Horror is the most subjective thing there is, something either frightens you or it doesn’t. There’s subtle horror, surreal horror, and the good ol’ fashioned jump scare. Deciding which type is the scariest is essentially a fools errand but lucky for you, I’m about as foolish as they come. Since this list will be dealing with either the endings of these films or the biggest “Gotcha Moment”, all the links will obviously be filled with spoilers. I will be as vague as possible in my description but spoilers are still in effect. Oh and this goes without saying but these scenes are out of context, so to really get the full benefit from each scene you really should watch the entire film. I will try my hardest to include the scene in question for every entry and if i can’t, I’ll at least include the trailer. I present to you what i believe are the scariest movie moments of all time.
Massive Spoilers In The Links Below.
40. Hellraiser-‘The Cenobites’
When it comes to horror film monsters, films usually stick to the big 5: Vampires, Ghosts, Zombies, Witches or Werewolves or a variation of those archetypes but Clive Barker isn’t the typical horror writer and Hellraiser is certainly not the normal horror film. The Cenobites can be described as demons but they’re not. They could also be described as interdimensional Aliens but there’s no alien in fiction that look like Pinhead and his crew. In a world filled with the same old monsters, Cenobites truly feel like they came from hell.
39. House On Haunted Hill-‘The Knock’
There was no better showman at the art of selling cheese than William Castle. His films usually always had a gimmick- Vomit Bags, Voting Cards to determine a films ending, whether it ended happy or tragic (he only shot one ending to the Tingler but decided the ending was shit but he knew the audience would blame someone else in the audience if they all had to vote) electrified seats, 3-D glasses, Etc, Etc, and House on Haunted Hill was no different. For this film, Castle employed a technique he referred to as “Emergo” which was just a Skelton that flew above patrons heads during the film. It’s a fun little gimmick but the thing is, this is the only film that doesn’t need it. Everything else he produced was pure shlock but this film some how arose out of the chesse to become a legitimate classic. Skip to 25:00-25:38
38. An American Werewolf In London-‘The Nightmare’
Horror comedy is one of my favorite sub genres. You have the masterful Shaun of the Dead, The hilarious Tucker and Dale vs Evil And of course the slapstick genius that is Evil Dead 2. But i don’t consider any of them actually scary. Yeah there’s amazing scenes in all 3 films i mentioned but precious little horror. An American Werewolf in London is the only example i can think of where the funny is really funny and the horror is truly terrifying. It sits alone atop the pile of horror comedy.
37. Jaw-‘The Beginning’
It’s insane to think that one of the most iconic films of the 70’s was essentially a Roger Corman film but with a bigger budget. You can barely see the shark because it was constantly breaking down but Spielberg decided to make the most of it by creating shots from the sharks perspective And that decision was genius because it means that the ocean could be hiding anything. Even a shark that’s just waiting.
36. Pet Sematary-‘Gage’
How far would you go to bring back a loved one? Pet Sematary is a horror film that only works if you’ve lead a life before watching it. Because the main characters do some outrageously stupid things but you understand their decisions. You need to feel real loss before you can appreciate this films dark themes. Or you just have to be afraid of creepy fucking kids.
35. The Silence Of The Lambs-‘The Basement’
At the Academy Awards, The Silence of the Lambs won the big five. It’s only the 3rd film to do it. Let that sink in. An honor so prestigious, only two films have ever done it before and this one is a horror film. That will never happen again. This was the horror film that everyone connected to, even people who hate the genre. There’s something about the cat and mouse thriller element that kept audiences enraptured. I have no idea but it deserves is accolades and legacy.
34. The Others-‘I Am Your Daughter’
The Others seemed to come out of nowhere and took the world by storm. Everyone i knew saw it and was raving about it. Although i thought the twist was painfully obvious and there’s about 15 minutes that could easily be cut out, The Others is still a masterclass in tone and atmosphere.
33. Ringu-‘The Television’
While everyone was losing their goddamn minds over the remake, i was trying to convince everyone to watch the original which i believe is the superior film. The remake is great, don’t get me wrong, i just think it’s too polished. It looks too pretty to be a effectively scary in my opinion. But the original has a grit to it, it makes you feel like you were there. I recommend both but start with the original.
32. Scream-‘The Beginning’
Wes Craven successfully changed horror on three separate occasions. He created the dirty grindhouse film with The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House On The Left, He commodified the horror film by turning Freddy Kruger into a merchandising cash cow and then he introduced the Meta horror. The type of horror that references other horror tropes and cliches. Scream did that before it became dull and obvious but at the time, it was a revelation.
31. Friday The 13th-‘The End’
The Friday The 13th series was never really my bag when i was younger. I was more of a Freddy guy and i think a large part of that has to do with the fact that Freddy was funny. He had personality. Jason just had a huge ass machete. But revisiting them now that I’m older, i can totally see the appeal. Hot chicks getting naked and gruesome deaths. It’s like a peanut butter cup of carnage. I almost went with the Kevin Bacon scene but i feel like the end is the better jump scare.