Top 10 Scariest Nightmares in Movies

Credits: Rebecca Brayton Matthew Wende

Written by Telly Vlachakis

Nightmare scenes from movies that are extremely terrifying. WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Scariest nightmare scenes in movies. But which scene had us most afraid of going to sleep? Was it an appearance from Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, or the Nun from The Conjuring 2? Watch to find out!

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Transcript
You may want to sleep with the lights on after this one. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Scariest Nightmares in Movies.

For this list, we’ll be focusing on the nightmarish visions film characters have experienced in their sleep over the years. We will not be including daydreams, fever dreams, or hallucinations such as the dead baby scene from “Trainspotting,” however, because those are lists for another day. Btw, a SPOILER ALERT might just be in order.

#10: The Woman Appears
“The Woman in Black” (1989)

Most horror audiences might know “The Woman in Black” thanks to Daniel Radcliffe’s 2012 film. But this 1989 British TV version, produced for the ITV Network, petrified a whole generation of late-‘80s viewers. Following the same story originally found in Susan Hill’s novel, young solicitor Arthur Kidd is tormented by a spirit who haunts the grounds of a widow’s estate he’s taking care of, following her recent death. Arthur goes to bed still trying to make sense of a toy soldier he finds. Mysteriously, he’s woken up by childlike ghostly whispers, quickly followed by the shocking floating body of the woman in black. The lady’s nails-on-a-chalkboard scream makes this nightmare that much more terrifying.

#9: Zelda
“Pet Sematary” (1989)

Stephen King knows how to invoke everyone’s deepest darkest secrets or regrets, turning them into monsters that keep us up at night. This film brings these fears effectively to life, as we follow the terrifying ordeal of the Creed family and the local pet cemetery that can bring dead things back to life… kinda. While patriarch Louis is dealing with the consequences of reviving the dead, wife and mother Rachel has her own nightmares haunting her. Living with the trauma of watching her older sister slowly wither away from spinal meningitis, Rachel’s nightmares of the sickly Zelda are a gruesome reminder that the greatest terror does not need to stem from an unknown monster.

#8: Karras’ Dream
“The Exorcist” (1973)

Another famous character whose regrets manifest as nightmarish dreams, Father Karras has to deal with his inner demons before beginning his epic battle with the all-too-real demon, Pazuzu, which now seems to inhabit the body of a young Regan MacNeil. Guilt-ridden over his belief that he didn’t do enough to help his elderly mother, who was sent to a nursing home against his better judgment, Karras is completely distraught to hear about her death. He bitterly and drunkenly falls asleep, only to be tormented by visions of her calling for help. Short but sweet, this dream’s bizarre editing, jarring pacing and subliminal demon flashes make us want to hide under the bed. Not Regan’s bed, though.

#7: Beyond the Grave
“Carrie” (1976)

Many nightmares stem from traumatic events whose distressing effect we can’t shake. Poor Sue seems to be the only survivor of Carrie White’s prom night massacre, where she used her telekinetic powers to get the ultimate revenge. The ethereal and dream-like atmosphere in the final scene, as Sue brings flowers to Carrie’s final resting place, should be a sign to audiences that something’s up. Notice the red car going backwards? But surely the carnage is now over? Nope! We’re jolted back to reality just as Sue is jolted out of her sleep in one of the most shocking horror endings. Seeing Carrie’s arm rise out of her grave is sure to give Sue, and us, years of recurring nightmares.

#6: Birthing
“The Fly” (1986)

Watching your brilliant scientist boyfriend experiment on himself and slowly transform into a monstrous fly-creature is a fantastic example of a living nightmare. It’s also a fantastic example of a David Cronenberg movie. Veronica comes to the terrifying realization that she’s pregnant, and that her mutated baby-daddy is only getting worse. Honestly, it’s too terrifying to imagine what kind of horror that would elicit. This movie pulls no punches, though, and gives us a visceral depiction of Veronica’s literal worst nightmare: giving birth to a fly. And you can tell that Cronenberg is the master and orchestrator of wild nightmares come to life, ‘cause that’s him pulling the creature out of Veronica.

#5: Twins
“Dead Ringers” (1988)

Separation can be a terrifying thing – yup, this movie’s tagline couldn’t be more accurate. This is a movie about creepy twin gynaecologists, once again directed by David Cronenberg, so we’ll try to answer the question we know you’re dying to ask: yes, “Dead Ringers” goes there, and beyond. The twins certainly have a weird symbiotic, dependent relationship, and are not above secretly sharing women. When Beverly falls for their client Claire, the result goes beyond a bizarre incestuous love triangle. In an extremely painful, disturbing and way-too-symbolic dream, Beverly finds himself in bed with Claire and his brother, but is in fact literally attached at the hip to Elliott. Let’s just say he, and Claire’s teeth, make clear what needs to happen to this relationship.

#4: Chestburster
“Aliens” (1986)

In 1986, James Cameron had insanely huge shoes to fill while making the sequel to one of the most successful, beloved, and terrifying science-fiction films ever made. Although he took a more action-heavy approach, “Aliens” was not lacking in thrills, and became a huge success itself. One of its most surprising scenes not only pays tribute to the original’s most famous sequence, but also taps into the audience’s fear of the evil that lurks inside. Heroine Ripley wakes up in a hospital bed, only to find an unfriendly and unwelcome visitor trying to exit her body. The audience shares Ripley’s relief that this was just a dream, since we cannot fathom this badass icon succumbing to this terrible fate.

#3: Lots of Bugs
“Drag Me to Hell” (2009)

It’s sometimes hard to know you’re in a nightmare, or in a scary scene for that matter. Like, when everything seems peaceful and you’re lying in bed with your loved one. In this scene, however, the creepy music and a pestering fly let us know that things are not okay, as we witness Christine swallowing the bug in her sleep. Just when we think that this will wake her up, director Sam Raimi decides to up the cringe-factor, and we watch in agony as the evil gypsy woman attacks Christine, only to baptize her with a swarm of bugs that fall right into her open mouth. If you’ve got a fear of insects, you may want to fast-forward through this one.

#2: The Nun
“The Conjuring 2” (2016)

Ed and Lorraine Warren are two of the most famous real-life ghost hunters and demonologists in the world. In the sequel to “The Conjuring,” we find them tackling even more terrifying demonic forces. Lorraine, played once again by Vera Farmiga, was always known to have visions of things to come, and seeing her husband being killed in one these visions during a séance understandably puts her on edge…especially since the death is always accompanied but a monstrous demonic nun. In one such dream, as she sleeps on her couch, she – and all of us – receives quite a pants-soiling scare, as the gruesome nun jumps out of a painting and makes her plans very clear: she wants Ed Warren.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- Out of Time

“Wild Strawberries” (1957)

- Nazi Attack

“An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

- Bloody Rags

“Hellraiser” (1987)

#1: Classroom Nightmare
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Topping our list is none other than the granddaddy of them all, the king of nightmares: Freddy Krueger. Placing him at #1 was a no-brainer; the hard part was narrowing down Freddy’s ultimate nightmare from two decades-worth of terrifying sequences. Freddy is the personification of the nightmare, and the dream master knows exactly what to conjure up to make you sweat. The best example has to be Nancy’s torturous dream when she falls asleep in English class. Freddy uses her recently deceased friend’s corpse to lure her outside and deeper into her dream, chasing her into his industrial lair. It is nevertheless an iconic turning point in Nancy’s struggle, as she realizes it’s only a dream that she can eventually control.

Do you agree with our list? What other movie nightmare
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