Sleep News

The Worst Horror Movies for Nightmares

28 Sep 20214 min read

Spooky season is upon us! While some will be dressing as ghouls and ghosts this Halloween, many (including us) will be spending it the old fashioned way; watching horror movies in the dark and scaring ourselves silly.

If you’re looking for a real fright night this year, we’ve got you covered. We’ve trawled through over 34,000 IMDB reviews for 50 of the most popular horror movies to find out which films have the most mentions of ‘nightmare’, ‘dreams’ and other sleep-related terms in their reviews.

Top 25 most nightmare-inducing horror movies, according to 34,000+ reviews

We analysed the number of mentions of sleep(s), nightmare(s), awake, asleep, sleepless, sleeping and dream(s) across 34,037 film reviews. We calculated a scare score based on the number of mentions, which was then used to rank the movies.

MovieScare Score
1. Insidious (2010)206                 
2. Scream (1996)196
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999)166
4. The Ring (2002)155
5. Mother! (2017)154
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)141
7. The Grudge (2004)136
8. The Exorcist (1973)127
9. Halloween (1978)117
10. Sinister (2012)112
11. Alien (1979)109
12. The Omen (2006)101
13. Sleepy Hollow (1999)101
14. The Conjuring (2013)92
15. It (2017)88
16. The Shining (1980)86
17. Hellraiser (1987)86
18. The Descent (2005)84
19. Final Destination (2000)83
20. Night of the Living Dead (1968)80
21. Poltergeist (1982)80
22. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)74
23. Midsommar (2019)72
24. The Evil Dead (1981)72
25. Hereditary (2018)70

To avoid skewing the results, we’ve excluded ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ due to their plots linking heavily to sleep and nightmares. Although, we’re certain you’ll have some strange dreams after watching those chilling films.

Woman looking scared watching horror film with green ghost coming from the television

Insidious is officially the most nightmare-inducing movie

Insidious takes the top spot; we found a total of 206 sleep-related terms in the movie’s IMDB reviews. There were 72 mentions of ‘sleep’ and 52 mentions of ‘nightmare(s)’ from viewers who had disturbed sleep after watching the film.

“You know when a horror movie has done its job? When it scares you both in the theater, and hours later when you try to sleep at night. Tonight, I will have lots of trouble sleeping.” Insidious Review by one IMDB user.

Scream is the second scariest horror movie

Iconic horror movie Scream scoops second place with 196 mentions. But viewers beware! A whopping 182 of these mentions were for ‘nightmare(s)’, making this movie likely to keep you up at night.

“The opening scene will always be my favorite. The first time I saw it I had nightmares for weeks and I couldn't sleep. This movie is epic!” Scream Review from an IMDB user.

In third place, The Blair Witch Project will keep you up at night

In third place is The Blair Witch Project, with a total of 166 sleep-related terms. The film racked up 74 mentions of ‘sleep’ and 54 mentions of ‘nightmare(s)’ in the reviews.

“The scenes and disturbing sounds stuck in my mind for weeks and [it took] weeks sleeping with the light on to recover. I grew up with the certainty that I'm not a fan of horror movies.” The Blair Witch Project review of one IMDB user.

Dirty room with old television playing horror movie showing hand reaching out

Sleep expert reveals why watching horror movies impacts our sleep

Steve Adams, CEO of Mattress Online commented: “Horror movies by their very nature are designed to heighten our emotions. While we’re watching, our “fight or flight” response kicks in.

“When this happens, the part of your nervous system which keeps your body calm is temporarily paused. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released. You might even notice physical reactions such as your muscles tensing and heart rate increasing.

“Clearly, this level of stress will make it difficult to drift off into a restful night’s sleep. If you are planning on watching a horror movie this Halloween, give yourself enough time to calm down and relax before you head off to bed.”

Even with the most comfortable mattress and spacious bed in the world, you still may struggle to sleep after watching some of these Halloween horror movies! They’re definitely not for scaredy cats - how many will make your watch list?

About the data

We analysed a total of 34,037 IMDB reviews across 50 horror movies. Where possible, we analysed 750 reviews per movie. Where movies had fewer than 750 reviews, we analysed the maximum number of reviews available.

We collected the number of sleep-related terms featured in the reviews including: sleep(s), nightmare(s), awake, asleep, sleepless, sleeping and dream(s). We then ranked the movies based on this frequency.

A Nightmare on Elm Street and Paranormal Activity were excluded from our top 25 nightmare-inducing movies.

The mention of ‘nightmare’ in the title ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ skewed the results. For reference, the movie has 2,743 sleep-related mentions in the reviews analysed, 1,329 of which were mentions of ‘nightmare(s)’.

Paranormal Activity was excluded as the movie centres around sleeping and dreaming. For reference, the movie has 388 sleep-related mentions, 218 of which directly reference ‘sleep’.