10 Scariest Must-Watch Horror Movies Based on True Stories

In the mood for horror? We've compiled a list of the 10 scariest, must-watch horror movies based on true stories. (Image source: Pixabay.com)

Sometimes all we want to do is curl up on our couches and watch a light-hearted rom-com that makes us feel better about our own life balance. Other times we want to invest in an action-thriller at the theatres. But seldom would you hear from a friend who would willingly pick a horror movie to watch on a Friday night.

Traditionally speaking, the horror movie genre doesn’t reap as many viewers as other genres. Yet, in recent years this has started to change. 2019 was the first year that the genre was able to cross the $1 billion mark at the box office, thanks to an increase in interest from younger generations, and more horror movies being made based on true stories. Ever since then, it has been a hot streak for horror movies, with more and more box office hits being released each year.

However, did you know that making horror movies based on true stories is not a thing of recent years? We have compiled the top 10 horror movies based on true stories. We have gone down memory lane to as early as the ’60s to compile a timeline of the best horror movies of their time, all based on true events.

1 – Psycho (1960)

A lobby card for Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary 1960 film Psycho. (Image source: Public Domain)

Coming in 6th position on the Domestic Box Office Chart with $366 million, this psychological thriller-cum-classic horror is considered an early gold of the horror genre.

Directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, the movie Psycho was inspired by the horrific crimes conducted by one of America’s most known serial killers Ed Gein and the infamous Wisconsin Murders. The film is based on a 1959 novel of the same name, and follows the story of Norman Bates, a caretaker of an isolated motel who becomes entangled in a series of murders. Psycho became so popular that many of the horror movies that went on to be made after it were inspired by the events of the film. Even though it initially received mixed reviews, critics were forced to reconsider their response after the movie generated an outstanding box office return.


2 – The Exorcist (1973)

The story is bound to give you goosebumps and leave you feeling on edge throughout the next day after you are done watching it! Adapted from a book by the American writer William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist was written after a real boy known as Roland Doe was allegedly possessed by demons in 1949. The exorcism that occurred is famously known for having being so scary that it involved multiple priests, with many books having been written about it in the decades since. No wonder, then, that The Exorcist ranks 2nd on the Domestic Box Office horror movie chart with $886 million— right after Jaws at almost $1100 million. To this day, it is considered a classic horror movie that continues to terrify all who watch it.

WATCH: The Exorcism of Roland Doe: The True Story Behind The Exorcist


3 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Marilyn Burns, Ed Guinn, and Gunnar Hansen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Image credit: Vortex / IMdB)

Even though the plot is mainly fictional, the details of the story of this famous movie are also based on one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Ed Gein. However, unlike Psycho, this movie holds true to the reality of the murderer he was—Gein had nine human skin masks in his possession at the time of his arrest. If that fact by itself isn’t enough to send chills down your spine, then you should certainly give this one a watch! The film went on to become so successful and attracted such a wide audience that it inspired many remakes and a whole popular movie series. Success came at a price, thought, with several countries banning the movie, especially in theatres, in response to the audience’s complaining about its extreme violence!



Watch the groundbreaking new documentary, "In Search of the Dead"

4 – Child’s Play (1988)

Alex Vincent played young Andy Barclay, the film’s protagonist, in the 1988 version of Child’s Play. (Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. / IMdB)

According to Variety, the average age of horror movie aficionados is 27% younger for those films with a paranormal theme compared to the overall movie-going audience. Young audiences are driving a surge in ticket sales. Yet, despite its name, the film Child’s Play, and all its numerous parts, is not necessarily for the young! This classic is an all-age favorite.

Whilst there are many other fictional and non-fictional stories of possessed dolls, Chucky was the first to mark our home screens and become an instant hit. The script is supposedly based on the childhood story of Floridan painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. It is said that a nurse put a voodoo curse on the author, which turned his doll, also called Robert, into a possessed menace.


5 – The Amityville Horror (2005)

The movie is based on a book of the same name by author Jay Anson. The book was published in 1977 and went on to inspire a series of movies released from 1979 onwards. The Amityville Horror was claimed to based on paranormal events that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville. It was in this suburban neighborhood, situated on the south shore of Long Island, New York, that the Lutz family supposedly experienced terrible paranormal happenings of all kinds. The family, however, sparked controversy and lawsuits over the story’s truthfulness. The historical basis of the story, where a convicted murderer killed six of his family members in the house, is factually true. The doubt was stirred after the Lutz family claimed to have experienced paranormal activities after moving into the house, with some saying they falsified their story to profit from the book which was published in the aftermath.

WATCH: The Real Amityville Horror: Unveiling the Terror Behind the Fiction


6 – The Girl Next Door (2007)

Blythe Auffarth as Meg Loughlin in The Girl Next Door. (Image credit: Modernciné & Modern Girl Productions / IMdB)

The Girl Next Door that you are thinking about is probably not the one in this list because it is the cult-classic romantic comedy film about the complicated high-school romance of a teenage boy. The movie we are discussing here is The Girl Next Door, the horror film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel of the same name. The film is also known as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and Jack Ketchum’s Evil, in its German release. Based on the torture, and subsequent murder of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski in the summer of 1965, The Girl Next Door is not for the faint of heart. In fact, the renowned horror novelist Stephen King said that if you are someone who is easily disturbed, then this movie is not for you.


7 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Nightmare on Elm Street
Robert Englund starred as the nightmarish Freddy Krueger in this horror classic. (Image credit: New Line Cinema Entertainment, Inc. / IMdB)

So, you are craving blood, gore, and knife-fingered ghosts? Well then, this movie by Wes Craven will be your complete package! The makers of this cult-classic horror were inspired by several sensational newspaper articles printed in the Los Angeles Times in the 1970s about a group of Southeast Asian refugees who died in the throes of nightmares. The official medical reports of the dead said there was nothing physically wrong with them, and that their deaths were sudden and unexplained. The terrifying phenomenon, dubbed Asian Death Syndrome, has much in common with the story of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which sees teenagers terrorised and killed in their dreams by the infamous character of Freddy Krueger. The film was so popular, it was remade in 2010. Whichever version you choose, after watching this horror movie you might find it difficult to get some sleep yourself!


8 – The Possession (2012)

Taken from the theatrical poster for the 2012 horror movie, The Possession. (Image credit: Ghost House Pictures / IMdB)

So, you are looking for a wooden box on eBay to keep your wine bottles safe? Well, think again, because The Possession implies that you probably shouldn’t!

The Possession is based on the true story of a dybbuk box—a wine box which was said to be haunted by a restless and malicious spirit known as a dybbuk. The Possession achieved considerable success at the box office, given the spooky dynamic of the story on which it is based. In the movie, a family buy the box and face terrifying consequences. This fairly recent story even claims to have proof, with people leaving comments and reviews on eBay reporting to have experienced strange things ever since they bought the box.


9 – The Conjuring (2013)

To all the people who thought that Ed and Lorraine Warren are not real people, we have news for you—they are very much real. Ed and Lorraine Warren were a ghost and demon busting duo involved in many classic cases of the paranormal. One case which the paranormal investigators publicly claimed was exceptionally difficult for them to deal with involved the Perron family. Their experiences formed the basis of the 2013 supernatural horror The Conjuring. After its release, the flick garnered recognition from audiences and critics alike. This made the film an inaugural part in the then initiating film franchise. The Conjuring is said to be truthfully based on the married couple’s investigative experiences, and became so popular that even when the movie-makers took the franchise forward and drifted away from the true events which inspired it, it still appealed to the masses.

WATCH: The Perron Family Haunting: The True Story Behind The Conjuring


10 – Annabelle (2014)

Like all the movies in this list, Annabelle is said to be based on terrifying true events. (Image credit: New Line Cinema & Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / IMdB)

If you thought that we had already mentioned one true horror story based on a possessed doll and wouldn’t mention another, then you are wrong! Another classic Ed and Lorraine Warren case involves Annabelle, an allegedly haunted doll that is so unstable she needs to be locked in a glass case. Taking The Conjuring franchise forward, and in turn starting a cult following of its own, Annabelle was an instant mega-hit the moment it hit theatres. Based on one of the scariest possessed dolls the world has ever seen, Annabelle is sure to keep you awake at night. The movie is thought to be so scary that some horror lovers who watched the movie in theatres reported going back home with weird feelings and light-headedness.


All in all, we hope that you were able to find your favorite paranormal movie on our list. If our compilation reminded you of some classics that you haven’t seen for a while, why not give them a watch! But just remember, not all you see is fiction. Some of the stories that keep you up at night might just come back to haunt you later…


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About Claudia Jeffrey 1 Article
Claudia Jeffrey is a writer with a keen interest in horror movies and horror fiction stories.