Horror means something different to everyone. While some people will yawn at blood and dismembered bodies, subtle gore-free horror will leave them lying awake in bed for a fortnight. For others, a dismembered body or evil child leaves them deeply unsettled in ways they can’t explain, even though they know “it’s not real.” Whatever gets your heart rate up, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something on this list to suit the bill. So invite some friends over, order a pizza, and pop in a selection from our list of 25 Best Horror Films To Keep You Awake All Night (and no, we didn’t even include the 2016 US presidential election).
Obligatory Common Sense Disclaimer: All of these movies are intended for a mature audience. Do not watch them with your child or your grandmother; do not watch them at all if dirty words and dismembered body parts give you a case of the vapors.
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Poltergeist (1982) is a classic for a reason. Nearly everyone is disturbed by it on some level. Something about disembodied faceless evil is just...unsettling.
House On Haunted Hill (1999) is a good crowd-pleasing horror flick with plenty of moments to make your date jump into your lap. A group of people get invited by a rich guy to spend the night at an old haunted insane asylum, and chaos ensues as they're literally dragged into the grim history of the place. Bonus is Marilyn Manson's cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams."
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) combines the really creepy and unexpected elements of Alzheimers and witchcraft. It's a new take on the classic possession trope.
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) is a must see for everyone, and the scary thing is that we know there are people like Hannibal Lecter out there. The story is fictitious, but cannibalistic serial killers aren't. After listening to tapes of serial killers in preparing for the role, one of the actors ran out of Quantico sobbing and became in favor of the death penalty.
Frenzy (1972) is one of Hitchcock's later films, and it absolutely needs to be on your to watch list. It's about a serial killer, but instead of the expected "who did it," it takes a unique, very unsettling, typically Hitchcock-suspensfull approach.
Silent Hill (2006) is at it's heart a sad story about a little girl dying. Then it gets creepy when the girl and her mom drive through a town where hell on earth is slowly taking over and eating the town alive. It's also a rather solid entry into the video-game-to-movie genre.
Let The Right One In (2008) is a vampire flick in that one character lives off blood, but that's where your expectations of a traditional vampire movie should end. Eli looks like a 12 year old girl when she be friends Oskar, who's poor, has been bullied, and needs a friend. It's a boy meets girl story, except that the girl in question isn't a sweet human girl, and the boy clearly isn't bothered by this. Make sure you get the original Swedish film, not the American remake.
The Nightmare (2015) is a documentary that explores sleep paralysis - a temporary nightly condition that leaves you unable to speak or move - and the things people have claimed to see while paralyzed. That's really enough to go on; the whole premise is as terrifying as it sounds, and it really happens to thousands of people.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) was not only a new style of film, it was scary for reasons we can't quite pinpoint. Seeing someone's real, not Hollywood overacted terror about being lost in the woods with someone hunting you tends to strike a chord within most people.
The Shining (1980) is the movie that solidified Jack Nicholson as that unsettling and creepy guy in Hollywood. Watching someone descend into madness and then hunt their family is something that sticks with you.
Stephen King's "It" is a movie about a demon possessed clown that kills children. Yep. It's as horrifying and weird as it sounds. It's actually a mini series and not a film, but it still deserves it's spot on the list.
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Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. A group of friends gets hunted by a family of cannibalistic serial killers in Texas. This movie a great example of why you don't pick up hitchhikers, too.
The Cabin In The Woods (2012) is an all around fantastic film that also happens to be a horror movie that's pretty darn disturbing on some levels. Apparently sacrifices must be made, or they will rise. Just go watch it. And if you need another reason, Joss Whedon (Buffy, Avengers, Firefly) co-wrote and produced the movie.
The Omen (1976) is about an adopted little boy who may or may not be the Antichrist bringing about the end of the world. Creepy evil children are just a whole different level of scary. The movie represents one of every parent's worst fears.
The Devil's Backbone (2001) is a Guillermo del Toro film, which for many places it instantly on the "must watch" list. A boy who's been orphaned during the Spanish civil war arrives at an orphanage to find, well, ghosts and secrets. Particularly horrifying and sad because war and orphans of war are not make believe.
The Babadook (2014) is one of those films where the trailer told us it was one thing, but it turned out to be about another. A widow and her young discover that monsters from a children's book can come to life. It's hard to give you more without giving away the plot.
The Evil Dead is a movie about friends that find themselves in a cabin in the woods before finding themselves dying horribly, but this is the classic that spawned others. They accidentally bring the dead to life, and the dead start to toy with them. Good times for everyone if good times are watching your friends die and cutting off your own possessed appendages. It's the first in the Evil Dead trilogy, which goes on to Evil Dead II and culminates in Army of Darkness, which includes time travel and the zombie Apocalypse.
Nosferatu (1922) is a German film that plays heavily into everyone's fear of being watched and the instinctual fear we all have of pale creepy faces. Count Orlock, who is a vampire (or Nosferatu) takes a new interest in his real estate agent's wife. It's just not the face you want to see staring in your window at night. It's black and white, a classic of the genre, and despite being nearly one hundred years old, will still give you chills.
The Thing (1982) should make you afraid of being alone as well as being cold. Set in a research facility in Antarctica, The Thing centers around the crew trying to survive an entity that can take on the visage of those it kills. Currently, the crew of the South Pole research station watches this movie and the 2011 remake at the start of every winter, once the last flight out before spring has left.
28 Days Later (2002) is the movie that gave us all fears of a viral zombie outbreak. The first of the "fast moving" zombies, it starts with a man waking up in a London hospital to find the world gone mad. This basic theme would later be repeated several times over in following zombie films, but this is where it all started. It'll make you slightly anxious every time you here "The CDC" on the radio for a bit.
The Descent (2005) is a great(ly traumatizing) horror flick for anyone who's even mildly claustrophobic. Even if you aren't, you might be after watching it. A group of women go spelunking in an unmapped cave system and end up becoming hunted while trapped in a cave with no hope of rescue.
The Host (2007) is a monster movie from Korea about a possibly man-made or mutated entity that kidnaps children, and one father's attempts to rescue his child. It has moments of campy comedy to make it enjoyable but also reminds us that sometimes the real monsters are humans.
Hellraiser (1987) is strange and frightening, even when judged among the other movies on this list. It shows what happens when your skinless undead boyfriend escapes a hell dimension and you have to kill people to bring him fully to life. That's not the weirdest part...just have a cuddle buddy nearby when watching this one.
The Exorcist (1973) is still a movie most people do not want to watch alone in a dark house, despite being over 40 years old. While it's possible we've been somewhat desensitized to the idea of possession in a movie since it's debut, it's an incredibly well made film that caused shock waves at the time. Little girls should not turn green and curse out priests. It will have most viewers muttering a prayer before bed.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968) is George Romero's masterpiece and the first modern zombie film. It was also one of the first films to use explicit gore. Don't be fooled by it's age and the fact that it's in black and white. This one stays with you awhile.
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