The Eight Scariest Single Frames from Movies

sixth sense2

It takes a lot to scare me in a movie these days. After watching countless horror films for the past decade and a half, something really has to make an effort to make me jump.

Of course, there have been many “jump” moments that have gotten my goat, despite my relative nerves of steels. Over the years, I tried to look back and capture the exact moment in which I was the most scared in a given film. Sometimes this is a jump, other times it’s just something disturbing, but I have a hunch a few of these are universal.

Check out my eight picks below, and if you have your own, do let me know in the comments!

1. The Closet (The Ring)

the ring

Oh god, I’m having panic attacks just looking at this. When I first saw The Ring, my friends and I had gotten there late so we were stuck in the front row. That meant every moment of the film consumed my entire field of vision, this one included. This didn’t appear with a big jolt of music. Rather, they simply slipped it in to a casual conversation during the film and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a collective gasp this loud in a theater before.

2. The Face (Lord of the Rings)


Yeah, don’t even act like this one didn’t get you. One of the only non-horror films here, this was something that was simply so unexpected in Lord of the Rings, it got all of us. Bilbo get Gollum-face for a brief moment when lusting after the ring, and it freaked the hell out of everyone who didn’t expect such a thing in a such a calm scene.

3. The Girl (Sixth Sense)

sixth sense

God, The Sixth Sense is full of these. I could have picked any of them, from the hanging in the school, the biker outside the car, the woman in the kitchen. But man, little Mischa Barton vomiting has really stayed with me all this time.

4. The Creeper (Strangers)


I really like The Strangers, even if it is something of a forgettable horror film. It did the whole stalking serial killer very well, much better than most films that tried it. This moment where the face simply emerges from the shadows, then retreats was the most heartstopping of the film in my opinion.

5. The Fling (Paranormal)


You might not be able to tell what the hell is going on here, but this is the exact moment where I nearly had a heart attack at the end of Paranormal Activity. In the Spielberg cut, you’re shown an empty hallway when suddenly the main character of the film is thrown at the camera, knocking it over. For a movie with almost no action for ninety minutes, it’s terrifying, and the original edit of the ending isn’t nearly as intense.

6. The Corner (Blair Witch)

blair witch

We’re going way back here now, and this isn’t a jump moment necessarily, but tell me this image hasn’t stayed with you since you watched this film. It plays into the lore of the movie, one stands the corner while the other is killed, and made the ending of the film incredibly cryptic and memorable.

7. The Basement (The Road)

the road

Perhaps this wasn’t one still, rather a few brief seconds, but holy shit was this terrifying. The Road is a relatively quiet film most of the film, but when Man and Boy stumbled upon this basement where naked humans were kept as fresh cannibal meat, it was the most unsettling moment of the entire movie.

8. The Hallway (The Exorcist III)


This isn’t one that I was going to include initially as I haven’t seen this movie, but after watching a clip of this scene on YouTube, I knew I had to include it here. If a completely out of context clip can terrify you on a tiny laptop screen, I can only imagine what this would have been like in theaters.

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  1. That picture from the Blair Witch holds a special place in my heart.
    I was so motion sick that entire movie and was just miserable and spent most of the film looking at my shoes. The friend I was with felt bad (never offered to leave with me tho) and when this scene came up he made sure to make me look up as he exclaimed the guy was taking a whiz…yah, it’s stupid but made me laugh

  2. While I’ll admit that the last shot from Blair Witch has stuck with my all these years, the girl talking to the camera kept me up nearly all night after seeing it in theaters.

    Also, how could you not include the face of Satan from the first Exorcist? That thing still pops up in screamer videos to this day.

  3. The Blair Witch scene has indeed stayed with me. But one scene that has stayed with me for a long time is in the movie Mulholland Drive. There’s a scene when a guy goes behind a diner and suddenly a weird looking homeless person pops up. Scared the crap out of me.

  4. I am old enough I did see the Exorcist 3 in the theatre. That scene really was one of the best “make the whole audience jump” moments I’ve experienced. Too bad the rest of the movie wasn’t very good.

  5. I, along with a few friends went back to watch SIGNS. It has been years since I have watched it, but I knew everything that was about to happen before it happened. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, the scene where Mel Gibson is in the corn field alone then it gets quiet, he drops his flashlight, then when he finally picks it back up to see the leg of the alien slip back into the corn, it still freaked the crap out of me.

  6. I would like to nominate the quick shot at the end of “Inland Empire”, when Laura Dern shoots the person/creature at the end and it’s a really weird messed up looking face, partly because Dern’s face is projected on to a sort of blank melting face. Haven’t been able to watch it again yet.

  7. i have to agree…the Exorcist scene scared the crap out of me. the entire movie had been boring and then that scene happened. it made me jump and got me excited to see the rest of the movie (which ended up being boring). but that one tiny scene will never leave my mind. and personally, i would have the Blair Witch scene on top of any scary scene. when i first watched the film, i didn’t think much of it. that last scene did give me chills but that was it. the more times i watched the movie, the more i got freaked out at everything. that last scene is probably the freakiest thing i’ve ever seen in film. i love (and appreciate) the Blair Witch more than any other horror movie ever. it really should be a considered masterpiece.

  8. Was interested that you mention The Exorcist 3 but IMO *not* the scariest scene from Exorcist 1? [img][/img]

  9. I agree with each and every one of them – esp. Bilbo’s face! And the whole of the Blair Witch movie – def the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

  10. Signs – the home video-footage from the child’s birthday party where the alien appears.

    Donald Sutherland in the final shot of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  11. I, too, was totally freaked out by that last scene from The Blair Witch Project. There is just something about it…I mean, how can a shot of a guy just standing in the corner be so terrifying??? It’s haunted me for years…

    Bilbo’s face got me too…

    Does anyone remember the scene from Insidious were Rose Byrnes character walks by the ghost of the little boy(also creepily standing in a corner)? It happened so quick, like blink-and-you-miss-it. I nearly pooped my pants.

  12. The director’s cut of The Exorcist adds in two more flashes of the demon’s face that are only there for a split-second, but they scared the beejesus out of me! One shows up on the range hood in the kitchen as Chris MacNeill walks past. The other is on Reagan’s bedroom door just after Chris walks in & closes the window.

    And, no matter how many times I watch it, I’m still startled at the end of Fatal Attraction when Glenn Close just won’t die.

  13. The one that really freaked me out was in The Devil’s Advocate when Tamara Tunie is slipping on a dress in a dress shop and her face briefly morphs into something very demonic making Charlize Theron flinch. When the video came out, I rewound that shot several times.

  14. I like this list and I agree with 6 out of 8.

    Blair Witch had me laughing for 90 minutes. Ridiculous movie.

    Paranormal Activity had me half-asleep about 20 minutes in. By the time the end came I was just happy it was over and I never had to watch it again.

  15. For me, the scariest film moment still is from the TV Show Twin Peaks, when we first see Bob, hiding in by the sofa in the corner of the room… like he’s always been there in plain sight and we just never noticed.

  16. I have to vote for the scene in Jaws where Ben Gardner’s head floats out of the bottom of the boat at Hooper. Anyone who has ever seen that scene for the first time had to have soiled themselves.

  17. This is quite possibly the most idiotic and ridiculous article I’ve ever read. Was is it written by someone under the age of 13?

    You’re seriously gonna drop in these picks as the scariest single frames from movies of all time? Wow.

  18. I second the scene in the first season of Twin Peaks with Bob crouching by the side of the bed. Or when he walks right into the camera from the other side of the living room, over the couch – manically grinning and staring into the camera the whole time. Lynch has got some of the scariest scenes ever – eg. Mulholland Drive: the face behind the Diner.

  19. I totally can never forget the scene in Se7en when they uncover the ..sloth? sinner…that man the villain was starving just enough to keep him barely alive.

  20. Probably the worst internet list I have ever seen. No Large Marge? No Zelda from Pet Sematary? Nothing from the Sentinel or Suspiria? I feel like you only considered shitty recent horror movies.

  21. Here’s 3 that have freaked me out over the years:

    -the hand reaching out of the ground at the end of Carrie

    -The look on Karen Black’s face when she spins around to face Oliver Reed at the end of Burnt Offerings

    -the look on Mrs. Baylock’s face as she walks towards Lee Remick in the hospital in The Omen

    -the look on the old lady’s face when she throws open the cabinet door to face the hidden children in The Others

  22. Im sorry, but this is just an absolutely pathetic list.
    It was supposed to be the scariest SINGLE FRAMES.
    The ONLY 2 that would qualify would be the first 2.

    All of the others are, as you admitted in The Road, SCENES.
    Jesus, if you are going to make a list, at least stick to your OWN criteria.
    I could maybe give you Blair Witch because it is iconic, but NOT SCARY,

    Here is an actual TOP 10 scariest single frames.(Not including the LOTR and The Ring ones, which were acceptable, and easily top 10). In no particular order:

    1. Large Marge- Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

  23. The last scene from 1982 TV movie Don’t Go To Sleep (Valerie Harper, Dennis Weaver) has stayed with me until this day. Very chilling and memorable.

    I recently watched it on You Tube and that scene is STILL effective.

  24. To clarify, it’s this one particular shot IN the last scene of Don’t Go To Sleep.

    THAT’S one of your scariest single frames.


  25. The head popping out of the boat in the first jaws movie sure caused a lot of popcorn and coke to be thrown, not to mention the shot from the shinning when Jack sees what the woman really looks like in the mirror!

  26. I realize the point was to make a short list and not to include every scary scene ever made, just single frames, and I think you did a good job at it. I would agree with at least half on the list. I do agree with several postings about other single frames such as the head in Jaws or the demon face from The Exorcist. I would like to suggest the frame when Michael Myers appears from darkness right behind Laurie in Halloween. That is classic. Also, the sloth victim from Seven. That freaked me out.

  27. Your number 6 is my number one… Just by looking at this still from the movie made me remember the shivers I felt seeing it and understanding what was going to happen for the next seconds…

    (By the way, I felt the same about the Exorcist III. I also never watched it, just this clip on YouTube and it sure made me jump off my chair the first time I saw it)

  28. – Nearly every scene from the Exorcist, though it was as much the sounds (both heard and subliminal) as well as the visuals that made it great.

    – Many scenes in The Grudge … how about when the woman is riding up in the elevator with the window, and at every floor you can see the ghost of the Japanese window standing outside the elevator?

  29. The one from Sixth Sense that got me every time was when Cole is going to the bathroom and then a ghost walks by. In description it’s so simple, but the combination of how they framed the shot, built the suspense and the music hit…Creepy stuff.

  30. I have a SOUND to throw in there- the alarm in Silent Hill, that sounds the alarm for the monsters to come out. By the second time it comes up in the movie, I was losing my shit. Worse, not long after it came out, there was a commercial that had a similar sound in it. I sleep with the TV on, and a few times I woke up to that alarm and it scared the hell out of me.

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