After learning about the Northampton Clown, a mysterious man (recently unmasked) in a creepy clown costume who makes pop-up appearances around the East Midlands region of England, our worst nightmares were realized — and we know we’re not alone. They say the best way to conquer your fears is to face them head on. ‘Tis the season for scary movies, which makes this the perfect opportunity to tackle your deepest phobias with a little help from horror cinema. We’ve curated a selection of 15 different fright films for 15 common phobias that will either help you or haunt you for the rest of your days.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Clowns: It
The only person to ever upstage Tim Curry is Tim Curry. His role in the TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It as the terrifying clown Pennywise managed to erase all thoughts of his over-the-top performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror. Curry’s take on Pennywise (also known as “It”), the embodiment of the fears and phobias of a group of friends who set out to battle the child-killing clown, remains perhaps the greatest version of a King character brought to life. Pennywise’s physical features are chilling, but it’s his cruel and sadistic nature that makes him a true monster.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of the Dark: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Trust us when we tell you to skip the Guillermo del Toro remake of this 1973 movie and go straight to the source. A young woman inherits a creepy mansion, unaware it’s inhabited by demonic creatures that taunt her in the cover of darkness. Originally a made-for-TV movie — one that frightened young viewers who suddenly felt danger lurking in the shadows of their own homes — Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has since become a cult classic.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of the Water: Jaws
It was Hollywood’s first blockbuster, but Steven Spielberg’s Jaws wasn’t your average popcorn flick. The film about a great white terrorizing an island community tapped into one of our most primal fears (being eaten) and made it horrifyingly real. The shark in Jaws isn’t a supernatural bogeyman. The creature lives in every ocean around the world, and the film was even based on a series of real-life attacks in New Jersey. Jaws continues to scare people out of the water 38 years later.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Enclosed Spaces: The Descent
A group of women head to the great outdoors for bonding and adventure. They become trapped inside an uncharted cave while spelunking. Things get progressively worse after they realize strange creatures are stalking them in the subterranean darkness. Neil Marshall’s claustrophobic horror tale finds the women crawling through narrow, rocky chambers and struggling to breathe, which keeps us on the edge of our seats.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Spiders: Something Wicked This Way Comes
A childhood film favorite that still spooks adults, Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name, is set in a small town where a diabolical circus has set up camp. There are several movies about man-eating spiders that are legitimately creepy, but Something Wicked taps into a dark space of childhood fear and features a scary scene with spiders that makes our skin crawl.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Childbirth and Children: Rosemary’s Baby
Isolated, frightened, and pregnant with Satan’s baby, Rosemary Woodhouse’s life is turned upside down in Roman Polanski’s sinister tale that combines supernatural horror and a thread of urban anxiety, set inside an ominous New York City apartment building. Rosemary’s pregnancy is a difficult one, depicted as an agonizingly slow poisoning or death instead of a joyous thing. When Rosemary pulls back the curtain to gaze at her child for the first time, her terrified reaction is the only thing we see (not the baby) — but it’s enough to make us run screaming from every crib and stroller we stumble across.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Dolls: Magic
Rather than explain why Magic is so damn upsetting, watch this clip, featuring the murderous dummy Fats, and find out for yourself. The character was voiced by none other than Anthony Hopkins who also stars in the movie.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Needles: Opera
A mysterious killer stalks a young opera singer in Dario Argento’s 1987 film. The vicious maniac pulls a Clockwork Orange by binding the chanteuse and taping needles beneath her eyes, which forces her to keep them open and witness his murderous acts. Argento used the film as his own personal form of therapy — making a statement about his fans and critics. The spine-chilling scene was a way for the director to poke fun at the audience members who cover their eyes during his gory movies.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Hospitals: Halloween II
Halloween II picks up where the first film left off and moves to Haddonfield Hospital, where Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl Laurie Strode is recovering from her first encounter with mute madman Michael Myers. Unbeknownst to her, the killer is waiting in the hospital hallways to make his next move. As the staff is systematically hunted and slaughtered, Strode is left alone fighting for her life. Hospitals are meant to keep us safe, healthy, and secure, but Myers infiltrates the space and turns it into an arena for his gruesome acts.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of the Devil: The Exorcist
When people discuss the films that have frightened them since childhood, The Exorcist is usually on their list. While parts of the movie haven’t aged particularly well, The Exorcist remains a chilling meditation on the mysteries of faith. The film was inspired by a real-life exorcism, which adds to its storied history. Writer William Peter Blatty’s decision to personify the devil in the body of a bubbly little girl is effectively scary.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Flying: Final Destination
The characters in James Wong’s Final Destination cheat death on an airplane, which haunts them for the rest of their lives. “We want to do for planes and air travel what Jaws did for sharks and swimming,” the director said in an early interview. Indeed, the fiery airplane explosion that opens the movie makes it clear that no one is safe from death’s clutches.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Strangers: The Strangers
A strange woman repeatedly knocks on the door asking for someone who doesn’t live there. The pounding becomes increasingly frantic, frightening the residents of a secluded vacation home so much, they barricade themselves inside. And then it surfaces that there are multiple strangers circling the house and forcing their way beyond the windows and doors. The young couple has no way out, but home is no longer safe, and their only means of escape has been destroyed. The Strangers presents a familiar home invasion narrative, but ratchets up the tension by leaving us in the dark until the very end where we learn that sometimes a killer’s motivation is far scarier than anything they could possibly inflict upon us.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Dentists: The Dentist
When you’re done watching Little Shop of Horrors and Marathon Man, tune into the more overtly grotesque The Dentist to experience further dental anxiety with a side of gore. Corbin Bernsen is eerily believable in the role of a dentist who has it all, but hides a darker side that compels him to torture his patients.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Growing Old: The Hunger
Tony Scott’s The Hunger, a tale of vampiric longing, opens with a hedonistic scene that makes life as one of the undead seem decadent and sexy. But Scott slowly peels back the layers to show us the isolation and fear the mythical creatures experience when one of them begins to rapidly age. One faces eternal life without eternal youth, and the other eternal loneliness.
The Scariest Movie for People Afraid of Blood: Dead Alive
Blending unrelenting gore and black comedy, Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (yes, that Peter Jackson) is a spectacle of blood, guts, and body parts. These days, Hollywood horror films rely on CGI gore, but Dead Alive skillfully employs old-fashioned effects work, which adds a nasty, tactile feel to the violent movie. The mayhem is crafted gonzo-style — almost like something out of a comic book (see: the famous lawnmower scene during the movie’s climax). Anyone who gets squeamish at the sight of blood will be tested to the limits.