10 of the All-Time Scariest Movie Trailers


Since new horror anthology V/H/S premiered at Sundance, fans of terror cinema and multi-story chillers have been anxious to see more of the found footage collection. Directors like The House of the Devil’s Ti West and Adam Wingard (You’re Next) are featured in the tale about a group of misfits who are hired by a mysterious client to recover a VHS tape from an abandoned house. Once there, they uncover disturbing footage amongst a massive collection of tapes, disrupting their mission in unsettling ways. Last week the movie’s creepy poster premiered, and now Slash Film has shared a red band trailer for the film that gave us some serious chills.

With nerves officially rattled, we wanted to keep the momentum going and decided to dig up a few of the all-time scariest movie trailers. Some of these films may be familiar to you, but these unnerving trailers (several of them rare) probably aren’t the clips you’ve seen dozens of times before. Other films may be new to you, and hopefully these excerpts will entice you to seek them out for a good scare. Watch them all after the break, and confess your fears below.

The Exorcist (1973)

When it comes to The Exorcist many people are desensitized by decades of urban legends and major fear hype, which we pointed out in this article. The horrific 1970’s story about a young girl who becomes possessed by the devil offered up a premise that many audiences believed could actually happen. The film had moviegoers passing out in theaters and singing their own praises of survival twenty years later. As time went on, some of that buzz died down, and the film industry delivered the prerequisite spoof adaptations. However, if you watch the rare 1973 trailer that was pulled from theaters due to it’s terrifying flashes of demonic imagery, it immediately revives that sense of dread and sheer horror you felt after watching William Friedkin’s movie for the first time.

The Shining (1980)

If you didn’t know any of the plot details about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, you’d have no idea what the movie was about based on this trailer. You would, however, be filled with complete anxiety watching this 1980 clip that builds slowly (the music is key) and finishes with one of the film’s most iconic scenes. Kubrick cut the trailer himself, recalling a time when film teasers weren’t just about marketing gimmicks, and all about building anticipation.

Magic (1978)

Richard Attenborough’s Magic, about a lovelorn ventriloquist whose sadistic dummy develops a mind of its own, may not be on your radar. It should be, though — at least long enough to watch this creepy trailer. Fear of dummies, puppets, and other humanoid figures are a legitimate phobia, and Magic takes full advantage of that. The clip features dummy Fats, voiced by Anthony Hopkins who also stars in the film. The way he sneers, “Abracadabra, I sit on his knee. Presto, change-o, and now he’s me. Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed. Magic is fun… we’re dead,” is enough to frighten us for life.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

The original Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic horror film that still gets under the skin of the adults who saw the 1984 slasher flick as kids. The movie about a child murderer with a grotesque face and finger knives spawned multiple sequels, many featuring a wisecracking Freddy Krueger. Dream Warriors stands as one of the better, more frightening follow-ups, and the trailer proved that the third time was a charm when it came to the monster that killed teens in their sleep. The song is a nice nod to the disquieting jump rope tune we first heard in the original Elm Street.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Last year, fans of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London celebrated the film’s 30th anniversary. Several decades later, love for the horror favorite hasn’t faded one bit. The film features groundbreaking special effects (the transformation scene is still incredible), some genuinely scary moments, and terrific acting. This 1981 trailer is wonderfully atmospheric, setting the perfect tone for two friends’ backpacking adventures across the Yorkshire moors.

Alien (1979)

Shelve all memory of the divisive Prometheus for just a moment and relive the movie that put Ridley Scott on the map. The director is considered a master stylist now, but in 1979, Alien’s low budget forced Scott to take major creative risks that ultimately paid off. The dread and awe he imbued in the film’s claustrophobic world is unparalleled. (Yes, even compared to the glossy Prometheus.) Alien’s trailer scares, intrigues, and manipulates audiences with eerie sounds. When we arrive at its tagline conclusion, those words chill us to the bone.

Antichrist (2009)

Reactions to Lars von Trier’s Antichrist were overwhelmed with shock and disgust, and its trailer did a fine job at building our anticipation and inspiring genuine fear. In that way, it feels like a throwback to some of the other trailers on our list — minus the review quotes that litter its gorgeous composition, of course. The closing shot of the troubled, grieving couple naked against a gnarled tree is memorable — and not because of the sex either. The entire clip delivers the same artistry and hair-raising moments found in the film.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

We know it’s hard, but try to forget the Paranormal Activity franchise and The Blair Witch Project parodies featuring snotty noses and hysterical shrieking. Think back to when Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s shaky cam classic arrived on the scene and how everyone you knew was playing detective, trying to uncover any possible real-life story behind the movie. Blair Witch was a phenomenon when it was released, and the film’s trailer proves why. The directors managed to create a mythology that felt real — with ties to the occult and urban legends (something everyone is familiar with) — and delivered maximum fear on a minimum budget. This teaser was a perfect translation of that.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

This rare trailer for Roman Polanski’s satanic apartment chiller starts out with a lovemaking session, but quickly devolves into a surreal nightmare. At first the psychedelic track softens the blow, and black candles help make the clip feel dark and… sexy. Then, everything goes silent, and we’re left with the sound of wind and a baby wailing, its carriage perched atop a rocky cliff. Cue a gravelly voice-over telling us the movie is for mature audiences only. Spine. Tingled.

Black Christmas (1974)

One of the earliest slasher films, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas sounds like a movie you’ve seen a thousand times — except it’s executed a million times better. Many of the slasher conventions movies employ today were established in Clark’s sorority house screamer. Even this 1974 trailer for the movie, which intercuts a serene holiday scene with ear-piercing screams and disturbing shots of women being brutally attacked, feels fresh and unique almost 40 years later. And like the film, the trailer shows almost no gore, but manages to be extremely creepy. This clip highlights some of Clark’s awesome camerawork, including some of the earliest killer POV shots put to film.