10 Scariest Scenes in Non-Horror Movies

Going into a horror movie is quite an experience. Even the least faint-hearted of audiences must brace themselves for the fear to come. What’s harder to prepare for is a horrifying scene that’s unexpectedly present in a non-horror movie.

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Some of these scenes have gone down in film history as traumatizing moments in childhood classics, such as the boat scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factorywhile others mix fear and tension perfectly, like a certain “funny” scene in it Goodfellas. What they all have in common is that nobody saw them coming.


The first ritual scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A prequel to the classic adventure film Hunter of the lost treasure, Steven Spielberg‘s Temple of Death follows the adventures of Indiana Jones as he tries to help the residents of a small village in India whose children have been kidnapped.

The film was darker than its predecessor in every way, and this was particularly evident in the horrifying scene that first introduces viewers to the cult behind the village kidnappings. The scene where the villain rips a man’s heart was so gruesome that the PG-13 rating started thanks to this film.

Judge Doom’s Revelation from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

One of the most visually striking and narratively creative films Disney has ever produced, Who tricked Roger Rabbit? is a noir-like adventure comedy about a toon-hating detective who must defend a popular animated bunny after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

The film’s villain, played brilliantly by the great comedians Christopher Lloyd, is incredibly intimidating. Yet no moment in the film is as terrifying as his final battle as he is flattened by a steamroller and then melted in acid. That might sound too cruel for a family movie – and it probably is – but audiences still love this phenomenal film.

“Funny How” scene from “Goodfellas” (1990)

One of the most perfect gangster movies of all time Martin Scorsese‘s Goodfellas chronicles the rise and fall of the real-life character Heinrich Huegel (played by Ray Liotta), from his early days in the mafia to the epic conclusion of his criminal career.

The film is dynamic, compelling and fun; but one thing you wouldn’t expect is scary. And yet, when Hill jokes with his friend Tommy DeVito and Tommy seems offended, the tension quickly turns to horror. The story portrayed DeVito as such a sadistic and unpredictable character that first-time viewers might think the film was turning into a slasher.

Pee-wee hitchhiking with big margin from ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

A parody of the classic Italian film bicycle thievesthe first Pee-wee Herman film, follows the title character on a nationwide search for his bike, which was mysteriously stolen.

During his journey, Pee-wee returns to hitchhiking. One of the people who picks him up is Large Marge, the eerie and menacing ghost of a truck driver. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was the directorial debut of Tim Burtonand while it’s no horror film, there’s certainly evidence of its signature spooky style, particularly in this deeply disturbing scene that has given nightmares to countless children over the years.

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Cruise on the Chocolate River from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This highly relatable adaptation of a classic children’s book is a delightful musical adventure that follows a poor child who, along with four other children, wins a visit to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

One of the things that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is so famous for having one of the most terrifying scenes in a children’s film. That moment comes as Wonka guides visitors through a tunnel of terror in his Chocolate River, a place of flashing colors and disturbing imagery that can be incredibly spooky, even for adults.

The Unveiling of the Secrets of the Ark from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Hunter of the lost treasurethe first Indiana Jones adventure, follows the famous archeology professor who is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant and faces the entire Nazi regime in the process.

Temple of Death maybe the scariest Indy movie ever; but when it comes to single scenes, there’s nothing more terrifying than the climax of robber, where the villains open the ark and are wiped out by their mystical power. This scene almost earned the film an R rating, what more needs to be said?

The duel between Chigurh and Moss from “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

One of the most gripping and admirable films by the Coen brothers, No country for old men is a neo-western thriller about the chaos that ensues after a $2 million hunter stumbles from a failed drug deal.

Throughout the film, antagonist Anton Chigurh (one of the best 21st century movie villains) chases the protagonist until they finally meet at a motel. The entire shootout sequence, masterfully crafted by the Coens, is equal parts suspenseful and frightening, with Chigurh’s terrifying yet nearly invisible presence hovering over viewers from start to finish.

The opening interrogation from “Inglourious Basterds” (2008)

Quentin Tarantino‘s critically acclaimed war drama Inglourious Basterds parallels the story of a group of soldiers plotting to assassinate Nazi leaders with the vengeful schemes of a Jewish theater owner.

Hans Landa, the villain, is such a disturbing and terrifying character that Tarantino almost gave up on the film simply because he couldn’t find the right actor until he found the sensational one Christopher Walz. The film’s opening scene introduces Landa to the audience for the first time, and it’s a really nerve-wracking and terrifying sequence in every way.

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War Crimes from “Come and See” (1985)

A stunning yet harrowing anti-war film, the Soviet masterpiece Come and see follows a young boy who joins the Soviet resistance against Nazi forces during World War II.

The entirety of Come and see is a dozen times more terrifying than most horror films in history, but perhaps no scene is as difficult to watch as the sequence that reenacts one of the many war crimes committed by Nazis during the war. The amount of inhumanity portrayed in the scene, as well as the harrowing way it is displayed, makes for a truly unforgettable nightmare of a scene.

The Pale Man Scene from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Nobody would blame you for thinking that Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro‘s dark masterpiece about a girl fascinated by fairy tales who withdraws into a mysterious fantasy world is actually a horror film.

Hands down the scariest scene in the whole movie comes in the bleaching section. The design of the monster is frightening, Doug JonesThe performance of is incredibly eerie, and the sense of urgency and tension that Del Toro infuses into the scene makes it perhaps the scariest scene in a non-horror film ever made.

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Sarah Ridley

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