When it comes to really good horror movies, it doesn't matter if you’ve seen the movie to know about its iconic moments. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know about the woman stabbed in the shower by a man dressed as his mother or the demonic doll that comes to life and terrorizes everyone in his midst. It’s these moments that make a horror movie special.
Shudder is celebrating these moments with the new original series 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time. While all of these iconic horror movie moments are great and the series is a fun watch, one classic's surprisingly low ranking did surprise us.
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds landed in the bottom 13 movie moments at No. 92. We were stunned that the iconic Hitchcock horror movie featuring flocks of angry birds bent on revenge against Tippi Hedren was listed so early in the countdown. Sure, the flocks of birds aren’t fancy — the movie was made in 1963 — but the movie is a reminder that practical effects in horror can be just as effective as modern CGI and VFX. When combined with masterful storytelling and a brilliant cast, those practical effects can be downright chilling.
"The Birds is a monster movie. Hitchcock made a horror movie, a monster movie," says Nightmare Cinema creator Mick Garris.
Film scholar Tananarive Due talks about the terrifying moment when crows start attacking children. "Birds diving at children, so you’ve got screaming children being attacked by birds. What can be more perfect than that?"
Child’s Play director Tom Holland notes Hitchcock’s use of visual sequences to build terror. Viewers are shown all of the elements that lead up to the climax of a scene. In this case, it’s the horrified townsfolk watching as gas pours down the street and as an unsuspecting bystander lights his cigarette, igniting the blaze. "I think that’s what made Hitchcock so great."
As the scene progresses, Hedren is stuck in a phone booth surrounded by attacking birds while the town goes up in flames and there’s nothing she can do and nowhere she can go. She’s stuck with a 360-degree view of the chaos and the audience is treated to a chilling view of the destruction from the birds’ perspective.
"Hitchcock takes you into a circle of hell when the whole town is attacked," concludes Garris.
Sure, the rankings don’t technically matter because the beauty of 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time is that it’s a celebration of these iconic films and each moment is really good. So far we're loving the the eclectic mix of movies and the number of high profile guests — including Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini, Tony Todd, Lydia Hearst and Mike Flanagan — who break them down.
For horror fans, 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time elevates the viewing experience so that the next time you’re watching The Birds (or any of the other movies on the list) you’ll have an even greater appreciation for the work that went into bringing those terrifying scenes to life. And, if you’re like us, you’ll come away from the series with a list of movies horror movies to watch and re-watch this Halloween season.
But it doesn't mean we might have ranked things differently if given the chance, with The Birds being a prime early example.
The new series is part of the streamer’s 61 Days of Halloween celebration that kicked off on September 1. There will be eight episodes in total with new episodes airing every Wednesday. Each episode takes a deep dive into some of the most iconic movie moments in horror history and the moments are "ranked" from No. 101 all the way down to the No. 1 spot.
Episode 1 covered movies No. 101 to No. 89. 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time episode 2 premieres on Wednesday, September 14.
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Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.
When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.