The 17 Scariest Marvel Movie Moments (So Far)
Even comic book movies can sometimes give you a serious case of night terrors.
Marvel’s deep bench of blockbusters, starting with Blade in 1998, have proven to be more than just heroes saving the day and kick-punching their way through CG set pieces. Sometimes, they can be truly disturbing, unsettling and legit frightening. While audiences expect a certain level of scary when it comes to the exploits of someone like Batman, a vigilante who uses fear to prey on the fearful, Marvel’s roster of big-screen characters have also trafficked in tropes usually reserved for horror movies.
In order of theatrical release, and including films pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, here are some of the scariest moments from Marvel movies that may cause every hair on the back of your neck to stand up. (Tip: You might wanna read this during the day. With the lights on.)
The Blood Bath Scene in ‘Blade’ (1998)
Blade was Marvel’s first mainstream box office success in the summer of 1998, thanks to its engaging mix of horror and action. Watching Wesley Snipes’ Daywalker stalk and kill vampires was both very entertaining and, at times, quite horrifying — as exemplified in Blade’s first scene infiltrating an underground club for suckheads.
This bloody action sequence is one of the most memorable character intros in all of Marvel’s canon; it encapsulates Blade’s lethal slayer skills while establishing the film’s R-rated horror and tone. By ambushing a secret “Blood Bath” club home to dozens of goth-y vamps, where ceiling sprinklers rain blood on thirsty patrons, Blade unleashes inventive fisticuffs and an impressive arsenal in one of the genre’s most satisfying (and unnerving) set pieces. Blade’s assault is action-packed, yes, but also terrifying — a tricky balance tonally to pull off, but one that director Stephen Norrington and writer David S. Goyer execute effortlessly.
BBQ’d Vampire Resurrection in ‘Blade’ (1998)
In the world of Blade, sunlight and fire can ruin a vampire’s day — the latter turning snarky vamp Quinn (Donal Logue) into an extra crispy member of the undead.
While being examined on a slab by medical professionals played by N’Bushe Wright and Tim Guinee, theatergoers soon found themselves clutching their pearls while gripping their armrests as Quinn’s blackened corpse lurches back to life — and snacks on the nearest jugular he can find. Quinn’s inability to die would set up a running gag throughout the film, but his charred resurrection here is a worthy nominee for the Jump Scare Hall of Fame.
Meet the Reaper in ‘Blade II’ (2002)
The best compliment we can give director Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II is that we wish we made it — especially this terrifying opening scene.
The slow-burn intro to the film’s intense villain, Nomak (Luke Goss), is classic GDT: An amber-colored blood bank in Eastern Europe doubles as a place for vampires to turn unsuspecting donors into CapriSuns. Nomak, clad in a hoodie, wanders in and turns the tables on his captors. How? By revealing himself to be a genetically-modified vampire known as a Reaper.
Nomak feasts on the staff as his chin splits down the middle to reveal an expanded mandible full of slithering fang-tongues that whip out before the movie cuts to opening titles. This opening sequence is a creepy tone-setter that promises a deeper dive into a more frightening, Lovecraftian take on the world of Blade.
The House of Pain in ‘Blade II’ (2002)
Blade II forces Blade to team up with his enemies — an elite strike force of vamps charged with hunting our favorite vampire hunter — in order to stop Nomak and his crew of hungry, hungry Reapers. Blade and the Blood Pack’s hunt leads them to a vampire den full of debauchery and some of the most disturbing and chilling imagery ever in a comic book film.
The House of Pain is home to that which nightmares come from: Vampires feasting on themselves like foreplay, or flaying the skin on their backs. The place pulses with sadistic imagery of immortals inflicting pain on themselves, a race of predators who turn to pain to dull the curse of not being able to feel much at all. It’s as weird and creepy as it is mesmerizing — and it all goes to hell when the Reapers show up and start slither-climbing up and over the walls. It climaxes in a violent showdown involving machine guns, fangs, and swords — with the latter being used to slice open the head of a fallen Blood Pack member that has been turned into the very creature he’s been tasked to kill.
Norman Osborn’s “Pep Talks” in ‘Spider-Man’ (2002)
If there’s anything better than a hammy/creepy Willem Dafoe talking to his split personality, we don’t wanna know about it.
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film embraced its comic book movie sensibilities and literally double-downed on villain monologuing with the help of Dafoe’s Norman Osborn. The baddie’s fractured id snarls and yells at his less-damaged self in a mirror as he inches closer to becoming the Green Goblin. Honestly, every scene with Goblin gives us a case of the goosebumps, but it’s this early look into his warring psyche that truly leaves a mark.
Doc Ock’s Tentacle Attack in ‘Spider-Man 2’ (2004)
Everything Rami learned from making three Evil Dead movies is on display in this show-stopping sequence from Spider-Man 2. This iconic scene feels more at home in a straight-up horror flick than in a summer blockbuster.
While unconscious on a slab, a surgical team attempts to sever Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) from the metal tentacles fused to his body. But the appendages have other plans. They spring to life, toying with and killing every doctor in the room in PG-13-friendly ways, sure, but the scene nonetheless packs a terrifying punch. From cutting to the tentacles’ POV during their killing spree, to making exceptional use of in-camera practical effects, Raimi and his fellow filmmakers’ work here is an all-timer scare fest.
Hulk vs. Black Widow in ‘The Avengers’ (2012)
Hulk is generally portrayed as a hero throughout Marvel’s movies, but he’s often just one temper tantrum away from shedding his “science bro” alter ego of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and becoming an unstoppable rage monster. This short but memorable scene in The Avengers conveys the sheer terror of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that terrifying fury.
“Your life?!” Hulk growls, just before rampaging after Black Widow through the darkened bowls of the Helicarrier. This scene from the first Avengers movie is an underrated one for the MCU. It’s a mini-horror movie hiding in the middle of a game-changing, four-quadrant hit, and it’s as tense and chilling as anything you’d find in a Blumhouse film.
Tony Stark’s PTSD Attack in ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
Iron Man 3 is a direct sequel to Tony Stark’s Avengers arc, further exploring his emotional trauma following his near-death experience during the Battle of New York against Loki’s alien army. It manifests in an intentionally-disorienting scene at a Malibu eatery in broad daylight, as a young boy pesters Stark and, in doing so, triggers his PTSD in a way that evokes ‘80s horror.
Logan’s Nightmare in ‘The Wolverine’ (2013)
James Mangold’s first Wolverine movie is an uneven but satisfying effort, one unafraid to push the almost-immortal mutant into uncharted, emotionally-rich territory. The Wolverine explores the psychological toll of Wolverine’s exploits as a member of the X-Men, especially in regards to how he was forced to kill the woman he loves, Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), in order to save the world. The movie asks what is the psychological toll a hero like Logan must pay to save a world that fears and hates him. The answer? Being haunted by Jean’s ethereal visage. It first appears to our broken hero in a dream — which quickly, frighteningly, becomes a bloody nightmare.
Avenger Nightmares in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)
Avengers: Age of Ultron wields the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as a tool of psychological warfare against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. She literally gets inside their heads and brings their fears and doubts to chilling reality, especially for Tony, Thor, and Natasha. After Tony glimpses a (no pun intended) endgame concerning his fellow Avengers piled up dead, Thor gets a peek of Asgard’s pending Ragnarok with the help of a blind, white-eye’d Heimdal (Idris Elba).
But Black Widow’s vision is the stuff of day terrors, for her past literally comes back to haunt her as she is forced to revisit moments from her assassin training — including a weird, faceless little girl and jerky, frame-skipping wheels on a rickety medical gurney. Ultron’s detour into horror movie territory doesn’t quite shake hands with the rest of the film, but holy sh** will it damage your calm.
Ultron Crashes the Party in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)
Age of Ultron established its creepy tone, and that of its titular villain, with its first teaser trailer. Scored to an unsettling, slowed-down version of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio, the teaser proved highly effective at preparing audiences for a darker tour of duty with our heroes.
That darkness slowly, violently, creeps in as the psychotic murder bot crashes a victory party in Avengers tower. Wearing the battle-damaged chassis of one of Tony Stark’s Iron Legion drones, Ultron (James Spader) speaks in glitchy half-riddles, he goes from zero to “this thing’s definitely going to kill me” in mere moments. He decrees that the only way to protect the world is by causing the extinction of both its heroes and the humans they battle guys like Ultron to save. And even though he articulates his plans for genocide while leaking fluid and sparking wires, his declaration of war on the Avengers is no less chilling.
The Suffocation of Wade Wilson in ‘Deadpool’ (2016)
Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, the Merc With the Mouth, has arguably one of the most disturbing and tragic superhero origins. As depicted in 2016’s modern classic Deadpool, Wade Wilson’s search for the cure to the cancer that is killing him is what ultimately turns him into a virtually indestructible killer. His search led him to a place more interested in activating his mutant powers than ridding him of the disease. But the trauma and torture he had to endure on the way to activating his X-powers, including severe beatings and electrocution, are borderline horrific. But none more so than the 72 hours he spent suffering near-death suffocations over and over again. Confined to a coffin-like tube, Wade’s oxygen would be sucked out until the point of affixation, and then readministered. Using Saw trap-like cruelty and terror, Deadpool was born.
RIP Mr. and Mrs. Howard Stark in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016)
The Iron Man movies never actually showed us on-screen how Tony Stark’s parents died, and for good reason, apparently. That reveal instead came in Captain America: Civil War, thanks to a brutal flashback scene showcasing the Winter Soldier at his absolute worst. The build up to the off-screen assassination of Howard Stark (John Slattery) and his wife (Hope Davis) is hard to watch because it reframes the MIA underdog soldier Bucky Barnes as a bad guy. His villainy is all the more tragic given that this one-time hero was brainwashed to be a killing machine whose black ops almost destroyed the Avengers.
Charles Xavier’s Demise in ‘Logan’ (2017)
Logan is the Wolverine movie fans need and deserve. Director James Mangold makes it pathologically impossible for audiences to not be invested in the interior lives of these iconic characters, pushed to their end points. This compelling choice makes the death of a senile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) all the more of a gut punch moment that is delivered with horror movie menace.
Thinking his killer is Wolverine and not his evil clone, X-24, Charles delivers a poignant monologue of self-reflection before a jump scare ends his life with the “snikt” of adamantium claws. Blood blossoms from Charles’ chest wounds as his stone-cold killer looks on and X-23 (Dafne Keen) screams as she is taken from the house that is now home to a homicide. The X-Men films prior to this one racked up quite a body count, but this chilling death cuts the deepest.
Vulture Warns Peter Parker in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017)
It’s all fun and games in Tom Holland’s first Spider-Man movie until he realizes that his nemesis is also his Homecoming date’s dad. Gulp.
This realization is made all the more terrifying in that it takes place in the middle of a totally normal event in a teenager’s life: Heading to a high school dance. The look of recognition and shock on Peter Parker’s face when he realizes Liz’s dad is the Vulture (Michael Keaton) lights the fuse on a slow burn of anxiety and dread. It only gets more disturbing and agonizing for our hero when Vulture drives them to the dance and wants to have the one-on-one “dad talk” with him in the car. The movie wisely subverts our expectations here by using what is usually an innocuous moment as a delivery system for pure dread, as Vulture vows to kill Peter and everyone he loves if Spider-Man ever interferes with his business again.
Zombie Iron Man in ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (2019)
Thanks to Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his endless supply of illusions and holographic tricks, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man embarks on a trippy tour of his worst fears and insecurities in Spider-Man: Far from Home. Top on the list of his creepiest encounters? A zombified Iron Man armor stalking toward him like an extra in the Thriller music video.
The trippy sequence is full of Doctor Strange-esque visuals as Peter panic-runs his way through a kaleidoscope made out of fun house mirrors that reflect all his doubts back onto him. The cherry on top of this macabre sundae is when Peter sees the corpse-like shell of his deceased mentor menacing him into a state of mind he can’t web-sling his way out of.
The Smiley Men From ‘The New Mutants’ (2020)
The New Mutants finally was released with limited fanfare in 2020 and proved that all the infamous delays and rumored reshoots meant that Marvel and 20th Century Fox had a misfire on their hands. But if there was one good thing to come out of this infamous project’s release, it’s writer-director Josh Boone’s deft handling of the Smiley Men sequence.
Boone’s love for all things Stephen King is well-documented, and this frightening scene allows him to channel that passion for the Master of Horror when the bizarre, wide-mouthed ghouls are eerily brought to life. The Smileys are tormentors from Magik’s past, the powerful mutant played by Anya Taylor-Joy. When they start to chase her through the halls of the institution that she and her fellow mutants are confined in, their smiles full of teeth like knives raise blood pressures and our hackles.
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