(Photo by Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection)

The 80 Best 2000s Horror Movies

Welcome to the new millennium. The decade horror came home to America. The decade horror went global. Welcome to the 80 Best Horror Movies of the 2000s.

If horror movies reflect the fears and concerns of a people, it’s notable that America claimed torture-porn as their de rigueur subgenre. Something in Saw and its ilk’s slow-roasted dismantling of human flesh appealed to a nation consumed by post-9/11 paranoia and a bombardment of wartime images and atrocity. But while torture-porn movies made a killing at the box office, none were ever particularly well-reviewed; only Hostel arrives here. Recovering from the ’90s doldrums, the best horror movies came from overseas, as digital cameras lowered the cost to film and the rise of the internet made knowledge and dissemination of these movies as simple as a mouse click. In fact, of the top 10 movies here (which includes the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Host), only two were shot in America. Other trends seen during this decade: Asian originals and occasional remakes (The Ring, Thirst), found footage (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield), the return of the living dead (Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later), and nostalgic throwbacks (Slither, Death Proof). The only stipulation for a movie to be considered for this list was a Fresh rating from at least 20 reviews.

Time to add some scary MIDIs to your MySpace and set AIM status to away (FOREVER), because here comes the best scary 2000s movies!

90 Best ’70s Horror Movies | 80 Best ’80s Horror Movies
40 Best ’90s Horror Movies| 140 Best 2010s Horror Movies
200 Best Horror Movies of All Time | Best Horror Movies of 2021

#80
#80
Adjusted Score: 64953%
Critics Consensus: This gory, senses-assaulting slasher film is an unpretentious, effective mix of old-school horror stylings and modern 3D technology.
Synopsis: Ten years ago, an inexperienced coal miner named Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) caused an accident that killed five men and... [More]
Directed By: Patrick Lussier

#79

Them (2006)
62%

#79
Adjusted Score: 62490%
Critics Consensus: Suspenseful and tense from start to finish, the French horror film Them proves that a lack of gore doesn't mean a dearth of scares.
Synopsis: Lucas (Michaël Cohen) and Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) live in an isolated house near Bucharest. On one rainy night in their... [More]
Directed By: David Moreau, Xavier Palud

#78

Day Watch (2006)
62%

#78
Adjusted Score: 64653%
Critics Consensus: Day Watch is frequently cheesy but it offers enough twists, surprises, and inventive action sequences to maintain viewer interest.
Synopsis: Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), a member of a group of supernatural guardians who monitor the forces of the Dark, discovers that... [More]
Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov

#77
#77
Adjusted Score: 65827%
Critics Consensus: As Diary of the Dead proves, time hasn't subdued George A. Romero's affection for mixing politics with gore, nor has it given him cinematic grace or subtlety.
Synopsis: The dead are returning to life to feast on the flesh of the living. As civilization dissolves in this nightmare... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero

#76

Cabin Fever (2002)
62%

#76
Adjusted Score: 66498%
Critics Consensus: More gory than scary, Cabin Fever is satisfied with paying homage to genre conventions rather than reinventing them.
Synopsis: Bert (James DeBello), a college student vacationing with friends in the mountains, mistakenly shoots a local man (Arie Verveen) with... [More]
Directed By: Eli Roth

#75

Identity (2003)
62%

#75
Adjusted Score: 66794%
Critics Consensus: Identity is a film that will divide audiences -- the twists of its plot will either impress or exasperate you.
Synopsis: When a vicious storm breaks out in the Nevada desert, 10 people seek refuge in an isolated motel. At the... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#74
Adjusted Score: 64120%
Critics Consensus: Poultrygeist may be relentlessly tasteless and juvenile, but it's also a lively slice of schlocky fun.
Synopsis: Some fast-food workers discover the restaurant they work in is built on an ancient burial ground, and the chickens they... [More]
Directed By: Lloyd Kaufman

#73

Martyrs (2008)
64%

#73
Adjusted Score: 64772%
Critics Consensus: A real polarising movie, this Gallic torture-porn is graphic, brutal, nasty and gruesome and not to everyone's taste.
Synopsis: A young woman's quest for revenge leads her down a path of depravity.... [More]
Directed By: Pascal Laugier

#72

In My Skin (2002)
64%

#72
Adjusted Score: 64649%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A Parisian marketing professional, Esther (Marina de Van) has a gruesome secret. She's been obsessed with the damage she can... [More]
Directed By: Marina de Van

#71

Session 9 (2001)
66%

#71
Adjusted Score: 67275%
Critics Consensus: Relying more on atmosphere than gore, Session 9 is effectively creepy.
Synopsis: A tale of terror when a group of asbestos removal workers start work in an abandoned insane asylum. The complex... [More]
Directed By: Brad Anderson

#70

The Eye (2002)
64%

#70
Adjusted Score: 66943%
Critics Consensus: Conventional ghost tale with a few genuine scares.
Synopsis: After 18 years of blindness, 20-year-old violinist Wong Kar Mun (Lee Sin-Je) regains her vision when she undergoes a corneal... [More]

#69

Willard (2003)
64%

#69
Adjusted Score: 67108%
Critics Consensus: In this creepy story of a man and his rodents, Glover seems born to play the oddball title character.
Synopsis: Desperate for companionship, the repressed Willard (Crispin Glover) befriends a group of rats that inhabit his late father's deteriorating mansion.... [More]
Directed By: Glen Morgan

#68

Lunacy (2005)
65%

#68
Adjusted Score: 64620%
Critics Consensus: A Svankmajer movie is not for everyone, but he displays his usual creative flair for surreal imagery.
Synopsis: In 19th-century France a young man (Pavel Liska) meets a nobleman (Jan Tríska) who invites him to spend the night... [More]
Directed By: Jan Svankmajer

#67

Ichi the Killer (2001)
65%

#67
Adjusted Score: 65806%
Critics Consensus: Ichi The Killer is a thoroughly shocking gorefest that will surely entertain those with strong stomachs and a penchant for brutal violence.
Synopsis: A bloodthirsty hoodlum (Tadanobu Asano) sparks a series of violent reprisals after his boss is apparently taken by a mysterious... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#66
Adjusted Score: 66064%
Critics Consensus: Death Proof may feel somewhat minor in the context of Tarantino's larger filmography, but on its own merits, it packs just enough of a wallop to deliver sufficiently high-octane grindhouse goods.
Synopsis: Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is a professional body double who likes to take unsuspecting women for deadly drives in his... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

#65

Carriers (2009)
66%

#65
Adjusted Score: 65727%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a virus threatens to wipe out humanity, Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), his brother Brian (Chris Pine), and their friends... [More]
Directed By: Àlex Pastor, David Pastor

#64

Severance (2006)
66%

#64
Adjusted Score: 68365%
Critics Consensus: A twisted and bloody spoof on office life, Severance nicely balances comedy and nasty horror.
Synopsis: Members (Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny) of the Palisades Defense Corp. sales group arrive in Europe for a team-building... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Smith

#63

My Little Eye (2002)
67%

#63
Adjusted Score: 52363%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As part of an Internet reality show, five people sign up to spend six months in a mansion while cameras... [More]
Directed By: Marc Evans

#62
Adjusted Score: 67391%
Critics Consensus: If nothing else, Happiness of the Katakuris scores points for its delirious, over-the-top originality.
Synopsis: Fearing bad publicity, an innkeeper and his family bury the bodies of their ill-fated guests themselves.... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#61

Red Dragon (2002)
68%

#61
Adjusted Score: 73209%
Critics Consensus: Competently made, but everything is a bit too familiar.
Synopsis: Ex-FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in... [More]
Directed By: Brett Ratner

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 68430%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Members of Charles Manson's cult tell their story.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Van Bebber

#59

Tormented (2009)
69%

#59
Adjusted Score: 69530%
Critics Consensus: It relies too heavily on American slasher cliches, but Tormented is a timely, funny, and even somewhat touching entry in the high school horror genre.
Synopsis: Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean) doesn't have it easy. He's overweight, uses an inhaler and is constantly bullied by his spoiled... [More]
Directed By: Jon Wright

#58

May (2002)
70%

#58
Adjusted Score: 70710%
Critics Consensus: Above average slasher flick.
Synopsis: Young misfit May (Angela Bettis) endured a difficult childhood because of her lazy eye. And though contact lenses have helped... [More]
Directed By: Lucky McKee

#57

Dead Snow (2009)
69%

#57
Adjusted Score: 70499%
Critics Consensus: Though it doesn't cover new ground, Dead Snow is an entertaining mix of camp, scares, and blood and guts.
Synopsis: A party of eight Norwegian medical students travel to a remote Arctic mountain for an Easter weekend filled with skiing... [More]
Directed By: Tommy Wirkola

#56

American Psycho (2000)
69%

#56
Adjusted Score: 74646%
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Directed By: Mary Harron

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 75479%
Critics Consensus: Snakes on a Plane lives up to its title, featuring snakes on a plane. It isn't perfect, but then again, it doesn't need to be.
Synopsis: FBI agent Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) boards a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles, escorting a witness to trial.... [More]
Directed By: David R. Ellis

#54

The Mist (2007)
72%

#54
Adjusted Score: 77086%
Critics Consensus: Frank Darabont's impressive camerawork and politically incisive script make The Mist a truly frightening experience.
Synopsis: After a powerful storm damages their Maine home, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head into town to... [More]
Directed By: Frank Darabont

#53

Open Water (2003)
71%

#53
Adjusted Score: 77700%
Critics Consensus: A low budget thriller with some intense moments.
Synopsis: Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) embark on a tropical vacation with their scuba-diving certifications in tow. During a... [More]
Directed By: Chris Kentis

#52

28 Weeks Later (2007)
71%

#52
Adjusted Score: 79384%
Critics Consensus: While 28 Weeks Later lacks the humanism that made 28 Days Later a classic, it's made up with fantastic atmosphere and punchy direction.
Synopsis: Six months after the original epidemic, the rage virus has all but annihilated the population of the British Isles. Nevertheless... [More]

#51

The Ring (2002)
71%

#51
Adjusted Score: 76860%
Critics Consensus: With little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skin, thanks to director Gore Verbinski's haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.
Synopsis: It sounds like just another urban legend -- a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski

#50

Grace (2009)
72%

#50
Adjusted Score: 71454%
Critics Consensus: Though not entirely effective as a conventional horror flick, Grace is still a graphic, disturbing, and artful exploration of twisted maternal instinct.
Synopsis: In the wake of a horrific car accident that kills her husband, Michael (Stephen Park), expectant mother Madeline Matheson (Jordan... [More]
Directed By: Paul Solet

#49

Vampire Hunter D (2000)
72%

#49
Adjusted Score: 71433%
Critics Consensus: Vampire Hunter D's gothic charms may be lost on those unfamiliar with the anime series that spawned it, but the crisp action and nightmarish style will satiate horror aficionados' bloodlust.
Synopsis: In a dark and distant future, when the undead have arisen from apocalyptic ashes, an original story unfolds. Ten thousand... [More]
Directed By: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

#48

Dahmer (2002)
72%

#48
Adjusted Score: 71477%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this fictionalized, fragmented biopic of one of America's most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer (Jeremy Renner) contemplates his latest... [More]
Directed By: David Jacobson

#47

I Sell the Dead (2008)
72%

#47
Adjusted Score: 72090%
Critics Consensus: A horror comedy that's almost as chilling as it is funny, I Sell the Dead relies on its dark humor and offbeat charm to overcome its low budget shortcomings.
Synopsis: Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) is about to be executed by guillotine for the crime of grave robbing. But before he... [More]
Directed By: Glenn McQuaid

#46

Gozu (2003)
72%

#46
Adjusted Score: 72238%
Critics Consensus: Miike continues his run of compellingly bizarre flicks.
Synopsis: Chaos ensues when a yakuza boss orders a young gangster (Hideki Sone) to kill an insane colleague (Shô Aikawa).... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#45

Fido (2007)
72%

#45
Adjusted Score: 74639%
Critics Consensus: Making the most of its thin premise, Fido is an occasionally touching satire that provides big laughs and enough blood and guts to please gorehounds.
Synopsis: When a cloud of space dust causes the dead to rise as ravenous zombies, the ZomCon Corp. emerges to conquer... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Currie

#44

Black Sheep (2006)
72%

#44
Adjusted Score: 74596%
Critics Consensus: With an outrageous premise played completely straight, Black Sheep is a violent, grotesque, and very funny movie that takes B-movie lunacy to a delirious extreme.
Synopsis: Sheep-fearing Henry (Nathan Meister) returns to his brother's (Peter Feeney) New Zealand farm, hoping his sibling will buy out his... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan King

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 72501%
Critics Consensus: A creative and energetic adaptation of a Clive Barker short story, with enough scares and thrills to be a potential cult classic.
Synopsis: When struggling photographer Leon Kaufman (Bradley Cooper) meets the owner of a prominent art gallery, he sees a chance for... [More]
Directed By: Ryûhei Kitamura

#42
#42
Adjusted Score: 74181%
Critics Consensus: This French animated horror portmanteau is monochrome and minimalist, visually stunning, but light on scares.
Synopsis: Animated sequences explore people's fear of darkness.... [More]

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: 76664%
Critics Consensus: Brotherhood of the Wolf mixes its genres with little logic, but the end result is wildly entertaining.
Synopsis: In a rural province of France, a mysterious creature is laying waste to the countryside, savagely killing scores of women... [More]
Directed By: Christophe Gans

#40

Splinter (2008)
74%

#40
Adjusted Score: 73727%
Critics Consensus: Never taking itself too seriously, Splinter scores as a fast-paced, fun thriller with more than enough scares.
Synopsis: When their plans for a nature trip go awry, Polly Watt (Jill Wagner) and boyfriend Seth Belzer (Paulo Costanzo) decide... [More]
Directed By: Toby Wilkins

#39

Frailty (2002)
75%

#39
Adjusted Score: 78833%
Critics Consensus: Creepy and disturbing, Frailty is well-crafted, low-key horror.
Synopsis: Set in present day Texas, "Frailty" centers on the FBI's search for a serial killer who calls himself "God's Hands."... [More]
Directed By: Bill Paxton

#38

Land of the Dead (2005)
74%

#38
Adjusted Score: 80997%
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.
Synopsis: In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from... [More]
Directed By: George Romero

#37

Hair High (2004)
75%

#37
Adjusted Score: 63757%
Critics Consensus: Hair High isn't first-tier Plympton, but like the rest of the animator's work, this is an assuredly odd tale that should resonate with fans of strange cinema.
Synopsis: As the prom approaches, the head cheerleader (Sarah Silverman) of Echo Lake High dumps her quarterback boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) in... [More]
Directed By: Bill Plympton

#36

Planet Terror (2007)
76%

#36
Adjusted Score: 75388%
Critics Consensus: A cool and hip grindhouse throwback, Planet Terror is an unpredictable zombie thrillride.
Synopsis: An ordinary evening in a small Texas town becomes a grisly nightmare when a horde of flesh-eating zombies goes on... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#35
Adjusted Score: 77015%
Critics Consensus: A smart mockumentary that presents a gory, funny, and obviously affectionate skewering of the slasher genre.
Synopsis: Nice, normal-looking Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) has an obsession with movie-style slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger.... [More]
Directed By: Scott Glosserman

#34

The Last Winter (2006)
76%

#34
Adjusted Score: 77442%
Critics Consensus: The Last Winter creatively and effectively uses horror tactics -- fear, tension, anticipation, and just enough gore -- to shock, but never repulse, its audience.
Synopsis: Sent to evaluate the environmental impact of oil drilling in the Arctic, James Hoffman (James Le Gros) clashes with the... [More]
Directed By: Larry Fessenden

#33

Dawn of the Dead (2004)
76%

#33
Adjusted Score: 82020%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic, violent and surprisingly worthy remake of George Romero's horror classic that pays homage to the original while working on its own terms.
Synopsis: When her husband is attacked by a zombified neighbor, Ana (Sarah Polley) manages to escape, only to realize her entire... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#32

Cloverfield (2008)
78%

#32
Adjusted Score: 85516%
Critics Consensus: A sort of Blair Witch Project crossed with Godzilla, Cloverfield is economically paced, stylistically clever, and filled with scares.
Synopsis: As a group of New Yorkers (Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman) enjoy a going-away party, little do they know... [More]
Directed By: Matt Reeves

#31

Eden Lake (2008)
80%

#31
Adjusted Score: 80363%
Critics Consensus: A brutal and effective British hoodie-horror that, despite the clichés, stays on the right side of scary.
Synopsis: During a romantic weekend getaway, a young couple confronts a gang of youths, and suffers brutal consequences.... [More]
Directed By: James Watkins

#30

Dog Soldiers (2002)
79%

#30
Adjusted Score: 78819%
Critics Consensus: Frightening, funny, and packed with action, Dog Soldiers is well worth checking out for genre fans -- and marks writer-director Neil Marshall as a talent to keep an eye on.
Synopsis: During a routine nighttime training mission in the Scottish Highlands, a small squad of British soldiers expected to rendezvous with... [More]
Directed By: Neil Marshall

#29

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
79%

#29
Adjusted Score: 81984%
Critics Consensus: The best movie to star both the King and JFK.
Synopsis: After falling into a lengthy coma following a freak accident involving hip gyration, a now aged Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell)... [More]
Directed By: Don Coscarelli

#28

1408 (2007)
79%

#28
Adjusted Score: 86378%
Critics Consensus: Relying on psychological tension rather than overt violence and gore, 1408 is a genuinely creepy thriller with a strong lead performance by John Cusack.
Synopsis: Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a successful author who enjoys worldwide acclaim debunking supernatural phenomena -- before he checks into... [More]
Directed By: Mikael Hafstrom

#27

Wake Wood (2011)
80%

#27
Adjusted Score: 80077%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The parents of a deceased girl are given three days with their dead daughter.... [More]
Directed By: David Keating

#26

Teeth (2007)
80%

#26
Adjusted Score: 82181%
Critics Consensus: Smart, original, and horrifically funny, Teeth puts a fresh feminist spin on horror movie tropes.
Synopsis: Dawn (Jess Weixler) is an active member of her high-school chastity club but, when she meets Tobey (Hale Appleman), nature... [More]
Directed By: Mitchell Lichtenstein

#25

Thirst (2009)
80%

#25
Adjusted Score: 84278%
Critics Consensus: The stylish Thirst packs plenty of bloody thrills to satisfy fans of both vampire films and director Chan Wook Park.
Synopsis: Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a respected priest, volunteers for an experimental procedure that may lead to a cure for a deadly... [More]
Directed By: Park Chan-wook

#24

Taxidermia (2006)
81%

#24
Adjusted Score: 80994%
Critics Consensus: Surreal and visually striking, Taxidermia is, at times, graphic and difficult to watch, but creatively touches on disturbing subjects with imagination and wit.
Synopsis: Set over three generations and beginning with Morosgoványi Vendel, a sexually frustrated orderly during the war who relieves his tensions... [More]
Directed By: Gyorgy Palfi

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 86070%
Critics Consensus: Shadow of the Vampire is frightening, compelling, and funny, and features an excellent performance by Willem Dafoe.
Synopsis: F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) is struggling to create his silent classic "Nosferatu" on location in Eastern Europe. The director... [More]
Directed By: E. Elias Merhige

#22

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
84%

#22
Adjusted Score: 84456%
Critics Consensus: A deftly crafted tribute to Halloween legends, Trick 'r' Treat hits all the genre marks with gusto and old fashioned suspense.
Synopsis: Interwoven stories demonstrate that some traditions are best not forgotten as the residents (Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker) of... [More]
Directed By: Michael Dougherty

#21

The Others (2001)
83%

#21
Adjusted Score: 89447%
Critics Consensus: The Others is a spooky thriller that reminds us that a movie doesn't need expensive special effects to be creepy.
Synopsis: Grace (Nicole Kidman), the devoutly religious mother of Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), moves her family to the... [More]
Directed By: Alejandro Amenábar

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 91418%
Critics Consensus: Using its low-budget effects and mockumentary method to great result, Paranormal Activity turns a simple haunted house story into 90 minutes of relentless suspense.
Synopsis: Soon after moving into a suburban tract home, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) become increasingly disturbed by what... [More]
Directed By: Oren Peli

#19
Adjusted Score: 84725%
Critics Consensus: This anthology contains brutal, powerful horror stories by three of Asia's top directors.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#18

Pontypool (2008)
84%

#18
Adjusted Score: 86999%
Critics Consensus: Witty and restrained but still taut and funny, this Pontypool is a different breed of low-budget zombie film.
Synopsis: When disc jockey Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) reports to his basement radio station in the Canadian town of Pontypool, he... [More]
Directed By: Bruce McDonald

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 86397%
Critics Consensus: Restrained but disturbing, A Tale of Two Sisters is a creepily effective, if at times confusing, horror movie.
Synopsis: After being institutionalized in a mental hospital, Korean teen Su-mi (Yum Jung-ah) reunites with her beloved sister, Su-yeon (Im Soo-jung),... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 88335%
Critics Consensus: Though its underlying themes are familiar, House of the Devil effectively sheds the loud and gory cliches of contemporary horror to deliver a tense, slowly building throwback to the fright flicks of decades past.
Synopsis: Desperate to make some money so she can move into a new apartment, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes... [More]
Directed By: Ti West

#15

Requiem (2006)
86%

#15
Adjusted Score: 86714%
Critics Consensus: This harrowing, naturalistic drama holds you in its grip through Huller's intense performance.
Synopsis: Michaela, an epileptic, enrolls in college to study education. She goes off her medication and soon begins hearing voices and... [More]
Directed By: Hans-Christian Schmid

#14

The Descent (2005)
86%

#14
Adjusted Score: 93861%
Critics Consensus: Deft direction and strong performances from its all-female cast guide The Descent, a riveting, claustrophobic horror film.
Synopsis: A year after a severe emotional trauma, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes to North Carolina to spend some time exploring caves... [More]
Directed By: Neil Marshall

#13
Adjusted Score: 88435%
Critics Consensus: Guy Maddin's film is a richly sensuous and dreamy interpretation of Dracula that reinvigorates the genre.
Synopsis: In this ballet version of Bram Stoker's classic vampire tale, Dracula (Zhang Wei-Qiang) arrives in London and performs a dance... [More]
Directed By: Guy Maddin

#12

Slither (2006)
87%

#12
Adjusted Score: 91717%
Critics Consensus: A slimy, B-movie homage oozing with affection for low-budget horror films, Slither is creepy and funny -- if you've got the stomach for it.
Synopsis: Wheelsy is a small town where not much happens and everyone minds his own business. No one notices when evil... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#11

The Orphanage (2007)
87%

#11
Adjusted Score: 93997%
Critics Consensus: Deeply unnerving and surprisingly poignant, The Orphanage is an atmospheric, beautifully crafted haunted house horror film that earns scares with a minimum of blood.
Synopsis: Laura (Belén Rueda) has happy memories of her childhood in an orphanage. She convinces her husband to buy the place... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#10

28 Days Later (2002)
87%

#10
Adjusted Score: 94189%
Critics Consensus: Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory.
Synopsis: A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the "Rage" virus from a medical research... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#9

Rec (2007)
89%

#9
Adjusted Score: 89819%
Critics Consensus: Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex under siege, [Rec] proves that found footage can still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror.
Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.... [More]

#8

Zombieland (2009)
89%

#8
Adjusted Score: 99769%
Critics Consensus: Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead.
Synopsis: After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world's surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the... [More]
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer

#7

Ginger Snaps (2000)
90%

#7
Adjusted Score: 90571%
Critics Consensus: The strong female cast and biting satire of teenage life makes Ginger Snaps far more memorable than your average werewolf movie -- or teen flick.
Synopsis: The story of two outcast sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), in the mindless suburban town of Bailey... [More]
Directed By: John Fawcett

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 96338%
Critics Consensus: Creepily atmospheric and haunting, The Devil's Backbone is both a potent ghost story and an intelligent political allegory.
Synopsis: After losing his father, 10-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the Santa Lucia School, which shelters orphans of the Republican... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 98888%
Critics Consensus: Shaun of the Dead cleverly balances scares and witty satire, making for a bloody good zombie movie with loads of wit.
Synopsis: Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 30-something loser with a dull, easy existence. When he's not working at the electronics store,... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#4

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
92%

#4
Adjusted Score: 103269%
Critics Consensus: Sam Raimi returns to top form with Drag Me to Hell, a frightening, hilarious, delightfully campy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) has a loving boyfriend (Justin Long) and a great job at a Los Angeles bank. But... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi

#3

The Host (2006)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 98421%
Critics Consensus: As populace pleasing as it is intellectually satisfying, The Host combines scares, laughs, and satire into a riveting, monster movie.
Synopsis: Careless American military personnel dump chemicals into South Korea's Han River. Several years later, a creature emerges from the tainted... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

#2

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
95%

#2
Adjusted Score: 104443%
Critics Consensus: Pan's Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.
Synopsis: In 1944 Spain young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her ailing mother (Ariadna Gil) arrive at the post of her mother's... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 104736%
Critics Consensus: Let the Right One In reinvigorates the seemingly tired vampire genre by effectively mixing scares with intelligent storytelling.
Synopsis: When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor,... [More]
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

There’s all manner of method to the madness in our selections of the scariest movie scenes ever. Some use high amounts of gore. Others deliver unnerving calm and quiet before shattering the senses. A few feature amazing monster makeup and effects. The one common thread between them all: They work. And work not just at producing a moment of fear, but sustaining that fear, sometimes for minutes on end, to drill deep into our psyche and staying there for decades. These are the stuff of nightmares, what we see when we close our eyes at night. These are the 25 scariest movie scenes of all time. Warning: spoilers abound!

What’s the scariest movie scene you’ve ever seen? Tell us in the comments. 


Alien (1979) 98%

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.)

The scene: The chest burst
One of the things that sets Ridley Scott’s sci-fi nightmare apart from the other horror fare of its era is its relatively slow burn, playing on the claustrophobia of space and the fear of the unknown. So it comes as a shock to the system when a “facehugger” hurtles out of an egg and attaches itself to John Hurt’s Kane, puncturing the atmospheric dread with a visceral jump scare. But the moment that became indelibly stamped in pop culture history comes just a few scenes later, after the facehugger has detached itself and Kane is recovering from the incident. As the crew enjoys a meal together, Kane suddenly begins to choke and convulse on the table, and a small, lizard-like creature bursts through his chest and scrambles away, effectively birthing a horror villain that would terrorize space crews for decades to come.


The Babadook (2014) 98%

(Photo by IFC Midnight/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Baba breaches bedroom
A lot has been written about The Babadook: It’s a story about grief, and it’s a story about feminism; it’s less a horror film than a domestic drama; and somehow through it all its central bogeyman has emerged a wonderfully camp gay icon. We’re all for it. But in the midst of the think pieces and the movie’s surprising afterlife, one thing often goes overlooked: The Babadook is just a really, really scary horror traditional horror flick, too. Take the scene in which the Babadook (dook, dook) taunts Amelia (Essie Davis) in her bedroom. On paper, it’s nothing we haven’t seen in any Conjuring or Insidious flick, but as executed by director Jennifer Kent and acted by Davis (robbed of an Oscar nom, and yes we’re still sore) it’s almost unwatchably tense. Sound and darkness work overtime to drum up the suspense before the Babadook himself appears, jerkily terrorizing the woman on the edge of a breakdown.


The Blair Witch Project (1999) 86%

(Photo by Artisan Entertainment/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Putting babies in the corner
Anyone who tells you this super-low-budget 1999 phenom isn’t actually scary just hasn’t watched it all the way to the end. Because if you can sit through the moment Heather discovers Mike standing in the corner of that abandoned house and not tear the leather off your La-Z-Boy’s arms then you’re a much tougher horror-watcher than we are. The traumatizing screams and image of Mike standing ultra-still in the corner are scary enough – add in the fact that none of it is explained and this is a fright-filled finale for the ages.


The Conjuring 2 (2016) 80%

(Photo by New Line Cinema / courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: The nun comes to life
Taken on its own merits, The Conjuring 2 was a solid movie, even if it didn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor. But it’s somewhat telling that its most memorable scare came courtesy of an entity who spends much of the film on the fringes of the primary story and whose presence was so immediately chilling that it spawned its own spin-off movie. The scene in question takes place inside the Warrens’ (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) own home, when Lorraine experiences a vision in which she is trapped and attacked by the demon nun Valak. Director James Wan milks the tension for all its worth, as a dark shadow moves across the walls and positions itself behind the painting of the nun’s face before it lunges at Lorraine with a shriek. We all checked our pants after that.


The Descent (2005) 86%

(Photo by Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Monsters revealed
Neil Marshall’s The Descent is considered by some the scariest movie of the past 20 years, and for good reason. The movie hooks us in with its claustrophobic setting – a tiny and very unstable cave system somewhere in Appalachia – and its dynamic group of women with their complicated pasts and relationships. Then, when it has us right where it wants us… MONSTERS. And f—king scary ones at that. The movie’s most intense scene is also the first time we see these humanoid beasties, and Marshall masterfully mixes slow-building dread, dramatic distraction, and a helluva jump scare for the big reveal. We’re so caught up in the drama over Juno getting the group lost that we almost don’t notice that thing standing RIGHT THERE.


Don't Look Now (1973) 95%

(Photo by British Lion Films)

The scene: The ending
Up until the very end, you don’t know what the exact nature of the threat is in Don’t Look Now. You’re only aware that something sinister creeps on the fringes, vaguely menacing Donald Sutherland’s character as he wanders Venice with his wife after the accidental drowning of their young daughter in America. It’s the uncomfortable way people talk to him. Or is that just how it always feels in a foreign country? It’s in the way light reflects onto the camera. Or isn’t that how light always bounces around? It’s in Sutherland’s unsettling visions of his wife and daughter. Or is he just processing grief? But it all snaps into place for Don’t Look Now‘s vein-icing final sequence, giving terrible logic and clarity to the preceding 100 minutes.


The Exorcist (1973) 83%

(Photo by Warner Bros./ Courtesy: Everett Collection.)

The scene: Spinning heads
William Friedkin’s controversial film, based on a novel that fictionalized purportedly true events, is famous for the raucous reactions it inspired from terrified audiences who nevertheless flocked to see it in droves. It managed to entertain just as effectively as it scared the pants off of everyone, and perhaps no scene captures that special magic as well as the moment when Linda Blair’s possessed Regan – after having performed a rather sacrilegious act with a crucifix – spins her head 180 degrees to face her frightened mother (Ellen Burstyn). Regan does spin her head again later, during the climax of the film, but this first scene is so vulgar, violent, utterly shocking, and ultimately horrifying that it’s impossible to pull your gaze away from the screen.


Eyes Without a Face (1959) 98%

(Photo by Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France)

The scene: Face/off
Director Georges Franju started his career as a documentary filmmaker, an invaluable skill set for his second narrative feature Eyes Without a Face. It’s the story of a desperate father who, after disfiguring his daughter in a car accident, spends his night killing women, slicing off their faces, and attempting to attach them to his daughter’s. The concept is gross enough, but the way Franju uses his calm and deliberate camera (indeed, like shooting a documentary) during the film’s infamous central surgery scene gives the fictional proceedings the sheen of reality.


Hereditary (2018) 89%

(Photo by A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: An allergic reaction
Like Alex Wolff’s Peter in the movie, we were left completely speechless and frozen the first time we saw THAT MOMENT in Hereditary. We’re being vague for now, because it’s such a recent film and the moment is such a spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading now…. OK, if you’re still with us, you know what we’re talking about: Charlie (Milly Shapiro), struggling for breath in the back seat, pushes her head out of the car window and connects with a passing telegraph pole. The whole sequence, from the chocolate cake at the party to the wheezing in the car to the moment of impact, is brilliantly choreographed, but this is one of those scares that was also heavily aided by the film’s publicity. Charlie was at the center of the marketing campaign, leaving viewers to think she would be a central figure right through to the end; when she gets it about a third of the way in, we suddenly know that anything can happen in Hereditary. If Psycho broke the “don’t kill your main character” rule, and Scream stepped all over the “don’t kill your biggest star” rule, Hereditary went one further: Don’t kill the kid.


Jaws (1975) 98%

(Photo by Universal)

The scene: The opening scene
Much has been made of Spielberg’s expert use of the unknown and unseen in Jaws, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the movie’s opening scene in which a woman is jerked to and fro by something moving beneath her in the black abyss. (Stuntwoman Susan Blacklinie had hooks attached to her Levi’s and was being pulled by divers.) The scene is also the first time the world got to hear that iconic John Williams score, its pulsing slow-build instantly becoming a mood-building classic. We eventually went back in the water after seeing Jaws, but never at night.


Martyrs (2008) 64%

(Photo by Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: A transcendental experience
Martyrs
was part of the New French Extremity movement, where a wave of filmmakers put out horror films hit harder than ever before. Part home invasion, part torture porn, all blood and gristle, Martyrs details a cult-like group who torture young, beautiful women to the brink of death to uncover insights into the afterlife. It all comes to a head with the final sequence, where one of the main characters is flayed alive. Worse: She survives. Even worser: The experiment actually works, as the character enters a transcendental state. The knowledge she gleans about the afterlife and passes on, however, proves too much for the living.


Misery (1990) 90%

(Photo by Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Annie breaks Paul’s legs
When it comes to visceral gross-out scares, the Saw films may win for degree of difficulty and Hostel (remember that one?) may be the king of holy-f—k gore. But for impact, nothing beats Rob Reiner’s Misery, in which barely a drop of blood is spilled and not a single eyeball plucked. We’re cringing just remembering the moment Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes’ places a block of wood between a tied-down Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) feet and breaks his ankles with the swoop of a giant sledgehammer. The crunch! The unnatural bend of the ankle! The slow and methodical description of “hobbling” that Wilkes gives before she takes her epic swing! Jigsaw ain’t got nothing.


Paranormal Activity (2007) 83%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: The 21st night
Oren Peli’s game-changing found-footage film did for the bedroom what Blair Witch did for the woods. The fast-forwarded footage of Katie (Katie Featherstone) standing by her bed and watching Micah sleep was the reason some of us got separate bedrooms – with locks – from our loved ones for months after the hit film’s release. But the movie saved its best shock for last: On night 21, a now fully possessed Katie leaves the bedroom, lures Micah out with a torrent of screams, and then – after a seemingly endless silence – throws him at the screen and proceeds to eat him. Well, at least we think that’s what might happen. Like Blair Witch’s unexplained finale, this one leaves us with lots of theories to chew on.


Psycho (1960) 96%

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

The scene: The shower kill
Hitchcock didn’t invent the slasher, but we’ll be damned if he didn’t perfect it with Psycho and its seminal scene: Marion Crane’s iconic shower death. Even after you analyze the hell out of it – the Hershey’s chocolate syrup in place of blood; the edits that never once show knife penetrating skin – the moment loses none of its ability to shock. The key is the build-up, that wonderful shadow of Norman behind the curtain, and then the brutality: those quick-cut thrusts matched by that iconic burst of Bernard Herrmann’s score.


Rec (2007) 89%

(Photo by Filmax/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Dragged into darkness
This is a found footage nightmare set in a quarantined building in Barcelona where a zombie virus infection is breaking out. Our protaganist Angela is a newscaster who at first merely wants to report on the mysterious closure of the building, and then becomes the news herself when she ges swept into the quarantine. [REC] is a roller coaster of a film, culminating in its final scene, presented in eerie quiet and night vision, as Angela, seeming like she just might make it out, is dragged into the darkness while the dropped camera rolls on. It’s such an effective moment, it was of course spoiled on the theatrical for the American remake Quarantine.


The Ring (2002) 71%

(Photo by DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: The cursed video
It took us far longer than seven days to wipe the images from this bizarro piece of video art from our minds. Gore Verbinski’s U.S. remake of The Ring is full of excellent creepouts – Samara emerging from the TV; the distorted victims’ faces – but the ace up its sleeve is the video at its center. This unnerving mish-mash of static, random ominous imagery (a tree aflame, a woman brushing her hair), and insistent screeching is truly dread-inducing. Even after it’s been aped by the opening sequence of nearly every season of American Horror Story, the Ring video still makes an impact.


Rosemary's Baby (1968) 96%

(Photo by Paramount)

The scene: Mother and child
The tension rises and falls throughout Rosemary’s Baby, never allowing the viewer to quite settle in and fully process what’s happening. A demonic rape her, some weird juice there, just to keep the viewer discombobulated. It all reaches a boiling point in the dream-like coda, when Rosemary wakes up after giving birth, in her empty apartment. She finds a hidden room where her husband and neighobrs have gathered, all in on the conspiracy for her to deliver Satan’s child, and welcome her in. You never see the baby, but Rosemary’s line says it all: “What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes?!”


Scream (1996) 79%

(Photo by Dimension Films)

The scene: ‘Do you like scary movies?’
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s genre-reinvigorating classic kicks off with what many consider the greatest opening scene in horror history. Plot-wise, it’s basically When A Stranger Calls, ’90s-style – girl is alone in the house, receives stalk-y phone call, happens to have encyclopedia knowledge of the film genre in which she suddenly finds herself – but Craven brings so much smart and bravura skill to the direction of it that it kicks complete ass even decades later, after we’ve seen the countless imitators that followed and the shock of having a big-star snuffed out in the first 10 minutes has worn off. Credit too to Ghostface voice Roger L. Jackson, that perfectly placed pan of Jiffy Pop, and to Williamson’s script, a step-by-step screenwriting masterclass in how to ratchet up tension. “The question who am I, the question is where am I?”: Chills to this day.


The Shining (1980) 85%

(Photo by Warner Bros)

The scene: Jack on the attack
Kubrick stuffed his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel with so many scary moments and images, trying to pick just one could drive you to Jack Torrance levels of craziness. But we’re doing it anyway. While the Grady twins in the hallway are spooky as hell, and we still can’t erase the image of the bathtub woman from our minds, we had to go with the movie’s most iconic moment: Wendy trapped in a bathroom as Jack hammers at the door. Kubrick’s swinging camera, Jack Nicholson’s mania, and Shelley Duvall’s totally convincing fear combine to make this the most terrifying scene in one of cinema’s most terrifying movies.


Sleepaway Camp (1983) 78%

(Photo by United Film Distribution Company /courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: The big reveal
For much of its runtime, Sleepaway Camp plays like any other teen slasher of the 1980s, with a bunch of kids who are summarily executed one-by-one by a mysterious killer. If some of the kills are overly creative — death by a thousand bee stings? a curling iron in the hoo-ha? — none of them compares to the twist at the end of the film, which comes from way out of left field. The quiet, young, bullied girl at the center of the movie, Felissa Rose’s Angela, is not only revealed to be the killer, she’s also outed as a man, dressed up as the opposite gender by his demented aunt.


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 89%

(Photo by Bryanston Distributing Company)

The scene: Leatherface appears
The Texas Chain Saw Massacare
is considered one of the most punishing, sickly transformative experiences in horror. And it’s not even 90 minutes long. And nothing happens for like the first 30 minutes. But once Leatherface appears, the movie never lets up afterwards. His grand debut happens inside his house, when a stupidly intrepid young adult enters looking for fuel for his car. Leathface pops out from a hallway and hits the dude in the hammer, the body crumpling and then twitching on the ground. Leatherface drags the body into the butcher room, and slams the door. There’s plenty of more scares to come, but this opening salvo is as disturbing as they come.


The Thing (1982) 82%

(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

The scene: Getting something off your chest
John Carpenter was well into his groove by the time he made The Thing, and he put all of his talents on display to contribute one of the most influential entries in the “body horror” genre not directed by David Cronenberg. We get our first glimpse of the “thing” fairly early in the movie when it absorbs a pack of huskies, and we see it again when it attempts to assimilate Peter Maloney’s Bennings. But the big scare comes when Charles Hallahan’s Norris appears to have a heart attack, and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) attempts to revive him with a defibrillator. Norris’ chest opens up like a giant mouth, complete with teeth, and rips Copper’s arms off before Kurt Russell’s MacReady blasts it with a flamethrower. Thanks to some top-notch practical effects and the judicious use of a jump-scare, the scene remains the most memorable and viscerally disturbing in the movie.


The Vanishing (1988) 98%

(Photo by Argos Films)

The scene: The truth
Forget everything you know about The Vanishing. Oh, that was fast — as if you’ve never seen the Jeff Bridges/Sandra Bullock kidnap thriller before. It was a lousy movie with the distinction of being a remake…with the same director. George Sluzier was brought to Hollywood to direct the remake, and it’s easy to see why: the 1988 Dutch original is a chilling, methodical examination about the mundane face of pure evil. Naturally, the American version has none of that. It also doesn’t have the original’s ending: When the hero finally confronts his girlfriend’s kidnapper, who offers him the opportunity to find out what happened to her. The answer is one of the most terrifying scenes in movie history.


When a Stranger Calls (1979) 41%

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

The scene: The phone calls
Pop in When a Stranger Calls and for the first 20 minutes, you’ll think you’re watching the scariest movie ever made. Carol Kane plays the babysitter, and she keeps on getting increasingly menacing calls to check on the kids upstairs. When she gets the call traced, naturally it’s coming from inside the house! Think this scene won’t work anymore because it’s been parodied and referenced to death since? Think again. It remains a masterclass in editing and suspense. The rest of the movie is pretty lousy, but that opening act can still dial up the tension decades later.


The Wicker Man (1973) 88%

(Photo by British Lion Films)

The scene: The burning
Not quite a masterpiece these days but definitely a classic, The Wicker Man follows a prudish police officer as he investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a remote English island populated by pagans. As he follows the clues and contradicting statements of the village people, he edges ever closer to the titular wicker man, a sacrificial vessel to be burned at dusk. Even if you can get who gets put inside it, the sheer intensity and terror of the scene is still something to be witnessed.


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20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Blockbuster movies cost a bunch of money to make – jaw-dropping special effects and big-name actors don’t come cheap. In order to make the expense worth it, movie studios need to pull out all the stops to get moviegoers to buy tickets once the film premieres, and that typically involves a killer marketing campaign. These days, slick trailers, along with all sorts of unique real-world stunts and marketing gimmicks, can be as much of a production as the final movie itself.

These memorable marketing campaigns take different forms — sometimes it just takes a really well-done trailer and a memorable use of a song, as seen and heard in the trailer for Jordan Peele’s Us, which retools Luniz’s “I’ve Got 5 on It” in a deliciously creepy way. Other times movie marketers will stage mysterious real-world stunts to get excited fans involved. Whatever the method, a well-done marketing campaign for a well-done movie often means box office success.

Here are 10 of the most memorable movie marketing campaigns we’ve seen.


Jaws 2 (1978) 61% and Alien (1979) 98%

Universal Pictures/20th Century Fox Film Corp.

(Photo by Universal Pictures/20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

Studio: Universal Pictures / 20th Century Fox

Why you remember it: Because of two incredible taglines.

Let’s kick things off with a tie, as both films are shining examples of an older era of promotion, before viral marketing was a thing. Jaws was the first blockbuster, but Jaws 2 was briefly the highest-grossing sequel of all time until Rocky II bested it the following year. Part of the film’s success likely has to do with one of the greatest taglines of all time — “Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water” — the work of famed and innovative producer Andrew J. Kuehn.

The following year, Alien came around with one of the other great taglines in movie history, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Neither of these movies had real-world promotional activations, but they were united in memorable taglines that, thanks to their use of the second-person, made would-be viewers feel part of the cinematic horrors to come.

Did it work? As mentioned, Jaws 2 was a huge success, pulling in $208 million. Alien’s box office figure is a little disputed, as some creative Hollywood accounting originally recorded the film as a loss for Fox, but it went on to spawn an iconic, acclaimed sci-fi horror series. And, of course, those two taglines are now forever seared into the public consciousness.


Deadpool (2016) 85% 

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Why you remember it: Because Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool.

Deadpool is known as the Merc with a Mouth, and the film’s promotional team sure did have a lot to say about the film. There was so much marketing, and all of it projected an irreverent, slightly naughty sense of fun. There were parody posters, custom emojis, a feud with Wolverine (and Hugh Jackman), a costume reveal via faux-nude spread, and a flaming bag of poop yule log, to name just a few campaign highlights. Then there was Reynolds, who, as the person most responsible for making Deadpool happen, projected his passion for the wise-cracking hero and modeled his own social presence after the Merc.

Two years after Deadpool was released, Reynolds and the Fox marketing team went even harder with the promotion of Deadpool 2, taking over the DVD covers of other popular movies at Walmart and handling Stephen Colbert’s late-night monologue duties, before going further yet for in its meta promotion of Once Upon a Deadpool. The marketing behind the franchise is now officially one of the reasons we look forward to another Deadpool movie.

Did it work? Deadpool made $785 million at the box office and became the highest-grossing R-rated film ever. Not bad for a superhero movie.


The Social Network (2010) 96% 

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Why you remember it: Because “you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

David Fincher’s moody bio-pic about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is really an exceptional villain origin story, and the marketing for the film made that clear. The first trailer is scored to a haunting cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” as sung by a children’s choir, illustrating how there was something unsettling behind all this “friending.” Then there’s the poster, which features Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) looking at the viewer from the shadows, his face obscured by the memorable and ominous tagline in a crisp Futura font. Both the “choral cover of pop song” and “poster with words on a face” would go on to be often-imitated promotional tropes, but they were just the Google Plus to The Social Network’s Facebook.

Did it work? The Social Network made $224.9 million and was nominated for or won a host of major awards. Plus, Zuckerberg had some qualms with the movie – so that’s a success.


Psycho (1960) 96% 

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Why you remember it: Because of the secrecy and Alfred Hitchcock’s suspenseful set tour.

Modern moviegoers who were too young to remember seeing Psycho in theaters probably remember Hitchcock’s iconic slasher for the famous shower scene. Hitchcock knew that would be the case. Movie trailers weren’t what they were back then — the idea of multi-level movie marketing as we know it today didn’t really emerge until the late ’90s. But, Hitchcock was the master of suspense, and he knew how to get an audience shaking with curiosity and anticipation. The trailer for Psycho featured Hitchcock giving a tour of the Bates Motel, offering gory hints of what horrors might have happened there but stopping just short of giving anything away. That, along with a campaign to keep the shocking twist in the movie a secret – which went so far as preventing Paramount Studio execs from reading the script – had audiences eager to see what happened.

Did it work? Psycho cost about $800,000 to make and made more than $40 million during its initial release — and this is in 1960s dollars! It was a huge hit, went on to enjoy multiple theatrical reissues, and is generally regarded as a landmark horror movie. So, yeah, Hitchcock’s a great tour guide.


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) 91% 

Borat

(Photo by @ 20th Century Fox)

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Why you remember it: Because of Sacha Baron Cohen’s in-character interviews as Borat.

It’s fitting that a movie that blurred the lines between comedy and documentary (not to mention acting and reality) would have a similarly meta promotional campaign. Borat wasn’t a new creation, as Cohen’s character had been on the Da Ali G Show for years, but he wasn’t widely known. That let Cohen dupe the movie’s subjects — as well as many would-be ticket-buyers – into thinking that this kooky Borat character might be on the level.

Did it work? Borat made $262 million at the box office, much to Kazakhstan’s chagrin.


Cloverfield (2008) 78% 

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Why you remember it: Because of all the rampant speculation about the top-secret mystery plot.

A good marketing campaign doesn’t give everything away, it just teases some of the best stuff so that moviegoers are excited to see the rest. Cloverfield’s marketing was so memorable because it gave, well, essentially nothing away. The first trailer, which came by surprise ahead of Transformers screenings, didn’t even include the movie’s title or any plot details. This, along with some innovative virtual tie-ins (shout-out to MySpace), had fans wondering what it might be. A Lost movie? A Godzilla film? An anime adaptation? Something new?

Did it work? Like The Blair Witch Project, which pioneered this type of hype-building mystery promotion, Cloverfield was a hit. The film made $170.8 million against a budget of $25 million, and spawned a whole franchise/”universe” of sci-fi films united mostly by viral marketing, though none were as successful as the original.


Inception (2010) 87% 

Inception

(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures)

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Why you remember it: Because of the spinning top mind-game (and the “BWWAAHHHH” sound).

Warner Bros. spent $100 million to market Inception, an increasingly rare blockbuster that was wholly original, not a sequel nor an adaptation. To get people excited about an unknown quantity, the studio banked on Christopher Nolan’s post-Dark Knight appeal and made an online viral game involving the spinning top that diehard fans tried to solve. The game unlocked the official trailer, and that was a great piece of advertising too, in no small part because of the booming Inception sound that rightfully became a meme.

Did it work? The marketing certainly planted the idea of going to see this movie in a lot of people’s’ heads, because Inception made $828.3 million at the box office.


The Dark Knight (2008) 94% 

The Dark Knight

(Photo by @ 20th Century Fox)

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Why you remember it: Because you solved an interactive mystery across a virtual Gotham City, and Heath Ledger’s untimely death.

The heroes of DC Comics save the day in fictional cities, like Metropolis. But, to promote the second (and best) of Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies, the alternate reality game company 42 Entertainment made Gotham City real. Using websites like WhySoSerious.com, fake Gothamite newspapers, and Harvey Dent campaign materials, 42 Entertainment sent fans on a scavenger hunt all over the web and the physical United States — starting with San Diego’s Comic-Con, where one reward was the first image of the movie’s Joker. It gave fans a tantalizing glimpse of the drama to come, and let them feel like the Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, himself. Add to that the tragedy of Heath Ledger’s untimely death ahead of the premiere of his incredible performance as the Joker, and you’ve got a super-powered level of expectations.

Did it work? The Dark Knight made over $1 billion at the box office and was popular enough to change the way the Academy Awards work.


Paranormal Activity (2007) 83% 

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Why you remember it: Because you had to demand it.

Paranormal Activity was an extremely inexpensive movie, one that seemed destined for a modest indie release and perhaps a chance at becoming a cult classic. But, the marketing team at Paramount had the bright idea of democratizing horror. Trailers were released featuring night-vision footage of shocked and delighted viewing audiences and promising a scary theater experience; would-be moviegoers had to vote on a website, hoping that there would be enough fan demand for Paramount to bring the film to their city or town. The website, which was made with the user-driven event calendar company Eventful’s help, added a sense of urgency and participation in what otherwise might have just been an overlooked found-footage flick.

Did it work? Paranormal Activity cost just $15,000 to make, and it made more than $193 million at the box office. It is, by most accounts, the most profitable movie ever made.


The Blair Witch Project (1999) 86% 

Blair Witch Project

Studio: Artisan Entertainment

Why you remember it: Because you thought it was real.

Without The Blair Witch Project’s marketing, there would be no Cloverfield, no Inception, and essentially no viral movie marketing as we know it today. In the early days of the internet, Artisan Entertainment’s scrappy online team created a website and surrounding hype campaign that claimed the story of the Blair Witch was true. There were interviews with the “missing” characters’ parents and backstories from investigators trying to solve this “true” story. In the real world, missing posters went up around colleges and at film festivals. Because of all the marketing, The Blair Witch Project wasn’t just a low-budget indie horror flick — it was a real, ongoing mystery. Moviegoers and internet users have gotten more media-savvy, so this feat likely won’t be equaled, but The Blair Witch Project was the perfect storm, a way to use technology, advertising, and psychology to turn “based upon a true story” into box office gold.

Did it work? The Blair Witch Project made $248,639,099, which is more than 4,000 times what it cost to make the movie. Also, admit it — you thought, for a second, that it was a documentary.


What were some of your favorite movie marketing campaigns? Let us know in the comments!


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2018 has been a banner year for Claire Foy thus far, having already starred in Unsane and First Man — both Certified Fresh — and she’s looking to keep it going with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, due out on November 9. The former star of Netflix’s acclaimed series The Crown takes over the role of vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander in the new film, as she takes on cyber criminals in cahoots with corrupt government officials. Foy sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to offer her Five Favorite Films, gushing over Meg Ryan and Meryl Streep and describing how she would love to live in the world of a Hitchcock classic.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web opens everywhere on Friday, November 9.

Master horror producer Jason Blum’s has given us modern horror hits like the Paranormal Activity series, The Purge films, SinisterInsidious, and the Oscar-nominated Get OutThis month his Blumhouse Productions goes classic with Halloween, the sequel to the seminal 1978 slasher movie of the same name, which sees Laurie Strode (a returning Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (a returning Nick Castle) facing off once again in Haddonfield. Ahead of the movie’s release, Blum sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to reveal his all-time favorite horror movies, which range from a Certified Fresh Hitchcock classic to the movie he says put his company on the map.

Halloween opens everywhere on Friday, October 19.

Step aside Voorhees, we got another Jason killing it at the movies. After just a few years, starting with Paranormal Activity, producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions have changed the horror landscape with its brand of so-called ‘low budget, high concept’ releases, carving out a spectacular niche in a market that has seen the alleged demise of mid-budget movies and utter reliance on superhero flicks and blockbusters. Continuing this month’s focus on all things spooky, our gallery looks at 24 best and worst Blumhouse horror movies by Tomatometer (and don’t forget to read our Five Favorite Horror Films with the guy himself).

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Less than a decade ago in 2009, a tiny, inexpensive found-footage horror movie about a young family terrorized by an unseen evil did gangbusters at the multiplex and dramatically altered the genre’s commercial and creative landscape. That film was Paranormal Activity, which made almost $200 million from a reported budget of only $15,000, and it was unveiled to the world thanks to Blumhouse Pictures, a then-fledgling production company founded by Jason Blum.

The following years brought even more success to Blumhouse, which released such films as the Insidious franchise, the Purge franchise, and this year’s acclaimed Get Out, and eventually branched out to include comedies and dramas, like 2014’s Oscar-winnihg Whiplash. At its core, though, Blumhouse remains committed to the horror genre, and this week, its latest offering, Happy Death Day, hits theaters. The story revolves around a college student who relives the day of her death over and over again, gradually unraveling the mystery behind her killer. In the same spirit, Jason Blum has done a Five Favorite Films interview with us before, but we decided to revisit that with an appropriate twist. With that in mind, here are five of Jason Blum’s favorite horror movies.


Paranormal Activity (2007) 83%

Because it’s great and because it started it all for me. Paranormal Activity was the first of our independently made/studio-released films. It was also the ultimate low-budget high-concept movie, which is what we are always looking for. Paranormal Activity was the genesis of our model, of which I am so proud.

It (2017) 86%

Because it broke every possible record of ours except one. The one record Blumhouse still holds is profitability as it relates to film budget vs. film gross. All our other records got crushed, and that keeps me humble and hungry, because it was not our movie.

Rebecca (1940) 100%

Because Hitchcock was the greatest scary movie maker of all time. Period. Enough said.

Psycho (1960) 96%

See above.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) 96%

Because I believe great horror should work as straight drama if you remove all the horror elements. Rosemary’s Baby is the perfect example of this. It is almost a straight drama anyway, but people think of it as the ultimate horror film. I love that.


Happy Death Day opens everywhere on Friday, October 13.

Why did they make God’s Not Dead 2? The divine hand of the free market christened the original God’s Not Dead with a $60 million box office tally, and against its $2 million budget, that makes it one of the most profitable movies ever in these United States. So, sweet Jesus, of course they would make a sequel! And that inspires this week’s gallery: the 24 most profitable low-budget (under $5 million) movies ever (in America)!

Found Footage

It took a surprisingly long time for it to happen, but with this weekend’s Earth to Echo, found footage comes home to roost in the family film genre — and in honor of this adorably Amblinesque blend of 1980s all-ages fun and 21st-century technique, we decided to take a look at some of the more well-reviewed examples of a filmmaking style that’s definitely taken its share of critical lumps over the years. Naturally, there’s plenty of horror in here, but just like a group of kids heading off into the woods to debunk an urban legend, you might find a few surprises too. Power up that handheld camera, because it’s time for Total Recall!


The Bay

76%

A found footage horror movie from the guy who gave us Rain Man and The Natural? It sounds like a disaster, but in Barry Levinson’s The Bay, the only disaster is what we’re doing to our water supply — specifically in Chesapeake Bay, where the refusal of one town’s mayor to heed researchers’ warnings of lethal toxicity lead to a horrific outbreak of a mutant breed of tongue-eating louse. Freaky stuff, and well-handled by Levinson, who rebounded from a string of wretched stinkers like Envy and Man of the Year by using the inherent raw immediacy implied by found footage in pursuit of a timely (and obviously deeply felt) message. “Levinson’s film proves something pretty unequivocally,” argued Jason Gorber for Twitch. “Any conceit, any style, be it found footage or shakycam or haunted house or whatever, can be great in the hands of a good filmmaker.”

The Blair Witch Project

86%

No surprises here — The Blair Witch Project spawned the current found-footage craze, and there’s no way we were leaving it off this list, even if it has become a sort of whipping boy for the many inferior knockoffs inspired by its runaway success. And although, looking back, it really only has a few truly potent scares, it strings them out so patiently — and uses its then-novel narrative gimmick so well — that it’s easy to understand how Blair Witch scared the dickens out of so many filmgoers, particularly during the days of its early release, when it was still rumored to be culled from actual footage left behind by the Witch’s real-life victims. “The Blair Witch Project is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen,” decreed Lloyd Rose for the Washington Post. “Not the goriest, the grossest, the weirdest, the eeriest, the sickest, the creepiest or the slimiest… Just flat out the scariest.”

Chronicle

85%

Before 2012, the superhero and found-footage genres might not have seemed like the most natural of companions — but as Chronicle demonstrated, under the right circumstances, they can go together as deliciously as peanut butter and chocolate. Following the adventures of troubled teen Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and their school acquaintance Steve (Michael B. Jordan) after they discover an unknown object that leaves them with telekinetic powers, the Josh Trank-directed drama imagines the giddy thrill that might come from developing adolescent superhuman abilities — as well as the struggle to come to terms with the responsibility all those cool new gifts entail. Of course, that’s a struggle familiar to anyone who’s ever read early Spider-Man, but Max Landis’ screenplay delves a bit deeper into the darkness — and the cast imbues his characters with easily relatable anguish. “It’s a testament to Trank’s capable direction that the movie feels so grounded in reality,” wrote USA Today’s Claudia Puig. “There is no sense of the magical in the goings-on, even though what the boys are doing defies logic and gravity.”

Cloverfield

78%

Hyped with a fairly brilliant “viral” ad campaign that made it seem like producer J.J. Abrams was brewing up some truly next-level cinema, Cloverfield couldn’t help but disappoint a little when it stomped into theaters in 2008 and filmgoers realized it was really just a monster movie with a(n occasionally nauseating) found-footage twist. Still, taken on its own terms, this is a better-than-average entry in this week’s subgenre, boasting some energetic work from director Matt Reeves and a solid script from Drew Goddard. Basically, if you’re going to watch one movie about a monster running amok in New York City while handicam-toting twentysomethings try to make sense of the destruction, this is the one to choose. “There’s nothing to Cloverfield, really, but stripped-down chaos shot in a faux-verite Blair Witch Project fashion,” shrugged the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, who then admitted, “But I have to say, I was with it.”

End of Watch

85%

Most critics — and more than a few filmgoers — would agree that the found-footage gimmick has been more than played out since rising to prominence with The Blair Witch Project in the late 1990s. Still, it’s a powerful tool when used in the right way, as demonstrated by writer/director David Ayer’s End of Watch, which follows a cop/film student (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his partner (Michael Pena) on patrol in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. While Ayer’s use of the found footage technique proved divisive among critics, End of Watch earned a healthy $51 million at the box office, picked up a pair of Independent Spirit Award nominations, and enjoyed the respect of scribes such as Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “The best scenes are filmed inside the cruiser, dashboard shots that face inward instead of out, catching Gyllenhaal and Peña in moments so playful and true they make all other buddy cops look bogus by comparison.”

Europa Report

81%

Having apparently never seen the end of 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a group of astronauts (played by Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley and Michael Nyqvist) board a deep space flight to Jupiter’s moon Europa, intent on probing the surface to try and find forms of life. The result is director Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report, sort of a more intelligent cousin to the disastrous Apollo 18; rather than cheap scares and ill-conceived characters, Report tries to wring real human drama out of a dangerous situation that slowly goes from hopeful to horrifying — and, to many critics’ immense satisfaction, also grounds its story in intelligent dialogue that at least sounds like the kind of stuff scientists might say. “Finally,” crowed Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News. “A found-footage thriller that merits, and expands on, this irrationally popular format.”

Lake Mungo

96%

An eminently creepy low-budget ghost story barbed with scary videotapes, cell phone footage, and mockumentary interviews, Lake Mungo took the spirit of unsettling real-life documentaries like Capturing the Friedmans and used it as the chilling springboard for a grueling question: how do families carry on after the death of a loved one? In most cases, one hopes the answer includes fewer moments of blood-curdling horror than Mungo, but that undercurrent of real-world sadness helps anchor the fear with genuine poignancy. Calling it “a sophisticated, adult tale that blends complex, compelling emotions with reflexive commentary on film as a ‘medium’ of memory, manipulation and magic,” Little White Lies’ Anton Bitel deemed it “a classic supernatural enigma, once seen never forgotten.”

Paranormal Activity

83%

For a lot of found footage horror movies, the device is used largely as a narrative and/or editing gimmick in order to obfuscate details and amp up jump scares. But with 2009’s Paranormal Activity, director Oren Peli rocked it Blair Witch style, using the characters’ handheld cameras to slowly ratchet up an overall feeling of dread that finally yields to a payoff rendered all the more haunting by its refusal to rely on gore or over-the-top special effects. Your mileage may vary with the growing list of Paranormal spinoffs and sequels, but the original is as simple as it is effective. “It illustrates one of my favorite points, that silence and waiting can be more entertaining than frantic fast-cutting and berserk f/x,” wrote an appreciative Roger Ebert. “For extended periods here, nothing at all is happening, and believe me, you won’t be bored.”

[Rec]

89%

You’ve no doubt noticed that quite a few of the movies on our list have fallen under the horror umbrella, but precious few are as lethally effective as [Rec], the 2007 sensation helmed by Spanish writer-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex that might be ground zero for a quickly spreading virus that turns its hosts into homicidal savages, it proved that no matter how played out found footage might have seemed even then, it could still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror. The inevitable sequels fell victim to the laws of diminishing returns, but the original remains a classic of the genre; as Jason Morgan put it for Filmcritic.com, “Not since John Carpenter’s one-shot intro to Halloween has POV horror been this good.”

Trollhunter

82%

Found footage is so pervasive these days that it’s spread all the way to Norway, where director André Øvredal used it for his international cult hit Trollhunter. One of those movies whose plot is rather brilliantly summed up in its title, it follows the occasionally scary, often hilarious adventures of a group of college students whose pursuit of a suspected bear poacher takes a surprising turn when they discover that he’s actually after a much, much bigger quarry. With uniformly strong performances and more of a cinematic aesthetic than your average found-footage film, Trollhunter elicited applause from the majority of critics, including the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney, who called it “An enjoyably off-kilter hybrid of The Blair Witch Project and Where the Wild Things Are.” There’s a presumably bigger-budget Hollywood remake in the works, but you don’t need to wait for that; the original is streaming via Netflix right now.

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out Earth to Echo.

Filmmaker Oren Peli caused something of a box-office sensation with his no-budget, found footage spook show Paranormal Activity in 2009 — the 2007-shot horror frightened more than $100 million out of American audiences’ pockets, which is not bad considering the production budget was around $15,000 (or the cost of one of Michael Bay’s home video insert shots.) Peli found further success as the producer of the movie’s two profitable sequels, along with working on last year’s Insidious and TV’s The River. This week he serves as the producer on Bradley Parker’s Chernobyl Diaries, a horror about a bunch of tourists who decide it’s a good idea to take a holiday in the former Soviet Union’s most notorious nuclear waste zone — where they discover they’re not alone. (“In Russia, tour takes you,” etc. Thanks; we’re here all week.) While promoting the film, Peli took a moment to send in his Five Favorite Films via email — and here they are.

Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986; 91% Tomatometer)



Amazing Stephen King story, great cast and direction by Rob Reiner. Love the sense of nostalgia and friendship of the boys.

The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994; 90% Tomatometer)



Another amazing Stephen King story. This movie is just about perfect. Love the sense of hope, revenge, and triumph.

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996; 89% Tomatometer)



Beautifully directed by Danny Boyle, I can watch this movie over and over again and never get tired of it.

City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002; 90% Tomatometer)


Truly a masterpiece.

The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999; 85% Tomatometer)



One of the scariest movies I’ve seen, and a direct inspiration to make Paranormal Activity.


Chernobyl Diaries is in theaters this week.

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