Here’s my top-10 countdown of movie scenes that scared the be-Jesus out of me — that made my hair stand on end, my heart stop, my body sweat and shake. Most are from horror films, though not all. There’s a plane crash and underground cave-in that terrify me as much as the foulest demons from hell. There’s even a scene from a fantasy film.
You can watch them all at once, or individually by clicking on the links below the playlist.
(10) Final Scene. The Grudge, 2004. For a PG-13 film The Grudge is pulverizing. I sat in my theater seat literally cowering with fear. There are many scenes I could choose from, but by the final one I’d reached the point that if the damn movie didn’t end, I’d become a gibbering lunatic.
(9) Plane Crash. Flight, 2012. This futile attempt of a pilot to stop his plane from crashing paralyzed me. But then I have a massive fear of heights.
(8) Gollumized Bilbo. The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001. Hobbits may come as a surprise on a list like this, but Bilbo’s sudden demonic transformation near gave me a heart attack when I first saw it. It comes out of nowhere (it’s not from the book) and is still a terrifying moment after so many viewings.
(7) “Get out!” The Amityville Horror, 1979. This is the scariest haunted house scene I’m aware of.
(6) Confession. The Exorcist III: Legion, 1990. The true sequel to The Exorcist is underrated and has more genuinely frightening scenes than most horror films. This scene in the confessional booth gave me nightmares.
(5) “What cards am I holding?” The Evil Dead, 1981. Horror films like The Evil Dead — and scenes like this in particular — aren’t made anymore. I mean seriously, this is appallingly low budget, yet more terrifying than any demon movie I’ve seen since it was made.
(4) Cave in. The Descent, 2006. I always knew I was claustrophobic, but this film brought home just how much. I get so terrified watching this scene that my palms sweat, my heart races, and I stop breathing.
(3) Bob. Fire Walk With Me, 1992. The scenes of “Bob” in Laura Palmer’s bedroom add up to the most brutal psychological horror in cinematic history.
(2) “Come play with us, Danny.” The Shining, 1980. The Overlook’s darling twins need no explanation. I cursed Kubrick for a long time for messing me up with this scene.
(1) “The sow is mine.” The Exorcist, 1973. What scene can I possibly choose from the grand-beast of horror films? The one in which the sow is claimed, marking the point of no return.