‘Genuinely disturbing’: readers on their scariest movie moments

An American Werewolf in London

The moment near the beginning of An American Werewolf in London where, while walking across the moors having left the Slaughtered Lamb, one of the friends falls over, making you jump. You relax momentarily, only to be terrified again when the creature really finds them. Traumatised me as a teenager, that bit. chatteringmonkey


Venturing into the attic to find the “girl” at the end of [REC] is at or near the top for me. White knuckles on the sofa arm. tiggertai

Multiple moments in REC. But in particular the body dropping into the atrium, and the final 10 minutes with the night vision camera. Owlyross

Under the Skin

The scene in Under the Skin where the two people the “aliens” have captured are in the black liquid(?) environment, naked and floating, obviously totally confused and scared to death. One reaches out to touch the other’s hand, and they are both instantly vapourised into floating “smoke”. It felt to me as if it was the aliens’ way of saying: “Your humanity and empathy are not welcome here.” RR_Knights

Case 39

Bradley Cooper in 2009’s Case 39.
A still from 2009’s Case 39. Photograph: Photo Credit: Kimberley Franch/Kimberley French

The scarab beetle terror was taken to another level, I feel, with the Bradley Cooper “hornets” scene in Case 39.

It’s horrific, even if he technically only “hallucinates” pulling live hornets out of his bodily orifices, with a massive swarm of them stuck to his back, driving him to suicide. All the more upsetting because he’s a nice guy, doesn’t deserve it, and it’s an act of wickedness designed to prey on his greatest fear that he’d disclosed to the antagonist in confidence. nightswim

The Thing

For me, hands down it is The Thing. It is the only film to make me jump. When I first saw it in 1982, the staff turned down the heating to make the cinema even colder.

The sequence regarding the blood test had members of the audience screaming in genuine terror. I thought it was a masterpiece, but the hostile reviews and the cute melodrama of ET took a huge toll on John Carpenter, who never really recovered.

It is now viewed as a classic, but I said that back in 1982. scafloc

I watched The Thing when I was 11 (thanks again, cousins) and that husky scene and, later, the spider head bit has stayed with me ever since. Well_Well_Well

The Hitcher

The bit in The Hitcher where the Jennifer Jason Leigh character is …

Well, if you’ve seen it, you know.

All the worse because Rutger Hauer’s acting convinces you that yes, he’d really do that. robin64

The scene in the truck stop when he dares C Thomas Howell to stop him, Howell can’t, Hauer sighs, says, “You … useless … waste,” then takes his foot off the clutch! MoaningOldMan

The Ring

The Ring and Samara coming out of the well, getting scarily closer to the TV screen. I love horror films; it’s my favourite genre and I have watched most. None has affected me quite like The Ring though, it literally got into my head and stayed there for a while. The effect of Samara – an emotionless entity due to her long black hair covering her face – appearing from the well in the distance and then vanishing only to reappear slightly closer until she was looking at you through the screen and then (in the film) actually crawling out of it. The more times she did this, the more invincible and ubiquitous she became until I was convinced that she was able to transgress all boundaries and actually crawl out of my TV into my room. andygphoenix2348

The Shining

The bathtub scene in room 237 of The Shining. It’s nearly 40 years since I saw it, and I haven’t had a bath since. ArmchairNihilist

The Shining is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Relentless terror. Two things stand out: Wendy Carlos’s punishing soundtrack and the expression of pure fright and horror in Shelley Duvall’s eyes. If you were to strip it of its supernatural and uncanny elements, you are still left with a disturbing portrait of domestic violence and coercion. badchampions

For me, it’s got to be the conversation in the gents between Jack Nicholson and the very, very English butler in The Shining … impeccably acted, shot, as creepy as anything. babystrange

Wait Until Dark

Audrey Hepburn in 1967’s Wait Until Dark.
A still from 1967’s Wait Until Dark. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

The moment when Audrey Hepburn realizes Alan Arkin is still in the room. The only time I’ve ever seen everyone on both sides of me in the cinema jump out of their seats and scream together. And FWIW, Stephen King agrees with me. TheRickles

The Medusa Touch

Beaten, lying dead in a hospital, the psychokinetic antagonist, played by Richard Burton, who has wrought disaster and death on a global scale, has just destroyed a cathedral with all the people inside. Just as the doctor reaches to disconnect the life support machine, the heart monitor triggers back into life, Burton’s arms move and eyes open. It’s impossible! He’s alive! A detective looks at a piece of paper, with the location of Burton’s next attack scrawled across it: “Windscale” . And the titles roll … Angrysince1967

Les Diaboliques

The climactic scene of the 1950s French film Les Diaboliques is absolutely terrifying and brilliantly executed. First time I watched it, a wave of cold fear swept over me and I gripped the arm of my chair.

Funny thing is, it isn’t even a horror film – more a psychological thriller. That’s why that scene has the impact it has. Such a good film. PichaelThompson

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek, lollipop scene. Genuinely disturbing in a way no gore/slasher/horror film is. Just the mundane, everyday decision to be evil for no real reason. SevernWomble

The Mothman Prophecies

There’s a scene in The Mothman Prophecies where Richard Gere is talking on the phone in his hotel room and there’s this mismatched reflection in the wardrobe mirror, which is so subliminal that at first you don’t realise what you’ve seen. The whole film is a master class in ramping up the tension with small but easily missed oddities that your brain picks up as wrong, long before you consciously see them. It’s one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen. RainbowArmadillo

Night of the Demon

A still from 1958’s Night of the Demon.
A still from 1958’s Night of the Demon. Photograph: Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The children’s party in Night of the Demon, the wind begins to blow, the children run away, leading to a lingering shot of leaves blowing across an empty lawn … No gore but totally terrifying. Horsebadorties57

When the invisible demon chases our hero through the forest, those footprints scared the bejesus out of me when I saw it as a youngster. nadreck


As a naive, innocent 12-year-old sneaked into the cinema by his aunt, the opening scene in Jaws has stayed with me. To this day, nearly 50 years later, I will not go in the sea. But the thought that Jaws is nearly 50 years old is suddenly far more terrifying. hawkeye63

Quint’s solique, soliloquy, err … speech in Jaws. The story itself is terrifying, as it’s true, but the suspense that something equally terrible is no doubt about to happen doubles the horror. SidTheCynic

Don’t Look Now

The ending of Don’t Look Now. So scary I’ve never been able to watch the film again, even though I saw it 50 years ago. And made all the more dreadful by the lead-up, not only creepingly sinister, but portraying the Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie characters as real and sympathetic people. elfwyn

Lake Mungo

The scene in Lake Mungo where the family unearths the mobile phone footage and finds what was haunting their deceased daughter at the titular lake. A brilliant film which evokes that feeling of uncanniness which so many horror films try for. amplex

A Tale of Two Sisters

A still from 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters.
A still from 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters. Photograph: Masulpiri/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The scene where one of the sisters is awoken by the ghost is chilling. A wonderful, slow buildup of tension where, even when you know what’s coming and when, it’s still terrifying. DinoCity


For me, it was Sinister – the worst bit ever was when there was an image of the “thing” on Ethan Hawk’s computer and when he has his back to it, it moves! Still freaks me out now when I think of it. mrshoppo1

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