Horror is the most subjective thing there is. Something either frightens you or it doesn’t. Everyone has different fears, whether they be subtle or surreal, so deciding which type is the scariest is essentially a fools errand but luckily for you, I’m about as foolish as they come. This list will be dealing with the most iconic moments of these films so it goes without saying that every clip will be a massive spoiler. I tried to be as vague as possible in my description and write ups but there’s only so much I can do. From here on out, expect nothing but thrills, chills and tons of jumpscares.
These are the 100 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time.
90. Splinter in the Eye | Zombie (1979)
Zombie has as many holy shit moments as it does alternate titles. There’s a scene where a zombie fights a shark and it’s one of the greatest things put on screen. But we’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about the infamous stake scene. There is probably no scene in film history that builds tension as well as this scene. But unlike other films, Fulci delivers the goods.
89. ‘Is It Safe?’ | Marathon Man (1976)
Marathon Man is essentially a James Bond film but told through the eyes of his non-existent brother. Hoffman (who plays the non existent brother) gets caught in the web of espionage that culminates in his extremely painful interrogation by the hands of a Nazi dentist. Is It safe?
88. The Rubber Ball | The Changeling (1980)
Ghost stories are a dime a dozen but this one has George C. Scott in it so it’s instantly better than 90% of them. There was a time when studios would put their biggest stars in their horror films and thank God they did because the grief Scott portrays in this film is palpable. Because he’s such an incredible presence, every decision he makes has an extra weight to it. Including the decision to get rid of his dead son’s rubber ball. But somethings come back.
87. The Unmasking | The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Before Andrew Lloyd Webber turned him into a musical icon, Lon Chaney Sr. made the Phantom a monster. The revelation of his face was so shocking, audience members were prone to pass out. That’s the power of cinema and the power of effective horror.
86. Crows On The Playground | The Birds (1963)
Yes, the effects have aged but goddamn were they impressive for the time. The amount of real birds he would get for just one scene is incredible. I used to live in Oklahoma and there was a Wal-Mart where hundreds upon hundreds of birds would congregate. I have no idea why but there’s something eerily sinister about seeing a bunch of birds just crowded together. In one place. It’s like they’re all waiting for something…
85. “It’s A Hard World For Little Things” | The Night of the Hunter (1955)
One of the greatest tragedies is the fact that Charles Laughton only got to direct one film. But what a film it is. A film so ahead of its time, so dark, it ruined any chance of Laughton being a director again. When she blows out the candle… I wish I had a time machine to see the audience reaction to that. Chilling.
84. The Final Truth | Martyrs (2008)
Martyrs might be the only torture porn with something to say. Hostel explored the cost of a human life, which could be seen as a political allegory and Saw is clearly anti puppet propaganda but Martyrs, arguably the most violent of them all, has more on its mind than just perverse thrills. Actually, those perverse thrills are the point. By the end of the movie, when the Evil head of the organization asks the lead, who’s transcended past the physical plane through the most obscene torture imaginable, what’s on the other side, the answer leads her to immediately kill herself. We don’t hear what she tells her but we know what she’s saying. At that point, the director might as well have stepped in front of the camera and asked “was going through this worth it?” and the fact that you were looking for a revelation at all makes you complicit. You watched her go through hell and technically, if you never decided to watch it, she never would have. The movie makes her suffering your fault and I can’t think of anything scarier.
83. Victim #1 | Under the Skin (2013)
I don’t think the world was clamoring for an art house version of Species, so thank God Jonathan Glazer doesn’t care what the people want. He took a premise that shouldn’t have worked (a female alien pretending to be a prostitute lures guys to their doom for unclear reasons), cast an actress that’s far more sexy than scary and refused to explain anything. That all sounds so pretentious, I wouldn’t be surprised if you rolled your eyes so hard, they popped out of your head and you probably would if you weren’t too creeped out to care.
82. This is Not a Dream | Prince of Darkness (1987)
Ironically, one of Carpenter’s most underrated scenes is in one of his most underrated movies. For whatever reason, most horror fans still need to be guided towards Prince of Darkness even though it’s Assault on Precinct 13 but with the devil. Outside of a boring lead and an out of place Alice Cooper, it’s a solid horror film that has one of the first instances of found footage. It’s a simple shot of someone recording an open door and somehow it’s one of the most effective scenes in any Carpenter movie.
81. Peekaboo | The Witch (2015)
The brilliance of The Witch is that it takes its premise deadly serious. At no point does Eggers ever wink at the audience or throw in any clichéd Hansel and Gretel homages. None of that Bullshit. He takes the premise of a witch living in the woods and instead of making it into a fairy tale or a fable, he treats it as the evil thing it is. There is something evil in the woods and it is real and it wants something. Specifically a child…
What do you think of the selection so far? What movie scenes have scared you the most? Maybe they will show up further on the list!