Jump scares are those moments in films where everything has gone quiet and dark, and a sudden sound or movement jolts you out of your seat. Jump scares can provide cheap thrills or genuine frights, but no matter how they’re used, they’re always entertaining.
Some horror filmmakers abhor the tactic and instead focus on building atmospheric tension. But most are happy to embrace the technique, giving the audience the uncontrollable shriek they are waiting for.
There are some great horror films on Netflix, but this list is all about those nightmarish movies full of jump scares designed to keep you at the edge of your seat…
1. The Babadook
Children often ask us about the monster under the bed or tell tales about the man in the cupboard. As adults, we do our best to convince them it’s just their imagination. But what if the vivid dreams of a child about a mysterious dark force are true? What would you do if the Babadook, a sinister shadow-like creature, is really coming after you?
That’s the question single mom Amelia has to face. Should she believe her son Samuel and his violent dreams, or should she remain rational?
This is likely to make our list of cult favorites on Netflix in the future. The Babadook had a lukewarm reception when it first released in Australia, but it has since garnered critical acclaim and a strong following among horror buffs.
The “found footage” genre is a favorite in horror movies, popularized by the likes of The Blair Witch Project. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, V/H/S/2 might be perfect for you.
The film attempts something unique. It has seven different directors shooting seven short segments, all of which tie together to make one narrative. This includes some big names, like the director of The Raid, the writer of Grindhouse, and so on. Subsequently, V/H/S/2 struggles to build an atmosphere of terror. But it delivers jump scares in spades.
The Conjuring is already being touted as a classic horror flick, even though it wasn’t released that long ago. Director James Wan delivers the perfect treatment on one of the oldest storylines in horror movies: a family movies into a new farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and creepy things start to happen. As usual, people who know about the supernatural (paranormal investigators, in this case) come to their rescue.
While it’s not a typical “jump scare” movie, Wan uses the classic trick to good effect throughout the film. There are a dozen such moments, according to Where’s The Jump, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be frightened more often than that. It’s what makes this one of the best scary movies on Netflix.
After making a documentary like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you wouldn’t expect director David Gelb to dive into horror. But he is full of surprises in The Lazarus Effect, which is as creepy as they come.
Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass star as medical researchers who have figured out how to resurrect dead animals. But a terrible accident claims Wilde’s life, and in his grief, Duplass decides to bring her back to life. It’s a success. Only the being that has come back to life seems to be losing Wilde’s soul and possessed by something much, much darker.
Sometimes, the scariest thing in the world isn’t a demon or a monster or a ghost. It’s a human. A man who anyone would think is normal if you saw him walking down the road. Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice write and star in Creep, which lives up to its name.
Josef is dying of a terminal illness and wants to record messages for his soon-to-be-born son. He puts out an ad on Craigslist to find a videographer. A guy named Aaron shows up. What follows is a slow unravelling of Josef’s life, that gets creepier and creepier, while Aaron continues to shoot. The jump-scare dial is turned up to 11 in this one.
Laura is a typical popular college student. She gets tons of friend requests on Facebook, and she’s happy to add everyone. But it’s one acceptance too many, and she unfriends Marina for being creepy. Laura didn’t expect how creepy things would get, as Marina commits suicide, and mysterious videos start appearing on Laura’s profile. Things get worse when Laura’s friends start dying.
The plot of Friend Request is quite silly, but it’s the perfect sort of movie to watch with your friends for a jump-scare delight. It was never going to win any Oscars, but if you can’t have fun with something like this, you might want to go for one of the other best horror films for geeks where technology takes an evil twist.
Emma and her little sister Stacey’s day starts off with unexpected freedom when their town is quarantined for an infection, with their parents outside the border. But the revelry soon turns sour when the virus starts affecting their friends and family. Emma has to do everything she can to keep Stacey safe, and that means everything.
Everything about Viral is something you’ve seen before if you’re a fan of horror movies. But that’s part of the fun. The jump scares are telegraphed way in advance, but if you love your jump scares, give in to the moment and let them hit you.
Do you want to stay awake all night? Watch Hush with the lights out and the curtains open. You’ll wait up all night with a baseball bat, lest a man wearing a freaky mask shows up at your window.
When deaf writer Maddie sees one such man, she needs to figure out how to survive. She’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods, and this psychopath serial killer has made his intentions quite clear. Hush is a creepy experience of the hunter-prey game, where the prey is disadvantaged with a hearing disability that you, as a viewer, start empathizing with as you watch.
Count the number of times you’ll be jolted out of your seat. If it’s under 10, you’re a braver soul than most.
It’s well known that you shouldn’t go to the Livingston House. Evil resides there. But that doesn’t stop six idiots from performing a seance in the place. In the course of events that followed, three died, one survived, and two went missing. It’s now to up Detective Mark Lewis and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein to figure out what happened, rescue the missing people, and ensure that the house does not claim any more lives.
Demonic tries to go beyond the usual plotline by including a few twists and turns, including a surprise ending. It won’t work for everyone, but you get plenty of jump scares along the way to keep you entertained.
10. Last Shift
A new police officer, Jessica Loren, has to stay alone at the station while waiting for a team to collect some bio-hazardous material. The station is the infamous location where a cult leader and his followers killed themselves, and now haunt the premises. It’s about to be the worst shift of Loren’s life.
Last Shift gets a lot of love from jump scare movie fans, and for good reason. The plot, dialog, and acting isn’t much to write about. But the jump scares are handled as perfectly as you’d want: a slow build-up, creepy silence, followed by a genuine fright. Even when you know the jump scare is coming, you’ll still get that jolt.
It’s Not Just Scary Movies Any More
Jump scare movies are made for Halloween. If you want a spooky night on All Hallow’s Eve, grab a tub of popcorn, switch off the lights, and start streaming one of these films on Netflix.
However, a movie only gives you an hour or two of frights. Those who are ready to stay up all night need more than that. Which is where the scariest TV shows to binge-watch prove their worth.