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. I’m 12 years old and i watched quarantine and i laughed all through it

    • ~special snowflake award~ nobody gives a s*** that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

      • Nobody wants to see your stupid ass insulting post 15 times.

    • ~special snowflake award~ nobody gives a s*** that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

    • ~special snowflake award~ nobody gives a sh t that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

    • special snowflake award. nobody gives a s*** that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

    • special snowflake award. nobody gives a sh t that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

    • special snowflake award. nobody gives a flying s hit that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

    • special snowflake award. nobody gives a flying crap that you’re twelve. And cloverfield was not scary.

  2. It would be nice if you actually mentioned the title of the movie in the article. I can’t recognize the film from a screenshot and a damned abbreviation; REC!?

    • [REC] IS the name of the film !!

    • That’s the name of the film. Rec refers to the record button on the video recorder.

  3. SO GLAD the Descent made this list…and #1 at that!! It’s still my favorite horror movie to this day. My friend and I even dressed up like the girls for Halloween a couple of years ago and got a lot of compliments :)

    • I swear The Descent is just about the perfect horror movie. I’m a Lit major, and I’m certain I could write many an essay about its many neat facets.

  4. THE RING sent shivers up and down my spine. The background sound and the presence of the killer girl really disturbed me.

    I never saw the original Japanese movie. But after I saw the U.S. version, I went to my local library and found Koji Suzuki’s novel, RINGU, upon which the movie was based. The movie is much different from Suzuki’s novel, but I found the book similarly disturbing in its own way. Moreover, Suzuki explains the origin of the curse of the video which the U.S. movie never does.

    Suzuki himself is an interesting person. He is a Japanese househusband according to the copy of the book that I read.

  5. The only movie on here even worth watching is REC. The Shining is a classic but nowadays i’d hardly call it a horror movie. As far as the rest of these flicks go they were all terrible and not at all frightening.

    • The list is of the “Top 5 Movies That Scared the Hell Out of Me”, not the top 5 horror movies….. Read.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with The Descent, but the scariest moment was the end when the star saw her escape route. The agonizing seconds while she tries to crawl over the bones to the opening while the creatures close on her is edge of your seat crazy! Unlike many movies, you did not have the feeling she was going to survive.

    • Actually… that’s an alternate ending. In the UK cinemas, the ending was different. It shows her escaping, but then… it’s a little different (Read at end for spoiler). Its the original ending, but it was changed for US audiences because apparently it was too depressing.

      *SPOILER* Sarah escapes, jumps in her car and speeds off. She pulls over to throw up, then sees Juno with her face all bloody. Sarah screams and wakes up back in the cave, and we see that in reality she is trapped, with no escape possible and she was just dreaming. She looks at the candles on a birthday cake, with her daughter sitting just behind it… and then as the camera pans away you realize she’s hallucinating and she’s just staring at her torch. You can hear the crawlers getting closer, but there is no escape…

  7. Ross Miller, after reading your pick of scariest movies, I have concluded that you are in denial and that it’s time you face reality: you are a candy ass. In fact, you should join a 12-step group so that you can raise your hand and tell say to everyone, “Hi, my name is Ross, and I am a candy ass.”

    An American Werewolf in London? Seriously? Descent?

    Remember Ross, Step one involves admitting powerlessness over your candy-ass-ness. You’re in the denial stage right now.

    • I bet you laughed yourself silly at your cleverness while writing this. Well, I, for one, think you are a total jerk, and love the fact that you run someone down for expressing their opinion, but don’t have the stones to relate your own. I enjoy reading all the responses to this column, positive or negative, but at least have the decency to state YOUR likes while running down someone else’s.
      I still think that The Decent was a mind blowing film. Scariest ever? Maybe not, but damned scary. Definitely in my top 3. I think my new scariest movie is Sinister. Yikes.

  8. The Decent is in my Top 3 favorite movies of all time. It might not be “The Scariest” but it certainly is frightening. Not all of these are that scary but that’s just my opinion. :)

  9. I think we have run the gamut and nothing new seems to be appearing. Once again I think we confuse horror or scary with suspense, and also what makes a story scary is the unknown per the movie Alien when they go looking for it. That was scary. When Ripley is confronted with the monster in the pod ,then it becomes suspenseful. The scariest part of American Werewolf was in the beginning then it became a farce. Here are some of my favorites, combining scary with suspense. The original “The Thing” 1950, the original The Haunting with Julie Harris, Clare Bloom and Richard Johnson, The Innocents with Deborah Kerr, from the short story The Turn of The Screw by Henry James, which I recommend also. Oh by the way for me the scariest part of Descent was I’m claustrophobic , I had to stop watching because of that.There was a movie came out a year or do ago , forget the title. This couple are in a house out in the country, their relationship is on the verge of ending when they are threatened by outside forces. They have no way of communicating to any one outside. The ending I didn’t care for but it was scary and suspenseful. I think Liv Tyler was in it. Okay that’s it I’ll wait for another comment then probably sign off. It’s been nice hearing all the opinions. Oh and one more thing , Evil Dude you are not so much evil as boring.

    • The movie with Liv Tyler is The Strangers. I thought it was great. I actually own it on DVD and you know you like a horror movie when you buy it.

  10. This list is pretty crappy. The Descent really? I watched it on tv the first time I couldn’t finish it. However I gave it another chance its not as bad as when I watched it the first time but it’s not even scary nor is it a good horror movie a bit overrated.

    The Shining is overrated this movie didn’t scared me at all it just bored me to death this is one of the most boring Stephen king adaptions I ever watched.

    [REC] I watched it then I dropped it less than halfway in the movie there wasn’t anything good I can say about it.

    An American Werewolf in London is a decent movie but like the guy said on the first page it was more of a comedy than a horror to me.

    I can’t remember any movie that scared the hell out of me the closest that probably scared me a little is children of the corn and child’s play when I was a kid.

    I watched exorcist a few years back people claiming that it was one of the scariest horror movies ever made and I just got bored I watched it late at night to enhance the experience It had no effect on me at all.

    I don’t watch horror movies to be scared because they do such a terrible job at it in my opinion I just want mainly good suspense.

    • You’re a hipster dipshit. The Shining is a classic. It was King and Kubrick (whom you probably know nothing about) at their creepiest. I’m quite certain you had the movie ruined for you due to seeing too many clips over the years, too many spoofs, or other comments about it. You also probably watched it edited on network tv or some ‘clean’ cable channel.

  11. Palmer Short You must be talking about the strangers the 3 people with the masks. One of the few horror films left today that I consider good it had really good suspense.

    Since you like that movie You should probably see the The Collector it has great suspense and the main character is actually smart compared to the other horror movies with dumb characters.

    If you ever watch the collector and you end up liking it I wouldn’t bother with the sequel it was piece of crap except for the last few mins of the movie.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Unknown. I’ll give it a try.

  12. Hell raiser still scares me. (Pin head)
    I can’t watch hostel or saw movies because crap like that can happen in real life.
    Just watched Dark Skies and I couldn’t watch it without putting my fingers over my eyes. I’m a huge wuss too, so almost all scary movies scare the crap out of me.

  13. My top three would have to be Insidious, The Strangers, and The Blair Witch Project.

  14. This movie is so not scary its a freakin cartoon at the most kinda like that lame sponge bob

  15. pig nazis, broken ankles via sledgehammer, feral women with a hammer, rotting lady in a tub, and claustrophobia with subhumanoids. Yes, I agree with this list.

  16. The Shining scared the hell out of me when i saw it the first time. Those two twin girls at the end of the hall,in that one scene with danny riding his three wheeler,stops and sees them – “oh sh*t”! i didn’t know what to think??? when they both said….”come and play with us danny” EEEEEEYYYYIIIII!!!! I couldn’t sleep at all after that movie. Then a few years later,i find a book in some store somewhere titled,”The Two Dead Girls”,and i thought back at that scene in The Shining and thought,oh crap!

  17. Holy smokes! High Tension was one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen… and I’ve seen quite a few! I managed a moive\music store (FYE) for a few years, and with a pretty impressive employee discount, amassed a ridiculous amount of cds and dvds. The majority of them are horror… and High Tension is at the top. Oh! And a couple from my younger days that scared me… but make me chuckle now, “Dead Alive” and “The Gate” :)

  18. Does anyone remember “Trilogy Of Terror” from the 70′s ? It was a movie with 3 short stories. I don’t remember the first 2 stories, it was the 3rd story that scared the living hell out of me. “Karen Black” played the woman who was being chased around her apartment by some little cursed brown doll man with a tiny spear and he had pointed teeth. I only watched the movie once because it scared me so bad, I could never bring myself to watch it again! When Karen Black turns around at the very end of the movie and she had pointed teeth just like the doll, I think I peed my pants and almost fainted. At my current age of 51, I can tell you that I have seen many horror movies from the black & whites up to the most gory & technically advanced creations of today, many of which have been great movies that scared me. But none that I can recall have had the same effect on me as that 3rd story in Trilogy of Terror. I think I was around 10 at the time I saw it and it stands alone for how it terrorized my dreams for a very long time !

  19. Does anyone remember “Trilogy Of Terror” from the 70′s ? It was a movie with 3 short stories. I don’t remember the first 2 stories, it was the 3rd story that scared the living hell out of me. “Karen Black” played the woman who was being chased around her apartment by some little cursed brown doll man with a tiny spear and he had pointed teeth. I only watched the movie once because it scared me so bad, I could never bring myself to watch it again! When Karen Black turns around at the very end of the movie and she had pointed teeth just like the doll, I think I peed my pants and almost fainted. At my current age of 51, I can tell you that I have seen many horror movies from the black & whites up to the most gory & technically advanced creations of today, many of which have been great movies that scared me. But none that I can recall have had the same effect on me as that 3rd story in Trilogy of Tokerror. I think I was around 10 at the time I saw it and it stands alone for how it terrorized my dreams for a very long time !

    • Yes, I saw that in the 70′s as well. It really was terrifying, especially if your young and saw it at the drive in.

  20. Does anyone remember “Trilogy Of Terror” from the 70′s ? It was a movie with 3 short stories. I don’t remember the first 2 stories, it was the 3rd story that scared the living hell out of me. “Karen Black” played the woman who was being chased around her apartment by some little cursed brown doll man with a tiny spear and he had pointed teeth. I only watched the movie once because it scared me so bad, I could never bring myself to watch it again! When Karen Black turns around at the very end of the movie and she had pointed teeth just like the doll, I think I peed my pants and almost fainted. At my current age of 51, I can tell you that I have seen many horror movies from the black & whites up to the most gory & technically advanced creations of today, many of which have been great movies that scared me. But none that I can recall have had the same effect on me as that 3rd story in Trilogy of Tokerror. I think I was around 10 at the time I saw it and it stands alone for how it terrorized my dreams for a very long time ! oh and Abby , I liked High Tension as well. Not your run of the mill horror movie and it was loaded with plenty of twists .

  21. Exorcist, Psycho, Alien, Paranormal Activity, Jaws

  22. I love horror but have never before or yet seen a movie that trumps Rob Zombies THE DEVILS REJECTS. Its not that the movie was full of make you jump moments… it was the realization that people like that REALLY ROAM FREE IN OUR SOCIETY. THAT MAKES TDR THE SCARIEST HORROR MOVIE OF ALL TIME ON MY LIST. after thought House on haunted hill remake… the elevator scene is off the charts .

    • Yes, I totally agree. It captured that very essence of what we should REALLY be terrified of, real life. Great comment.

    • Along the lines of people like that really roam our streets, y’all should check out Funny Games with Naomi Watts and one of the bad kids from “Murder By Numbers.” Very disturbing and unique.

  23. Well, I agree with The Shining. That’s it. ‘Monsters’ scare me about as much as a visit to the grocery store. The aliens in, well, the Alien films are an exception.

  24. Mine are:

    The Haunting (original with Julie Harris)

    Legend of Hell House

    Paranormal Activity

    Psycho

    Alien

  25. Are you seriously saying that Misery is terrifying? Suspenseful, yes, terrifying? Hardly.

  26. Event Horizon, Alien, Pandorum, Galaxy of Terror, The Descent.

  27. Lol. What are you? 7?

  28. Jeff is a pathetic loser who spends all his time on this site making putting others down to make himself feel bigger than he is.

  29. To be honest I watched The Loved Ones about 6 months ago and it scared the hell out of me… I have two scenes that spring to mind that made me want to run and hide.
    1) The scene with the drill, when Lola’s father hands her the drill and teaches her how to drill it into Brent’s forehead. The screaming and the noise of the drill was bad enough but the thought of it going through someone’s skull is worse…
    2) The second one was the scene in the basement with those horrible flesh eating creatures and Brent has to climb on top of dead bodies to get out.