Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of Me

Published 5 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. The descent? Without the absurd “monsters” it would have been effective what with the tension and suspense caused by being trapped underground. That alone would have been enough to build a great movie around but instead they go for these bargain basement predatory creatures that are so scary, that if the prey stand real still they don’t even know they’re there. Oooh ahhh. What great killers, the only sense they seem to have is hearing, but not particularly good hearing as one can pass within inches of a person and not hear them breathe. Does the cookie monster scare you too?

  2. Its not about being a wuss trust me :p We’re humans, as strong as we might want to be, these characters are after all some of us’s worst fears. and the ones you mention def are creepy. Mine would be Pet semetary. scares the living hell out of me.. Stephen King has to be the horror genius out there. wish i coulve known him personally

  3. You absolutely cannot have a respectable list like this and not include The Exorcist. You just can’t. I’m a grown ass man and if I’m going to bed and picture that twisted b**** in my bed, I’ll still have a hard time going to sleep.

    • Amen, bro! My #! and I LOVE scary flicks!

  4. I watched John Carpenter’s The Thing again last night. A morsel of a thing is an infectious whole. You have to thoroughly incinerate a thing to kill it because any part of it not burned to ashes remains viable. Blasting it with dynamite or shotguns just scatters it’s fragments. Unfortunately for the human race a lot of blasting of things were done. The movie ends bleakly with two lone survivors freezing to death, not knowing whether the other is a thing, and knowing that the thing will survive freezing when a rescue team comes and thaws it out. Where most horror movies end with a lone survivor prevailing over evil, the human race doesn’t prevail in The Thing, and that’s truly horror.

  5. If you think Hitchcock is scary try watching Fritz Lang, Julian Duvivier and others. No doubt Hitchcock was the Master of Suspence but for me his most subtle bits work the best…such as in `The Lady Vanishes` the shot of the nun`s dressy shoes beneath the clerical robes. Terrifying! Sheer terror!

  6. I’m sorry but any adult who is scared by a movie is pathetic. You know they’re not real so why be scared? Pathetic and weak.

    • Horror movies wouldn’t be very fun if they didn’t scare us. Of course they aren’t real lol. Use your imagination a little bit and loosen up :)

  7. JWCamp, thank you for visiting our site where we have a lot of fun.

  8. I agree with some on your list, but the Stephen King ones were scarier books, imo. My top 5 would be: Jaws, Alien (especially the dark scene where he’s at the ladder and we first see the creature), Nightmare on Elm Street (original), Psycho (original), and The Howling. For some of those, I was young enough for them to completely terrify me, but watching them now for the first time wouldn’t give the same feeling. For others, like Jaws, I still don’t really go into the ocean. lol

  9. I love horror movies you can gulp but, one movie changes my whole perspective on death,power and fear and that would be the movie, “HELL RAISER”.The guy had dreams of this and if you look at his book, your impression of the guy is positive enough.I think that horror films are what abstract images and thoughts that lay hidden in our subconcious mind and are unlocked only by us to be real.Any, who the heck cares…..bring them on.

  10. Are you kidding me?
    Descent is a joke of a film, it’s cliched and about as scary as watching postman pat.
    You really need to get out more if this is the scariest film you’ve ever seen

  11. The Changeling. That is all.

  12. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE has a fear of SOMETHING, so for anyone to respond in an ugly manner to this list…..is just juvenile. Max Brooks is the author of one of the most entertaining and imaginative books I’ve ever read, World War Z. (Brad Pitt is starring in the movie version coming out in June.). Anyways, Brooks said the reason he wrote about zombies was because they scared the heck out of him. So initially, it was like exposure therapy for him to make himself write about his greatest fear. I thought it was interesting that he said the reason zombies scared him so much was because of the mindlessness they displayed when it came to feeding. Brooks said something like, no predator will mindlessly eat every last one of its prey, leaving no food source for another day. That’s what is so scary about zombies, that thoughtless drive they have, like a virus, just plowing thru anything alive until nothing’s left.
    But, back to the topic here; some of my personal scariest movie moments….the ones that really stand out in my mind, even years after seeing them…..
    1. Se7en (1995) starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey…..at the end of the movie when Morgan Freeman’s character is taking the lid off that box, my heart was pounding so hard! It really made an impression on me, that a movie can actually elicit a physical response from a viewer; I think that was the first time in my life I realized I was a movie addict. That was a very effectively scary scene to me. Better still that the contents are not actually shown. Because the viewers imagination can always conjure up something more frightening than ANYTHING a movie can come up with.
    2. Antichrist (2009) starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg…..for some reason I don’t understand this movie really messed with me, it must be on a subconscious level or something, but it was very, very creepy. When the decomposing fox speaks, it really scared me. I spend a lot of time outdoors and I found myself feeling scared when I walked thru woods I walk thru everyday, when I tried to isolate in my mind why I felt scared…well, that fox scene would pop up in my mind, I couldn’t get rid of it for like 4 months! Also, when the female character drives the grindstone bolt thru her husbands leg and shackles him to that grindstone, that was scary.
    3. Blair Witch Project (1999). starring: Heather Donohue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffin……I know, I know, this is for the most part pretty silly. BUT…..there is one visual that stuck with me, that really scared me. At the end of the movie, when that guy is standing facing the wall inside the spooky abandoned house, and he’s just standing there, like I don’t know, like he’s hypnotized, just waiting to be killed. For some reason that freaked me out.
    4. The Skeleton Key (2005). Starring: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt…..the only thing that really scared me, even the second time I saw this was that horrible recording they kept playing on that old vinyl record of the voodoo priest, that was really spooky to me.
    5. Jacobs Ladder (1990). Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena……several scenes were scary to me in this movie. The way that Tim Robbins character kept seeing demon faces and demon dragon-looking tails attached to people in the middle of everything else being normal, that was scary. His hallucinations were always scary, it was a great movie.
    I could do this all day but I’m out of time, really enjoyed reading you guys scary movie thoughts.

  13. Borderlands. The darkest sides of humanity lurking in the shadows in foreign places we may visit – or even waiting in our own backyard- scares me more than any made up movie monster!

  14. yes the decent!

  15. Let me tell you that indefinently, the scariest movie of all time would have to be Hotel Transelvainia! I mean the vampire was all like HISSSSSSS! All up in ur biz and all!

  16. You are a wuss! If you want to get crazy, watch the movie Narnia! It’s rated PG!

  17. Sinister should be on this. It s super creepy and keeps you on the edge the whole movie.

    • Oh man, I LOVED Sinister. You are a smart person. :-)

  18. It is a rarity for me to be scared by a movie but I admit I refuse to ever watch Wolf Creek ever again. I have never felt that way about any horror movies to date. John Jarrett’s laugh in it absolutely makes my skin crawl. I can’t bring myself to look at him the same again. Then when one of the female characters is watching footage of a family from a camcorder, just the idea of what may have become of them after seeing what he does to his victims just messes with my head way to much.

  19. Michelle, I’m happy you posted this suggestion as I never heard of Wolf Creek. I’ll check it out. Thank you.

  20. horror movies are my favorite… I hear something is scary… I watch it… to this day the only movie that I’ve lost sleep over was The Fourth Kind… but I agree about ‘sinister’… that movie was kinda creepy…

  21. Yes, REC is pretty scary, but the last 5 minutes are just WOW!
    The sequel was OK, but a lot weaker than the first one.
    Unfortunatelly, there came a 3rd one too, which dissed everything that made 1 and 2 watchable.
    Also, REC spawned an American shot-for-shot remake, because they obviously can’t read subtitles.
    Which is dumb – I’m no Spaniard (which means that I watched REC with the subtitles), but I still love it as one of my favourite horror films ever.

  22. The original Diabolique has always scared the crap out of me.

  23. My List, if you will…

    The original Halloween… the end, when Michael goes over the balcony and disappears… priceless and creepy as hell.

    The Silence of the Lambs… come on people, no other could be as frightening and BELIEVABLE as Anthony Hopkins portraying Hannibal… and the basement scenes with Jodi Foster in the dark, absolutely frightening!

    The Horrorfest remake of “Dread”… Fantastic rendition and once Quaid crosses over and submits to his demons it becomes an incredibly scary movie… probably one of my all time favorites!

  24. Movies that get uner your skin, movies that make you think about it after you left the theater are the ones that scare me truly like The Blair Witch project. When I first saw that when it came out I remember the audience was divided I heard some boos and some claps. But on the drive home I couldn;t stop thinking about tha situation and I wouldn’t dare look into the woods at night.

  25. 1. The Thing (82)
    2. Jaws
    3. Jacob’s Ladder
    4. Event Horizon
    5. Exorcist 3 (if only for the shears scene and the ceiling crawl)

    Pure Gross-out horror:
    Cannibal Holocaust
    Human Centipede

    • 1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Must be watched alone, in HD and in total darkness.
      2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
      3. The Exorcist (1973)
      4. The Thing (1982)
      5. Maniac (1980)

      • Forgot about Maniac. Good call,that movie scared the hell out of me when I was kid.

  26. Well grave encouters and 40 days of night scared me but you did have a good list id scary movies

  27. Well grave encouters and 40 days of night scared me but you did have a good list of scary movies

  28. this website sucks….I spent a half hour trying to do a comment using a damn laptop…I have fingers like Polish sausages….and it said I did not put in a correct email so instead of giving me a chance to fix it this f__king website blanked out the email I struggled with. I am quitting this cheap _ss site for good.

    • i hear ya spent a long time writing out stuff tried to add a link pushed send then it told me my post seemed like spam and when i hit back all my writing gone. this sight sucks.

  29. Brian, I hope you come back.