Hate Jump Scares? These 24 Terrifying Horror Films Are For You
I learned the hard way that drinking a steaming cup of coffee while watching modern horror movies is an awful idea. After scalding my hands (and staining my outfit) when the film I was watching flashed a loud, honking truck during an otherwise quiet scene, it dawned on me that I loathe when horror movies use pop-up scares to create fear in the audience. Instead, it's much more satisfying to watch a horror film that slowly fills you with dread, showing a mastery of the genre without resorting to cheap screams. Thus began my quest to discover genuinely terrifying horror movies with little to no jump scares.
Luckily for other jump-scare haters and me, a database called Where's the Jump? has an excellent record of films with these cheap pop-up scares and when they happen in the movie. Since the burned-hands incident, this site has become my go-to; it's helped me come up with this list of horror films worth watching that are very low on the jump-scare scale.
So if you're sick and tired of spilling popcorn over silly moments that catch you by surprise, say no to jump scares and yes to these bone-chilling films instead.
"The Blair Witch Project"
This '90s horror flick is iconic, sparking an entirely new genre of scary movies. Rest easy while watching it (if you dare), because there are no jump scares . . . only pure horror throughout.
Aside from an unexpected revelation at the 54-minute mark, deeply unsettling horror/crime drama "Se7en" doesn't include any surprising scares . . . just pure, unforgettable terror throughout. (Unless you count a young, scarily hot Brad Pitt!)
"Wait Until Dark"
Vintage Audrey Hepburn? Check. Intriguing plot and heart-pounding thrills? Check. Only one jump scare? Checkmate.
The plot twist in "The Village" will thrill you, and the mysterious creatures that plague the community in the movie will spook you in the best way. No major jump scares, so you're safe to watch without fear of pop-outs!
Suspense builds gradually as this film progresses, making viewers question the protagonist's sanity and generally filling the audience with dread . . . but there's not a single jump scare to be found in "Rosemary's Baby."
"The House of the Devil"
Before embarking on the journey of this underrated horror film, prepare to feel nail-biting tension for the next hour and a half of your life. Be aware that there is one extremely effective jump scare around the halfway point of the film, but aside from this single pop-up, you're in the clear.
If you're on the fence about having kids, it's not advisable to watch "The Omen" . . . but if you can't get enough horror, then you're in for a treat! There's only one jump in the classic scary movie, and it's worth spilled popcorn if you forget to watch out for the hour-and-41-minute mark.
A popular sentiment about this Australian indie-horror film is that it's best experienced when you know nothing about it, so do yourself a favor and don't read up on it before watching . . . just know that you're safe from jump scares.
Fans of grotesque horror will love "The Fly," which stars a young Jeff Goldblum and some truly disturbing makeup effects. No jump scares here, but you certainly won't be able to forget this film for a long, looong time.
There is only one major jump scare in "1408" (or two, if you're watching the Blu-ray version), but it's easily one of the best Stephen King film adaptations to date. Think Samuel L. Jackson can't scare you? You're oh so wrong.
"Buried" might not be considered a horror movie by all fans of the genre, but it will certainly scare anybody who struggles with claustrophobia. There are no jump scares to be found, but you'll feel your heart in your throat regardless.
Because it slowly fills you with dread throughout the whole film, "The Babadook" only utilizes one major jump scare (around the 47-minute mark). Easily one of the best horror movies in recent history — maybe of all time — this depressing look at parenting a troubled child will stay with you long after watching.
"The Mothman Prophecies"
"The Mothman Prophecies" is unsettling enough to make it a "watch once" horror film, but there are little to no jump scares over the course of the movie. Around an hour and 10 minutes, be on your guard for an unexpected movement; but other than that, viewers are free and clear of pop-outs.
"Let the Right One In"
"Let the Right One In" is a strangely beautiful combination of horror movie and coming-of-age film, and it doesn't rely on any major jump scares to captivate its audience.
Kathy Bates was so unspeakably scary in "Misery" that she won an Oscar for her performance; do yourself a favor and watch this jump-free horror film ASAP.
Spanish-language horror "The Orphanage" is a highly underrated film, beloved by horror fans the world over for its psychological-terror-inducing plot and beautiful scenery. Don't question it, just watch!
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," but all horror and no jump scares makes for anything but a dull movie! The closest "The Shining" comes to a pop-out scare is a quick cut to a title card, so your popcorn is safe for this one.
There are a couple of minor jumps toward the end of "The Witch," but the immersive, disturbing, Puritan horror film is worth watching (and then watching again).
"The Silence of the Lambs"
This cannibal-themed film is one of the most iconic in the horror genre, but "The Silence of the Lambs" doesn't resort to tons of jump scares to achieve its unsettling vibe. Hello, Clarice, and goodbye, spilled popcorn.
"Hellraiser" relies on the grotesque to get under your skin, not jump scares. If that's your cup of tea, you're in for a (completely disturbing) treat.
The frightening aspect of "The Mist" isn't even the mist itself . . . it's the terrifying behavior of people faced with an unknown threat. Prepare to fill a deeply rooted fear in your heart, but not because of any jump scares.
"Carrie" — the '70s original, not the recent remake — is proof that genuinely terrifying movies don't need jump scares to succeed. While there is a single scare thrown in at the very end of the film (literally seconds from the credits), the duration of the plot will frighten you sufficiently without pop-outs.
The sheer isolation of the Arctic tundra really hits home, and you'll be at the edge of your seat the entire film. There's only one jump scare (involving a defibrillator), so you're safe to eat your popcorn for almost the whole run time of the movie.
"Psycho" is a horror classic, inspiring countless scenes in subsequent film projects and even a popular TV series, "Bates Motel". And to think . . . Alfred Hitchcock did it all without utilizing jump scares!