Top 20 Scariest Horror Movies Made Prior to 2020 Need to scream this Halloween?

October is the month people around the country get in the mood for horror marathons. It’s inescapable, as many of the victims in those movies feel. If you’re looking for scares, we have them. Check out this list of the 20 scariest movies made prior to 2020.

20. The Strangers

Imagine some maniacs just decide to break into your vacation home to kill you. That’s what happens to Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman’s characters when they’re targeted in this insane slasher.

19. Rec

This Spanish found footage film became a series on the back of a strong directorial performance by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. Zombie outbreaks are great cinema fodder, and it’s even scarier in FPV.

18. It

Clowns. That’s all you need to know.

17. Paranormal Activity

Another found footage film series, this one follows Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat’s young couple coping with a paranormal presence in their home..

16. The Ring

Purists will tell you the Japanese Ringu is better, and I’m sure that’s true. For those who would rather just watch a movie in a language they understand, The Ring is perfectly fine on its own. I was scared watching it in theaters when it originally came out. That it’s a remake doesn’t make it at all inferior. People are stupid.

15. Hellraiser

Hellraiser and Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley) are Clive Barker’s crowning achievement from the 1980s. It’s gore in ways you could barely imagine back then before computer generated images (CGI) made it easier.

14. Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut hit a home run in a story about racist white people harvesting black people for their bodies.

13. Candyman

Another classic Clive Barker tale, this one made Tony Todd a legend in horror movies who still gets recognized at Comiccons and such to this day.

12. Halloween

The 1978 Halloween movie made Michael Myers a part of pop culture, and launched Jamie Lee Curtis into stardom. It’s her film debut, courtesy of director John Carpenter.

11. Evil Dead

Evil Dead is a remake of The Evil Dead, and both are classic horror films. I prefer the original because of Bruce Campbell, but both are acceptable to watch for scares this October.

10. Hereditary

When an old woman dies, her surviving children and grandchildren (including Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne) wrestle with their fate of raising the boy who will be possessed by a hellish demon backed by a demonic cult.

9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


8. Poltergeist

This movie set is as cursed as anyone in the movie was, and Poltergeist will forever live in Hollywood infamy. It’s still a decent movie to this day, although you may want to check out a remake, if you’re not into older movies. Sam Rockwell is no Craig T. Nelson, but he’s decent enough.

7.  Insidious

When a child enters a coma, he becomes a vessel for ghosts from the astral dimension in this 2010 supernatural horror staring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. Children are always creepy, and this franchise is no exception.

6. The Witch

Robert Eggers enlists Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie for a terrifying tale of witchcraft, black magic, and possession haunting a New England family in the 1630s.

5. Alien

The initial Alien movie had some jumpy scares in 1979, like the above chestburster scene that since became a part of cultural history.

4. The Exorcist

This 1973 horror classic has Linda Blair playing a foul-mouthed girl possessed by demons. A young priest and an old priest show up to help her mom exorcise the demons. It’s kinda scary on its own, but it’s terrifying when you realize people would torture each other for saying a few swear words.

3. Child’s Play

The original Child’s Play, about a possessed doll is an insane movie that relied more on suspense and tension than the actual kills. Those kills are gruesome though, and whether voodoo or artificial intelligence, Chucky is a killer.

2. Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock is an early master of horror, and Psycho is one of his most iconic films. This 1960 movie stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Vera Miles, and it still has chills, even in black and white. It’s old compared to today’s standards, and the idea of watching it may seem scary to some young kids.

1. Jaws

It doesn’t matter how brave you are – the fact is that sharks are fucking terrifying, and Jaws was the first movie to really dig that point in all the way back in 1975. Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss give stellar performances, but the animatronic shark steals the show. I’m still scared of puddles and swimming pools from this movie.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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