It’s amazing I still prefer traveling by car over most other travel methods given the amount of scary movies about road trips gone wrong that I’ve seen. Even crazier, it happens to be one of my favorite sub genres of horror movies. Maybe because there’s been so many good scary road movies made.
Below is my list for the top 10 scariest road movies. I put them in order from ones I liked well enough, to my absolute all time favorite. What do you think? How would you organize the list? Do we have any faves in common? Which movies would you include that I didn’t? Or which would you remove that I included?
10. The Hills Have Eyes(1977)
I must confess, I didn’t find The Hills Have Eyes all that scary. I didn’t see it until a few years back, though. Right around the time the remake came out. My husband and a friend said the original was one of the scariest movies they’d ever seen. How I had gone as long as I had without seeing it, I have no clue. I decided I wanted to see the first one before I saw the newer version. If I had seen it back in the day, it probably would’ve freaked me out more. The big bald dude was major creepy, but the rest of it was only midly so. Still, because I think I would’ve liked it more if I’d seen it earlier, I’m putting it on the list. Because the concept of being hunted by mutants out in the desert when your RV breaks down really is scary.
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Both the 1974 and 2003 versions)
I remember the first time I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Specifically Leatherface. I almost puked. To this day I think he’s one of the grossest horror villains ever. I also remember for years buying into the whole “What happened is true” pitch. Which made Texas a very unappealing place to drive through. The one time I had to was when we moved from Phoenix to Jacksonville. We had to stop for the night and all I kept thinking was, “Please dear God, if Leatherface ever really did exist let him be dead and gone and someone I never meet!”
This is one of the few movies where I had pretty much guessed what the big twist was going to be on my own well before the movie’s end. Still, even though I found it predictable, I liked all the actors and what it tried to do. Plus, I liked that it was set in a creepy old roadside motel. Every time I pass one, I think of this movie.
Speaking of roadside motels, the one in Vacancy gave new meaning to “check in, you may never check out.” Well, you’d check out all right. For good! This movie creeped me out big time. Just the thought of how the killers got in the room…shivers! This is another one I think of when I pass roadside motels. If I ever find myself in need of staying at one unexpectedly, you better believe I’ll be checking for hidden cameras and secret entryways. And if I find any snuff film tapes…I’m outta there. I’d rather take my chances on foot!
I really hated where the movie went and how it ended. However, I loved the beginning. The first third of the movie had me on the edge of my seat. (Well, edge of the couch. I’d waited to rent it.) I was so excited how the movie began. I remember thinking, “Finally! A truly creepy movie. It’s been too long.” Then it did what most horror movies do these days and spun in a direction full of nonsensical plot holes. However, I ended up liking it overall, and if I find it on TV I end up rewatching it because it is a kind of fun scary road movie.
This movie had it all: action, suspense, and bad guys you hoped would get run over in the end. Even though it’s more thrilling than terrifying, the concept of trusting a seemingly nice trucker to give your wife a ride, who later denies ever having even seen you much less her, while you’re stuck trying to figure out where your wife is…that’s intense. It was well-acted and, come on, it had Kurt Russell. When has he ever been hard on the eyes?
4. Psycho (1960)
I’m not sure if Psycho can be credited with starting the scary road movie genre, but it’s definitely among the greats. I’m sure many people would probably put this as their number one choice for scariest road movie. It’s a humdinger to be sure. It’s the one that probably made everyone who’s ever been in need of a roadside motel a little leery about checking into one, especially if it was somewhat vacant and at all decorated with taxidermy trophies or a desk clerk who seemed to fond of his mother.
3. Wrong Turn
What? I like Wrong Turn more than Psycho? Yep. I thought this was going to be a pretty standard horror movie. Which it was in many ways, but it also reminded me of what I’d hoped The Hills Have Eyes was going to be. I’d also put this one on my favorite cannibal horror movies list. (Truth be told, I also found myself crushing on one of the film’s stars: Desmond Harrington, who was also in one of my other favorite horror movies, Ghost Ship.)
2. Joy Ride
Do you know how many people I’ve come across that forget the real title but say, “You know that one movie where the kids are stalked by the crazy trucker? The one where he says, ‘Candy Cane…’? I love that movie! I thought it was so surprisingly good.” Ditto! The makers probably really should’ve named it Candy Cane. It’s title doesn’t really do it justice. However, then people probably would’ve probably expected a Christmas movie and would’ve been caught even more off guard by this gem of a scary road movie.
1. The Hitcher (1986)
C. Thomas Howell. Rutger Hauer. And poor Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose character died one of the most awful deaths I’d ever seen up to that point in my horror movie viewing career. (If you can call it a career. I was all of 16 when I saw The Hitcher the first time.) In addition to Nightmare on Elm Street and Night of the Comet, this was among the horror movies I rewatched most in the Eighties. It absolutely horrified me. And what made it most disturbing, I think, was that even as bad as Rutger Hauer‘s character was, I found myself attracted to his super fine homicidal maniac self.