The 18 Scariest Horror Movie Opening Scenes, Ranked
Some horror movies go with a "slow-build" approach, and some go for the jugular right off the bat. The unexpected horror hit "It Follows" definitely falls into the latter category, as you can see in the opening scene embedded below (narrated by director David Robert Mitchell).
Are you sufficiently unnerved? Good! That's what we're going for here. As the indie horror hit prepares to expand into over 1,600 theaters this weekend, below I've ranked 18 of the most iconic/frightening horror openings of all time from least to most scary. The result is a completely objective list that will remain set in stone for all eternity.
Are you ready? Can you handle it? Countdown starts now...
18. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
"They're coming to get you, Barbara." While I have no doubt that contemporary audiences covered their eyes in fright during the opening sequence of Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead," to modern eyes the scene is more spooky than scary. Still, Romero's atmosphere-building remains peerless.
17. "Scream" (1996)
I've gotta be honest: the "Scream" movies never really scared me. The Ghostface mask is too silly to be truly frightening, and the self-aware tone keeps us from ever being frightened on a deeper level. The opening scene of the original film is justly iconic and certainly as scary as the franchise ever got, but in the scheme of horror movie opening sequences it's actually pretty mild.
16. "Day of the Dead" (1985)
This one earns a spot on the list thanks to a single, perfectly-timed jump scare that's bound to catch you off guard no matter how many times you've seen it. The brief scene isn't sustained enough to be ranked higher, but...well, just watch. I won't spoil it for you.
15. "Carrie" (1976)
One of the most terrifying bullying scenarios ever put to film opens Brian De Palma's 1976 Stephen King adaptation, which sees the mousy title character played by Sissy Spacek pelted with tampons in the locker room shower. De Palma's camera lingers on Carrie's horror as she becomes frantic at the sight of her first (belated) period, her pale naked body exposed and vulnerable. The scene is viscerally powerful, and there's a jarring quality to the way De Palma abruptly transitions from steamy slo-mo to shrieky abject terror. It's deeply unsettling and yet still only made it to No. 15. Tough competition! (Note: the abbreviated edit below doesn't do the scene justice.)
14. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974)
The "this is a true story" conceit has been run into the ground by now, but those body-ripping sound effects over a black screen? Chilling and horrifying. The slow pan out from the shriveled-up corpses in the cemetery? Bizarre and unsettling. Still, compared to the rest of the film it's a walk in the park. "Texas Chainsaw" may be the scariest horror film of all time, but its opening sequence is only the fourteenth scariest by my calculations.
13. "Martyrs" (2008)
Hot tip: if you're easily disturbed, stay far, far away from Pascal Laugier's 2008 horror film, which gets under the skin (no pun intended) in a way few films can. What happens in the rest of the movie is almost unspeakable, but the opening scene -- a single tracking shot that follows a terrified, bloodied young girl as she runs from an unknown horror -- is a marvel of mood-setting that wrings out scares through the power of suggestion. What could possibly have left the girl in such a state? We don't find out until much later, but the suggestive power of that opening image is enough to leave us in a state of dread.