Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of Me

Published 4 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 Me Let'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 monster The 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 sledgehammer Has 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 family Probably 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 explorer The 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 Me These 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. Loved your list. Unfortunately, I haven’ seen American Werewolf in London, [REC] or The Descent. But Misery & The Shining are definitely two of the scariest movies I’ve seen based off of King’s work.
    I can’t think of a top five list, but I know that I’d have Dawn of the Dead on my list. The first time I watched it I stayed up half the night trying to imagine what I would do if zombies attacked. Also Salems’ Lot. I thought the vampires in that were pretty cool. I kept my windows shut for a week or so to keep any out.

  2. My list.

    5. Halloween(remake)

    5. Quarantine

    4. The Haunting in Connecticut

    3. Dawn of the dead(remake)

    2. The Ring(american)

    I used to not like horror movies- but got into it after the ring, and recently had a girlfriend that loved horror, so I have seen a good deal now, much is Campy, or just fun.
    I liked the new Friday the 13, but is was not scary, just good fun and lots of boobies…

  3. Personally I found American Werewolf in London to be more of a comedy than scary. My list would HAVE to include:

    - The Exorcist
    - Ringu
    - Halloween (the original)
    - Arachnaphobia (spider really creep me out)

    Vic

  4. It’s a personal list, but you know how these things work and while it’s dated and some of these films now seem quaint, I think you have to understand what they were like when they were released, which is why I am placing the date with the listing.

    1) The House on Haunted Hill (1959) – I was 7 when I first caught this on TV and when you’re seven years old and have no idea on who Vincent Price is, boy does he give you an introduction. Has there ever been a more powerful narrative to start?

    2) Halloween (1978) – Jamie Lee does all of the stuff that you could expect a rational human being to try and she “wins” in the end. A nice realistic horror film with some really good turns by Ms. Curtis, Mr. Pleasance, and Ms. Soles.

    3) Alien (1982) – GAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Did I wet myself when the creature came out of John Hurt’s abdomen, that’s between me and my seat cushion.

    4) Jaws (1975) – I was afraid to walk on lawns that were wet after that film. The Score on this film did a great job of letting you know when to be scared (as if you needed any help).

    Tie -5a) The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Brought home the fact that there are people out there that are just plain whacko and they could be living right next door.

    5b) Deliverence (1972) – Oh yeah, lets go camping and brings home the message on what a thin veneer civilization really is. The dream sequence, well lets just say it was well done.

  5. I am very impressed with your list…

    My own is as follows
    -Child’s Play (I first saw this when I was 9 years old and It scared the Jesus out of me)
    -Hostel (mostly due to the slicing of the Achilles tendon)
    -Misery (the sledge and ankle scene…wow)
    -Nightmare on Elmstreet: Dream child. (another that scared me as a kid.)
    -Saw (no excuse, its just fun)

    In hindsight not one of these films scared me after the age of about 16 but I thought for what they were, they were very well done.)

  6. @piratedan

    Ack!! How could I forget Alien!! Scary as hell…

    Vic

  7. Right on about Descent

    But the scariest movie for me was Stephen King’s IT

    I had nightmares for about a week afterwards. Tried to read the book and started having nightmares also. I had to wait about a year before I could finish the book.

    I have the DVD on my shelf and I have to cover up the side cover because every time I’m flipping through my dvds and I stumble onto that damn clown face, I get freaked out.

    I love it though. Movies that make you actually feel emotions (fear, happiness, laughter, etc.) are amazing.

    • Clowns…just don’t see them the same way anymore. “clowns aren’t funny after midnight”.lol.

  8. For me, dang…

    The Entity – just plain wrong in so many ways!
    The Ring – (Ringu) Eesh.
    Dawn of the Dead (original) Man, they just keep coming.

    Those come immediately to mind. I’m sure I’ll remember more as I see more.

  9. I just thought the decent was really awful

  10. They’re not the best horror movies, but they did actually scare me, and stuck with me for a few days:

    - Signs

    - The Strangers

    - The Blair Witch Project

    - Hostel

    • I agree with “The Strangers” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
      These two stuck with me for a while.

    • The Strangers… That movie terrified me.

    • Blair Witch scared me too especially alone at night

  11. The only film that I can think of that really scared me was “Cloverfield”, and thats not even a horror film.

  12. @Vic,

    I ALMOST put Alien on the list (I actually forgot to put it on the honorable mentions) but personally the others stayed with me longer in terms of being purely scared.

    @ogb,

    I didn’t include something like IT because technically it’s a TV miniseries (as were a lot of Stephen King adaptations, come to think of e.g. Salem’s Lot, The Langoliers). Ohterwise I would have included Twin Peaks – “That gum you like is going to come back in style.” *shudder* Creepy.

    I see the original Ring (Ringu) is a popular choice – it IS a scary film, but I guess I became desensitized to it after the American remake (which I actually think is superior to the original – about the only US remake of an Asian horror that I think that about. Better story, acting and felt more meaningful (although admittedly inferior on scares)). Luckily that didn’t happen with The Grudge, as I saw the original FIRST (that “throat noise” is still in my head…)

  13. nice list but the Blair Witch Project deserves a place in the top 5

  14. 5.childsplay.
    4.blairwitch project.
    3.it.
    2.the witches. “really scared me for some reason thought i would become a mouse”
    1.nightmare on elm sreet.

  15. Exorcist

    Ringu

    Human Lanterns

    Exorcist III

    Alien – The Werewolf (Lon Chaney Jr.) tie

  16. @ Lord Garth

    Is Exorcist III where the nurse is crawling up the ceiling in broad daylight?

    If it is, I saw that when I was like 8 or 9 and it scared the HELL out of me for all time.

    It’s so good that Upcoming movie Legion steals that scene.

    My List

    1. The Shining
    2. The Ring (only time I’ve grabbed the stranger in the seat next to me)
    3. The Descent (I’m slightly Claustrophobic)
    4. Halloween (Carpenter’s creepy stalker version)
    5. Carpenter’s The Thing (such a good psychological mind-F)

    Bonus section:

    Alien
    T2 (the T-1000 Scared me silly for a long time)
    [Rec] (it’s pretty messed up towards the end)
    Paranormal Activity (I’m scared of my house at night now)
    Lost Souls (one of the creepiest endings I’ve ever seen in a movies)

    And finally… Chinatown. I’ll never get over how demented the end of that movie really is. Jesus…

  17. The only two films I can agree with on this List are AMerican Werewolf in London and Misery. THe other are pffft especially the Descent. But different things scare different people I suppose.

    My list would be.

    5. Stephen King’s It

    4. American Werewolf in London

    3. The Howling

    2. The Blob (1988)

    1. John Carpenter’s The Thing (nightmares for about 6 months, now is one of all time fav movies)

    • Pffft

  18. I am not a big fan of the gory horror genre, but there have been some movies in the horror genre that have creeped me out (whereas most “horror” films tend to be more comedic in their stupidity.) One of the creepiest films I have ever watched was “Se7en.” The ending was just downright disturbing. As for “The Ring” I actually thought it was downright boring and not scary at ALL. “Silence of the Lambs,” “Alien,” “Halloween,” and “NIghtmare on Elm Street” are all scarier movies IMO.

    Fun topic, though.

  19. Here are mine…

    5. 28 Days later- I thought it was a great movie with the perfect amount of Gore, (which is hard to find in a zombie movie.)The cast was great, and i loved the movie. However, it really wasn’t a Scary movie in the normal scare you stiff type of way.

    4. Jaws- I was about 15 when I first saw it… and it scared me stiff. After the movie I regretted seeing it because I loved to swim!

    3. It- Now I’m not afraid of clowns or anything, but Tim Curry’s performance sealed the deal for it being truly scary!

    2. Arachnaphobia- Much like Vic I’m not fond of Spiders… in fact they scare the **** out of me. After I saw the movie I couldn’t turn around in a shower for several days after because of one scene. The Spiders pouring out of the shower head to be exact. Nor would I turn off a light without looking at it, or eat popcorn without checking it!

    1. Children of Men- It’s not even a horror movie, but because of it’s subject matter it scared the hell out of me. It had me thinking for many many weeks after I saw it. Their are a couple loud noise scares, and the fact that the movie has breaks of peace followed by long stretches of horror make you really feel for the characters!

  20. I usually don’t watch movies that I think will scare me ****less, not really my genre. I don’t really remember that many movies that scared me. Scariest 2 I can remember right now are The Shining and It (is that even officialy a movie ? I have it as a 1 whole thing on dvd, but I know its been broadcasted as a mini-series).

    I saw It when I was slightly to young (I guess) and it scared me beyond belief. It had such an impact I still can’t watch it without getting the creeps to serious degree, lol. (to put it in context, I am now in my mid 20′s).

  21. That’s a good list.
    Mine are……..

    1.) Jaws (1975)
    2.) Halloweem (1978)
    3.) Psycho (1960)
    4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
    5.) Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)- This was a tv-movie that really scared me when it came out. I couldn’t finish watching it when I was a kid at the time. Larry Drake played a mentally handicaped man named Bubba who was killed wrongfully by a lynch mob led by Charles Durning. Each man is killed as a scarecrow is seen at each killing. It is really creppy for a tv movie. no gore, just a lot of suspense and chills. If you haven’t seen this film, check it out if can.

  22. Pleeze… No list can be complete without “Night of the Living Dead.” Saw it the first time at the drive in when I was about 10 years old… It was “Night of the Living S**T” scared out of me! when the kid’s eyes opened after she was dead… and you knew what she had become… That was it for me.

  23. Actually I love lists but to write a top 5 scare list that is very diffcult- I mean when I was a kid I was scared easy films like “House on Haunted Hill” and then “Rosemary’s Baby”

    the scariest film list for me
    “The Brood”
    “The Exorcist III ”
    “The Shining”
    “Halloween”
    “Psycho”
    “Night of the Living Dead”
    “The Exorcist”

    You see there is no way I can list 5 I noticed that most of these films were released in my teens I think that’s when life is scariest and adventurous….. just alittle insight to go along with the list

  24. Good list :-D . I think everyone’s would be different because different things scare different folks. I’m gonna do this for Halloween – great idea. Thanks :-D

    An American Werewolf would definitely be in my top five. Only just rewatched that recently and it still scares me half to death. The Shining’s classic “Here’s Johnny!” moment never scared me but I think that was because I’d seen a hundred different spoofs or references to it before I actually saw the film. I found the part when Danny rolls up outside 227 scarier – I just wanted to scream at my screen, “DON’T GO IN THERE!”

  25. This is a great list.

    For me the movies that scared me the most as a kid, and still do, are. (In no particular order)

    1. Stephen King’s IT
    2. Arachnophobia (I still to this day can not but on my shoes with out checking for spiders)
    3. Pet Cemetery (I honestly still have issues watching this because I think its so scary)
    4. Child’s Play
    5. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ( I used to cry when my brothers or sisters would put this on, and frankly, its still creepy as an adult)

  26. Kofi

    Yes indeed that is Exorcist III, in fact the William Peter Blatty book which differs a great deal from the film and is even a scarrier read, was called Legion. Blatty, who directed, has said that the film was to be sort of a psychological bookend to The 9th Configuration and The Exorcist. Aside from the somewhat tacked on hollywood bigwig ending (who forced Blatty to add an “Exorcism”) it was one of the smartest and scarriest films of all time. I thought George C Scott was brilliant (as usual)

    If you chimps have not seen Exorcist III or 9th Configuration I suggest you make both a Halloween movie night. They will make you think and E3 will also scare the crap out of you

  27. You know this thread got me thinking. We should have a retro review column. As someone who generally prefers films that prefers a grittier more real less plastic Hollywood of the 40′s, late 60′s and 70′s as well as classic Hong Kong and japanese cinema. There are literally thousands of wonderful films that many of the kiddies (and older kiddies) have never seen (That thank the Lord do not have Tatum Channing or Axe body spray commercial overtones in them) and a great deal of films many have not seen since they themselves were kids (I.E. Exorcist III for Kofi)

    How about a classic Roy Schider film like Sorcerer, directed by William Freidkin (who directed the Exorcist). Everybit as scarry as the other films mentioned, a film that every geek no matter how old you may be would certainly love.

    How about comparing Ringu with the Ring.

    Or a look at the films of Kurosawa

    Or some of the classic Shaw Bros epics

    Or revisiting the classic Universal Monster films

    Lot of cool stuff available to share

  28. Jesus Chr@st we need a spellcheck here!!

  29. “3. Pet Cemetery (I honestly still have issues watching this because I think its so scary)”

    Good one Drew!

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