9 Classic Terrifying Moments in Non-Horror Movies

We all love a good scare, especially if we absolutely don’t expect one. That’s why when we’re watching a comedy or a drama or a romance or really anything other than horror and something jump on the screen, we jump even higher making it all the more memorable. While there are lots of great ones, here’s 9 that get us every time.

Bilbo Sees The Ring

Terrifying Moments
Bilbo (Ian Holms, Fellowship of the Rings, 2001)

FILM: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

The first in the the epic three-part film adaptation of the sweeping JRR Tolkien classic books series, this tale of good-versus-evil featured a Hobbit with eight companions who set out to destroy the One Ring and stop Dark Lord Sauron for consuming Middle Earth.

In Rivendell, while the Fellowship prepares for their quest, Bilbo (Ian Holm) offers his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), now the ring bearer, the tools he used in his earlier adventures. These include the elvish armor and a sword called ‘sting’. At one point, the ring, which is hanging on a lanyard around Frodo’s neck becomes visible and the older Hobbit is immediately stricken by the power it once had and wants to hold it one last time. You know what comes next. That kind, old Hobbit morphs into a hellbeast with mangles fangs and ghastly eyes before shirking back to his normal (?) self. We soiled ourselves.


The Sloth Victim Wakes

Terrifying Moments
Se7en, 1995 © New Line Cinema

FILM: Se7en (1995)

Two cops, one an old-school methodical investigator (Morgan Freeman) and the other a young, talented hotshot (Brad Pitt), partner up to stop a serial killer who is using the seven deadly sins as his grand work of macabre art in torturing and murdering victims, luring the detectives into his horrifying snare.

The third victim the detectives encounter is a body tied to a bed, emaciated and corpse-like, the room draped in dozens upon dozens of air freshers to quell the rotting smell. An accompanying SWAT team call the room clear and all assume the man is dead. The word SLOTH is written on a wall. But then, the ‘corpse’ suddenly stirs and reveals it is still alive, flailing about the bed like a shredded fish out of water. It shocks the cops so much, they nearly fall into panic, but it has just as much effect on us, the single biggest jump scare in the movie and the one everyone talked about after the film was over. Well, after the box of course.


Spinning Baby Head

Terrifying Moments
Trainspotting, 1996 © PolyGram Pictures

FILM: Trainspotting (1996)

Set in the economically ruined fringes of Edinburgh, the film follows a group of heroin addicts trying to sort out their lives amid rampant drug abuse, violence and neglect, with a focus on Mart Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young man in a terrible spiral.

After Mark has committed a number of troubling acts, he ends up at his parents house, highly-addicted and escaped from a drug rehab facility. Locked him in his room by his mother and father, forcing to go through withdrawal, Mark suffers greatly, including hysterical hallucinations. The worse is the sudden terrifying vision of a friend’s dead baby, whom he was part reason for its death, crawling upon the ceiling menacingly toward him. When it gets over his bed, it creepily and ever-so-slowly turns its head completely around, staring at Mark with those empty, creepy eyes. Want to stay off drugs? Watch this.


Spiders in the Ceiling

Terrifying Moments
Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1983 © Buena Vista Distribution

FILM: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Based on the book of the same title by Ray Bradbury, the story sees a curious carnival arrive in a small town and with it comes wicked events that affect the whole town, especially the lives of two young boys who are the last hope in fighting back evil.

Okay sure, this might be meant to have a few frights, but it’s mostly a children’s mystery movie and adventure tale as the boys face off against a menace stealing people’s souls. At one point though, they are alone in bedroom at night when the house begins to tremble and the ceiling starts to crack. As the boys watch in wonder, suddenly, the walls are clogged with massive spiders as they spill out from the bending rafters above. It’s a sudden and shocking moment that kept most kids sleeping with the lights on. Okay, mostly us.


E.T. in the Corn

Terrifying Moments
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982 © Universal Pictures

FILM: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

When a small alien is left behind on a mission to Earth, he takes refuge in the home of a young boy, who finds a connection with the gentle creature as they work together to help return the extra-terrestrial home.

One of the greatest children’s movies of all time is, for nearly all of its runtime, a gentle, character-driven story about a boy and a new friend, but when these two meet for the first time, it’s a moment of absolute shriek-inducing fear. Elliott (Henry Thomas) thinks something strange is in the backyard. Darkened by the late evening, armed with only a flashlight, he ventures into the small patch of dried cornstalks behind the house only to shine his light on something totally unexpected. The first good look at the adorable alien is a straight-up sleep-with-the-lights-on terror moment that us refusing to ever go in a cornfield ever again.


Dr. Okun Hits The Glass

Terrifying Moments
Independence Day, 1996 © 20th Century Fox

FILM: Independence Day (1996)

When a group of massive alien spaceships descend around the world, it’s unsure what the visitor’s intentions are until its discovered they are synchronizing for an attack, leading to a global conflict that could spell the end of humanity.

At one point, the President of the United States (Bill Pullman) heads to the top secret military base, Area 51 to meet with Dr. Orkun (Brent Spiner), a quirky scientist whose been studying the aliens for years after one crashed on the planets decades before. But when an actual alien is brought to the laboratory, it attacks the good doctor, Hidden in steam, we don’t know what happens, waiting to find out, our eyes trained on the glass when suddenly, Okun is smashes up against the pane, his face pressed to the window and his body now controlled by the creature. Our popcorn was all over the floor.


The Librarian is Angry

Terrifying Moments
Ghostbusters, 1984 © Columbia Pictures

FILM: Ghostbusters (1984)

When a team of parapsychologists begin a service to eliminate a growing presence of paranormal activity, little do they know how big a threat it actually is in this genre-defining comedy that is considered one of the greatest of all time.

It begins with the unexpected, especially since the film presents itself as a comedy with a cast of well-established funny people, including Bill Murray and Dan Akyroyd. The gang get called to the New York Public Library, where a report of an unusual presence leads the men downstairs. There they meet a kindly old woman ghost who gives them a quick “shhhh” before the boys make a plan to “get her.” Not willing to be got, the ghost transforms into a terrifying skeletal creature with ferocious teeth and a gorgeous mane of white hair. It completely flipped all our expectations of what this movie. Why does this work every. Single. Damn. Time?


The Diner Hobo

Terrifying Moments
Mulholland Drive, 2001 © Universal Pictures

FILM: Mulholland Drive (2001)

A jarring tale of a young woman who travels to Hollywood to be a star only to meet an amnesiac woman who seems somehow connected with her leads her on a disturbing journey of discovery through the curious world of movie making, a metaphorical classic that still incites theories.

Seemingly not directly connected to the film’s main character Betty (Naomi Watts), we meet a man named Dan (Patrick Fischler) who is talking with his friend about a recurring nightmare of a man living behind the Winkie’s Diner, and the two go out back to investigate and as they approach a concrete wall, a soiled, ghastly figure suddenly appears, sending Dan into a spasm and the audience into a chorus of high-pitched elementary school girl screams. But not us of course.


Melting Man

Terrifying Moments
Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1982 © Paramount Pictures

FILM: Opening the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1983)

An adventurer/archeologist is called upon by the government to hunt down a Biblical artifact that is being sought after down by the Nazis. If found, it could change the course of the war and history.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) tracks down the powerful Ark of the Covenant but he and his former on-and-off again lover Marion (Karen Allen) are captured by Hitler’s men and tied to a stake while they open the retrieved Ark. Of course, that’s a spectacularly bad idea and quite suddenly, the fun adventure film becomes a creep show of epic proportions as Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey), a Gestapo interrogator peers into the box and pays for it by having his face literally melt off his bones in graphic pain-staking details that we all get to watch. Classic leap from your seat moment that is weirdly fun to stare longingly at over and over.


What are some sudden jump scares in non-horror films you didn’t expect?

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