Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Cinema's most memorable nightmares

vertigo-nightmare.jpg
carrie-nightmare.jpg

Attempting to recreate the quality of a nightmare on screen isn't easy outside of an art film. Or using that instrument that we're totally not developing in a secret laboratory.

But the nightmare sequence has remained a cinematic staple. Whether it's used as visual shorthand for a character's fractured psyche or an excuse to make everyone jump out of their seats, it's ever present.

We have the eight most memorable movie nightmares here. Let us know if we missed off your choice at the bottom.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

While there's a whole bucketload of grisly nightmares to pick during the Nightmare on Elm Street series, it's the very first one that still remains the scariest. Before Freddy Krueger became a wisecracking pop culture joke, he was a brutal and sadistic killer who haunted the dreams of many an 80s kid. Forget the dated soundtrack, this rule-setting death scene perfectly explains why the franchise was a sleepover mainstay throughout the decade.

_______________________________________________________

An American Werewolf In London

The only thing worse than dreaming about your family being brutally murdered by a pack of mutant Nazis is dreaming about your family being brutally murdered by a pack of mutant Nazis and then dreaming about your girlfriend being murdered directly after. Especially when your girlfriend is played by Jenny Agutter circa 1981.

_______________________________________________________

Carrie

A classic horror trope, and a personal favourite of director Brian De Palma, this final "everything's okay but it's really really not but it kind of is because it's just a dream" scene was an almighty shock the first time around. It's been shamelessly ripped off and parodied since but nothing in the two Carrie remakes even came close to the effect this nightmare still has. Plus it's totally put us off visiting makeshift graves.

_______________________________________________________

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese's unapolegtically lurid thriller delivered in heaps, especially when it came to some striking, creey visuals. Leonardo DiCaprio's fractured mind allowed for a set of nightmare dream sequences, including this extended example which sees him go through hell in an effort to try and find out what the heck is happening to him.

_______________________________________________________

Toy Story 2

It's a nightmare we have essentially every day, asleep or not. What if we become so irrelevant that the one person we love the most gets rid of us? And then an evil toy monster tries to suck us into an endless pit of nothingness. Okay so maybe not the second part so much but still, this sequence from Toy Story 2 strikes a surprising chord.

_______________________________________________________

The 'burbs

Never fall asleep watching a horror film, especially if you're convinced that your new neighbours are evil. Tom Hanks fails to take this advice on-board and finds himself having a rather scary dream about being cooked. It's possible that he might have been consuming large amounts of cheese as well...

_______________________________________________________

Vertigo

One of the most iconic scenes in Hitchcock's finest thriller sees James Stewart's tortured detective go from animated petals to dramatic filters to that horribly familiar feeling of falling within seconds. It's a masterful sequence that's been endlessly and deservedly deconstructed by film scholars.

_______________________________________________________

Knowing

Anyone who hasn't repressed their entire childhood will be able to remember that night terrors were pretty much the worst thing ever. In this clip from intermittently effective Nicolas Cage thriller Knowing, his kid has a fiery vision of the future while asleep. Cage then calms him down without shouting, which is a bonus.

Related

swingers.jpg

The most awkward movie voicemails

italian-job.jpg

30 Memorable Subway Scenes in cinema

kick.jpg

When Fight Scenes Fail

untitled-1.jpg

Greatest cycling scenes in movies

garden-state.jpg

The 20 Greatest Swimming Pool Scenes In Film

lars.jpg

15 Awkward Movie Dinner Scenes

More

This new Netflix documentary is quickly becoming a must-watch

It's like nothing you've ever seen before

by Tom Victor
18 Aug 2017

Seth Rogen spills 'Superbad' secrets to celebrate its 10th birthday

Wait... you changed your name to... McLovin?

by Emily Reynolds
18 Aug 2017

The best ever uses of songs in movies - as chosen by Reddit

What's your pick?

by Gary Ogden
17 Aug 2017

Samuel L Jackson: "If Donald Trump broke into my house, I'd shoot him"

We chat to the movie legend about hentai, yachting and killing the President

by Andrew Dickens
16 Aug 2017

Six possible posters for the upcoming Nigel Farage movie

How and why is this actually happening?

by Gary Ogden
16 Aug 2017

The 25 scariest movies on Netflix right now

Stream if you dare

15 Aug 2017

Ryan Reynolds reveals the best prank he's ever pulled

It's classic dad joke stuff

by Tom Victor
14 Aug 2017

Why 'Undisputed' is the best action movie franchise you've never seen

As an action fan, you owe it yourself to watch these movies

by Gary Ogden
11 Aug 2017

Watch the terrifying trailer for Jennifer Lawrence's 'Mother!'

It's the creepy new film from the director of Black Swan

by Gary Ogden
08 Aug 2017

An animated Transformers movie is coming to cinemas

Will it be a return to form?

by Gary Ogden
07 Aug 2017