10 Horror Movies That Scared Audiences Out Of Theatres

Movie-goers love a good adrenaline rush. It's why action flicks and horror movies are so popular. Although nobody really gets mauled, maimed, or otherwise hacked to pieces by a killer in a mask, the proximity to death and danger is enough to put many viewers on the edge of their seats. But sometimes, people can have too much of a good thing.

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Horror movies are usually made with one main goal in mind, to scare the living daylights out of the watchers. However, there have been a select few frightening features that went above and beyond the call of duty. Sometimes people left the theatre, sometimes they fainted, and sometimes the movies received a national ban. It's remarkable how often horror goes over the edge.


The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most famous horror villains in literature, stage, and cinema, but there's one incarnation that comes with a particularly infamous reputation. Lon Chaney was the first to don the mask and cape of the Phantom on the big screen, but he was also perhaps the scariest thing audiences of 1925 had ever seen.

Known as the "Man of 1000 Faces," Chaney did his own makeup effects for the Phantom's disfigurement. The unmasking scene is one of the most definitive moments in horror history, but Chaney's face was so horrifying that legend says it caused people to faint in the audience.

Freaks (1932)

Before the days of the Hays Code, it was astounding what filmmakers could put on screen, and there are few better examples than Freaks. Known for its use of real circus sideshow performers and circus acts in its cast, the film was dubbed so disturbing that it received several bans for unsettling content and the appearance of many of its stars.

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Since the "freaks" were portrayed by actors with real disabilities and physical differences, the movie is exploitive, not to mention horribly dated and offensive. That said, director Tod Browning had first-hand experience working in the circus, and he strove to portray the characters as naturally as possible and to "to humanize his atypical performers," according to DeepFocusReview, rather than just portray them as a gimmick or tool used to draw crowds.

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense and terror. Going into a Hitchcock production essentially guaranteed an intensely terrifying experience, and that was certainly the case for Psycho, a movie that still holds up today. Not only did the iconic slasher change the face of Hollywood, horror, and the way people view the genre, it elicited a very intense response from audiences.

With 45 seconds, Hitchcock made the world terrified of taking a shower. When it first premiered in the '60s, audiences fainted, bolted for the doors, screamed, and one Manhattan theatre supposedly had the cops called, as viewers lost all composure. Though tame by modern standards, Hitchcok got more than the response he was probably hoping for. 10 Horror Movies That Scared Audiences Out Of Theatres

The Exorcist (1973)

Dubbed by many as the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist has been called one of the evilest films thrown on the big screen. Though, that's not to say the demonic reputation didn't help its publicity. People went from lining up outside the theatre to begging to get out before the credits rolled.

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From turning heads and demonic imagery to the infamous vomiting scene, the film was an absolute breeding ground for horrific scenes. While some reactions to horror movies might be over-the-top, The Exorcist's content just might be worthy of its intense reactions.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a different type of slasher movie compared to the works of Freddy or Jason. From the way the film was shot in an almost documentary-style production to the infamous disclaimer at the beginning of the film attesting to its "true story," the film was not only shocking for audiences, but it warranted major national censorship for some.

Banned in several countries for its depictions of violence, gore, and savagery, the film easily developed a very graphic reputation. While its remakes and sequels would have the original pale in comparison on the violence front, it's still remarked as one of the most difficult horror movies to watch.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

While not nearly as terrifying by modern standards, The Blair Witch Project was one of the scariest films of 1999. It was so unsettling and disorienting that many moviegoers had adverse reactions to the shaky camera work and some were even prone to nausea. There were even reports of some patrons demanding their money back.

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Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the documentary-style presentation was what helped the film sell its reality. Although more of an acquired taste for some, those who did stick around for this motion-sickness-inducing experiment were treated to a new type of horror film.

The Devil's Rejects (2005)

A sequel to his insanely shocking House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects went less for the shocking angle and more for the visually and emotionally disturbing. It might have solidified Rob Zombie's status as a practiced horror director, but, according to Looper, it sent some viewers right out the door.

It's true, Rob Zombie's films are very difficult to get through on the best of days. With their reliance on shock, gratuitous violence, and unabashed exploitive nature, it's understandable if many viewers aren't the biggest fans of his methods. That said, his intense elements have certainly aided his reputation in the industry.

Saw III (2006)

The Saw series is infamous for its depictions of torture, graphic violence, and horrific bloodshed, but the third entry in the twisted saga is the one that sent audience members into fits and convulsions. Of course, scenes including pits of hypodermic needles and ribcage extraction will do that to almost anyone.

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Jigsaw's fiendish traps have been a nightmare-inducing calling card of the series for years, but the truly unsettling nature of the series began to take off the training wheels in part III. To say it's not for the squeamish would be a definite understatement.

The Human Centipede (2009)

Some horror buffs will wince at the mere mention of the title alone, and it's certainly no question why it's such a controversial film. The plot of The Human Centipede is so stomach-churning enough on paper, the fact that a studio actually went through with it, audiences paid to see it, and it warranted two other sequels, is another animal altogether.

Yet another movie described by Looper as one audiences couldn't handle, the insanely disgusting scenes of human experimentation are enough to give even the strongest horror films reason to pause. If there's a line when it comes to horror movies, Tom Six definitely found it.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Some horror films have caused audiences to faint, get violently sick, and even bolt for the door, but there has been at least one case of a movie so scary that it literally scared a viewer to death. The Conjuring franchise is packed to the brim with scary material from haunted houses to demonic dolls, but it's still remarkable to know that it could be shocking enough to have a viewer die of fright.

According to reports, a 65-year-old man passed out after having chest pains at the climax of the film. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, he was examined and pronounced dead. While it's true that the man in question more than likely had a pre-existing condition, it still adds to the series' already infamous notoriety.

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Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a love for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. When not writing for Screen Rant, Zach is an active member of his community theatre, enjoys a variety of authors including Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein, and is a proud and active retro-gamer.