The movie industry has been making scary movies for over a century, ever since pioneer Georges Méliès created The House of the Devil. From that moment, Hollywood has been trying to figure out the perfect recipe for the scariest of scary movies. The best ingredients have to include a healthy dollop of suspense, a sprinkling of creepy locations, and, most important of all, moments that make the audience jump out of their skins!
Scientists have carried out studies to establish which are the scariest movies ever released, based on the heart rates of those watching, and the results say that these are the most frightening movies you can watch.
10 The Babadook – Monsters Lurking In The Home
The Babadook has become one of the most legendary horror movies of recent years, and it works as a scary movie because the monstrous Babadook doesn’t hide in creepy locations, but lurks instead in the family home of single mom Amelia and her son, Noah.
Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuary, but that is certainly not the case with The Babadook, which features plenty of jump-scare moments, including the terrifying scene when Amelia first realizes that the Babadook really is in her home.
9 A Quiet Place – Tension From Start To Finish
Many horror fans would not consider A Quiet Place to be part of the genre, but when it comes to keeping an audience on the edge of their seat, few movies have done it better. Viewers often find themselves holding their breath and trying their best to remain quiet themselves while watching John Krasinski’s 2018 movie.
And while there are some genuine jump scare moments, the real terror comes from the fear of the family themselves when they accidentally make a sound.
8 The Conjuring – Based On True Events
The Science of Scare study by Broadband Choices found that The Conjuring was the scariest horror franchise of all time, as it was the only franchise to have two of its movies in the top 20.
The first movie, simply called The Conjuring, was released in 2013, but there have now been two sequels and several spin-offs. All use the usual tricks to scare their audiences, but perhaps the scariest thing about these movies is that they are based on the real-life exploits of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
7 Paranormal Activity – Found Footage
In the late 90s, The Blair Witch Project started a craze for so-called “found footage” movies. These were movies that pretended to be true stories, by using what was claimed to be real footage of supernatural happenings. One of the most successful was Paranormal Activity, which consisted mainly of CCTV coverage from inside the house of a couple who had been plagued by ghostly events.
Impressive special effects made this CCTV footage looks real, and the lead actors often didn’t know what would be happening and had to improvise their responses.
6 The Ring – Truly Terrifying Villain
Japan is infamous for its impressive horror movies, and Hollywood remakes have not always been as successful.
The remake of The Ring, starring Naomi Watts, was, in many ways, more frightening than the original, thanks to more jump scares, but the bad guy was the same in both movies – a creepy young woman with black hair hanging over her face who pursues her targets to their death. The first time that Samara crawls out of the TV is one of the most memorable horror movie scenes ever.
5 Insidious – Plot Twists
James Wan could easily claim to have taken over from Wes Craven as the new king of horror, thanks to his successful Saw, Conjuring, and Insidious movie franchises. While the first two rely on blood and guts and jump-scare moments, Insidious is a little more grown-up – although there are still enough scary scenes to set the pulse racing!
The best thing about Insidious is the genuinely engaging storyline, which provides some plot twists that wouldn’t be out of place in a big-budget Hollywood thriller.
4 The Descent – Claustrophobic Terror
The Descent is a horror movie with a difference, with the movie’s caving heroines putting themselves in a situation that, at first, seems to be scary for very normal reasons, only to find that there is something supernatural trapped with them in the depths of the earth.
This is definitely not a movie for anyone claustrophobic, and the scenes filmed with night vision add an extra layer of terror – especially when the audience can see the otherworldly predators that the girls themselves cannot!
3 A Nightmare On Elm Street – Classic Slasher Movie
Slasher movies were in their heyday in the 1980s when movie franchises like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street made their debut. The antagonist was the star of these movies, not his victims, and in Elm Street that was the sinister Freddy Krueger, who haunted the dreams of terrified teens.
Krueger’s exploits may have been inspired by a terrifying true story, but the idea that there was no escaping a villain who could kill you in your sleep was a petrifying prospect back in 1984.
2 Hereditary – Terrific Acting
Like The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity, the scariest thing about Netflix horror flick Hereditary is that it feels very normal and realistic – the kind of situation that any of us could find ourselves in.
The excellent acting skills of lead Toni Collette are also important to Hereditary, as it is her reactions to the crazy events going on around her which make the movie so spine-tingling. The first shock may not come until 30 minutes into the movie, but it is one that is well worth waiting for!
1 Sinister – A Good Old-Fashioned Haunting
The 2012 horror movie Sinister came out on top in the Science of Scare study, making it scientifically the most frightening scary movie of all time. Ethan Hawke plays a crime writer who moves his wife and children into the house where a bloody murder took place years before. It’s hardly surprising that the family soon find themselves terrorized by the things that go bump in the night.
The study found that viewers had an average heart rate of 86 beats per minute (bpm) while watching Sinister, compared to a resting heart rate of 65bpm, while the movie’s scariest moment saw the numbers shoot up as high as 131bpm.
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