Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of Me

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 6:17 pm, This is a list post.

Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of MeLet's get right to it: This is a list of the top 5 movies that, for whatever reason, just scared the hell out of me. It might not be an entire movie, maybe just a particular scene or moment. Keep in mind these may not be technically the BEST horror movies (they may not even be strictly “horror” per se.), but there's just something about them that had me hiding behind a pillow, jumping at every noise, looking through the cracks in my fingers, etc. (you get the picture).Keep in mind this is purely opinion and therefore it obviously isn’t going to match YOUR list. If a movie that you find particularly scary isn’t on this list, feel free to let us know in the comments section.Also, be warned that there will be SPOILERS discussed with each film, so unless you’ve seen a particular film or don’t mind being spoiled, you might want to just note the title and skip ahead to the next film.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

David Kessler becomes a monsterThe very diverse John Landis (can you believe he made this AND Animal House?) brought us an eerie atmosphere and a great mix of on-screen horror along with off-screen that’s left to your imagination. The likability of David Naughton as our afflicted leading man makes it that much more compelling – we root for him, yet he turns into a hideous monster that terrorizes and attacks people. And the special effects makeup by the legendary Rick Baker are just about unmatched here.Scariest Scene/Moment: There are quite a few horrific and frightening moments to be found here (such as the repeated moments of the main character’s dead friend talking to him), but I have to give it to the famous, unforgettable scene of our leading character, David Kessler, transforming into the titular werewolf. As mentioned, the special effects makeup by Rick Baker is just astonishing and still holds up today even after all these years. It’s one of those scenes that serves for re-watches just for its own sake - I would be very surprised if ANY werewolf movie to come will match that transformation scene.

Misery (1990)

Annie Wilkes holding a sledgehammerHas there ever been such a terrifying female horror “villain” as Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes? She’s initially, and on the surface, a loving, kind and helpful woman – a former nurse, in fact. What more could you possibly want from someone helping you to get heal after a car accident? But instead she turns out to be a crazed, obsessed fan of James Caan’s novelist, Paul Sheldon, and he unluckily gets “rescued” by her, kept sedated in her secluded home, eventually forced to rewrite his novel because he killed off her favorite character. Director Rob Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman draw everything they can from a fairly basic premise and make for one helluva of chilling watch, which is helped tremendously by the performers, particularly Bates as Annie (she won an Oscar for it, FYI).Scariest Scene/Moment: One scene jumps straight to mind not only when I think about the scariest moments from this film but from any film, and that would be when Annie puts a piece of thick wood between the ankles of Paul and proceeds to break them sideways with a sledgehammer. In King’s book, Annie uses an axe instead of a hammer, which (as you can imagine by the way King describes things) is horrific enough. But somehow the sledgehammer – or at least the way Reiner shows it happening on-screen – is even MORE horrifying.

[REC] (2007)

Manuela Velasco in a scene from [REC]Going just by the plot description, this may seem like any other of the millions of zombie films out there - however like 28 Days Later, the "bad guys" here are technically NOT zombies, but do we really want to split hairs? Give it a chance and you’ll see it trumps most of the zombie films that have come before. The pace is put it up to an eleven from about the 20-minute mark onwards and it never lets up until the credits roll. There are tons of effective jump scares, skillfully done gore (it’s enough to get the point across but doesn’t go overboard) and “get under your skin” moments that stay with you long after the film ends. The performances, particularly from the lead actress, are very convincing.Scariest Scene/Moment: Like pretty much ALL of the films on this list, there are so many “scariest moments” to be found (a couple that come to mind is when one of the firemen falls down the middle of the stairs, and when the little infected girl bites someone out of nowhere), but I simply HAVE to give it to the last 5-10 minutes when the lights go out and the night-vision of the camera gets turned on. Other recent movies (such as 28 Weeks Later and another certain “creature feature” that’s also on this list) have used night-vision for horror effect - but none quite so effectively as [REC]. Just what is in that room with the last two remaining uninfected people? It’s hard to tell, but what it hints at is truly horrific.

The Shining (1980)

Jack Torrance frightens his familyProbably the technically BEST horror film I’ve ever seen (and subsequently on this list), Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a haunting, truly terrifying movie that features some of the most iconic horror moments, dialogue and imagery of all time. Everything from the Steadicam floating through the hallways and rooms of The Overlook Hotel, to the strange and terrifying visions make The Shining one of the all time greats of the genre. Jack Nicholson (in one of his best roles) gives a fantastically chilling performance as Jack Torrance; Shelley Duvall is convincingly terrified as his wife Wendy; and Danny Lloyd as little Danny is the perfect “horror survivor child.”Scariest Scene/Moment: The blood flowing from the elevator, Jack following Danny in the snowy maze and the beautiful woman suddenly turning old all come to mind as highlights, but I think there’s no question the greatest scary moment from The Shining, and maybe any OTHER horror film, is Jack chopping his way through the bathroom door with that axe. On the other side is a terrified Wendy, with nothing but a knife to protect herself, and with every chop of that axe, and the closer Jack gets to getting through, the scarier it becomes (Duvall’s convincing scared performance doesn’t hurt). Finally, Jack breaks enough through the door to get his face through, and he says those famous horror words – “Heeeeeeerrrees Johnny!” Classic and horrific.

The Descent (2005)

Flesh-eating, cave-dwelling humanoid kills a cave explorerThe Descent features an all-female cast (despite one guy at the beginning for a few minutes) and starts off with the terrible death of our main character's (Sarah) husband and daughter, which gives us a reason to feel sorry for and connect with the character. We care for the rest of the cast as well – a rare feat in horror movies where characters are usually just “meat for the killer,” but Marshall manages it with ease.This film is scary even BEFORE we get to the monsters. For the first 45 minutes we're subjected to what seem likes endless caves of darkness, almost unbearable claustrophobia and hints of what could be lurking in the shadows. The tables definitely turn once the monsters are introduced, but it’s really something when a horror can scare you long before the antagonist appears.Scariest Scene/Moment: A couple of scary moments of note include when Sarah is trapped in one of the narrower passageways that lead from one cave to another and suddenly it starts to collapse, and when the night-vision gets turned on and we see the Crawlers feeding. But the crowning moment has to be when we first get a look at the Crawlers: the group of women find their way to a fairly open part of the cave that has paths leading off in directions all around and suddenly, out of nowhere, one of the Crawlers appears, standing upright and looming over one of the women. What ensues is a bloody, messy and crazed attack from the Crawlers on the women, some managing to fight them off but others not so lucky. Truly terrifying stuff that’s just one of the reasons The Descent sits comfortably at number 1 on my list.

Honorable Mentions

Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of MeThese are also worthy and almost made my list:
  • Ju-on
  • Dumplings
  • Inland Empire
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Psycho
Well, there you have it, my list of top 5 movies that scared the hell out of me. I’d love to hear your thoughts - do you agree or disagree? Am I a big wuss or was I right to be scared by those mentioned? What is YOUR list of movies that scared the hell out of YOU? Let us know in the comments below.
TAGS: an american werewolf in london, misery, rec, the descent, the shining


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  1. Though I do rate the Exorcist and American Werewolf in London as some of the scary movies that freaked me out as a kid, I have to say that my story is a bit different from all you guys and gals around. You see, what really put horror in my heart as a kid was those darn baby monsters! Movies that featured baby monsters scared me to death! It’s Alive, Humanoids from the Deep and Prophesy were some of the movies that made me fear the dark! As a kid I knew that werewolves and vampires and monsters didn’t exist but the theme from both It’s Alive and Prophesy just seemed so posible as both monster babies were due to thir mother taking eather faulty medications or eating a contaminated fish which let to their babies getting mutated in the womb! My mind told me at that time that that was clearly possible since a zombie is just a fake but a malformed baby was clearly possible! Just hearing the cries of that darn baby from It’s Alive made me go bananas! I recently own both Prophecy and It’s Alive and I enjoy them now that I’m grown and a horror fan but when I was a kid I greatly feared those nasty monster babies. Heck, I almost flipped when I was watching V and Robin gave birth to that horrid green baby lizard!

  2. The Exorcist is one movie I can never forget in my life, its seems so real because I have actually seen exact circumstances happen in real life. Till today after over 25yrs or more after watching it for the first time, it still scares the s**t out of me.

    • The Exorcist is one of those movies that never looses it’s touch no matter how many years go by. There are some movies that as the years go by you look at them and say oh man how dumb I was back then to be scared of that! But there are some awesome movies that no matter how much time goes by they still look awesome and scary even when compared to the movies coming out nowadays. Those movie directors really nailed it by creating those awesome masterpieces. Some of the movies I rate this way are The Exorcist, Alien, The Thing and Jaws just to name a few.

      • Awesome picks Vorlon Oos! Alien is my personal “Citizen Kane.” It was the 4th movie I saw behind Star Wars Episode 4, Episode 5, and Time Bandits and at 4 years old (1981) it was absolutely horrifying. I’ve started letting my sons watch scarier movies than what they had seen up to this point in their lives (8 & 6) and although they had to turn their heads in a few scenes, the Nightmare on Elm Streets, Halloween, Aliens, Alien 3, Prometheus, and a couple of others didn’t really bother them! We just watched Alien for the 1st time two nights ago with no head-turning and they agreed-”Daddy THAT was a scary movie!” Very proud that it took what is in my mind the scariest film ever to give them a jolt. What a perfect movie, amazing that it still holds up today-arguably better than the sequels. For their best interests, we’re going to wait a while before Exorcist, The Thing (another all-time love of mine), the gorier films like the Friday the 13ths, Texas Chainsaw, and Scream. For what it’s worth, they were in the next room one night while my wife and I watched the original Scream and the voice alone TERRIFIED them lmfao!

        • Hey Alan! Your kids are lucky that they have a dad that’s careful on what he lets his kids watch! Ha Ha I didn’t have such luck and had to find out by myself what was scary since my parents would let me watch any horror movie and just make fun of me when I freaked out! Thanks mom! Ha Ha! Speaking of wich, I know we are all talking about horror movies but did anyone else get freaked out by the horror movie posters? Today horror movie posters are not so freaky anymore but when I was a kid (I was born in 1974) there were these ultra scary movie posters that drove you nuts when you entered a theater or a video rental store. Imagine you being a kid and finding yourself face to face with such abominations like the creature from Prophecy or the zombie from Lucio Fulci’s Zombie! Those things bore into your head and you knew that when the night came it was not going to be plesant! Today many horror movies are careful not to show the monster or the killer but in the past we had no such luck as we had to witness many nasty things like that darn Ghoulies monster coming out of the toilet!

          • i agree with the poster part my uncle had a massive nightmare on elm st one it was with the bus going over the cliff an freddy above it. use to freak me the hell out i wouldn’t go in his room (he’s the one who showed me nightmare on elm st and child’s play) and we owned fight night 2 on VHS an the case was shaped like a coffin i couldn’t even touch it

  3. Insidious!
    pet sematary
    the blob

  4. Never show these to me again!!!

  5. I vote for Misery. It is the best. Kathy won an Oscar because of that leg-breaking scene for sure. I remember I vomited back then.

  6. I watched all three [rec] movies yesterday and i didn’t find them scary at all. The third one was annoying because they had someone filming but then they would put in all the background noise etc. from the other person’s filming.

  7. the exorcist-realism factor and demonic imagery it scary, the texas chainsaw massacare, halloween II- season of the witch–I think the heroes lost at the end of the movie…and that sinister chant..3 more days to haloween, halloween–silver shamrock–

    • Season of the Witch is actually Halloween 3. It was playing on Thursday at my local Alamo Theatre. I have the song on my cell phone. I love the evil addictiveness of it. You can find the tune on the free app Zedge if you are interested.

  8. My all time most scary movie is The Exorsist. Both versions. Couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks.

  9. I like a couple of your choices in there. The Descent was a pleasant surprise when I saw it, didn’t think it would be that good and Misery really gives some creepy moments. I most definitely would include The Exorcist in any top five horror list (for me at the top). I also would like to mention a film a lot of people don’t know about called Feast it was one of those unexpected surprises like Descent.

  10. The Evil Dead and Ju-On.

  11. 5. Dawn of the Dead (2004): Andre helping his Reanimated giflfriend Luda deliver what is undoubtedly going to be an undead baby. The stark contrast in pace and lighting of this scene automatically creates anxiety, but its the terrifyingly believable makeup and canine ferocity with which the once exotically beautiful Luda snaps her jaws and fights against her restraints(!) that truly makes my skin crawl. That and the overall despair and unthinkability of a man delivering his own zombie baby! Just pay attention to the simultaneous look of hopelessness and absolute fear on Mekhi Phifers face as he rechecks the restraints on Luda.

  12. Exorcist, period. Any list without it needs to be thrown out. It’s like a top NFL player list without Jim Brown.

  13. Kubrick’s perversion of the shining was laughable, not frightening. Least. Scary. Movie. Ever.

  14. What Lies Beneath was a seven screamer; a record in my book! We hadn’t read the jacket which made it all the better, the jacket gives away too much of the story.

  15. Perhaps my attention was more on movie production standards and technical aspects of special effects, that I could not get that absorbed in the movie. Although the listed productions were well made, they were not particularly scary at all (to me). I have to confess the first time I saw “Night of the Living Dead” @1973, I saw the ending from the cinema lobby as I was leaving — by choice. After seeing it later, I only found it funny that affected me at all back then

  16. My favorite old classic is The Haunting. Only one that ever cost me sleep was Play Misty for Me. It was too real. Humans make the scariest monsters.

  17. In terms of sheer scariness, I would have to choose the original “Haunting of Hillhouse” which came out in 1963. It was just too vividly real as something that might actually happen. The other choice I would have would be “It.” There are some extremely creepy scenes in this movie, and a monster masquerading as a clown…come on, how can that not be totally creepy!

  18. My scariest are:

    Silence of the Lambs
    The Shining