Not all films that evoke chills and outright terror belong to the slasher genre. Several of the most celebrated horror films in recent decades have been highly regarded by mainstream critics, with all but two on this list receiving at least an 85 rating from Rotten Tomatoes. These 10 movies depend more on foreboding atmosphere and psychological suspense to intrigue and scare you.
‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
It’s impossible to compile a top 10 horror movies list without placing “The Exorcist” at or near the top. Linda Blair stars as the young daughter of an actress (played by Ellen Burstyn) whose imaginary friend turns out to be Satan. This thoroughly frightening look at demonic possession, shot before the age of CGI, still manages to induce screams and shivers from its viewers.
‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968)
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move into an apartment building with wonderful, caring neighbors—at least that’s what Rosemary believes. When she becomes pregnant the atmosphere in the apartment building changes and the question becomes, “Just who—or what—fathered the baby?”
‘The Omen’ (1976)
Richard Donner directed this chilling horror film featuring a stellar cast led by Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. “The Omen” places the son of Satan into the happy home of a prominent political family. Scares ensue as the child grows up to destroy anyone who comes between the Devil’s spawn and his goal of world domination.
Staring into a fuzzy TV screen has never been as terrifying as it is in “Poltergeist,” which involves a possessed house and a 5-year-old’s chilling line: “They’re he-e-ere!” As if the film isn’t spooky enough, it seems that a curse surrounded the cast: Several actors, including child star Heather O’Rourke, died prematurely.
‘The Shining’ (1980)
Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall star in director Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,”based on the Stephen King novel about a man slowly losing his mind in a snowbound hotel. This is one of the best screen adaptations of a Stephen King novel, faithful in tone and spirit, although King doesn’t care for it.
‘The Amityville Horror’ (1979)
Maybe not as scary as some other classics, “The Amityville Horror” is still chilling. James Brolin and Margot Kidder play a couple who move into a house where, unbeknownst to them, a family was brutally slain, and evil lingers.
You’ve got to love a sci-fi film that spawned the tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Sigourney Weaver headlines the cast as tough girl Ripley, but the real star is the horrific alien, which appears in particularly gruesome fashion aboard a spacecraft far from Earth.
‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)
More a psychological thriller than a straight horror film, “The Sixth Sense” features Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who returns from picking up an award to find a very dissatisfied ex-patient. Crowe starts working with Cole (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy who believes he sees dead people. They team up to find the source of Cole’s frightening visions, with a famous twist at the end.
John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic features Jamie Lee Curtis as a babysitter terrorized by a psychotic killer. The first and best film of the Halloween franchise, it was made for $300,000 and grossed $47 million in the United States.
“The Changeling’ (1980)
George C. Scott stars as a lonely man whose family was killed in an accident. Moving into an empty mansion, he begins to experience scary, supernatural occurrences that seem related to the accident that took his family.