With February Texas Chainsaw Massacre Reboot Landing on Netflix to a tidal wave of bad reviews, “based on true events” Horror has clearly seen better days.

That’s hardly a surprise. Fans have made big bucks from these films, regardless of quality, and so promotional materials are hammering the message home. For some, Fiction is scary enough. Filmmakers plunder the depths of the imagination robs the audience of a good night’s sleep. However, stories based on reality are effective for exactly the opposite reason. It doesn’t take imagination when the facts are frightening enough, and these 10 movies are the best examples, according to Ranker.

Note: Leaderboards are live and continue to collect votes, so some leaderboards may have changed after this release.


10 The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Pluto looking up in The Hills Have Eyes.

The brainchild of horror legend Wes Craven, The hills have eyes follows an unfortunate group of vacationers who fall victim to a group of starving cannibals after a car accident in the middle of nowhere.

Related: 10 times Wes Craven Advanced Horror

The film was inspired by the legend of Alexander “Sawney” Bean, a cannibal who plagued the Scottish Highlands in the 16th century. Along with his clan, he murdered and cannibalized over 1,000 people until their hiding place was discovered and they were justly executed. With a sequel released in 1984 and two reboots released in 2006 and 2007 respectively, fans kept the franchise alive for 30 years.

9 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2009)

Emily kneels and screams in agony in The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Out of Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, The Exorcism of Emily Rose follows Rev. Moore and his prosecutors in the wrongful death of Emily Rose. Rose, believed to be trapped by a demon, died after Moore performed an exorcism on her.

The inspiration for the film came from the story of Anneliese Michel. In 1968, the 16-year-old had a seizure and was diagnosed with psychosis. Over time, she became averse to certain religious iconography and claimed to hear voices, and underwent 67 exorcisms in the year of her death. Although there was no sequel, the film was a huge hit, grossing over $144 million worldwide.

8th Pine (1975)

Pine Bruce first appearance

The original blockbuster Jaw made a generation of teenagers (as well as adults) afraid of the ocean. The film follows Chief Brody, the newly appointed Amity Island Police Commissioner, as he struggles to address the city’s latest problem: there’s a shark somewhere underwater, and he’s hungry.

Peter Benchley, who wrote the original novel by Jaw, found inspiration in a series of shark attacks that took place in 1916. The attacks happened off the coast of New Jersey this summer, and a total of five people were picked off by sharks. It made Steven Spielberg a household name, garnered him both critical and commercial acclaim, and spawned three sequels.

7 The Visitation (2013)

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring

Bought by James Wan for the big screen, The incantation follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine as they are called to the Perron household to find any supernatural happenings. While things start off easy for them, they are haunted by the house’s dark past.

Ed and Lorraine’s characters were fictionalized versions of the aforementioned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Also, the Perrons were real family the Warrens were investigating. While the film’s content is of course grossly exaggerated to add to the horror, the root of its terror is very real. One of Wan’s highest-rated films, followed by a series of sequels (and prequels), all of which were immensely profitable.

6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Directed by the late, great Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of friends as they set out to investigate a grave robbery and find out if their grandmother’s grave was vandalized. However, things go wrong when they interfere with the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface and his family of cannibals.

Also see: The 10 Best Horror Movie Villains According to Reddit

It was another film inspired by the Ed Gein murders. Gein was also known for trophies made of bones and skin, which he kept in his home. This aspect of Gein is reflected in the character of Leatherface, who wore a victim’s face over his own. Due to its brutal aesthetic and extreme violence, the film was banned in several countries upon its release, but it has stayed in pop culture, spawning sequels and reboots that have continued into the present.

5 The Amityville Horror (1979)

James Brolin and Margot Kidder in The Amityville Horror.

With his $86 million in ticket sales, there’s no denying it The Amityville Horror was an enormous success. The plot follows the Lutz family who move into a house where mass murder has been committed and the strange events that occur in the house.

The story was inspired by the investigation of the Lutz family household by Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous paranormal investigators. The family claimed that the house was haunted by a demonic presence. The presence was actually so great that the Lutz fled the house after just 28 days there. Critically ridiculed upon release, it has since seen over a dozen sequels and multiple spin-offs, proving how wrong critics were about its chances.

4 Psycho (1960)

Marion dies in the shower in Psycho.

Known for his shocking character deaths, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho follows Marion Crane, a beautiful young secretary who steals $40,000 from her boss and plans to elope with her boyfriend Sam Loomis. However, when she stays at the Bates Motel, things get…complicated.

The film was loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein. Known as the “Butcher of Plainfield,” Gein confessed to the murders of two women in his lifetime. His influence is evident in the character of Norman Bates, motel owner and occasional taxidermist who kept his mother’s body in the basement of his home. The popularity of his characters with fans eventually led to three sequels being produced, with the first sequel being released in 1983.

3 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A nightmare on Elm Street follows a group of teenagers whose dreams turn to nightmares after the arrival of Freddy Krueger, a sadistic killer lurking in their dreamscapes. Filled with gritty surreal imagery and an unforgettable villain with his iconic shaving glove, Wes Craven’s 80’s classic petrified audiences around the world.

As unbelievable as it sounds, it was actually inspired by real events. Craven developed the premise after reading an LA Times article. It described a group of refugees fleeing war-torn countries to the United States, suffering excruciating nightmares and refusing to sleep. Did you also dream of Freddy Krueger? Fans certainly did, like that elm street Franchise has been keeping audiences up at night for nearly forty years.

2 The Exorcist (1973)

A critical and commercial hit upon release, The Exorcist sent shivers through the cinemas. It follows a young girl, Regan, who starts acting strangely after playing with a Ouija board one night, as well as the priests attempting an exorcism.

See also: 10 Reasons Why the Exorcist Still Holds Today

The film was inspired by Robbie Mannheim’s alleged ownership. In 1948, at the age of 13, Mannheim began playing with a Ouija board and went from calm to angry over the following years. Priests then tried unsuccessfully to perform an exorcism on him. Although the film had sequels, they were panned critically and commercially, leaving fans returning to the original.

1 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Based on the 1988 novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, this 1991 award winner follows Clarice Starling, a top-flight FBI trainee who enlists the help of Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Through him, she hopes to find the whereabouts of Buffalo Bill, a vile psychopath.

The inspiration for the story came from the real-life relationship between Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer, and Joseph Keppel, which developed during the hunt for the Green River Killer. Bundy began writing letters to Keppel, wanting to help with the investigation. This back and forth led to interviews in which Bundy confessed to his own crimes. The silence of the Lambs is a real classic and goes perfectly with broad beans and a nice Chianti.

Next: 10 “Subtle” Scary Horror Movies for Horror Fans Tired of Being Scared

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