The best thing about Halloween isn’t the candy. It’s cosying up to your pillow (or bae, or your pup, or your BFF) with candy to watch a scary movie, be it a bloody extravaganza or an animated classic from your childhood. But let’s face it: the list of excellent, high-quality Halloween movies out there can be a tad overwhelming. (Without cheating, do you know how many Paranormal Activity films exist?) Below, in no particular order, a list of some of the best scare fests to ever grace the silver screen:
1 The Shining (1980)
When you think of Halloween, do you immediately see Jack Nicholson’s face from The Shining? Same, along with other images from the 1980 film based on Stephen King’s classic: the Grady daughters, the river of blood spilling out of the elevator doors, and little Danny’s tricycle, to name a few. If you have time and energy to spare after watching this Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, do check out Room 237, the 2012 documentary about different interpretations of The Shining. It’s basically a masterclass on the film with all your pals and – *pushes glasses up* – theories.
2 The Exorcist (1973)
There’s nothing scarier than a horror film from the ’70s, and The Exorcist is a prime example of the type of scare that makes you sleep with the lights on for at least two weeks. Fun fact: The Exorcist was the first horror movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 1974, but lost out to the heist film The Sting. To date, only one horror film has won Best Picture: The Silence Of The Lambs.
3 Halloween (1978)
In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis made her feature film debut as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s slasher flick about an asylum escapee who was originally committed for the murder of his sister. Turns out, Laurie, a young woman he stalks, is his other sister. And turns out, this film is just as scary even if you’ve seen it 30 times. Good luck trying to get Carpenter’s theme song out of your head.
4 Poltergeist (1982)
The most important lesson you’ll get from watching Poltergeist is to turn off your TV and run as soon as the screen fills with static. That, and always, always, check if the land you live on used to be a cemetery.
5 Psycho (1960)
Long before Jamie Lee Curtis met Michael Myers, her mother Janet Leigh was the face of horror after starring in the Alfred Hitchcock movie that probably inspired folks to skip taking showers in ’60s.
6 A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
This Wes Craven classic is a winner for several reasons: it makes you never want to hit the dream phase of sleep; you’ll be glad to have a cellphone in 2018; Johnny Depp is in it for a hot minute (it was his first film).
7 Hocus Pocus (1993)
Halloween movies need not be dark, bloody and nightmare-inducing. Leading the comedy-horror pack are the Sanderson sisters, played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, who are resurrected by a virgin in present-day Salem, unleashing all sorts of mayhem and one of the earliest appearances by actor Doug Jones (as Winnie’s sewed-up ex), who most recently appeared as the fish man in The Shape Of Water.
8 Beetlejuice (1988)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever worn a Beetlejuice-inspired costume for Halloween or, more importantly, dressed up as Winona Ryder’s Lydia, aka the goth girl, from the film.
9 Scream (1996)
This movie had everything: the genius of Wes Craven, the words of Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson, and a young Skeet Ulrich licking ‘pig’s blood’ while Neve Campbell looked on in disgust. The film, which also starred Drew Barrymore and then-married couple Courtney Cox and David Arquette, spawned three more sequels, along with the spoof franchise, Scary Movie.
10 Scary Movie (2000)
The scary films of the mid-to-late ’90s, namely the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer franchises, inspired Keenan Ivory Wayans to make Scary Movie, starring Anna Faris in one of her first films. The kills are over-the-top while the jokes are dirty and wrong, but the film still grossed $278 million (about R4 100 000 000) worldwide. FWIW, that’s more than Scream’s box-office performance ($173 million [R2 600 000 000] worldwide).
11 Practical Magic (1998)
Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are sisters Sally and Gillian, who try to use their powers (yes, they’re witches) to undo a family curse that results in any significant other that comes into their lives to drop dead. Come for all the magic, stay for Stockard Channing’s commanding screen presence.
12 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Not long after the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town concludes he’s simply bored with the annual celebrations related to the blessed day that is Halloween, he stumbles into Christmas Town and immediately becomes infatuated, so much so that he tries to recreate the holiday at home.
13 The Addams Family (1991)
This dark comedy is satisfying for several reasons, including the fact that Angelica Huston was born to play the Addams family matriarch Morticia Addams. (Seriously, can you picture anyone else in Morticia’s long black dress, blood-red lipstick and deadly stare-downs?) The film is extra fun if you do any of the following: clap along to the theme song; wear braids like Christina Ricci’s Wednesday; impersonate Cousin Itt.
14 Halloweentown (1998)
With the recent discovery that Marnie Piper and Kal (from Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge) are dating IRL, it’s imperative that you (re)watch the first Halloweentown, which made us all question what we’d do if we suddenly found out we were related to witches. This film is best enjoyed with a plate full of cookies – that you’re allowed to have, of course.
15 The Others (2001)
It’s hard to look away from Nicole Kidman’s powerhouse performance as Grace, a loving and religious mother who tries to protect her children from a photosensitivity disease that keeps them indoors. Who still gets chills upon hearing her daughter Anne say, ‘Are you mad? I am your daughter’?
16 Paranormal Activity (2007)
Even if you watch this film in broad daylight with lots of people, snacks and the volume turned down at its lowest, you’ll still flinch and scream so many times you’ll (1) never want to move houses/apartments, (2) never sleep, (3) never look at baby powder the same way. If you ever have literally nothing else to do and want to have a Paranormal Activity marathon, there are a total of six films in the franchise, including 2015’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
17 A Quiet Place (2018)
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt put their real-life relationship to the test when he directed himself and Emily in this post-apocalyptic horror film about a family living in silence while monsters with super-sensitive hearing hunt humans. The film is so good a sequel has already been ordered for 2020.
18 Carrie (1976)
Stephen King’s first-ever novel was such a hit that it was made into a film starring Sissy Spacek just two years after the book’s release. Sissy played Carrie White, the 17-year-old telekinetic power-possessing outcast who puts an end to a long reign of bullying by her classmates after a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped on her at prom.
19 Get Out (2017)
A young man and his girlfriend go on a weekend getaway to her parents’ house, only to find out the family’s dirty, horrifying secret. Jordan Peele won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his directorial debut, which starred Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Lakeith Stanfield.
20 The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring franchise, which most recently spawned The Nun, began in 2013 with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life paranormal investigators whose reports led to The Amityville Horror book and related films.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com
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