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40 Old Horror Movies That Still Give Us Nightmares

Psycho (1960)

Psycho set the tone for the entire 1960s “slasher” genre. Who can forget the iconic shower scene and the ominous music that goes along with it? Norman Bates and his crazy mother forever made us fear staying in remote motels!

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Halloween (1978)

You know the original Halloween had to be on this list. Nothing is scarier than a murderer that just won’t quit. Mike Myers doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t run, and all he wants to do is off you in the worst possible way. His victims can’t take two seconds to rest without looking over their shoulder. Each one is just as gruesome as the last, and it’s hard not to look over your own shoulder while watching. Halloween (and many of its sequels) are available on Shudder!

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The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist was the first movie of its kind, and it set a pretty high standard. The demon in this film cannot be offed or captured because he hails from hell, making him virtually indestructible. The visuals in this movie are ridiculously creepy, but the score itself is more than enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. 

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Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead came out before the zombie craze, and it likely ignited the fear of zombies and graveyards that we all have to this day. Just imagine being trapped in an old farmhouse while zombies are trying to break in, then quadruple that fear when you realize that one of your own has been turned into a zombie and is currently trying to eat you! Where are you suppose to run? Shudder has a ton of classics, and this is one of the ones you can watch! 

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The Shining (1980)

The Shining is one of the most well-known horror books and films, and that's for good reason! It takes place in the Overlook Hotel where a man named Jack begins seeing ghosts, descends into madness, and attempts to off his family. The anticipation is almost as scary as the murder scenes themselves!

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Friday the 13th (1980)

This original film launched a series of successful sequels, but we still believe that it's the scariest of all. After Alice survived a night of hell watching her friends get murdered, she decides to seek refuge in a boat while the cops arrive. Then, out of the blue, a deformed Jason leaps out of the water behind her! Just when you get lulled into a false sense of security, this movie will get your heart racing all over again.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This movie introduced us to the literal nightmare that is Freddy. He has the ability to haunt people in their dreams, so no one can ever escape him! That, combined with the scene where Freddy slashes Tina’s body and drags her across the ceiling while she dies, is enough to give anyone nightmares.

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Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist takes the ghost horror story genre to a whole new level! This story takes place in a quaint, southern California town where angry Native American spirits decide to murder inhabitants in unspeakable ways. Seeing zombies emerge from a backyard swimming pool or witnessing a man tearing apart his own face is enough to make you look over your shoulder for years after watching this.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

This flick follows a gang of backwoods cannibals and their quest to murder a group of people who have come to visit their grandfather’s grave. There are countless terrifying scenes, but the moment that will disturb you for the rest of your life is when the cannibals tie Sally to a chair made of human body parts and force her to watch while they “dine.” 

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Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This psychological horror film will forever change the way you see serial killers and cannibals. A new FBI agent, Clarice, seeks the help of an incarcerated serial killer/brilliant psychiatrist (Hannibal Lecter) in order to identify a new serial killer, Buffalo Bill. One of the creepiest scenes is when Hannibal brutally kills two guards and ends up with blood on his mouth—all while listening to Bach. 

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing plays on our deepest, darkest fear that an alien life form could one day invade our planet, take over our bodies, and torture us. The worst part of this movie is when The Thing takes on the form of a dog and opens its mouth to reveal what looks like a flower made out of tongue petals. 

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Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby is one of the few horror movies that's won an Oscar – Best Supporting Actress by Ruth Gordon. Mia Farrow is so believable in her role that you’re scared for her. You want to help her, but there’s nothing anyone can do. Polanski also did a great job creating suspense without unnecessary scares, which is something you’ll rarely see in a film nowadays. 

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Nosferatu (1922)

The originals are often the scariest things out there. Unlike other vampire films out there, Nosferatu leaves you with an overwhelming sense of evil – a dark cloud that’s looming as he descends a staircase. The character movements are slow like he’s thinking before making his move. The terrifying part of this movie is the fact it feels like you’re prey watching a predator set you up for a trap. You can watch the original version of Nosferatu on Shudder.

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The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead crossed a lot of lines when it came out. Even Bob Martin, the editor of Fangoria, called it “the grisliest well-made movie ever.” It’s a low-budget film, and it’s obvious, but that only makes each graphic scene that much more surreal. Sure, some of it feels like violence for violence sake, but sometimes that’s just the way it is with classic horror films.

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Carrie (1976)

Any thought of prom is now automatically accompanied by the horrifying image of a blood-drenched Carrie. It’s the classic story of a girl who was bullied and decided to bite back. It left kids screaming, fires blazing, and chills down our spines. Two things we learned from Carrie: don’t wear white to prom and don’t watch it before bed. 

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The Omen (1976)

The Omen is one of those movies that made women think twice about having children. In general, kids can be pretty scary. They say the darndest things, but what if those things were malicious and evil? What if the kid had the very devil in him? The Omen terrified mothers in a way that few films have managed while others were thankful their kid wasn’t the Antichrist.

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The Fly (1986)

Who wasn’t haunted by the grotesque image of Jeff Goldblum in The Fly? Something about ‘80s films taught us that science isn’t to be messed with, and this one was one that stuck in our brain the longest. The crazy part is that this is a remake, but we can safely say that this one is the better of the two. The Fly is actually one of the great classic films available on Shudder!

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Hellraiser (1987)

The original Hellraiser is many people’s favorite horror film, and it’s still one of the ones that terrify us to this day. It’s written so well, has great cinematography, and was the movie that catapulted Hellraiser to the status of Freddy Kreuger. Not only is it the best horror movies out there, but it’s also one of the best ‘80s movies out there. Hellraiser (and the sequels) are available on Shudder.

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Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnivals are scary. They have freaky clowns and rickety rides that can break down at any minute. In Carnival of Souls, a woman survives a car accident and tries to move on with her life. The only issue is that she’s haunted by visions of a fiendish man, which causes her to find her way to a carnival just outside of town. 

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

How can a silent movie be scary? Well, you haven’t seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari yet. Without sound, it forces the actors and directors to think outside of the box. Considering most of our modern horror movies rely on sound, this film redefines what it is to be scary with warped visuals, distinct lighting, and a setting that makes the audience feel unnerved. 

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Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Other than original, Halloween H20 is probably the best one out there. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role, which is something we all loved. She’s moved to California, but she can’t get away from Michael. This is the one with Josh Hartnett, and it’s so ‘90s that it makes you feel as though you’re back in this great decade.

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An American Werewolf in London (1981)

An American Werewolf in London is the classic werewolf movie. Some would say it’s the best beastly film out there. It’s guaranteed to give you nightmares. There are scenes with decapitated heads, plenty of blood, and the ripping and tearing you’d expect from a werewolf flick. Even now, the special effects look better than some newer horror movies out there.

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Re-Animator (1985)

You can’t have a horror movie list without including Re-Animator. It’s funny, scary, and gives you nightmares if you aren’t careful. The best thing about this film is that it manages to balance comedy and horror in a way that modern movies can only dream about. That being said, we can’t promise you won’t see a headless person standing in your room in the middle of the night as you try to sleep. You can watch Re-Animator on Shudder now!

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The Haunting (1963)

If you’ve seen The Haunting of Hill House, you should watch The Haunting. It’s based on the same source material and manages to creep you out in the same way. The film relies on sound and special effects to scare the crap out of its audience. After watching it, we had to leave the lights on for a couple of nights. It’s the subtlety of it all!

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The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents is one of those films that every horror buff should see at least once (although we’ll bet you’ll want to see it more). It’s based on The Turn of the Screw, and it did a great job of adapting everything that makes the original creepy. You’re left asking questions about who’s crazy, who can you trust, and where the actual danger lies. 

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The Birds (1963)

You wouldn’t think that birds are scary – at least, those of us that don’t live in Australia (darn magpies). The Birds is the Alfred Hitchcock film that made us look at birds with a wary eye. What really made this film was the actors because you can literally see the fear in their eyes. After seeing The Birds, going outside was a total no-go.

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Eyes Without a Face (1962)

Eyes Without a Face, or Les Yeux Sans Visage, is a French film that released in 1960 but was dubbed and released in America two years later. It’s about a surgeon who does whatever he can to give his daughter a new face after a disfiguring accident. The stills alone haunt our nightmares, but this movie really excels with balancing sadism and tenderness.

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The Wicker Man (1973)

No, not the remake. We’re going to pretend like that disaster never existed. The original Wicker Man was a low-budget production that received the highest accolades. Rather than relying on easy gimmicks, The Wicker Man used context and things that naturally send chills down our spine. Couple that with the fact it slowly increases in terror, and you have a masterpiece on your hands.

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Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Good luck getting the imagery of those demons out of your mind. Even though it was barely a success when it came out, the movie has become one of the scariest films out there. As if the white-faced demons weren’t frightening enough, the LSD-tripping sights are too much for most people to deal with. That doesn’t even touch on the whole psychology of the film, either.  Jacob's Ladder is available on Shudder today.

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The Others (2001)

The Others genuinely had one of the best twists out there. You watch the film, terrified for Nicole Kidman’s character and her kids. All the while, you keep a close eye on the creepy housekeepers, knowing that they’re up to something. Then, the ending comes and flips the whole thing on its head.

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Halloween II (2009)

Rob Zombie is a master of horror and the disturbed, and Halloween II is one of his best. While Michael is scary in the originals, Rob Zombie’s version brings something hellish to the character that the classics couldn’t. Instead of being angry, Michael feels actually evil, and something you’ll never shake. 

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Eraserhead (1976)

David Lynch knows how to terrify audiences. He built his career on creating surreal scenes that stick with you weeks later. Eraserhead was one of his first films, and some would say it’s the best. It’s about a guy who gets more paranoid by the second. As the audience, you feel inclined to join him through his descent. 

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Duel (1971)

Duel is a Spielberg classic, but it was easy to miss since it was made for TV. It’s about a businessman who’s in the middle of the desert when he begins to be terrorized by a trucker. The result is that one of them will die, but which will it be? It plays on the fact that you may be out in the middle of nowhere without means to reach help. 

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers will make you look at your best friend suspiciously. The film stars some of the biggest actresses and actors of our age, although some of them weren’t so popular when the film released. Each actor did so well that you’d think they were A-listers. All that is accented by a fantastic score, which makes your blood run cold. 

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Don’t Look Now (1973)

While watching this movie, it just felt tough to breathe – almost like it was asphyxiating. Part of that comes from the fact that the actors did so well that you feel as though you’re in their shoes. Over the years, it’s gotten even scarier, and it’s even one of the most influential movies of the ‘70s.

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Black Christmas (1974)

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, but not for all. Black Christmas is about a group of sorority girls who are terrorized over the phone. It’s a Canadian classic that bears a resemblance to Scream, another film that gives us nightmares. The anxiety comes from the fact that the killer is in the house, so there isn’t much the girls can do.

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Alien (1979)

Alien? A horror? You know it! This sci-fi horror has made more than one generation terrified of space. At the time, it had innovative special effects. Today, the film still looks fantastic, and that goes a long way for a movie. We also love Sigourney Weaver as Ridley Scott. It encourages women to be strong, powerful, and kick serious butt.

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Pulse (2001)

Japanese horror films are often far superior when compared to American horrors. Pulse is no exception. It deals with something no one wants to talk about: suicide. It also touches on the fact that those you love can be there one day and gone the next in the blink of an eye. Originally titled Kairo, this film is one that sticks with you years later.  

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Candyman (1992)

The fact that Candyman was set in Cabrini-Greens is part of what made it so scary. We also can’t ignore the fact that it's written so well that we’d argue it’s one of the best things Clive Barker ever did. Even today, some of us are afraid to look in the mirror and call for Candyman in fear that he might come to get us with his hook hand.    

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The Ring (2002)

Part of what leaves goosebumps on our arms after watching The Ring is the fact that the American film stuck so close to the original Japanese horror. Even today, the feeling of dread and overall cold tone hangs throughout the film. Plus, there’s the idea that there’s a timestamp on the death of the characters. What would you do with seven days?

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