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Top 50 Scariest Horror Movie Scenes of ALL TIME

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake

You may need to hide behind your blankie for this one. For this list, we’re embracing the Halloween season by ranking 50 of the most terrifying moments in the history of horror films. Like a stranger in an alleyway, these scenes creep up from behind and haunt our memories forever. Our list includes spine-chilling scares from “Halloween” (1978), “It” (2017) , “Cloverfield” (2008), “The Ring” (2002), “Psycho” (1960), and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 50 Scariest Horror Movie Scenes of ALL TIME.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+50+Scariest+Scenes+in+Horror+Movies. Special thanks to our user mac121mr0 for suggesting this idea!

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Script written by Nick Spake

Top 50 Scariest Horror Movie Scenes of ALL TIME


You may need to hide behind your blankie for this one. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 50 Scariest Horror Movie Scenes OF ALL TIME.

For this list, we’re fully embracing the Halloween season by ranking 50 of the most terrifying moments in the history of horror films. We’ll only be going in-depth on a few scenes throughout this list, dissecting why they continue to get under our skin and make our flesh crawl. Like a stranger in an alleyway, these scenes creep up from behind and stay with us forever. Oh yeah, and we should probably issue a spoiler warning before we start.

#50: Zelda

“Pet Sematary” (1989)
This Stephen King adaptation admittedly isn’t without its melodramatic moments, but the film takes a sharp turn into the nightmare zone when Rachel reminisces about her sister, Zelda. Described as a dirty secret, Zelda is a bed-ridden, disfigured soul who’s treated like a helpless animal. Rachel wishes Zelda would put everyone out of their misery and kick the bucket already, which is what inevitably happens. Even in death, Zelda continues to haunt Rachel as she’s lured upstairs by her sister’s horrific voice. Andrew Hubatsek’s transformative, spine-tinging performances as Zelda makes the audience twist in their seats whenever he’s onscreen.

#49: The Ending

“Paranormal Activity” (2007)

#48: A Nighttime Visit

“The Babadook” (2014)

#47: Hobbling

“Misery” (1990)

#46: Emerging from the Tent

“A Field in England” (2013)

#45: He’s Still There

“Friday the 13th” (1980)

Jason Voorhees has become a mascot for the “Friday the 13th” franchise, not to mention a staple of the horror genre. People often forget, however, that Jason was barely in the original slasher classic. This makes it all the more alarming when Jason surfaces from Crystal Lake, pulling Alice down with him into the unforgiving waters. Alice wakes up in the hospital safe and sound, but soon comes to the realization that Jason is still out there, preparing to strike back in an onslaught of sequels. For a film that was written off as trashy and gratuitously violent upon release, the final shot is surprisingly understated and unsettling, leaving us with a feeling of dread.


#44: Walking Through the Subway

“Cloverfield” (2008)


#43: The Birth

“The Fly” (1986)


#42: The Ritual

“The House of the Devil” (2009)

#41: The Bathroom

“The Orphanage” (2007)


#40: The TV

“The Ring” (2002)
As scary as these scenes can get, we can take comfort in knowing that it’s only a movie and whatever happens on the screen can’t hurt us in real life… right? This movie plays with our fears, suggesting that watching a video can indeed bring your days to an end. It accumulates to the now infamous climax in which Noah finds himself unable to turn off the TV with a familiar well appearing onscreen. The scene slowly builds tension as the grisly Samara rises from of her watery grave and limps forward. We dare you to keep your jaw shut when Samara crawls out of the television, claiming Noah’s life with a haunting death glare.


#39: Abandoned Hospital

“One Missed Call” (2003)

#38: Dragged to Hell

“Drag Me to Hell” (2009)

#37: Claustrophobia

“The Vanishing” (1988)


#36: Climax

“Carnival of Souls” (1962)


#35: The Tall Man

“It Follows” (2014)

In this instant cult classic, our protagonist is stalked by a mysterious figure that acts as a metaphor for sexual transmission. This entity takes on an assortment of creepy forms throughout the film, making each of its appearances sudden and shocking. One of the entity’s most disturbing personas is a tall man played by the late Mike Lanier. Emerging from the shadows, this giant strikes fear into the audience with his mounting physique, but it’s his gouged-out eyes that stand out the most. The fact that Jay is seemingly the only one who can see this foe further contributes to the paranoia. No matter where Jay runs, the entity will never be far behind.


#34: The Witch in the Cave

“The Witch” (2015)

#33: Sloth

“SE7EN” (1995)

#32: Look Behind You

“The Strangers” (2008)


#31: Sacrifice

“The Wicker Man” (1973)


#30: Georgie Meets Pennywise

“It” (2017)

Anyone who read Stephen King’s original novel or saw the 1990 “It” miniseries already knew Georgie’s fate going into this 2017 adaptation. Nevertheless, that didn’t subtract from the film’s opening scene, which only took the terror to another level. Searching a storm drain for his boat, Georgie encounters a pair of yellow eyes that belong to Pennywise. Wearing a sinister grin, the dancing clown manages to be eerie while also being playful, sending serious stranger danger vibes. The hair on our arms raises as Georgie reaches for his boat and Pennywise sinks his teeth in. We can’t think of a more traumatizing or fitting way to start a film about the end of childhood innocence.


#29: Mirror Jump Scare

“Repulsion” (1965)

#28: Night Vision

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

#27: Wardrobe Scare

“The Conjuring” (2013)

#26: Game Over

“Saw” (2004)


#25: The Nurse Station

“The Exorcist III” (1990)

After the disappointment of “Exorcist II”, William Peter Blatty delivered a superior sequel that still didn’t top the original, but had some worthy scares nonetheless. This scene starts off by submerging the audience into a false sense of security. Nothing especially ominous seems to be afoot as we watch a nurse lock up for the night. Then without warning, we leap to the end of the hallway where a sheeted killer approaches the nurse from behind, armed with shears. We may not see any gore, but the beheaded Jesus sculpture tells us everything. This brilliantly shot sequence puts an atmospheric spin on jump scares, practically grabbing ahold of the audience and pulling them into danger.

#24: The Attic

“Hereditary” (2018)

#23: The Baby

“Eraserhead” (1977)

#22: Night Vision

“The Descent” (2005)


#21: The Ending

“REC” (2007)

#20: The Devil Impregnates Rosemary

“Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
Being sexually assaulted after passing out is already one of the most appalling concepts imaginable. The circumstances are made even more distressing, however, when the rapist is Satan himself. The lines between reality and insanity are blurred when Rosemary appears to drift off into a bizarre dream. Our anxiety escalates as Rosemary finds herself strapped down in a bed surrounded by her husband and neighbors, all of whom are entirely nude. The most we ever see of the Devil is a close-up of his hellish, reptilian eyes, which his offspring will eventually inherit. With unreal visuals and an intense musical score, everyone in the theater can’t help but feel unclean while watching the vulnerable Rosemary.



#19: Transformation

“An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

#18: The Nanny’s Death

“The Omen” (1976)

#17: Back From the Grave

“Carrie” (1976)

#16: The Figure Behind the Diner

“Mulholland Drive” (2001)

#15: “Do You Like Scary Movies?”

“Scream” (1996)
This opening has echoes of “When a Stranger Calls” and “Psycho” while also poking fun at other scary movies. Even at its most self-referential, the scene remains utterly original. A phone call goes from light-hearted to heart-pounding when it becomes clear that Drew Barrymore’s Casey isn’t alone. The fate of Casey and her detained boyfriend boils down on a trivia game that ends in failure. If you think this movie wouldn’t dare kill off its biggest star within the first several minutes, Ghostface asserts upfront that he doesn’t play by the rules. For anyone who assumed that horror was dead in 1996, this scene proved that there was plenty of life left in the genre.

#14: Blood Hanging

“Suspiria” (1977)

#13: Nancy’s School Dream

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

#12: Going Swimming

“Jaws” (1975)

#11: Hiding in the Closet

“Halloween” (1978)

#10: Linda Possessed

“The Evil Dead” (1981)
When it hit theaters in 1981, there hadn’t been a low-budget horror flick quite like “The Evil Dead.” The movie was unapologetically gruesome, but also had a dark sense of humor that reveled in its goofiness. As a result, people rarely knew whether to scream or laugh. This scene is a key example of what makes “The Evil Dead” such a unique addition to the horror library. Just when it looks like Ash’s night can’t possibly get any worse, he discovers that his girlfriend Linda is turning into a deadite. The makeup effects give Linda the appearance of a possessed doll and her shrieking laughter matches that sentiment, sending the audience into a hysterical state.

#9: The Clown

“Poltergeist” (1982)

This scene touches upon two phobias for the price of one: pediaphobia , the fear of dolls, and Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. The filmmakers overwhelm us with jitters as Robbie sends his clown doll a suspicious glance. The second time he looks around, the inanimate object has vanished. Although we know what’s coming, we’re still unprepared as the clown coils its arm around Robbie and drags him under the bed. Even if you don’t have a fear of dolls or clowns, this toy was designed to give everyone the heebee jeebees. Considering how this scene tormented a generation of children, we can see why the PG-13 rating was introduced one month after this film’s release.

#8: The Shower

“Psycho” (1960)
Few cinematic moments have been parodied more times than the shower scene from “Psycho.” There’s even a feature-length documentary that breaks down its genius and impact. No matter how much we talk about the scene, though, it always somehow catches us off-guard. We feel a knot in the pit of our stomachs every time a dark figure moves closer to the bathing Marion. Once the shower curtain is pulled back, Bernard Herrmann’s piercing musical score kicks in. The cinematography makes us feel as if we’re in this confined space alongside Marion as the life is stabbed out of her. This sequence left actress Janet Leigh forever skeptical of showers and she wasn’t the only one.

#7: Seeing Red

“Don’t Look Now” (1973)
“Don’t Look Now” is a film with so many motifs and such clever symbolism that you’ll appreciate it even more after multiple viewers. The color red in particular plays a prominent role throughout the film. Spotting a short figure wearing a red coat, the grieving John is reminded of his deceased daughter. At first, the red coat appears inviting, as if it’ll lead John to some form of closure. The color red turns out to be a warning, though, as John is guided to his own demise. In the end it turns out the red-hooded figure wasn’t a lost child, but a repulsive-looking dwarf concealing a meat cleaver. With that, the bell tolls for John.

#6: The Final Chase

“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

While it was advertised as a “true story,” this slasher flick’s plot is more fiction than fact. Even Ed Gein, the murderer who inspired Leatherface, had a different MO. That being said, the idea of a maniac chopping up victims with a chainsaw isn’t at all far-fetched, which gave the film a sense of gritty realism. Nowhere is this more apparent than during the pulse-pounding finale as Sally literally runs for her life. Fortunately, a trucker runs over the hitchhiker while Sally narrowly evades Leatherface by hopping aboard another vehicle. The chaotic staging and low-grade production values actually work to the scene’s advantage, giving it the authenticity of a documentary with a blood-curdling final shot.


#5: Chest Chomp

“The Thing” (1982)
When it comes to body horror, CGI just can’t produce the same results as practical effects, which are simply more revolting, cringe-inducing, and inventive. Take this jaw-dropping scene from “The Thing” for example, as Norris’ ribcage sprouts a set of teeth and bites off Copper's arms. One second, you’re jumping out of your seat in shock, the next, you’re asking yourself how the hell the filmmakers pulled this stunt off. The sequence packs in even more technical wizardly as the chest vomits out a snake-like creature while Norris’ head detaches and grows spider legs. At least it’s nothing a flamethrower can’t fix. Bloody disgusting and bloody brilliant, horror doesn’t get much more creative than this.

#4: The Basement

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
“The Blair Witch Project” is another horror film with the essence of a home movie, but to an even greater extent. Coming out when the found-footage genre and the internet were fairly young, the filmmakers tricked numerous moviegoers into believing the three protagonists were really missing. This largely contributed to the sense of dread in the film’s climax, as Heather and Mike stumble upon an abandoned house in search of their missing colleague Josh. The amateur cinematography and convincing performances fully immerse the audience as Heather finds Mike standing in a corner before an unseen force attacks her. When the screen goes black on his ambiguous ending, it’s quiet enough in the audience to hear a pin drop.

#3: The Bathtub

“The Shining” (1980)
Interestingly enough, Jack Torrance isn’t the scariest character in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining.” That distinction goes to the woman in the bathtub. Beginning from Jack’s point of view, this scene escorts us into room 237’s bathroom where a bathing beauty awaits. The dull look on Jack’s face becomes aroused as the naked woman climbs out of the tub and puts her hands on him. Matters take a total 180 when Jack looks in the mirror and realizes he’s kissing an old, saggy corpse. The movie doesn’t spell out who this woman is or even the purpose behind this encounter. All we need to know, though, is that it’s a masterstroke of surreal suspense.

#2: The Chestburster

“Alien” (1979)
“Alien” is not only regarded as one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, but also one of the best horror movies ever made. The Nostromo is essentially a haunted house and this scene delivers the film’s first major scare. A celebratory dinner is spoiled as Kane convulses and an alien creature bursts out of his chest. Although the cast members knew that the chestburster was coming, they weren’t prepared for the amount of blood splattering everywhere. The petrified looks on the actors’ faces are completely genuine, which in turn left audiences wearing similar expressions. In space, no one can hear you scream. At the movies, however, you can hear an entire auditorium erupt in fright.


#1: Head Spin

“The Exorcist” (1973)
There was probably never any doubt that “The Exorcist” would top this list. Between Linda Blair’s immortal performance as the possessed Regan, Mercedes McCambridge’s menacing voice-over work as the demon Pazuzu, the revolutionary special effects, and the sickening makeup, William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece has no shortage of terror-inducing scenes. If we had to single out one moment that encompasses the film in all of its ghastly glory, it would have to be Regan’s iconic head spin. Turning 360 degrees while Father Merrin tries to purge the evil presence from her body, Regan’s flexible neck still has us squirming even 45 years later. The crackling sound design only adds to this chilling scene.
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