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. Movies scared me most when I was young: IT, the exorcist, arachnophobia. No doubt IT and arachnophobia lead to my now irrational fear of spiders. Also Alien 1 and 2, after seeing these, my sis and I could even use the toilet without someone standing nearby..for years! Recently the Shining (only saw this a couple years back), the Ring and Exorcism of Emily Rose-the one scene where her boyfriend wakes up to see her twisted body lying on the floor scalds my brain and I wish it would go away. Not watching anymore demon-movies!

  2. the descent scared the CRAP outta me. to the people who thought the movie was a comedy, i simply do not know how that is possible.

    and i agree, the ring too is scary as **** and i was in college when i seen it for the first time.

    • The Descent is one of my favorite horror movies. The whole concept is scary as hell.It’s the main character that really makes the movie for me though.

    • The Descent is one of my favorite horror movies. The whole concept is scary as hell.It’s the main character that really makes the movie for me though.

    • Good movie. Horrible ending.

  3. I have been a horror fan all my life. My list is all based on the firs time I saw each movie and how much it scared me at the time that I watched it.

    Ok here goes…
    5- the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)
    This movie was scary because it was filmed almost like a doc and the fact that it stated at the beginning that it was a “true story” scared me to death. Still to this day, when someone on my street starts up a chainsaw (or even a leaf blower) my heart stops for a second, every time.

    4-An American Werewolf in London
    What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this one. The scene where he transforms for the first time into the wolf, is truly iconic and terrifying mainly because it looks sooo incredibly painful. I would have to say that one of the scariest scenes or me was in the subway station when the werewolf chases the man through the narrow hallways and you know he’s there but you can’t see it until he trips and falls onto the escalator. As we see the terrified man lying on the escalator from above, we see the werewolf slowly lumber into the shot and then the loud GROWL!!!! Yikes!!

    3-Alien
    I just remember watching this movie sitting on my daddy’s lap burying my face into his chest every few seconds. The overall feeling of claustrophobia in this movie was enough to make watching it uncomfortable from the start. The scene that really got me was when the first alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest. It was such a fun moment and then all of a sudden, he starts to seem like he may be choking, then all hell breaks loose. The alien in his chest burst out and streaks across the dinner table and off into the darkness of the ship. Now we have to spilt up and look for it?!? Haha nope.

    2-Jaws and Psycho
    These have to be a tie for me. I can not decide which one scared me more. Jaws has me scared to swim in the ocean or even go in past my knees. I can also get scared in a pool if I’m under water and hear my heartbeat in my ears like the menacing score from Jaws. LOL yeah it’s that bad.
    Then Psycho was my first real Hitchcock experience. Not only was this movie a slasher but there was also the idea that someone could be so messed up that they could have another person (even one that happens to be dead) have that much impact on your psyche. I couldn’t wrap my 8 year old brain around that and it made me see that insane people are FREAKIN SCARY!!!

    And finally at the top is
    1.Night of the Living Dead
    Although I had always watched zombie movies, up until this point in the movies I had seen, zombies were voodoo zombies and not of the flesh eating variety. The bleak look of the film scared me. The farm house scared me. The anger between the men in the house scared me. The zombies terrified me. There are too many scenes in this one that scared me but the scene with the most impact was when the little girl in the basement had died and then attacked her mom with a spade. (Remember I was a little girl when I saw these movies) Also the final scene where our hero Ben has survived the night and he steps out of the basement only to be shot in the head by a posse that mistook him for a zombie. They grab his body and dump on on a pyre with the rest of the dead:-(

    That’s my list. I don’t disagree with yours because they all scared me too, but these have been the gold standard for scares my whole life.

  4. I have been a horror fan all my life. My list is all based on the firs time I saw each movie and how much it scared me at the time that I watched it.

    Ok here goes…
    5- the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)
    This movie was scary because it was filmed almost like a doc and the fact that it stated at the beginning that it was a “true story” scared me to death. Still to this day, when someone on my street starts up a chainsaw (or even a leaf blower) my heart stops for a second, every time.

    4-An American Werewolf in London
    What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this one. The scene where he transforms for the first time into the wolf, is truly iconic and terrifying mainly because it looks sooo incredibly painful. I would have to say that one of the scariest scenes for me was in the subway station when the werewolf chases the man through the narrow hallways and you know the wolf is there but you can’t see it until the man trips and falls onto the escalator. As we see the terrified man lying on the escalator from above, we see the werewolf slowly lumber into the shot and then the loud GROWL!!!! Yikes!!

    3-Alien
    I just remember watching this movie sitting on my daddy’s lap burying my face into his chest every few seconds. The overall feeling of claustrophobia in this movie was enough to make watching it uncomfortable from the start. The scene that really got me was when the first alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest. It was such a fun moment and then all of a sudden, he starts to seem like he may be choking, then all hell breaks loose. The alien in his chest burst out and streaks across the dinner table and off into the darkness of the ship. Now we have to spilt up and look for it?!? Haha nope.

    2-Jaws and Psycho
    These have to be a tie for me. I can not decide which one scared me more. Jaws has me scared to swim in the ocean or even go in past my knees. I can also get scared in a pool if I’m under water and hear my heartbeat in my ears like the menacing score from Jaws. LOL yeah it’s that bad.
    Then Psycho was my first real Hitchcock experience. Not only was this movie a slasher but there was also the idea that someone could be so messed up that they could have another person (even one that happens to be dead) have that much impact on your psyche. I couldn’t wrap my 8 year old brain around that and it made me see that insane people are FREAKIN SCARY!!!

    And finally at the top is
    1.Night of the Living Dead
    Although I had always watched zombie movies, up until this point in the movies I had seen, zombies were voodoo zombies and not of the flesh eating variety. The bleak look of the film scared me. The farm house scared me. The anger between the men in the house scared me. The zombies terrified me. There are too many scenes in this one that scared me but the scene with the most impact was when the little girl in the basement had died and then attacked her mom with a spade. (Remember I was a little girl when I saw these movies) Also the final scene where our hero Ben has survived the night and he steps out of the basement only to be shot in the head by a posse that mistook him for a zombie. They grab his body and dump on on a pyre with the rest of the dead:-(

    That’s my list. I don’t disagree with yours because they all scared me too, but these have been the gold standard for scares my whole life.

  5. I’m just curious, has anyone in this crowd ever seen “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr? When the governess has been told that the previous handy man is dead then she turns around and sees through the window into the darkness, the most menacing dark man she has ever seen, which is a spitting image of the deceased handy man, I still shiver when I think of it.

  6. Danielle, Alien has to be in any top five list of all time great horror movies because of its intelligence. There has to be stupid characters in horror movies, and the only taint on Alien was that Kane was stupid enough to peer down into the egg pod that opened before the Jack-in-the-Box moment. Otherwise, Alien poses an implication that gives it logic: space travel is so ancient that a predator evolved for it with a parasitic stage having a powerful, but selective, acid that dissolves the glass of space helmets but doesn’t harm the victim’s face for implanting its egg. That was a brilliant idea. Too bad Prometheus turned that premise upside down and devolved into another B horror movie.

  7. Well i don’t agree completely!
    Excuse me, first off, where is “DON’T LOOK NOW’ with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, so terrific, atmospheric and truly scary! Nic Roeg’s best most celebrated film!
    And, what about the first Alien? And The Innocents from 1961 by Jack Clayton, or Polanski’s The Tenant? Uhm… I agree on The Shining though! Scary!
    Lately i was terrified by Bayona’s The Orphanage! Excellent!

  8. I completely forgot about “Don’t Look Now” . I had to see it twice, then read the short story by du Maurier. Sometimes I confuse suspenseful with scary. I think this movie had both. But as I said before it’s what you don’t see but imagine that’s scary.

    Palmer

  9. this is a terrible run down, truely not scarey movies at all

    • 100% Agreed

  10. Okay twinghost27 w/o being too nosy, what are the movies that scare you?

  11. one of the horror movies that scared me a lot was insidious, the grudge, piranha and jaws

  12. You must have been a child when you saw American Werewolf in London. It’s not scary at all. I saw it first as an adult and laughed all the way through it.

    You missed mention of The Exorcist and the first Alien movie (where John Hurt gets his guts blown out by the birth of the alien).

  13. ” The EXORCIST Pt. 1″;” Dawn of the DEAD ” and ” Aliens ” scared me…real good!

  14. OBviously the author of this article never saw High Tension NOR Evil Dead

  15. actually Terror in the Aisles was very intense too. And yah, I cant believe I forgot The Exorcist, what was I thinking

  16. Jaws…the fear that thousands upon thousands of people still to this day of whats swimming below you as you think twice of dangling your legs like shark bait. A true American horror classic that left an impression for life many!

  17. Jaws…the fear that thousands upon thousands of people still to this day of whats swimming below you, you always think twice of dangling your legs like shark bait with the theme song playing in your head. A true American horror classic that left an impression for life!

  18. The sequel to Descent was, from a narrative point of view, s***, but it was also a lot more frightening.

  19. Sorry, but I’d have to say you’re a big wuss if these were the movies that scared the hell out of you (hey, you asked!) The one time I saw The Descent, I was nearly bored straight into a coma. I still don’t see where people get off calling this a great, or even a good, horror movie. An American Werewolf in London was more funny than anything, not really much of a horror movie. Misery had some thrills, but again, not really any scares to be had. [Rec] was well made, but didn’t start getting good until about the last 5-10 minutes.

    Ju-on is merely another example of a terrible “horror” movie that will bore most people to death. With The Shining, you’re getting closer to a good example. It’s a great movie, but I don’t really find it to be a horror film, nor has it ever been particularly scary. Psycho is a great horror film, but alas, it’s just not scary in this day and age. I’m probably one of the few people who will tell you that they didn’t like Rosemary’s Baby. Sorry, but I’ve seen it twice (several years apart) and found it exceedingly dull both times. Inland Empire? WTF? Really? Dumplings is the only one I have not seen from the whole list.

    Maybe it’s just me not scaring very easily, but I’d have to say that some of the people in the comments have come up with some far better choices. Not necessarily that they’re scary movies, but that they’re just better horror movies in general.

    • Well Billy you’ve told us what doesn’t scare you now tell us what does maybe send a chill down your spine?

    • Billy, since you’re hard to frighten, please share with us what horror movies did. John Carpenter’s The Thing doesn’t scare me any more since I’ve watched it now six times, but its creepiness and paranoiac atmosphere still gets to me. The end has implications as well. Having blasted the Thing with fusillades of shotgun pellets, and having blasted it with dynamite, spattering its tissue everywhere – tissue that even as morsels are infectious, MacReady’s fateful failure to thoroughly incinerate every inch of the compound, including Childs, meant that humanity lost. That’s creepy.

  20. I have to vote for the original “The Thing” released around 1950, with James Arness portraying the Thing from outer space. I was about 14 when I saw it. It scared the beeheegees out of me and I had to walk home alone about a mile through creepy places, looking over my shoulder all the time. There were no special effects, just the thought that it might just be behind that door. This time humanity was saved , but the reporter warned to keep an eye on the skies , there may be more coming.

  21. “The Hills Have Eyes?” “Silent Hill” “Phantasm” if you are going old “The Thing” was classic, I was a kid watching “Jaws” and “Carrie” great! (Misery was fabulous, but not what I would deem scary) both “The Evil Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead” were terrifying. I was startled at various points in “Descent” but really remember (might not be the case now that I’m older) “Nightmare on Elm Street” really scared me, Pinhead from whatever that movie was about the box/puzzle. I enjoyed the grade B flicks as well, sometimes cheesy, often funny were great entertainment.

    Over all, good list.

  22. OBviously non of yall saw High Tension, the all-time creepiest nightmare enducing film ever produced

    • Stuart, thank you. I’ll check out High Tension.

  23. I have to say that the fairly new “Sinister” had quite a few HOLY CRAP moments. I went to bed with the light on. :-)

  24. the cool thing about Rosemary’s Baby is that there were no special effects–no blood, gore, or pea soup. The terror is all in Rosemary’s mind—and you get to share! also really liked Repulsion–a 60′s film by Roman Polanski—another ‘crazy lady’ film

  25. This comment has a number. That number is six hundred and sixty six. WooooOOOOOOoooooooooo!!!!!

    • Speaking of that devilish # 666. I was in Chick Filet and my bill came to 6.66. I looked at the cute little cashier, she looked at the bill and after a slight pause said “You’re safe in here , have a blessed day”. Hmmm. I wonder.

  26. Try The Human Centipede. Stopped looking at it because the images seemed to be burned onto my eyeballs. Truly scary and grotesque. Never believe your friends when they say “Its not so bad”.

    • To be traumatized by a movie is not the same as being scared by one.

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  28. Can’t believe they didn’t mentioned Evil Dead. Was one of the worst things to watch when I was young. Being a horror fan though, there are too many great films to list them all, here are a few that spring to mind. Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm St, Exorcist, Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Dog Soldiers (funny), Hellraiser, Demons, Phantasm, Salems Lot, Basket Case, I could be here all night.

  29. Being older, I submit that “The Beast With Five Fingers” was the scariest film I saw as a nine year old. It haunted me for months, and I had trouble just walking home from school.
    It’s lightweight compared to “The Shining,” of course, but it left a major quirk in my psyche.

    • I remember The Beast With Five Fingers with Peter Lorre and Robert Alda , Alan’s father. Peter Lorre stole the show. Disappointing ending though.

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