Greatest Scariest
Movie Moments and Scenes


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

The Vanishing (1988, Neth/Fr.) (aka Spoorloos)


This original film masterpiece, a psychological chiller from director George Sluizer, was based upon the novella The Golden Egg. In this unnerving tale, a Dutch couple were vacationing in France:

  • Saskia Wagter (Johanna Ter Steege), red-haired
  • Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets), her lover-boyfriend

At a French roadside gas station, Saskia suddenly and mysteriously vanished - about 15 minutes into the film.

Later it was shown, in flashback, that middle-class chemistry teacher, and sociopathic kidnapper Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) was at a vending machine to buy drinks inside the truck-rest stop, next to Saskia. He lured her to his car - she sat in the front seat after seeing a picture of his family (believing that he was respectable and harmless). He discreetly poured chloroform into a handkerchief, and applied it to her face. She struggled against him, but then passed out.

Haunted by the curious, obsessive need to find his missing girlfriend, Rex spent three years on a frantic search for her. He eventually came face-to-face with her abductor, who had devised a similar hideous fate for him. Rex was also targeted by Lemorne, who realized that he could commit an ultimately more evil crime. Raymond promised Rex that after he drank some spiked coffee, he would experience what happened to his girlfriend.

In the shocking, heart-stopping ending, Rex woke up in pitch darkness. He found himself buried alive in a cramped coffin under the earth, with only a cigarette lighter for brief light. He discovered that he was claustrophobically entombed alive. He cried out: "Help! Help! Help!...Saskia!" He dug with his fingers at the few seams he could find in his coffin, before realizing that his lighter was about to go out forever.

Rex Buried Alive

The dwindling light of the flame became a tunnel through which he saw Saskia. Newspaper headlines in the back seat of Raymond's car told about a Mysterious Double Disappearance - of both Saskia and Rex.

(Johanna Ter Steege)

Kidnapper Raymond Lemorne


Vertigo (1958)

Hitchcock's film was a romantic suspense/thriller about a macabre, doomed romance - a desperate love for an illusion. It followed a troubled man's obsessive search to end his vertigo (and the deaths that resulted from his 'falling in love' affliction). The thriller became a masterful study of romantic longing, identity, voyeurism, treachery and death, female victimization and degrading manipulation, the feminine "ideal," and fatal sexual obsession for a cool-blonde heroine.

The dizzying trick camerawork (a reverse zoom, dolly-out) visualized the vortex of vertigo and acrophobia (fear of heights) in the film's opening shots and in the bell tower scenes.

Acrophobic obsessed and retired SF police detective John "Scotty" Ferguson (James Stewart) slipped into a surrealistic world of obsession, confused by the real and the imaginary. In one of filmdom's best 'identity-switch' plot twists ever invented (although revealed to the audience before the main protagonist), Scotty fell in love with the blonde, ethereal Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), the suicidal wife of his old school friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). As it turned out, Elster had hired a red-headed shop-girl named Judy Barton (also Kim Novak) to impersonate his blonde wife, and act suicidally "haunted" in front of Scotty. It was a ruse that worked, especially after Scotty pulled Madeleine from drowning in San Francisco Bay, and fell in love with her.

When 'Madeleine' climbed a high Spanish mission bell tower to jump to her death, Scotty's vertigo prevented him from following closely behind. This was when Elster pulled the switch - after already murdering his 'real' wife (whom Scotty had never met), Elster dumped her corpse from the tower and made Scotty the perfect witness to her "suicide." Conveniently, Scotty never took a close look at the body.

The film cycled back on itself when Scotty ran across Judy - who bore an uncanny resemblance to the now-dead "Madeleine." After forcing her to look like his lost love, he realized that Judy was not Elster's wife but his mistress and they had meticulously planned his wife's murder. The key to solving her identity was a necklace.

In the film's second terrifying sequence, Scottie dragged Judy Barton / Madeleine (Kim Novak) up the stairs to the top of the mission's bell tower to recreate the suicide. He confronted her about the first faked fall from the bell tower, orchestrated by her and Elster:

Scottie: "You played the wife very well, Judy. He made you over, didn't he? He made you over just like I made you over. Only better. Not only the clothes and the hair. But the looks and the manner and the words. And those beautiful phony trances. And you jumped into the Bay, didn't you? I'll bet you're a wonderful swimmer, aren't you? Aren't you? Aren't you? And then what did he do? Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you exactly what to do and what to say? You were a very apt pupil, too, weren't you? You were a very apt pupil. Why did you pick on me? Why me?...I was the set-up. I was the set-up, wasn't I? I was a made-to-order witness....So this is where it happened. The two of you hid back there and waited for it to clear, and then you sneaked down and drove into town, is that it? And then, you were his girl, huh? Well, what happened to ya? What happened to ya? Did he ditch ya? Oh Judy, with all of his wife's money and all that freedom and that power and he ditched you. What a shame! But he knew he was safe. He knew you couldn't talk. Did he give you anything?"
Judy: "Just some money."
Scottie: "And the necklace, Carlotta's necklace, there was where you made your mistake, Judy. You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been, you shouldn't have been that sentimental."

Judy anguished and pleaded for forgiveness, explaining how she willingly endangered herself by getting emotionally involved with him after the murder. With great sincerity and commitment, she professed that she still loved him even though he was her targeted victim:

Scottie: "I loved you so, Maddy [a combination of Madeleine and Judy]."
Judy: "I was safe when you found me. There was nothing that you could prove. When I saw you again, I couldn't run away. I loved you so. I walked into danger, let you change me because I loved you and I wanted you. Oh, Scottie, oh Scottie, please. You love me. Please keep me safe, please..."
Scottie: "It's too late. It's too late. [These words were an echo of a few of Madeleine's final words.] There's no bringing her back."

Confronting Judy in the Bell Tower

Then, suddenly the footsteps of a black-clad figure in the shadows startled Judy. Judy backed away from Scottie gasping: "Oh, no!" The dark, shadowy figure said: "I hear voices." Terrified, thinking and believing she was seeing the ghost of the murdered Madeleine (or the reincarnation of the ghostly doomed mother Carlotta Valdes), Judy recoiled, stepped and fell backward through an opening in the tower and plummeted to her own death (off-screen) in an emotionally-shattering climax. She plunged off the tower -- and this time, her death was real!

The figure, actually a nun from the mission, crossed herself and murmured the last words of the film: "God have mercy." The nun pulled the bell rope and rang the mission bell. As the bell tolled (signalling not salvation but eternal damnation), Scottie emerged from the arched window of the tower onto the belfry ledge. He stared down in horror at Judy's body far below - stunned, open-mouthed, shocked and glassy-eyed with his arms slightly away from his body. He was cured of his vertigo, but totally destroyed by his other delusions and burgeoning sorrow. Tragically loving and losing the same woman twice, repeating the pattern he had intended to break, the scene faded to black.

Vertigo Affliction

The Second Fatal Fall

Videodrome (1983)

Director David Cronenberg's film was a terrorizing, hallucinatory tale of erotic sci-fi and "body horror." In the tale, the main character was sleazy cable TV station owner-director-producer Max Renn (James Woods) of X-rated CIVIC-TV Channel 83 in Toronto, which aired soft-core pornography and violent content. He became enticed (and obsessed) by his own pirated TV show called Videodrome, which pushed the envelope on content - with "snuff' films (not re-enacted as originally thought, but live and real!) in which people were tortured and killed.

Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley), an optimistic and idealist thinker about pop culture, only communicated through TV broadcasts. He prophesied that television would replace 'real life' - a technological, quasi-spiritual achievement to better life:

The television screen has become the retina of the mind's eye...That's why I refuse to appear on television - except on television. Of course, O'Blivion is not the name I was born with. It's my television name. Soon, all of us will have special names, names designed to cause the cathode ray tube to resonate...
The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.

However, there were other conspirators in a nightmarish cult whose goal was to create marathon television watching (of extreme sex and violence) - to control and manipulate the masses. That would produce fatal brain tumors in homeless "lowlifes" - and purge American audiences that watched such X-rated and violent fare, so that they would become docile, easily-led consumers. When O'Blivion learned of these malevolent and devious tactics, he was killed (he was garrotted during one of his broadcasts by black-hooded Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), Renn's 'girlfriend'). His daughter Bianca O'Blivion (Sonja Smits), who led the Cathode Ray Mission, a large homeless shelter that provided 'healthy' doses of TV to destitute watchers - had become Videodrome's arch-enemy.

Renn didn't know that he was being used by the villainous forces behind Videodrome - the Spectacular Optical Corporation (and Videodrome's producer), headed by Chief of Special Programs Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson). Renn was deceived into watching (and becoming hooked on) Videodrome because Spectacular Optical (with the motto "Keeping An Eye on the World") wanted to seize and take over his Channel 83 TV station to broadcast its signal to the masses ("It can be a giant hallucination machine, and much much more!").

A mind-controlled Renn began to become infected due to his own TV watching (that seduced and controlled him), leading to his brain mutating and developing tumors, and he was experiencing many disturbing, mind-altering sights. In one bizarre surrealistic scene, Max kissed a hallucinogenic TV screen displaying a pair of giant seductive red lips of his girlfriend Nicki with heavy breathing that began to suck him into the glass monitor. He also saw that his abdomen opened up and he could stick his hand into a large slit.

In another, a brain-washing videotape was inserted into the VCR-like abdomen of Max Renn by Barry Convex ("Open up for me, Max. I've got something I want to play for you"), to "program" Renn to kill his partners at the station and the Cathode Ray Mission Leader. At the same time, he was "counter programmed" by Bianca to murder the Videodrome people (fronted by Spectacular Optical), who told him: "You turn against Videodrome. You use the weapons they've given you to destroy them. Death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh."

Under the influence of these forces, a "reprogrammed" Renn began to assassinate others:

  • Max assassinated political leader Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), his own colleague, by transforming his right hand into a slimy gun-grenade.
  • Barry Convex was also murdered at an optical trade show - Renn shot him with his organic gun. As Convex died, tumors erupted from his torso and skull. Renn yelled out: "Death to Videodrome. Love live the new flesh."
Death to Convex with Renn's Hand-Gun

In the film's conclusion, Max (his head filled with tumors) watched a TV show - his now-dead girlfriend Nicki seductively prompted him to shoot himself in the head. She enticed him:

Videodrome still exists. It's very big, very complex. You've hurt them, but you haven't destroyed them. To do that, you'd have to go on to the next phase.

He watched as he blew his own head open - and the TV set exploded, with bits of his own intestinal flesh hurled into his living room. After being instructed about how to kill himself, Max imitated what he had just seen, followed Nicki's orders to evolve into the "new flesh." He suicidally shot himself with his own hand-gun, as he proclaimed: "Long live the new flesh."

Videodrome "Snuff" Torture

Professor O'Blivion

Slit in Abdomen

VCR in Abdomen

O'Blivion's Executioner Nicki
(Deborah Harry)

TV Enticement



How to Kill Oneself (1)

How to Kill Oneself (2)

Village of the Damned (1960, UK)


In director Wolf Rilla's scary B-movie horror film (about an alien takeover) - loosely adapted from John Wyndham's 1957 sci-fi novel The Midwich Cuckoos, the tagline asked: "What Demonic Force Lurks Behind Those Eyes?" It also warned: "Beware the Stare That Will Paralyze the Will of the World." At the time of its release during the Cold War, the film functioned as an allegory for the Communist Scare of the 1950s. It was later remade as John Carpenter's Village of the Damned (1995).

In the film's opening during what was dubbed a "time out," a mysterious force-field caused everyone to collapse or fall asleep (and go unconscious) in the British village of Midwich during a mist. An impenetrable force field was established around the town. Later, it was discovered that the same phenomena of spawned mutant children occurred in other places around the world.

When everyone awoke, every women of child-bearing age was pregnant, including unwed teenage girls and married women whose husbands were absent. There were many accusations of infidelity and premarital sex, although the children were virginally conceived.

The Glowing-Eyed Children
Unforeseen Circumstances, Deaths
Scalded by Own Child
Car Crash Into Wall
  • A group of twelve hyper-intelligent, telepathic, blonde-haired, unemotional, glowing-eyed kids (an alien race) with raised foreheads were born a few months later - (all at the same time). They were bonded to each other, group-minded ("One mind to the power of twelve"), and highly precocious.
  • There were odd instances involving the children: Anthea Zellaby (Barbara Shelley) was scalded when her innocent-looking toddler son David telepathically willed her to burn her hand (by plunging it into boiling water) when she mistakenly gave him hot milk; one resident crashed his car into a wall, and his suspicious brother pulled a shotgun trigger and blew his head off
  • Strange telepathic son David Zellaby (Martin Stephens) threatened one of the townsfolk: "There's nothing you can do to stop us. You have to be taught to leave us alone. Leave us alone!" The man's eyes bulged out of their sockets.
  • In the film's tense conclusion set in the brick schoolhouse, resident scientist-teacher Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) faced-off against the deadly-staring, mind-controlling robotic children, including his own son. He struggled to maintain the image of the brick wall in his mind, to prevent the children from getting into his thoughts and learning that he had put a bomb in his briefcase sitting on the desk - timed to detonate at 8:30 and kill all of them, including himself:

    A brick wall... a brick wall... I must think of a brick wall... a brick wall... I must think of a brick wall... a brick wall... brick wall... I must think of a brick wall... It's almost half past eight... brick wall... only a few seconds more... brick wall... brick wall... brick wall... nearly over... a brick wall...

After the bomb detonated, pairs of eyes drifted off into the sky, superimposed over the flames and smoke. The disembodied eyes hinted that they had survived the explosion.

Everyone Unconscious

The Final Stand-off:
"I Must Think of a Brick Wall"

Disembodied Eyes

Wait Until Dark (1967)


This suspenseful thriller told about the deadly search for drugs, unknowingly stashed in a rag doll. There were a number of shocking, scary moments:

  • Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) made the gruesome discovery of the body of Lisa (Samantha Jones) in a plastic garment bag
  • in the final battle of wits staged in complete darkness, after splashing gasoline all around her tiny basement apartment, there was the exciting jump-out-of-your-seat (or shock-leap) moment of the villainous and crazed Harry Roat's (Alan Arkin) lunge with a knife from the dark bedroom hallway toward blind Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn)
  • Susy retaliated by threatening to ignite his gas-soaked body with a match
  • during the tense match-up between them, he discovered the light in the refrigerator, but she outwitted him by hiding behind the refrigerator door and pulling its plug

The War of the Worlds (1953)

The scene of Sylvia Van Buren's (Ann Robinson) scary farmhouse encounter with a Martian.

When a Stranger Calls (1979)


The horror-thriller opened with the scene of teenaged baby-sitter Jill Johnson's (Carol Kane) fearful torment as she received anonymous phone calls from an unknown, lunatic assailant ("Why haven't you checked the children?"), and the police's classic warning: "We've traced the's coming from inside the house!" The Mandrakis' two children were cold-bloodedly murdered and the serial killer Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley), an English merchant seaman, was sent to an asylum.

By film's end seven years later, Jill was now married with two children of her own. While out to dinner with her husband Stephen Lockhart (Steven Anderson), a baby-sitter named Sharon (Lenora May) was tending to her children. Jill received another chilling phone call at the restaurant: "Have you checked the children...?" - she screamed:

"Curt Duncan. He's back. He has my babies!" [Duncan had escaped from the asylum.]

That night, Jill discovered the returning escaped killer was in her own bed! - fortunately, police detective/PI John Clifford (Charles Durning) was on the case and shot the killer dead (with two shots) as he was assaulting her in her bedroom. Stephen was found alive but unconscious in the closet.

[Note: The film returned as a big-budget remake by Simon West, titled similarly, When A Stranger Calls (2006). It followed fairly closely to the original 1979 film, with the additional murders of Jill's (Camilla Belle) best friend Tiffany (Katie Cassidy) and the maid Rosa. Also, the mostly-unseen Stranger (voice of Lance Henriksen) was not killed, but apprehended and taken away by police. While hospitalized, Jill continued to have insane delusions about the stalker attacking her.]

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

  • Grotesque, former vaudeville child star "Baby Jane" Hudson (Bette Davis) served an ex-pet and a roasted rat to her paralyzed invalid sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) for "din-din."
  • In another tense scene, Blanche struggled to get downstairs to the phone to call for help as Jane happened to be returning home.

The Wicker Man (1973, UK)


In this suspenseful and erotic horror-occult film, sexually-repressed and devoutly religious Scottish policeman Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) searched for a missing young schoolgirl named Rowan Morrison (Geraldine Cowper) from an anonymous tip in a letter. He believed that she was to be a potential virgin sacrifice (the May Queen) on May Day by openly-sexual pagan worshippers and inhabitants of the remote Scottish island of Summerisle, who worshipped the teachings of leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee).

In the chilling finale of the cult classic, Howie learned that he was the one to be sacrificed. He was lured there to the island to be their good Christian sacrifice, to appease the gods and to bring a plentiful harvest. The 'missing' girl was never really missing - but had served as bait to lure him there.

He was burned alive ("Oh, my God!") at sunset as the perfect virginal sacrifice inside the massive hollow 'wicker man' statue (created of wicker materials designed to be used for fire sacrifices).

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)


This children's film was set in a fanciful land with a candy factory filled with orange-skinned, green-haired Oompa-Loompas workers.

It had an unlikely scary scene for a family-friendly film:

  • the scene in which tormenting, purple-clad Willy (Gene Wilder) offered a boat ride down the Chocolate River to the kids and their parents. While hallucinatory, colorful, hellish and surreal images (a kaleidoscope of insects, a beheading of a chicken, a slimy worm on a face, etc.) were back-projected behind them, Willy provided strange commentary.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)


The scary scene of character of the cackling Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton), and her dispatching of her Flying Monkeys to stop the progress of Dorothy Gale's (Judy Garland) companions to free her.

Wolf Creek (2005)

In a somewhat repulsively-sickening film based on a true story and reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), a trio of stranded British backpackers were threatened in the remote outback of Western Australia:

  • Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi)
  • brunette Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath)
  • local Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips)

The three were aided by a "Crocodile Dundee"-type local named Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), who turned out to be a sadistic, cruel, and brutal antagonist.

He inflicted violent acts upon the group -- including kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder:

  • Ben was stuck hanging to a wall crucifix-style
  • dismemberment (i.e., Liz had several fingers severed)

In the film's most horrific scene, Mick stabbed Liz in the back - severing her spine and rendering her paralyzed (while calling it "head on a stick.")

The Wolf Man (1941)


In an amazingly-effective transformation scene, American-educated British heir Sir Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) was changed into the werewolf after being bitten by fortune-teller/ werewolf Bela (Bela Lugosi):

  • there were shots of his legs growing hairier and hairier through dissolves, followed by the appearance of paws for feet

Later, Talbot was chillingly told by Bela's gypsy mother Mariva (Maria Ouspenskaya) that he was in danger:

"Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself...Heaven help you!"

During the atmospheric, exciting climax in fog-shrouded woods/swamp (during a full moon), the werewolf pursued pretty antique shopgirl Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) and was subsequently hunted down.

Zombie (1979, It.) (aka Zombi 2)


This gory Lucio Fulci film was set on a voodoo-worshipping Caribbean Island.

In one of the most gruesome and scary eye gouging or 'splinter-into-the-eye' death sequences ever filmed, Paolo Menard (Olga Karlatos) was hiding behind a door to avoid an undead, marauding flesh-eating zombie from attacking.

When her bedroom door was broken down, the zombie grabbed her by the hair and slowly dragged her right eyeball into a shard of wood sticking out. After her death, she was eaten by zombies.

[Note: A similar scene appeared in director Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981).]

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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