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My Top 10 Scariest, Nightmare Influencing Horror Films

Updated on August 5, 2013
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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    • Lil Miss Reader profile image

      Stephany 4 years ago from Somerset New Jersey

      I have never seen Bug or Evil Dead. I LOVE the Exorcist though! It's in my top ten of ALL time fav movies. You should check out Carnival of Souls from 1962. I watched it in the middle of a sunny summer day with the windows and shades open, fell asleep afterwards and STILL woke up in a cold sweat from fear! I loved it!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I noticed carnival of souls is on Netflix, I'll definitily check it out. Thanks for commenting

    • Bob Ferreira profile image

      Bob Ferreira 4 years ago

      All fantastic films in this list. Didn't find any of them particularly scary, but definitely good and classic horror films.

      I agree with Lil Miss Reader in that you should see Carnival of Souls. It is a very visual horror film, and way ahead of its time.

      At any rate, excellent hub! Voted up!

    • Lil Miss Reader profile image

      Stephany 4 years ago from Somerset New Jersey

      It's pretty good. I personally love black and white movies, especially old 'horror/terror' films, like Nosferatu and the original Dracula, Frankenstien and WolfMan movies so that may be the draw to Carnival of Souls for me. I hope you enjoy it though. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys it as much as I do...or anyone who's actually seen it.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you for the comment, I think the fact that I was so young when I watched most of these movies made them seem much more scary and some are just phobia induced nightmares like the bug and the descent.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I love old horror films whether black and white or color makes no difference to me, as long as there,s a good story behind it. Then again, I also have a love for the cheesy horror movies so I'm pretty easy to please.

    • Lil Miss Reader profile image

      Stephany 4 years ago from Somerset New Jersey

      I totally got you on that one. We should def talk movies! lol

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      We should that would be great, I'm always up for a good discussion.

    • Lil Miss Reader profile image

      Stephany 4 years ago from Somerset New Jersey

      Do you have G Chat?

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I believe I do google has so many different ways to chat now, I can't be completely sure lol

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      I cannot rate this hub Beautiful ( u know.. for obvious reasons) :) lol

      I have seen some on the list and they are really scary..

      Great hub

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Rahul I certainly wouldn't rate it beautiful either, thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 4 years ago from Illinois

      Great list, these are undoubtedly some of the best horror movies around. I also like some more recent ones like The Skeleton Key and Drag Me To Hell.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Rachael thanks for stopping by and commenting, those are both very good movies you mentioned, I've watched them both several times.

    • smithed profile image

      smithed 4 years ago

      Great list. The movie that scared me the most when I saw for first time as a young kid was the the first A Nightmare on Elm Street.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I remember going to the theater to see that with an older cousin, because I was to young to get in. lol scared the crap outta me back then. Thanks for commenting.

    • JideAlexander profile image

      JideAlexander 4 years ago from IL

      The scariest one to me has to be the exorcist as well.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I can't agree more that one will always be it to me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's hard to argue with this list; I have had a couple sleepless nights because of several of these movies. Great hub!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Billybuc.

    • diggnet profile image

      diggnet 4 years ago from US

      The Shining is the best!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      The original shining was an awesome movie, one of my favorite roles by J ack Nicholson.

    • Motherbynature profile image

      Motherbynature 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      What an excellent list. I share a love/obsession with horror movies. I didn't find the move "It" scary but the book gave me nightmares and made me fall in love with Stephen King.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Motherbynature The book IT is definitely an incredible read, it draws you in so easily. One of my all time favorite reads. Thank you again for reading and commenting

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

      I've been fortunate not to have any scary films invade my nightmares (at least not lately). My nightmares are of a more personal nature (e.g., not remembering where I left my car; attempting to walk home and discovering I'm in a completely unfamiliar city; going to where my house should be located and discovering that the neighborhood has been completely reconfigured). These are my adult nightmares, but as a child I did have Godzilla in a number of my dreams. I finally figured out a trick. If I kept myself near Godzilla's tail, I felt a measure of safety because he never seemed to look behind himself. Also as a child I was terrified by Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." I was far to young to be subjected to this movie, but my mother and sister dragged me along. I was spooked even by the eerie music composed by Bernard Hermann at the opening credits. After three-fourths of the film, I was hiding under my seat, with my hands over my ears. The movie put a real zap on me. I was unable to sleep alone in my bedroom, and, for a few years, I preferred sleeping on the couch in the living room. I was also freaked out by Hitchcock's "The Birds." In the bathroom there was this tiny door near the ceiling. I never noticed it until my sister brought it to my attention -- as a place through which birds might emerge. After that I dreaded taking a bath and would rush through the procedure. Many years later I saw "The Exorcist," and could not sleep without leaving the light on. That film also had a lingering influence. Then there was "Alien." I didn't sleep much the night after seeing that piece. Since then I haven't seen a film that had any of these same results. I've seen a lot of creepy films, and they can disturb me for several hours, but not weeks or years. Occasionally, I have nightmares of walking along some street containing a potpourri of distorted people through which I have to pass. I'm far more afraid of what my unconscious mind can conjure up than what I see in films.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thanks for reading and commenting rjbatty, There aren't to many recent horror films that i even consider remotely scary but the original Exorcist will always remain high on my list of actual scary movies, it just has a way of creeping me out.

    • profile image

      4 years ago

      im obsessed with zombie movies but they don't scare me, the ones based on true stories and "demony" films are the ones that get to me so i'll agree the the exorcist is top. Also the descent is a really good nail-biting horror.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      I too am obsessed with zombies movies lol I own more of those than any other. But I agree demons are a much scarier subject.

    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      A great Hub on my favorite movie genre! I've seen them all, except "Bug." I might check it out, I always seek out a good scare! I recall being actively frightened when "The Ring" came out, as I was rather young.

      It's one thing to be slightly scares while watching a movie, and quite another for something about a film to stay with you affect you to the extent you lose sleep, or worse! Too rare a quality, nowadays, but it sometimes is achieved. Good list and Hub!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Yeah I'm a huge horror fan myself, the cheesier the better. There are very few movies that can scare me while watching the actual movie, probably desensitized from watching so many lol so I judge them more for their aftereffect, nightmares and stuff. It it didn't cause me to run from it in a dream its just not scary. Thanks for reading and commenting Steve.

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 4 years ago

      I am the OPPOSITE of a horror fan! I stopped watching scary movies in h.s. so I've only seen a few on your list (actually never heard of a few), but I was curious to see what you included, plus I am awed by those of you who can watch these fright fests! I just can't do it! Actually, the last "scary" movie I saw was "The Blair Witch Project". Although it wasn't too scary, the images stayed with me. Interesting hub for before Halloween, and you sure seem to know your stuff!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you g-girl I'm a die hard horror fan it has something to do with the calming feeling after being on edge or frightened. I go all out on Halloween as well, hitting all the scariest haunted houses dressing up as zombies. We even spent the night in a haunted Theater on Halloween. So much fun. Thank you for reading and commenting

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      .......Are you familiar with film buffs Cogerson and Robwrite?

      I am one too naturally and love your choices here and of course your passion and intelligence rocks big time too.

      I would add to this list - an Asian film called The Audition, Robert Wise's The Haunting from 1963 (not the crappy remake), El Topo, Carnival of Souls (not the crappy remake, lol) all of these films should be found at You Tube and oh yes - David Croneberg's first film - Shivers (a zombie film if there ever was one)

      sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 10:28am and linking your hub to my FB group Let's just talk music or cinema

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Epigramman it's always great to meet other movie buffs. I'm not familiar with cogerson or Robwrite, I will definitely have to check them out. I will also be checking out your movie recommendations, I just can't pass up a good horror movie. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      Yoginder 4 years ago from delhi

      nice list bro ..you have added lost of awesome movies specially mine fav grudge but i think the list has very old movies plz add some new movies article too.and me too have added some vampires movies on my torrent blog : http://thingsoverflow.com/list-of-top-25-must-watc...

    • profile image

      A-pex 4 years ago

      Great list, im not 1 that scares easily but movies like IT the grudge & the shining really creep me out IT is 1 of the most frightening horror movies iv seen, that's probably because i saw it when i was so young & gave me nightmares for life lol. I recently saw.. sinister with ethan hawke, i never knew much about it & assumed it was a thriller but soon as it started i got that creepy feeling, i wont say much bout it but you can really interact with what ethan hawke is trying to uncover, the lawnmower scene still freaks me out to this day, truly disturbing flick, i think its definitely a must see for horror fans

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      thanks A-pex I'll certainly check it out. Thank you to thingsoverflow I'll add some newer movies soon Thanks again for the tip.

    • kikibruce profile image

      kikibruce 4 years ago from New York

      Your list inludes many of the films as well as films I have written extensively about, including The Exorcist as well as The Descent.

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      Drea0075 2 years ago

      Don't laugh. But I have seen most of the movies in your list and nothing scares me more than Gremlins. The first movie. The second one I can watch and it doesn't phasr me. Yes, I know. Everyone always laughs at me but really, I don't find it funny. I think my issue is that I watched it so young 6 or 7 years old and the imagery of it is what gets me. I can see one in my mind on a persons back trying to kill them and the person is helpless. It is really embarrassing. I have watched Child's play, nightmare on elm street, IT, poltergeist (all of them) and nothing terrifies me more than gremlins out of everything. So much so that because I live alone I refuse to watch scary movies anymore period and haven't for years because it will paralyze me to not wanting to move from my bed for fear something will get me. It's crazy I know.

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