The 10 Most Iconic Horror Movie Scenes Of All Time
When you think of horror movies, what scene are you thinking of? Jack Nicholson shouting ‘This is Johnny’ in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel the brilliant? The macabre scene of “Chestburster” from Ridley Scott’s famous sci-fi classic Extraterrestrial? Or maybe even the decimation of the lawnmower in Peter Jackson’s blood-splattered genre flick Brain death?
The horror genre is full of iconic moments that lodge in your brain like a pesky slip of corn you can’t get your teeth out of. Horror masters have recognized this as well, with filmmakers from across the genre’s history trying to create memorable horror moments that will haunt, disturb and terrify the viewer for many years to come.
Creating a list of just ten iconic horror movie moments was no easy task, as we found ourselves forced to omit classic moments such as the reveal of the “Prom Queen” in Brian De Palma, the end of Roman Polanski. Rosemary’s baby, the terrifying march of Kiyoshi Kurosawa Kairo, and even Ari Aster’s infamous beheading moment Hereditary. Check out our exclusive list below to see which scenes made the brutal cut.
The Ten Most Iconic Horror Movie Scenes Of All Time
10. “Do you like horror movies?” – Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)
Wes Craven takes off his cap at the horror genre he helped create with Scream, his latest masterpiece, heralding the reign of an all-new genre icon, Ghostface. Satirically twisting the conventions of the horror genre, Craven would kill off film’s biggest name, Drew Barrymore, in the film’s opening sequence, a la Hitchcock, letting the viewer know he was in for 110 minutes of sheer surprise. .
The footage is as iconic as it comes, providing an intro scene that has been ripped and copied time and time again. “Do you like horror movies? yes, Wes, yes, indeed we do.
9. Ash’s Madness – Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987)
by Sam Raimi Evil Dead 2 turns the genre into a sandbox playground, injecting a healthy dose of manic comedy to create one of the most innovative horror films. Surviving the horrific onslaught of the previous film, Ash (Bruce Campbell) becomes the leader of another group of aliens hoping to survive against the evil dead, barricading himself in a cabin to fight off the Flesh Eaters as they each become crazier and crazier.
No one does deranged madness quite like Campbell either, with the actor twisting his face in laughter, giggling with the mounted deer head, bookcase and lamp, each of which appears to be laughing along with him. Everything is gloriously out of balance.
8. The streets of London – 28 days later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
Danny Boyle’s first historical horror film is a visionary masterpiece. With the help of a terrific screenplay by Alex Garland, which not only sets up an apocalyptic London with deft imagination, but also manages to pack an excellent story isolated into the world itself, Boyle crafts one of the human films most iconic zombies/infected of all time. . Do you want proof ? Watch the opening scene.
Waking up from a coma in the windswept tumbleweed of central London, Jim (Cillian Murphy) staggers through the city, searching for survivors and refuge in the desolate streets. It was a scene that would inspire countless imitators.
7. Leatherface at sunset – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
Framed as a true story when released in the mid-1970s, despite being nearly complete fiction, the film follows two siblings and three of their friends who fall victim to Leatherface and his cannibalistic family after venturing into the countryside. Texas baron. Captured on a low-budget 16mm camera with fine grain, Tobe Hooper’s film manages to acquire a suffocating tone, documenting a living nightmare of raw, gritty authenticity.
It all leads to an eerily beautiful ending, an ode to senseless chaos and destruction, showing the sun setting over Leatherface’s swinging chainsaw, but also the sun rising over a new dawn for horror cinema.
6. Transformation Scene – An American werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
To cross the border between horror and comedy is not an easy task. Too funny and the horror will be ridiculed, too macabre and the comedy could be seen as sadistic. John Landis’ An American werewolf in London tows that line perfectly, miraculously producing a film that is both unforgettably disturbing and joyfully campy. Its best scene comes near the end when the protagonist transforms into the titular American werewolf.
An extraordinary feat of practical effects, the scene comes across as an exemplary piece of cinema that demonstrates the true possibilities of body horror. More than 40 years after its release, no transformation scene can do better.
5. Defibrillator – The thing (John Charpentier, 1982)
John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 film The thing from another world, is a pioneer of cosmic horror storytelling, skillfully blending the terror of man’s paranoid struggle with the inconceivable horror of the unknown. Housed in a remote Antarctic research facility, The thing follows the activity of a cosmic being who perfectly assimilates its prey, infiltrates the team of scientists and eliminates them one by one.
The iconic scene occurs when one of the crew members falls ill and requires a defibrillator. However, when the doctor goes to shock the patient, the body’s chest opens and the operator’s arms are ripped off.
4. Chest Buster – Extraterrestrial (Ridley Scott, 1979)
In the same vein as the previous entry, Ridley Scott’s Extraterrestrial presents a piece of body horror that will forever go down in the history of the genre. The story follows a simple merchant ship floating through space in the year 2122 AD, home to the Nostromo crew. Drifting through space, they pick up a distress call from an unknown transmission and fall vulnerable prey to a deadly alien after tracking it.
Thanks to visionary art direction by HR Giger, Extraterrestrial features a seriously terrifying villain in the form of the Xenomorph, with a scene showing a baby version of the creature popping out of Ash’s chest, blood, guts and all from Ian Holm.
3. “There’s Johnny!” – the brilliant (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
In his amazing film career, spanning multiple genres, it was Stephen King’s horror novel the brilliant which piqued the interest of director Stanley Kubrick, leading him to create one of the greatest films of the genre. Starring Jack Nicholson as a struggling writer and temporary owner of the Overlook Hotel who regularly goes insane, the drama of Kubrick’s classic leads to a moment that has cemented itself forever in movie history.
“Here’s Johnny!” a crazed Nicholson screams between the crack in the bathroom door, created by the sharp thump of his axe. Thanks to the performance of Nicholson and his co-star Shelley Duvall, as well as the cinematography of Kubrick, the scene is a real treat.
2. Shower scene – psychology (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
The Hitchcock classic follows a young man named Norman Bates who, under the strange domination of his mother, runs the day-to-day running of the Bates Motel, a remote refuge where a young woman escaping the law finds herself trapped. A masterclass in tone and sustained suspense, Hitchcock elevated the then-trash horror genre to what it looks like today.
It did so thanks to one of horror’s most iconic moments when Janet Leigh’s Marion meets her demise behind the shower curtain, screaming cold murder at the top of her lungs.
1. Turn your head – The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
Hitchcock’s shower scene in psychology may still hold to this day, but it’s the head-twisting terror of William Friedkin in The Exorcist which remains as iconic as it is frightening. Friedkin’s film, based on the novel and screenplay by author William Peter Blatty, is part dark story of a young girl transitioning to adulthood with intense and painful trauma, and part hand, a satanic possession story about two priests questioning their faith to save the same girl.
Perfectly blending stunning special effects with a terrific central performance from Linda Blair, Regan’s slow twisting lead will live on in our minds rent-free for the rest of our lives.
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