There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who don’t like watching scary movies, and those who adore watching scary movies. Usually, the love for getting the pants scared off someone comes through in different ways, either because of how the scene was done, the music, the acting, or just the moment in general.
Each scene has a certain amount of fear behind it, something audiences look forward to and something the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, understood all too well with some of his best and even worst films. Utilizing his knowledge and twisted imagination, Hitchcock has crafted some of the scariest scenes in cinema.
10 An Opening Death (Rope, 1948)
Sometimes, being scary doesn’t mean dangling a monster in front of audiences or having a ghoul do a jumpscare. Oftentimes, the horror can derive from something simple, from a brief image that shakes the audiences to their very core.
In Rope, a lesser-known Hitchcock film that follows two students who kill a friend to test a thesis (Remember kids, killing friends won’t give anyone extra credit), the opening scene of the friend being strangled is a jarring, unexpected and horrific scene to behold as an audience and viewer alike.
9 Round and Round They Go (Strangers On A Train, 1951)
By today’s standards, action sequences and blockbuster moments are defined by CGI or massive special effects. Yet, sometimes, like with Strangers on a Train, a movie brimming with some great behind the scenes facts, the spectacle can be less exciting and still impactful as a whole.
After a stranger takes an idea to kill someone all too seriously, Guy Haines tries to prove his innocence by tracking down the psychopath to a carnival, where the carousel goes out of control. In a scene that leaves audiences biting their nails with both suspense and fear, this is one for the books.
8 A Tumble Down The Stairs (Psycho, 1960)
Every now and then, there’s a film that’s larger than life, a movie with more than one scary scene that has defined a genre, and is an older horror movie that’s still scary today. Psycho has plenty of scary scenes and this one is far from the last but it is a pretty gruesome affair.
After Marion Crane goes missing, a PI named Aberogast goes searching for her and comes across Bates Motel. While looking in the Bates home, Aberogast is attacked by Ms.Bates, who stabs the PI and sends him tumbling down the steps to his demise.
7 Vertigo Returns (Vertigo, 1958)
By the end of a movie, typically audiences are looking to see the hero overcome their personal challenges and embrace a new status quo, becoming stronger as a character. Yet, sometimes, that’s not always the chase.
By the end of the mind-bending Vertigo, one of Martin Scorses’s favorite movies of all time, Scottie Ferguson overcomes his fear of heights and embraces Judy Barton, his lover. However, when a nun scares Judy over the side, Scottie’s fear seemingly returns, adding to the psychological horror for both the character and the audience.
6 Birds Strike (The Birds, 1963)
Ok, so any movie that was made in the 1960s isn’t going to have the best effects and some of the scares aren’t as effective as they used to be. Yet, that’s not to say that the cheap effects, like seen in The Birds, aren’t going to be scary at the same time.
When birds all over the country start going crazy and attacking people, the residents of a small town find themselves under siege from a massive bird attack. One part horrific, another part goofy, the scene is made all the better by the cheesy yet terrifying effects that help the movie.
5 A Cry In The Night (Rear Window, 1954)
It’s amazing what one single noise can do. From a creak inside of a haunted house to an undead moan in a graveyard, sound effects can go a long way, and there’s nothing more simple than a scream.
As morbid as that sounds, it’s the inciting incident for Jeff, a photographer confined inside throughout the movie Rear Window. One night, Jeff is startled awake by Ms.Thornwald’s, one of his neighbors, bloodcurdling scream as she’s killed by her husband, a sound that rattles the nerves of Jeff and the audience.
4 Cropdusted (North By Northwest, 1959)
Picture this: one is standing in a field in the middle of nowhere, waiting for someone to pull up with information on a top-secret topic. Out of nowhere, a crop duster careens out of the sky and starts chasing the person, intent on killing them.
This is the same dilemma Cary Grant faces in North by Northwest, essentially a film of mistaken identity gone wrong and a great Cold War spy movie. There’s nothing scarier than being chased by a plane armed by a being of flesh and blood whose sole purpose is to run someone down.
3 Meet Ms.Bates (Psycho, 1960)
Part of what makes Psycho one of the greatest thrillers ever made is the mystery behind it. For half the film, audiences believe that Norma Bates is killing women who arrive at the motel.
Towards the end, Lila Crane and Sam Loomis return to the motel to find Aberagost and Marion, with Lila sneaking into the Bates basement. There, she finds Ms.Bates: a mummified skeleton that shocks Lila and the audience. As the dim light flies back and forth in brilliant suspense, Norman Bates appears, dressed as Mother and solving the mystery.
2 Where Is Mr. Thorwald? (Rear Window, 1954)
Master of suspense extends to far more than just how one can handle demented birds or scary scenes. It extends to the idea of crafting a scene that leaves audiences on the edge of their seat.
Having gained proof of Thorwalds grisly act, Jeff is elated… until he’s left alone in the apartment with Mr.Thorwald stalking the halls. Using only sounds of footsteps and Jimmy Stewarts’ horrified face, Hitchcock creates a scene that’s both suspenseful and terrifying, with audiences just waiting for the killer to burst through the door.
1 The Shower Scene (Psycho, 1960)
Was there any doubt that one of cinema’s most iconic and brutal scenes would grace the top of a Hitchcock list? Quite like how Jaws made audiences afraid to go back into the water, the shower scene made anyone afraid to bathe.
Following a long day and deciding to return home, Marion Crane steps into the shower, only to be attacked and killed by “Norma” Bates. Aided by the fantastic, screeching score, the quick cuts, and just Hitchcock’s fantastic directing style, the shower scene leaves anyone trembling with fear.
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