Skip To Content

    Here Are The 13 Best Horror Movie Jump Scares Of All Time

    Maybe turn down the volume on your headphones before clicking this one.

    Hi, I'm Allie, and if you take even ONE brief glance over my BuzzFeed profile, you'll quickly understand that I'm a bit of a horror lover.

    United Artists

    Here's some actual footage of me attending my senior prom. What a magical night.

    So, with this in mind, I've decided to take it upon myself to rank what I believe are the top 13 best ~executed~ horror movie jump scares of all time.

    FilmDistrict

    And these are just my opinion, so...there's that.

    DISCLAIMER: For the purpose of this post, I am sticking to the HORROR genre only. There are some awesome jump scares in non-horror films (like Pee Wee's Big Adventure, for example) but I am a mere mortal woman, so I can't do every movie ever.

    Warner Bros.

    Love y'all, though.

    Anyway, buckle up, buttercups — HERE WE GO:

    13. The Conjuring (2013) — The Wardrobe Witch

    Warner Bros. Pictures

    Some Context: Basically, a creepy witch is trying to possess the matriarch of a family so she can murder all of their children. She shows up on top of a wardrobe at one point, and you're like, "Okay, no."

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: The best jump scares are like the best magic tricks: They require a little misdirection. In the scene, the kids believe they hear the noise coming from INSIDE of the wardrobe, so — when she's ON TOP of it — you're like YOU GOT ME THERE, WITCH.

    12. Signs (2002) — The Birthday Party

    Buena Vista Pictures

    Some Context: There are, like, a lot of aliens all of a sudden. They're everywhere. They don't like water OR baseball bats.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: By this point of the movie, we've been waiting A LONG TIME to see the aliens, so Joaquin Phoenix watching a TV alone in a closet inches away from the screen is a perfect, intimate reveal. Also, the line delivery of "Move children, vamonos!" will never NOT be an accidentally hilarious distraction.

    11. Alien (1979) — Bye Bye, Captain Dallas

    20th Century Fox

    Some Context: SPEAKIN' OF ALIENS. Some people seem to forget that the first Alien is just a straight-up horror movie. Anyway, the crew's captain, Dallas, heads through some creepy tunnels to try and find the creature then BOOM, Xenomorph wants a hug outta no where.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: This moment really highlights the horror/haunted house/home invasion nature of the first film. It's terrifying. Also, hot take: That alien has too many teeth in its mouth.

    10. Wait Until Dark (1967) — The Leap

    Warner Bros.

    Some Context: A business man brings a doll back with him after a trip. The doll — unbeknownst to him — is full of drugs. The scary drug men want their drugs back. They terrorize the man's blind wife, who is played by literal icon Audrey Hepburn.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: This one's a classic and, frankly, I think I'm legally obligated to include it on this list. Also, who jumps like that? The heck?!

    9. The Thing (1982) — The Defibrillator

    Universal Pictures

    Some Context: A group of scientists in the arctic find themselves infiltrated by an alien creature that could literally be infesting any one at any time. They believe one of their crew members is having a heart attack and try to save him...JK, he's the alien thing now.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: EWWWWWWWWWWWW. That's all.

    8. Jaws (1975) — The Head

    Universal Pictures

    Some Context: There's a big old shark that's eating people who come into his little ocean habitat. The shark is not the villain. The mayor who refuses to shut down the beach is the villain. That's it, that's the movie.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: Similarly to Alien, people often forget that this was considered a serious horror movie when it came out, so it feels like that genre confusion is used to their advantage when a random, rotted head falls out of a boat to remind you, "Hey, you should probably be scared right about now."

    7. The Descent (2005) — The Come-From-Behind Monster

    Celador Films

    Some Context: A group of frenemies decide to spend the weekend spelunking. Turns out, one of the girls in the group neglected to tell them all that the cave they're in is uncharted territory and — as you quickly find out — there's a good reason for that.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: The claustrophobia you get from the caves mixed with the build-up to this moment is enough to make you never want to leave your house again. Those monsters are dealing with some ITTY-BITTY LIVING SPACE.

    6. It (2017) — Beverly's Bathroom Break

    Warner Bros.

    Some Context: A group of children are being terrorized by a shapeshifting monster who lives off their fear. Beverly — one of these children — has just finished beating her abusive father unconscious in the family bathroom, only to turn around and be IMMEDIATELY faced with the psycho clown prince of "Hey, no thanks," Pennywise.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: Oooh, I know what you're thinking, "Why would you say something so controversial, yet so brave?" with regards to putting a recent film this high on the list. WELL, if you saw this one in theaters, you'll remember how every single person jumped right out of their skin on this part. Also, you know, clowns.

    5. Friday the 13th (1980) — JK, Jason Lives

    Paramount Pictures

    Some Context: It's literally the last moments of the film (so, like, spoiler warning for this 39-year-old movie) and our final girl, Alice, has defeated Mrs. Voorhees. Then, a nasty-looking Jason jumps out of the water for a final scare but, don't worry, it's just a dream...OR IS IT?

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: A classic in the slasher genre and the entire reason I never went to summer camp as a kid, you frankly just aren't anticipating a heart attack in that otherwise peaceful moment. Also it's pre-hockey mask baby Jason so, cute, I guess???

    4. Carrie (1976) — Also JK, Carrie Lives

    United Artists

    Some Context: The titular telekinetic Carrie has just burned down her school, along with all of her classmates. She goes home, where she then has a fiery encore by destroying her house and burying her mom and herself inside. In a dream/nightmare sequence, the lone survivor of the school massacre visits Carrie's house, only to be GRABBED BY A STILL LIVING CARRIE.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: JUST. HEY. NO. THANKS. But then again, it's Stephen King, so what do you expect? Also, fun behind-the-scenes horror nerd fact: This scene was actually filmed in reverse so that, when it was played back forward, it would have a "dream-like" quality.

    3. Psycho (1960) — The Staircase

    Universal Pictures

    Some Context: A lady is murdered and the police person looking for her decides to go into the motel she was last seen in alone for some reason beyond my understanding.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: I'm lazy as all heck and already don't like stairs, so, strike one. As with any great jump scare, you're just not anticipating anything at THAT moment. It's just a shot of a man slowly walking up some stairs, and then THAT MUSIC SLAPS.

    2. Audition (1999) — The "No, Thank You" Sack

    Omega Project

    Some Context: A lonely guy is like, "Let me hold an audition to find my next girlfriend, but lie and say it's for something else" and nothing good comes out of it. This film also contains the nastiest torture scene of all time, don't @ me — Saw and Hostel wish they were this movie.

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: The scene is quiet and static on the lead female character, who is creepily waiting by her phone to be called about the (insert movie's title). You're so busy looking at her like, "oh god, no" that you don't even really notice the sack in the background until IT MOVES LIKE A HUMAN BEING IS INSIDE OF IT.

    1. The Exorcist III (1990) — The Nurse And Her New Friend

    20th Century Fox

    Some Context: Serial murder! Possession! Psychiatric Wards! This one! Is not very good! But stay with me!

    Why It's Nightmare-Inducing: While the movie itself isn't widely-known for being awesome, this jump scare is —in my humble opinion — the best one ever. Also, it's made even BETTER by being in such a random movie. The zoom-in, the music, the fact that you don't SEE what happens and only get the aftermath...it's great. But pro-tip — turn your headphones down if you decide to torture yourself by watching this and thank me later.

    Okay so...which ones did I miss? What's YOUR number one jump scare of all time? Sound off in the comments below and — in the meantime — happy haunting, my spooky friends.