Some old movies just aren't scary anymore -- times, techniques and audiences have moved on. Yet there are some classic films that can still provide a genuine jolt, and are well worth the ride. Across the genres of suspense, horror, science fiction or the supernatural, here are some of the best chillers from the 1960s and 70s. Be warned -- these are NOT for the kids.
This one still scares the willies out of me every time I see it. A very nasty demon possesses an innocent young girl, and the Catholic Church tries to cast it out. Be warned that the restored director's cut of The Exorcist has even more deeply disturbing and graphic scenes than the original (a remastered Blu-ray came out in October 2010). Yikes.
This low-budget George Romero film was an early entry into the zombie genre, and established the director as a prince of B-movie horror. Dead people rise, chew on the living, and make more zombies (love the simplicity). It's scary and occasionally hilarious (intentionally). Don't go for the remake.
The great-granddaddy of the insane-killer-on-the-loose films, it's intense, disturbing and somewhat gory. A low-budget effort high on suspense, Texas Chainsaw Massacre
gave us the villain "Leatherface" and features cannibalism. The Elm Street, Halloween
and Friday the 13th
franchises owe a lot to this gripping film.
MGM British Studios
Everybody in a nice little English village suddenly loses consciousness for a few unexplained hours. Nine months later, every woman in the village gives birth to children with strange eyes. As the cold, unpleasant tots grow and learn, things start getting really creepy. Intelligent and terrifying. (Get the original, not the awful remake.)
Dated but effective adaptation of Shirley Jackson's chilling book, The Haunting of Hill House
. A psychological thriller that taps into the power of discontented women, we're left to guess whether the terror resides in the evil house, or in the mind of the psychic woman who is seduced by it. Perhaps the best haunted house movie ever made.
20th Century Fox
Maybe the finest creature feature of all time and a terrific sci-fi achievement. A ship answers an ancient distress call (don't mess with those eggs), and before you know it, our heroine is stuck in space with a relentless, slimy, pitiless monster picking off the crew. With a fantastic cast, brilliant direction, superb special effects and set design, Alien
is the film that started the franchise.
20th Century Fox
If you're tempted to call your children little devils, this should cure you. An American diplomat comes to realize that his toddler may be the anti-Christ, and he engages in full-on battle with the forces of darkness. The child is chilling, there's an ingenious plot device involving photography, and the whole enterprise is soaked with religious dread and real terror.
A terrific damsel-in-distress suspense film, with Audrey Hepburn as the frail, vulnerable heroine unknowingly caught up in a drug smuggling plot, slowly realizing the danger she's in. Did I mention she's BLIND? With a pulse-pounding plot and a truly creepy performance by a young Alan Arkin as a psychotic thug.
Oh, the things the devil makes us do. Poor Rosemary finds herself living in a fabulous, kind of goth New York apartment building…but she can't remember much about the night she got pregnant and she's pretty sure she shouldn't be chewing on raw steak. Even the baby doctor is spooky in this devil-worship classic.