Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten Vocabulary Building Horror Films of All Time

Dictionary.com sent me over this fun list and I had to post it. I don't know about you, but I learned most of my vocabulary from my favorite books. In college I was the only person in my English class who knew what a centaur was. Sad but true. So when I see a list referencing popular movies as a means to a larger vocabulary-- I get it. Be sure to also check out Dictionary.com's Hot Word Site (today's is Jack-O-Lantern).


Considering that the most frequent sound to come out of a horror movie character’s mouth is a blood-curdling scream, vocabulary may not be the first thing you think of in relation to fright flicks.  However, don’t let the funhouse mirror distort the unexpected ways these films have contributed to the popular lexicon.  Whether these films make you scream, cry or quiver, your readers will be sure to learn something thrilling along the way.   

Spook your lexicon – and your nerves – into overdrive, and keep your Dictionary.com app handy for the following picks:

  1. The Exorcist – This controversial masterpiece not only redefined horror movies, but has also given people nightmares and nausea since 1973 and introduced us to the term pneumoencephalogram.   

  1. The Silence of the Lambs – When Dr. Hannibal Lecter insists, “Enthrall me with your acumen,” we can’t help but be enthralled with his. We also have Dr. Lecter to thank for some perverse culinary education – fava beans and Chianti will never taste the same.

  1. The Shining – Stephen King’s imagination for horror + Stanley Kubrick’s cerebral filmmaking + Jack Nicholson’s sardonic wit = neuron-firing chills.  Kudos to a film that makes ten words – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – one of the most terrifying moments in cinema. Alas, you won’t find “redrum” in any mainstream dictionary.

  1. Jaws – Sure, those of us who were kids in 1975 are now afraid to swim in a pool, but this classic may have done more to generate interest in Carcharodon carcharias than all Shark Week episodes combined.  When we weren’t being traumatized, we were educated on the animals’ extreme territoriality as well as nautical and medical terminology. 

  1. Scream – A clever plot and satirical dialogue set this one apart within the otherwise mind-numbing teen slasher genre. Randy offers insight into the killer’s actions: “It's the millennium, motives are incidental.”  We dare you to find a line like that in any of the Friday the 13th films.  

  1. Suspiria – This English-dubbed, gruesome 1977 Italian Dario Argento classic revolves around unusual words that inspire the viewer to look them up, when you aren’t too busy gasping in terror.

  1. Videodrome – From what we can determine, the only film included in our Quotes section is David Cronenberg’s early, visionary work. Phrases, concepts, even the names of characters play off of word meanings. And who can forget the grotesque yet mesmerizing imagery and the young James Woods’ intensity?

  1. The Omen - We have to give this film credit simply for making its title, a useful and sophisticated term, ubiquitous in popular vocabulary. For better or worse, the series also deserves credit for perpetuating concepts such as the Anti-Christ and the apocalypse.

  1. Alien – This film put Sigourney Weaver on the map and put us into a state of nightmare for about a week. Nevertheless, those with the intestinal fortitude to see past the blood were enlightened by discussions of evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, and corporate politics. The film’s 1979 movie poster corrected a scientific fallacy perpetuated by Star Wars – “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream…”

  1. Psycho – This masterpiece brought the oedipal complex out of the English classroom and made it something so scary that we were afraid to shower. Norman Bates lulls us into a false sense of security with his discussions of taxidermy and armchair philosophy before forever proving that men dressed as old ladies can indeed be terrifying.            

Beware: while some of these may indeed be scary, your brain may turn into something resembling a melted Reese’s cup if you watch one of these:


  1. Bride of Chucky – While it’s true that the ‘F’ word is one of the most highly searched terms on Dictionary.com, we’re not giving out any awards for overusing it in a script.

  1. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer – The only thing that could make this film even less stimulating would be to cast Audrina Patridge into a supporting role. Now that’s scary. 

  1. Hostel – What we learned from this movie was to be irrationally terrified of travel and that’s pretty much it.  Queasy and crass, some critics have placed this film into a sub-genre of torture porn. We’ll pass.

  1. Saw (its sequels in particular) – This franchise may forever be tainted by its ridiculous number of sequels, despite a solid effort in Saw I.  Neither the characters nor the dialogue had us reaching for the books.

  1. Blair Witch Project – There is no doubt that this creepy, documentary-like film is frightening, but there is hardly enough dialogue to keep you engaged. You may find more verbal stimulation in the cleverly titled Gossip Girl episode “The Blair Bitch Project.”

4 comments:

TJ @ Dreams and Speculation said...

I love so many of these...especially Silence of the Lambs. What a fantastic, fantastic film!

SQT said...

"Silence of the Lambs" is just a great movie. Anthony Hopkins made the movie too. You needed an actor that could make the complexity of the character believable, and he did.

M. McGriff said...

These were great picks!

One movie I could NEVER watch all the way to the end was The Shining. Once that little boy started saying RedRum I was done! LOL

SQT said...

M. McGriff-- I never could get into Kubrick. I tried, but always stuck with the book. Ah well.