10 Horror Movie Jump Scares That Are Even Terrifying On Rewatch

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Summary

  • Some horror movie jump scares can still evoke terror even when they’re expected, hitting harder on the second or third viewing.
  • Certain horror films have elevated the jump scare into a veritable art form, employing converging elements to build and delay tension for the perfect surprise.
  • Iconic jump scares in horror history, like the ones in Se7en, REC, Ringu, The Conjuring, Psycho, Jaws, The Shining, Audition, and The Thing, continue to be terrifying and memorable even on rewatch.

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Horror movie jump scares that are even more terrifying on rewatch are somewhat rare. This is because jump scares rely on the element of surprise, and this effect can significantly diminish when the viewer knows what’s coming. However, there are moments like this that still evoke terror even when they’re expected. Indeed, after the audience is given a chance to absorb a film for the first time, a jump scare and its succeeding scenes can hit harder when it’s viewed the second time around.

From the biggest jump scares in horror history to the ones hidden in overlooked films, some jump scares are a cut above the rest. While the popular scare tactic has been criticized for being a cheap movie trick meant to elicit easy thrills, some movies have elevated the jump scare into a veritable art form. These notable films employ a number of converging elements to build and delay tension for the perfect surprise, which also typically plays into the movie’s overarching themes, message, and style. This has allowed certain horror movie jump scares to be even more terrifying on the second or third viewing.

10 Sloth Victim – Se7en

The Sloth victim lying in bed in Se7en

Se7en

Release Date
September 22, 1995

Director
David Fincher

Cast
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey

Runtime
127 minutes

The gruesome surprise that awaits detectives Mills and Somerset has made the ending of Se7en infamous, but the movie’s best jump scare happens much earlier. During the detectives’ investigations, they find a dying man strapped to a bed. Embodying the sin of sloth, the killer kept him alive for a year in squalor, emaciated and near death. The victim suddenly coughing and revealing that he’s still alive remains one of the most effective jump scares in all horror – especially after the viewer digests its twisted message of morality. Ultimately, this shocking tableau in Se7en serves as a dark commentary on the consequences of apathy and neglect.

9 Boy In The Attic – Rec

The boy in the attic in Rec

The found footage horror film Rec follows television reporter Angela and her camera operator Pablo as they document a night at a fire station. After accompanying the firefighters during an emergency call, they and the entire fire crew get stuck in an apartment building, where a mysterious infection is turning people into aggressive creatures not unlike zombies. In the movie’s most heart-stopping jump scare, the camera pans around a dark attic – until an infected boy suddenly appears to attack. Tapping into primal fears, this jump scare fully leverages the claustrophobic atmosphere in Rec, and is even more unnerving due to the terrifying implications of the infected boy’s ordeal.

Related: REC: 5 Things It Does Better Than The Blair Witch Project (& Vice Versa)

8 Sadako’s Eye – Ringu

A closeup of Sadako's eye from Ringu

The formative supernatural analog horror film Ringu centers around a VHS tape that mysteriously kills people who’ve seen it after seven days. Ringu‘s best jump scare occurs in the third act, when university professor Ryuji meets Sadako. As Ryuji’s TV turns on by itself and Sadako crawls out of the screen, Ryuji backs away. With Sadako standing over Ryuji, the camera then cuts to the infamous closeup of Sadako’s eye. From Sadako’s dark backstory to the movie’s groundbreaking practical effects, everything comes together in Ringu to make this simple shot a blood-curdling and iconic horror jump scare.

7 Bathsheba Reveals Herself – The Conjuring

Bathsheba atop the wardrobe in The Conjuring

The Conjuring

Release Date
July 19, 2013

Director
James Wan

Cast
Joey King, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston

Runtime
112 minutes

The original film the launched The Conjuring movies has quite a few jump scares, but none are even scarier on a rewatch than Bathsheba appearing in the bedroom. After Andrea is awoken by a sleepwalking Cindy, Andrea puts her sister back to bed. Andrea then investigates the wardrobe and finds nothing – yet Cindy is startled by something else. With a disturbing sound, the camera then pans up and zooms in to reveal the spirit of Bathsheba, who jumps on Andrea from atop the wardrobe. It may be tame compared to the rest of The Conjuring, but this jump scare fully encapsulates the terror that Bathsheba commands.

6 Shower Scene – Psycho

Janet Leigh screaming in Psycho in the infamous shower scene

Psycho

Release Date
September 8, 1960

Director
Alfred Hitchcock

Cast
Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, Anthony Perkins, John Gavin, Vera Miles

Runtime
109 minutes

Psycho begins with real estate secretary Marion Crane stealing money, and then crossing state lines to evade the authorities. Marion then checks into the Bates Motel, where she has a warm but tense dinner with proprietor Norman Bates. As Marion showers in her room, an unknown figure sneaks into the bathroom and stabs her to death. From the buildup and eerie score, to Marion’s scream and her blood going down the drain, the famous Psycho shower scene is considered to be a pivotal moment in horror history. Moreover, Psycho unexpectedly killed off its main character – making this jump scare considerably more surprising.

Related: Does Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho Still Hold Up Today?

5 Ben Gardner’s Body – Jaws

Ben Gardner's bloated corpse in Jaws

Jaws

Release Date
June 20, 1975

Director
Steven Spielberg

Cast
Roy Scheider, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Runtime
124 minutes

Jaws delivers a memorable jump scare with the reveal of Ben Gardner’s body. As Hooper investigates a stranded boat at night, tension builds with ominous music. Suddenly, Gardner’s bloated head appears through a hole at the bottom of the boat, shocking both Hooper and the audience. The jump scare is heightened by the eerie underwater setting and Spielberg’s expert timing and use of suspense, creating a visceral shock that has since been cemented in horror movie history. Apart from being visually staggering, the grotesque state of Gardner’s corpse is a brutal reminder of what the Jaws cast is up against – the deadliest natural predator in the ocean.

4 Jack Kills Dick Halloran – The Shining

Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann in The Shining

The Shining

Release Date
June 13, 1980

Director
Stanley Kubrick

Cast
Danny Lloyd, Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers

Runtime
146 minutes

Dick Halloran’s return to The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel is a tense moment that’s capped off by the movie’s best jump scare. Through the psychic ability known as “the shine,” Halloran receives Danny’s telepathic message and rushes back to help the Torrance family. However, his arrival takes a chilling turn when he encounters the malevolent spirit of the hotel. In a shocking twist, Halloran is brutally attacked and killed by an axe-wielding Jack Torrance, who has succumbed to the hotel’s supernatural influence. Jack, Halloran, and Danny’s screams as the axe hits flesh are disturbing enough. It’s even more terrifying to rewatch considering the fact that Jack finds Danny because he screams the loudest.

3 The Bag – Audition

Asami holds a syringe in Audition 1999

Audition

Release Date
March 3, 2000

Director
Takashi Miike

Cast
Miyuki Matsuda, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Ryo Ishibashi

Runtime
115 minutes

The genre-blending cult horror Audition is about the widower Shigeharu, who organizes fake auditions for the part of his new spouse. After the young, beautiful, and soft-spoken Asami attends an audition, the movie’s first minutes unfold as a romantic comedy. However, it’s revealed that Asami does nothing else at home except await Shigeharu’s call, sitting by her phone next to a mysterious sack. When Asami’s phone finally rings, the sack rolls by itself and emits a soft growl, before Asami picks up the phone. With the barest of cinematic cues, Audition succeeds at delivering a truly memorable jump scare – made even more disturbing when the sack’s contents are already known.

Related: 12 Cult Horror Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen (But Absolutely Should If You’re A Horror Fan)

2 Blood Test – The Thing

MacReady tests the blood

The Thing (1982)

Release Date
June 25, 1982

Director
John Carpenter

Cast
T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley

Runtime
109 minutes

John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece The Thing is well-remembered for its blood test scene. As the characters in an Antarctic research station try to identify the alien shape-shifter among them, tension peaks when MacReady devises a test using a heated wire and blood samples. With MacReady’s test subjects tied-up and helpless, the suspense gets thicker with each negative blood test. As MacReady theorized, the alien’s blood leaps away from the heated wire, and its true identity is revealed. From the resulting nightmarish transformation to the brutal action that follows, this jump scare is when the movie’s overarching air of paranoia truly pays off.

Related: “I Have Been Sworn To Secrecy”: The Thing 2 Teased By John Carpenter

1 The Hallway – The Exorcist III

The Exorcist III Legion scene with gemini in a hooded cloak running after the nurse with shears

This scene begins with a long shot of a hospital hallway, showing a nurse interacting with police officers. After the nurse investigates a noise in a nearby room, a small jump scare surprises her when a patient reveals himself. The movie then scales back the tension by showing the nurse and officers interacting again. However, as the nurse comes out of another room, the camera zooms in to reveal a cloaked figure wielding shears approaching her from behind, accompanied by a shrill noise. It’s not a perfect movie, but The Exorcist III’s hallway scene is a masterclass in cinematic tension, and remains one of the most haunting jump scares ever.