We all have a different definition of what is scary. What may scare many may not have the same effect on others, but on the other hand, there are some horror movies that have made quite an impact on movie-goers. Not only were these movies successful financially, but they shocked audiences and made their mark among film critics who rated them very highly. These are the movies that keep us awake at night and be wary of our surroundings. We look back at these five iconic horror movies that impacted audiences in more ways than ever imagined.
Without a doubt Steven Spielberg’s most memorable film he’s made tells the story of a small island community that is wrecked by the idea of a great white shark staking a claim on the shorelines. Amity Island is now his primary feeding ground and if any unlucky soul is caught in the great beast’s path, that could spell trouble. From the breathtaking underwater photography, the winning and iconic score courtesy of John Williams and an incredible cast makes Jaws one of the great monster flicks of all time. Going to the beach is certainly a lot of fun, but once you see the fins peak up from under the water, that can change anyone’s fun day into a sheer nightmare. The shark itself is scary enough but Jaws made audiences return to the theater again and again. You just never know what is swimming just below your eye level.
Religion is something that a lot of people hold dear to their hearts and any mention of the devil or possession may just make them slightly concerned. William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece concerns a young 12-year-old girl who becomes possessed by the devil. What follows are Roman Catholic priests who will do anything in order to save the child from the cruelty and torture from which she is suffering from. With grotesque images, haunting settings and an unforgettable ending along with a creepy soundtrack, The Exorcist became the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, although it didn’t win. Released in 1973, this was a supernatural horror film unlike anything audiences had witnessed before. This wasn’t a movie to be scared and ultimately entertained by, but a film that haunted our dreams and questioned if such a scenario was even possible. With powerful acting, stellar writing and deft direction from Friedkin, The Exorcist is still one of the scariest films ever made and people have never forgotten it.
Night of the Living Dead
“They’re coming to get you Barbara.” One of the most iconic lines in all of horror cinema, George A. Romero is the man who made the zombie genre what it is today. While not scary by today’s standards, back in 1968, the sheer impact of the film caused Reader’s Digest to publish a piece urging people to not view the film for fear that it would spark an onslaught of cannibalism to occur. That isn’t made up. That article was really published! The film itself gave birth to what the undead genre would become even though the undead wasn’t a new idea; a film called White Zombie was released in 1932. Romero actually defined what a zombie was moving away from the Haitian legend itself and branding his own unique vision. Still, the movie is an absolute blast and almost a mandatory watch on Halloween. With a wonderful cast, the timeless black and white presentation and the conclusion that left audiences stunned, The Night of the Living Dead is the film that gave us the zombies and is still one of the most enthralling horror films ever made. It surely freaked people out back then, but in the modern world, zombies are pop culture icons and we have George A. Romero to thank for that!
Going for a hike is one thing, but exploring a cave is something else entirely. Visiting a world that hardly sees any sunlight and armed with only battery-operated flashlights and headlamps, venturing deep into a cave does have its appeal. That all changed when The Descent was released. When a group of women decide to explore a cave system, the last thing any of them expected was to encounter something else deep within the cavern walls. This British horror film blends claustrophobia, paranoia and fear into the mix while the female characters are fighting for their survival when encountering these humanoid-like creatures who attack at will and are ferocious. Opting for the building of suspense instead of jump scares, The Descent is certainly one of the best horror films of the 21st century. A sequel was released four years later, which wasn’t half bad, but was a largely unnecessary sequel. Still, The Descent is well acted, scary as hell and made everyone fearful of lurking into a cave. If you find yourself inside a cave and you hear a noise in the distance and it isn’t you…RUN!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Marketed as “Based on True Events” Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror film drew audiences into the theater unaware of what it was they were about to experience. What followed was a tale, a tragedy if you will, about a group of young people who disappeared from the face of the earth at the hands of a cannibalistic family. One of the most recognized faces in all of cinema, Leatherface made his appearance and seeing him for the first time terrified audiences and the level of violence was enough to make people run for the exit. While not violent by today’s standards, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was built with an intriguing story, a haunting theme and outstanding direction from Hooper.
With numerous sequels, remakes and reimaginings, the first film is the one that started it all and the ending itself is enough to leave you shaken. With some jump scares present, the movie was built as a slow burning thriller with a third act revealing the true horror that the house in Texas was keeping secret. This is still one of the scariest movies ever made and Leatherface himself is a hulking figure that is not only a sight to see but is also a cultural icon that saw other horror icons rise up in the years that followed. Just hearing that chainsaw rev up is enough to make you wonder if some crazed lunatic is running towards you!