Few film genres inspire such loyal fans as horror. Aficionados of horror movies are always on the hunt for the next great scare, and though this year has plenty of contenders in store, it’s unlikely that any of them will compete with some of the most terrifying films ever made.
We’re talking about the kind of classic horror releases that manage to not only make viewers jump out of their seats but have also shaped the genre in incredible ways as a result. Here are six horror movies that changed the world with terror.
1. Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece may have been shrouded in mystery upon its initial release, but nowadays, the film’s signature twist is largely common knowledge. Yet, despite the fact that its surprise is somewhat diluted, Psycho still makes an incomparable impact on audiences.
It almost singlehandedly created the psychological horror movies and was a precursor to the spoiler-aware culture we live in today.
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Zombies may not be everyone’s cup of tea (unless we’re talking The Walking Dead, in which all bets are off). Yet, George A. Romero shaped his career on the creatures, developing a reputation as the grandfather of modern zombie films.
This original classic paved the way not only for Romero’s own Dawn of the Dead and several other follow-ups, but also for the countless other horror movies that built upon what it started. Plus, it’s still scary as hell.
3. The Exorcist (1973)
What hasn’t been said about The Exorcist? William Friedkin’s classic is routinely praised as the scariest film ever made, and its raw violence, grotesque imagery and riveting performances still hold up decades after its initial release. Linda Blair’s Regan still gives us chills.
The Exorcist itself has undoubtedly inspired many other horror movies centering on demonic possession.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Pay no heed to the recent remakes, prequels, and assorted retreads. Tobe Hooper’s original film still works just as well today as it did back in the ’70s. Shot in such a way that it almost resembles a snuff film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre introduced audiences to the maniacal Leatherface and his cannibal family.
While the chainsaw-wielding character became an icon in his own right, the influence of Hooper’s film on horror is undeniable.
5. Halloween (1978)
Slasher films are a dime a dozen these days, but without John Carpenter’s film, this particular sub-genre may never have really taken off at all. Michael Myers stands the test of time as the blank, machete monster he is, and Jamie Lee Curtis is among the most famous “scream queens” ever to hit the screen.
Moreover, Carpenter’s sense of atmosphere and suspense set a standard that few slasher films have been able to meet.
6. The Shining (1980)
Initially met with mixed reviews, it’s inconceivable now to think Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was nominated for a pair of Razzies instead of Oscars. Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is the quintessential example of domestic horror, and countless images from The Shining remain firmly etched in the collective consciousness.
It just goes to show you that — at least when it comes to horror movies — sometimes first impressions are just plain wrong.
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