The Scariest Horror Movies You Can Watch, According to Science

The Scariest Horror Movies You Can Watch, According to Science
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There are so many great scary movies on the market, but which is the best one? More importantly, which one will actually keep you up at night?

Well, science may be able to help with that.

The Science of Scare project, which has been running for four years now, has developed a method to determine exactly which horror movie is the scariest based on heart rate data. The project sat 250 people down in a room, fitted with heart rate monitors, and subjected them to 40 of the best horror movies (but not all at once), as recommended by critics lists.

Examining heart rate monitors on each of the participants helped to understand precisely which moments in each film were the scariest and which parts kept heart rates consistently high.

However, for 2023, the project has introduced a new methodology into the mix to determine the scariest movie. The scoring system now combines heart rate (measured in beats per minute) and heart rate variance (measured in milliseconds). The higher the BPM number, the more the movie got the audience’s blood pumping, whereas a lower HRV indicates the more stressed the viewer became. Combined, these numbers give a score out of 100, with the highest number indicative of the scariest horror movie.

In 2022, Rob Savages’s Zoom horror movie Host took the crown, but in 2023, it appears an old favourite is back on top.

Scott Derrickson’s 2012 supernatural horror Sinister took out the number one spot on the list in 2023, reclaiming the spot it lost in 2021.

The film scored an average heart rate between 64bpm to 86bpm, with the highest spike reaching 131bpm. For the record, a human’s average resting heart rate sits around 64bpm.

The HRV meanwhile dropped by 21 per cent among viewers, which indicates a balance of startling moments and slow burn scares. All this combined gave Sinister a 96 out of 100.

Are you brave enough to give it a go?

To help you pull together your horror film watch list for Halloween this year, we’ve listed the 20 scariest films that kept heart rates above average in the Science of Scare list for you below.

The best scary movies, according to heart rates

Sinister film still

This year’s Science of Scare study included 13 new horror films to the list of 40, including Saw X, Talk to Me, Smile, Terrifier 2, Skinamarink, The Dark and the Wicked, Barbarian, Insidious: The Red Door, The Nun 2, Evil Dead Rise, Cobweb and Pearl.

Here’s how the Science of Scare Project ranked its top 20 best scary films:

  1. Sinister (watch it on Binge)
  2. Host (watch it on Shudder)
  3. Skinamarink (watch it on Shudder)
  4. Insidious (watch it on Stan)
  5. The Conjuring (watch it on Netflix)
  6. Hereditary (watch it on Netflix)
  7. Smile (watch it on Paramount+ or Binge)
  8. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (buy or rent on VOD platforms)
  9. Hell House LLC (watch it on Shudder)
  10. Talk to Me (buy or rent on VOD platforms)
  11. The Descent (watch it on SBS On Demand)
  12. The Conjuring 2 (watch it on Netflix)
  13. It Follows (watch it on Stan)
  14. The Dark and The Wicked (watch it on Shudder)
  15. Paranormal Activity (watch it on Netflix, Prime Video or Paramount+)
  16. The Babadook (watch it on Netflix, Prime Video, or Paramount+)
  17. A Quiet Place Part II (watch it on Foxtel Now)
  18. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (watch it on Shudder)
  19. Insidious 2 (watch it on Netflix or Stan)
  20. The Ring (watch it on Stan)

You can see the full list of results here.

Insidious, at number three, also holds the title of the best jump scare, bringing heart rates to 133bpm, so keep an eye out for that if you’re watching.

Can’t argue with science, right? If you’re looking for something truly scary this Halloween weekend, maybe check out one of these recommended films and see if they are right.

This article has been updated since its original publication date with the 2023 survey results.

Lead Image Credit: A24/Lionsgate


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