Top Ten Horror Movies Based on Common Phobias


What is it that really makes a horror movie “scary?” Is it the blood and gore? The suspense? Personally, films are a lot more frightening to me when they are based on something I am already afraid of! I have put together a list of my top ten movies, and honorable mentions, that are fueled by common phobias!

1. Death – Nightmare on Elm Street

Honorable mentions: Halloween, Hostel, Friday the Thirteenth

Now these movies are all very scary, but the scariest one out of them all to me is Nightmare on Elm Street. Falling asleep is such a natural action, and the thought of being murdered through something that is supposed to bring you comfort is beyond terrifying.


2. Clowns – It

I watched It when I was a lot younger, and it definitely freaked me out. Tim Curry’s performance as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” is wonderfully horrifying. His makeup and costume was nightmare worthy as well, and just seeing clowns in general can bring back images from It. And maybe it’s just me, but I was really creeped out by drains for a long time after this film as well!


3. Dolls & Ventriloquist Dummies – Child’s Play

Honorable mentions: Magic, Dead Silence, Dolly Dearest, Puppet Master, Twilight Zone’s “The Dummy” and “Living Doll”

I had a lot of options for this category, but I think Child’s Play was the scariest. Clearly, I am a fan of the Child’s Play series now, but when I was little this movie had quite the impact on me. I already had a huge fear of dolls prior to watching the film, so I don’t know why I even watched it in the first place. I wouldn’t include Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky in this category because they were more funny than scary. That being said, Tiffany did look pretty creepy in Bride of Chucky.


4. Tight spaces – The Descent

There were many aspects of The Descent that made is an excellent horror film, like the scary creatures and the darkness. However what really contributed to why The Descent was frightening has a lot to do with claustrophobia, the fear of being in tight places with no escape. The Descent was honestly one of the most stressful movies I have ever watched, but it is extremely well done.

The Descent

5. Spiders & insects – The Fly (1986)

Honorable mentions: The Fly (1958,) Bug, Arachnophobia

All these films are probably capable of making people with bug phobias squirm around uncomfortably, but what makes the 1986 version of The Fly horrifying is the paranoia you develop afterwards. Even though we would never find ourselves in that situation (unless we learn teleportation,) flies are pretty common bugs, and this film might make you a little anxious around them.


6. Animals – The Birds

Honorable mentions: Willard, Cujo, Anaconda, Jaws

What separates a movie like Anaconda, and a movie like The Birds, is the fact that, once again, something common that we see every day gets transformed into something scary. This can also be said about Cujo, in which a pet St.. Bernard gets rabies and goes crazy. The chances of encountering an anaconda or a shark are probably not too likely—depending on where you live—but for those with snake phobias, or shark/water phobias, they can pack quite the punch.

hitchcock the birds

7. Being watched – Scream

Honorable mention: When a Stranger Calls (1979)

Watching Scream really creeped me out because the Ghostface killers seem to be everywhere all the time, always watching their victims and ready to attack. The original When a Stranger Calls was also extremely frightening. There are a few urban legends that have basically the same idea going on, and they are usually pretty creepy as well.


8. Flying – Final Destination

Honorable mention: The Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (TV show, and Twilight Zone: The Movie)

Flying is a very common phobia, and can be very stressful for those who have it. Flying in an airplane can especially affect those with claustrophobia, and a fear of heights. The airplane scene is uncomforting because it basically takes the worst-case scenario of flying and multiplies it by ten. The visuals are pretty shocking, but it was by far the best opening scene of all the Final Destination movies. I have mentioned “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in another top ten list as well because both versions are really good with great elements of suspense.

Final Destination 5 Photo 1

9. Zombies – Dawn of the Dead & Night of the Living Dead

Both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were really scary for me. Night of the Living Dead was one of the first zombie movies I ever watched, and it took me a pretty long time to build up the courage to watch it again later in life. The Dawn of the Dead original was scary as well, but I think the remake was much scarier.

Night of the Living Dead

10. Being abducted – The Last House on the Left

Honorable mentions: Martyrs, The Girl Next Door

I think it is pretty clear why The Last House on the Left is in this category. The abduction scene is really disturbing and hard to watch, as well as completely terrifying. Martyrs is scary for multiple reasons, but it all stems from the abduction of a little girl. The main characters of The Girl Next Door were more held captive in their place of living, which is a very frightening thought.


Of course there are many other films that are based off common fears! Please reply in the comment section below if you have any other horror movies based on the phobias I have listed, or some of your own that aren’t here!


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      1. K Hutch (@72nivek) April 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm

        Cujo is the only movie that really scared me. Saw it when I was about 11 or 12 and it was too real. Animal movies where the animal is a real representation do have an impact. Movies like Anaconda or Arachnid lose impact when the animal becomes comidically large or unrealistic.

        Maybe a category for “outcast nutjobs” could also have been included. Wolf Creek, Wrong Turn, Deliverance, The Hills have Eyes etc.

        • Herner Klenthur April 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm

          Great comments Hutch. Its a solid list that clearly could have had many more options but that just give the author more ideas for a second editorial I am sure :)

      2. Dennis Francis April 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm

        I think Arachnophobia should have been the full feature on this list IMHO. Thats a phobia that many people deal with and that movie was terrifying LoL. At least there was a nice comic relief in John Goodman in the film but ugh. Spiders. Kill em all.

        Movie scares me to this day.

        • Herner Klenthur April 14, 2013 at 12:27 am

          good call Arachnophobia scared me silly. I have a serious arachnid phobia.

      3. BlondeRobynGirl April 15, 2013 at 2:59 am

        Great list! Scream was the first horror movie I ever watched and it scared me enough to give me nightmares for like two weeks! Strangely enough, it’s one of my favourite movies now. I think you captured most of the common fears that horror movies are based on. The only thing I would change is instead of animals, for me it’s just snakes. I can’t watch any movie with snakes at all, they are horrifying. They are my worst fear by far! I shudder just thinking about them.

        • BrideOfChucky April 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

          Check out part two of this list! I cover some more snake movies :)