Most people like to watch scary movies at Halloween, but some horror movies aren’t suitable for young children. Consequently, in order to help you select the perfect movie for Halloween viewing, here is a list of the top ten best scary movies, five for family viewing and five for older audiences. Granted the list is based solely upon personal opinion, but isn’t that always the case with top-ten lists?
The Best Halloween Movies for Family Viewing
Movies selected for this category have well-written scripts, good acting, believable characters, thrills and chills, but no gratuitous violence or profanity. (Gratuitous means unwarranted or unnecessary.)
Stephen King’s Silver Bullet
Based Stephen King story, this above average horror film stars Gary Busey as the reprobate uncle, the late Corey Haim as his young nephew, and Megan Follows as his teenage niece. Set in a small town, appropriately in autumn, it contains plenty of scary moments, and although special-effects aficionados might cringe over the werewolf’s appearance, the movie provides sheer entertainment from beginning to end. (1985) Rated R: Violence and gore.
The Original Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis, in her feature film debut, and noted character actor Donald Pleasance star in this tale of a psychopath who returns on Halloween to terrorize a town where he committed murder 15 years ago. It’s filled with nerve-racking moments, but no scenes are graphic, even though the movie is rated R. Whatever you do, though, don’t confuse this classic with the umpteen Halloween remakes and serials, which are far more graphic and not nearly entertaining. (1978)
Additional scary movies suitable for family viewing:
- The Shortcut: (2009) This effective horror tale stars Shannon Woodward, Dave Franco, and Katrina Bowden. It’s a dandy thriller about three amateur sleuths who set out to learn the secret of the notorious “shortcut,” a path through the woods where terrible things are rumored to occur. Rated PG: Violence and profanity.
- Tremors: (1990) Rated four and a half stars by film critics Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, who describe it as “an old-fashioned monster movie,” Tremors is witty and suspenseful, with comedic moments. Rated PG-13: Light profanity and limited violence
- Twilight Zone—The Movie: (1983) A tribute to Rod Serling’s television series of the 1960s, this movie contains plenty of chills, especially the segment starring John Lithgow as a man who hates flying and after seeing a gremlin on the wing of the plane comes to hate it even more. Rated PG: Profanity and violence.
The Best Scary Halloween Movies for Older Audiences
The movies below, some of which are classics, are not recommended for younger children because of subject matter, language, nudity, and/or graphic violence.
Fright Night for Horror Spoof Lovers
Rated four and a half stars, and starring Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, and Amanda Bearse, this movie is about a teenage boy who is convinced that a vampire has moved in next door, so he elicits the aid of a former screen vampire hunter to help him slay the vampire. According Martin and Porter, the movie is “a screamingly funny horror spoof,” and they are exactly right. (1985) Rated R: Brief nudity, profanity, and violence.
The Exorcist for People Who Never Want to Sleep Again
The penultimate horror flick of all time and a box-office sensation when first released, The Exorcist stars Max von Sydow and Jason Miller as two tormented priests, Linda Blair as a possessed teenager, and Ellen Burstyn as her distraught mother. Rated four and a half stars for its overall film quality and superb performances, this movie will haunt you long after you have turned off your television. (1973) Rated R: Profanity and violence.
Terror Train for People Who Like Slasher Movies
Considered one of the better of the “slasher genre,” Terror Train, is about a group of college students who are having a New Year’s Eve fraternity party on a moving train and enjoying themselves immensely, at least until a deranged killer starts bumping them off one-by-one. Although rated R for violence, this movie relies more upon a good script, good acting, and genuine suspense than graphic violence for its thrills and chills. (1980)
Additional scary movies more suitable for adult viewing:
- Rosemary’s Baby: (1968) Starring Mia Farrow as a young woman who unwillingly enters an unholy arrangement with the devil, this movie remains a horror classic for many reasons, not the least of which is the late Ruth Gordon’s Oscar-winning performance as one of Farrow’s bizarre neighbors. Moreover, the ending is one that you will not easily forget. Rated R: Content and brief nudity.
- The Perfect Getaway: (2009) This psychological thriller stars Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez, and others and follows the misadventures of a couple celebrating their honeymoon by backpacking in Hawaii, where psychopaths are stalking and murdering tourists. Better than the average slasher film because the plot is intelligent and the story has unexpected twists. Rated R: Language and Graphic violence
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