1. The Exorcist 1973
“The Exorcist” was directed by William Friedkin and adapted from William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel. The film and novel are based on the exorcism case of Robbie Mannheim in 1949. The most famous scene of the film is when the young girl, Regan MacNeil, spins her head in a complete 360 due to a demon posessing her and causing her to do abnormal things. The film is considered by many to be the best in the horror genre and one of the best of all time.
2. Psycho 1960
“Psycho” was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and is considered to be his best work. The film was adapted from a 1959 novel by Robert Bloch, who based the novel on the Wisconsin murders of Ed Gein. The film’s most famous scene, and one of the most famous scenes in cinema history is the “shower scene” where Norman Bates stabs the protagonist, Marion Crane, to death while she is showering, ushering in a new era of film violence.
3. Jaws 1975
“Jaws” was directed by Steven Spielburg and based on a novel by Peter Benchley. Released as the first “summer blockbuster,” the film frightened audiences all across the U.S. The film’s most famous scene (and one of my favorite scenes of all time), is when the giant shark destroys shark hunter Quint’s ship and devours a screaming Quint whole. The film’s release was a gamble that paid off tenfold as it became the highest grossing film in history at the time.
4. Alien 1979
Directed by Ridley Scott, “Alien” is one of horror history’s most memorable films. It was based off of a screenplay written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The film’s most memorable scene is when the “Chestburster,” a small chicken-like alien erupts out of Executive Officer Kane’s chest, killing him instantly. The “Chestburster” came from an earlier encounter where another alien had lain an egg inside of Kane while attached to his face.
5. The Silence of the Lambs 1991
“The Silence of the Lambs” was directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine and Scott Glenn. It is based on the novel by Thomas Harris. The film was praised by many as a brilliant work in both the horror and crime genres of cinema. The film’s most memorable scene (of many) is when Dr. Hannibal Lecter escapes from his prison cell by killing two guards and using the skin from one’s face as a disguise to elude the police.