There is an overwhelming sentiment that jump scares are unnecessary in a horror movie and that these films should be able to rely on their other merits. It's true a lot of movies within the genre are guilty of overusing this technique. Adding a screamer scene every few minutes is tiresome for the audience.
That being said, filming the perfect jump scare is not as easy as it seems. You can always go for the cheap thrills, but those aren't the ones that haunt horror fans. So in defense of this maligned trope, here are ten of the biggest jump scares found in horror.
10 Carrie (1976): The Hand
Carrie White is a sheltered, bullied teenager living with a religious fanatic of a mother. When Carrie finally reaches puberty, more than just her body begins to change. Nevertheless, Carrie goes to prom with a classmate, and she's awarded the title of queen. Yet, this isn't a genuine win. It's all part of a ploy to humiliate Carrie, who in turn, will show the school that she's not going to be tormented anymore.
In the conclusion of Brian de Palma's 1976 adaptation, we find ourselves in a hazy dream sequence where Carrie's biggest sympathizer, Sue, visits the remains of the Whites' house. As she reaches down with a bouquet of flowers, Carrie's hand rips from the ground and grabs Sue. We are immediately jolted into reality where Sue is screaming as her mother tries to console her.
9 Insidious (2010): The Red Demon
After moving into a new home, the Lambert family's son Dalton enters a deep, inexplicable coma after seeing something in the shadows. Three months have passed since then, and Dalton isn't getting any better. His parents then start to believe that there's a supernatural reason behind their son's condition.
When Dalton's paternal grandmother, Lorraine, comes to visit during this difficult time, she reveals she saw something in a dream. In said dream, Lorraine sees an ominous, shadowy figure standing near Dalton's bed. Just as she says all of this, Lorraine sees a red-faced demon standing behind her son.
8 The Descent (2005): The Crawler
Sarah survives a horrible car accident that took the lives of her husband and their young daughter. A year later, Sarah visits North Carolina to go spelunking with her friends. One friend, Juno, has brought them to a specific cave that has yet to be explored. However, Juno doesn't tell the others this until they get lost inside. Just to make matters even worse, no one knows they're there.
As Sarah and the group search for a way out, they come across a graveyard riddled with animal bones. Via the camera in night vision mode, we spy a shocking glimpse of the humanoid predator that lurks in these parts.
7 The Ring (2002): The Closet
A teenager named Katie is home alone with her friend Becca one night. They talk about an urban myth concerning a cursed video. The legend says that viewing the tape's contents will kill you in seven days. Katie mentions having watched this tape and, later that evening, she dies under mysterious circumstances.
A journalist named Rachel attends her niece's funeral. There, Rachel's sister urges her to investigate Katie's death. As they talk in the deceased's bedroom, we are caught off guard by a flashback of Katie's mother discovering her daughter's corpse in the closet.
6 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): Franklin & Sally
A group of friends driving through Texas pick up a hitchhiker. The woman is badly traumatized, but by what, the others don't know. Not yet, at least. Something terrible then happens, and the van's other passengers are forced to find help nearby. They end up at a house belonging to a serial killer and his cannibalistic family.
With their friends missing, Franklin and Sally explore the dark woods near the notorious farmhouse. They are none the wiser about everything that's happened so far. Suddenly, the chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface lunges at the two from the darkness.
5 Sinister (2012): The Lawnmower Footage
Ellison Oswalt is a true-crime writer who has moved his family into yet another house with a terrible history. However, his wife and children do not know that a family was previously murdered there years ago. During his research, Ellison discovers a box of home movies filmed on Super 8 mm. What's in this footage then shocks him to his very core.
The footage Ellison watches was filmed by an unknown party who has murdered multiple families — at this very house — in the past. One notable scene that startled both Ellison and the audience is the killer driving a push lawnmower over one of his immobilized victims.
4 Cat People (1942): The Bus
A man falls in love with and marries a fashion designer who was born in Serbia. His new wife then claims she has been cursed to become a cat creature whenever in the throes of passion.
The origin of the "jump scare" is believed to be in the 1942 version of Cat People. In the scene credited as the first jump scare, the husband's assistant Alice is walking at night after having dinner. As Alice hears a scary sound, a bus pulls up all of a sudden. It's a jarring moment that has influenced other horror movies such as Final Destination.
3 Black Christmas (1974): The Eye
At Christmastime, a certain somebody has paid one sorority house a special visit. And it's not Santa Claus. As the house empties for the holiday break, the stragglers are menaced by an obscene caller.
The police have traced the calls to within the same sorority house. The detective in charge of the case implores another officer to calmly tell the sorority members to leave their home without divulging the reason why. He is unable to do this, though. Now knowing the calls are coming from inside her house, the main character, Jess, ventures upstairs to check on her friends. In doing so, she comes eye to eye with the maniacal stranger that's been living with them this whole time.
2 Friday the 13th (1980): Jason Jumps Out of the Water
The young counselors at Crystal Lake are getting the summer camp ready. While in the midst of things, the counselors are all murdered, one by one, by an unseen assailant.
The lone survivor of the massacre, Alice, faces off with the killer in the last act. We were led to believe the murderer is Jason Voorhees, the boy who supposedly drowned in the lake years ago. Once Alice has taken out the real threat, she seeks refuge in a canoe and floats out to the middle of the lake. She's at peace and thinks the ordeal is over. In an instant, her serenity comes to an end as the decomposing Jason Voorhees leaps out of the water and grabs Alice.
1 The Exorcist III (1990): The Hospital
Lieutenant William F. Kinderman is investigating a series of murders that reminds him of the Gemini Killer. However, the Gemini is long dead. Kinderman then meets a man in a mental hospital who resembles the late Father Damien Karras.
In the famously terrifying hospital scene, a nurse is doing her rounds in an eerily still corridor. When the nurse hears a weird sound, she checks it out to no avail. As she walks back across the way, she's pursued by a figure dressed in white and brandishing a massive pair of shears.