Top 10 Scariest Movie Endings
The scariest movie endings really end the movie off the right way.
These movie finales certainly know how to send a chill down your spine. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the "Top 10 Scariest Movie Endings."
For this list, we’re looking at the most terror-inducing endings in cinema that we could find, with entries that vary in terms of method but remain consistent in their impact. We’re not excluding non-horror films, although horror films are naturally predisposed towards scary endings. And, as this list is just one giant spoiler, a SPOILER ALERT is definitely in order.
Hooks and vengeful violence: certainly an unsettling concept, and one that’s not helped by this movie’s bleak finale. At the end of Candyman, which by the way is based on a Clive Barker story, grad student Helen has sacrificed herself for the sake of a child and has left her husband Trevor in the land of the living—where he’s shacked up with one of his students, we might add. While at the home of his new lover, Trevor calls out Helen’s name out of sheer grief… and who should appear but the spirit of Helen herself, angry and ready to kill. It’s a brutal and unrelentingly violent way to end a film, but then this is a film about hook-wielding spirits.
He wouldn’t hurt a fly, would he? Or is it she? Whatever the case, this simple but effective final scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 psychological horror has a way of putting people on edge. In the film’s final moments, some police officers go to check on their detainee Norman Bates. The audience finally gets a look into Bates’ mind, as we listen to his mother Norma discussing her innocence, the camera slowly zooming in on Norman’s creepily satisfied face. His psyche totally splintered, Norman Bates is somehow more terrifying all wrapped up in his own mind than when he was free to kill at will.
A horror movie rule to remember: Demonic possession may not end just because you think it has. Insidious sets itself up for a triumphant ending, with the Lambert family seemingly free from the demon’s haunting that has plagued them. However, paranormal investigator Elise becomes suspicious of Josh Lambert, and when she takes his photo he flies into a violent rage. The scene’s tension builds as Josh’s wife comes up to investigate, ending with a shocking reveal of the photo and one final jump scare courtesy of Josh. That poor family.
All of the endings on our list are terrifying, but this one is also bizarre as hell. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as two characters: history professor Adam Bell and stage actor Anthony Claire. As the film comes to a close, Bell is talking with his new lover Helen, only to come across a startling sight. Being face-to-face with an enormous tarantula is horrifying in and itself, but that’s not the kicker here. It’s Bell’s low-key reaction that is even more frightening; rather than being openly scared, he instead appears resigned to the situation. To say it’s all open to interpretation would be the understatement of the year.
Talk about a last-minute screw up. In Drag Me to Hell, persevering bank loan officer Christine has seemingly freed herself of a curse that would condemn her to hell. Relieved, she now can prepare for a bright future. Just one small issue: her boyfriend Clay shows up carrying a button which Christine intended to use to break free of said curse. As the audience clues in to Christine’s hopelessness, she ends up backing onto an open train track… where the film’s title plays finally bears fruit.
Keep calm and don’t get grabbed. A perfect example of that advice not being followed appears in “[REC],” a Spanish horror film about a reporter’s survival and investigation of a viral outbreak. Ángela and cameraman Pablo eventually find themselves stuck in a penthouse with a demon-possessed girl, whom they try to evade. Unfortunately, this plan quickly falls apart as the two are brutally attacked. The film ends with Ángela’s last glimmer of hope being stamped out, just as she’s about to reach her camera. So close.
Found footage movies just don’t end well for people. Take The Blair Witch Project for example, a fictional documentary about three student filmmakers who disappear while investigating the titular witch. As the movie comes to its abrupt end, students Heather and Mike search for their friend in an abandoned house. Little by little there’s a growing sense that the two are being watched—and then Heather finds Mike staring at a wall, before she’s attacked herself. The lack of context, and surplus of ambiguity, makes it all the more terror-inducing.
Pray for Rosemary’s baby, indeed. Towards the climax of this film by director Roman Polanski, the titular Rosemary grows suspicious of both her building’s inhabitants and the disappearance of her newborn. Upon investigating further, she finds her fellow tenants gathered around her child... and then it’s revealed that her baby is the literal spawn of Satan. If that reveal, plus Rosemary’s horrified reaction to the child’s appearance, weren’t enough, the film leaves off on a haunting note complete with unsettling music.
If not for this, things might’ve ended happily. Right after our teenage heroine Nancy Thompson has seemingly vanquished Freddy Krueger, she emerges from her house to find her friends alive and her mother wishing them well. However, things are not as cheery as they seem: Nancy and her chums get carried off in what can only be described as a demon car, as the familiar nursery rhyme rings out. Then Nancy’s mother is grabbed by Freddy, abruptly and without warning, and the audience is left in awe. It’s chilling scenes like this that keep people coming back to the Elm Street movies.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- What’s That in the Basement? The Babadook (2014)
- It Was the Boogeyman Halloween (1978)
- Family Photos Sinister (2012)
- It’s Alive! (Or Is It?) Carrie (1976)
- Still Buried Buried (2010)
And thus, a franchise was born. Friday the 13th moves towards its finale on a victorious note. Sole survivor Alice awakens to see police investigating Crystal Lake. And then suddenly the decomposing corpse of Jason Voorhees pops up to drag Alice to her doom. Fortunately it’s just a dream, as Alice awakens in a hospital to inform police about what has occurred. Unfortunately, when told there was no boy found at the lake, Alice’s three choice words ensured film-goers went home in terror. Now that’s true fear.
Do you agree with our list? What movie ending most scares you? For more terrifying Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.