The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

Published 6 months ago by

Scariest Horror Movies Wolf Creek The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

Although it’s become fairly easy to find a horror movie any time of the year, there’s nothing quite like sitting down for a solid spookfest on Halloween. And while not all horror movies are successful in scaring their respective audiences, a few get the job done with aplomb. These are typically the horror films that stand the test of time, and unfortunately nowadays are the ones that get spun-off into numerous sequels (or remakes).

With that in mind, we have pulled together some of our favorite horror movie moments – with a focus on modern films – to remember those rare movie-going experiences where we truly jumped out of our seats.

Here are our selections for the 8 Scary Moments in Modern Horror Movies.

Audition (1999)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Audition The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: After being unable to shake his feelings for Asami, a girl he barely knows but feels a connection to, Aoyama finally decides to give her a call. Upon her answering, the bag that has been sitting still in her apartment finally flails about violently.

Why It Scared Us: Director Takashi Miike has crafted his fair share of creepy moments, but this one takes the cake. Although there are only brief glimpses of Asami in her apartment, hunched over by the phone, it’s hard not to miss the oversized bag in the background. And when the bag finally moves, confirming the audience’s suspicions that Asami is holding a person in the bag, it’s an unexpected yet unnerving moment that only a director like Miike can pull off. Eventually, we discover what’s inside the bag, but just watching the bag move was enough to sufficiently creep us out.

Insidious (2010)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Insidious The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: Renai (Rose Byrne) wakes up from a nightmare and begins to notice a figure pacing outside of her window. The man continues to pace back and forth outside until he unexpectedly appears in her bedroom.

Why It Scared Us: There are at least half a dozen terrifying moments in the first Insidious (as well as its sequel), but this sequence in particular stands out for several reasons. For starters, there is no build up. The figure simply starts pacing back and forth without so much as a musical cue or even an acknowledgment (at first) from Renai. That in and of itself is pretty disturbing, but when the man magically appears much closer to the frame we were sent over the edge. There’s a reason director James Wan is the new master of horror, and it’s scenes like these that prove it.

Wolf Creek (2005)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Wolf Creek The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: Liz (Cassandra Magrath) is trying to start one of Mick Taylor’s cars, before the Australian psycho appears behind her and stabs her in the back. Liz’s attempt to flee is futile as Mick slices off several of her fingers and eventually severs her spinal cord, turning her into a “head on a stick.”

Why It Scared Us: The tourists under attack concept has been done to death, and arguably even done better, but this scene from Wolf Creek is still extremely disturbing nonetheless. While the initial appearance of Mick in the backseat sets the scene off, it’s the “head on the stick” portion that has left us scarred for life. Can you imagine being completely incapacitated while a mass-murdering psychopath like Mick hovers above you?

Signs (2002)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Signs The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix) is watching a news broadcast that purports to have first hand footage of the alien visitors from the film. The big reveal comes and several kids are in the way, until the crowd parts and, plain as day, an alien walks across the screen.

Why It Scared Us: Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan in recent years, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember this scene from Signs. Up to that point in the film, Shyamalan had been dealing in smoke and mirrors, merely suggesting an extraterrestrial presence without actually showing one. But when it finally comes time for the “money shot,” he delivers. Yes, some would argue that the film falls apart from there, but the initial shock was still hard to shake off.

[REC] (2007)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror REC The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: After discovering the demonically-possessed Tristiana in the attic, reporter Angela Vidal is trying desperately to escape until she trips and drops the camera. As she crawls towards the night vision-enhanced frame, something grabs hold of Angela and drags her away.

Why It Scared Us: While there are very few differences between [REC] and the 2008 English-language remake Quarantine, we prefer this Spanish language film simply because it was the first. Both films have this shocking ending, and both films pull it off effectively. It’s just a shame that the Quarantine trailers ruined the surprise. As a whole, the film showed that the found-footage and horror genres were perfectly suited for each other – even if that meant some sacrifices along the way. More importantly, though, [REC] found new ways to make audiences jump by playing around with the live footage conceit. And the film’s ending in particular showcased just how terrifying that conceit can be.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Paranormal Activity The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: After several nights of creepy noises, sleepwalking, and footsteps, the paranormal force that is haunting Micah and Katie finally grabs hold of Katie and drags her away.

Why It Scared Us: One of the main reasons the Paranormal Activity franchise is so lucrative is its micro budget. Made for only $15,000, this first film had little to work with, but was an effective horror film nonetheless. That being said, the film does pull a little CGI trickery here and there, most obviously in this scene towards the end of the film. The scares up until this point had been subtle, whereas this moment takes things in a decidedly aggressive direction, ramping up the intensity until the final frame. Footprints on the ground are one thing, but being pulled from bed by an invisible demon is terrifying.

The Descent (2005)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror The Descent The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: Our intrepid spelunking crew takes roll with a night vision camera and discovers there group includes one albino demon creature too many.

Why It Scared Us: The Descent takes a lot of common modern horror tropes (claustrophobia, excessive violence, unexplained creatures, strong female protagonists) but it uses them to great effect. Like that scene from Insidious, this moment manifests without fanfare or buildup, it simply happens. But once the creature appears, there is no reprieve; the film puts the pedal even closer to the floor. The Descent is a pulse-pounding ride that kicks off with this jump scare and never lets go, and it’s easily one of the best horror films of the 21st century.

The Ring (2002)

Scary Moments in Modern Horror The Ring The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

The Scene: Noah (Martin Henderson) watches helplessly as Samara crawls up from her well, across the field, and out of the TV before revealing her water-damaged face and killing him.

Why It Scared Us: A lot of the moments on our list made the cut because they subvert expectations, or are just so unbearably horrifying they left us scarred for days, but this scene from the 2002 English-language remake of The Ring is scary because it transpires almost exactly as the audience expects. We see Samara inching closer to the TV and we know she’s going to come out of it, but we refuse to believe it. So when she does finally break that digital plane, it’s a very real fear (that terrible event could occur in our own home theater) that grips the viewer. It’s a shame director Gore Verbinski turned his attention to big-budget blockbusters, because The Ring is an excellent modern horror film.

8 Scary Moments in Modern Horror Movies

Scary Moments in Modern Horror Conclusion The 8 Scariest Moments in Modern Horror Movies

Of course, picking a scary scene or moment is completely subjective. Some people can go through an entire movie without flinching, while others cower behind their significant other for the duration of a film. But these are some of the moments in more recent films that left us terrified.

Now it’s your turn: what are some of your favorite scary moments from modern horror films? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. One great scary movie that gets overlooked every single list is the 1980 classic ‘THE CHANGELING’!! The ball bouncing down the stairs and the bang, bang, bang, then suddenly the kid in the tub in the attic!!! My screams still echo in the walls of the theatre where I saw this!

    • Great film. One of my favorites!

  2. There were some incredible scenes in shutter(2004).. the thai movie… some really scary ones which made me freak out a bit… the above mentioned were okay but not awesome..

  3. Judging from the comments, this article was written last year. However, I would have to say that The Conjuring and Sinister were the two scariest movies of the last few years. Just overall tone and tension of the movies. Specifically the Lawn Mower scene in Sinister and one of the basement scenes in the Conjuring.

  4. Pretty much ALL of The Conjuring.

    • The Conjuring was laughable.

      All movie… OMG WE NEED TO GET A PRIEST. Spends most of the movie trying to film and prove hauntedness. Wife gets possessed suddenly main character guy rips his shirt open to reveal a crucifix and superman style I’LL DO THE EXORCISM!


      • That main character with the cross was Ed Warren if you’d have paid attention to the movie you would know that he and his wife are “demonologists” specifically certified by the catholic church and licensed to perform exorcisms. Well he “was” certified, he has since passed on.

      • I couldn’t agree more.

        • Getting certified in nonsense doesn’t impress me much.

  5. Very good choices above, however, I must agree that Sinister and The Conjuring need to be listed as well. Sinister, pretty much most of the whole movie made me uneasy. As for The Conjuring I would go with the “Hide and Clap” in the basement.

    My all time favorite scene though, you would have to go back to 1990 in Exorcist III. That scene where you are peering down the hall of the hospital watching the nurse tend to her rounds and you are just waiting for something to happen and then when it finally does it comes so quick, you almost don’t realize what had just took place. That scene still sends shivers down my spine.

  6. What about “The Thing”, the one with Kurt Russell and the not so excellent, but still scary “Wrong Turn”

  7. Scariest moment for me was seeing Pamela Anderson in ‘Barbwire’
    Britney Spears in any movie

    • ^ dumbest comment of all time. Sorry

    • For me it was seeing Jennifer Lopez in any movie.

  8. Last week there was a list (on another site) of what they considered the scariest movies since The Shining.
    Number one on the list was Mulholland Drive.
    I absolutely love that movie but I’m still not convinced that it could be classified as “horror” but for the sake of this article lets say it is and if so the scene in the diner when the detective describes his nightmare that ends with them going behind the dumpster and that scary guy,demon or whatever you want to call it is one of the greatest “jump scares” of recent memory.

    I’ve seen that movie at least ten times and even though I know it’s coming it gets me every time. Every single time.

    • * whatever you want to call it “jumps out”.

      • Unexplainable pit of my stomach terror at this scene, and I don’t know why. I get it.

  9. Pretty much every time that evil spirit/entity/ghost thing was onscreen (in whatever form/person) from the Guillermo Del Toro movie “Mama”. GOD, that movie creeps me out…

  10. Idk what movie it was forsure but I think it was Zodiac with Mark Ruffalo and I believe Robert Downey Jr. The scene where a guy and a girl r hanging out in like a field and there’s just this guy watching em from a far. Creeped me out bad.

    The “yard work” scene with the lawn mower in Sinister got me in theaters when I saw it. My jaw dropped.

    The murders in the Freddy movies were pretty crazy (even tho they kinda got comedic after a while) but just the concept of “if u go to sleep he kills u” it haunted me when I was little.

  11. You put “The Ring” on the list instead of “Ringu”? Seriously?

    • YEAH, THE RING! It is actually much better than RINGU. Oh the pretentious nuts always defending those Asian movies… So sick of it.

      • No, Ringu was far better in every respect. Oh the pretentious nuts, always defending the brainded remakes.

        • Your opinion, and you’re welcome to it. But I am with the others on this one. I watched both and was struck by the qualitative difference. In fact it made me wonder if it was an Asian thing that didn’t allow me the same immersive experience with the original as with the remake.
          Sometimes there is no reason for a remake and sometimes there is.

  12. Nice list.

    But there is one scene from the movie Exorcist 3 that needs to be included in a list like this.

    Its the scene in the hospital when a young nurse eventually gets decapitated by a sheet wearing possessed person with large industrial scissors.

    Terrifying moment.

  13. Oddly one of the scenes to stick in my mind for many years came from one of the Amytiville Horror sequels, most of the movie was dumb, but one scene, strange things have been happening just a bit and the lady is in bed on her side sleeping and then a man’s arm lays over her from behind, like a spouse’s would, only she’s a widow. Freaked me out.

  14. Insidious is crap, instead watch INSIDE the french movie.

    • I like both, but don’t see how they’re comparable.

  15. Just wanted to mention The Long Weekend (1978), an Australian film about a couple who go for a beach holiday miles-from-nowhere. It’s critiqued as an eco-message man v nature thing, but the vibe I used to get was that nature simply didn’t like us. You’re on this wide-open beach, and you are being stalked, and it’s as if nature allows itself plausible-deniability (‘it was coincidence, guv’). I think that’s what makes it wall-to-wall creepy.

  16. I’ve only seen a couple of the movies mentioned here, and I wouldn’t consider most of these the “scariest” anything. Insidious relied heavily on jump scares, and the scene talked about here did startle me slightly, but then I was left going “wait, what happened, who was that, WHAT was that”. It wasn’t really scary, just confusing. Audition was pretty creepy, but I found the ending much more upsetting than the bag moving around. I haven’t seen The Ring, but I know the basic plot, and just the wording of the mentioned scene is enough to ruin any chance of it scaring me. The character is watching helplessly as a girl crawls out of his TV and then goes up to him and kills him? Why didn’t he just leave the room, or pick up something to hit her with?

    • The mention of that scene in The Ring was the most insulting error on this error-filled list.

      In RINGU, that scene takes place in a Japanese apartment. The character is physically trapped against a wooden railing and less than 5 feet from the television; when Creepy Ghost Girl climbs out, she’s practically in his lap and he physically has nowhere to go.

      The scene is exploiting the Japanese sense of claustrophobia.

      In The Ring, none of that applies; the character is 15 yards away from the TV. At no point would he be unable to climb to his feet, run to the door, or really do anything more effective than simply flop on the floor like a dying fish.

      Sadly, Gore Verbinski totally failed to understand the purpose of the shot, and thus turned something that could, and should, have been the terror highlight of the film into a bad joke.

      That claustrophobia could have been played to in America just as easily, because despite our greater physical space, most Americans who aren’t in the 1% can easily sympathize with feeling trapped. How many people can afford a loft apartment as vast as the one Noah lives in?

      Gore Verbinski’s failure to correctly understand the point of the source material, along with his total misapprehension of how fear works, took a superb but low budget horror film, gave it a far more generous budget and better cast, and then proceeded to ruin everything scary about it and leave only a shell for American audiences.

      • You completely nailed it. The American Remake ruined the classic that is Ringu. In the Remake, the horror was hardsell, including Samara – whose entire face Verbinski had to show to scare people. In Ringu, just the bizarre single eye of Sadako will scare you to bits.

  17. How in the world did you forget Event Horizon!? A masterclass sci-fi horror film. For shame…also 28 Days Later! Another modern classic!

    • I agree with Event Horizon. The recorded footage of the lost astronauts still haunt me to this day. What could be scarier than a haunted spaceship? It’s the :unknown of the unknown.”

  18. Terrible … just terrible.

  19. In The Descent section, I believe you mean to say “discovers THEIR group,” not “there group.”

  20. Easily the scariest thing ever put to film is what’s commonly known as the “wobbly ghost” in Pulse (2001), aka Kairo in Japan. That scene is the closest I’ve ever gotten to true mind-numbing terror. I don’t particularly consider jump scares frightening, more startling.

    A close runner up is the abduction scene from Fire in the Sky (1993). SCARRED FOR LIFE, am I right? Though its debatable whether or not that film truly falls into the horror genre, I always found it pretty horrific.

  21. Yup, the Paranormal Activity (2007) scene, where Katie is pulled out of her bed and dragged across the hallway by this invisible evil is still to this day on my #1 spot of ‘scariest moments’.
    Can’t wait to see the March installment of this series.