Top 25 Film Thrills & Chills: The Complete List

Are you ready for Eclectic Pop's Top 25 Film Thrills and Chills? The list had been broken down into five parts and has now been compiled into one place. The only thing scarier than the movies on this list is the thought of having to click your way through five different posts.

To rewind, this is a list of unorthodox thrillers and straight-up “scary” movies that should have you on the edge of your seat. The top 25 is not composed to reflect the scariest movies of all-time, rather serve as an eclectic guide through notoriously frightening fare, as well as some of the lesser known, anxiety-riddled tales.

These are the most frightening movies yours truly has seen and nothing was left off. So why not call this list "the scariest movies of all-time?" Because there are still some scary movies yours truly has yet to see.

Some themes strike fear more than others so it was important to cover an array of factors. This list runs the gamut of suspense -- from the paranormal to the glaringly obvious psycho villains, to the more subtlety lethal threats. Prepare to be scared…

#25: The Caller (2011)

This was a fun indie thriller starring Rachelle Lefevre as a woman who begins getting terrifying phone calls from a disturbed woman. The setup makes for a huge creep factor and the mystery surrounding the frightening phone calls is intriguing. You have to stick with this one, as the pace is a tad slow in the beginning, the payoff makes it a worthwhile wait.

Anchored by a charismatic performance by Lefevre, she makes you care about what happens to her character and the burgeoning relationship with her love interest played by Stephen Moyer. It provides some cleverly effective chills.

#24: Hideaway (1995)

Based on the 1992 novel by Dean Koontz, "Hideaway" is a disconcerting jaunt into the supernatural. It tells the tale of a family man, Hatch (Jeff Goldblum), who miraculously comes back to life after dying in a car accident. Unfortunately, coming back to life carries some unfortunate side effects, something Hatch quickly realizes.

Goldblum’s quirky screen presence and vivid expressions keep the film from falling into campiness. The horror factor still resonates many years later and Jeremy Sisto’s performance as the film’s psycho is memorably villainous.
 

#23: The Pact (2007)

A little-known treasure in the indie circuit, "The Pact" might be destined for cult status eventually. The film requires some patience as it gets off to a slow start.

Once it gets rolling it does not let up, eventually finding a smooth momentum. Caity Lotz plays a woman who has come back to her childhood home to settle her family’s estate after her mother’s death.

What happens while she is staying at the house is a series of chilling events. The film deftly toys with the mind of viewers as it leaves the reason behind the terror, unknown. Is it supernatural or human? There's only one way to find out.

#22: The Night Flier (1997)

Miguel Ferrer stars as a tabloid journalist who goes on the hunt for a killer traveling by airplane to his next victim, in this adaptation of Stephen King’s short story. While the graphics are gory, it is the tension building to the reveal that excels the movie past horror cliché.

Ferrer’s performance is tenacious and his charm sustains some of the slower aspects that build throughout the mystery, keeping us engaged throughout.

The grotesque appearance of the vampire is incredibly difficult to look at. Making a scary creature is half the battle for a horror flick and “The Night Flier” definitely succeeds with the challenge.
 

#21: My Bloody Valentine (2009)

A remake of the 1981 horror film of the same name. This version is sharp with some spooky scares. The mystery in the film is its greatest asset though.

Shot in 3D, the cinematography adds an absorption factor that involves the audience, making the story come alive. This is the case whether you see it in 3D or not.

Without giving anything away, plot wise, there are some crafty twists and turns that make this film stand apart from typical thriller cliché. While Jensen Ackles and Jamie King were heavily billed as the stars, look out for the performances of Kerr Smith and Megan Boone, they are marvelous.

#20: Frequency (2000)

There is something strongly sentimental and deeply disturbing about this cross-time story. Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel play a father and son separated by death but brought together through a short-wave radio. Their goal is to stop the death of Quaid’s character in the past and as with most cross-time stories; there are consequences. A seedy mystery adds an eerie feeling that is felt throughout. 

The compelling blend of science fiction and fantasy is well-executed while maintaining a legitimate atmosphere. Director Gregory Hoblit bolsters the suspense, keeping the pace from losing steam. Stellar turns by Caviezel and Quaid make it easy to root for their characters to succeed and frightened at the costs if they fail.
 

#19: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Pedro Almodovar is one of the best filmmakers that the film world has ever had behind the camera. What he crafted with "The Skin I Live In" is a twisty thriller that is all-encompassing. It successfully keeps you guessing until the last act. Disturbing without gory overtones, it is instead more of a human thriller. It explores the darkness of the human soul and its capacity for redemption.

Antonio Banderas is front and center, making the most of his remarkable screen presence. He always keeps his characterization simmering below the surface of transparency. Elena Anaya is also a revelation in a stunningly vulnerable turn as the mysterious female lead. The performances act as the perfect complement to this enthralling and suspenseful ride, as only the maestro Almodovar, could deliver.

#18: Cabin Fever (2002)

Grizzly and gory, the images from this film will stay in the cerebral memory banks, indefinitely. When a group of friends (Jordan Ladd and Rider Strong, among others) head to a cabin to celebrate their college graduation, they become infected with a flesh-eating virus.

The moronic reaction and lack of sanitation that leads to furthering the infection among the group makes their horrific demise all the more frustrating and the victims incredibly difficult to empathize with.

The disgusting special effects and claustrophobic direction by Eli Roth are what really ups the ante, making viewers feel like the nauseating victims depicted in the movie. It is scary. However, the side effects might include the desire to scrub your brain with a strong detergent after watching it.

#17: Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Upon its release, America was swept up in a foreign frenzy, as the French-language feature became a bit of a phenomenon. It is a gothic mystery with stellar performances and bold nuances that put it in another echelon.

Engaging an audience for 2 1/2 hours is no easy task and that is exactly what this film manages to do, maintaining its entertainment value throughout its entire runtime. Dipping into the intrigue of historical lore brings a dimension of haunting realism.

Performances by Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Samuel Le Bihan and Mark Dacascos transcend linguistics, affirming that fear translates in any language.

#16: Breakdown (1997)

On the surface, the story sounds simple. Kurt Russell stars as a man whose car breaks down on road trip with his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) when she disappears he is confronted by doubts that she ever existed. All hell subsequently breaks loose, as he tries to find her.

"Breakdown" is a psychological thriller that feels genuinely possible and therefore, all the more frightening. Russell is in fine form, portraying a man driven to question his own sanity and ultimately digging deep to find the answers he needs. The film’s tagline says it all, “It could happen to you” and it is true. That’s the scariest part. 

#15: The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

If you are familiar with the lore behind the Mothman mythos, that of a real-life terror suffered by members of a West Virginia town, it elevates the chill quotient, considerably. Time for a little historical backstory. In the 1960’s, the town of Point Pleasant was paralyzed by a “haunting” of sorts, as denizens widely reported sightings of a paranormal figure that would become known as the Mothman.

While the actual events chronicled in the book the movie was based on would have made for a good enough story all of its own; director Mark Pellington, gives the audience some honest scares, in a more modern take that circles around a reporter (Richard Gere) inadvertently investigating the Mothman after his wife’s death. One name will haunt you afterward: Indrid Cold.

#14: Identity (2003)

The reluctant guests of a spooky hotel, slowly learn the mysterious link that connects them, in this frightening spin on the psychological thriller. The scariest things can most times not even exist in the tangible sense.

It’s the shady crevices of a person’s mind, that can be the most terrifying to explore and this film takes you inside that dark mission. The twisty nature of "Identity" will keep you wondering, as it puts together a fascinating puzzle.

It is a truly original concept that is executed with riveting brilliance. Disorienting enough to keep you spinning and steady enough to keep you focused.

Not to mention, the movie is stacked with a phenomenal cast of talent that includes John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and John Hawkes, to name a few. Their fantastic performances work to create an electric atmosphere plagued with intrigue.

#13: The Vanishing (1988)

Rex (Gene Hofman) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are a young couple in love; traveling on holiday. When Saskia vanishes without a trace, Rex mounts a desperate search for answers.

Getting to those answers is where this film covers, exceedingly disturbing ground. A cautionary tale of how far a person’s desire for answers can take them.

"The Vanishing" features a mystery fraught with spine-tingling tension and frightening consequences. This film would later get an American remake starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges.

It is hard to imagine it could top the French original with all of its unnerving complexities. "The Vanishing" will not disappear from your mind, anytime soon.

#12: Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Director Sam Raimi went back to his horror roots for this morality tale that is disquietingly dark, not only with its graphic imagery but the overall grim fortune that shadows its lead character. "Drag Me to Hell" cleverly toys with cliché and evokes a brainy take on the typical protagonist.

When a loan officer, Christine (Allison Lohman), refuses to extend the mortgage of an elderly woman, she induces a curse meant to literally drag Christine to hell. There is a slight commentary on the ambition of the youth culture and the desire to succeed at all costs. As a whole it is campy fun, rife with immense tension; and it will have you guessing until the last second.

#11: Orphan (2009)

The outstanding Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”) stars in this unpredictable thriller about a family who adopts a peculiar orphan girl, following a devastating loss.

Farmiga anchors the movie as a woman we can pull for, captivatingly playing the flawed mom with relentless fortitude. Isabella Furman is also excellent as the tiny villainess we hope she defeats.

There are send-ups to some movie clichés, though it manages to circumvent most of them, in its brilliant third act. “Orphan” is downright creepy and the resolution of the mystery surrounding it; is well worth watching for.

#10: The Birds (1963)

The horror peaking behind Hitchcock's "The Birds" does not solely lie with what is shown, rather what is not. Most of the movie centers around the sense of foreboding taking place in the home where Tippi Hedren’s Melanie waits out the bird attack. The thought of a creature as idyllic and commonplace as a bird, attacking people is a terrifying thought.

One animal turning against humans is a scary idea. Add a whole species banding together and it makes for a far more threatening notion.

Underestimating the power of animals leads to a false security that lowers the naturally present and alert, human guard. After seeing "The Birds", your defenses will be on high alert.

#9: Red Eye (2005)

A tight and taut thriller from director Wes Craven that never makes excuses or relies on stall tactics to further the action, "Red Eye" is an invigorating take on the cat and mouse game, between villain and victim. When Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is on a flight, she meets the aptly named Jackson Ripper (Cillian Murphy) and shortly thereafter he takes her captive.

McAdams’ plucky determination breaks the mold of the damsel in distress archetype that typically haunts the horror genre. The victim and the villain are equally matched and the battle of wills is all the more entertaining to see play out as a result.

#8: Halloween (1978)

Merely hearing the slightest flourish from its theme can send shivers down your spine. Jamie Lee Curtis’ scream queen reign would be cemented in this disturbing tale. While the terrifying image of a blank-masked nutcase, Michael Myers, would haunt the nightmares of millions.

"Halloween" is a true classic in the horror genre and while it treads on a great deal of horror cliché, there is something that even all these years later, makes it feel disarmingly frightening. Though there have been countless sequels, the original is where it all began and it was never scarier than this.

#7: Vacancy (2007)

Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Luke Wilson) Fox are a couple trying to put the pieces back together following a devastating personal tragedy. Eventually, they seek shelter in a vacant motel or so they thought.

If you have ever had second thoughts about staying in a dilapidated motel, seeing this fear actually depicted will have every nerve ending, standing at attention. Determination and the human will to survive are boiled down to the essentials.

As a thriller, it does not rely on lame character formulation to keep the scenario going or stretch beyond credulity. It’s precise and effective.

#6: Joy Ride (2001)

When two brothers (Paul Walker and Steve Zahn) are taking a road trip, they pull a cruel prank on a trucker, who then decides to get revenge. What begins as a light movie about brothers shooting the breeze; spirals into exploring the karmic consequences of mean spirited-ness and its terrifying ramifications.

Rusty Nail is similar to the antagonist from "The Hitcher" in his ruthlessness. However, the set-up makes him far more sympathetic than other horror villains. This element is the film’s greatest asset, as the characters and viewers experience a slow descent, into realizing the depths of Rusty Nail’s depravity.

#5: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Two Americans, backpacking through Europe get more than they bargained for when they are attacked by a werewolf. David Naughton brings an affable charm to the newfound werewolf, David, and his performance has you rooting for him the whole way through.

One key ingredient that puts this movie in another stratosphere is the romantic relationship that is presented. Normally, the “love story” is thrown in as an afterthought but Naughton and Jenny Agutter (Alex) have such terrific chemistry, that it escalates the romance to refreshingly authentic levels.

All these years later, the special effects of this horror classic still stand the test of time and with a superlative opening sequence that is still one of film’s most memorable moments, there’s no questioning why "An American Werewolf in London" is a horror classic.

#4: Final Destination 2 (2003)

By now, we all know about the original "Final Destination" that would begin a franchise of lesser quality films. Seldom does a sequel step up its game and usurp the original and this movie proves to be that exception to the rule. When a woman saves her friends from dying in a pile-up car accident, death comes for each of them.

This particular film sidesteps a lot of supernatural elements. If you want to see them, they are there but otherwise, everything is pretty believable.

After seeing it, the pattern of dominos that surround a comfortable life-force will be disturbed. Add to that one of the most spectacular movie intros ever and you have something frighteningly tremendous.

#3: The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg’s remake of the 1956 classic; brought special effects standards to a whole other level. Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle, a scientist on the verge of his big breakthrough.

When a lab error causes his DNA to be mixed with a fly's, the result is a mind-bending and appalling creature. As Brundle slowly devolves out of his humanity and into one of the most grotesque monsters in film canon, the results are dreadfully realistic.

Cronenberg’s use of make-up to create the effects has proven a wise decision. As recent horror films have slipped into the oblivion of CGI, the fright factor has decreased at a rapid rate. "The Fly" has sidestepped this problem, barely aging and not losing an ounce of fear, as a result.

#2: Frozen (2010)

Imagine being trapped on a ski lift, suspended mid-air in freezing temperatures above a feral terrain where animals lurk in the dark of night. It is a bloodcurdling thought and is exactly what this engrossing thriller explores.

"Frozen" gives you the unrelenting and brutal play-by-play of three friends (Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, and Shawn Ashmore) who are stuck trying to survive and escape an unthinkable situation. In the vein of "127 Hours" and "Open Water", "Frozen" offers a little more hope.

It effectively engages the audience in trying to come up with a solution alongside its protagonists. A veritable, what would you do? How this drama plays out is chilling and not just because of the temperatures.
 

#1: The Strangers (2008)

A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) staying the night in a remote cabin are terrorized by a trio of psychos, wearing bizarre masks. This is point blank, one of the scariest movies ever made. As it taps into the recesses of every imaginable, human fear.

With virtually no gore; it relies on a spooky soundtrack and the frighteningly realistic possibility that villains as twisted as these, actually exist. The terror "The Strangers" depicts is strictly psychological and the slow prodding of the villains makes one thing very clear. They have no doubt, they will come out victorious. It is a victory lap that does not spare its audience either. For a full review, click here.

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