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These are the 10 Scariest Movies of All Time, According to a New Study

A team of researchers studied heart rate to determine what movie spooked audiences the most. Here are the winners.

By
Oct 22 2020, 12:42 PM

What are the scariest movies? This depends, largely, on taste. A knife-wielding maniac tormenting a few sexed-up teens in a cabin might make one person giddy with adrenaline and another spooked enough to never book a remote Airbnb. Your friends might be stoked to throw on Midsommar this weekend, while you’re fine — and still pretty haunted — simply reading the movie’s Wikipedia entry (Blood-Eagling? Really?)

One thing the best scary movies do is masterfully create — and release — tension. Doing so spikes an audience’s adrenaline. So, a decent — if quite limited — way to gauge the best horror movies, then, is to see which ones elevate heart rate the most. That’s exactly the metric a team of researchers on behalf of the website BroadBandChoices used to find the 10 scariest movies of all time for their “Science of Scare” project. While there’s certainly much, much more that determines a great horror film, it’s an interesting way to group a list.

Assembling a group of more than 50 film viewers, the UK-based team showed them 35 different scary films, from such old-school classics A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to more modern movies like The Ring, Hereditary, and The Conjuring. They then measured the group’s average rise in heart rate as they watched each film in 5.1 surround sound.

So, what film spiked heart rates enough to win first place? That honor goes to Sinister, the twisty, very unsettling Scott Derickson film about a true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) who discovers various terrifying movies in his attic that depict murders done by a “Mr. Boogie.” The film had the largest average rise in heart rate, elevating from 65 bpm (average resting heart rate) to 86 bpm.

In second place was James Wan’s Insidious, which raised heart rates to 85 bpm, and in third place was The Conjuring, also by James Wan, which raised thumps to 84 bpm. Elsewhere on the top 10 are The Babadook, The Descent, The Visit, It Follows, Hereditary, The Conjuring 2, and Paranormal Activity.

If you’re looking for a list of scary movies to watch this Halloween, this is a pretty decent offering. The entire 35-film list is below. As for me? I’ll be reading the Wikipedia entries.

  1. Sinister
  2. Insidious
  3. The Conjuring
  4. Hereditary
  5. Paranormal Activity
  6. It Follows
  7. The Conjuring 2
  8. The Babadook
  9. The Descent
  10. The Visit
  11. The Ring
  12. A Quiet Place
  13. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  14. Halloween
  15. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  16. 28 Days Later
  17. The Exorcist
  18. Hush
  19. It
  20. Scream
  21. The Grudge
  22. The Witch
  23. The Blair Witch Project
  24. Alien
  25. The Thing
  26. Poltergeist
  27. Annabelle
  28. Friday the 13th
  29. The Orphanage
  30. Dark Skies
  31. Wolf Creek
  32. The Omen
  33. The Shining
  34. Get Out
  35. Audition

Is your preferred horror movie on this list? What do you think was left out?