Talkback: What is the Single Scariest Movie of All Time?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 75.jpg

Please hold your ironic responses like Sex and the City 2 and Under the Cherry Moon, because we'll get to that prompt later this weekend. As we approach another Halloween full of mediocre scares like vampires, ghouls, and Braeburn apples outfitted with razor blades, it's time we get definitive about the most chilling Halloween treats -- les films d'horreur, of course. You can only pick one: What's the single scariest movie ever?

I assume we've all been through that stage in life where we decide horror movies are the coolest, most interesting things on earth, and all we want to do is see every highbrow and lowbrow piece of Fangoria smut on the planet. Seventh grade? Tenth grade? Somewhere in between? I went through that phase, and the one movie that has truly planted a seed of fear in my nerve center, germinated, lived, thrived, and made me terrified ever to see it again -- is Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unlike the smooth and swift killers of later horror films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre presents a family of lunatics who gallop and guffaw like inbred animals, and their insanity feels like that of true, warped, Manson family freaks -- while remaining "backwoods" in a believable way. It's a movie where even the final shot -- one of shock and triumph as our hero flees the scene -- is mesmerizing and scary. I don't think it's been topped. Also, though Leatherface is the legendary psychopath of the film, he's not even the scariest thing about it. The movie finds dozens of ways to be scary without resorting only to a weirdo leaping from the shadows. So impressive and traumatizing.

What do you think? You prefer something woozier like Nightmare on Elm Street, more wicked like Scream, or more obscure and cool like -- well, you tell me. You're the cultured one!


  • Mallory says:

    The most horrifying thing from when I was a kid was The Dark Crystal... As an adult? Death Proof was the most stressful, but the first Paranormal Activity scared the shit out of me...

  • SD says:

    I have managed to traumatise my sister and my wife with The Wicker Man so that has to count for something. (It is sad that I should probably qualify that statement by saying "the original").
    It isn't scary now but as a child Jaws induced enough trauma to always make me worried whenever I got too far from shore.
    Recently I found Human Centipede pretty scary just because it seemed real and didn't rely on jump scares. It was just a slow build of tension and craziness.

  • The WInchester says:

    I forgot about the Descent, too! That movie scares the crap out of me just with those scenes in the cave, before anything starts eating anything else.

  • tut2 says:

    Then : HALLOWEEN
    Now: TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME (everything about the Black Lodge and Bob creep me out beyond comprehension)

  • stolidog says:

    ph ph ph ph Phantasm. I don't know what it is/was about that movie, but that ball haunted my dreams for months after I saw it as a kid.

  • Jake says:

    I know this isn't exactly a highly regarded titan of the horror genre, but I was so freaked out by When A Stranger Calls Back. There was something so freaky about the opening sequence with (SPOILER ALERT) a killer that is a ventriloquist who can throw his voice. It was such a smart twist on the whole, "The calls are coming from inside the house!" thing when you find out the voice is coming from inside the house. Of course, I was also much younger when I saw it, so maybe I wouldn't feel the same way watching it now.
    Oh, and Poltergeist was sooo scary back then too, and the legend about the actors dying only added to it.

  • blizzard bound says:

    I am easily terrified and avoid horror movies at all costs. (Even "Biutiful" gave me nightmares.) But I remember seeing "The Bad Seed" on TV once when I was a kid and being completely traumatized.

  • Mathieu says:

    Has anybody seen the spanish film The Nameless ? I think it's easily the most scary film I've seen in my adult life. I have goosebumps every time I think about the last line spoken in the movie. Parts of Twin Peaks: Fire Walks With Me and Lost Highway used to really scare me also... As a kid, the clown from It just terrified me. I also have to admit that The Blair Witch Project really freaked me out.

  • Linda says:

    No. 1, French film, "Martyrs"; No. 2, Japanese film, "Audition."

  • casting couch says:

    "Wanna see something really scary?"

  • KevyB says:

    Oh, man, the scenes where they are squooshing their bodies through the cave? Fuhreaked me out!
    Very few horror films actually scare me, but there are certainly scenes within some films that are classics. The pencil in the leg in Evil Dead. The scene where they climb over Ghostface's unconscious body in Scream 2. The girl climbing out of the television in The Ring. The alien popping out of the guy's chest in Alien. The opening scene of Night of the Living Dead. Obviously the shower scene from Psycho.
    That said, I'd have to say the best - the one with the most classically memorable scenes - has to be The Birds. The long-distance gas station explosion followed by Tippi in the phone booth. The slow reveal of the dude with his eyes pecked out. The birds flying into the house through the chimney. Tippi in the upstairs room being bombarded by birds. And, of course, one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, the birds landing on the jungle gym and then chasing the kids down the street. A scene so fantastic it's STILL being copied (most recently - and poorly - on Terra Nova).

  • Morgo says:

    i have uncontrollably at Ju-Oh and Friday 13th Part 2.
    Also have nightmares about the beginning and ending of When a stranger calls (original - but the remake remakes only the beginning) The killer in the bed with her is just scary.
    I also get chills thinking about the endings of Blair Witch Project and Don't Look Now (despite the killer dwarf being hilariously preposterous to me in theory, every time I think about it I shudder involuntarily.
    My most enjoyable scary movies are Orphan, House of Wax (the elisha cuthbert one) Ringu and Scream.
    Oh, and I saw one recently called The Children, which was very creepy and very good.
    So many... when am I going to grow out of my horror phase?

  • Morgo says:

    I was traumatised as a child by a TV ad for Stand by Me, when one of the boys pointed in horror and shouted "Jesus!" Even though I was a christian child, the thought of some horrific Jesus ghost floating down the train tracks struck a chord of deep, inexplicable horror in me. It has actually permanently associated itself with both the song and the movie - whenever either comes on I have to turn them off.

  • Morgo says:

    Oh, and I even forgot about another fun favorite, which is Severance

  • Dan Tralder says:

    The Spanish do it better.
    Combine the crew of "El Orfanato" with the "Wait until Dark" concept, and you get "Los Ojos de Julia". Scared the camp right out of me.
    Also, the first scene of "Scream": clearly someone involved must have been secretly Spanish.

  • 2+2=5 says:

    Oh yes, the French Inside is also absolutely shocking and disturbing all around, so much blood... And I watched Inside just few days after Martyrs, another French horror masterpiece, so I pretty much was in love with France that week. But then I saw Frontier(s) and the love was quickly over.

  • Heidi says:

    Horror movies that scared me as a kid:
    Poltergeist - clown toys are still scary to me.
    The Entity (with Barbara Hershey) - because it was based on a real haunting!
    Cujo - I still have an unnatural fear of St. Bernards.
    Halloween - I'll never forget the terror of that last scene.
    Horror movies that scared me as an adult:
    The Others - spooky fun with a twist - loved it.
    The Ring - I didn't answer the phone for weeks. That girl coming out of the TV still haunts me to this day.
    and The Blair Witch Project scared the beejesus out of me. My husband still can freak me out just by standing in the corner and not saying a word.

  • whoneedslight says:

    The Strangers was also pretty damn scary.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    "The Shining" has to be the winner for without it we might not have Lynch or Silent Hill or Asian Horror. Then where would we be? (other than not hiding under the bed...)
    Ps> It is ALWAYS best to hide under the bed because then something can't get you from under the bed because you have taken their hiding place.

  • A No Knee Moose says:

    The all time greatest will always be the Exorcist- I can't imagine anything being able to dethrone it (at least not for a long time). Most horror is not even scary... but every once in awhile you get one that hits that nerve just right.
    When I was a kid, Yul Brynner in Westworld freaked me out. Bone chilling performance.

  • GG says:

    Hey Yul Brynner in Westworld left me traumatized for months as a kid too. What a chilling performance! So real. Jurassic Park was basically the same premise but it didn't have the same effect on me. Also, on the TV side, Kolchak the Night Stalker series was pretty frightening and some Night Gallery episodes caused me to sleep with my light on. The Night Gallery theme alone was pretty frightening too.

  • Josie says:

    Enjoyed reading this, very good stuff, thanks.

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