Hollywood is no stranger to bringing some of the world’s scariest and creepiest urban legends to the big screen, instilling fear in viewers. Fans of these spooky tales and folk favorites have flocked to see the stories brought to life in cinema, with some of the most renowned images plunging into the fright generating narratives and elements. Vengeful spirits wreaking havoc on the living like in the great noir horror movie candy man and the scary J-horror classic Ringu to the violent reptiles living in the sewers in the 80s cult classic Alligatorthere have been countless unforgettable films that depict very creepy urban legends.
The must-have supernatural horror of 1999 The Blair Witch Project famous introduced a fictional local legend that inspired three aspiring filmmakers to go into the woods and investigate, never to be seen again. The disturbing psychological horror image from 1979 When a stranger calls putting babysitters across the country on edge with its all-too-real depictions of an intruder lurking in the house, bringing modern folk folklore “the babysitter and the man upstairs” to life. These are some of the best urban legend movies.
9 The Curse of La Llorona
Inspired by chilling Mexican folklore La Llorona, the 2019 supernatural horror film The Curse of La Llorona brings the Latin American tale to the big screen and tells the story of a mother in 1970s Los Angeles who fights to protect her young children from the titular vengeful ghost who wants to lure and rob them.
La Llorona is also known as “The Weeping Woman” and legend has it that the malevolent spirit was once a mother who now spends eternity wandering the riverside areas in search of her own children whom she drowned. The Scary Image is the sixth episode of Conspiracy Universe and delves deeper into the history surrounding Mexican lore while featuring a determined mother’s efforts to save her children from the terrifying specter.
8 The Hitcher
The 1986 road thriller The Hitcher follows young motorist Jim Halsey as he is terrorized by a menacing hitchhiker who stalks him mercilessly on the highways of Texas, with the murderous stranger determined to see the dead man. Starring C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer, the adrenaline-pumping film builds on the fear and potential threat of picking up a hitchhiker on the side of the road, with the shadowy figure harboring genuine nefarious intentions. .
Writer Eric Red drew inspiration for the plot from The Doors song “Riders on the Storm”, with its lyrics describing a killer on the road during a storm. Although it initially met with a lukewarm response from critics and audiences, in recent years The Hitcher became a cult classic that spawned a direct sequel in 2003 and a remake in 2007.
seven When a stranger calls
Derived from the classic urban legend “the babysitter and the man upstairs”, the 1979 psychological horror film When a stranger calls depicts the deranged acts of a demented killer as he savagely targets a babysitter; after the killer is apprehended and sent to a mental institution, he escapes seven years later and sets out to finish what he started.
The bizarre film’s opening is widely regarded as one of the the scariest movie openings of all timewhile its first 20 minutes feature the young woman horribly discovering via the police that an intruder is on the inside the House. When a stranger calls had a profound impact on the face of horror movies, with Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher Scream paying homage to the picture with its stunning introduction. A made-for-TV sequel was released in 1993, and a straight-up remake premiered in 2006.
6 Urban legend
Boasting an impressive cast of rising Hollywood stars like Jared Leto, Tara Reid and Joshua Jackson, the 1998 slasher Urban legend follows a gruesome series of murders on a prestigious New England college campus that all seem to be influenced by notorious urban legends. Many spooky tales are depicted in the gory film, including Bloody Mary, The Hookman, and The Killer in the Backseat, with the targeted characters dying in disturbing ways mirrored in the spooky tales.
Despite box office success, Urban legend failed to win over critics but was nonetheless praised by both folklore scholars and cinema for revitalizing the genre of urban legends on the big screen. A modern adaptation is currently in the works, with Colin Minihan set to write and direct the digital age remake.
5 Mothman’s Prophecies
The greats Richard Gere and Laura Linney star in the 2002 supernatural and mysterious film Mothman’s Prophecies, which chronicles the attempts of journalist John Klein to investigate and research the legend of the eponymous humanoid creature that was spotted in the 1960s in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Klein’s obsession with locating the folkloric being is fueled by the death of his wife two years prior, after discovering her notebook with drawings of the moth-like creature in its pages. Based on the experiences and memories of John Keel, the author of the titular novel, Mothman’s Prophecies Director Mark Pellington set out to provide a less literal take on the book and instead wanted to explore the psychological drama in UFO witnesses. A recent documentary titled Mothman’s Legacy tells the real events in a chilling way.
4 The Blair Witch Project
One of the most successful indie films of all time is the 1999 supernatural horror staple The Blair Witch Project, which centers on a group of fictional student filmmakers who set out to create a documentary about the bizarre local legend known as the Blair Witch. When the three go missing in the eerie Black Hills woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, the trio’s gear and “recovered footage” is found a year later and shown to the public.
Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez wanted to create a horror image mixing paranormal phenomena and documentaries, inventing the urban legend in 1993 and writing a 35-page screenplay with improvised dialogue. The Blair Witch Project inspired the concept of found footage that would become popular in film, with films like Paranormal activity, Cloverfield, and V/H/S adopt the style.
The 1980 independent horror film Alligator focuses on the brave efforts of Chicago detective David Madison and reptile expert Marisa Kendall as they set out to locate a huge, deadly sewer alligator that attacks local residents after being flushed down the toilet years later early. The film is inspired by the disturbing urban legend in which reptiles dwell in city sewers, wreaking havoc when they eventually escape and bringing citizens to their knees. Alligator was critically acclaimed for its satire of gender clichés, with An alternate ending writing in their retrospective review, “Funny and aware of the ridiculous contrivances of his genre, and he’s equally honest in treating the threat of that impossible crocodilian as a real problem.”
Based on Koji Suzuki’s novel of the same name, the 1998 Japanese psychological supernatural horror film Ringu (also known as the ring) follows journalist Reiko Asakawa as she races against time to investigate the chilling mystery surrounding a supposedly cursed videotape that viciously kills anyone who watches it seven days later. The film’s main antagonist, Sadako Yamamura, is inspired by the Yūrei archetype, a spirit from Japanese folklore who is said to be excluded from a peaceful afterlife; it also uses a chain-letter curse in which anyone who views the chilling videotape will meet untimely ends. Ringu had a major influence on Western cinema, sparking worldwide interest in Japanese horror and inspiring the successful 2002 remake, The ring.
1 candy man
In the 1992 Supernatural Gothic classic candy man, Chicago graduate student Helen Lyle begins writing her thesis on urban legends and folklore, prompting the young woman to investigate the legend of the “Candyman”, a malevolent spirit who kills anyone who speaks his name five times in front of a mirror. The titular antagonist was heinously murdered due to a banned interracial romance in the 19th century, and he returns with a vengeance to murder anyone who dares to speak his name or question his existence, motivated by the need to preserve his legacy.
The horror film is based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” using the legend of Bloody Mary as the basis for appealing to the angry, revenge-seeking spirit. candy man is widely considered a contemporary classic of horror cinema and was both a critical and commercial success; a direct sequel to the picture was released in 2021.