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The 28 Classic Horror Movies Every Scary Film Buff Must See

Brb, sleeping with the lights on forever.

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If you're looking for a movie to bring the chills in a serious way, you need to start with the classics. Yes, there are some amazing modern horror movies, but there's something about the staying power of the classics and their ability to scare generation after generation—without fancy CGI monsters. Here are some of the most classic horror movies of all time that any self-respecting scary movie buff needs to see.

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1 'Psycho' (1960)

When you think of classic horror, what's the first image that comes to mind? If it's the raised knife of Psycho's famous shower scene, you're not alone. More than 50 years later, this Hitchcock classic is still thoroughly terrifying.

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2 'The Shining' (1980)

All work and no play makes people go literally insane and attempt to murder their families—at least, that's the lesson in 1980's The Shining. The Kubrick adaptation of Stephen King's book is a psychological mind trip—in the best and scariest of ways, of course.

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3 'The Exorcist' (1973)

The Demonic Possession film has become a sub-genre of its own and the OG entry in the category is 1973's The Exorcist.

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4 'Halloween' (1978)

When it comes to slasher flicks, it doesn't get much more classic than the original Halloween, which made the idea of a masked murderer the gold standard in scary movies and crowned Jamie Lee Curtis the Scream Queen.

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5 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)

Adulting is scary enough on its own without adding demonic elements, like giving birth to the literal spawn of satan. That's the premise of 1968's Rosemary's Baby though and it's as horrifying as it sounds.

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6 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)

A monstrous murderer who comes for you in your dreams and kills you in your sleep? It's a real nightmare and, appropriately, the premise for the '80s classic.

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7 'Scream' (1996)

Scream was the meta look at horror movies that horror fans had been waiting for—but also a pitch perfect scary movie in its own right. The '90s hit became an instant classic.

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8 'Carrie' (1976)

Stephen King's supernatural horror novel became a classic scary movie when it was released in 1976, highlighting the horrors of adolescence, puberty, and high school in general.

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9 'The Conjuring' (2013)

This modern classic about a family who moves into an isolated farmhouse is scary enough to have spawned a whole bunch of spin-offs (you can thank this film for the Annabelle series, for example) that will probably outlive us all.

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10 'Nosferatu' (1922)

It doesn't get much more "classic" than this. Nosferatu is a scarefest from 1922 that basically set the standard for vampire movies for the next century.

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11 'The Thing' (1982)

The scariest horror movies explore what it's like to be truly trapped with a monster—and in The Thing, Antartica provides the horrifying remote setting for a series of attacks from a shape-shifting beast.

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12 'Alien' (1979)

In space, no one can hear you scream. That becomes an issue when your space ship is overtaken by a ruthless killing machine hellbent on taking out your entire crew, one-by-one.

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13 'The Birds' (1963)

Hitchcock has gone down in history as the master of horror, and for good reason. In 1963's The Birds, regular, average, not-monstrous birds turn on a whole town, viciously attacking them. It will make you scared to go outside for weeks.

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14 'Bride of Frankenstein' (1935)

If for no other reason than to truly understand the slew of pop culture reference it spawned, Bride of Frankenstein should be required viewing for all film buffs.

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15 The Grudge' (2006)

It's thanks to this Sarah Michelle Gellar-led film that you still can't hear that distinctive rasping sound without your heart racing. Admit it—it still haunts your nightmares.

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16 'The Haunting' (1963)

One of the original haunted house stories, The Haunting is just as terrifying today as it was in the '60s.

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17 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)

If you're a fan of psychological horror, then you have to see The Silence of the Lambs, which puts the psychological aspect front and center, via iconic villain Hannibal Lecter and his conversations with FBI profiler Clarice Starling.

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18 'The Evil Dead' (1981)

If you've ever wondered where the "group of young people are attacked at a remote cabin in the woods" trope gained its popularity, you clearly haven't seen The Evil Dead yet, and that needs to change ASAP.

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19 'Poltergeist' (1982)

There are haunted house movies and then there's Poltergeist, which will leave you researching your neighborhood to make sure it wasn't built on top of any graveyards or sacred burial grounds. Plus, reading about the franchise's infamous "curse" will send you down an internet rabbit hole all on its own.

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20 'The Omen' (1976)

Sometimes the antichrist doesn't come through your own womb. Sometimes you inadvertently adopt him. That's the premise of The Omen, one of the earliest (and scariest) "terrifying child terrorizes a family" movies.

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21 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

This low-budget horror phenomenon changed the game in scary movies, set box office records, and paved the way for the found footage genre going forward.

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22 'Jaws' (1975)

The original Jaws should be a camp fest, but even with an infamously malfunctioning mechanical shark as its villain, the Steven Spielberg classic is scary enough to make you jump, even today.

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23 'An American Werewolf in London' (1981)

Werewolf movies are hard to get right, but that's part of what makes 1981's An American Werewolf in London such an achievement.

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24 'The Ring' (2002)

For many millennials, this 2002 classic was our first experience of being really and truly scared out of our minds. Naomi Watts stars as reporter Rachel Keller, whose niece dies grotesquely after watching a videotape. Rachel watches the videotape, as do her estranged partner and kid...and the rest is horror movie history.

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25 'The Fly' (1986)

This horror movie stars Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who invents a teleportation device and tests it out—not realizing that a fly is also along for the ride. What follows is a truly horrifying transformation as Jeff becomes part fly, part man.

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26 'Misery' (1990)

In Misery, we get a look at fanatic devotion gone very, very wrong. The movie (which is yet another Stephen King adaptation) focuses on an author who is left seriously injured after a car crash and rescued by a retired nurse who turns out to be one of his biggest fans. She brings him home to nurse him back to health—and to keep him prisoner forever.

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27 'Let the Right One In' (2008)

This Swedish vampire movie is fairly modern, but it's also a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a connoisseur of horror classics. It expertly blends classic themes with sophisticated psychological thrills.

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28 'Get Out' (2017)

Classics can be released any time. Case in point: Jordan Peele's game-changing social thriller Get Out, which achieved instant classic status when it was released in 2017.

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