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. Evil dead the new one is def pure terror

  2. I totally agree with the Decent on this. I still have nightmares about that film and I refuse to go into any cave-like structure.

  3. As expected, I see a lot of “politically correct” movie titles on here. In other words, movies that are not scary at all but have somehow obtained pop culture status for other reasons, and now others feel compelled to add it to their own list. This is why I dislike combing thru lists like these – you won’t find original titles or hidden gems like the following…

    The Changeling (1980) – George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere

    I’ve seen Ringu, Ju-on and all the others. But The Changeling scared me the most. You might think you’ve seen them all, but you haven’t. This one will make you pee your pants.

  4. My top movies….
    the Ring—, I was so scared I slept with my tv on for weeks!

    The Exorcist- no explanation necessary

    pet sematary- this book and movie gave me nightmares

    • Wow, sorry but that’s hilarious. You saw the Ring and you kept your TV ON for weeks? Isn’t that a little counter-intuitive? lol

      • lmao

  5. The Exorcist didn’t make the list? That’s crazy!! What about Poltergeist?

    This list is pretty weak.

    • The Exorcist is one of a kind, mentally and visually frightening especially if you’re religious. If you don’t believe, than it loses half its intended effect. Poltergeist was only good for it’s time, although still frightening for maybe 8-10 yr olds.

  6. Bravo on picking The Descent as #1. It really left a major impression on me as a horror film. :D

  7. wow – no reason to follow screenrant (and big wus is an understatement)

    american werewolf – that’s a comedy (does whoever wrote this actually watch horror/genre movies?)

    Tobe Hooper’s TCM better than this entire lot – the original Nightmare on Elm Street – The Shining while ok shouldn’t even be in top 5 of scariest -

  8. Brian, please clue me in on Tobe Hooper’s TCM as I’d like to watch it. What did you think of “30 Days of Night”?

  9. I questioned the list (especially American Werewolf) until i got to The Descent. Absolutely spot on – very, very, very scary!

  10. OMG THE DESCENT IS THE SCARIEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME IT S THE BEST HORROR MOVIE OF ALL TIME I JUST LOVE IT……IT DESERVES THE NUMBER 1

  11. The Descent was amazing. Really well done and truly scary. Nothing else really stands out to me on this list except for Misery.

    Silly to do a Top 5 horror movies of all time don’t you think?? =P That’s a pretty small number for a pretty big genre.

  12. i really didn’t like An American Werewolf In London, i LOVED Misery and REC., i HATED The Shinning, and The Descent is probably my favorite movie ever. i’m so glad it’s your #1 too

  13. The Shining sucked, pure and simple. Even Stephen King says so.

  14. I agree. I went to see The Shining even though a good movie critic on a local TV news show called it “a cancer on American cinema.” Afterwards my wallet moaned, “redrum, redrum, redrum.”

  15. I was reading through your list and thinking, “why do really scary movies like The Descent never make any of these lists”? Needless to say you redeemed yourself with your top pick. What did you miss? How about Jaws? Maybe not horror but I don’t think many scarier movies have been made. And for me Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer is definitely in the top five.

  16. While everybody finds ‘Heres Jhonny’ from The Shining as the scariest part of the movie, I personally find Danny chanting ‘REDRUM’ over and over scarier. And yet The Shining did not scare me as some of the other horror flicks do. And FYI, Stephen King hates The Shining mostly cause Kubrick did not make it the way King wanted it to. King’s story was all about the descent of a good natured man into insanity whereas Kubrick’s movie conforms more to the horror genre.

  17. Nothing ever scared me like the Exorcist–except maybe The Omen. That stuff is VERY scary if you believe it can happen.

  18. I’m pretty hard to impress when it comes to movies, and horror in general tend to bore me — they just aren’t scary. I have seen most horror movies to date, and none have scared me. I’m not trying to brag or seem macho, I’m actually pretty sad about it. But the lineup on this list is just terrible… The Shining didn’t even scare me as a child, I don’t know how it scared anybody. I hope one day something will come out that really gets to me, so here’s hoping. The main reason I’m posting this comment is for the replies — since I’m a hard sell, do YOU have anything you think would sate my fear craving?

    Please reply, I’ll consider anything truly scary. I’ll even watch it in the dark, with true 7.1 surround sound and my Panasonic VT plasma. I’m all in the for the experience, I’ll give the movie every chance.

    -J

    • Josh, I recommend John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m not saying it’ll scare you out of your seat, but I can’t imagine anything creepier. One by one members of an American arctic outpost are being consumed and imitated by a mysterious, alien life form. By the time they realize what they’re up against it’s too late. At the end humanity doesn’t win.

      • Thank you for your suggestion. I have seen this; I was maybe 10 at the time and while good, did nothing to scare me. I have compiled a “to watch” list based on these replies and as soon as I’m able (very hectic schedule) I will make a list of my own. I doubt I’ll be scared, but still positive my list will be more worthy than most of the garbage I’ve seen so far. And I’m sorry people, The Descent was not scary in the least. I actually laughed at some points. There is a much better novel based on this idea by James Rollins called “Subterranean” that does a better job at suspense than this movie. But isn’t that how it always goes?

        -J

      • Thank you for your suggestion. I have seen this; I was maybe 10 at the time and while good, did nothing to scare me. I have compiled a “to watch” list based on these replies and as soon as I’m able (very hectic schedule) I will make a list of my own. I doubt I’ll be scared, but still positive my list will be more worthy than most of the ones I’ve seen so far. And I’m sorry people, The Descent was not scary in the least. I actually laughed at some points. There is a much better novel based on this idea by James Rollins called “Subterranean” that does a better job at suspense than this movie. But isn’t that how it always goes?

        -J

  19. The Descent is easily in my top three; there’s so much to that movie. Its not just your standard horrifying underground cannibalistic humanoids. Nor just the extreme claustrophobia (I barely withstood it). The real horror is the metamorphosis of the main character as she deals with this situation, from near-suicidal and full of despair, to a blood-soaked amazon. As she discovers her friend’s multiple flaws and betrayal, she breaks free of the trappings of humanity to survive. She almost becomes one of the hunters.

  20. the original version of the descent is one of the best horror movies of all time. the stupid directors cut with the terrible ending not so much.

  21. Rec and Rec2 and Rec3… (okay, the last is more a zombie flick^^)… love it :D the finale scenes of Rec and Rec2 are beyond evil o_O

  22. I have to say that The Loved Ones scared me and Megan is Missing although it is not classed as a horror movie it definitely scared the crap out of me, on the list above though i would say the Descent deserves to be there and without a doubt The Shining but i can think of much more scarier movies Devils Playground is scary british movie with danny dyer

  23. What’s scary? Blood and guts are amusing. Psychological terror is much more effective. On that note, I’d like to suggest both The Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr. as two of the scarier movies made over the last twenty years.

    I’m sure some will think I’m crazy for those suggestions. That’s fine.

  24. I personally have seen all of these movies listed but no offense to anyone but none really gave me that hmm whats a good way to describe it the hiding in the corner feeling i suppose i want a really good scary movie the ones that make you jump for no apparent reason the ones that make you go tell your friends to watch it because you had been up for 4 days with your lights on i have yet to find a movie that truley hits on all fours if anyone has any suggestions please let me know all comments or post i have set to go to my email.

  25. There isn’t a single scary film on this list!
    Limiting yourself to 100% commercial offerings like these shows that you probably shouldn’t be writing about horror.
    If you absolutely insist on limiting yourself to commercial horrors, try Insidious, Mama, Sinister, The Exorcist and/or It. None of them are ‘scary’ (as very few commercial horrors are), but they’re all a hell of a lot closer to being so that your list.
    If you really want to look like you know about horror, get away from the mainstream. Look for alternative, leftfield, non-commercial and even extreme stuff. Martyrs, Grotesque, Trouble Every Day, Infection, Visitor Q, Smiley, Inside, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, Marebito, A Serbian Film, Dumplings, even The Last Broadcast – all scarier than those on this list for various reasons.
    Sorry, but it angers me when lists like this are put out. It’s just a no-knowledge list that anyone could put together. And it feels like I’m reading a ‘Best Video Games of 2013′ list written by someone who hasn’t played a video game since 1987.
    Write about something you know. You don’t know about horror.

    • Absolutely spot-on. I’ll give these films a try. I doubt any will be scary, but I hope to be proven wrong. Thank you!

      -J

  26. Let’s go further back. Robert Mitchum. The Night of the Hunter. No special effects, no monsters, just plain terrifying.

  27. Bad list. Jump scares are cheap. The real terror is psichological, like the first Paranormal Activity.

  28. The Shining and American Werewolf are my fave movies. But “scary” – definitely Shining. Descent is not scary at all. List needs the Exorcist, Ringu, Salems Lot, Martyrs and Haute Tension.

  29. WOLF CREEK – Go see it! The first 30 minutes or so lulls you into a false sense of contentment with great characters and beautiful scenery of the Australian Outback but once the horror begins, The film doesn’t let up until the credits roll. What’s more, the movie is based on a series of true murders.

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