Jump scares have become an integral part of horror films, effectively resetting tension and revealing antagonists.
Jump scares have strayed beyond the horror genre and are now widely used in non-horror movies to shift the story forward or wrap up the third act.
Unexpected jump scare moments in films like Jurassic Park, Mean Girls, and The Dark Knight shock audiences and make scenes more memorable.
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The jump scare is a classic trope used in almost all horror films, but this trope has gone beyond the horror genre to crop up in other films, where it comes as even more of a surprise. Jump scares have become an integral part of horror films. Following a buildup of tension, a sudden jolt of action can reset the tone, relieve the tension, and serve as a way to reveal antagonists. Due to how effective they are for soliciting scares, and often a physical jump, as is characteristic of the name, they continue to be used frequently.
Because of their effectiveness in resetting tension and causing a reaction, jump scares have strayed beyond the genre that originally gave them life and are now widely used in non-horror movies. Whether the movie is a comedy with unexpected dark twists or a mystery that slowly unfolds before the final reveal, a jump scare can be an effective tool. Many non-horror movies appear to have mastered the art of the jump scare and use them to great effect.
10 “We’re Back In Business” (Jurassic Park)
A Raptor Appears Behind Ellie Sattler
Jurassic Park may tell the story of a group of people being hunted by reanimated dinosaurs, but Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece is certainly not a horror film. Despite this, there are parts of the film that lean more heavily into the thrilling and scary side of things. When Ellie Sattler is at the control panel, restoring power to the island, all appears to be going to plan. However, just when she manages to flip the last switch and confidently exclaims “We’re back in business,” a raptor suddenly breaks through the wall behind her, shocking her and the audience.
9 Regina Gets Hit By A Bus (Mean Girls)
In The Middle Of An Argument With Cady
Mean Girls is a hit comedy movie from 2004, but towards the end of the movie, the main characters get into a huge fight, and it seems like the movie will struggle to resolve on a positive or light-hearted note. But somehow, when Regina (Rachel McAdams) gets hit by a bus mid-sentence, it allows the story to shift forward and away from the drama to focus on wrapping up the third act. This scene is completely unexpected for first-time viewers, but easily one of the most memorable.
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8 Chad Shot In The Closet
Burn After Reading
Burn After Reading is a dark comedy from the Coen brothers that has several twists throughout. The most notable, however, comes in the middle of the film when Chad (Brad Pitt), the primary protagonist, is forced to hide in a closet after searching a house for government documents. In many similar films, where the hero hides in the closet, tension builds while the person outside comes close to finding them, but never does. However, Burn After Reading moves in a different direction, and when he is discovered, he is immediately shot in the head.
7 The Dead Body Hitting The Window (The Dark Knight)
The Joker Sends A Message
When Harvey Dent has a private meeting with the mayor of Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the mayor states how important his role as district attorney is for cleaning up the city. In the middle of their conversation, the mayor stands to go to the window and a body in a batsuit with Joker makeup suddenly slams into the window in front of his face. This superhero film is dark and gritty, but this scene still comes as a shocking jump scare early on.
6 Sloth Is Alive (Se7en)
Despite Looking Like A Rotting Corpse
Se7en is a dark thriller that sometimes borders on the horror genre. As the detectives, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, investigate the crime scene of the Sloth victim, they uncover a body that is clearly rotting and emaciated. The apartment is full of car air fresheners, and the corpse lying on the bed is discolored, scarred, and rotting. However, as the assisting officers take a closer look at the victim, they suddenly wake up and begin to move, revealing that the torture has all been happening to this still-living victim.
5 Vision Gets Impaled (Avengers: Infinity War)
During A Heartfelt Moment With Wanda
Avengers: Infinity War was a milestone for superhero movies, setting up the first half of the two-movie finale for the Infinity Saga. The film featured several dark moments with heroes failing to stop Thanos’ plans to halve all life in the universe. Where things start to go wrong, however, is when the Black Order sets out to eliminate Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Vision and Wanda fled to Scotland to try and live a normal life together, but when they see the news, they decide to return home, just before Vision is stabbed through the chest by one of Thanos’ minions.
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4 Baby On The Ceiling (Trainspotting)
Hallucinations From The Heroin Withdrawal
When Renton (Ewan McGregor) is struggling to overcome his heroin addiction in Trainspotting, he encounters many unfortunate events. While trapped in his room, going cold turkey, he experiences terrible hallucinations of his friend’s deceased baby crawling on the roof toward him. The scene is slow and horrifying, but it becomes even more terrifying when the child’s head turns completely around and they drop onto Renton below.
3 Large Marge (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
Hitchhiking With A Terrifying Truck Driver
Tim Burton’s adventure comedy movie, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was bound to include some Burtonesque unsettling scenes. When Pee-wee’s precious bike is stolen, he needs to travel across the country to recover it at any cost. Along the way, he hitchhikes, and one of the people he gets a ride from is a ghost who tells him the horrible story of a tragic accident. In an otherwise highly comical film, this scene is a sudden change in tone and the jump scare with Marge’s ghostly face is shocking.
2 Bilbo’s Transformation (The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring)
The Ring Turned Bilbo Into An Iconic Meme
The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy series of movies directed by Peter Jackson and based on the novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. While the story includes horrible creatures and monsters, the first movie largely sees a noble team of brave people from different races joining together to destroy a dangerous and powerful ring. But one scene set in the most idyllic and serene part of the movie, among the Elves, has a sudden jump-scare moment. Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo, has a sudden change of heart and appearance under the dark influence of the ring.
1 The Terrifying Stranger (Mulholland Drive)
Completely Expected, But Still Utterly Terrifying
David Lynch is known for his highly stylized, artistic, and surrealist films, with one of the best examples being the 2001 film Mulholland Drive. The movie follows a central narrative but shifts to focus on other characters, like the man in the diner scene. While there is plenty of discussion about the scene, and what it represents for the film as a whole, the scene itself delivers a strong emotional response, amplified by the fact that the character describes it all happening before it happens.