Top 10 Most Realistic Horror Movies

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Top 10 Most Realistic Horror Movies

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These horror movies get under the skin in ways that are a little too realistic. For this list, we'll be looking at horror flicks with a plausible and down-to-Earth plot. Our countdown includes “Misery”, "Jaws", “Open Water”, and more!
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Top 10 Realistic Horror Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Realistic Horror Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at horror flicks with a plausible and down-to-Earth plot.

Which of these movies would you least want to find yourself in? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: “Misery” (1990)

Stephen King isn’t the most grounded writer out there, what with the alien clown things and haunted hotels. But sometimes he dips into the realm of psychological horror, and “Misery” is arguably his best work in that regard. The movie adaptation is also one of his best, complete with an Oscar-winning performance from Kathy Bates. It seems like every other day there’s a tragic news story about a kidnapping or an imprisonment, and “Misery” captures the experience in horrifying detail. The story also has roots in the author’s personal life. King tried writing a high fantasy book called “The Eyes of the Dragon,” but fans immediately rejected it because it wasn’t horror. Feeling metaphorically imprisoned by his fans, King wrote “Misery” as a creative release.

#9: “Hush” (2016)

Today, director Mike Flanagan is one of the biggest names in horror with huge studios (and huge studio money) behind him. But back in 2016, he was making intimate horror films with his wife Kate Siegel for $1 million. “Hush” is a simple home invasion thriller with a twist. Maddie Young, a reclusive horror author, is both mute and deaf, which severely hinders her defense. Some of the movie’s most white-knuckle scenes are utilized through this twist, with Maddie’s lack of hearing leaving her in a vulnerable state. Like most home invasion flicks, “Hush” is very much rooted in everyday crime and danger. You never know when your fellow man will decide to attack…


#8: “Audition” (1999)

Today, Takashi Miike’s psychological horror film is remembered for its revolting climax. Yes, the concept of holding auditions to find a new wife is a little goofy, but this is only a fun tool to get to the good stuff. Shigeharu Aoyama falls for a mysterious young girl named Asami, but a creepy trail of dismemberment and death serves as a massive red flag. He pursues her anyway and discovers the truth: Asami is deeply unhinged and has a thing for torturing people. The reception to “Audition” was unlike anything else at the time, with many critics noting its deeply disturbing and naturalistic atmosphere. It mixes slasher movie gore with psychological realism, and that is never a comfortable combination.


#7: “Jaws” (1975)

Okay, there are certainly some imaginative elements to “Jaws.” It is a Spielberg film, after all. But the concept of a hungry shark eating beachgoers is terrifyingly plausible. In fact, the events of “Jaws” are ripped directly from history. In July of 1916, the Jersey Shore suffered a spate of shark attacks that left one person injured and four dead. That isn’t the only part that bears a relation to “Jaws.” The attacks naturally caused a wave of panic. The seaside community focused on efforts to save its tourist and beach-based economy. And yes, people took to the open water to hunt sharks. Author Peter Benchley was greatly inspired by this story and penned “Jaws,” which became an instant bestseller.

#6: “The Purge” (2013)

The first “Purge” film obviously has an outlandish plot - to help stymie crime rates, a totalitarian political party makes all crime legal for one night. But it’s also the most down-to-Earth entry in the series, because it’s basically another home invasion thriller. The wealthy Sandin family is targeted by numerous people, including a random group of Purgers and their own neighbors. The actual Purge is only used as a setting backdrop and to prevent the Sandins from simply calling the police. Home invasion thrillers are deeply unsettling because they bear the greatest semblance to reality. Being personally invaded is a fear that we all share, and “The Purge” takes full advantage of that.

#5: “The Strangers” (2008)

This is another home invasion movie, with on-the-rocks couple Kristen and James being hunted by a group of random strangers inside a remote summer home. The setting makes the movie even scarier, because the characters have nowhere to run and no one to turn to. It’s a realistic situation that no one wants to find themselves in. Some academics have even recognized how writer-director Bryan Bertino utilizes the remote pastoral setting to comment on human depravity. “The Strangers” also resembles many real-life crimes, including the quadruple Keddie homicide of 1981 and the infamous Manson killings, which served as a direct influence for Bertino.

#4: “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005)

Alright, hold on a second before going to the comments! This movie actually subverts the worn out supernatural genre by touching on how mental illness can often be misinterpreted as otherworldly possession. The movie includes traditional religious horror movie iconography, but it’s more about dissecting the fine line between possession and mental illness. In fact, the story is directly based on the real case of Anneliese Michel. Michel was a young Bavarian woman who suffered from psychosis and underwent sixty-seven exorcisms, as her family believed that she was possessed. She ultimately died of malnutrition, and both her parents and the priests were found guilty of negligent homicide.


#3: “Psycho” (1960)

A major influence on the horror genre, “Psycho” is all about the psychology of Norman Bates. One of the greatest movie serial killers, Bates has a split personality and often takes the appearance of his deceased mother. He kills those he feels attracted to, wishing to belong solely to his mother. Bates embodies the traits of many killers, specifically Ed Gein. Gein also killed women, shared an intimately close relationship with his mother, and hoped to embody her by wearing a grotesque suit made of female skin. Robert Bloch’s novel was almost complete by the time Gein’s crimes were revealed, proving how art and reality often intersect.


#2: “Open Water” (2003)


Humans are not meant to be in the ocean, and disaster can strike in seconds out on the open water. In this movie, Susan and Daniel are accidentally left behind on a scuba diving excursion, leaving them stranded in the water and battling dehydration, exposure, and hungry sharks. It’s a horrifyingly plausible situation, and one that makes us reluctant to go out there ourselves. In fact, this story is so plausible that it actually happened. The movie is based on the disappearance of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who too were accidentally abandoned while diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Like Susan and Daniel, both Tom and Eileen are presumed to have perished at sea.


#1: “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

This is often regarded as the quintessential psychological horror movie, and for good reason. Not only does it accurately depict the detecting process, but it also examines the traits and methodologies of serial killers. Some events are obviously exaggerated to make an exciting story, like Hannibal’s dramatic escape from custody. But both Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill are more realistic than most fictional serial killers. “The Silence of the Lambs” stands out not for its story (although it certainly has a good one), but for the psychology it gives to its villains. The movie treats them as people rather than one-dimensional serial killers, and is grotesquely realistic as a result.
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