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The 20 Scariest Moments In Non-Horror Movies

26 May 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

scary moments non horror movies

Many film fans have come to realize that just because a film is classified as a horror film doesn’t mean that the movie will actually be scary. These days, you’re more likely to watch a horror film and laugh or feel incredibly safe as opposed to screaming or feeling uncontrollably vulnerable. Even some classic horror movies have lost their touch.

Yet, what makes film interesting is that other genres of movies find a way to incorporate moments of genuine horror into their films, many times better than any full-fledged horror film can. The most terrifying movie moments can arrive out of nowhere, in the midst of where they shouldn’t belong, catching you when you’re vulnerable.

The 20 non-horror movie moments below display how a movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a horror film to plant a feeling of absolute dread and despair in audiences.


20. Se7en


The Moment: Mills and Somerset discover the corpse of the sloth victim, a desperately emaciated cadaver chained to a filthy bed. Except he isn’t quite dead yet, is he?

Why So Scary: The old “dead body that’s not actually dead” trick is an old one, but in this example, the body’s hideous appearance adds another dimension. He looks like a zombie, so no wonder he comes back from the dead!


19. The Dark Knight


The Moment: Gotham’s TV news broadcasts a home video from The Joker, in which he taunts and teases a Batman impersonator. When he instructs the poor guy to, “LOOK AT ME”, you know he isn’t kidding around.

Why So Scary: Famously, this scene was the first time Michael Caine had witnessed Heath Ledger’s performance as Joker. The look of discomfort on his face throughout, is entirely genuine.


18. The Machinist


The Moment: Trevor takes little Nicholas on a ghost train named Route 666. However, the scares inside are of a more adult nature than one might expect, with hanged corpses, severed limbs and grieving women all present and correct.

Why So Scary: As the ride gets progressively more horrible, the audience becomes dimly aware that something more sinister is at play here. Unravelling just what that might be is one of the film’s principle pleasures.


17. No Country For Old Men


The Moment: Chigurh menaces the owner of a lonely gas station, demanding that he call the toss of his coin, gently mocking him throughout the exchange as the man’s nerves begin to get the better of him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sneers, cruelly.

Why So Scary: Javier Bardem is at his most intimidating here, towering over the wilting storeowner and creating a palpable sense of dread without making any explicit threats.

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  • Matt Zimmermann

    Umm, the Joker scene you are referring to with Michael Caine is the scene where he emerges from the elevator at Bruce’s Penthouse.

  • Mmmmderp

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not a kids cartoon. It’s a dark comedy. It’s mostly for teens and adults.

    • Tim Green

      yea but when your 8 years old it’s still appealing. I never thought of that movie as “dark” when i was a kid.. but I could see it why it might be considered a little dark..

  • david

    jim and the giant peach…

  • SteveGorac

    What about the truck scene in the Pee Wee Herman movie?!?!

    • Tim Green

      haha i thought i just read my own comment… totally agree. should have been like number 4.

  • Emelie

    I watched ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ when I was like 7-10 and I still remember the part when Judge Doom dipped that cartoon shoe in a barrel of acid. That poor shoe!! T____T

  • D Williams

    How about the Lawnmower Man ‘access denied’ scene

  • Sean Pak

    Good list, per usual. Other scenes which have always scared me:

    - Several scenes in The Secret of NIMH, such as the owl in the tree, and the lab flashback.

    - The drunken hallucinations in Dumbo.

  • Tim Green

    #1 is well deserved.. I remember watching that as a little kid going “what the ffffuck”! I don’t get why pee wee herman truck lady scene didn’t make top 10, let alone the list..