8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Though this slasher horror had moments of absurdity and humor, Freddy Krueger’s burned and mutilated face and razor-blade glove remain genuinely frightening. The concept here—a serial killer who will murder you if you fall asleep—is one that everyone watching can empathize with, because it feeds into deep and long-standing human fears about our vulnerability while sleeping.
7. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher’s exploration of San Francisco’s real-life Zodiac Killer—who attacked seven people in the Bay Area in the 1960s and ‘70s, killing five of them—was a subtle and brooding movie, for the most part. The terror here comes from the scenes where Zodiac is mercilessly picking off his unsuspecting and helpless victims. The fact that these events actually happened remains truly spine-chilling.