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. is REC the same as Quarantine?

    • As I said before, Quarantine (2008) is a shot-for-shot remake of Rec (2007).
      It was shot like that mostly because the american distributors thought that the English-speaking audience is too lazy to read subtitles (REC is a Spanish film).

      However, there are some differences, particulary near the end.
      Some of the dialogue is changed, as well as plot points, but nothing too drastic, at least until the end.

      But the main difference for me is that REC feels more natural.
      I don’t have 1 single reason for that, it’s just…
      - REC was filmed in a real building, which added to realism
      - the actors in REC are mostly unknown, which ads to the overall atmosphere
      - aside from being more known, the actors in Quarantine somehow don’t feel natural… they… ”act” to much, so to speak
      - the changed ending plot points of Quarantine added nothing to the story except the stuff that we saw 1.000 times already in horror films (zombie virus)
      - the cast of REC actually wasn’t told about some jump-scare scenes, so their reactions to them were more natural
      - each actor in REC wasn’t told the fate of their characters, until the day they would film their character dying

      So, in the end (since both films are shot in found footage style) REC simply feels more natural than Quarantine.

      • While I take no beef with the comment that people are too lazy to read subtitles, that is not the reason I prefer Quarentine over REC. I 100% prefer originals over remakes simply on principle. However… I have to admit that once the action amped up in REC I realized that I missed some visuals due to reading the subtitles. I genuinely think that horror, suspense and thrillers are the only type of film where I’d rather see a dubbed version than subtitles. I know, you lose the actors performance, but in this case, I’d rather sacrifice the voice, and enjoy the scares, than miss something cool cuz I’m reading a subtitle.
        Just my opinion.

        • Can’t sacrifice a good movie for not knowing the language…

      • REC is the original, quarantine doesn’t hold a candle to rec, the plot is completely different it’s not some rabies outbreak it’s supernatural, and you all need to check out rec 2 and 3 and soon the finale rec 4, the only redeeming value to quarantine is Jennifer Carpenter, who was also awesome in Emily rose and of course Dexter

        • REC 3 might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen

      • The reason the movie was made in English is not because any one country is too lazy to read subtitles. It’s a marketing decision based on the studio’s largest target demographic worldwide. The majority of Hollywood-made movie profit comes from the US, where English is the national language. This is followed by the UK–also having English as their predominant language. Since the US is where the majority of the profit will be made for most movies from Hollywood, casting lead actors of previous Hollywood-made, same genre successes (Jennifer Carpenter)gives it more appeal to their highest profit country. Most Hollywood actors are not fluent in anything other than English.

  2. Greets from Spain!

    It’s a great surprise for me to see you choose a Spanish movie. In Spain this movie was a blockbuster and it has a sequel, a prequel and another sequel in progress. I understand English-speaking audience doesn’t see movies with subtitles and for that I want to announce (sorry for my English) that the director Jaume Balagueró has made two horror movies in your language: Darkness (2002), with Anna Paquin; and Fragile (2005), with Calista Flockhart (this film is not so good). However his great movie for me is the first he directed: Los sin nombre (Nameless) (1999).

    I invite you to see any of them (if you can decode my English).

  3. I still believe “Jaws” is the scariest movie I ever saw. Just out of High School and living in Florida, my friend and I were going surfing on a Saturday. We saw the theater by the beach wasn’t crowded (shows were always packed) so we stopped and watched it. We didn’t make it to the beach and had no desire to surf for some time. When a movie scares you so bad you change your life style, that’s scary.

  4. I totally Agree with Rec being in the list..but I wholeheartedly agree that you put “the descent” at # 1.. I’m not really scared of monster horror movies (I’m more scared at ghost types of horror movies) but this one just blew my mind..and probably my nerves..It was so scary and every scene makes you want to watch out..You will definately scream when you watch “The Descent”, I recommend it. :)

  5. I snuck into The Descent in theaters when it came out, so I missed the first 1/3 of the movie, but boy did the rest deliver. When I finally caught the beginning of the movie I was even more impressed, definitely deserves to be on this list. I might still give the nod to Jaws, for its lasting impressions on people decades after it’s release, but Descent is a great choice as well.

  6. I really think Insidious should’ve been on here. It’s been a while since a movie stuck with me the way it did. I’m absolutely fascinated by it…not to mention it started off as complete terror.

    Also, there’s a particular scene in Knowing that gives me chills every time…the plane crash. I think it has to do with the whole scene perceived as one-take that just made it super graphic and disturbing.

  7. Here’s my list:

    5) Paranormal Activity 2 (hit home with my baby nephew at the time)
    4) Drag Me to Hell (1st showing TERRIFIED…now not so much)
    3) Poltergeist 2
    2) Insidious
    1) The Sixth Sense

    • Drag Me to Hell is a parody, not a horror movie. Still a really good movie though #samraimi

  8. Diego hay que mejorar ese pitinglis.Greatest, no great…….first ONE, no first…

    Las otras pelis de Balaguero fueron un coñazo. Salu2 desde Puerta de Hierro, Madrid.

    • Gracias por las correcciones, tengo que practicar. Y discrepo: Los sin nombre y Darkness me parecen mejores que Rec.

  9. Really??? The Exorcist isn’t on your list? That movie was terrifying, it was banned in several countries and people passed out and fainted in the movie theater and you put The Descent as number 1 on your list? You sir have problems.

    • The Exorcist was never in anyway a terrifying movie. I never will understand why people thought it was. Poor Linda Blair had her career distroyed by this film and for nothing as far as I’m concerned.

      • Thank-you. What Jennthered said. Period, end of story.

        The worst part of “The Exorcist” for me was that I heard all these things as a kid about how horrifying it was, how it was the best terror ever filmed. So I watched it (unbeknown to my parents), wasn’t scared, and thought “Well, I am immune to horror. I AM INVINCIBLE!!!”

        Then, I watched “Halloween”, all cocky and confident as a 10 year old. And….. couldn’t…. sleep…. For….. WEEKS!!!

        Stupid Exorcist. Really boned me.

        • What both of you stated about the Exorcist? a:) Supports the FACT that society gets more jaded, overexposed, and mature with every generation. 9 year olds today are the 30 year olds of the 70′s. That’s tragic and ya don’t even know it. b:) Should make you worry about yourselves because not being the slightest bit impacted by seeing the exorcist? That’s too messed up on too many levels. If you saw it as a 20 year old or older? O.k. If you saw it as a 12 year old like I did? You are officially immune to violence and evil or lying about the impact it had on you in an effort to apppear cool. Good luck with that on your backs while you try to have caring meaningful lives.

          • > Good luck with that on your backs while you try to have caring meaningful lives.

            You seem to be reading a bit much into this. Perhaps they were older when they watched it, or perhaps they’d seen a few other horrors before – whatever the reason, I don’t think just because it was shocking for you when you were 12 means that it has to be some major life-changing experience for everyone else, too.

            It’s a good film, but I can think of a lot “scarier” ones – mind you I was older when I watched it. I think the age you were when you watched a film like this should be ignored as much as possible for lists like this, though, because while no opinion piece is subjective just watching something younger means you’re more likely to find it scary anyway, which could even result in films like Gremlins making the cut as ‘scarier’ than something like Ju-On which you probably watched later on.

            • * while every opinion piece is subjective

              Whoops

              • Well, ya know what they say. “Opinions are like _-_-_-_- and everybody’s got one. If the Exorcist did not phase you in ANY way, as the two posters stated? That’s f****d up. Go watch “Someone’s Knocking At The Door” If ya don’t cross your legs and hurt at least once while watching? You sir, just joined their group.

                • I KNOW my 17 year old cousin, at the time The Exorcist came out, went to see it and looked into shadows for a long time after that. The point I was making was that society needs to monitor their children’s viewing habits because the end result is a bunch of de sensitized individuals. My comment as you can see, has a basis on an actual person who saw it at the theater when it opened, and it has no impact now? That’s disturbing and worth noting. Class dismissed.

                • Really, M.T.? I find your COMMENT scarier than ”The Exorcist”. How can you say that someone must be emotionally challenged simply because they didn’t find some movie frightening like you did? Honestly, to me, “The Exorcist” was overly-hyped and unconvincing. I don’t feel it was a terrible movie, but neither do I feel it was worthy of so much praise. All in all, I’m disappointed that you put so much emphasis on other peoples’ reactions to a horror movie. Just like another comment said, you are clearly reading far too much into that. You do realise that everyone has their own mind, therefore we don’t all find the same things scary, right? What scared you at 12 years old is something my friends and I laughed at around the same age. On the other hand, I actually found “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” to be very scary, and that was partially because it was loosely based on a real person named Anneliese Michel. Now there is a frightening story (google it).

                  Anyway, my point is that your judgment of those of us who weren’t traumatized by the same movies as you were is unfounded and extremely unfair.

                • opinions are like a**holes. everybody’s got one and everybody thinks everyone else’s stinks.

  10. for me the thing was brilliantly terrifying when i originally watched it as was alien and the original juon the grudge

    • Ju-On was fantastic – if you liked that, I’d suggest trying some more Japanese horror, especially Ringu/The Ring – that film is similarly terrifying. I’d also recommend, to a lesser extent, one missed call. These films all scared me far more than pretty much anything I’ve seen from American film-makers. Also, if you’re not averse to manga, Junji Ito’s work will give you nightmares. The Enigma of Amigara Fault in particular just sticks in my head sometimes with his uniquely unsettling vision.

  11. Don’t usually do this but got to give another Miller credit for making the perfect list. Nothing too cultish or too cliché. Wouldn’t change a thing. Well done. I look forward to seeing if we agree on everything else too, in which case I will of course have to find and kill you. There can only be one.

  12. the scene when dreyfuss was checking out the boat under water and the corpse suddenly popped from inside the boat was only only time i actually threw my popcorn. Also a couple of scenes from the grudge and sixth were genuinely creepy

  13. I completely agree with “The Misery” , it’s not only the most scary but also the most Thrilling movies in the 90s.
    My favorites-
    1] Texas Chainsaw [ Original]
    2] The Exorcist [classic]
    3] Wrong Turn [gore & gore]
    4] The Misery [ engaging]
    5] Sinister [the best in today's times]

  14. So seriously, The Descent? Have you read the book. The movie did the original story NO justice. There is much more to the mythology of the creatures that really adds to the story.

  15. It’s a great list. I would recommend watching these in the dark with a good surround system.

  16. It iaalso very scary

  17. It is also very scary

  18. Come on…..any real list must have something from Alien (1978).

  19. Ok firstly american werewolf in paris did not scare me not once I actually liked the dead girl ghost suddenly popping up they made the movie pretty hilarious actually and the sarcasm I laughed pretty much the entire movie

    Secondly the only movies that ever actually scared me that badly was Jeepers Creepers and The Grudge the creepy sound effects of that movie stuck in my head for days cause my boyfriend had the orignal dvd version and he loved going to sleep listening to the sound effects that played during the menu for some sick reason it gave me endless nightmares

    • I thought I was the only one who thought “Jeepers Creepers” was scary! Makes me feel better that you did too. I guess I was about 15 when it came out and my friend and I saw it in the theater. We actually screamed a few times throughout the movie; I’d never done that before or since. I think it was the fact that the monster was indestructable and completely unrelenting that really got to me. Basically, there wasn’t anything you can do to stop him. He would chase you forever (in between those sleep-cycles of his, of course) once he had your scent. Eek.

      “The Grudge” had me similarly terrified. That clicking growl that the effected people made really made me cringe. I can’t believe your boyfriend listened to the soundtrack at bedtime, lol. You poor thing!

      If you haven’t already seen it, I’d really recommend watching “REC” or “Quarentine”. (“Quarentine” is the American remake, and it was done extremely well and a near perfect match to the original.) The ending had me almost peeing my pants.

    • I thought I was the only one who thought “Jeepers Creepers” was scary! Makes me feel better that you did too. I guess I was about 15 when it came out and my friend and I saw it in the theater. We actually screamed a few times throughout the movie; I’d never done that before or since. I think it was the fact that the monster was indestructable and completely unrelenting that really got to me. Basically, there wasn’t anything you can do to stop him. He would chase you forever (in between those sleep-cycles of his, of course) once he had your scent. Eek.

      “The Grudge” had me similarly terrified. That clicking growl that the effected people made really made me cringe. I can’t believe your boyfriend listened to the soundtrack at bedtime, lol. You poor thing!

      If you haven’t already seen it, I’d really recommend watching “REC” or “Quarentine”. (“Quarentine” is the American remake, and it was done extremely well and a near perfect match to the original.) The ending had me almost peeing my pants.

  20. Last Horror Movie, Funny Games, Hostel …

    What can be scarier than real live humans?

  21. 1. The Exorcist
    2. The Shining
    3. The Changeling
    4. Evil Dead (original)
    5. Insidious

    Runners up: A Tale of Two Sisters, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Salem’s Lot (original TV miniseries).

  22. Yeah, it’s obvious whoever did this list knows nothing about scary movies.

    Where is the original Howling? Evil Dead 2? The Exorcist, for God’s sake?! Where is the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre? How about the spectacular Tale of Two Sisters or Shutter (the original thai version, not the godawful ‘murican remake)? Now, if you’re looking for pretty disturbing movies, how about Cannibal Holocoust, Human Centipede or A Serbian Film?

    … I could go on all day long.

    • They can know a lot about horror films and still pick pretty famous films. For one thing, Human Centipede and A Serbian Film were more graphic than scary (although I haven’t seen Cannibal Holocaust, so I can’t tell where this falls). The Exorcist was hugely influential, but overall far from the scariest film. I personally wouldn’t put the films on the list which are here (except The Descent – that film terrified me with it’s very claustrophobic set-up in the first third, although I felt significantly more comfortable once the monsters turned up), but that doesn’t mean that they know nothing about horror, just that their opinions are different to mine.

    • Rosie I was just about to name the same movies! How could you leave those out! When listing scary movies, those are automatically IN THE LIST!!!! This list is the pits!

  23. This list is good, a few would make my top 5. But one movie that freaked me out and still continues too when i watch it is IT, that movie was just scary as heck.

  24. yea descent and descent 2 are pretty freaky along with the shining and american werewolf.

    • I’ve never watched the Descent 2 but isn’t its entire existence contingent on the ending of the first film being ruined? I really didn’t like that change for the US release – it was awful.

  25. In no particular order, off the top of my head:

    Jaws
    Halloween
    act one of Jeepers Creepers
    opening scene of Scream
    Nosferatu
    The Omen

  26. No Alien?

    How?

  27. 5 movies that are actually scary…
    A Serbian Film
    Martyrs
    The Angels Melancholy
    The Human Centipede 2
    Event Horizon

    • The human centipede 2 wasn’t scary. It was more like “let’s see how disgusting we can make a movie and get away with it. Lets throw sh*t at the camera… Literally.” I suppose if it actually happened it would be a scary situation, however that movie was a bunch of bull. No offense.

    • The human centipede 2 wasn’t scary. It was more like “let’s see how disgusting we can make a movie and get away with it. Lets throw crap at the camera… Literally.” I suppose if it actually happened it would be a scary situation, however that movie was a bunch of bull. No offense.

  28. BUT WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE MOVIE? God, you show a picture, have a crappy review, but nowhere is the name of the film being discussed. It doesn’t matter with some classics, where the picture thumbnail says it all, but I was interested in reading this list not to argue about the scariest movies with you hacks, or criticize someone else’s horrible writing, but to find new scary movies to watch. It does no good when you don’t give us THE DAMN TITLE!!

    • @Jeff: Look at the picture. Now look to the right. You see that big yellow text? It’s just above all the little white text describing the film. That’s the title.

  29. For some reason “The Blair Witch Project” scared the heck out of me.

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