There’s nothing quite like a good jump scare to get your heart rate up and your blood boiling. But not all jump scares are created equal; some feel cheap and predictable, while others simply rock your socks off and send you into orbit.
Not only will the following titles show you how it’s supposed to be done, you might also learn a thing or two if you’re thinking about hiding behind the shower curtain and scaring the heck out of your family.
Good jump scares are a dime a dozen. But great jump scares will have you checking your backseat for goblins before going on a night drive. Here are some of our favorite movies that elevate the craft.
Pennywise is so much more than a California skate-punk band. We’re talking about the demonic clown from 2017’s It, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
Not only did Bill Skarsgård master the sardonic smile that even adults have trouble looking at, It made us all walk a little faster after seeing a red balloon floating around because in this movie, a red balloon means a jump scare is imminent.
The jump scares in It take the art-form to the next level. Yes, Pennywise is a terrifying entity that probably went to the same clown college as John Wayne Gacy, but he also pulls an intimidating amount of circus tricks.
In other words, a Pennywise jump scare isn’t just scary, it also makes you want to look around for some funnel cake because he’s basically got a mobile carnival hidden somewhere in his clown pants.
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
The only thing more terrifying than having to go to the bank to get an extension on your mortgage like the demon from Drag Me To Hell, is watching Drag Me To Hell by yourself.
This Sam Raimi film really gets under your skin with its jump scares because it often delivers them through Christine Brown’s distorted perception. It’s not that Christine is an unreliable protagonist, but there are dark spirits toying with her, and the scares continually escalate without ever letting up.
A good jump scare can be rooted in reality as we’ve seen time and time again in so many slasher movies. But when evil spirits play into our fear of the unknown, they’re all the more frightening.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place expertly uses the jump scare as a way to raise tension because it toys with the viewer’s sense of anticipation. In this John Krasinski-directed and starring film, we learn rather quickly that the aliens are sensitive to noise, and will go into attack mode at the sound of a pin drop.
What makes A Quiet Place so suspenseful is the fact that the jump scares never quite happen when you expect them to.
Most movies go for the tried-and-true unsettlingly quiet room followed by a jump scare that you could anticipate, but A Quiet Place is out in the open. Just because somebody steps on a twig doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be attacked right away, but you know it’s coming, and this movie will catch you off guard more than once.
If you’re looking for a movie full of classic jump scares, then look no further than Insidious. Though the “possessed kid in a spooky house” sub-genre had been done to death by the time Insidious came out in 2010, it’s safe to say that this film, and its subsequent sequels knew how to get you to gasp.
From ghost children in period attire, to a mysterious red-faced demon hiding just beneath the surface of the mortal plane of existence, Insidious made the jump scare mean something again.
Insidious dives deep into the concept of astral traveling, and it only takes a couple botched séances and a trip to The Further to send you into another plane of existence if you’re easily spooked by a good jump scare.
Sinister is about a true crime writer who moves his family into a house where the previous family was murdered so he could write a new book about their lives.
He then finds a bunch of old reel-to-reel tapes inside a box that happen to be snuff films. You may be wondering what could possibly go wrong in this specific scenario, and we have the answer: everything.
As we learn about Bughuul, the demon living inside the tapes who can manifest physically in the real world, we get some of the best jump scares we’ve ever seen. Just like Drag Me To Hell and Insidious, Sinister has jump that scares toy with our fear of what ancient entities are hiding just behind the thin veneer of the mortal realm.
It’s one thing for somebody to jump out of the closet and yell “boo,” but we’d argue that when they jump out of your TV screen, or a photograph, you won’t know how to handle the situation.