Looking to rattle your nerves a bit? In for a little fright?

While horror films are scary, we can usually get by comforted by knowing that the events depicted in the film are purely fiction. But, what about horror movies based on true stories?

If you’re looking to watch something a little scarier this week, something that will truly make your skin crawl. Then settle in with one of these nine freaky movies that are based on the true story of a real person that actually rode out that horror story in real life.

These are the ultimate scary movies.

Best horror movies based on true stories

1. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976, 2014)

More than one film bears the title The Town That Dreaded Sundown, but the first movie tells a story of five brutal killings that happened in 1946 in Texarkana, Arkansas. The local police know nothing except that the killer is wearing a mask covering the whole face.

Then, the second movie tells a story that happened sixty-five years later: the murders begin again. A schoolgirl, who was an eyewitness to the murder of her boyfriend, is obsessed with finding the killer. 

Interestingly, that the initial movie that bears the title, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, is based on actual events.

Not long after the end of WWII, in 1946, a masked serial killer terrorized the citizens of Texarkana, Arkansas. The killer was named “The Phantom” because nobody could see his face. There were several suspects, but none of them was proved guilty.

Horrifying, brutal murders happened for 3 months, and nobody knows who did them up to now. Watching the movie and understanding that makes us feel uncomfortable… And you?

Starring Ben Johnson, Dawn Wells, and Earl E. Smith

2. The Amityville Horror (2005)

If you like movies about haunting houses, then The Amityville Horror movies are the best option for you. There are a whopping 16 horror films that tell this story.

We recommend the 2005 version (because it features a shirtless Ryan Reynolds). It tells story of the Lutz family that moved 5 years after the mass murder happened in the Amityville house, Long Island, New York. The scariest thing is that the Lutz family did exist, and what is shown in the movies seems to be true. 

On the night of November 13th, 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were murdered in the Amityville house. The murderer, Ronald DeFor JR., confessed to killing his family members with a 35 caliber rifle.

In court, he said that he was possessed by Satan when killing. A couple of years later, the Lutz family moved to the house but stayed there just for a while. They claimed that the house is full of demonic activity and ran away.

For now, another family is living there, and they seem happy, so maybe the evil has gone?

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, and Jesse James

3. The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring is by far one of the scariest movies we’ve ever seen! The first part is directed by James Wan, who’s an absolute master of horror movies.

This film tells the story of the Perron family who faced disturbing events in their farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971. To their luck, Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple specializing in paranormal events, agreed to help. They conducted an investigation that revealed evil energy in the house. 

The Warren couple were American demonologists who dealt with paranormal activities. They are among the first who conducted the investigation in the Amityville haunting.

Do you know that they’ve opened an occult museum full of cursed things? It’s in Monroe, Connecticut. We’re definitely adding it to our must-visit list!

Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Sterling Jerins

4. The Strangers (2008)

Imagine that you and your partner are staying at a vacation home to relax and have fun together. One night, three strangers break into the house and make your vacation a literal living nightmare.

That’s what you get with the 2008 film, The Strangers. And, yes, it’s loosely based on true events, which make this film even scarier.

Have you heard of the Manson family? It’s a cult led by Charles Manson, the guy with a swastika on the forehead. The cult is responsible for murders, thefts, assaults, and petty crimes. The Strangers is a movie about one of the cult’s activities which is quite spooky, don’t you think?

Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, and Gemma Ward

5. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

If a person possessed by demons dies during the exorcism, whose fault is it?

Based on true events, this movie tells the story of a student who dies during an exorcism. A determined lawyer takes on two priests in an attempt to convict them of the negligent homicide fo Emily Rose.

The movie is based on the real story of Anneliese Michel. 

Anneliese was suffering from epileptic psychosis, which the psychiatric treatment couldn’t cure. At the age of 20, she started hearing voices which made her parents believe she was possessed by a demon.

They appealed to the Catholic Church for help and Anneliese went through a whopping 67 different exorcisms. As a result, Anneliese Michel died because of malnourishment and dehydration, and the priests who were conducting exorcism were sentenced to six years imprisonment. 

Starring Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, and Tom Wilkinson

6. Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle is a prequel to The Conjuring movie, and tells the spooky story about a haunted doll that made Mia’s pregnancy period a nightmare.

After being attacked by the Higgin’s cult, strange things started to happen. Oh yes, the Higgin’s cult was created by Annabelle herself (her surname is Higgins) when she was alive. She and her followers were praising Satan and demons and wanted them to rule the world. That’s why one of the attackers left the Annabelle doll at Mia’s house; to start doing evil. 

While you might not think that a film about a haunted doll could be based on a true event, but you’d be wrong.

We’ve already mentioned the Warrens occult museum with cursed items. One of those is Annabelle, the doll that is possessed by demons. The real Annabelle is a rag doll, and it’s considered the most dangerous item in Warren’s collection.

Starring Annabelle Wallis, Patrick Wilson, and Ward Horton

7. Psycho (1960)

If you didn’t watch Psycho, you don’t know the classics of American horror cinematography. This film is among the greatest ones of all time. When Marion decides to change her life by stealing her client’s $40,000 and running away, she couldn’t suspect that a one-night stop at the Bates motel and meeting its owner, Norman Bates, will bring her to an end. 

Hitchcock’s Psyco is loosely based on the true story of the real-life killer, Ed Gein.

Gein, also known as the Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul, is infamous for having exhumed corpses from local graveyards in his house and creating self-made items from bones and skin. He was eventually caught after killing tavern owner, Mary Hogan, and hardware store owner, Bernice Worden.

When police searched Gein’s home they found a belt made from female human nipples, bowls made from human skulls, and a whole host of other gross things.

Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Vera Miles

8. Ravenous (1999)

A black comedy that covers the story of a rescue mission in the 1840s, California. Ravenous sees Captain John Boyd and his soldiers meet evil in the form of a creepy cannibal. 

This film was inspired by the real events that took place during the winter of 1872. 

Alferd Griner Packer was traveling with five other men through the remote San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Once he got back to the civilization, he confessed that he had to eat the other, dead members of the trip to survive.

When they are down to two final members, Packer and fellow traveler Shannon Bell, Packer said that Bell had “gone crazy” so he was forced to kill and eat him too. Packer was named the Colorado Cannibal. He was eventually released on parole in 1901, and died on April 23, 1907, for a stroke.

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, and David Arquette

9. Scream (1996)

On the list of horror classics is where you’ll definitely find this 1996 film.

Scream tells the story of Sidney Prescott who’s on a mission to identify the person hiding behind the Ghostface mask, threatening her on the phone, and killing her friends. It’s a classic scary adventure, but to know who’s the killer, you’ll have to watch all four movies. 

The movie is loosely based on the real life Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling.

Rolling was a serial killer who murdered eight people, five of whom were students over four days in August 1990. After killing the victims, he left their bodies in sexually provocative positions.

These terrifying events were widely covered by media, leaving horrified students scrambling to sleep in groups or transfer to other schools. Rolling’s goal was to become some sort of serial killing superstar.

It appears he achieved his dream, but the prize at the end of the tunnel was a death sentence. He was executed at Florida State Prison on October 25, 2006.

Starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, and Courtney Cox

Is it time to curl up with your favourite true story movies?

We LOVE a good horror movie, but you might want to pace yourself with these Hollywood depictions of real events. Work your way down this list, and have yourself nine sleepless nights because these horror movies won’t let you relax!

If you’re looking for more great horror flicks to watch for your Friday night movie night, check out Amazon Prime Video. There is a load of spooky content there!

Written by Valerie Stupnikova

“I know that I know nothing, and that’s why I learn.” — You can check out more of her work on her portfolio.