It’s not a set rule that a
horror movie has to have a scary opening scene. Some classics, like Psycho or Alien go through half the movie before they get frightening, but a lot of times, the scariest movies like to kick off with a bang! Sometimes it’s a sign of things to come, and sometimes it’s a high note that the rest of the movie can’t live up to - either way, horror movie fans love a good scary opener! Most recently, A Quiet Place has proved to be an instant horror classic with a fantastically tense opening scene, so we're going back and counting down our favorites, and here they are: The 10 Best Horror Opening Scenes!
What do you think is the scariest opening scene ever filmed? Tell us about it in the comments and then watch our video at the top of the article to see where it landed on the list!
Slide 1/10 – 10. The Conjuring Starting off our list at No. 10 is The Conjuring. This classic opening scene frightens on multiple levels. Nevermind the fact that the movie opens up on a creepy doll eye, the audience soon realizes that they are being told a story about Annabelle, a doll that is seemingly possessed by a demon, setting the stage for the kind of paranormal events the real life Warrens would regularly encounter.
Slide 2/10 – 9. Ghost Ship The movie itself -- not that good. But that’s partially because of how brilliant the opening scene was. Pink, cursive credits with classical music amidst a romantic ball on a cruise ship doesn’t exactly set the tone for a horror movie, until a cable snaps out of nowhere and slices everyone in half in save for one little girl who witnesses the sea of bodies fall apart. This scene is so shocking, the rest of the movie didn’t stand a chance.
This 1977 Italian horror masterpiece influenced a whole subgenre of horror, and Suspiria’s trend-setting visual flair is obvious from the get-go. Tying the tension to vivid colors and an deeply disturbing score, the movie managed to turn horrific death scenes into a macabre work of art.
Slide 4/10 – 7. A Nightmare on Elm St. Coming in at No. 7 is A Nightmare on Elm St. Horror master Wes Craven managed to construct an incredibly simple, but effective opening. Never showing his face, the audience sees Freddy Krueger putting together his trademark razor sharp gloves, followed by the shrill of the main title.
Slide 5/10 – 6. Dawn of the Dead George Romero’s original opening scenes from any of his numerous zombie classics could easily have been contenders on this list, but Zack Snyder’s visceral remake of Dawn of the Dead upped the ante and this opening scene showcased how the movie was going to kick the zombie flick into hyper drive. After eight seasons of The Walking Dead madness, it seems like zombies never went anywhere, but oh contraire, this movie, along with the Resident Evil series and 28 Days Later, helped bring zombies back to the forefront of horror.
Slide 6/10 – 5. Stephen King's IT No. 5 is Stephen King’s IT. The TV movie had already become a classic in its own right by filming the scene where the tragic Georgie is doomed to meet Pennywise. But in the remake, the movie turns the scene on its head, making it gloomier and far more gruesome when Pennywise transforms.
Slide 7/10 – 4. It Follows In the fourth spot is It Follows. The opening scene of It Follows is something of step-by-step “how to” when it comes to creating on-screen dread. The girl is panicked, something is after her, but what is it? More importantly, what could do that to her? In a lone, brief shot, we see the aftermath of what happens to her, and the imagination of the audience is in the driver's seat. This is how you scare an audience in under 3 minutes.
Slide 8/10 – 3. Halloween In the third spot is Halloween. While Black Christmas was the first horror movie to utilize the first person vantage point, John Carpenter’s masterpiece did it to greater effect, with much more finesse and style. What the audience sees is brutal enough on its own, but even more so by the time the twist comes, when it’s revealed that the killer is just the seemingly innocent little boy who would go on to become known as Michael Myers.
No. 2 belongs to Scream. By the time Scream came out, Wes Craven was already a household name in the horror genre, so it’s really to his credit that he came along and completely reinvented the genre, and it all starts from the opening scene. People forget now, but before the movie came out, it was highly assumed that Drew Barrymore was going to be the main star. In a shocking reveal, that turned out to not be the case, a twist that hadn’t been used so well since Hitchcock made Psycho. But the best, scariest opening scene to any movie has to go to Jaws. The less-is-more approach to filmmaking that Steven Spielberg so brilliantly used here has been copied time and time again, and it still holds up today. Famously, the less-is-more aspect of the movie, relying more on clever camera angles and John Williams' dread inducing score, was the result of a malfunctioning stunt shark, but it worked out better than anyone could have hoped. An audience will always be frightened by what they can’t see, and nothing captured that spirit better than Jaws in 1975.