Scary movies are the foundation of a lot of pop-culture references.  There’s nothing worse than not being in on a joke.  Or, perhaps it’s worse to be the person to make a joke or reference that misses the mark because no one in the group understands.  We want to make sure you don’t fall into either of these categories by offering you a few scary movies to watch that are referenced all the time in pop-culture!

Starting from the top in no particular order:

The Shining (1980)

If you’ve been on the internet at all you’ve definitely seen at least one clip from this scary movie.  The Shining follows Jack Nicholson and his family as they watch over a giant hotel during its off season.  Without any spoilers, the most popular scene is when Jack’s character breaks down a door with an axe and peeks through the opening and shouts, “Here’s Johnny!”  This movie is littered with iconic scenes that have since been adopted into meme culture.  Give this scary movie a watch and count how many scenes you recognize!

Halloween (1978)

This classic slasher / scary movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Yup, the mom on Freaky Friday).  She plays a teenage girl tasked with trying to survive Halloween night being stalked by a killer named Michael Myers.  While many of the scenes from this film are parodied, nothing screams “THERE’S A SPOOKY KILLER NEARBY” quite like the soundtrack from this film.  Take a listen and we bet you recognize it.

Friday the 13th (1980) and Scream (1996)

We’re going to roll these two scary movies into one because of how iconic each of the main character’s costumes are.  Go into any store around Halloween time and you’ll see both of these masks scattered across the shelves.  The famous blood splattered hockey mask is worn by the antagonist of Friday the 13th, Jason Voorhees (Although he didn’t actually get his iconic mask until the third movie).  His only goal in life is to hunt down a bunch of neglectful teenagers. 

If you’re familiar with art history, you may notice some similarities between what’s known as the “Ghost Face” mask and Edvard Munch’s painting titled “The Scream” (Coincidence?). Ghost Face’s appearance is similar to the Grim Reaper but wears that terrifying white and black mask. 

The Exorcist (1973)

Here’s another movie that’s been remade, inspired, and spoofed over and over again.  This supernatural scary movie involves a young girl named Regan who has been possessed with a demon and two Catholic Priests who attempt to perform an Exorcist.  We’re sure you’ve seen some of the scenes from this movie.  Scenes such as Regan floating above her bed, her head spinning 360 degrees, and the priests performing their exorcism have become the staple in this style of film.

Blair Witch Project (1999)

If you’re a fan of shaky cameras and no acting experience; this film is perfect for you.  This scary movie was one of the first films to bring the first-person handheld camera to the big screen.  A group of students head out to the forest to make a documentary about the Blair Witch; a supposed local legend.  What makes this movie so unique is that one of the most popular searches involving Blair Witch is “Is the Blair Witch Project Real”?  Movies such as Cloverfield (2008) have since attempted to recreate the style of filming in this classic film.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This movie will keep you on the edge of your seats!  While it’s not the most terrifying scary movie we have on our list.  The psychological suspense created by this movie make this an absolute must!  Jodie Foster plays a young FBI agent who is working on a case involving a serial killer named Buffalo Bill. In an effort to catch the killer, she seeks advice from a cannibal named Hannibal Lecter.  Ever heard the rhyme, “Hannibal the Cannibal”?  There’s a very popular scene referred to as the Buffalo Bill dance.  Once you see the scene, you’ll likely recognize a few other movies that have referenced at least one part of the dance. We can’t say much without spoiling this classic scary movie. 

There are so many more movies we recommend watching!  But we think this is a great start for anyone looking to understand more of the scary movie references out there.  As much as we love pop-culture references in movies, we also love fresh and original ideas.  

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