Greatest Scariest
Movie Moments and Scenes


Greatest and Scariest Film Scenes
Movie Title/Year and Brief Scene Description

M (1931, Ger.)

Director Fritz Lang's highly influential film - his first sound film, was an expressionistic psychological thriller about a child molester and murderer named Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), who terrorized the German city of Berlin.

As he stalked and approached his target, a little girl, he compulsively whistled his motif - Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt Suite.

Beckert was later marked by underworld members with the letter M on his back, until caught and tried in a kangaroo court, and then by a conventional court.

Manhunter (1986)

The torture and death of obnoxious, sleazy National Tattler tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds (Stephen Lang) was the film's scariest high-point.

Lounds was ambushed by the serial killer, dubbed The Tooth Fairy (aka Francis Dollarhyde) (Tom Noonan), in an underground parking garage. He was chloroformed and kidnapped. During a shocking torture scene, Lounds was blindfolded and strapped in a wheelchair, and taunted: "According to you, I'm a sexual pervert. 'An animal,' you said."

The tall, crazed "Tooth Fairy" enemy with a cleft-palate and scraggly white hair wore a ladies' sheer stocking mask over his head and eyes, and forced Lounds to watch a slideshow beginning with a painting of William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Rays of the Sun, with further pictures of his transformed female victims (Mrs. Leeds, Mrs. Jacobi). The killer told Lounds:

"Before me, you are a slug in the sun. You are privy to a great becoming, and you recognize nothing. You are an ant in the afterbirth. It is your nature to do one thing correctly, tremble. But fear is not what you owe me. No, Lounds, you and the others, you owe me awe."

Lounds was forced to record a note in which he admitted his writings about the Red Dragon were lies, and that FBI profiler agent Will Graham (William Petersen) had coerced him to write the untruths (part of the note: "He will be more merciful to me than to you. You will lie awake in fear of what the Red Dragon will do"). The "Tooth Fairy" then announced that Lounds' promise to tell the truth would be sealed: "We'll seal your promise with a kiss."

The screaming Lounds had his lips bitten off (off-screen) and then was set ablaze in the wheelchair. He was rolled down a steep underground parking garage ramp towards the camera - his death occurred later (offscreen) in a hospital.

Marathon Man (1976)


Marathon Man (1976) was a scary nightmare thriller - best known for the suspenseful pursuit scenes and a truly repellent scene of dental torture.

In two excruciating and grim scenes (the infamous torture scene was split into two segments), sadistic ex-Nazi death camp dentist Szell (Laurence Olivier) tortured tied-up, idealistic doctoral student Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) in a window-less room using probing and buzzing dental instruments on a tray.

In a chair, Babe was constrained while wearing a bathrope and striped PJ bottoms. After methodically washing his hands, Szell repeatedly and calmly asked the baffling question: "Is it safe?" He painfully dug around with an implement in Babe's mouth, then plugged in his loud-sounding, whirring drill (the horror was accentuated by POV shots). He threatened:

"Oh please, don't worry. I'm not going into that cavity. That nerve's already dying. A live, freshly-cut nerve is infinitely more sensitive. So I'll just drill into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp...unless of course you can tell me that it's safe."

Note: His question asked whether or not it was safe for him to go and pick up a hidden stash of diamonds stolen from Jewish concentration camp victims.

Men Behind the Sun (1988, HK)

This provocative and sickening documentary-style film (denounced by some as an exploitation film) from director T.F. Mou displayed some of the Japanese atrocities and perverse medical experiments committed toward guinea-pig human victims (Manchurian civilians). They were held in Unit 731 (a biological warfare R & D unit) during WWII (and the Sino-Japanese War). It was claimed that Emperor Hirohito secretly ordered the inhuman lab experiments.

  • One atrociously graphic scene showed a Chinese woman forced to thrust her deliberately frost-bitten hands into hot water, and then having her flesh ripped off her hands to expose the skeletal bones.

  • In another sequence, a group of Chinese prisoners were tied to wooden crosses and subjected to aerial bombing - as part of a flawed experiment to expose and infect them with a biological disease.

It was also criticized for its use of actual autopsy footage depicting a drugged young boy whose organs were extracted from his body while he remained alive, and for another scene in which a live cat was thrown into a room and ripped apart by a swarm of hungry rats.

In a decompression or hyperbaric chamber sequence, intense pressure caused one man's intestines to shoot out of his anus.

Misery (1990)


Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Oscar for her sledge-hammer-swinging/psychopathic fan role in director Rob Reiner's blackish thriller Misery (1990) - another Stephen King adaptation (by William Goldman). Rescuer/nurse Annie Wilkes strangely idolized car accident victim and romance author-writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) -- ("I'm your number one fan").

Sheldon had penned a series of books about a lovelorn 19th century character named Misery Chastain. Wilkes nursed Sheldon back to health in her place in Colorado. She was sane until she maddeningly learned that the writer had killed off the heroine character. The obsessed Wilkes made a deranged, frightening decision to 'fix' things.

In the very painful 'hobbling' scene, she explained how she could assure that her favorite captive author-writer Paul Sheldon would never run away:

  • she placed a thick block of wood between his two ankles, took a huge sledge-hammer (she lifted it and said: "Trust me, it's for the best")
  • she blasted his left foot so that it visibly bent, and then his right foot
  • after completing the horrible deed, she adoringly said: "God, I love you"

In a later tense scene, Paul frantically returned to his bed before Annie returned. During a near-rescue scene, the Sheriff (Richard Farnsworth) was killed by a shotgun blast at the last moment. In the haunting ending in a restaurant, Paul continued to have visions of a now-dead Annie still stalking him.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Director Mark Pellington's X-Files-like horror film starred Richard Gere and Laura Linney. It was an eerie psychological thriller based on a legendary 'true' creature - with black wings, mothlike features and red eyes. The creature was based on true-life events in Point Pleasant, West Virginia that occurred in the mid to late 1960s.

John Klein (Richard Gere), a newspaper reporter researching the "Mothman" legend, had a series of chilling, mind-reading phone conversations in his motel room, with the inhuman, supernatural "Indrid Cold" (voice of Mark Pellington, the director) who could read his mind:

Indrid Cold: "Your father was born in Racine, Wisconsin. He lived in a green house on Monroe Street. You don't remember how your mother looked."
John: "OK, you got my attention. Where's my watch?"
Indrid Cold: "In your shoe - under the bed. Very good, John. Thank you."
John: "What's in my hand?"
Indrid Cold: "Chap Stick."
John: "You're reading my mind, aren't you? Did you read my mind?"
Indrid Cold: "I have no need to, do I?"

The most amazing mind-reading revelations were John's next conversation about a paperback book that he had, and the fate of his wife:

John: "What's the third line, page 51?"
Indrid Cold:
"'A broken smile beneath her whispered wings.' Still more proof, John Klein?"
John: "What do you look like?"
Indrid Cold: "It depends on who's looking."
John: "I want to meet you."
Indrid Cold: "You already have, John. I have seen you afraid. You're afraid right now, aren't you?"
John: "Can I ask you something?"
Indrid Cold: "Why ask me what you already know, John?"
John: "What happened, what happened to my wife?"
Indrid Cold: "You were there. Mary Klein cannot be found by looking. You will see her in time."

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Best Director-nominated David Lynch's surreal, enigmatic, complex, puzzle-box, mind-bending, and unconventional film was about Hollywood, obsession and unrequited love, a contract hit, dashed dreams and suicide. It portrayed the twisting, and shifting identities of its two female protagonists, two femme fatales, each with two personas:

  • wholesome, pert blonde Canadian ingenue and aspiring actress Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts)
  • dark-haired brunette/blonde counter part Rita/Camilla Rhodes (Laura Elena Harring), a full-bodied amnesiac and bi-sexual

In the modern film noir, both were caught in a nightmarish, Los Angeles web of corruption and death after opening the mysterious Pandora's Box with a blue key.

There were two startling, creepy appearances of a deformed, homeless-looking, dirty monstrous dumpster-dwelling crone/vagrant (Bonnie Aarons). Just before his first appearance behind Winkie's diner on Sunset Blvd., Dan (Patrick Fischler) hesitantly, in a long monologue, told his friend inside the restaurant about a dream that they had both been in:

I had a dream about this place...Well, it's the second one I've had but they're both the same. They start out that I'm in here but it's not day or night. It's kinda half night, you know? But it looks just like this, except for the light. And I'm scared like I can't tell ya. Of all people, you're standing right over there - by that counter. You're in both dreams and you're scared. I get even more frightened when I see how afraid you are and then I realize what it is. There's a man in back of this place. He's the one who's doing it. I can see him through the wall. I can see his face. I hope that I never see that face ever outside of a dream. That's it.

He ended by saying that the dream gave him a "god-awful feeling." Afterwards, the two left Winkie's and walked around the side of the restaurant, and descended some steps. Behind a graffiti-decorated dumpster wall, the vagrant briefly appeared to them. It scared Dan into a heart attack, and he fell backwards into his friend's arms.

Later, the black-faced horrible figure also appeared in Diane's vision holding a blue box, right before and after Diane committed suicide.

The Mummy (1932)

In director Karl Freund's classic horror film, there was:

  • the scary sight of the face of undead, cursed Egyptian high priest Im-Ho-Tep (Boris Karloff in his second horror-starring role) who was embalmed in bandages and buried alive 3,700 years earlier (shown in a horrifying flashback sequence)
  • the frightening awakening and coming to life of the Mummy - Im-Ho-Tep was frighteningly brought to life (unearthed or raised from the dead) by a group of British archaeologists in 1921, including one foolish young researcher who read incantations from an ancient scroll

The Mummy lived under an alias as gentlemanly but sinister-looking Egyptian Ardath Bay.

In another scary scene:

  • Ardeth attempted to kill Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann) by plunging a dagger into her stomach. He believed her to be the reincarnation of his long-lost ancient princess-love Anck-es-en-Amon from thousands of years before, and wanted to make her a "living mummy" like himself

The Mummy (1999)

The scariest scene was of the final demise of cowardly Beni Gabor (Kevin J. O'Connor), who was entombed in a large underground vault, and quickly surrounded by a vast swarm of screeching, crawling, flesh-eating scarabs.

The beetles devoured him as the screen turned black when his torch extinguished.

Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title, illustrated)
Intro | #s-A | B | C-1 | C-2 | D-1 | D-2 | E | F | G | H
I-J | K-L | M | N-O | P | Q-R | S-1 | S-2 | S-3 | T | U-Z

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