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

1,014 Comments

Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.


If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it.

  1. hard to pick only 5… but heres mine lol
    Joshua (2006)… was truly frightening! crap acting tho… lol
    In the Mouth of Madness (1994)… amazing creepy scenes! especially the albino cyclists
    Ils (2006)aka Them (2006)… truly edge of your seat madness!
    The Exorcist (1973)… duh!
    Shutter (2004)… Original version, not that Joshua Jackson bologna…

  2. The Exorcist: Alright, to me the creepiest and scariest movies are those dealing directly with the devil, granted here it was a demon named Pazu, but let’s not nitpick. When I watched this on video for the first time I made the mistake of pausing on that ghastly white face the appears only in a flash. Needless to say, for me anyways, that pale white face just scared the you know what out of me.

    Paranormal Activity: I can sense eyes rolling, but once again we are dealing with a demon, which to me just might as well be the devil himself. I think the fact that it is elusive and is only shown by foot prints and shadows really got inside my mind when I went to bed that night, with the light on I might add.

    Arachnaphobia: Let’s just say if a spider is bigger than a dime, I am scared to death of it. So why did I watch this to begin with, I have no idea.

    The Blob (80′s version): I remember watching this late night on TV out on my grandparents farm. I found myself looking from ceiling to floor for few days after seeing it. And I don’t know why, even to this day, I still have a miss discomfort when I watch it.

    And I guess number one would have to be……..

    Psycho: Yes it is the shower scene that does me in in this picture, But if you watch closely, right before the first stab, you can see the eyes and the look of pure madness. I would often see those eyes, glaring out from the darkness. Now when that scene comes up I try not to focus on it at all.

    • Sinister TOP1

  3. The Exorcist
    The Epitaph
    Ju-on
    Shutter
    the 1st Paranormal activity

    These are my the scariest movie list. But I love the Shining. :)

  4. I like scary rather than gory usually…
    1. The Pit and the Pendulum with Vincent Price…threw my pop on all my friends.
    2. The Haunting (is that the one I mean…the whole house is scary?)
    3. The House on Haunted Hill/my first date! So fun to grab him when that scary white haired old hag came suddenly out of nowhere with white eyes.
    4. JAWS…omgosh Could NOT go near the water!
    5. Psycho….could not go near the shower. for years.

  5. Some Honorable Mentions I forgot to add…
    JURASSIC PARK was.so.scary! I looked for velociraptors everywhere! I actually avoided this movie and ARACHNIPHOBIA for a some years before I finally went ahead and watched them.

    Almost ANY Vincent Price film…he was so awesome!
    I know there are tons more but…I’ve been a horror fan my whole childhood, one that started me was probably The Bride of Frankenstein…ha

  6. Trilogy of Terror (1975) The third story caused me to not put my feet on the floor right beside the bed for weeks.
    Prince of Darkness (1987) An evil entity in a jar in a basement and freaky stuff going on.
    The Haunting (1999) Sometimes the things you imagined happened based on what they DON’T say, are the scariest. However, the guardians coming out of the picture and grabbing Hugh and pulling him back is one of the coolest scenes in the movie.

  7. MY Top 5 Scariest movies of all time….

    5. Salem’s Lot
    4. The Ring
    3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The original)
    2. Jaws (part 1)
    1. Exorcist

  8. 5. Forbidden Planet – I was very young when I sneaked in to see this movie, and I had nightmares about the monster for a year.
    4. The Pit and the Pendulum – I saw this when I was about 13, and it did its job for sure.
    3. The Shining – “Here’s Johnny!” … ‘Nuff said.
    2. Jaws – One of the best thrillers ever. I was in Clearwater, FL when it came out in theaters, the downtown theater had on its marquee, “Don’t go in the water”. The city council passed an ordinance, and made them change it.
    1. The Exorcist – I was in my mid-20s when I saw this, and I had to sleep with the lights on for a month after! Scariest movie ever!

  9. While I still maintain The Descent is my scariest movie, when I was a kiddie I saw the 1953 version of Invaders from Mars scared the heck out of me. I even had nightmares. Cheesy now, it was from a kid’s point of view, parents were zombified by Martians, puppies were put in jeopardy and the end was ambiguous. And there was chanting – always scary.

    • Dude – there’s no reason to ‘dis’ your reaction to the original “Invaders From Mars” – it’s one of the creepiest movies ever made. And the black and white cinematography was superb!

    • Agree with you — Saw Invasion from Mars as a kid and found it quite scary.

  10. “Silence of the Lambs” and the original “Alien”. If there have ever been more terrifying sequences than Buffalo Bill stalking Clarice in the basement with night-vision goggles, or when we realize that the creature is in the escape capsule with Ripley, I’ve yet to see them.

  11. Good choices on that list in my opinion.

    I agree with The Descent too, an absolute masterpiece.

    The only two that I think deserve mentions beyond this are The Entity and, as strange as this might sound, the first Poltergeist.

    The Entity has some truly brilliantly scary scenes in the bedroom and Poltergeist had me terrified of toy clowns and trees for years.

    • I liked the entity also and poltergeist and 13 ghosts was scary

  12. The Descent?? lol
    I watched this on justintv with a bunch of other people and when the ending came everyone either laughed or asked what the heck happened. I never saw a movie with some many people asking what happened or just plain laughing at the ending. The amount of comments that flooded the chat area was amazing.

    If you watch this this turkey, make sure you do it with a bunch of friends.

  13. I was 9 years old when I saw the original “The Thing (From Outer Space)”, with James Arness as the monster. Kid with us “wet his pants”, he was so scared! I had better control, but still very scared! The re-make of The Fly (with Jeff Goldbloom) doesn’t scare me as much as it grosses me out! I was an adult when the first Halloween was released (1978), but everyone is scared of the Boogeyman, and that movie definitely scared me! I think my dislike of clowns started with Stephen King’s “It”. To this day, clowns creep me out!

  14. I have to qualify this by the age I watched these movies at:

    Age 41: Megan is Missing; too close to sex slave/online predator reality for comfort. I showed most of this to my kids to scare them safe.

    Age 39: Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door – can not watch again. Based on a true case.

    Age 36: The Ring: this movie was closing in on me from the beginning scenes with youngsters staying in a remote cabin – to of course, the sinister end. Great story.

    Age 30: The Game: I love movies with strong male leads. This movie made me paranoid as hell.

    Age 23: The Firm – again, strong male leads and paranoia

    Age 14: Children of the Corn – Isaac – what a freak! And Malachia…classic.

    Age 11: Blood Sucking Freaks, I Spit on Your Grave; Squirm (parents went bowling these nights – thank you older cousins!)

    • Honorable Mentions (again, based on age):

      The Entity, The Shining, Jaws, The Gift, Psycho, Children of the Corn 666, Gothica (Halle Berry), White Noise 1; Rosemary’s Baby, Abandoned (Sutherland), Abandon (Katie Holmes)

  15. back then i’d give the nod to the Exorcist. as for as the descent goes, eh… wasn’t scared by it.

  16. Gory movies don’t scare me, some make ill. It’s the things that you don’t see but imagine that are scary. “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr about possession is scary, taken from a short story by Henry James’ “The Turn Of The Screw” I read the story quite interesting. Then there’s “The Haunting” with Julie Harris , Clair Bloom Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn. The 1963 version. This was taken from Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting Of Hill House”. And I can remember being scared the first time I saw “The Wolfman” with Lon Chaney Jr. Frankenstein didn’t scare me. I thought the recent “Idenity” was quite interesting with John Cusack. Reviews weren’t too good but I found the twists and turns of the plot mind boggling. And the ending was terrific. Actually there are two endings. I attended a lecture on movies dealing with psychological plots, I asked the psychologist what he thought of this movie “Identity”. He laughed and said he thoroughly enjoyed the movie but found holes in the psychological part.

  17. I forgot to add “Alien”, once again the alien is only seen twice, the rest of the time it is suggested. The other Aliens were boring. I remember having to walk home alone in the dark after seeing “The Thing” with James Arness. Again the monster is not seen clearly till the end. You can imagine a lot worst things than you actually see. I remember reading “The Best Supernatural Stories by H P Lovecraft”. I was scared beyond belief and after reading “The Exorcist, which I did in one sitting on a Saturday night, couldn’t put it down , I had every light on in the house.

  18. I am legend, Texas chainsaw massacre.

  19. The babysitter being locked in the laundry shed in original Halloween was horrific. Seeing Michael Myers looking in the windows at her is chilling as hell. And who does their laundry in their back shed? Lol

  20. The babysitter being locked in the laundry shed in original Halloween was horrific. Seeing Michael Myers looking in the windows at her is chilling as hell. And who does their laundry in their back shed?

  21. The babysitter being locked in the laundry shed in original Halloween was horrific. Seeing Michael Myers looking in the windows at her is chilling. And who does their laundry in their back shed?

  22. 5. Paranormal Activity
    4. Jaws/Poltergeist
    3. High Tension (Haute Tension)
    2. The Exorcist
    1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)

  23. I absolutely agree about “The Descent” – that horrifying scene where Sarah is stuck and the ceiling shifts is almost unbearable. The first time I watched this I had to pause it THREE TIMES, go outside and remind myself that the real world has room to breathe in. I have to mention that the European version with the original ending is far superior to the American theatrical version – after almost two hours of relentless claustrophobic terror, the final scene will break your heart. Truly a horror masterpiece.

  24. its not rec right?? its quarantine..

    • [Rec] was the name of the original Spanish movie. Quarantine was the US (?) remake,

  25. This list is really so-so. Sure there were some scary moments in The Descent but #1 on “movies that Scared the Hell out of me” list? Come on…I’ve probably been more scared watching Doctor Who than any of the movies on this list.

  26. So glad they didn’t put that overrated piece of garbage Paranormal Activity on this list.

  27. You can tell your’e probably in your twenties. A list without “The Exorcist” cannot be taken seriously.

  28. I have to think Alien is waaay up there. You can guess how old I am with this one: “Home Before Dark” – Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (blind)!! Dare you not to jump out of your skin when that body comes flying through the room. I certainly agree with Exorcist and Jaws!! Do pea soup and bigger boat sound familiar?

    • Wait Until Dark not Not Home Before Dark was Audrey Hepburn but not Gregory Peck, it was Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Oddly enough Zimbalist was in Home Before Dark with Jean Simmons. Crazy World. Actually Alan Arkin stood out as the bad guy in Wait Until Dark. Wait Until Dark certainly was suspenseful but not what I would call scary.

  29. The scene where she’s hiding in the enormous puddle of blood, and rises up out of it with a crazed look and a human bone in her hand as a weapon… MY FAVORITE MOVIE SCENE EVER!!!!! The change in personality of the main character is riveting to me. Word of advice… don’t watch the second movie. The ending will make you want to throw your TV through a window.