best jump scares in films

The most terrifying jump scares in film history, according to actual science

2000 movie buffs were tested, and these are the results


“Is it jumpy?”, asks your mate when you demand they watch a horror film with you. The dreaded question. There is a true art to a good jump scare. If a film shoves them in willy nilly, it feels cheap. If they time it perfectly, they last for a lifetime. Perspectus Global has conducted some research, surveying 2000 film obsessives on the best jump scares in films across cinema history. Honestly, it’s a decent list but some choices are definitely rogue. Here’s a quick brief of 20-11 before we get into the top 10.

20. Lights Out (2016) – The opening scene
19. Sinister (2012) – Baghuul’s face before the credits
18. The Invisible Man (2020) – The white paint moment
17. Hereditary (2018) – Peter seeing his mum on the ceiling
16. The Descent (2005) – Sarah finding the crawlers in the cave
15. A Quiet Place (2018) – The spaceship toy going off
14. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) – The kitchen explosion
13. The Conjuring (2013) – The clapping ghost in the basement
12. The Grudge (2004) – Car window hand slap
11. Se7en (1995) – The body that isn’t quite dead

10. What Lies Beneath (2000)

Specifically, the scene in the bathtub where Michelle Pfeiffer’s character turns into a corpse whilst paralysed. Not a great film, but a great moment.

9. Insidious (2010) 

You know what, I think Insidious is a bit goofy – but I think this is one of the best jump scares in all horror films and I’d have it top three. It just works so perfectly and the composition of the shot is amazing.

8. It (2017)

Specifically, when the kids of Derry are watching the old movie and Pennywise bursts out the screen. I feel like I forget how good It chapter one is because chapter two ruined it so badly.

7. Poltergeist (1982)

best jump scares films

The harrowing clown toy of Robbie’s in Poltergeist comes to life and scarred the whole world’s nightmares for the rest of times. I can’t even look at his face, it’s triggering the memories.

6. Friday the 13th (1980)

best jump scares in films

The greatest slasher ever made isn’t really renowned for its scares, but Drew Barrymore’s iconic opening scene as the ill fated Casey Becker is brutal, spooky, tense and jumpy. The reflection spook… wow.

4. Carrie (1976)

best jump scares in films

Carrie is an absolute classic, but not one known for its deep chill factor of fear. That is, apart from the jump scare right near the end where Carrie’s hand bursts from the grave. The blood! She got me.

3. Alien (1979)

The xenormorph finding Dallas in the shaft is harrowing. This is a five star, no notes film. Just incredible scenes. The rest of the crew screaming “move Dallas, the other way Dallas”… Wow. Perfect way to kick off the top three best jump scares in films.

2. Psycho (1960)

best jump scares in films

An interesting choice for the second best jump scares in all of films in history – obviously a very famous horror scene and an iconic one, but I’m not sure it’s particularly even a jump scare? You see Norman Bates come into the room!

1. Jaws (1975)

Great taste to see what I would honestly agree to be the greatest jump scare ever at number one. What a film. Jaws is a less is more film mostly, but Spielberg perfectly times the head to fall out of poor Ben Gardner’s boat in a truly harrowing jump scare. I am horrified that the nun with the shears from The Exorcist III isn’t here, but as long as Ben Gardner’s head is I’ll allow it.

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