Halloween horror flicks are full of demons, ghosts, and unhinged serial killers, but often it’s simply animals at the center of the scariest movie scenes.
After all, wild animals have terrified humans since we first huddled in caves and swam the seas, and that instinct never fully went away.
Below are some of the best wildlife attack scenes from the movies. Be warned, many of these have spoilers, and are pretty gruesome to watch.
Ghost and the Darkness (1995)
This is the only movie on this list based directly on real-life animal serial killers, from when two lions attacked hundreds of workers in Tsavo, Kenya in 1898. In this scene, the two beasts work together to take down some more human prey, showing no fear for guns or people. The scene also describes how the lions terrorize the workers, who dub the animals the Ghost and the Darkness. Few human killers have earned such ominous nicknames.
The Birds (1963)
Birds may annoy us more than scare us, but for a few moments in the 1960s, Hitchcock threw that whole idea on its head with this classic film. In this scene, a protagonist goes to inspect the attic and is left bloody by a flock of vicious birds. Their beating wings and the shapeless form of the flock create a scary horror monster you never would have anticipated. You’ll never see the pigeons at the local fast food restaurant the same.
The CGI snake may not have held out well over time, but it’s still a great if slightly campy horror film. This scene scared several of us, especially considering Jon Voight looks nearly the same after being swallowed and thrown up by a large snake as he did before. Getting bit by a snake is bad enough, but being squeezed to death and then swallowed whole by one? Too much.
“Jaws” is the inspiration for the modern shark attack movie, and the reason a lot of us were afraid to take a bath as kids. In this great scene the still-hidden shark kills a young swimmer at the beach. The movie’s power lies in part on how the shark continues to be terrifying without ever being seen, a quality that makes us so scared of sharks to this day.
How many movies can say they have a great hippo attack scene? However, hippos are the deadliest animals short of mosquitoes in Africa, above lions, crocodiles, and leopards, so it’s time they were given a good, scary movie scene. This nighttime attack is great for building suspense until right before the hippos strike. As the animals close in with gaping mouths and giant teeth, you’ll wonder why you ever thought they were cute.
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This is perhaps the most realistic and thus terrifying animal attack on film. Scratch the shower scene in “Psycho,” nothing is more terrifying than having a spider jump on you at your most vulnerable moment. After seeing this, more than a few audience members probably kept a can of Raid next to their soap and shampoo.
Despite being a children’s movie, “Jumanji” terrified me and probably a lot of other kids of my generation. In this climactic scene, a huge crocodile attacks the protagonists in the midst of a rainstorm, as if the movie didn’t have enough nightmare fuel yet. You gotta love when Bonnie Hunt first sees the seemingly floating log and asks Robin Williams, “What is that?” His response: “Aaaahhhhh!!”
This movie is blamed for unfairly maligning killer whales, and with modern sentiment its action is more laughable than terrifying. Still, what other movie has anything approaching a scene like this? An orca tips the man (who would later play Dumbledore) off an ice floe like a helpless seal, than catapults him into a wall with his tail. And they say “Blackfish” is a good cautionary tale…
The Grey (2011)
A powerful Jack London-esque film about men and survival, this film captures the unrealistic but nevertheless terrifying prospect of being attacked by a pack of wolves. When Liam Neeson tells you to run, you know you’re facing something truly scary. You also gain a whole new respect for our ancestors who not only survived wolves, but found a way to turn them into our pets.