Horror movie deaths that turn our heads every single time

The horror genre deals with all sorts of scary stuff, from ghosts and vampires to serial killers and psycho cults. But while there's a wide variety of monsters lurking about, all horror movies have thing one in common: They're all about death. Whether it's a straight-up slasher flick or a tad more psychological, the characters in horror movies are always worried about getting their heads chopped off or their souls sucked out. It's what keeps the scream queens screaming and the moviegoers going.

Of course, in a genre filled with so much murder and mayhem (Jason Voorhees alone has 146 kills), it takes a really special death to stand out. But when a filmmaker creates a truly unique kill or a genuinely shocking death — one that makes our jaws drop and our eyes bug out — that scene will live in the memory of traumatized fans for years to come. From parasitic space creatures to tragic shotgun blasts, these are the horror movie deaths that turn our heads every single time.

Alien - Meet the chestburster

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien hit theaters in 1979, and all these years later, people are still talking about the chestburster. The scene starts innocently enough. The crew of the Nostromo is sitting around a dinner table, enjoying a meal together. They're laughing and ribbing each other, and they're all glad their buddy Kane (John Hurt) is doing okay. Just a few minutes earlier, Kane was unconscious, with some sort of creature attached to his face, but now he seems all right ... until he starts convulsing.

Screaming like a wounded animal, Kane falls onto the table and shakes uncontrollably. But when his friends try to help, a stream of blood squirts out of his chest. His coworkers are horrified, and that's when we realize there's something moving under his skin. Then just a few seconds later, a parasite rips out of his chest, sending gallons of gore across the room. It's a little baby Xenomorph, and it scampers away before anyone can kill it, leaving Kane's lifeless body behind.

In addition to the unsettling sexual imagery here, the chestburster scene plays on our fears of wormy creatures slithering around inside our bodies and what might happen if they want to get out. And even though it's been four decades since Alien hit theaters, this visceral scene still makes us nauseous to this day.

Apostle - Drilling the point home

Here's some good advice for horror movie characters: stop visiting islands that are home to pagan cults. Those trips never end well. That's a lesson Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) learns the hard way in Apostle. Directed by Gareth Evans, the film follows Thomas as he infiltrates the island of Erisden, hoping to rescue his sister from a bloodthirsty religious group. Along the way, he gets drenched in gore, has his fingers crunched off, and gets up close and personal with the local plant life. But in the most gruesome scene, Thomas is a bystander, helpless to intervene as an innocent young man is "purified" in the most sadistic way possible. 

Jeremy (Bill Milner) is a lovable kid who's head over heels for a beautiful girl named Ffion (Kristine Froseth). But when her psycho dad (Mark Lewis Jones) sticks a knife in her gut, Jeremy is framed for the crime. He's then tossed onto a nasty torture device called "The Heathen's Stand." His head and limbs are held in place with bone-crushing vices, and as the poor guy screams in fear and pain, a rusty drill slowly but surely bores into his skull. It's a shockingly violent scene, made even worse because Jeremy is so sweet, and as that drill leaves a gaping hole where his brain used to be, we're turning our heads away from the screen as fast as possible.

The Cabin in the Woods - The monsters come out to play

The Cabin in the Woods is all kinds of awesome. It's a brilliant metacommentary on the horror genre, and it's a legit horror movie itself, with some pretty freaky scenes. On top of all that, it's one of the most hilarious fright flicks ever made. It's the kind of movie that makes audiences laugh and gasp at the same time, and that's especially true during the insane moment when all the monsters escape their cages and murder everyone in sight.

Almost every creature imaginable shows up for this slaughterfest. We've got Pennywise's cousin, an Evil Dead tree, and an off-brand Cenobite. There are cobras and unicorns and bats (oh my), and that's not even mentioning the werewolf, the buzzsaw robot, or the toothy ballerina. Each and every monster kills in its own unique way. The bad guys from The Strangers set some people on fire, a group of sadistic surgeons perform a painful operation, and a nasty old hag rips a soldier's soul right out of his body.

But the most memorable death scene has got to be when poor Hadley (Bradley Whitford) finally has his wish come true. All this guy ever wanted was to see a merman in action. Sure, he wanted to see the merman eat a bunch of teenagers, but still, everybody's got a dream. And that dream becomes reality when a hungry merman crawls toward him and starts chowing down. His reaction ("Oh, come on!") is priceless, and when the beast starts shooting blood from its blowhole, well, that's the icing on an incredibly gory cake.

Don't Look Now - Meat cleavers and red raincoats

Don't Look Now was the Hereditary of the 1970s. Both films are about grief, both films are about parenthood, and both films are absolutely terrifying. Directed by Nicolas Roeg, Don't Look Now tells the story of John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), a married couple wrestling with depression after their daughter suddenly drowns. The two head off to Venice, hoping to escape their past, but you can't outrun trauma. It always tracks you down, and sometimes, it'll put a meat cleaver in your neck.

Throughout the film, John keeps getting glimpses of a little girl in a red raincoat. That just so happens to be the same outfit his daughter was wearing the day she died. John is a rational man who doesn't believe in the supernatural, but at the end of the film, he chases the child down, hoping beyond hope that maybe it's his daughter returned from the grave. But when the hooded figure turns around, John eyes go wide with fear. This is no child. It's a serial-killing dwarf that slices his throat and leaves him bleeding on the floor. And no matter how many times we watch this film, we're still terrified every single time that dwarf turns around.

Hereditary - The world's worst car ride

Hereditary is a movie that really turned heads, especially the one belonging to Charlie Graham (Milly Shapiro). She's an awkward little kid with a major nut allergy, which means somebody should've told her to stay away from the nut-filled cake. Once she takes a bite, she goes into anaphylactic shock, so her older brother Peter (Alex Wolff) goes into NASCAR mode. He tears down the road, rushing to the hospital as fast as he can, and Charlie is in the backseat the entire time, desperately gasping for breath.

That's when Charlie decides to stick her head out the window, hoping it will help her catch her breath. And that might've worked, if there weren't a dead deer in the middle of the road. Peter sees the corpse at the last second and frantically swerves out of the way. Unfortunately, he swerves right next to a telephone pole. Suddenly, there's a sickening thud, and Charlie's head goes flying off her shoulders.

It's a moment that comes out of absolutely nowhere. Audiences were expecting Charlie would be a major character throughout the film. After all, not many movies have the guts to kill a kid. But not even halfway into the story, this 13-year-old girl has been decapitated, and that look on Peter's face — the one of absolute shock and terror — is the same look we all had when Charlie's head went tumbling down the road.

The Mist - The most downbeat ending ever filmed

In 1980, Stephen King published The Mist, an eerie novella about people trapped inside a supermarket when a mysterious fog rolls into town. There are the monsters in the mist — monsters that want inside the store — and after going through hell, a small band of survivors manage to escape. The book leaves their fate ambiguous, but there's a chance they make it out alive. But evidently, that enigmatic ending wasn't good enough for Frank Darabont. When he adapted King's story for the silver screen, he wanted to show us exactly what happened to the folks who got away. And spoiler alert, it's not exactly a feel-good finale.

After escaping a store filled with psychos and a parking lot crawling with killer bugs, the five survivors drive off into the mist, hoping to find help. They drive for hours, and eventually, their car runs out of gas. As they sit on the side of the road, they think about what might happen if they get attacked by that thing with the spiky tentacles or if they're webbed up by those giant spiders. Getting ripped apart by otherworldly monsters is nobody's idea of a peaceful death, so they choose to take their own lives. Unfortunately, they only have four bullets, so the leader of the bunch (Thomas Jane) does the deed, offing everybody, including his 8-year-old son.

It's an absolutely devastating scene. The car is filled with corpses, and our hero is screaming at the top of his lungs. But then, adding insult to injury, the military comes rolling on by. If only the survivors had waited a minute or two, they would've found salvation. Instead, we get the most nihilistic ending in cinematic history, one that still wrecks horror fans to this day.

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Johnny Depp's bloody debut

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is one of cinema's most ingenious serial killers. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the sweater-wearing slasher has carved up at least 39 kids. He's turned them into puppets, smashed them into TVs, and morphed them into motorcycles. But Krueger's most iconic kill is still one of his very first: when he turns Johnny Depp into Old Faithful.

The premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street is simple. Don't fall asleep or else Freddy Krueger will kill you in your dreams. But poor old Glen (Depp, in his first role ever) just can't stay awake. So when he drifts away in his bed, that's when Freddy shows up, ready for fun. His gloved hand comes out of Glen's mattress and drags the screaming teen down into the abyss. There's a pause, just for a second, and then gallons and gallons of blood shoot out of the bed. It's dark, red, and disgusting, and the geyser seems to last forever.

The Omen - The devil gets ahead

If you come at the Antichrist, you best not mess, or you'll find your head rolling on the ground. That's what happens in The Omen, anyway, a classic horror flick from 1976. The film follows U.S. ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) who suspects his adopted son Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) might be the spawn of Satan. And Thorn isn't the only one who thinks Damien might have a really bad dad. Photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) also wonders if Damien has demonic DNA, so he teams up with Thorn to uncover the truth about this creepy little kid.

Eventually, their quest takes them to Israel where they learn there's only one way to defeat the Antichrist: stab him with the seven sacred daggers of Megiddo. Naturally, Thorn is reluctant to murder his adopted son, but Jennings is totally gung-ho about preventing Armageddon. But as he goes to collect the knives, the forces of evil decide this guy's got to go. When a work truck "accidentally" rolls downhill, a giant pane of glass of goes flying out of the bed. Jennings looks up at the exact wrong moment, and the glass sheet sends his head spinning through the air in slow motion. It's an incredible special effect, one that shocks us no matter how many times we've see it, and it's proof that if you screw around with Satan, you'll have the devil to pay.

Scanners - The mother of all migraines

David Cronenberg is the king of body horror, and his disturbing powers are on full display in Scanners. Released in 1981, Scanners takes place in a world where psychics exist, and naturally, people who can read minds are the next big step in private security. In the film's most explosive scene, a security company called ConSec plans on showing off their "scanner" service by having a mild-mannered mind-reader (Louis Del Grande) demonstrate his abilities. Unfortunately, when he calls for volunteers, he picks a dude named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) who happens to be a super powerful telepath. Even worse, Revok is kind of an evil jerk, so when the unassuming scanner tries to get into his brain, Revok turns the tables. The poor guy begins to shake and twitch as Revok attacks his mind, grinning like a maniac the entire time. The unassuming scanner is clearly in pain, suffering the world's worst headache, and when the psychic pressure becomes too much, his head explodes all over the place. Blood and brains go flying everywhere, and the scene is still absolutely mind-blowing today.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil - Death by wood chipper

A common trope of the horror genre is that hillbillies are all psychopaths just waiting to chop you up with a chainsaw. But Tucker and Dale vs. Evil subverts that cliche by casting Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as two good old boys who can't seem to catch a break. As the lovable Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) work on fixing up their vacation cabin, a group of college kids mistake them for Deliverance-style rednecks. And since these kids have seen one too many horror movies, they declare war on the backwoods bumpkins.

Of course, these kids aren't exactly skilled when it comes to murder, and every time they try, they just end up killing themselves in extremely gruesome ways. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment comes as Tucker is tossing logs into a woodchipper. That's when one of the college kids, armed with a screwdriver, sneaks up on the hillbilly and tries to jump on his back. Unfortunately, Tucker bends over at that exact moment, and the kid goes sailing straight into the machine. A horrified Tucker does his best to pull the guy out, but he gets covered in gooey, red bits of college student. The scene is equal parts horrendous and hilarious, and Tucker makes it even funnier when he asks the mangled-up kid if he's okay. He most certainly isn't, but as for the scene itself, it's a bloody good one.

You're Next - Blending the bad guy

Every single death in You're Next is something special. For example, a woman gets her throat cut by running into razor wire, and a dude is stabbed to death with pretty much every tool in existence. But of all the freaky and fantastic kills, the death-by-blender scene is guaranteed to turn heads ... into smoothies.

Near the end of this home invasion thriller, final girl Erin (Sharni Vinson) has dispatched the masked killers who butchered her boyfriend's family. But there are still more foes to face. As it turns out, the assassins were hired by her boyfriend's brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) who was hoping to kill his family so he could inherit his parents' fortune. Unfortunately, Felix didn't know that Erin was basically Jason Bourne. So when the two finally throw down, Erin gets clever with some kitchen utensils. But while pots and knives come in handy, Erin lands the coup de grace by shoving the blades of a blender into the top of Felix's head. And then to make sure that he won't get away, she plugs the blender into the wall and makes herself a cerebrum shake. The scene takes all the elements you need for a fantastic horror movie death — creativity, comedy, and a whole lot of gore — and blends them together perfectly. 

Zombieland - Goodbye, Bill Murray

Bill Murray's appearance in Zombieland is the greatest cameo of all-time. There's no debating this. It's a scientific fact. But what makes it so great? Well, first of all, Murray is playing himself trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Second, Murray is blasted to kingdom come in one of the most hysterical deaths ever put to film.

It all starts innocently enough. A group of survivors hanging out in Hollywood decide to spend the night in Murray's mansion. At first, the house seems abandoned, but then the comedian comes stumbling out of the shadows. His skin is pale, his arms are outstretched, and he's moaning like he's one of the living dead. As it turns out, he's just pulling a prank, but Columbus the zombie-killer (Jesse Eisenberg) isn't in on the joke.

When Murray staggers into the room, Columbus whips out a shotgun and shoots the actor at point-blank range. The joke is perfectly timed and incredibly shocking, and when asked if he has any final regrets, Murray delivers one of the funniest final lines in horror history: "Garfield, maybe." Then with an extended final breath, the comedian gives up the ghost, delivering a hilarious death scene in a fantastic zombie flick that never loses its bite.