2. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock’s masterpiece remains psychologically terrifying, even half a century after its original release. The macabre nature of Norman Bates’ persona as he performs his murders is wildly disturbing, as is the fact that (spoiler alert!) he keeps his mother’s wig-wearing corpse in the basement. Marion Crane’s death early on in the film is so gloriously unexpected and Hitchcock’s plot pacing—as we inch ever closer to finding out what’s really going on at the Bates Motel—is so masterfully done that Psycho remains truly compelling viewing to this day.
1. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Few movies leave the kind of permanent imprint on popular culture that this one did. Thanks to a wide-eyed, spine-tingling performance from Jodie Foster as FBI agent, Clarice Starling; an incredibly disturbing one from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill; and a deeply unnerving portrayal of Hannibal Lecter by Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs remains the scariest serial killer movie of all time. Let’s not also forget the articulate, intelligent and intuitive nature of Lecter, the abject terror of Buffalo Bill’s calculated psychosis and, oh yes, the cannibalism and human skin suit. Impossible to forget.