perfect annual watch. The film’s musical score is a large part of why the movie is hair-raisingly terrifying, with a notoriously creepy theme. A little Halloween trivia — did you know that Michael Myer’s mask is molded around Captain Kirk’s death mask created for Star Trek? Translation? It’s William Shatner’s face!
5. Scream (1996)
While many horror film’s final scenes are shocking, Scream stunned the world with its opening act. I’ll never forget the whole theater collectively gasping and screeching as we discovered an entirely new premise together.
No other horror films were anything like the iconic first installment of the Scream franchise. Many big names and faces starred, including Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell as the franchise’s beloved surviving victim, Sidney Prescott.
6. Jaws (1975)
Another iconic opening scene, Jaws, delivers the immediate experience of the hair on the back of your neck standing up. Chrissie, the young lady who goes for a late-night swim, and her bloodcurdling screams — make your heart tense with anxiety. Especially as she pleads, “It hurts. Oh God no. God, please help!” before being ripped under the water a final time.
The Jaws theme is one of the most frightening and recognized ever. Some people will never go into the ocean because of that film and it’s soundtrack alone.
7. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is the first scary movie that I wanted to walk out of because I was paralyzed with fear. When it first came out, they sold it as actual found footage of an event.
I remember driving down to Seattle and waiting in line to see a special screening and was told the movie wouldn’t be in all theaters. So it was a see-it-now, or maybe not at all proposal, and I took it.
Woo. Going into the viewing believing this found footage is authentic makes that movie the scariest movie ever. Even knowing better, there are hair-raising scenes accompanied by jump-out-of-your-seat terror.
8. The Ring (2002)
Speaking of scarring viewers for life, The Ring is the only movie that had me sleeping with lights on in my house for a week. The static TV noise in the film was a terrifying reality back then and would make my heart jump out of my chest every time I heard it from then on out.
The beginning sequence with the girl in the closet is an image that lives rent-free in my head. I talk about it, and boom, it’s there and still as horrifying as ever. The concept of being stalked by a supernatural entity after watching a videotape was scary, and everything on said tape was creepy.
This movie is one of the only horror films that legitimately scared me. It didn’t help that my sister called me and whispered, “Seven days,” into my ear the following morning.
9. Poltergeist (1982)
Several parts of the original Poltergeist will cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up. But nothing quite like little Carol Anne’s voice eerily stating: “They’re here.” It’s goosebumps city from that point forward. The clown scene? Terrifying and life-long scarring. Thanks to that film, I legitimately will never sleep in a room with a clown.
The concept was original and frightening. Knowing that the skeletons in the swimming pool were actual human remains and not replica bones makes that scene more hair-raising.
10. It (1990)
While I do enjoy part one of the new It films, the 1990 original miniseries was terrifying, and both parts remained strong. Tim Curry is Pennywise. There’s no comparison. Bill Skarsgård had creepier eyes and a convincing face. But Tim Curry’s voice, expressive face, and taunting of the kids in the original series reign supreme.
“We all float down here. And when you’re down here with me. You’ll float, too!” was something I couldn’t shake from my head as a tween. Poltergeist put me off clown toys in a bedroom, but Pennywise full-on made clowns not funny. The musical score in the original added to the original being the scarier of the two renditions.
11. Psycho (1960)
The original Psycho has a hair-raising theme and plenty of scenes that stand it up. The infamous shower scene may be what first comes to mind. But the shot of the eyeball in the peephole is a chest dropping into the stomach experience like no other. The music has got to be in the top three in horror movie themes that make your spine tingle.
12. Misery (1990)
I love Misery that it has evolved into a comfort background movie, but it has its moments that still get me. The entire hobbling scene where Kathy Bates sadistically tells the story about hobbling before you see James Caan’s ankle bent in a way it should never bend is the only scene that I consistently turn my head to avoid in any horror movie. Once was enough.
13. Prom Night (1980)
The original Prom Night has one of the most chilling beginnings ever. It stars Jaime Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen and is a beautiful time capsule of the ’70s and early ’80s. The music, hair, fashion, and dancing make this movie a fun watch.
There is a score with spine-tingling moments when the killer is stalking their victims. One thing that makes this film scarier than the rest is the killer’s whispering voice when he catches them and the fact that the film doesn’t show extreme details of each kill. You know what happens without seeing all the unnecessary gore.
14. Creepshow 2 (1987)
Based on stories by Stephen King, Creepshow 2 has three chilling segments. They all have scary moments, but nothing compares to “The Raft.” Four college students swim out to a raft and are trapped by what appears to be a giant oil-slick substance that moves quickly in the water.
The part where the girl is sleeping and unsuspectingly wakes up to be consumed by it because her “friend” wasn’t paying attention.
I’ll never forget her terrified voice and face waking up to the pain of this mysterious sludge. It’s haunting. And it made swimming in lakes a thing of the past.
15. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The original Conjuring film is freaky, but the second installment had several more hair-raising moments. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as paranormal investigators and authors Ed and Lorraine Warren to take on the Enfield poltergeist that haunts a family in England. The “Nun” in it (who later gets her own film) will send chills straight down your spine. Or is it up your spine? It’s both!
16. Pet Semetary (1983)
Pet Semetary has the creepiest little kid ever to appear in a horror film. His little face as he holds the medical scalpel is an instant hair on the back of the neck standing straight up moment.
Also, the scenes with “Rachel” are the images nightmares are made of. The storyline of a cemetery that re-alives whatever you bury in it is one-of-a-kind horror they should have left alone. The sequel and remake are not worth watching, but this classic stays with you.
17. House of Wax (2005)
When I saw House of Wax in the theaters, I went in not knowing what to expect and came out scarred for life! The scene where the guy is in the Wax Museum and sees his friend sitting at the piano touches his wax-covered face and his eye moves!? NO!
It’s another horror scene that lives rent-free in my head as one of the most traumatic. Then, he tries to help him, and oh God. It gets worse. The film stars Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, and Paris Hilton.
18. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Jeepers Creepers will make your heart jump right out of your chest in several scenes while completely paralyzing you with fear in others. The concept is original, which is a plus in any genre nowadays. Justin Long and Gina Phillips deliver outstanding performances as a brother-sister duo traveling home from college.
After seeing something disturbing and deciding to be good samaritans, something sinister begins chasing them. The final scene with the song “Jeepers Creepers” playing on a record player will raise hairs. The sequel is equally entertaining.
19. The Shining (1980)
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has gone down in history as one of the best scary movies ever made.
Jack Nicholson plays an entirely too convincing alcoholic psychopath who takes his family to the Overlook Hotel, where he’s accepted the position of off-season caretaker.
The scene where Wendy is swinging the bat and he is creeping up the stairs is bone-chilling, spine-tingling, hair-rising, and more. The elevator scene, bathtub scene, axe through the door scene, and “redrum” are all other shrieking moments.
20. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a fresh, original story in the genre, but a terrifying one! It follows a young Black man (Daniel Kaluuya) and his White girlfriend (Allison Williams) visiting her family in upstate New York. She ensures that her family isn’t racist; what he discovers is far more sinister. The finger snaps, and “The Sunken Place” raises hairs, sending chills down your spine.
21. The Craft (1996)
The Craft follows four outcast teenage girls (Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True) pursuing witchcraft for their own gain. There are plenty of moments in this ’90s classic.
However, Fairuza Balk’s performance is guaranteed to raise those hairs on the back of your neck. The shower scene with the hair falling out is another moment in horror history that sticks, but the bugs and snakes? Traumatized for life!
22. Child’s Play (1998)
“Hi. I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” The original Child’s Play introduces the world to Chucky, a psychopathic serial killer possessing a Good Guys doll with Voodoo.
The Voodoo words are creepy as they all get out, and the weather in the sky changes; when he successfully transfers into the doll — will raise hair. Chucky’s little walk and the expressions on his face when he’s taunting his victims are creepy.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.