Horror movies have generally gotten a bad rap. Let us guess: your idea of a horror movie involves some ghoul from the underworld devouring the brain of a screaming, large-breasted female. Or maybe what comes to mind is a slasher film, where a mad serial killer stalks a screaming, large-breasted female. If you're a little older, or if you watch late night TV, you may be more familiar with the old black-and-white classics, where a pale supernatural figure emerges from the shadows, first to frighten and then to seduce (you guessed it) a screaming, large-breasted female.

Well, the movies we're recommending here don't fit into any of those categories, although you'll find that they all share certain traits with these "traditional" (that is, traditionally bad) examples of the horror genre. Instead, we've selected a group of smart, psychologically sophisticated horror movies, ones that scared us without asking us to suspend all logic and taste.

All right, you'll still have to suspend some logic and taste. But that's what makes them horror movies, right?

1. THE EXORCIST (1973)

The Exorcist presents a fascinating exhibition of unlikely conflicts: The Devil vs. a small girl, religion vs. logic, modern times vs. ancient beliefs, medicine vs. faith, Hollywood fame vs. everyday problems. This constant opposition between dueling worlds and ideals is why The Exorcist brings such raw emotions to the surface for its viewers. You are never comfortable, and you can never relax, once the calm veneer of your normal life has been disrupted by unpredictable, external influences.

The Exorcist begins when Regan (Linda Blair), the 12-year-old daughter of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), becomes ill in some very strange ways. She gets thrashed around by unseen forces, she pees on the carpet, and she displays a sudden, prolific ability to spout vile and inventive profanity. Some suspicious deaths occur, and Chris can't help wondering whether her daughter, in moments of mental instability, is to blame. After taking Regan to every doctor in the Western world, and receiving no explanation for these bizarre phenomena, Chris's once-firm belief in reason is shaken. Desperate, she begins to consider whether Regan may be possessed by The Devil. Chris asks Father Karras (Jason Miller) to check her daughter out, and then, if necessary, to perform an exorcism to drive the spirit from Regan's body.

Sounds like schlock, eh? Well, audiences in 1973 didn't think so. Rumors sped across the country that people were vomiting in the aisles and women were scared into giving birth. Let us tell you, it's not THAT scary, but the film did bring audiences to an entire new level of disturbing realism. Throughout the course of her possession, Regan's head spins 180 degrees, she projectile vomits pea soup, and she says things that no 12-year-old (nor anyone else, for that matter) should be saying.


  • Followed by 2 sequels

  • Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor for Miller, Actress, and Supporting Actress for Blair

  • Won 2 Academy Awards: Screenplay and Sound