1. THE HAUNTING
“You may not believe in ghosts but you cannot deny terror!” was the tagline for this absolutely terrifying 1963 Robert Wise picture about the investigation of a house plagued by violently assaultive spirits.
2. ISLE OF THE DEAD
There’s a moment in this Val Lewton picture, about plague victims trapped on an island during the Greek civil war, that never fails to scare me. let’s just say that it involves premature burial.
3. THE UNINVITED
Another, more benign haunted house picture, set in England, no less atmospheric than The Haunting—the tone is very delicate, and the sense of fear is woven into the setting, the gentility of the characters.
4. THE ENTITY
Barbara Hershey plays a woman who is brutally raped and ravished by an invisible force in this truly terrifying picture. The banal settings, the California-modern house, accentuate the unnerving quality.
5. DEAD OF NIGHT
A British classic: four tales told by four strangers mysteriously gathered in a country house, each one extremely disquieting, climaxing with a montage in which elements from all the stories converge into a crescendo of madness. Like The Uninvited, it’s very playful…and then it gets under your skin.
6. THE CHANGELING
Another haunted house movie, filled with sadness and dread. George C. Scott, recovering from the death of his wife and child, discovers the angry ghost of another dead child in the mansion where he’s staying.
7. THE SHINING
I never read the Stephen King novel, I have no idea how faithful it is or isn’t, but Kubrick made a majestically terrifying movie, where what you don’t see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make.
8. THE EXORCIST
A classic, endlessly parodied, very familiar— and it’s as utterly horrifying as it was the day it came out. That room—the cold, the purple light, the demonic transformations: it really haunts you.
9. NIGHT OF THE DEMON
Jacques Tourneur made this picture about ancient curses near the end of his career, but it’s as potent as his films for Val Lewton. Forget the demon itself—again, it’s what you don’t see that’s so powerful.
10. THE INNOCENTS
This Jack Clayton adaptation of The Turn of the Screw is one of the rare pictures that does justice to Henry James. It’s beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot (by Freddie Francis), and very scary.
Again, it’s so familiar that you think: great movie, but it’s not so scary anymore. Then you watch it…and quickly start thinking again. The shower…the swamp…the relationship between mother and son—it’s extremely disturbing on so many levels. It’s also a great work of art.
Martin Scorsese is one of the most celebrated and influential directors in cinema history. He won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2007, for The Departed .