Scariest Movies About Demonic Possession, Ranked


One of the biggest reasons horror has become so popular is the fear of the unknown. From the earliest days of literature, demon and ghost stories have ignited the imagination and fear of any who dared partake. This carried over into the world of film, as one of the most prolific subgenres of horror is tales involving possession.


Whether cautionary tales or supposedly based on true stories, these movies are a dime a dozen. The thing is, there is a reason they are so popular. People love a good possession, and here are some of the most chilling and unnerving the genre has to offer. While slasher movies might have been the dominant form of horror in the 1980s and torture porn was the go-to genre in the 2000s, a recent resurgence in demonic possession movies has taken hold in the late 2000s and 2010s. Here are the scariest movies about demonic possession, ranked.

Update December 30, 2023: This article has been updated with even more great movies about demonic possessions that are worth checking out, and where each title can be streamed.


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15 The Amityville Horror (2005)

It is rare when a remake stands out above the original, and this is the case with 2005’s The Amityville Horror remake. Both films are based on the 1977 true crime novel about the Lutz family’s supposed haunting. The Amityville house gained notoriety when Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family one night in 1974. DeFeo claimed spirits told him to do so, and thus, the legend of Amityville was born. The film depicts the events of the Lutz family moving into the house where the tragedy took place. George Lutz (played chillingly by Ryan Reynolds) slowly loses his grip on reality until he finally gives into sanity and attempts to follow in Ronald DeFeo’s footsteps.

What’s Great About The Amityville Horror

What makes this film so great is the inclusion of Reynolds. He begins the film as his typical screwball self, but gradually slips into madness and gives an admirably terrifying performance. Typically, a film that claims to be true is a marketing ploy, but the testimony by the Lutz family is divisive. Their haunting tale has many doubters, but let’s say they’re being honest for the sake of the film. Stream on Max

14 Noroi: The Curse (2005)

The 2005 found footage Japanese horror picture Noroi: The Curse tells the chilling tale of a paranormal researcher who seemingly vanishes after exploring the legend of a powerful ancient demon known as “kagutaba”, having investigated a series of possessions and mysterious phenomena before his eerie disappearance. The foreboding and uneasy atmosphere and disturbing footage makes the frightening flick all the more nerve-wracking, as audiences witness creepy clips including a ritual gone awry, demonic disembodied voices and slaughtered animals.

What’s Great About Noroi: The Curse

Noroi: The Curse superbly captures an unsettling ambiance that instantly puts you on edge, and the constantly building tension and sinister imagery only heighten the viewer’s paranoia. It has since been lauded as one of the greatest found footage films of all time. We won’t deny this as the film’s incredibly terrifying because of how organic and real it feels. Stream on AMC+

13 House (1977)

Horror is known for exploring and blending many genres to give the viewers an unforgettable experience, and House did exactly that. This 1977 movie has become a cult classic for being one of the most unpredictable, mind-boggling pieces out there that still has horror fans in a choke-hold. Although, interestingly, the horror element in the movie is quite light, and often it presents itself as a surreal, bizarre comedy even, it will keep people wondering what exactly happened long after the movie is finished.

What’s Great About House

At its core, House tells a story of a group of youngsters who move to a strange mansion to live, only to get possessed by an entity living in that house. However, even though it might seem like just any other horror movie, its real charm lies in the strange pattern of logic it follows that gets hard to keep track of even while it keeps you hooked. A masterful blend of horror and comedy, House is a must-watch for fans of the genre. Stream on Max

12 Paranormal Activity (2009)

From 2009 to 2015, there was a new Paranormal Activity film almost every year, save for 2013. With so many films, it is easy to dismiss this found-footage paranormal movie series as a cash grab that ran out of steam. While this may be the case, fans often forget that the first film was a genuinely chilling experience. Innovating the already dying found footage genre, the entire film is presented as an actually filmed account of a couple who encounter a demonic spirit who possesses… someone.

What’s Great About Paranormal Activity

The film doesn’t even have studio logos, instead opening with “Paramount Pictures would like to thank the families of Micah Sloate & Katie Featherson and the San Diego Police Department,” further insinuating that this is the real deal. What makes this Paranormal Activity movie so chilling is the fact the demon is never actually shown. Also, most people have had the fear that something otherworldly happens while they sleep, and this film taps into that fear. Stream on Max

11 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

A film that states right at the beginning the titular character dies doesn’t seem like it would be very suspenseful, but The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an exception, following the trial of a priest who is accused of aiding in the death of the titular Emily Rose. The priest claims he was attempting to exorcise a demon, and it got the best of her. Most of the film is told in flashbacks and shows Emily as she gradually becomes worse and worse.

Related: The 20 Best Jump Scares in Horror History

What’s Great About The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The movie is very loosely based on the real story of Anneliese Michel, who was supposedly possessed before dying. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is chilling and unnerving, as it never fully states if Emily was actually possessed or just suffering from an undiagnosed disorder. Even though audiences know the outcome, it is still a masterclass in fright and has managed to gain more fans with each passing year. This is one of the best religious horror films of all time.

Rent on Apple TV

10 Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

The Ouija Board has been a subject of many horror movies but didn’t become the star of one until 2014’s Ouija. That film flopped pretty hard, and many people claim it is so bad it’s good. The prequel released two years later, however, is a different story. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a much better and scarier film by all accounts.

What’s Great About Ouija: Origin of Evil

Modern horror maestro Mike Flanagan helmed the project, and his genius shows. A young single mother runs a séance scam with her daughters. When they bring in a Ouija Board as a prop, the youngest daughter becomes possessed. In addition to being a genuinely creepy movie, film buffs will appreciate the fact the movie is shot to appear as if it was released in the ’60s, complete with classic studio logos and film reel cue marks. Stream on Netflix

9 Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Ju-On

Release Date
October 18, 2002

Cast
Megumi Okina , Misaki Ito , Misa Uehara , Yui Ichikawa , Kanji Tsuda , Kayoko Shibata

Rating
R

Ju-on, most famously known as The Grudge, is one of those movies that has made its way into every horror fan’s watch list at some point. Hailed as one of the best Japanese horrors, the movie follows the happenings in a strange house in Japan and the people who had the misfortune of stumbling into said house. What makes it even more intriguing is the movie is claimed to be adapted from real events, although obviously exaggerated and fictionalized.

What’s Great About Ju-on: The Grudge

The movie weaves a chilling tale by enhancing subtleties instead of counting on jump scares, which is one of the reasons why it is still so popular even after more than 20 years of its release. In fact, the Ju-on franchise packs quite a few powerful pieces under its umbrella. Even the Netflix series Ju-on: Origins, released in 2020, is actually pretty interesting in how it adds substance to the universe without appealing to a nostalgia-based entertainment element. Stream on The Roku Channel

8 Insidious (2011)

Insidious

Insidious

Release Date
September 13, 2010

Rating
PG-13

A horror movie doesn’t need an R rating to be scary, and James Wan proved this with Insidious. The Insidious franchise has proven to be one of the best horror series of the modern age, but the first stands out. The film follows a family who discovers their new home is haunted in the most disturbing ways.

What’s Great About Insidious

Unlike most haunted house movies, the family moves as soon as they can. This proves to be fruitless, as the demonic entity has latched on to the youngest son and moves right along with them. The father (Patrick Wilson) must travel into his son’s mind while facing his own past along the way. This movie takes the cliché haunted house story and re-invents it. From smart characters to jump scares in broad daylight, Insidious takes horror fans’ expectations and flips them on their head. Stream on Netflix

7 The Conjuring (2013)

James Wan once again proves he knows how to do horror with The Conjuring. Based on real case files of late paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film follows the couple as they investigate the haunting of the Perron family. The Conjuring understands what the key ingredient in any great horror film is atmosphere.

What’s Great About The Conjuring

It doesn’t rely on countless jump scares or relentless gore; it uses atmosphere and the characters to tell a chilling, scary, and supposedly true story. This film spawned a whole Conjuring movie universe, most of which are fantastic in their own right. This film is the perfect cocktail of fright, with James Wan mixing it all together, and serving you high-concept horror on a silver platter. Stream on Max

6 The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing

The Wailing

Release Date
June 3, 2016

Director
Na Hong-jin

Cast
Jun Kunimura , Hwang Jung-min

Rating
TV-MA

The Wailing tells the story of a police officer trying to figure out the root of an inexplicable strange sickness taking over their small town that results in death regularly. As bodies and mysteries pile up, he races against time to find the source and its cure before there is nothing left to save at all.

What’s Great About The Wailing

The South Korean masterpiece The Wailing is considered as one of the best horror movies ever. Although the pace might seem slow at first, the movie follows an increasingly unsettling storyline that blends in a thriller with spooky paranormal elements so elegantly that it keeps people on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next. Its gloomy ambiance also gives it a nuance that worms its way into the viewers’ heads, making them feel completely spooked out, making it a must-watch. Stream on Netflix

5 Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Hereditary

Release Date
June 7, 2018

Director
Ari Aster

Rating
R

In Hereditary, the Grahams are going through grief. The family’s matriarch has died and her daughter Annie is forced to lead her family in the aftermath of the tragedy. However, her daughter Charlie starts showing weird behavior until tragedy strikes again, and Annie suspects all the events may be connected. Trust us when we say this goes into demonic possession territory at some point.

What’s Great About Hereditary

Ari Aster’s modern masterpiece of horror is a genre experience that made worldwide audience believe in “elevated horror.” Yes, we’re not fans of the term either, but it’s great for explaining the effect of the A24 film that scared viewers out of their wits with an authentic exploration of grief that simply takes a turn for the worse when Annie manages to deconstruct her family and where she comes from. Stream on Max

4 The Medium (2021)

The Medium is a folklore horror film that tells the story of a medium whose life is being documented by filmmakers. Mink is a shaman who claims to be possessed by a goddess. Mink’s sister refused to “inherit” the responsibility and Mink must take charge. The problem is that her niece seems to be the target of something far more horrific that doesn’t exactly behave like a goddess.

What’s Great About The Medium

Without question, one of the best international found footage movies of all time. The Medium is a high-concept international production between Thailand and South Korea that feels contemplative and dramatic for most of its running time. In fact, horror doesn’t arrive quickly. But at the same time, this is a 130-minute horror film. And true genre fans know how delightful a slow-burn horror film is. The third act is a fantastic and bonkers conclusion to the film that takes itself seriously. But that’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s what a film of this caliber deserves as an ending. Stream on Shudder

3 The Evil Dead (1981)

the evil dead

The Evil Dead

Release Date
September 10, 1981

Cast
Bruce Campbell , Ellen Sandweiss , Richard DeManincor , Betsy Baker , Theresa Tilly , Philip A. Gillis

Rating
R

While Ash Williams and The Evil Dead series has delved into horror-comedy territory, the original film is pure horror. A group of friends travels to an isolated cabin to get away from their lives for a bit, where they discover a book bound in human flesh along with a tape recorder of a man translating it. They unwillingly unleash evil spirits in and around the cabin, and they suffer an unspeakable nightmare.

Related: 10 Best Movies Involving Exorcisms, Ranked

What’s Great About The Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell debuts as Ash, but he is far from the chainsaw-toting, wise-cracking, Deadite-slayer fans know him as in some of the grooviest Campbell movies. He is a normal guy desperately fighting for survival as his own friends are tormented and possessed all around him. The film is low budget and may be seen as cheesy, but this gory innovator is still a frightening piece of horror history. Stream on AMC+

2 Incantation (2022)

Incantation is another modern Asian horror masterpiece that amplifies its horror elements by maximizing on its low budget. This very underrated found footage film tells the story of Li Ronan, a woman visiting her boyfriend’s ancestral village with another friend of theirs. They witness a ritualistic worship event that the boyfriend’s family holds in honor of a god they worship.

What’s Great About Incantation

However, things take an awful turn when the ritual goes awry and the consequences of which seem to haunt her and her daughter’s life years after the incident. The movie is shown in a mixture of shaky footage recorded through a wide span of time alongside occurrences that follow the movie’s present timeline. It is jarring, terrifying, and unsettling enough to keep the viewers on their toes throughout its runtime until it reaches its shocking end. Stream on Netflix

1 The Exorcist (1973)

In The Exorcist, 12-year-old Regan MacNeil becomes possessed by a demonic force, leading her mother to hire an exorcist. The highlight of the film is young Linda Blair as Regan. While modern films would hire an adult actress who looks young, Linda Blair was actually 12 when she appeared in The Exorcist. This adds to the unsettling nature, as fans have to remind themselves they are seeing an actual child do the unspeakable things seen on screen.

What Makes The Exorcist The Best

The Exorcist has received the title of the scariest movie of all time for decades, and there are no signs of another movie taking the title. While this is debatable by today’s standards, there is no doubt the film holds up as a disturbing masterpiece of horror. To this day, The Exorcist remains a terrifying film that has stood the test of time, becoming one of the most important horror films of all time. While certainly creepy, one film about possession may take the cake as the scariest of all time.

Rent on Prime Video

Considering it’s the snowy season, here’s a video about horror movies you can enjoy at this time of year:



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