Only the hardiest of souls (or those stupid enough to investigate that noise in the basement) should read our next installment of frightening flicks. Taking up residence in our house of horrors? The guy who taught Jason all he knows, screaming Japanese children, and that old standby, nuclear war.
20. Halloween (1978)
Michael Myers puts on a Captain Kirk mask and comes home to carve up the old neighbors--especially the promiscuous teenage girls--in John Carpenter's minimalist masterpiece. The surprise hit made Jamie Lee Curtis the Scream Queen of her time, and the job of babysitter very unpopular.
Don't look! A six-year-old Mikey kills his older sister in the opening scene, shown through a killer's point-of-view shot that hundreds of subsequent slasher flicks would later copy.
19. The Birds (1963)
In Hitchcock's eerie thriller, flirtatious Melanie Daniels follows a man to coastal hamlet Bodega Bay on a whim. Trouble soon follows when sparrows, gulls and crows begin viciously attacking the inhabitants. Hitchcock boldly refused to provide a reason for nature's sudden beef with humanity.
Don't look! As a schoolhouse empties, a handful of birds gather on the playground's jungle gym. Then a few more. Then hundreds. It's enough to make you think twice about feeding that pigeon.
18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
An idyllic town takes a turn for the weird when its citizens start waking up as conformist zombies. Could it have something to do with those giant melons that just rolled into town? Evil is both banal and inescapable in director Don Siegel's allegorical take on McCarthy-fueled mass hysteria.
Don't look! The hero and his sweetheart have been on the run for days, and are almost safely out of town when she succumbs to sleep--will she wake up as a dead-eyed "pod person"?
17. Poltergeist (1982)
There's nothing like an Indian graveyard to ruin a choice piece of real estate. Evil clowns, terrible toys, dead bodies, lightning, monsters and everything but the kitchen sink all combine to make one undesirable residence in Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper's haunted-house tale.
Don't look! Five-year-old Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke) becomes entranced by static on the TV. Then a ghost reaches out through the screen and pulls her in.
16. Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
We're not sure what's so terrifying about the sudden appearance of a dark-eyed Japanese infant. But this J-horror shocker about an unstoppable curse made audiences jump every time the brat appeared, whether it was under a table or in someone's bed. A heart-in-your-mouth classic.
Don't look! When the ghost screams, he sounds like a yowling cat having its tail chopped off. Freakier than you'd think.
15. Carrie (1976)
In the Brian de Palma version of Stephen King's debut novel, Sissy Spacek plays Carrie White, a shy teen with spooky telekinetic powers and a religious nutcase mom. She gets her period at school--embarrassing! --and mean girls tease her. Bad idea.
Don't look! Puberty's a bitch and so is Carrie when she's had enough. When her classmates try to spoil her prom night, what follows is the greatest hissy fit in cinematic history.
14. The Day After (1983)
Who would have imagined that a TV movie could be so terrifying? This Cold War classic scared viewers senseless by showing the grim fallout after a nuclear strike. In a flash, the flyover states become a post-apocalyptic wasteland where citizens kill each other for food. Guess God didn't bless America after all.
Don't look! `80s staple Steve Guttenberg walks down a deserted country road in the last moments before the bombs start dropping. Cows chewing their cud have never seemed so ominous.
13. Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Demon horns. Serpent's tails. Chiropractors. Now you see it, now you don't. This is Jacob's insanity. Like Tim Robbins's character, we're never sure who to trust or what is real in this infernal New York City. But as his reality crumbles, surprising (and even cathartic) ways to interpret the madness emerge.
Don't look! After Robbins sees a snake protrude from a subway rider's chest, the other passengers start to resemble ugly monsters. Just another day on the L train.
12. Saw (2004)
Like an old-fashioned brainteaser, two men go into a skuzzy room containing a toilet, a bathtub and a dead man with a gun in his hand. How did they get there? How will they get out? Unfortunately, the solution involves a lot of blood.
Don't look! One man's saw breaks as he tries to cut through the chain binding him. This is gonna be tougher than he thought. Much tougher.
11. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Hey, what's eating you? It might be your neighbor, as blue flesh-chewing zombies run amok in George Romero's classic. The still-living barricade themselves inside a shopping mall along with the undead, allowing for moments of anti-materialistic satire amid the disembowelments.
Don't look! Zombies feast on the innards of an unlucky victim. In reality, it's only pig intestines, but you'll probably want to go vegan anyway.