Horror movies can make you jump out of your seat, and that's a big part of why people love seeing them... to see if they'll actually get scared. But you wanna know what's really scary? Going into a movie without the expectation of being scared and then having something catch you completely off guard. Sure, it can happen when watching horror films, but what about non-horror movies? One minute you're watching a light-hearted comedy, laughing your head off, and the next you find yourself huddled in a corner, trembling uncontrollably... and you're naked for some inexplicable reason too.
It's those unexpected moments which sometimes occur in seemingly innocent movies that often leave the longest lasting impressions on a person. Time heals all wounds? Perhaps, but there's no denying that moments like these can leave some nasty scars in the ol' noggin. With that in mind, I thought it was high time I start compiling a list of the Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies. These are displayed in no particular order... I'm just listing them out. Also, keep in mind this is a work in progress that I plan on adding to over time, so if there's a terrifying movie moment you don't see in this article, please share it in the comments section down below or email me and I may add it in a future update. Alright, on with the scares!
SCARY MOMENT #1:
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
I've written about Large Marge in the past, but there's no way I wasn't going to include her on this list too, because she's absolutely the first thing that comes to mind when I think of scary non-horror movie moments. Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a crazy movie for sure, and there are a few scary scenes in it such as his nightmares involving evil clowns performing surgery on his bike, but for the most part, it's just an innocent comedy about a crazy man-child. At least, that's what we all assumed until we came face to face with Large Marge.
After being left alone in middle of the night, Pee-wee Herman sees a large truck heading down the road towards him and decides to hitch a ride. He hops in the truck, and right after he introduces himself, its driver (Large Marge) begins telling her terrifying tale without blinking once. The sense of dread and unease as she speaks is absolutely palpable:
"On this very night...
10 years ago...
along the same stretch of road...
in a dense fog...
just like this...
I saw the worst accident I ever seen...
There was this sound...
Like a garbage truck!
Dropped off the empire state building!
And when they finally pulled the driver's body...
From the Twisted... Burning... Wreck...
It looked like...
"HOOO HOOO HOOO HOOO HOOO HAAAAH!!!"
When Large Marge turns to Pee-wee and her face turns into a claymation nightmare, it scared the bejesus out of audiences everywhere. And then her face returns to normal (if you can call it that) and she acts like nothing even happened as she says, "Yes sir, that was the worst accident I ever seen." Alice Nunn may not have had a huge film career, but damn if she didn't do a perfect job in one of the most nightmarish movie memories from my childhood.
If you know anybody who hasn't seen Pee-wee's Big Adventure, treat yourself to seeing it with them so you can watch their reaction to this scene. I promise it'll be worth it. Oh, and be sure 'n tell 'em Large Marge sent ya!
SCARY MOMENT #2:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
With the super sultry Jessica Rabbit appearing in the trailers, I think parents knew that Who Framed Roger Rabbit wouldn't be appropriate for some young kids, but I doubt any of them realized just how twisted the movie would get by the end. Forget about Jessica... the real show stealer of this flick was Christopher Lloyd's portrayal of Judge Doom.
Throughout the film, he comes off as a cold-hearted, evil menace of a man who would like nothing more than to see the entire world rid of silly cartoons. Eddie Valiant is a private detective who has been trying to figure out exactly who framed Roger Rabbit, and it turns out it was Judge Doom all along. When Eddie confronts him, Doom gets run over by a steamroller, yet he survives. And why does he survive?
Because he's actually a cartoon! DUN DUN DUN!!! When he turns to reveal that face with the bulging red cartoon eyes, there's no denying that it creeped people the hell out. Plus, he inflated himself using helium, so now his voice is super high, and it only adds on to the impending terror as he walks towards Eddie and tells him that he killed his brother. Did I mention he also turns one of his hands into a deadly, spinning buzzsaw? Yeah, he does that too.
There's just something about the combination of the very real Christopher Lloyd with the very fake cartoon eyes that make him such a terrifying visual.
An honorable horrific mention also goes to "The Dip" scene in this movie in which Judge Doom kills a cartoon. Few things are as fucked up as seeing an adorable, anthropomorphic cartoon shoe being murdered right before your very own eyes. Fate appears to have a sense of irony, however, because Doom is destroyed by his own creation in the end. Don't feel bad for him either; he didn't just kill Eddie's brother... he killed a shoe too.
SCARY MOMENT #3:
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
For action-adventure flicks, there are often thrills along the way, but it's rare when something this horrifying occurs in them. Indiana Jones and Marion have been captured by the Nazis who now have possession of the Ark of the Covenant. Belloq performs a ceremony as they open the Ark, and at first, they're disappointed to only find that it is filled with sand. However, after a little time passes, the Ark begins to glow and that's when things start going wrong.
Light and fog begin pouring out of the Ark, and all of the spotlights in the area suddenly short out. Spirts then begin flying around all of the soldiers, and before they know what hits 'em, almost all of the Nazis are blasted by some kind of mystical laser beams which decimate their forces in an instant. So much for the Ark making their forces invincible, eh?
Naturally, one of the higher ranking Nazis has the most horrifyingly memorable death of them all. A fella by the name of Toht:
As one of the apparitions approaches Toht, it suddenly turns from a peaceful looking spirit into some kind of skeletal demon. Toht screams in horror and his face literally begins to melt. Bet you didn't know that faces could melt... well they can. His skin drips right off as his eyes roll back white, as we can only watch in simultaneous horror and amazement. Indiana Jones didn't even get to see this moment... he kept his eyes shut through the whole thing.
Well, it's probably a good thing he kept his eyes shut, otherwise we wouldn't have had a chance to enjoy those fun sequels like Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. Then again, if he opened his eyes, the fourth film whose name shall not be mentioned would never have been made. So, I guess it's really a toss up. Either way, there's simply no denying that Toht's grisly demise is one of the most memorable non-horror film scary moments of all time and a fitting end for a Nazi.
SCARY MOMENT #4:
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
If you're claustrophobic, there are few movie moments that can get under your skin quite like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It's bad enough that Luke, Leia, and Han are trapped in a dirty waste disposal room... but they soon realize that they're not alone when some kind of creature (known as a "Dianoga" for all you hardcore Star Wars fans) bumps up against Luke's leg.
After a little time passes, we see a hair-covered eyeball at the end of a tentacle-like extension emerge from the water to take a peek at our three heroes. Once it gets a good look, it plops back underwater and we all know something bad is about to happen...
Sure enough, the Dianoga wraps itself around Luke's leg and drags him down into the filthy water. He vanishes underwater for a solid 10 seconds, only to resurface with the creature now wrapped around his neck. He struggles to fight it off, and the other try to help him, but the Dianoga proves too powerful and drags him back under. This time he's gone for a good 25 seconds and it seems like he might be done for. We then hear some metal clanking and the creature suddenly lets Luke go.
As if the encounter with the Dianoga wasn't bad enough, the walls start closing in on them and it appears they're going to be crushed by the trash compactor. So that's why it let Luke go... it knew it has to swim away or it would be crushed in the trash room. Fortunately for them, R2-D2 saves them in just the nick of time by disabling the trash compactor.
Even though I've seen it a hundred times, and I know that they're gonna be totally fine, this scene still manages to make me feel nervous to this day. It's just one nerve-wrecking moment to the next and it doesn't let up until the last possible second. Being crushed in a filthy room full of trash and then devoured by a one-eyed alien monster? That's definitely not how I would wanna go out.
SCARY MOMENT #5:
All Dogs Go To Heaven
I've always been a big fan of cartoons, and for the most part, they're not really scary. Even the animated sequences in the Creepshow films were more amusing than frightening. Well, there is one animated film I was reminded of when I surveyed some of I-Mockery's readers about scary non-horror film moments: All Dogs Go To Heaven.
In the movie, Charlie the dog gets killed and goes to heaven, but returns to Earth after stealing his "life watch" (a pocket watch that glows). This creates a big problem for him: if it ever stops ticking, he will die, and since he's no longer welcome in heaven, Charlie can assume he'll be headed straight to hell.
Well, one night he has has a bad dream about going to hell after his life watch stops ticking. It all starts with Charlie getting sucked into some giant tornado vortex. Struggle though he may, he's no match for green lightning and cyclone storms. He's just a dog after all. Unfortunately for Charlie, these are just the tepid beginnings of his troubles...
After being sucked down into the vortex, Charlie finds himself floating on a boat that just emerged from a subterranean lava lake. Not just any boat mind you, a boat built with bones. And who is there to greet him upon his arrival? A huge skeleton vulture monster.
Charlie immediately runs to the other end of the boat and is then attacked by some fire-breathing hell hound. What's worse, when the fire it breathes hits the boat, it turns into a bunch of fiery demon dogs. Charlie tries to run, but he's now trapped between two groups of the demonic critters as they start biting and clawing at his face. With them tearing away at his flesh, Charlie runs towards the opposite side of the boat as it slowly sinks down into the lava while the demon dogs continue to bite his face. Then, just as he's about to die, he wakes up and realizes it was all just a horrible nightmare.
I'm glad it was just a dream, because truly horrible fates such as this should only be reserved for the creators of atrocities like Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
SCARY MOMENT #6:
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
It didn't take a genius to realize that there was something off with Willy Wonka. The guy was a recluse who made orange-faced Oompa Loompas produce his bizarre candy creations. While his candies may be delicious, and his factory dazzling, there was one part of his tour that quickly made the lucky golden ticket winners feel not-so-lucky: the boat ride.
As Wonka and his passengers enter the tunnel, a sense of dread starts to overcome all of them. Their dread is quickly justified as Wonka keeps shouting "Faster! Faster! Faster!" as his Oompa Loompas mindlessly spin the paddle wheels of the boat to ridiculous speeds. While this is happening, weird sounds are playing and a rainbow of ever changing colors decorate the tunnel, and all his passengers can do is panic.
As if it weren't already some kind of nightmarish acid trip, they start seeing random images appear on the tunnel walls: a millipede crawls on some guy's face... a giant eyeball stares at them... a chicken gets its head cut off... a huge spider looks like it wants to eat them... pure madness!
Oh and did I mention how while all this is taking place, Wonka slowly starts to sing a song which ends with him yelling at the top of his lungs?
"There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going.
There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing.
Is it raining? Is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a-blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing,
So the danger must be growing.
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing!!!"
Nightmare! Willy Wonka's Gobstoppers are far from everlasting. I've eaten boxes of them and they never last long. What is everlasting, is the terrifying memory of riding on a boat with one hell of a crazed candy confectioner.
SCARY MOMENT #7:
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
I've..................... got to...... tell you......... about..... a scary moment........... from........................ The Wrath of Khan!
All Shatner-esque jokes aside, there is one scene from the second Star Trek film that always sent shivers up my spine. Far more terrifying than Ricardo Montalban's chest, were his beloved pets.
Ceti Alpha V's only remaining indigenous life form are some nasty, grub-like creatures with large pincers. Khan has been keeping some of them as pets ever since he was exiled to the planet and they killed off twenty of his people. As it turns out, their offspring hitch rides on their back until they're fully matured. However, he removes two of them and drops them into the helmets of his new captives: Chekov and Terrell. He then explains to them that the young enter through the ear and then wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex, causing madness, and eventually death.
Khan then puts their helmets back on as the younglings drop onto their faces and slowly start crawling towards their ears, leaving a trail of slime in their wake no less. We then see a quick shot of one of those little horrifying earwig grub worms stick out its tongue as if to say, "Oh look, somebody's ear! Yummy!" Then we're treated to a super close-up shot of one of them crawling into an ear while Chekov and Terrell scream helplessly.
I once had a beetle crawl in my ear when I was sleeping, and I woke up screaming as it completely freaked me out. So yeah, I guess this one hits even closer to home, and I don't want to imagine something that awful crawling into my brain.
SCARY MOMENT #8:
Labyrinth is a bizarre movie, filled with more creative creatures than just about any other film I can think of, which is why it's easily my favorite Jim Henson work. Now, there are certainly a few scenes in this movie that could qualify for this article (not to mention every appearance of David Bowie's infamous crotch bulge), but the one scene that always got to me the most was about some hands. Some grey, dusty, decrepit old hands... and lots of them.
As Sarah makes her way towards Jareth the Goblin King, she encounters many of his tricks and traps, but it's when she falls down this one particular corridor that she's at her most helpless point in the entire film. Fitting that she should end up in the within the grasps of some "Helping Hands". She plummets through a tight, dark corridor filled with all these old hands sticking out of the walls, and it looks like a crowdsurfing nightmare. Eventually, the hands grab onto her and hold her in place and then it gets even stranger...
The hands then get into groups to form faces which talk to her. Some hands form mouths, some form eyes and noses, and others form facial hair such as moustaches and eyebrows. After introducing themselves as the Helping Hands, they ask her a simple question, "Up or down?" Sarah thinks it over and when she chooses down, they start repeating it over and over as if it was a really bad decision. "She chose dowwwwwwn???" "She chose dooowwwwnn!!!" And even when she tries to take it back, one hand-face with protruding bug-eye fingers says, "Too late now!"
Every time I see this scene, I'm reminded of how unsettling the idea of having all those ghoulish old hands holding onto me and talking to me was. As scary as the scene is, I also think it's the most genius creation in a movie already filled with many genius creations. If you get a chance, be sure to watch the behind the scene footage of the Helping Hands to see how Henson and company brought the idea to life. Forget CGI... this is how you make a memorable movie:
SCARY MOMENT #9:
While it's officially classified as an drama / adventure, there's more eeriness in Deliverance than a lot of genuine horror films. After all, up until Deliverance, most men didn't worry about being raped unless they went to prison. That all changed with the release of this movie. If Jaws made people afraid to go in the water, Deliverance made people afraid to go in the woods.
So the scene in question starts out as two friends, Ed and Bobby (John Voight and Ned Beatty), are lost on the Cahulawassee River in the wilderness of Georgia when they get separated from their friends. They decide to pull their canoe ashore in what ends up being the biggest mistake of their lives. Once ashore, they're approached by a pair of hillbillies who don't take too kindly to city boys like them...
After intimidating them, they're held at gunpoint as Ed is tied to a tree. The toothless hillbilly looks on and laughs while he friend chases after Bobby and starts humiliating him. After making Bobby strip down to his underwear, he starts groping him and riding around on his back as if he were an animal. Then when he's had enough fun, he bends the cowering Bobby over a log and then brutally rapes him while Ed can only look on in horror.
As he's raping Bobby, the hillbilly tells him to "squeal like a pig!" and they both start shouting "eeeeeeee!!!" as the rape continues.
With no music, and nobody coming to save the day until it's far too late, this is an incredibly unsettling scene. Sure, people make a lot of jokes about the "squeal like a pig" line to this day, but that doesn't change the fact that this moment is about as disturbing and uncomfortable as cinema can get.
Of course, all of this could have been avoided if the group had just packed up and gone back to the city. I dunno about you, but I would've headed back home immediately after encountering Lonnie the banjo boy. When a bad omen is sitting right in front of you, grinning while playing a banjo, you simply acknowledge it by running the hell away.
SCARY MOMENT #10:
Let's be honest... Superman III is not a great movie. It was Superman vs. Supercomputer in a far more campy, Superman film co-starring Richard Pryor. Look, I love Richard Pryor. However, you can't go from General Zod and his Kryptonian criminal pals nearly destroying Metropolis as they fight Superman, to Richard Pryor's slapstick sight gags.
All that said, there is one moment in the movie that disturbed me the first time I saw it, and it still holds up to this day. I never hear people talk about it, but I know I can't be alone in this.
Towards the end of the film, Gus (Pryor) has his supercomputer up and running, but it's gone haywire and is now totally self-aware and attacking anybody it believes to be a threat. As they try to run away from the supercomputer, Vera is dragged is captured and then this happens:
Vera gets "robotized" by the supercomputer. Her transformation into a cyborg was absolutely horrifying, and we get an extremely close-up shot of the entire sequence. Her screams of agony coupled with the stop-motion application of the various computer components caught me completely off guard... and probably scarred me for life. She's just so utterly helpless against the supercomputer and the pain she's experiencing as it attaches each piece to her face seems to be immeasurable. And oh god, those eyes! Those silver robo-eyes! This scene is a pure nightmare, and if you've seen the movie before, I'm sure you'd agree.
Alright, you've seen some of my picks for the scariest non-horror movie moments, now it's your turn to share some of your picks. What were some non-horror films that had scenes that mortified you in some memorable fashion?
Have any questions or comments about this piece?
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