It’s Halloween weekend and to celebrate we have complied a list of the 13 scariest movie scenes in cinematic history.
From old classics of the horror genre right up to modern releases, this list recognises the most eerie, suspenseful, bloody and down-right spine-chilling moments that have ever graced the screen.
So, make sure you have a change of underwear close to hand and turn your lights down low as we run down the list!
13) Nightmare On Elm Street – Bathtub claw
Haunted by dreams of Freddy Krueger who is trying to kill her, Nancy decides to take a hot bath to clear her head. It’s a place of seclusion where one should be alone, but little does she know that the killer is there too… It’s a discomforting scene for its use of sexual imagery – notice how the claw appears between her legs – indicating that Krueger is willing to pull this pure, virginal girl into his nightmarish world.
12) Hidden – Suicide
“I just wanted you to be present for this…” These are the final words of an old acquaintance of Hidden’s main character. What follows is one of the most unexpected and shocking scenes in cinema as he suddenly grabs his knife and slits his throat. The still, quiet nature of Michael Haneke’s direction makes it all the more chilling as the camera doesn’t move once or cut away from the aftermath for an entire minute.
11) The Omen – “Look at me, Damien, it’s all for you.”
The illusion of safety is finally broken in this scene from The Omen when Damien’s nanny throws herself to her death. It’s the first of what soon becomes a great many vicious twists all brought upon by the innocent looking yet utterly demonic boy.
10) The Birds – Gathering outside the school
A mother waits outside a school when, all of a sudden, she notices several black birds sitting eerily on the climbing frame. What begins as a common gathering, however, soon escalates into an unnatural phenomenon as these birds silently observe the school. A sense of doom gradually begins to arise in the film – helped in part by the background nursery rhyme – and it’s not long before terror sets in. This scene from The Birds displays Hitchcock’s masterful control of suspense at its most powerful.
09) The Ring – The little girl walks out the TV set
Something so innocent and harmless as a TV set and something so inanimate and unthreatening as a VHS tape; The Ring takes both of these everyday household items and turns them into a dangerous tool of evil that no-one can escape from. After viewing this particular scene, you’ll look at every old video tape collecting dust on the end of your shelf with a new fear and discomfort.
08) Rosemary’s Baby – Birth of Satan’s child
There’s something seriously fucked up with the apartment complex in Roman Polanski’s masterpiece. In the last ten minutes, the grand decor and caring tenants give way to that eerie, dark undercurrent and satanism blossoms into full effect. This is one of cinema’s most haunting moments.
07) Halloween – Opening scene
Incredibly composed in one long, haunting tracking shot and featuring some nerve-shredding music, John Carpenter’s opening scene for Halloween is stunning. The tension is high within seconds and it doesn’t let up until the final reveal that the killer is just a small child.
06) Jaws – An attack in the water
You’ll never want to go in the water again after seeing Jaws. Playing on our fear of the unknown and giving its characters no room for escape, this scene cleverly hides the shark underneath the water while focussing entirely on the victim’s suffering as she is thrown about by Jaws like a child with a doll.
05) The Shining – Danny meets the twins
The long tracking shot, the bright colours, the jump cuts and that creepy score; when Danny meets the twins in The Shining it’ll send goosebumps down your body. It’s one of the most unsettling moments moments in a film built entirely on an atmosphere of uneasiness.
04) Peeping Tom – Murder on camera
A film so controversial at the turn of the 60s that it was widely banned and ended the career of its director Michael Powell, Peeping Tom is a masterpiece in psychological horror. In this opening scene, the main character films the murder of a random prostitute – from which he receives sexual pleasure – and coldly re-watches his work afterwards. Aside from being a biting statement about voyeurism and cinema itself, it’s totally terrifying to watch.
03) Psycho – Shower scene
Brilliantly directed and edited to create the illusion of stabbing and complemented by a piercing score, the iconic and frightening shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho deserves recognition if only for kicking off the entire mainstream horror genre. This is a landmark in film history.
02) The Exorcist – Crucifix masturbation
Maybe it’s the washed out colour scheme. Maybe it’s the chaotic editing. Maybe it’s the disturbing hybrid of blood, sex and religion. Maybe it’s the unsettling blend of childhood innocence and adult content. Or maybe it’s just the possessed voice of a young girl as she spouts off some disgusting language. But whatever it is, there’s no denying something is utterly demonic about this scene from The Exorcist.
01) Alien – Dallas in the ventilation
A terrifying work of suspense and impending doom, Ridley Scott creates the most startling moment in movie history here in Alien. He uses sound, lighting, editing, camerawork and, most important, the Spaceship’s mise en scene to brilliant effect in playing on our fear of the unknown as Dallas’ encounters the killer alien in the ventilation shaft. Make sure you’re not taking a sip of coffee during this scene, cause this is guaranteed to send it halfway across your room.