The zombie genre goes even darker in Danny Boyle's malevolent take, in which flesh-eating is a viral affliction and the stricken are possessed with rabid ferocity and superhuman speed. And though they're there, the sociopolitical undertones can just be ignored if you want your dread served up straight.
9. 'The Haunting' (1963)
Multi-genre master Robert Wise ('Sound of Music,' 'The Set-Up') wasn't afraid of no ghosts, and he sure spooked the nation with this still-scary flick. The most definitive haunted house movie of them all, 'The Haunting' spawned 'Poltergeist,' 'Amityville' and, of course, countless episodes of 'Scooby-Doo.'
8. 'Dawn of the Dead' (1978)
Nobody knows "dead" like George A. Romero, and the horror visionary followed up one classic zombie flick ('Night of the Living Dead') with what is easily his magnum opus: a scarier, sharper, ballsier and bloodier campaign of terror that succeeds as much as a piece of cultural commentary as it does a fright fest.
7. 'The Thing' (1982)
John Carpenter's fright-fest is that unlikeliest of things -- a movie remake that's better than the original (a more suspenseful but less graphic 1951 black-and-white thriller). The shape-shifting-killer-alien sci-fi flick set a new benchmark for on-screen gore, and cemented Carpenter's rep as a master of horror.
6. 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)
We loved the twist, but that's not what makes 'Sixth Sense' so chilling; this masterfully told ghost story does more with half-glimpsed images and fine acting than most horror films do with buckets of blood. When we wake up screaming in the dead of night, it's not Freddy Krueger we see ... It's Haley Joel Osment.
5. 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974)
No, it's not based on real events as advertised in the opening credits (that tricky Tobe Hooper!), but that doesn't make it less terrifying. This shocking low-budget scarer about limb loss in the Lone Star State set the stage for Michael Myers, Freddy and Jason, awful sequels and all.
4. 'The Shining' (1980)
On the one hand, Stanley Kubrick's film is a drama of a father driven mad by inadequacy (Jack Nicholson, a little TOO good at playing crazy); on the other, it's a nightmarish landscape of dead twins, a possessed little boy and a naked woman who turns into a corpse. Either way, it'll scare the crap out of you.
3. 'Psycho' (1960)
The shriek of violins, the flash of a knife, Janet Leigh's horrified face: The shower scene in 'Psycho' is perhaps the most terrifying scene in movie history, but Hitchcock's classic unnerves in countless other ways, from Norman Bates' creepy (yet oddly sympathetic) mama's boy to the film's final, shocking twist.
2. 'The Exorcist' (1973)
Audiences in 1973 weren't just screaming at the sinister sights of this definitively classic yarn; some fainted or vomited, and one man even broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. We're still screaming 34 years later, even if there have been no further reports of physical damages. It's head-spinning, bed-shaking horror at its finest.
1. 'Halloween' (1978)
Oft-emulated but never equaled, John Carpenter's moody masterpiece is as terrifying today as it was 29 years ago. Vacant-eyed Michael Myers is soulless evil personified, the score bone-chilling, the cinematography eerily sublime and the overall impression unshakeable. Put simply, it is horror perfection.