Scariest Moment In Film

Watching some show right now on Bravo: The 100 scariest movies. I came in in the middle of it.

The films listed so far:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Shining

They have all these people commenting on why certain films are so frightening – film critics, directors … it’s awesome. I’ll let you know what # 1 is. Please discuss in the comments, if you feel so inclined.

Scariest movie ever?? Discuss.

Rosemary’s Baby needs to be on the list.


Next film on the list: Alien. (One commentator: “Any film that claustrophic has got to be terrifying. A nightmare.” Another one: “You never saw that creature until the end.” Ron Perlman said, in regards to the scene when the alient bursts out of John Hurt’s stomach: “That scared me. Yeah, I had to change my underwear.”)

Update: THIS JUST IN. The #1 scariest movie (according to this show) is Jaws. (Some film director said: “I remember after I saw that movie in the theatre, I went out to Denny’s for something to eat, and I felt – in Denny’s – that I was going to be attacked by a shark at any minute.” Rob Reiner said: “The opening of that film cuts right to the chase and taps into a fear that every human being has.”)

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28 Responses to Scariest Moment In Film

  1. david says:

    1. Breakdown — with Kurt Russell, circa 1997
    2. The Fly — Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis

    No other movies have ever scared me.

  2. red says:

    Wow. You’ve got nerves of steel, dude.

  3. Stevie says:

    At the end of Carrie, when Nancy is slow-motion walking to bring flowers to where Carrie’s house used to be, and as she places the flowers on the for sale sign/cross, carrie’s blood-soaked hand comes out of the rubble and grabs her — oh shite!

  4. popskull says:

    I love shows like that.

    “Silence of the Lambs” scared the crap out of me. The books too. I remember reading “Red Dragon” and just thinking “HOLY SHIT!”

  5. popskull says:

    A few years back, when I worked at a movie theater, a few buddies and I hung out after work and watched “Event Horizon.” Just a couple of us there and the first ten minutes in the big empty theater scared the hell out of us. Then the movie got really ordinary, but those first few minutes late at night….

  6. Stevie says:

    Well, embarrassing confession time: When I was about 16, I went to see The Omen with my Dad, and we RAN to the car afterward! Neither of us likes snarling dogs.

  7. Joel Caris says:

    I’m not saying it’s the scariest movie ever, but Event Horizon was surprisingly creepy. I wouldn’t call it a particuarly good movie, but I did find it pretty damn scary when you get right down to it. It definitely got under my skin.

  8. peteb says:

    There was a similar show over here not so long ago.. top four were – 4. Alien.. 3. Jaws.. 2. Exorcist.. 1. The Shining.

    I’d put Exorcist ahead of the other three, then Jaws, Alien[John Hurt!!] and The Shining.

    Number 6 on the list here was the original version of The Ring.. which I’d probably place right at the top of my personal list.

    and #37 here, and possibly #2 on my list – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


  9. graboy says:

    I usually find ‘scary’ movies amusing but I admit to being scared by “Alien”, “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby”; mainly, I think, because they are so believable.
    Even though it is quite corny I still enjoy “Them” for some reason.
    The greatest fright I ever got from a movie was that freakin’ tiger in “Apocalypse Now”.

  10. DBW says:

    In my experience, The Exorcist seems to have touched a chord with many people. In particular, I know many Catholics who still shiver at the mention of the movie. What was particularly effective was the complete normalcy of the opening scenes–which were a lot like a home movie, even in the lighting. That Satan could enter such a home, in such a horrific manner, scared the hell(no pun intended) out of many people.

    I have a good friend who saw Alien in the movie theater before anyone knew what to expect. He still talks about the scene when the alien burst through John Hurt’s chest as his most shocking moment at the movies. He said people screamed out loud, and he literally jumped in his seat, spilling his drink. That is saying a lot for a completely unflappable individual.

    Personally, I dislike most horror/slasher films. Several years ago, I turned on a movie that had already begun. The scene was a large, open, sunny home filled with pleasant, normal family activity. The camera panned around the interior in a leisurely manner for a minute or so, then it began to rise up through the ceiling into the upstairs, and then up into the attic. In the attic, was a hellish scene with what seemed to be pieces of dripping flesh and other horrible things. There was a quality of “realness” that I found profoundly disturbing. Even the music was unnerving. I couldn’t stand to watch anymore of it, and turned it off. I discovered it was one of the Hellraiser movies with Pinhead and the Cenobites. I have no idea what the rest of the movie is like, but the three minutes or so that I watched spooked me in a way that no other movie ever has. Suffice to say, I have no desire to see if the rest of the movie sustains that level of realism and fear.

    On another level, Glen Campbell’s performance in True Grit scared me to my core. At that time, I had no idea such “acting” was possible.

  11. Linus says:

    Ask me, the scariest movie ever made is When a Stranger Calls. I have never seen any movie that matches the primal terror of the relentless build-up in the first half of the film; the second half has that nasty “It’s not there, it’s … there!” denouement. And the repeated whispery “Have you checked the children” … brrr.

    I remember Alien from its first run as well as the remakes and sequels, and it’s a worthy contender, but no more really than our generation’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space or The Thing (James Arness version). The closed-environment nail-biter is always fun, but has never been primal, for me. I thought it was fun, and it had jolts, but the fear didn’t stay.

    As Jess will attest, I found last year’s The Grudge terrifying, if incoherent. Blair Witch scared the willies out of me; Prince of Darkness once scared a friend of mine so badly that she would freak out if you whispered “You are receiving this transmission as a dream” to her. It’s hard to know exactly what will set people off.

    I saw Carrie first-run, like Stevie, and that ending thing made the entire theatre scream out loud. The girl (stranger) sitting next to me shrieked and grabbed my arm, which embarrassed her endlessly when the lights came up (“sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean … I mean … I was just so scared”), but the movie isn’t scary as a whole, it’s just a brilliant coda. It’s also one of the first moments of its type. DePalma should have taken a patent on it; now you can’t make a thriller without using something like it.

    Event Horizon isn’t that scary as a whole, but man, it gets those creepy hooks into you. In that way it resembles The Shining for me: a movie that’s not very frightening at all, but those twins and the thing in the bathtub are permanently housed in my brain. Even scarier since I saw The Shining in German at some point, and when what the twins say is “Komm spiel mit uns” the last veil of sanity just gives way for a sec. The terror is sometimes in the moments, like that yell-out-loud dream sequence thing in American Werewolf in London.

    I first saw Evil Dead at the Massenzio film festival in Rome, projected stories high against a screen roped around one of the concrete-slab buildings in Roma EUR, Mussolini’s blank-faced concrete development; there were probably 750 people in the open-air audience. We started to get scared early on, and it spreads easily. I guess the pheromones built up or something. By the end of the movie we were screaming in fear and laughing in shaken relief all the way down.

    But sustained terror? Seriously, it’s When a Stranger Calls. That and the original Nosferatu.

  12. Dave E. says:

    To me the overall scariest film ever is The Exorcist. For scariest moment though it would be the scene in Psycho towards the end, where they are in the house and suddenly Norman appears dressed up as Mother, knife in hand. Scared the hell out of me. When it was over and we got back to the car, it’s the only time in my life I’ve checked to make sure there was no one hiding in the backseat.

  13. Ken Hall says:

    There was a movie that scared the jeezly crap out of me as a kid, called Island of Terror. I recall Wait Until Dark as being fairly creepy, too. As an adult, Alien tops the list.

  14. Stevie says:

    For movies that scared the crap out of me when I was a child, I nominate “Doctor Phibes Rises Again.” Vincent Price as a mad doctor (what else) who engages in despicable experiments. This was a Saturday afternoon movie on TV when I was about 12. The only thing I remember is a male patient who was being systematically dismembered. He’d come out of anesthesia, realize ANOTHER limb was missing, and scream bloody murder. By the time he was limbless, he just writhed in agony. God, that bothered me for months.

  15. Wutzizname says:

    The scene in the first Nightmare on Elm Street where Johnny Depp’s character got killed by freddy under the bed.

    I didn’t see it in theaters, I only saw the commercials. The commercial with that shot in it.

    I didn’t see Freddy.

    I saw a bed EATING someone who was sleeping in it.

    I slept on the edge of my Twin bed for 4 months, dreading actually falling asleep for fear that my bed would eat me as well.

    I had it all figured out; my bed was a twin bed, part of a matched set, so as long as I had my drawers underneath it partially open, I could injure the bed if it attacked me by slamming its drawers into itself.

    This all carefully calculated after seeing a nature film’s imagery of how a Trapdoor Spider captures prey (the real reason why I was frightened)

    After a while, I was able to sleep normally, until months later when ‘The Money Pit’ came out in theaters, and a similar joke happened to Shalley Long with her broken bed. The audience started giggling, except for me. I was frozen in horror.

    Of course, I was about…11 or 12.

  16. Greg Wythe says:

    As much as I love “Rosemary’s Baby,” it’s clearly lacking any “Here’s Johnny” moment where you literally jump out of your seat. And though I’m more a fan of the older films in this genre, the most I was ever truly scared was after watching “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Part of that, however, was due to being parked in the darkest portion of the theater parking lot and taking in the midnight showing.

    Close second was “The Exorcist II.” I remember the movie was just boring as all getout, but I left with the gnawing realization that this would forever go down as my “first R-rated movie” experience. What a waste.

    Actually, though, if I have to give a definitive answer for single scariest movie experience, I’d say pick any moment from “The Exorcist.” Nowadays, I’m partial to the updated addition of the spidewalk to this film. When I caught this in the theaters, it was (again) a midnight showing. I decided that rather than head straight home and endure more darkened parking lots and try to fall asleep immediately afterwards, I’d head over to the fully lit K-Mart across from the theater and just windowshop for a couple of hours … chickensh*t that I am.

  17. DBW says:

    I just remembered another movie that scared the crap out of me as a boy. I think it was called Black Sabbath. Boris Karloff was in it, and it had 3 or four different stories. One of them had a woman who was frozen in a hideous death leer that I can see clearly even now. I think there was a scene in which she was rocking madly in a rocking chair, with that horrible death face. I think a fly kept landing on her face between her eyes. It creeped me out for several days. I could be wrong, but it sticks in my mind that the stories were all by well-respected authors–but I am not positive.

  18. red says:

    Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t need to have a “Heeere’s Johnny” moment. The camera angles alone are terrifying.

    I find that movie nearly unwatchably scary.

  19. Stevie says:

    You’re so right about Rosemary’s Baby. Mia Farrow seemed so “at risk” – I mean, you worried about her burning her hand in the kitchen, or bumping her knee, in addition to giving birth to the devil’s son. She seemed so fragile and ready to break. Also, the inherent evil of patronizing comments is exploited so completely in this movie, like when the good doctor tells Rosemary that’s everything’s all right, etc. Plus there are some really scary wallpapers.

  20. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    “Night of the Living Dead”, the black-and-white one I saw as a little kid that scarred me for life.

    Oh, and the 1963 version of “The Haunting”, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Both book and movie still scare the daylights out of me.

    I think my kid would say “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, the one with Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum and What’s-her-name who was in “Alien”.

    We all enjoyed “Mimic” and found it very scary and gross. It’s actually kind of a remake of “Them” in a way. “Don’t mess with Mother Nature”, giant insects colonizing sewers, children carried underground and rescued, etc. I’ve wondered what the original audiences that were terrified by “Them” would have thought of “Mimic” if they could see it. Too much plot? They’d have been shocked by the profanity, for sure.

  21. Linus says:

    Veronica Cartwright. I do love Veronica Cartwright. So, if I remember right, does Sheila, but not necessarily for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She is excellent.

    I had the luxury of seeing the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers on a big screen in February; it is still a fantastic movie. Not many films will stand the test of that much time with any grace.

  22. dorkafork says:

    Pet Sematary scarred me, particularly the tendon-cutting scene.

    When Psycho was originally in theaters, Tony Perkins would wait for the moviegoers to exit, then jump out of the bushes with a wild-eyed expression.

  23. literaryvamp says:

    I love Rosemary’s Baby too. I had to hunt all around my town to find a rental copy, and then I finally found my own copy at Walmart. In my defense, I was just tagging along with a friend who was shopping there. I agree that there is no jump-out-of-your-skin moment, but it’s filmed so well, and I loved the apartment! There’s a sequel to the book that’s apparently about the child growing up, but I haven’t read it, and they never made a film.

    Other than that, The Ring (American version – still need to watch the Japanese original)terrified me simply because of the little girl crawling out of the television. Her makeup was so good. And of course the last moment in Friday the 13th, when the dead boy lunges out of the water. I think that’s the right movie – I did a major horror marathon with the Halloween movies & Friday the 13th movies, and now I get them all mixed up.

    The Exorcist didn’t scare me, but it did make me feel really sick, and I’ve vowed never to watch it again. I don’t know what exactly it is about that movie that produces such repulsion, but I’m not going to replay it to find out.

    And of course, I have a copy of The Shining.

  24. Alicia V.R. says:

    Nightmare on Elm Street was one of the scariest movies I have seen other other movies that scared me too like: Alein,Scream, and The Exorcist scared me too because it was Halloween and when we were goin to go trick or treating I was too scared to go! Now in movies I know what is goin to happen in the movie before it actually happens. Some movies are so predictable!

  25. Rayno says:

    There were movies that gave me a fright at times. No movie gave me nightmares before. I have watched 7 of the 10 scariest movies(according to critics) and believe me, all of them were hair raising,but not scary enough to give nightmares. One movie that did make me go to bed scared was the “The Ring”. The ending was awesome. Who would’ve thought it will climb out of a TV? I did not watch TV at night because of this. The upcoming movie “Silent Hill” might give you nightmares,but I somehow doubt it.

  26. juliet says:

    i hate sharks , so i think jaws is pretty scary , i only got scared of sharks , after i had been to south africa and i saw one when i was on a diving boat , and i totally freaked out,im gonna see the exorcist soon , so i might be scared of that , but i willo always be afraid of sharks.

  27. Ryan says:

    The scariest movie i have ever scene has to be SUSPIRIA. This movie made me afraid of the dark for about 5 months. I couldnt stand the entire barbed wire scene. Following that would be DEEP RED. There is a scene that probably inspired Childs Play with a dummy that is a lot scarier. Go watch the Supiria and Deep Red trailers at

  28. Catherine says:

    I honestly am looking for the scariest movie on earth. I admit to being a little shook up but have never been really scared of a movie since I was like 13. I watched most of the movies listed and the ones added but they didn’t scare me. If anyone knows of a hardcore horror flick, let me know!