We all remember our first horror film. That bone-chilling sensation, the knowledge that nothing had ever been like this before. If you're anything like us, that first glimpse turned you into a lifelong seeker of cinematic fear.
And clearly we're not alone. There are hundreds of threads on Reddit that compile the scariest films people have ever seen. We've gone through all of the (thousands) of suggestions to find the best of the brutal bunch. If you’re a horror film fanatic and haven’t yet seen these pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat flicks, it’s time to add them to your list.
Be careful what you witch for. In this occult horror from Backcountry writer/director Adam MacDonald, an angsty teenage girl named Leah (Nicole Muñoz) performs a black magic ritual to summon an ancient spirit and kill her mother. Needless to say, things quickly spin out of control.
"I recommend this one all the time. It’s really quite chilling." - Riliey132
2. Dead Silence
From Billy the Puppet in Saw to Annabelle from The Conjuring franchise, horror maestro James Wan’s films are crawling with creepy dolls. Hungry for more model horror? Check out Wan’s 2007 underrated supernatural horror flick, Dead Silence, about the haunting murder of a ventriloquist and a widower’s search for the truth about his wife’s brutal death.
"A movie that I don’t hear enough about that is one of my absolute favorite movies is “Dead Silence”. I don’t really see the ventriloquist angle played all that often and this one was done so well and was genuinely scary to me." - HeyM4nNiceShot
3. Lake Mungo
This low-budget Australian film is told as a documentary of a family dealing with the drowning of their daughter and the paranormal events that surface in the wake of her death. As they struggle to deal with the otherworldly force, they realize this sinister being may be more than they can handle.
"Rarely have I used the phrase ‘it got under my skin,’ but Lake Mungo definitely got under my skin. The first 10-15 minutes are kind of bleh but the rest of the movie is fantastic." - bad-karma24
4. The Fourth Kind
One of the few films on this list to bleed into the science fiction genre, The Fourth Kind is based on supposed real events that occurred in Nome, Alaska in 2000 regarding a series of alien abductions. The eeriest part, no one seems to remember what happened to them until they are hypnotized and an unsettling truth rises to the surface.
"By the time it was over, I was crying and hiding under the covers on the couch too terrified to even get up and turn on a light." - ScaryKerry91476
Lucky McKee’s cult psychological horror film from 2002 follows a lonely young veterinary clinic assistant named May Dove Canady (Angela Bettis). Haunted by her troubled childhood, May struggles make friends beyond her handmade, glass-encased doll named Suzie. Things seem to be looking up when she meets Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a mechanic and budding filmmaker. Soon, however, May’s attempts to fit in take a dark and twisted turn.
"May isn’t really known by anyone who isn’t a big horror fan (or at least I don’t think it is), but it is a really great movie." - MrAnonymous117
6. The Woman
In this visceral horror flick, also from Lucky McKee, a country lawyer stumbles upon and captures the last remaining member of a feral, cannibalistic clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades. Yet this all-American family is far from civilized and the wild woman of the wood has no interest in being tamed.
"[The Woman] is very good, but it is not for the faint-hearted. Check it out if you haven’t, and can handle disturbing horror." - MrAnonymous117
7. As Above, So Below
This story is presented as found footage from a documentary crew’s exploration of the Catacombs of Paris in search of the infamous Philosopher's Stone. When the crew begins having visions of demons and vanishing into the cave walls, they realize something sinister is lurking in the caves–something that wants them gone.
"One of my favourites as well, I thought it used the claustrophobic angle loads, but was really well done! It has a cracking soundtrack. I even enjoyed the ending. The last shot was excellent." - Rex-Havoc
8. The Eyes of My Mother
Unnerved by the sight of a scalpel? Best look away from The Eyes of My Mother. All others, prepare for one sharp and twisted horror flick. Young Francisca lives on a secluded farm with her father and surgeon mother. Francisca’s mother teaches Francisca the inner workings of anatomy and to be unfazed by death. When tragedy strikes the farmhouse, Francisca indulges in her dark and peculiar desires.
"Twisted, nihilistic, stylistic, original idea." - Dwarber150
9. Noroi: The Curse
In this found footage J-horror film, a paranormal investigator vanishes while examining a series of disturbing supernatural incidents connected to an ancient demon known as Kagutaba.
"Noroi: The Curse is one that I rarely see on here. Japanese found footage that is fairly realistic and genuinely creepy with ancient rituals, demon gods, and child sacrifice. If you liked this, try the follow-up Occult which is also found footage and blends in a heavy dose of Lovecraft." - JenniKinoShimatta
10. The Conjuring
Okay, this one isn't exactly underrated—but it isn't talked about nearly as often as James Wan's other horror juggernaut, Insidious. And it really should be. When a family moves into a dilapidated farm house, strange things begin occurring. The clock stops at 3:07 A.M., the family dog mysteriously dies, one of the daughters encounters a malevolent spirit only she can see. And that's just the beginning.
"Absolutely spectacular. I used to be skeptical (aha) about supernatural horror, assuming it was always just cheap jumpscare flicks all with the same story. But I now really need to check out some more, because I loved this!" - Devil_Hand
11. The Houses October Built
This found footage film begins in media res then backtracks to follow a group of friends who, in honor of Halloween, decide to travel around the country finding the scariest haunted houses. Their travels are halted when one house forces each of them confront their deepest fears.
"I don't know why it took me so long to watch this movie! Wow what a perfect horror film! I really wouldn't trade one part of it for another. The hype for the sequel has been popping up everywhere and I decided to give it a shot to see what I was missing and... just... WOW!" - grakercub
The film takes place in two parallel time lines, one in the present and the other 11 years prior. The plot centers around a family who moves into a new home. In order to liven up the place, the father purchases an antique mirror. Unfortunately, they soon find that the mirror induces violent and terrifying hallucinations that terrorize the family.
"Personally, I thought Oculus was the scariest movie I've ever seen. I felt it held the tension, the jump scares were well placed, a ton of creepy imagery." - TimeTrxvel
13. The Changeling
Beware the bouncing ball. Martin Scorsese declared this 1980 haunted house horror one of the scariest movies of all time. A grieving Manhattan composer (George C. Scott) moves to a secluded Victorian mansion to heal from the deaths of his wife and daughter—only to discover a dead child’s troubled ghost haunts the grounds.
"It’s a great haunted house movie with enough creepy atmosphere to make your skin crawl. And the scene with the ball? Classic!!!!" - Chilichamp17
Related: The Real-Life Haunting That Inspired The Changeling
14. The Hills Run Red
Main character Tyler is obsessed with a legendary horror film, The Hills Run Red, which follows the deranged serial killer Babyface. Tyler and three of his friends venture into the forest where the story was said to have taken place. To their horror, they discover the story is far from fictional–and Babyface has been waiting for new victims.
"Odd but fun slasher flick. Not a brain in its head but enjoyable." - Joeyramones
Fifteen years after escaping her captors, Lucie sets out for vengeance against those who wronged her. Complicating her mission is the presence of a demon, one that's haunted her since her escape and only she can see. While controversial upon its release, Martyrs is bound to provide a good scare.
"I can't even describe to you exactly what that movie is about, it's just shocking." - tatdiddymac
16. The Witch
The Witch got a lot of buzz when it first came out. Whether you didn't see it the first time around, or were underwhelmed by your first watch, it's worth taking a second look. Though it focuses on the fear of witchcraft in 17th century New England, The Witch makes the fear very real to today’s viewers.
"Given the family's religious beliefs and total isolation, their situation was down right horrifying. I thought the entire thing was very original and very effective. Good acting (children included) and fantastic cinematography. One of the most well made horrors in the last decade or so." - TooShiftyForYou
Related: Fright Night: 9 of the Best Recent Horror Movies You May Have Missed
17. Session 9
This eerie horror movie from 2001 was shot in the crumbling corridors of a real-life abandoned insane asylum: Danvers State Mental Hospital. An asbestos abatement crew gets to work cleaning up a derelict mental hospital—only to uncover the forsaken facility’s terrifying past.
"Session 9 is a bit of a ‘hidden gem,’ imo. One of my favorite horror movies of all time. Absolutely chilling." - HailPaim0n
18. Goodnight Mommy
A 2014 Austrian horror film, Goodnight Mommy is based on Capgras syndrome in identical twin boys. After returning home from facial surgery, the twins’ mother begins acting strangely, favoring one boy over another and punishing them severely for minor transgressions. The boys begin to suspect the woman claiming to be their mother may be an imposter.
“I just watched this movie and it is one of the most unsettling films I've seen in years” - wizardzkauba
Add one part retro 80s-style slasher flick, two parts pure killer clown nightmare fuel, and pints and pints of blood and gore. What do you get? This twisted horror gem.
"If you haven't seen terrifier you need to, it needs to win an award of some sort." - Wagnerherd
Featured still from "Oculus" via Relativity Media