The 25 best horror movies to scare you senseless and keep you up all night

15. It (2017)

The movie: Derry, Maine, 1998. Children are going missing, and stories of a killer clown lead a group of plucky outcasts known as The Losers' Club to investigate. Suffice to say, they won't like what they find.  

Why it's scary: Take that, production woes! Despite a change of director and some initially concerning deviations from the book, 2017's cinematic adaption of It - Stephen King's horror epic about a child-murdering alien dressed as a clown -  is a veritable treat of a horror film. Bill Skarsgard gives us a Pennywise performance worthy of King's prose, while the central focus on The Loser's Club ensures that this fright fest still has a warm, beating heart. 

14. Psycho (1960)

 The movie: Hitchcock's thriller about a murderer lurking in a roadside motel is so much a part of pop culture now it's hard to imagine what it must have been like to watch it on release. Anthony Perkins is wonderful as the vulnerable and frightening Norman; even when you know what happens, he's got a kind of awkward charm that's hard to resist. 

Why it's scary: There are at least two moments that would've been completely shocking to contemporary audiences. And yes, they might not be as surprising to today's crowds, it's still possible to watch it now and appreciate the craftsmanship of the film, how carefully it's constructed and how overwhelming its atmosphere of dread. 

13. An American Werewolf in London

The movie: David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are hiking across Yorkshire when they're attacked by a mysterious creature. Jack is killed, but David is taken to a hospital in London, where he recovers and starts dating a nurse (Jenny Agutter). That's not a happy ending, though, because the creature that attacked the boys was a werewolf, and there's another full moon on the way. Director John Landis is as adept at comedy as he is at horror, and manages to use both to great effect in this movie. 

Why it's scary: Well, if the greatest werewolf transformation scene of all time doesn't have you biting your nails, the scene of nazi werewolves definitely will. 

12. Carrie (1976)

The movie: Poor old Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a complete misfit. Her mother's religious mania keeps her sheltered, confused, and scared, and her schoolmates aren't much better. Being invited to prom with one of the popular kids looks like Carrie's ticket to acceptance, but things don't exactly go to plan and Carrie wreaks spectacular revenge on her tormentors. Brian De Palma expertly crafts a terrifying split-screen finale that shouldn't work, but acts as a brilliant mood-setter before Carrie's final walk home to face her mother.

Why it's scary: There are plenty of high school horrors out there, but few as visceral - or as heart-breaking - as Carrie herself.   

11. The Shining (1980)

The movie: All work and no play makes Jack (Jack Nicholson) into a raving lunatic. The Shining is a story of isolation and terror, and from all accounts director Stanley Kubrick did his best to torment his cast and crew while they were making the film, demanding up to 127 takes of a single scene. The result is a delirious viewing experience that'll make you rethink that skiing holiday.  

Why it's scary: The deliberate pacing and obsessive attention to detail add up to a hypnotic horror that's impossible to look away from. Like the weird party guests bleeding from the head, elevators that gush blood... 

10. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

The movie: The original zombie movie. George Romero basically invented a whole subgenre with this movie, and his slow, shambling, relentless ghouls are still terrifying. As is the idea that, if the dead rise, well have to rely on our neighbours not to get us killed. Yikes. 

Why it's scary: It introduced the world to the idea of undead flesh-eating monsters. Trying to imagine TV and cinema without them? Impossible. The horror genre hasn't looked back since. 

9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The movie: There's something nasty in the woods out near Burkittsville. According to the locals, it's either a witch, the ghost of a witch, or a child-murdering hermit, but whatever it is, you probably don't want to run into it after dark. Unless you're Heather (Heather Donahue), a wannabe documentarian, who drags her camera crew out into the woods to make a movie. 

Why it's scary: Unlike many found footage movies, which throw in edits for no reason and forget who's holding the camera, The Blair Witch Project gives you all the creepy feels because the actors really did all the filming themselves. That final shot is a killer, too. 

8. Halloween (1978)

The movie: Who'd have thought an old Star Trek mask could be so terrifying? Director John Carpenter created a modern classic when he gave his villain a blank white mask a Halloween mask of William Shatner's face to wear while stalking babysitters around the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois. The movie created another icon, too, in Jamie-Leigh Curtis, who'd become both a scream queen in her own right, and the template for all final girls to follow.

Why it's scary: It's a pretty straightforward stalk-and-slash, but Carpenter composes his shots to keep you constantly guessing, always looking for the mysterious shape of the killer. (You might recognise this technique from recent horrors like Insidious.)  

7. The Wicker Man (1973) 

The movie: A little girl has gone missing on Summerisle, an isolated island off the coast of Scotland. But when Sgt Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives to investigate, the locals seem reluctant to help. They're more interested in preparing for their elaborate May Day celebrations. 

Why it's scary: The Wicker Man shouldn't work. It's a mishmash of genres that throws in comedy and musical numbers alongside images of utter horror. But somehow, everything comes together to create a uniquely brilliant masterpiece.   

6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The movie: You can kind of see why the BBFC felt they had to ban this film on its original home release. The story of a group of kids who run into a family of chainsaw-wielding cannibals including one who wears the peeled-off skin of his victims as a mask is shockingly gory, with a heavy atmosphere of dread.

Why it's scary: For all the reasons it was originally banned! It's gory, it's scary, and it's got this oppressive atmosphere of heat and violence that clings to you like sweat afterwards.