Here Are The Scariest Jump Scares in Horror Movies

April 7, 2022 | Benjamin Carpenter

There are many tropes that are regularly used in horror movies, but one of the most common of them is the jump scare. This is when a character or creature is suddenly revealed on-screen with a musical cue, often causing viewers to scream or jump out of their seats. While many times jump scares are seen as contrived devices to cause fear or as cheap imitations of actual horror, there are times when jump scares are incredibly effective. In this blog post, we go through the 10 best and scariest jump scares in horror movie history. This list will avoid providing spoilers.

If you want to learn more about horror movie tropes, then check out this list of horror movie tropes that you’ve seen one too many times.


10 Best Movie Jump Scares in Horror History

Alison Lohman in Drag Me To Hell

10. Drag Me To Hell

You don’t usually think of fun when you hear the term “horror film,” but Sam Raimi manages to make Drag Me To Hell a campy and fun horror film. The movie follows a loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home only to find herself the recipient of a supernatural curse and as evil forces work to push her to a breaking point, she turns to a seer to save her soul. There are many jump scares in Drag Me To Hell; however, they are easy to see coming, and the fun tone of the film takes away from the horror overall.


Where To Watch Drag Me To Hell

Prime Video
Google Play Movies & TV
Apple TV


Creepy Girl in The Ring

9. The Ring

The Ring may not have as many scary moments but there are a few jump scares that will send shivers down your spine. The movie is about a journalist who must investigate a mysterious videotape that seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it. Gore Verbinski manages to keep a sense of dread palpable throughout the entire movie. The Ring’s dark atmosphere and chilling story succeed in getting under your skin.


Where To Watch The Ring

Paramount Plus
Pluto TV


Rory Culkin, Joaquin Phoenix, and Abigail Breslin in Signs

8. Signs

Night Shyamalan’s Signs is an underrated horror and is seen as more of a sci-fi movie. However, there are many scary and unsettling moments that make Signs as terrifying as any horror movie. Signs is about a widowed former priest living with his children and brother on a Pennsylvania farm who finds mysterious crop circles in his fields, which suggests something more frightening is to come. The film is able to be frightening, emotional, and suspenseful all at the same time.


Where To Watch Signs

Prime Video


Kurt Russell in The Thing

7. The Thing

John Carpenter is a genius when it comes to horror. He created the iconic Halloween franchise and directed the cult classic movie The Thing. The cult favorite is about an isolated research team in Antarctica who are hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. The Thing isn’t as horrifying as the others on this list, but there are a few very effective jump scares that will make you jump out of your seat.


Where To Watch The Thing

Prime Video
Google Play Movies & TV
Apple TV


Pennywise behind balloons in It

6. It Chapter One

Pennywise the Clown has terrified kids since Stephen King’s novel was released in 1986. The novel was adapted into a two-part miniseries starring Tim Curry in 1990. In 2017, there was a film adaptation of the book starring Bill SkarsgĂ„rd titled It Chapter One and it quickly became one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time. The movie is about a group of bullied kids in 1989 who band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of their small Maine town. It has a few great jump scares, as well as many extremely creepy moments.


Where To Watch It Chapter One


Read more: Best Horror Movies That Subvert Your Expectations


5. Sinister

Sinister excels in the creepier moments, with an unsettling atmosphere that builds to diabolical scenes. Ethan Hawke stars in the film in a role that is unlike the typical roles he plays. The movie is about a washed-up true-crime writer who finds a box of super 8 home movies in his new home that suggests the murder that he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose legacy dates back to the 1960s. Sinister may recycle horror movie cliches but it is still an effective horror movie with well-placed jump scares.


Where To Watch Sinister



Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring

4. The Conjuring

James Wan’s The Conjuring may not be the most original horror movie ever made but it proves that the well-known horror cliches can still be effective. The Conjuring is an atmospheric horror that successfully builds up to many intense jump scares. The film is about paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. The Conjuring has been recognized as the scariest film of the previous decade by many horror fans, and it’s easy to understand why.


Where To Watch The Conjuring



Shauna Macdonald and Myanna Buring The Descent

3. The Descent

Many horror movies develop from real-life fears. Nightmare on Elm Street was derived from the fear of nightmares. Paranormal Activity was built on the fear of vulnerability while we are sleeping and The Descent was built on the fear of claustrophobia. The movie is about a caving expedition that goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators. The Descent is a tense underground horror that is unbearably grim.


Where To Watch The Descent

Paramount Plus


Jason Miller in The Exorcist III

2. The Exorcist III

After the disaster that was The Exorcist II, the third Exorcist movie manages to be a worthy successor to the original. The horror flick has plenty of horror from jump scares to a suspenseful and eerie atmosphere. The film is about a police Lieutenant who uncovers more than he bargained for as his investigation of a series of murders, which have all the hallmarks of the deceased Gemini serial killer, leads him to question the patients of a psychiatric ward. The Exorcist III has what many consider to be one of the best jump scares in horror movies along with many other scenes that are terrifying.


Where To Watch The Exorcist III

Prime Video w/ IMDb TV


Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in Insidious

1. Insidious

James Wan makes it on our list again with his 2010 horror film Insidious. Similar to The Conjuring, Insidious makes use of the classic horror genre conventions and uses them effectively to scare viewers. Insidious is about a family who looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further. Insidious is a haunting horror that plays on your expectations to deliver jump scares that you never expect.


Where To Watch Insidious



Jump Scares Are Overused But Always Appreciated When Done Right

Jump scares may be the most effective method of having an audience feel fear. They can make entire audiences jump out of their seat with adrenaline. However, jump scares are heavily criticized as being cheap and ineffective ways of generating fear in modern cinema. Even with jump scares being an overused horror cliche, they are still always appreciated when done correctly. There’s even an entire website created to inform viewers on the quantity and quality of jump scares that each film has called Where’s The Jump.

The horror genre may use jump scares too much nowadays but every once in a while, a jump scare is masterfully placed to make entire audiences scream. So if you’re looking to get your heart racing, check out one of the ten films on this list.


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