Just in Time for Halloween: The 1 Scariest Horror Movie Ever, According to Science

[This article was originally published Oct. 28, 2020.]

Choosing the scariest movie ever depends on the person. Some moviegoers respond better to slasher flicks while others are terrified of the supernatural. Ask 100 people what the scariest movie of all time is, and you’ll inevitably get 100 different answers.

But despite the subjective nature of picking which scary movie is the most terrifying, at least one researcher decided to put the power of science to work. BroadbandChoices conducted a study to determine the scariest movie of all time once and for all using something called the “Science of Scare Project.”

The results of that study might surprise you.

The scariest movies got viewers’ hearts racing

Vera Miles in Psycho
Vera Miles in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ | Archive Photos/Getty Images

It was a simple yet effective strategy. To find the scariest movie, BroadbandChoices selected 50 random people of all ages and instructed them to watch 100 hours of scary movies. Since there wasn’t time to screen every horror flick ever made, the study creators focused on the top 50 highest rated scary movies on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, and Reddit.

To determine the scare factor, study organizers hooked up participants to heart rate monitors and tracked spikes and dips. Using their logic, the movie that elevated heart rates the most must be the scariest.

The study founder wanted people to find the scariest movies more easily

According to Forbes, study creator Daniel Clifford said that “with more people than ever facing a Halloween at home, our Science of Scare study was designed to help people find the most scientifically scary films ever made, to save them the time of searching through thousands of titles across streaming services.”

With so many titles to choose from, and so many opinions, this was a better way of determining the scariest movie definitively. And the results delivered a clear winner.

‘Sinister’ won top marks as the scariest movie

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The film that got study participants’ hearts racing the most was the 2012 horror thriller Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke.

According to IMDb, Sinister is about: “Washed-up true crime writer Ellison Oswalt finds a box of super 8 home movies in his new home that suggest the murder that he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose work dates back to the 1960s.”

The movie has a 6.8 rating on the site. Watching the horror flick made participants’ heart rates increase 32% on average.

‘Insidious’ included the scariest moments

While Sinister got hearts racing more long-term, the biggest scare moments came courtesy of the 2010 horror mystery thriller Insidious, about a family trying to save their comatose child from evil spirits.

This movie spurred the biggest heart rate increase, causing some participants to jump from a 65 beat per minute (BPM) rate up to 133 BPM.

Overall, newer movies made horror film lovers’ hearts pound more than older, classic scary movies. Other movies counted as the top 10 scariest included The Conjuring, Hereditary, Paranormal Activity, It Follows, The Conjuring 2, The Babadook, The Descent, and The Visit.

Ultimately, the scariest movies are a matter of preference. But if you want to get your heart racing, these 10 horror films are a great place to start.