Disturbing Movie Scenes Still Discussed Decades Later
By Sophia Maddox | June 28, 2023
Welcome to our gallery featuring some of the most disturbing scenes in film history. For many of us, movies have been a way to escape from reality and be transported into new and exciting worlds. However, there are some films that take us to places we never wanted to go, showing us the darkest corners of humanity and the human psyche.
Some viewers may have seen these movies when they were first released, or perhaps they were introduced to them later in life. But regardless of when they were viewed, these movies have left an indelible mark on their viewers. From the unforgettable head-spinning scene in The Exorcist, to the chilling moment in Gerald's Game, where the protagonist is left alone and handcuffed to a bed after her partner dies from a heart attack, these scenes are sure to leave a lasting impression. So, let's take a deep dive into some of the most disturbing scenes in movie history and explore what makes them so unforgettable. Continue reading to experience the horror.
Smile is a horror movie that takes viewers by surprise with its genuinely chilling atmosphere and scares. The movie's antagonist is capable of manipulating its victims' perceptions, leading to a somewhat confusing ending that can blur the lines between reality and hallucination. The story follows Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist who is haunted by terrifying visions after witnessing a patient's gruesome suicide. As she investigates the strange occurrences, Rose discovers the evil entity that's been chasing Laura is also after her. She confronts her trauma by locking herself in her mother's abandoned house, where the entity takes on the form of her mother, and then transforms into a giant and deformed monster. In the end, Rose appears to defeat the creature, but it's revealed that she never left the house, and the entity possesses her body, causing her to set herself on fire. Her love interest becomes the new victim of the smiling demon. Smile is a terrifying exploration of guilt, trauma, and the haunting power of the mind.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Fire Walk With Me gives us a deeper and more haunting glimpse into the final hours of Laura Palmer, while also exploring storylines that come after Season 2 of Twin Peaks. It's a hybrid prequel-sequel that Lynch fans clung to as their only chronological guidepost until The Return appeared. The film has its own array of odd and disturbing scenes, but this one may just take the cake for being the most gruesome moment not just in Fire Walk With Me, but in all of Twin Peaks.
Laura Palmer's ongoing struggle against BOB reaches a fever pitch in this disturbing scene when her moment of peace when she's alone in her bedroom is shattered by the sound of a fan in the hallway and BOB's sudden appearance at her window. As BOB terrorizes Laura, she demands to know who's attacking her - a request that leads to a chilling realization. BOB's distorted face gives way to that of Leland Palmer, revealing the terrifying truth that BOB has possessed Laura's own father.
Eyes Without A Face
Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face is more than just an early exploration of the body horror subgenre. While other movies like The Blob and The Fly came before, Franju's film approaches body horror in a contemplative way, unflinching in its portrayal of the gore and horror.
The film's infamous face removal scene in the movie is still disturbing, not because of the copious amount of blood and gore, but because of the sheer process of it. Dr. Genessier carefully draws lines on the woman's face before slowly slicing it open. The meticulous incision spreads to the entire face, making the scene all the more uncomfortable to watch. The movie presents the surgery with a normalcy that makes it all the more unsettling. The fact that the woman was kidnapped only adds to the overall horror of the scene. This is a rough one, folks.
The Last House on the Left
Wes Craven's first horror movie, The Last House on the Left, has a mix of tones. It's a dark and gory exploitation film, but also has elements a dark comedy. It's weird. It's upsetting. It's wild. Despite its imperfections, the film is still considered an important part of horror history because of its extremely horrifying central scene.
Two young girls on their way to a rock concert are abducted by four heinous criminals, who force them to engage in sexual acts while they watch. As if that isn't disturbing enough, Craven decides to go even darker. One of the girls tries to escape but gets caught and is brutally murdered. The other girl, on the other hand, endures a longer and crueler fate. The ringleader, Krug (David A. Hess), carves his name into her chest, subjects her to torture, and then leaves her to walk into a lake where she's shot to death from afar. It's hard to watch and incredibly disturbing.
The Last House on the Left, the brainchild of horror maestro Wes Craven, is an exercise in darkness, punctuated by a score that sounds like it was composed by Satan himself, courtesy of David A. Hess. Among the many disturbing sequences in the film, one stands out as a raw, unflinching portrayal of true horror that leaves an indelible mark on its viewers.
David Lynch is the master of blending the mundane and spine-tingling elements in his films. Take Mulholland Drive for example. There's a scene set in a faux diner called Winkie's (which is designed to look like Bob's Big Boy) where a man recounts a dream he had. But, as fate would have it, he comes face to face with the very same character from his dream, which scares him to death. This surreal film exposes the seedy side of Tinseltown and this particular moment is its most terrifying. The man at the center of this horror show is a lone wolf, with no ties to any other character, making his fate all the more troubling. Just before he bites the dust, he expresses his anxiety about encountering the dream character in real life. It's a scene that leaves a haunting impression, one that won't be forgotten anytime soon.
The Netflix original movie Gerald's Game is a one of a kind intense ride. The story follows a couple, Jessie and her husband, who are looking to spice up their love life by heading to a remote cabin. But things take a deadly turn when her husband handcuffs Jessie to the bed and pretty much immediately suffers a fatal heart attack.
The most gripping and, frankly, gross moment in the movie is when Jessie finally figures out how to break free, and it's not for the faint of heart. Jessie smashes a glass and uses a shard to slice her wrist, then proceeds to peel the skin off her hand so she can slip out of the handcuff. It's a pretty intense scene, and Gugino's portrayal of the pain and agony that Jessie goes through is truly gut-wrenching.
In Martin Scorsese's remake of this thriller classic Robert De Niro plays Max Cady, a newly free convict who wants to get revenge on the lawyer who had him wrongly imprisoned by targeting his lawyer's family, including his teenage daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis).
Disguising himself as a theater teacher, Cady pushes himself on the girl in her high school auditorium, making her suck his thumb before leaning in for the creepiest make out of the 1990s. Scorsese is a master of tension, but this scene is upsetting at a cellular level.
Despite winning an Academy Award, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan has some sadistic and seriously hard to watch scenes. Before the movie's hallucinogenic and intense third act, Natalie Portman's ballerina character experiences mental torment and subjects her body to unusual and harsh punishment, even if only in her mind. One scene that stands out is when she poorly tends to a ripped cuticle, which is just as traumatic as the film's other disturbing moments.
The audience watches as Portman pulls the fleshy finger-piece downward, all the way to the middle of her finger, as if it were an especially tender piece of beef jerky. Even though it may not be entirely realistic, the scene is still uncomfortable to watch.
The Doom Generation
Released in 1995, The Doom Generation is a dark comedy and thriller film that was written and directed by Gregg Araki. The story revolves around two teenage lovers, Amy Blue (played by Rose McGowan) and Jordan White (played by James Duval), who meet a young and handsome drifter named Xavier Red (played by Johnathon Schaech). When Xavier accidentally kills a store clerk the trio goes on the run takes part in a cross-country trek full of sex and violence.
At the end of the movie, there's a disturbing scene where Amy, Jordan, and Xavier are attacked by a group of neo-Nazis. The attackers brutally mutilate Jordan while Amy is restrained. But in a shocking turn of events, Amy manages to break free of her restraints and kills the attackers with a pair of gardening shears.
The Cell is a visually stunning and disturbing film that stars Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D'Onofrio. It follows the story of a serial killer who falls into a coma, leaving his latest victim's location unknown. The FBI enlists Catherine Deane, played by Lopez, to enter his mind using an experimental virtual reality technology to extract the information they need.
The film's most striking feature is its combination of haunting beauty and terror, especially when it delves into the killer's disturbed mind. The most disturbing scene takes place during Catherine's second visit to the killer's mind, where she witnesses his childhood and the abuse he endured from his father. Trapped in a closet, Catherine can only watch as Carl is psychologically tormented, beaten, and burned with a hot iron. This scene is a turning point in the film, revealing the reasons behind Carl's instability and staying with the viewer long after it ends.
The movie Hereditary has some scary moments, but what makes it truly unsettling is the way it portrays grief and its effects. The scene that's most disturbing happens right after Charlie is beheaded and continues through her funeral. Before her death, the energy is intense as Peter rushes Charlie to the hospital. But when Charlie's head hits a post, everything stops. Peter is shocked, and he drives home without looking at his sister's remains. Later, in bed, he hears Annie screaming in the distance. We see Charlie's decapitated head covered in ants, and Annie on her hands and knees saying she wants to die. Peter stands alone in the hallway listening to his mother's cries. The camera moves with Charlie's casket as it's lowered into the ground, muffling Annie's sobs. The sequence perfectly captures the horror of grief and loss, which are timeless and inescapable.
Under The Skin
Under The Skin is fascinating and genuinely disturbing science fiction film from Scotland that follows an unnamed alien played by Scarlett Johansson in one of the moodiest performances of her career. Throughout the film Johansson seduces men from a small town, brings them back to her flat and then uses their bodies as fuel. When we finally see the process it's incredibly upsetting. After disrobing, Johansson and her victims wade across a pool of viscous black liquid, and the victim sinks directly into the substance where he slowly dissolves until there's nothing left but bones and some stray fluid. It's a rough watch.
The Silence Of The Lambs
The scene in The Silence of the Lambs that finds Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) searching for Buffalo Bill in his dark, creepy lair is a masterful exercise in suspense and terror. As Clarice moves through the dark, dank basement, she is completely unaware that Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is stalking her with night vision goggles. We see things from his perspective, watching Clarice's every move as he prepares to strike. The tension builds slowly but steadily as Clarice gets closer and closer to Bill's hiding spot, and we're left on the edge of our seats as we wonder whether she'll be able to escape unharmed.
What makes this scene so scary even today is the expert use of pacing and atmosphere to create an overwhelming sense of dread. The use of silence and darkness is especially effective, as it leaves us feeling as disoriented and vulnerable as Clarice herself. Additionally, the fact that Bill is such a disturbed and unpredictable character only adds to the terror, as we know that anything could happen at any moment. Even though the film is more than 30 years old, this scene still holds up as a prime example of how to create fear and tension in a horror film.
Ridley Scott's 1979 film, Alien, has remained culturally relevant as a pop culture commodity for over four decades. Its enduring legacy has been fortified by numerous rounds of cinematic analysis, making it a quintessential piece of film study and a go-to for thrills that's featured in almost every "best ever" list.
Among the film's many gripping moments, none can match the gut-wrenching chestburster scene. After being attacked by a Facehugger, Kane (played by John Hurt) becomes a host for an alien fetus without realizing it. While having dinner with his fellow crew members, Kane begins to choke and convulse before the alien bursts out of his chest, killing him instantly. The scene is graphic and appears remarkably authentic, so much so that few moments in film history have taken viewers by surprise in the same way. It's an unforgettable, genre-defining classic.
The movie Raw is known for its intense and unsettling scenes. In one scene, Alexia (played by Ella Rumpf) accidentally cuts off her own finger during a homemade bikini wax gone wrong for her younger sister, Justine (Garance Marillier). Alexia passes out from the shock, leaving the severed finger in Justine's hands. And what does Justine do? She begins to eat her sister's finger.
This moment is undoubtedly disgusting, graphic, and grotesque. Still, it's also captivating, and viewers find themselves unable to look away from the screen.
The Omen, a horror tale for the ages, continues to inspire with its recurring narrative of 'the demon child.' Richard Donner's 1976 film served as a spark for the cinematic popularity of this ongoing story, delivering audiences with the first film portrayal of The Antichrist in a child's form. The Omen still holds up as a harrowing horror classic that grossed over $60 million upon its release.
One of the movie's earliest scenes remains one of the most frightening and unforgettable in the Omen franchise, as well as the entire horror genre. At the birthday bash of Damien, the five-year-old Antichrist child, his nanny stands on a window ledge with a noose around her neck, begging Damien to watch. All eyes on her, she leaps from the ledge, hangs herself, and crashes into a lower window. This gruesome scene looms over the rest of the film, setting a dark and eerie tone for this classic '70s movie.
In 1977, Dario Argento's Suspiria unleashed the wildness of Italian horror upon the unsuspecting world. When Suzy (played by Jessica Harper) enrolls in a distinguished dance academy in Germany, she quickly learns that it's a front for a supernatural conspiracy after a series of gruesome murders takes place.
Arguably, the most jaw-dropping moment in Suspiria is the slaying of Pat, a fellow student who is assaulted by a shadowy figure, stabbed repeatedly, strung up by the neck, and hurled through the roof's skylight. It's not only one of the most gruesome and iconic horror movie scenes of all time, but it's also a visually stunning masterpiece.
Ari Aster's Midsommar created quite a stir when it was released in 2019. This daylight horror movie is set in an idyllic commune that appears harmless. However, appearances can be deceiving. The movie's opening scene is hair-raising for various reasons, but it's the first ritual that Dani (played to perfection by Florence Pugh) and her pals observe - Ättestupa - that is the most unforgettable and terrifying moment of the film. It's an unflinching, grisly display of gore that will leave you stunned, as two Hårga elders bring their life cycle to an end with a violent jump, while the other Swedes look on, unperturbed. Pugh's reactions, on the other hand, will leave you shaken.
If you're the kind of person who likes an insane movies David Lynch's magnum opus, Blue Velvet, gets funnier with each rewatch, thanks in large part to the over-the-top performance from Dennis Hopper. But there's one scene in this picture that isn't amusing at all.
When Frank Booth (Hopper) makes his initial appearance it's like he's a monster that crawled out from a dark closet. He inhales nitrous oxide while ordering Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), the woman whose husband he's kidnapped, to pose for him. He leers at her body with a look that's equal parts lust and rage. He violates her. He talks to her incoherently like a baby. It's a difficult scene to endure, one that never gets any less grueling.
Man Bites Dog
This mockumentary follows the day in the life of a charismatic yet gruesome serial killer named Benoit. Throughout the film Benoit offers his thoughts on life and death while pushing his documentary crew to extremes. The most deranged and disturbing scene in the movie occurs when Benoit gets the crew that's been following him to help him commit a vicious and unconscionable assault on one of his victims. This scene is where the film turns from horror comedy to just plain horror.
Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie has it all: a telekinetic teen, an aggressively religious mother, pigs blood, and John Travolta - but the most unsettling moment in a deeply troubling film comes right out of the gate. The film opens with Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) getting her period in a locker room full of students. This would be upsetting for any teen girl, but Carrie was raised to believe that her body is evil. She has a nervous breakdown while the girls in the locker room throw tampons at her and laugh. To say that it's a scene filled with cruelty would be an understatement.
The mist envelopes a young boy with an eerie, pallid face who hovers outside his older brother's window. His macabre grin is chilling, but it's the scratching on the glass that's truly unbearable. This spine-tingling moment from the two-part TV movie Salem's Lot (1979) remains one of the most unsettling scenes to ever grace the airwaves. Salem's Lot was one of the earliest Stephen King adaptations to frighten audiences, and its enduring moments of terror still hit home with viewers decades later. What's striking about the bedroom window scene is that it's entirely bloodless, with no dialogue spoken. The subconscious techniques at play dig deep under the skin. Ultimately, this unsetting scene is a story about a lost boy trying to find his way back home to his older brother.
The birthing scene in Titane is a gruesome and shocking moment in a film that's already full of shocking moments. The scene involves Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who has been impregnated by a car, giving birth to a human/automobile hybrid in a dilapidated bedroom. The scene is graphic and visceral, with blood and other fluids splattering everywhere as Alexia screams and writhes in pain. It's a disturbing and uncomfortable scene to watch, made all the more so by the fact that it's presented in an unflinching and unsentimental way.
In this thrilling film, Dave Franco's disturbing directorial debut, a group of four friends stay an unbelievable Air Bnb for a weekend that should be fun. But that's not how things go. The friends quickly discover a set of cameras placed in their showers that are filming every moment. The film explodes into a mess of violence in the final act, but it's the coda that proves to be the most upsetting. As the film comes to an end, the film's unseen creep removes the hidden cameras from the home before checking into another Air BnB and setting up his system. As the credits play, a series of jump cuts shows various renters relaxing without realizing that they're being watched.
The Exorcist, a horror classic that's been around since 1973, is filled with brutal scenes of gore, abuse, and mutilation. One particular scene has stood out to viewers over the years.
Regan (played by Linda Blair), a 12-year-old girl possessed by the Devil, torments her family and those attempting to aid her. In one scene, her mother rushes to her room after hearing her screams, only to find her being attacked by an unseen force and mutilating herself with a crucifix. The possessed Regan turns her head 180 degrees in a menacing and disturbing manner after attacking her mother, emphasizing the loss of innocence and pure evil depicted through her brutality and contortions. This scene still sends chills down the spine of viewers today and is a deserving number one on the list of classic horror moments.
Full Metal Jacket
Picture this: Private Pyle, a portly and weak link among his battle-hardened platoon in Kubrick's Vietnam flick, is causing trouble for the rest of the group. You see, it's their responsibility to whip him into shape, so any minor mistake from Pyle means punishment for everyone except for the clumsy soldier himself.
In a display of pure savagery, the troops unleash their fury on Pyle in a cruel hazing ritual. They strap him down to his bunk, one by one taking turns to beat him with a bar of soap wrapped in a towel. Pyle's piercing cries of agony are unbearable.
Misery, the film that embodies the very definition of its title, contains a brutal sequence known among fans as the "hobbling scene." Annie Wilkes, the unhinged superfan of author Paul Sheldon, goes to extreme lengths to keep him from leaving her home. When Annie catches Paul violating her strict rules, she forces a wooden block between his ankles and swings a sledgehammer with fierce determination. The first blow practically knocks Paul's ankle into another county. It's a disturbing sight that will leave viewers wincing in agony.
Martyrs, the 2008 horror film by Pascal Laugier, is not for the faint of heart. It follows the story of Anna (played by Morjana Alaoui), a young woman who is kidnapped by a cruel group of religious fanatics and imprisoned in a steel cruelty basement. There, she is subjected to brutal beatings, starvation, and various forms of torture until she is crosses the barrier between life and death. In the end, the group flays her alive and leaves her in a christ-pose until she can see what lies on the other side. It's a gruesome and disturbing scene that really lays it all out there in terms of torment.
The sickening sensation that comes with willingly viewing Oldboy's gut-wrenching tongue-slicing sequence is twofold. First, there's the primal and direct reaction to the sight of a man hacking his own tongue off. Director Park Chan-wook milks the moment just enough to amplify the discomfort without allowing the audience to reach for their remote. You're bracing for it, hoping it might not happen, and then BAM, you're grappling with severe queasiness.
The infamous "squeal like a pig" scene in Deliverance stands out among other disturbing moments in cinema due to its level of commitment from director John Boorman and his team. Disturbing enough to keep a generation of dads from becoming outdoorsman, the scene still manages to be incredible watchable.
Ned Beatty delivers a raw and fearless performance as one of four Atlanta businessmen who experience a brutal journey while canoeing in the Georgia wilderness. The most intense part of the trip for Beatty's character is when he is forced to lie naked on the ground in the woods with a menacing redneck violating him and instructing him to "squeal like a pig!" Despite the discomfort, Beatty's character complies with the command.
When you sit down to watch 127 Hours you know what you're there for: the arm-cutting scene. It's the centerpiece of the film, the moment everyone is waiting for. Everything before it is just setup: Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) falls into a canyon and gets trapped under a boulder with his arm lodged between literally a rock and a hard place. He's stuck there for days without any hope of rescue. So he decides to cut his own arm off. Slowly, agonizingly, he hacks away at his flesh with a dull knife, flashbacks of his life flashing before his eyes. Finally, with one last effort, he frees himself, but at the cost of his arm, which is left behind under the boulder.
Return To Oz
Imagine that you love watching The Wizard Of Oz every year, and then you hear about a sequel where Dorothy returns to Oz. You sit down to watch it, expecting a fun and lighthearted movie, but instead, you get a movie that can be scary and violent. There are monsters everywhere, and it's a nightmare. One of the scariest things is the Wheelers - characters that were created by the author of the Oz books. In this movie, they're terrifying: they're always wearing masks, they're tall and lanky, and they laugh and run around Oz like crazy. When these freaky creeps show up you can actually feel a part of your childhood shriveling up and disappearing
The Neverending Story
In The Neverending Story, the tale isn't just about happily-ever-afters. Instead, it unfolds in a world ravaged by the Nothing, a force that has engulfed everything with a deadly emptiness. But the most gut-wrenching scene arrives when the hero, Atreyu (played by Noah Hathaway), loses his trusty steed, Artax, in the treacherous Swamp of Sadness.
Atreyu tugs at Artax's reins and pleads with him, but the horse sinks slowly into the dark, murky water. It's a heartrending moment for young viewers that remains etched in their memory. Even though Artax is eventually restored to his former glory by the end of the film, the emotional trauma lingers on.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. is a classic family film, full of heartwarming moments like the cute alien eating Reese's Pieces, hiding among toys, or flying on a bike basket. However, there's a scene that is often overlooked and hard to watch. When E.T. and Elliott get sick, it becomes a traumatic experience for young viewers.
Men in uniforms invade their home, hospital equipment blinks and beeps, and wires and electrodes are stuck to E.T. and Elliott. When Elliot gets back to E.T. after the two are separated is genuinely heartbreaking to watch, and it likely made young audiences terrified of getting sick.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
In Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit, iconic cartoon characters from Disney and Warner Bros. coexist in a gritty, dark world that's a far cry from the usual lighthearted, feel-good animation. The majority of the film is filled with hilarious antics and colorful characters, but there are some genuinely frightening moments too. The most memorable and nightmare-inducing of which is when the villainous Judge Doom demonstrates the power of "the dip" for the first time.
The victim is a cute little cartoon shoe who's never done anything wrong and who's doomed from the start. In a matter of seconds, he's reduced to ink and bubbles, with his helpless squeaking ringing in the audience's ears. To make matters worse, the man behind the villainous Doom is Christopher Lloyd, beloved by kids of the 80s for his role as the kind Doc Brown in Back to the Future, which only makes the whole ordeal more unsettling.
The freakiest moment in Pulse - and that's saying something, considering Kiyoshi Kurosawa's flick could rival any other horror movie of the century for scares - is frightening for the same reason as monsters: it's both familiar and alien. It's a ghost walking down the hallway, but it's more than that - her graceful, almost hypnotic movements coupled with a soundtrack that wails out in agony amount to pure nightmare fuel. Good luck watching this scene without crawling out of your skin.
Bryan Bertino's debut film The Strangers is a simple yet effective horror movie. Unlike other horror movies that involve monsters or supernatural creatures, The Strangers presents a scenario that could happen to anyone. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a couple who are unexpectedly visited by three masked strangers who are armed with knives and have a twisted desire for violence. The tension in the movie slowly builds up, and the fear that is instilled in the audience is due to the psychological terror that is created, rather than graphic violence.
The most unsettling scene in the movie involves Liv Tyler standing in her dimly lit kitchen, calling out to her husband, while a hooded man sneaks up on her from behind. The scene is terrifying because there is no bloodshed or jump scares, just a still and eerie silence that makes the audience aware of the potential danger lurking in everyday surroundings. The feeling of dread that is created in this scene stays with the audience even after the movie has ended.
No horror movie roster is complete without Get Out, Jordan Peele's mind-blowing directorial debut that altered the entire discussion around the genre in the 2010s. The flick is anchored by Daniel Kaluuya's Oscar-nominated turn, and nothing proves its worth more than the eerie "Sunken Place" scene. As Kaluuya's Chris falls under the hypnotic spell of Catherine Keener's Missy, his emotions seem to burst free of the barriers that have concealed them throughout the majority of the film, causing him to sink into the Sunken Place. The chilling sequence brings to light just how terrifying it could be to be trapped within your own thoughts with no way to escape, and without your consent.
The Mist unfolds in Bridgton, Maine, where a thunderstorm triggers a power outage that forces locals to flock to the nearest grocery store to gather supplies, as a dense mist blankets the town, concealing otherworldly creatures. Although the movie version of The Mist remains relatively true to King's novella, its gut-wrenching finale deviates significantly from the source material, with several survivors opting to take their own lives moments before rescue.
Both King's novella and Darabont's film revolve around David Drayton's perspective, a father to eight-year-old Billy. In the 2017 adaptation, David and some fellow survivors flee the overrun store, which has been commandeered by religious zealots. They drive through the mist and learn that David's home is demolished, and his wife Stephanie has perished. A heartbroken David passes some enormous creatures before running out of gas. Trapped, the adults choose to end their lives, while David must shoot his son, just as the mist suddenly dissipates, and the U.S. Army arrives on the scene to save the day. The Mist's final moments are a savage gut-punch to the audience that they won't forget anytime soon.
The Sixth Sense
Spoiler Alert: In The Sixth Sense, young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) has the ability to see ghosts lurking around him. But in the movie's most unsettling scene, Cole is hesitant about using the bathroom in the middle of the night. As he eventually gets up to go, he fails to notice a figure walking past him. However, he does sense the temperature of the room dropping, accompanied by eerie noises from the kitchen. When he enters the kitchen, he sees a woman wearing a pink robe, facing the corner. He nervously asks, "Mama?" but quickly realizes that he's got something else on his hands. The ghost turns to Cole and snaps at who we have to assume is her deceased, abusive husband, "No, dinner is not ready," before showing off her slashed wrists to Cole and shouting, "Look what you made me do!" Just thinking about it gives us chills.
The Evil Dead
In The Evil Dead, a group of friends go to a cabin in the woods where they - for some reason - open a book made of human skin and read from it. This very bad decision releases Sumerian demons who possess the friends one by one. It's a fantastic, very gross movie that's truly scary, but the tree scene may be the most upsetting collection of shots in this film. In this scene one of the female characters, Cheryl, is attacked by a possessed tree while she's out in the woods. The tree's branches suddenly come to life, wrapping around Cheryl's body and limbs, as if trying to restrain her. It then proceeds to assault with the tree's branches violating her in various ways. This scene has been the subject of controversy and criticism over the years, as it's often viewed as gratuitous and misogynistic.
The infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is one of the most iconic and upsetting moments in horror cinema. It takes place early on in the film, as Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) takes a shower at the Bates Motel. The scene is masterfully crafted, with the combination of quick cuts, Bernard Herrmann's haunting score, and the use of black and white film creating an incredibly tense and unsettling atmosphere. As Marion is attacked by an unseen figure, we see flashes of a knife and hear the piercing sound of the blade cutting through flesh. The scene is so effective that it has become a textbook example of how to build suspense and terror through filmmaking technique.
Night of the Living Dead
The "They're coming to get you, Barbara" scene in George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead takes place in a cemetery where Barbara and her brother are visiting their father's grave. As they're leaving, they're suddenly approached by a lumbering, undead figure who begins to chase them. Despite her brother's attempts to reassure her that it's just a man, Barbara is paralyzed with fear as the zombie closes in. The scene is both frightening and iconic, setting the tone for the rest of the film as well as establishing many of the tropes that would become standard in zombie movies for years to come.
One reason why this scene is still so scary today is that it taps into a primal fear that's deeply ingrained in human nature: the fear of the unknown. The zombie is a familiar concept to modern audiences, but back in 1968, it was a relatively new idea. The idea of being chased by a seemingly unstoppable, undead creature was terrifying and unprecedented, and the tension of the scene builds expertly as the zombie gradually closes in on the siblings. Even now, more than 50 years later, the scene remains a masterclass in building suspense and terror through pacing and atmosphere, proving that sometimes the most effective horror is the simplest.
The movie Saw II centers around Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and his team of officers as they try to capture Jigsaw. However, Jigsaw allows himself to be caught, setting up a new game with eight individuals trapped in a house. Matthews' son is among the victims, and Jigsaw offers him a chance to save his son's life by completing a game of his own.
One of the most disturbing traps in the movie is the pit of needles that Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) must endure. Originally intended for drug dealer Xavier (Franky G), he must locate a key within the pit to access an antidote. For two long minutes, Amanda struggles as needles puncture her skin while she searches for the key. Although she eventually finds it, Xavier arrives too late to save himself. The scene is gut-wrenching, especially for viewers with a phobia of needles. Even those without a fear of needles will cringe in empathy as Amanda endures this horrific ordeal.
The Wicker Man
In The Wicker Man, Sgt. Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to a remote island in Scotland to investigate a missing child case. However, upon arriving on the island, Howie becomes trapped and learns of the islanders' pagan beliefs and rituals. When he discovers that they plan to sacrifice him inside a giant wicker man as a means of ensuring a successful harvest, he tries to escape but is ultimately captured.
In the final scene, Howie is placed inside the wicker man, and the islanders light it on fire. As the flames consume him, Howie screams in agony and desperately prays to God for salvation. The scene is incredibly intense and horrifying, as viewers witness the brutal murder of a sympathetic character. The shocking ending is a culmination of the film's exploration of religion, sacrifice, and the power of belief, leaving a lasting impression on audiences. Even today, the scene is considered one of the most memorable and chilling moments in horror cinema.
In the year 2047, a starship named the Event Horizon vanished with its crew. After years of disappearing, it suddenly reappears near Neptune. Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) leads a rescue crew, including the ship's designer, Dr. Weir (Sam Neill), to investigate. The Event Horizon uses a Gravity Drive designed by Dr. Weir, which can open a black hole and allow the ship to travel vast distances instantly. Once the crew arrives, they find a dead crew member and the rest missing. Unexplained spooky events occur, creating a haunted house vibe in space. The crew discovers a distorted video message showing the previous crew engaging in grotesque acts like shoving hands down their throats, absolutely going to town on one another and the captain even rips out his own eyes after opening a portal to hell with the Gravity Drive. It's an intense burst of horror that remains a gruesome watch to this day.
Pet Sematary, released in 1989, is one of the most unsettling Stephen King adaptations. The film tells the story of the Creeds, a young family who moves to Ludlow, Maine, just before their son Gage is fatally hit by a truck. Louis, Gage's father, discovers an ancient burial ground behind their home that has the power to resurrect the dead, but he soon realizes that "dead is better." The most disturbing scene in this cult classic features a demonic version of Gage, who still looks like a five-year-old, cutting the Achilles tendon of Louis' elderly neighbor, Jud. It's an unsettling scene that stands out in this horror masterpiece.
The 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It may have been made for the small screen, but it still managed to create some unforgettable moments of horror. One such scene is when Eddie heads into the school showers alone, tapping into the fear and humiliation of showering in public. But the terror doesn't stop there, as the shower suddenly transforms into a haunted house, and a killer clown emerges from the drain, enough to make anyone dread their next shower for years to come.
Fire In The Sky
Based on the true story of the Travis Walton abduction, Fire in the Sky is a really interesting story about the search for the truth when investigating extra terrestrials. It also happens to feature one of the most disturbing abduction scenes in cinema history.
In this film the abduction is told through flashbacks that reveal the extent of what happened to Walton. Over the course of the film he’s probed, grabbed by aliens, wrapped in a weird, slimy skin suit thing, and subjected a variety of tests. Even if the small town politics of this film don’t do it for you, the upsetting abduction imagery will haunt your dreams.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Picking the most disturbing scene in The Poughkeepsie Tapes is like picking the best piece of cake, they all have something unique about them but in the end they’re incredibly freaky (the scenes, not the cake).
However, the scene that manages to get us every time in this sort of found footage oddity features the abductee of a serial killer tied up in a basement while the unnamed serial killer crab walks around her while wearing a unitard and a blank mask. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare come true.
Seven, directed by David Fincher in 1995, is a gloomy and desolate movie about a pair of detectives, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, chasing a killer who is committing murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins. One of the most gruesome deaths, Sloth's, required the most time and effort from the murderer. Sloth was discovered heavily drugged and tied to a bed, immobile for an extended period of time. The police found his decayed body in the bed, and the word "Sloth" written on the wall next to him. The smell of death was overpowering, but as one of the detectives approached Sloth's face, he suddenly coughed, revealing he was still alive. The shocking moment left audiences unsettled.
Funny Games is one of the most unnerving films in recent memory. Directed by Michael Haneke, the film follows a pair of WASPy young men as they brutally torture a family of three while they’re on vacation. There are plenty of scenes that are hard to watch in this movie, but the one that really takes the cake involves the duo of sadistic creeps wrapping a pillow case around the head of the couple’s only son in a bag while they bet whether anyone in the family will be alive by the morning.
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
This truly insane movie by Yorgos Lanthimos is based on a Greek tragedy and stars Colin Farrell as an heart surgeon who’s presented with an impossible task by the son of a former patient - kill a member of his family or watch them all die a slow, painful death.
We’re tempted to name the scene where Farrell ties up his entire family and spins around firing a shotgun so he doesn’t actually have to make a decision as the most disturbing scene, but for our money the scene that really gives us the creeps comes much earlier, when the son of his former patient sloppily eats a big plate of spaghetti in the strangest way possible while explaining just what’s going to happen to his family.
Aoyama, a middle-aged widower, is convinced by his son to start dating again before it’s too late. His friend, Yoshikawa, a film producer, suggests that they hold fake auditions for Aoyama’s “wife” and if he likes any of the women, he can ask them out. Despite the obvious flaws of this method, Aoyama agrees. When Aoyama looks through the headshots and resumes of the young actresses, he immediately becomes drawn to Asami Yamazaki, a former ballet dancer. After a montage of awkward and hilarious auditions, Asami comes in last, and Aoyama is entranced by her meek demeanor. They go out to dinner, and the movie takes a drastic turn. The second half of Audition becomes hallucinatory and grueling, featuring a prolonged torture scene where Asami gleefully tortures Aoyama with long needles and a wire saw while saying, “deeper, deeper.” It’s a truly disturbing sequence that’s hard to forget.
Doctor Sleep's most brutal scene involves the death of Jacob Tremblay's "Baseball Boy," which almost went even further in its depravity. The film centers on a group of nomadic cannibals known as The True Knot who feed on the "steam" produced by people with psychic abilities like Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran).
The young boy's death scene is a heart-wrenching display of horror as he screams and begs for mercy while The True Knot tears him apart. Initially, director Mike Flanagan had planned for even more brutality, but author Stephen King intervened, persuading him to tone it down.
Annihilation, directed by Alex Garland in 2018, explores the fleetingness of humanity through the story of Lena (Natalie Portman), who discovers that her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is not dead after all. Lena embarks on a mission into "the Shimmer," a hazardous environment where biology and cells begin to change due to a meteor strike. The film is a meditation on grief and self-destruction, but it is also successful in its horror factor.
One of the most significant scenes in the film occurs when the team camp out in an abandoned neighborhood close to the swampland. After a member named Sheppard is attacked and killed by a bear, the team realizes that the Shimmer is refracting DNA from humans, animals, and plants with its alien properties. Anya (Gina Rodriguez) grows paranoid and ties up her crew, questioning them if they knew about Lena's marriage to a previous expedition member. Suddenly, a human scream is heard from outside, and Anya believes that Sheppard is still alive. When she investigates, the team discovers that the bear that attacked Sheppard has merged her genetic makeup, causing her vocal cords to merge with that of the bear. Each time the creature opens its mouth, its growls mix with Sheppard's dying cries for help, creating a horrific and disturbing moment that stays with the viewer long after the scene has ended.
A tense and spine-chilling 90-minute thriller, The Perfection, follows the story of two cellists, Allison Williams and Logan Browning, who harbor a dark secret. Without spoiling the ending for those of you who have yet to see it, an early scene in the film involves Williams’ character drugging and mutilating her new friend Lizzie (Browning) with levetiracetam. The side effects of this drug are very intense to say the least, and after Lizzie has a few drinks she begins to see things like bugs crawling out of her body. Things reach a fever pitch when Lizzie comes to the drugged up realization that the only way to stop the bugs is by cutting off one of her hands. The entire movie is full of moments like this, but this scene is the one that will weed out the viewers who can’t stomach this kind of action.
Can Evrenol's directorial debut, Baskin, plunges viewers into a twisted descent into the depths of Turkish hell. The film's hour and a half runtime is a nightmare-inducing journey, with terrifying moments lurking around every corner. However, there is one particular scene that will haunt you long after the credits have rolled. A police officer finds himself in a horrific situation, forced to engage in a grotesque act of intimacy with a woman wearing a goat's skull. It's a gut-wrenching moment that will leave you with an indelible image burned into your mind.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the most renowned horror flicks of all time, has garnered endless critical acclaim and spawned an extensive franchise that's still going strong after fifty years.
But it's a particular scene that's lodged deep in our psyche, a haunting sequence that's the stuff of nightmares. Tobe Hooper's 1974 masterpiece features a dinner scene that's not for the faint-hearted, where Sally (played by Marilyn Burns) is tied up and tormented by Leatherface and his twisted family. The dinner table is strewn with human remains, and the atmosphere is one of pure dread, made all the more harrowing by the presence of a saggy, aging grandfather and three cannibalistic lunatics.
Sitting across from Sally is the flesh-wearing horror icon Leatherface, flanked by his evil yokel of a father, his buck-toothed hillbilly brother, and their barely-alive, corpse-like grandpa. These sadistic bullies taunt Sally, ridiculing her, and mimicking her cries of desperation. And in a display of demented genius, Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel place a hammer in the limp, lifeless hands of grandpa, urging him to bash Sally's head in. The scene is simultaneously nightmarish and, for those brave enough to endure it, darkly hilarious.
In Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a tech-dependent, dystopian world where a callous government prioritizes rules and regulations over emotions and dreams. Sam, stuck in a mind-numbing job and cramped living quarters, yearns for love and freedom. His chance arrives when he meets a woman resembling the one from his dreams, who is wanted for trying to clear the name of an innocent man wrongly sentenced to death due to a typo. Instead of correcting the mistake, the government brands Sam, the woman, and an illegal heating engineer as terrorists. Despite his efforts to subvert the system, Sam is eventually deemed insane and restrained in a torture chair by babyface mask-wearing enforcers who keep him in restraints without a conscience. It's a brutal ending to a film that's nothing but gut-punches.