Big spoilers and extreme graphic content.
(Am I missing a scene? Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments!)
As every horror buff knows, there are several types of terror.
This post began as one of my usual Top 7 lists called “Top 7 Scariest Scenes,” but grew too big to fit into one list. As I compiled my favorite horror films over a two week period, the original list split into four: jump scenes, disturbing scenes, suspense scenes, and psychological horror scenes.
Since I haven’t seen every horror movie in the history of cinema, these lists are not comprehensive! However, I’m proud of the mix of infamous and provocative scenes, and I hope they spur discussion!
Before we begin, I need to apologize for a lack of classic horror films. As much as I love Psycho, The Haunting, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the sad truth is, modern movies often trump the classics when it comes to sheer terror.
Finally, these clips will serve as a fun reminder for those who have already seen the films, but will NOT instill the same level of terror as watching the full movies in the dark. If you haven’t seen a film on this list, I highly recommend watching it the way it was meant to be seen.
For the sake of my readers who don’t want to see 28 horrific images from movies and television, I created separate pages for the lists.
For more Top 7 lists, click here.
1. Magnolia: Magnolia Diaries
As you’ll see in several other docs on this list, I like it when the camera sits back and watches the director in their element. I’m not interested in talking heads (despite what the above clip suggests)… I want to see the director, actors, and crew in action. No doc does this better than “Magnolia Diaries,” an in-depth look at the making of one of my favorite movies. There are several stand-out moments, but my favorites show Paul Thomas Anderson as a fragile, creative being. Here is the Filmmaking King of our generation! And he’s terrified of the critical reception of his film. It’s a great reminder that geniuses are human too.
-Jason Robards plays a dying man less than a year before his actual death. His interviews are bitter-sweet.
-Fiona Apple (Anderson’s girlfriend at the time) dances around the editing bay (also their home?) pretending to be Magnolia. Anderson yells at her, telling her she’s too long and nobody will care about the last shot of the movie. “Why can’t you be like Boogie Nights?”
-One word: frogs.
2. Apocalypse Now: Hearts of Darkness
Some argue that “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse” is better than Apocalypse Now. I disagree, but the feature-length film is still a phenomenal look into the mind of a brilliant and troubled director.
-Fat Marlon Brando nearly ruins the film, then saves it.
-Sophia Coppola (future director of The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation) makes an appearance as a little girl.
-Coppola’s wife is the woman behind the camera. In addition to fantastic footage, she manages to snag some audio of her husband’s near-suicidal meltdown.
-A 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne talk about how much fun Vietnam probably was.
-Dennis Hopper acts like Dennis Hopper.
3. Fanny and Alexander: The Making of Fanny and Alexander
This documentary, combined with the other special features in the Criterion Collection set of this film, serve as a perfectly acceptable substitute for film school. The doc may be boring to some, but I could watch Ingmar Bergman stage actors all day.
-Bergman and DP Sven Nykvist get into a tiff over the framing of a shot.
-Bergman commands a quiet, focused set like no one else.
4. The Dark Crystal: The World of The Dark Crystal
This film was a tremendous source of creative inspiration when I was a kid. I first saw the documentary in college, and it blew my mind. Whether you’re a kid or an adult—if you have any interest in the filmmaking process or the depths of imagination—buy this DVD. We’ll never see this type of filmmaking again.
-A rocky desert landscape is meticulously painted on glass; a breathtaking look at the lost art of matte painting.
-Brian Froud sketches his infamous creatures while telling about his inspiration.
-Heartwarming interviews with Frank Oz and the late Jim Henson.
5. The Shining: The Making of The Shining
Yes, Stanley Kubrick is the ultimate cliché as the favorite director of the world’s film students. Oh well. He’s a god. In this short making-of doc, we get to watch him abuse Shelly Duval until she gets the scene right. He’s not crabby… he’s just a perfectionist.
-Danny Lloyd tells the interviewer that he initially thought he’d get paid “two dollars or so” for working on the film… now thinks it’s somewhere around five or six hundred.
-Kubrick frames his infamous low-angle shot of crazy-person face.
6. Zodiac: Zodiac Deciphered
Great movie, better doc. Watch as David Fincher rivals Kubrick for the “most takes for trivial shot” award. The real joy of this feature-length doc is the insight we get into the Zodiac killer, as well as the mindset of a man who knows the story inside and out.
-Jake Gyllenhaal picks up a book and sets it down at least thirty times. This shouldn’t be funny, but it is.
7. Children of Men: Creating the Baby
This isn’t technically a making-of doc. At less than three minutes, the clip below is the full video. However, I like to show this scene to people who ask about CGI. Not only does it show the boundless magic of cinema, but it shows the amount of work that goes into a single special effects shot.
Did I forget any quintessential behind-the-scenes documentaries?
Major Spoilers! Proceed only if you have seen every good drama on television, or never plan to.
If you’ve seen these shows, you won’t need titles or captions. I will, however, include the episode titles for these iconic scenes.
I only rank what I’ve seen. And as always, if you agree or disagree, let me know!
1. “Everyone’s Waiting”
3. “Long Term Parking”
4. “Cleaning Up”
5. “Pretty Much Dead Already”
6. “That’s Got His Own”
7. “Family Meeting”
1. Deadwood – Doc Cochran
Thanks to his special position in the city of Deadwood, Doc Cochran witnesses the slow death of the only decent man in town. At this point in the show, we know very little about Doc’s past, only that he served as a doctor in the Civil War and that he lost his license for experimenting on unearthed cadavers. As the minister is experiencing his final seizures, Doc demands answers from God.
“If was a more adaptable primate or one of your regular petitioners, I suspect I wouldn’t feel this pain. I guess I—I’d have a wad of cartilage covering the patella, protecting me from this—this discomfort. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, Just Please, God. Take that Minister. What conceivable Godly use is his protracted suffering to you? What conceivable Godly use? What conceivable Godly use was the screaming of all those men? Did you, did you need to hear their death agonies to know your—your omnipotence? Mama! Mother find my arm! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy they—they shot my leg off it hurts so bad. It hurts so bad. Admitting my understanding’s imperfection, trusting that you have a purpose, praying that you consider it served, I beg you to relent. Thy Will Be Done, Amen.”
2. Six Feet Under – David Fisher
“Please God, help me. Take this pain away, please. Fill this loneliness with your love. Help me God. Please help me.”
3. Forrest Gump – Jenny Curran
“Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far. Far far away from here.”
4. Magnolia – Jim Kurring
“Oh, Lord, why is this happening to me? God, please help me figure this out. I’m lost out here! I don’t understand why it’s happening. God, please, God! Whatever it is I did, I’m going to fix it. I’m going to do the right thing. Please, help me find the gun!”
5. It’s a Wonderful Life – George Bailey
“Dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me… show me the way… show me the way.”
6. The Sopranos – Carmela Soprano
“Gentle and merciful Lord Jesus, I want to speak to you now with an open heart, with an honest heart. Tonight I ask you to take my sins and the sins of my family into your merciful heart. We have chosen this life in full awareness of the consequences of our sins. I know that Christopher’s life is in your hands… and his fate is your will. I ask you humbly to spare him. And if it is your will to spare him, I ask that you deliver him from blindness and grant him vision. And through this vision may he see your love… and gain the strength to carry on in service to your mercy. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
7. Amadeus – Antonio Salieri
“Lord, make me a great composer! Let me celebrate your glory through music – and be celebrated myself! Make me famous through the world, dear God! Make me immortal! After I die let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote! In return I vow I will give you my chastity – my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life. And I will help my fellow man all I can. Amen and amen!”