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My Top 10 Scariest, Nightmare Influencing Horror Films

Updated on August 5, 2013

As you well know, the human mind truly is a mysterious thing. When it comes to sleeping the mind slips into a world of it's own. For many, that world consists of nothing but peace and quiet, allowing the brain to have it's time to rest, much like death.

Then there are the rest of us, the individuals with our sleep filled with dreams and/or nightmares. The effects of these dreams, or in the case of this articles focus nightmares, can be triggered by something as small as a fleeting glimpse of an image to a major life changing event.

This article will describe the top horror movies that I have seen throughout my life, that have managed to bring my nightmares to the surface. This isn't a review, very few of these movies were new releases even back when I first watched them, and it's not a top 10 of either good or bad movies either. They're simply the films that caused me to have the most nights of restless sleep, cold sweats and the awakening thoughts of extreme terror.

Although nightmares are not by any means pleasurable like a dream can be, they certainly remind you that your life could always be worse than what it is, and at times actually giving you an extra sense of confidence with your real life. For the most part there is no specific method to my madness, the films will be listed in random order, with the exception of the last, it being the biggest source of my past nightmares and the movie that started my love of horror.


1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

For those of you who may not already know, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an independent film produced by Tobe Hooper. In the film a group of friends, traveling back home to investigate their Grandfathers grave after hearing reports of it's vandalism, fall prey to a family of cannibals. The movie was originally marketed as being based on a true story to help attract a larger audience, but there is no truth to this whatsoever $6, it is entirely fictional (I wish they would have told me that 30 years ago).

If nothing else this movie taught me at least one valuable lesson, you never just go walking into a strangers house regardless of how desperate you are. If those kids would have just moved on to the next house, they wouldn't have become a full course meal for Leatherface and his family, and their bodies hanging on meat hooks wouldn't have haunted my sleep for several months.


2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining is an incredible movie shot in an equally incredible location, although the Overlook Hotel was merely a movie set it was in fact the largest ever built up to that point in time. Jack Nicholson played the lead as Jack Torrance and his psychically enhanced son Danny was played by Danny Lloyd. Jack had acquired the position of caretaker and so he and his family had taken up residence in the hotel for the winter. Soon after arriving a snowstorm hit trapping the family inside. Now there are a lot of very scary parts to this movie, but I have to say there are two that really stood out in my memory and left me nervous to fall asleep at night. The first one is the bathroom scene where Jack meets former caretaker Grady, who just so happened to already be dead at the time from suicide after butchering his two daughters. The other seen that really got me was Jack chopping through the door with an axe, trying to attack his family, when all of a sudden his head pops in and he growls, "Here's Johnny!

3. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

Dawn Of The Dead by the zombie master himself George Romero. This movie definitely deserves to be on my nightmare list, just for the simple fact that it's the very first zombie film I ever watched. Yes I know, it's a sequel and a rather late one at that, but it wasn't until the early 90's that I actually watched the original Night Of The Living Dead. For me, it didn't take any especially scary scenes for this movie to scare the daylights out of me.

Near where I lived at the time was an old semi-wooded area where we would all spend our days playing. The rumor of the time is that it was once an old cemetery and they had moved the bodies to a larger cemetery. This story was very believable to the 10 year old me, considering there were broken tombstones all over back there. Combine this story with a 10 year old imagination and on top of that a very graphic zombie film, like Dawn Of The Dead, and you have the makings of some horrific nightmares of zombies invading your neighborhood.

The same year that I first watched this movie Return Of The Living Dead was released, and although it was really more of a parody, it locked in my future obsession for zombie movies. If I was to pick any particularly memorable scene it would be when the 2 little kid zombies rush into a room and attack the swat team guy while his companions refuel the helicopter.


4. It (1990)

The movie "It" is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King. The movie revolves around 4 kids who are being tormented by an ageless demon who takes on the appearance of a clown and goes by the name Pennywise. This whole movie is just creepy, and very well made, by the time it's over you will be looking closely at every sewer drain you pass by to make sure Pennywise isn't glaring up at you with his menacing sharp toothed smile.

The best nightmare inducing scene for me, was when he lures little Georgie to the sewer drains with his lost newspaper boat, poor Georgie was never seen again. Definitely a must watch.


5. The Grudge (2004) or Ju-on (2002)

Alright these next 2 movies are both American versions of Japanese horror films, and if I've heard it once I've heard it a million times that the Japanese films are better. Well I personally don't care to read subtitles when I'm trying to be scared, so I've only watched the American versions. With that said, The Grudge is one creepy, make you jump out of your seat type, horror movie.

The Grudge is a curse that is formed when somebody dies,either in the grip of rage or extreme sadness. A supernatural being is created in the place of this death and anyone who encounters it soon dies as well, causing an endless circle of death. The biggest sleep invading scene for me would be a toss up between the dead version of Kayako pulls the girl Yoko into the attic by her jaw, or when Karen finds the little boy Toshio and his cat in the sealed up closet.


6. Ring (2002) or Ringu (1998)

The ring would be the second American version, of a Japanese film, that I had to mention. This film revolves around a cursed video tape that once watched condemns you to death. That doesn't sound to scary does it. Well that's because it's not the storyline that will give you nightmares it's the little girl that appears in your house after watching the tape, that will give you the chills.

Don't worry though she doesn't really wanna hurt you, she just wants you to join her corpse deep down in a well. As for the scene or scenes that crawl into my subconscious in the middle of the night, all of them involving that little girls, she's just plain scary. I rate her as the second scariest little girl in my movie memory, the number one will be mentioned later.


10. The Exorcist (1973)

For me, The Exorcist has always been and will probably always be one of the scariest movies that I have ever seen. I mentioned earlier that the girl from ring was the second scariest little girl I've ever seen, well, meet number one. Regan is by far the scariest little girl in the world. The exorcist is about a little girl possessed by the Devil and a priests plight to try to save her through exorcism.

This movie hasn't lost any of it's creepiness or scare factor during the last 39 years, since it's release, if you don't believe me pick up a copy of the directors cut. The scenes of little Regan spinning her head completely around and cursing blasphemies in the voice of the Devil, or her crawling down the stairs in the freakiest way possible, will haunt my nightmares for months, every time I see this movie even to this day.

7. Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead is the first movie in the Evil Dead trilogy and by far the scariest. Don't get me wrong, I love the sequel Evil Dead 2 even more than the first, but it was the original that would wake me up late at night, filled with the fear of an unseen spirit possessing my friends and family, for the sole purpose of killing me. For some reason even in my nightmares, I couldn't ever bring myself to dismember my friends like Ash did in the movie.

The Evil Dead is one of those movies that creeps you out as a whole, there wasn't any one particular scene, but if I was to pick one it would be Ash dismembering his possessed girlfriend in the tool shed with various tools.

8. Bug (2006)

The movie bug is probably more thriller then horror, but definitely dishes out it's share of fuel to get a nightmare ignited. The movie takes place in a seedy motel room, for the most part. The plot of the film revolves around a waitress (Agnes)and her new boyfriend (Peter) who is mentally ill and thinks the government has been doing experiments on him. Eventually Peter convinces Agnes that there are bugs under his skin and throughout his body, and poor Agnes convinces herself that the queen bug is within her.

Now, to be perfectly honest the nightmares I encountered from this movie all involved bugs crawling around under my skin. In the movie the bugs were just a hallucination but they apparently seemed real enough to Peter that he yanked out his own tooth because he was convinced there was a bug beneath it, then shortly after they both doused themselves in gasoline and then lit themselves on fire, to stop the bug invasion.


9. The Descent (2005)

The Descent is a film about 6 women who go caving/spelunking into an unmapped cave system and become trapped after a collapse. While searching for a way to escape the team runs into hordes of pale human like creatures that willingly feed on the women one by one.

This movie has a whole range of fears wrapped up in it's plot, there's claustrophobia, fear of the dark, pale cannibalistic little monsters, and at one point even the women, the few remaining at least, turn on each other. But the one that kept me up at night was the claustrophobia, there's just something about being trapped underground that really makes me shudder.


Final Thought

So this was my list of nightmare inducing horror films, what's yours? What movies wake you from a dead sleep, wishing you hadn't watched them so late at night? Was it one of these, or do you have your own particular kind of horror fear? Comment below and let me know, who knows, you may just mention the next film to leave me sleepless.

DS Duby


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