5. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)
This horror flick is a story of a self-proclaimed agnostic who is acting as a defense counsel that represents a priest who has been accused of negligent homicide after performing an exorcism. The movie grossed $144,216,468 worldwide and Chicago Film Critics Association listed the film in their Top 100 Scariest Films Ever Made. Carpenter won the MTV Movie Awards’ Best Frightened Performance and the Scream Award for Breakout Performance. The movie itself won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Movie.
This movie is inspired from real life events of Anneliese Michel, a young girl whose life suddenly changed in 1968 when she started shaking uncontrollably and realized she’s unable to control her own body. After being diagnosed with “Grand Mal” epilepsy, she soon started devilish grimaces during her daily praying.
She and her family feared that Anneliese was being possessed. After trying several medication and treatments, they requested for exorcism which were denied several times. Soon, Anneliese started acts of self-mutilation and finally the family’s exorcism request was granted. From 1975 to 1976, two exorcism were performed on her and she slowly started returning to normal life. However, the attacks didn’t stop completely.
The exorcism become more frequent and she stopped eating. Her knees ruptured due to the 600 genuflections she performed obsessively during the daily exorcism. During the last exorcism, she was so weak that her parents had to hold her up. The next day, Annalise passed away. Forensic reports stated that she starved to death. The priest and her parents were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and omitting first aid. They were sentenced to 6 months in jail and probation.
4. The Conjuring (2013)
This supernatural horror movie is the first installment of The Conjuring film series. This movie, as well as the other installments of this series, are based on the real case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators. It revolves around the Perrons and their five daughters who moved into a farmhouse and soon discover a presence in their house. They seek help from Ed Lorraine Warren as the supernatural events start escalating.
Ed Warren passed away in 2006 but Lorraine, now 86, was a consultant on the movie as well as one of the now grown up five daughters of the Perrons family. The family stayed at that house for nearly 10 years due to financial constraints enduring disturbing events. For the most part, the spirits were harmless, but there was one ghost, Bathsheba Thayer, who didn’t appreciate having to share the home. After leaving the house, several new owners reportedly left immediately after they moved in, some left screaming leaving their things behind. The house still stands but is vacant since several years.
This movie grossed $318 million worldwide. The released sequel The Conjuring 2 was also based on the real life case files of the Warrens and was an instant hit. The movie won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, as well as Fright Meter Awards for Best Horror Move, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actress for Lili Taylor.
3. Jaws (1975)
This horror flick is based on a novel of same name by Peter Benchley that was inspired from real life events. The movie is about a great white man-eating shark attacking beach goers on an island. These attacks prompt the local authorities to hunt the shark down with the help pf a professional shark hunter and a marine biologist.
Considered as one of the greatest horror movies ever made, this movie was inspired by the real life shark attacks in 1916 on the New Jersey coast. A 25-year-old swimmer, victim of a shark attack who succumbed to his injuries soon after, was pulled from the water by a lifeguard, a largely unheard of happening in the area. A few days later, another young individual was fatally attacked. This was followed by a series of attacks and fatalities. Days later, a great white shark was caught by some fishermen who claimed to have found 15lbs of human flesh and bone inside it.
This movie was the highest grossing movie of all time till 1977 when Star Wars was released. This movie was followed by three sequels and many imitative thrillers. This movie was deemed by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was nominated for four Oscars of which it won three for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
This supernatural horror movie is still considered as the best horror movie ever made. It was based on a novel of same name by William Peter Blatty which was based on a true exorcism account. This narrates the story of demonic possession of a 12 year old and the attempts of a mother and two priests to bring the child back through exorcism.
It is based on real accounts of a month long exorcism performed by two priests on a 14 year old boy, Ronnie Doe, in 1949. Ronald was introduced to an Ouija Board by his Aunt, although a direct link between the Ouija Board and his possession was never made. It was believed that the ghost of his Aunt first spirit to visit him but this friendly spirit soon turned sinister.
The family started hearing strange voices, sound of furniture moving and soon discovered claw marks on Ronnie’s body. They moved to a new place but to no vail. They soon enlisted the help of Father Bishop who first witnessed the boy lying on his bed perfectly still as the bed shook under him. Soon after, the exorcism started which was met with violent actions and profanities all emanating from the demonic presence they believed infected the boy. The boy was shifted into psychiatric ward where the exorcism continued. After several weeks, the evil spirit inside Ronald was expelled.
This movie became a commercial success and became the highest grossing movies in history, grossing $441 million worldwide because of many re-releases. It received ten Oscar nominations, including the first ever horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture, and winning Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing. This movie was deemed by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2016, a TV series named The Exorcist was announced and premiered in September 2016.
1. Psycho (1960)
This terrifying movie was based on a novel of same name by Robert Bloch which was loosely inspired from the real life serial killer. This movies revolves around a secretary who steals money from her boss and ends up in a secluded motel which is owned by Norman Bates, a disturbed owner and manager.
The real life serial killer, Ed Gein lived with his parents and younger brother in isolation. His mother was a fanatical Christian woman who prohibited her sons from interacting with people outside of school while his father was considered ‘weak’ because of his inability to keep jobs.
After the father died, the brothers continued living with their mother but were forced to go out and work in order to support her. Ed’s brother mysteriously died. Soon after, Ed’s mother died of stroke which hit him hard as he “lost his only friend and true love”. Following his mother’s death, Ed sealed off every nonessential room in the house to be preserved as shrines to his mother. He reportedly became obsessed with dead people and started identifying himself as a woman.
He eventually started skinning the faces from the women he exhumed from graves and then using the skin as masks. However, gradually he started looking for fresh meat for his masks. A decapitated corpse of a woman was discovered on Ed’s property, as well as a mask of human skin which was later identified as a missing woman. He admitted of accidentally shooting both women. Ed was deemed emotionally impaired and spent the rest of his life at a mental health institution.
This movie was an outstanding box office success and earned four Oscar nomination including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It is considered as the best Hitchcock’s movies and has been praised as a work of cinematic art by international film scholars and critics. This movie has three sequels, a remake, a TV film spin-off, as well as a prequel TV series. This movie was deemed by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Aside from the above mentioned movies, we believe the following three films deserve an honorable mention as well:
- The Possession (2012)
- The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
- Annabelle (2014)
How many of the titles mentioned in our list of the most terrifying horror movies based on real life events have you seen? Do you think some other horror movies based on real life events deserve to be in this list? Comment below and let us know.