Third on my list ...The Exorcist (1973).
Directed By: William Friedkin
Based on the Novel By: William Peter BlattyStarring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair
Often credited as the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist manages to remain just as terrifying as it was when it was first released. Considering most horror films don't necessarily age well, The Exorcist still manages to pull in new generations of fans who find it legitimately unsettling.
Why I Love It: The story of the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) may have too slow of a plot build for some audiences (it takes nearly 45 minutes for the film to truly get underway); however, it sets up the relationship between young Regan and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) as a loving one that will face the ultimate test when Regan is brutally taken over by an unseen demon. With its viscerally shocking scenes of possession and religious confrontations, The Exorcist ingrained itself into popular culture from the moment of its initial release.
The films is stylishly atmospheric and contains some of the most memorable scenes in not only the horror genre, but in film overall -- the most iconic being the shot of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) silently emerging from a taxi to stand in the night, surrounded in mist, in front of the MacNeil house as he mentally prepares to face-off with the demon inhabiting Regan. The demon causes the once-polite girl to swear, spit, vomit and growl in a horrifyingly inhuman voice -- the moments when Regan is able to come through and ask for help before being taken over once again are unsettling in their portrayal of a young girl completely vulnerable to a terrifying supernatural situation.
It's the religious and spiritual themes that make the movie more than just your average horror film. Villains like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers is one thing; the notion of an evil spirit inhabiting the body of a good and innocent girl is something entirely different. The words coming out in the demon's voice and the physical actions it forces Regan to take are all the more jarring because she's still a young child. While some (audiences and critics alike) have accused the film of religious exploitation over the years, The Exorcist remains a powerful horror film with jarring imagery of demonic possession while delving into such issues as a crisis of faith.
Combined with Jack Nitzsche's chilling score and some of the most iconic scenes in film, The Exoricst was controversial when it was first released and it raised the bar for the horror genre. Few have been able to match its power to unsettle and terrify.
Here's a pretty good video of the five scariest scenes from the film. Embedding wasn't allowed, but you can VIEW IT HERE.