Best Halloween Movies Countdown
- The Conjuring 1 & 2
The Conjuring franchise has come to outshine all other horror franchises. For one, there is some facts associated with the storylines: the Warrens were real-life demonologists that worked to cleanse homes of demonic presences, and they do have a museum in their home in Connecticut that houses all of the haunted trinkets they collected throughout their career, one of which is the famous Annabelle doll. Though the movies have taken a very loose look at the Warrens’ career, the locations depicted were in fact investigated at least some of what you see on screen actually happened. But, for me, the heart of the story is the Warrens’ relationship and their crusade to help people who have no one else to turn to. This makes the first two films more well-rounded than the other films listed here. As for the numerous scary moments, credit director James Wan for coming up with new inventive ways to scare people without using a multitude of computer-generated effects.
- The Exorcist
I know that I am going to receive a lot of flak from people for putting this iconic film at #2 on my list, and I understand why. At the time of its release, it was so scary that people had to leave the theater and was the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture. The scenes inside the daughter’s bedroom are still as creepy and chilling now as they were when the film was released in 1972. But, ultimately, the story outside of the daughter’s bedroom was what made me put it at #2. Even though we get a great performance from Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair, the collective story with all of the characters is wishy-washy. You can essentially skip all of the scenes besides those in the daughter’s bedroom and still enjoy the film.
- Halloween (1978)
To me, this will always be the best “slasher film” of all time. They film was made on a shoe-string budget, used simple lightning techniques that are still iconic, introduced music that still gives us chills today, introduced us to Jamie Lee Curtis, solidified John Carpenter’s film career, and gave birth to the most mysterious of serial murders, Michael Myers. Is there anything to hate about this movie?
- The Omen (1976)
I saw this movie when I was 23 years old, and it freaked me out! Not only am I a huge Gregory Peck fan, but the script was nothing short of perfect. And if the scripture in the Bible about the Anti-Christ doesn’t freak you out, then you have a stronger backbone than me.
- Paranormal Activity
The Blair Witch Project brought people to the table with their reality-based filmmaking, but this one perfected it. The tension slowly builds in this film and the zingers are just flat-out clever. The scene with the demon feet walking on the baking soda still makes me both smile and shiver. If you haven’t seen it, there is also a documentary on the Paranormal Activity franchise called Unknown Dimension on the Paramount+ app that is worth checking out.
- Poltergeist (1980)
Fans will continue to debate forever as to whether this film or The Shining is the best haunted house movie. To me, the two movies are different types of fruit because Kubrick had so much symbolism and hidden meanings in his work. In Poltergeist, director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg give the jumps to you straight. After your nerves settle, it’s hard not to appreciate that. And yes, real human skulls were used in the pool scene with Jo Beth Williams.
- The Blair Witch Project
This one will always rank high for me because it was the first “mockumentary” and the studio did one hell of a job promoting it. The night before I went to the theater, I watched an episode on TV that was a “documentary” on the people that died in the woods that day. Not only was the movie fake, but the TV episode was a fake of a fake! Genius. Long story short, I went into the theater thinking what I was watching was real and left with a very eerie feeling. It wasn’t until about a week later that I saw the cast on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that I realized that I’d been had.
- A Nightmare on Elm St.
1978’s Halloween may have given birth to the modern-day slasher film, but A Nightmare on Elm St. reinvented it. Wes Craven’s idea of teenagers getting killed by a monster that hunts them in their dreams was nothing short of genius. The film gave audiences an excellent villain with Freddy Krueger, and actually caused its competition to relaunch the Michael Myers franchise. Bonus, the film was the launching play form for New Line Cinema that still has a cornerstone in the film industry of producing horror films. Be sure to watch the episode about A Nightmare on Elm St. on the Netflix show, The Movies That Made Us. You’ll learn quite a bit.
- The Shining and Doctor Sleep
Despite its critical and audience acclaim, it’s said that Stephen King hated the theatrical version of The Shining, but that the movie version of Doctor Sleep redeemed it (in his mind, anyway) and brought the story full circle. If you do or don’t share his opinion, a few things are undoubtedly true: 1) The Shining was a true mind fuck, 2) Jack Nicholson’s performance was amazing, 3) the movie further cemented Kubrick’s already legendary status as an elite (and crazy) Hollywood director, and 4) that it establishes itself as a horror and cult classic. As for Doctor Sleep, it was the perfect sequel made at the perfect time that not only does the Danny character justice but shows us that the storyline has more gas left in the tank than expected.
- Psycho (1960)
Arguably the most classic thriller that was a slasher film before the term has been invented. Hitchcock’s shower scene is the stuff that movie legends are made of. The best thing about this movie is that it is just as relevant today as it was in 1960.
- It (2017)
This won’t be a popular opinion, but I’ll be honest, I hated the original 1990 version of IT. Maybe I saw it too late after its release, but I thought it was pathetic and stupid. However, the 2017 theatrical version was everything that the audience wanted to see on screen, and it embodied the aura of the novel. The sequel that came out a few years later (IT Chapter Two) was okay, but not my favorite simply because adult fear and childhood fear are totally different and could never get past the absurdity of the clown turning into a crab at the end of that movie. IT- CHAPTER ONE, though, will remain at the top of my list for many years to come.
Alien was the movie that reset the science fiction film genre and made Ridley Scott a legend. The chest bursting scene is cringe-worthy to this day. This movie has it all: creativity, innovation, action, fantasy, sci-fi, thrills, and chills. Fun fact: Sigourney Weaver’s Oscar nod was the first time an actress had been nominated in an action role.
- Annabelle Comes Home
All of the films of the original Conjuring franchise are excellent, but Annabelle Cones Home is probably the most fun and proves that The Conjuring universe still has some steam in it. Placing the creepiest demon doll in a room full of other haired objects with a house full of teenagers is guaranteed horror movie gold.
- Insidious 1 & 2
Okay, so I put two movies in one spot. Sue me. Insidious was our first taste of James Wan as a top-notch horror movie director. It also introduced actor Patrick Wilson as the modern day “scream king.” The soon to be released fifth installment in the series has Patrick Wilson directing. You won’t regret this two-movie combo.
- Carrie (1976)
This was Stephen King’s first novel to be made into a movie, but he was overshadowed by the work done by director Brian DePalma. Sissy Spacek has a number of great performances under her belt, but none better than this one, in my opinion. Piper Laurie, who played Carrie’s mother, steals the show.
- Rosemary’s Baby
This movie still creeps me out because it was one of the first movies to directly address the topic of devil worshipping. Moreso, the death of director Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, at the hands of the Manson family still makes me think that Polanski cinematically poked the religious bear and the evil powers that be took notice.
- The Silence of the Lambs
Ah, yes, the film that gave us arguably the best villain in the history of cinema, Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins plays it so well that he almost makes it impossible to hate the character. Almost. What’s undoubtedly true is that Lecter’s character is diabolical and has the smarts to match his viciousness, which is a scary combination. His escape scene is cinematically perfect in every way.
Authors love movies about authors, and this is a film that I can’t get away from. The hobbling scene is still tough to watch to his day and is a departure from the scene in the book where an axe is used instead. I guess what impresses me most about this move, besides a tremendous performance by Kathy Bates, is that the James Caan character, Paul Sheldon, is about to utilize his strengths as an author to outsmart Annie Wilkes.
- The Mothman Prophecies
Probably Richard Gere’s most underrated film and still gives me the creeps because it is based, in part, on real events of the citizens of a West Virginia town seeing a creature of some sort before the collapse of the town’s local bridge. This is a case of the filmmaker’s taking a barely known story, utilizing their skill, and coming out with a tremendous product.
- In the Mouth of Madness
Another movie about the literary world. Having just released Jurassic Park, actor Sam Neill was near the top of Hollywood’s hot list when the movie was released. Add in veteran actors Charleston Heston and Jurgen Prochnow, plus the music and direction of Hollywood legend John Carpenter, and this is film had me from minute one. Some will say that the ending is confusing, but if you feel that way, it’s kind of the point because you’re not supposed to. Is what you are watching now real life or is it still part of a novel come true?
- The Collector (2009)
I only saw this movie in the past year, but I can never resist a film that has a boogeyman that sets traps all over the house for those that trespass.
- Hush (2016)
Netflix hit gold with this one in my estimation. A clever thief breaks into the house of a deaf person, and we get to watch her use her wits and senses to make it out safely. Many movies have tried this tactic before but this one does it right.
- Don’t Breathe
Kids break into a house looking for rumored loot of a blind veteran. There’s a twist in the middle of the film that I wish I could tell you about, but let’s just say that you will end up having to make a choice as to who the protagonist is.
- It Follows (2016)
A hidden entity that haunts you after you have sex and the only way to get it to stop haunting you is to sleep with someone else? Yes, please! Besides the films big zingers, there is also a moral question that has to be asked: Could you knowingly pass on such a haunting to another person in order to alleviate your own?
- Friday the 13th (1981)
Honestly, I almost left this one off my list because the filmmakers knew from the beginning that they were ripping off John Carpenter’s Halloween. Plus, the Jason films have never been my favorite. However, the film helped boost the career of Kevin Bacon and gave the fans the iconic image of Jason Vorhees and his hockey mask. In itself, this makes the film hard to leave off my list.
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