Movie Scenes That Actually Terrified The Actors Filming Them

Some movies are made to evoke feelings like happiness from the audience. Some movies, on the other hand, are designed to do the opposite. They make the audience feel distressed, anxious and even horrified. At the end of the day we all know that a movie is fake, but many time, for the actors, it isn’t.

In order to achieve genuine emotions of fear, sometimes actors are put into uncomfortable situations where they’re no longer acting — they’re experiencing real emotions. Although this may not seem like the nicest way to go about things, it’s these scenes that help make movie history.

How would you feel if an angry Jack Nicholson was pointing a gun in your face?

One Of The Biggest Shocks In Alien Was Genuine

Twentieth Century Fox

The “chestburster” scenewhen the baby alien explodes from the astronaut’s chest in the original Alien —shocked and horrified not just the audience, but the cast as well. While the special effects were impressive enough, it was the actor’s reaction that solidified the scene because it seemed so genuine, which it was. Unknown to the cast, director Ridley Scott had actor John Hurt taken aside and secretly equipped with a device that would spray the other actors with rancid pig blood and organs.

After they were sprayed with the pig organs, the next shot of their reactions was completely real as they were disgusted and shocked. Maybe a little rude on the director’s part, but it made the scene amazing.

The Exorcist Kept The Actors On Their Toes

Warner Bros.

Being on the set of The Exorcist was essentially torture for everyone involved. Director William Friedkin was ruthless to the entire cast in order to make the film seem as real as possible. He would make the set so cold in order to make the cast shake as though in fear to the point that they could see their breath or fire guns randomly to keep everyone on edge.

In one instance, during the iconic vomiting scene, actor Jason Miller who played the priest knew that there was going to be a little vomit involved and was told it was going to be aimed at his chest. Instead, he got a face-full of green pea soup since Friedkin knew that he hated the stuff. So his disgust, fear, and overall reaction were as real as it gets.

They Kept The Mask And Killer Unknown In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Bryanston Pictures

In the 1974 horror class The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, director Tobe Hooper made a point to make his actors feel just as shocked as the characters they are playing. In order to do this, he kept the main murderer Gunnar Hansen and the mask hidden from the actors until they were supposed to see him for the first time.

The shriek by the character Jerry as he’s sawed apart in the kitchen is completely genuine as he didn’t know what the killer even looked like up until that point. It only makes sense because anyone seeing that chainsaw-wielding maniac for the first time is bound to have a similar reaction.

Jack Nicholson Terrified Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed

Warner Bros.

In Martin Scorsese’s The Departed,Jack Nicholson plays a deranged mob boss who was described as “a force of nature” while working on the film. In a confrontational scene between Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and Nicholson, Nicholson told Scorsese that he didn’t feel like DiCaprio’s fear was real and asked to take the scene into his own hands. Scorsese agreed and Nicholson came prepared to the scene with his props including a bottle of whiskey, matches, a fire extinguisher, and a gun.

After delivering an already terrifying performance, Nicholson proceeded to put the gun into DiCaprio’s face which got the exact reaction that Nichols and Scorsese wanted, complete and total fear.

See how the directors of The Blair Witch Project made their actors anxiety real.

TheWilly Wonka And The Chocolate Factory Boat Ride Scared The Young Actors As Much As It Did The Kids Watching It

Paramount Pictures

While for the most part, the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a children’s movie. However, many of themes and some of the scenes are rather disturbing. During the filming process, director Mel Stuart kept things from the young actors in order to capture genuine reactions, such as their first time in the Chocolate Room. He especially made sure to do this for the infamous boat scene, not telling them what was going to happen inside of the tunnel.

So, when Wilder was was acting completely insane, the kids didn’t know it was all an act and were genuinely afraid of him and wanted to get off the ride. Kind of cruel to do to a bunch of kids, but it showed Wilder’s true talent at acting.

Ridley Scott Repeated His Trickery With Prometheus

20th Century Fox

Prometheus is a film connected to the Alien series, both being directed by Ridley Scott. Much like the “chestburster” scene in Alien, he had something up his sleeve for the actors in Prometheus. After a rather dim-witted botanist attempts to play with a space creature, it ends up breaching his suit and entering his body through his mouth and killing him. In the scene where his corpse is turned and the monster shoots out of his mask, Scott had that all planned up without telling the actors.

He had rigged the actor’s suit with a mechanism that would allow the monster to shoot out with the help of a crew member pulling a wire. He made sure none of the actors saw the storyboards for that day to achieve the best jump scene possible.

The Blair Witch Project Wasn’t All That Fake

Artisan Entertainment

As it turns out, the scenarios in The Blair Witch Project weren’t all acting. At one point, the directors gave three of the actors survival gear, a rendezvous point and cameras, informing them to keep filming. They then left them alone in the woods. So in the scenes when the actors were having anxiety about being lost, it was because they actually were and couldn’t find the rendezvous point.

It also didn’t help that they directors were following them making the woods sound even more scary than they already are. In addition, they gave them less and less food everyday to make them more on edge and would wake them up constantly in the middle of the night.

Check out what some actors had to go through before CGI.

Duncan Regher Horrified A 5-Year-Old Actress In The Monster Squad

Tristar Pictures

In Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad, Count Dracula is played by actor Duncan Reghr, whose character is desperate to get his hands on an amulet in order to take over the world. So, in the films climactic showdown, 5-year-old actress Ashley Bank’s character is holding onto the amulet. She is then picked up by Dracula baring his teeth and opening his red and white eyes. Bank’s, who had never seen him in full costume, before began shrieking in terror not because she was supposed to because she was a 5-year-old girl coming face-to-face with a horrifying vampire.

As if that wasn’t enough for the poor girl, when using massive fans to create a portal effect, she desperately held on to the grass, horrified, again. Even though she was strapped in, it wasn’t giving her any comfort.

Marlon Brando Accidentally Scared 3-Year-Old Anthony Gounaris

Paramount Pictures

Since toddlers aren’t naturally the best actors, Marlon Brando knew he needed to connect with 3-year-old actor Anthony Gounaris before they filmed the scene when Vito Corleone drops dead while playing with his grandson. So, in order to warm up with the kid, he did a little improvised acting and put an orange peel in his mouth and started growling like a monster at the boy. This made Anthony uncomfortable and he began to cry.

Brando then comforted him until he was alright. The situation worked incredibly well for the overall scene and even made it into the final cut of the movie by adding to the relationship between Victor Corleone and his grandson.

Real Arrows Were Shot At Actor Toshiro Mifune In Throne Of Blood


In the Japanese film Throne of Blood, actor Toshiro Mifune who played the villain Washizu if filled with arrows by his own men. However, since there wasn’t effective CGI during the 1950s, Mifune was subjected to actual arrows with needle tips so they would stick in the wood behind him and the one’s behind his samurai armor. The director and prop master then hired expert archers to shoot arrows at him.

While his character is supposed to be horrified for the film, Mifune didn’t like it one bit and lost his cool, making his reaction and attempts of running away completely genuine.To make things worse, he had to do multiple takes

See what happens when you give a drug-fueled director controls of a lawnmower.

Spielberg Knew How To Work With Kids In Close Encounter of The Third Kind

Columbia Pictures

It’s no secret that 4-year-old actor Cary Guffey stole the show in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, working with kids is never easy when making movies, yet Spielberg found ways to get the perfect emotions out of Guffey for the character of Barry Guiler. During the scene with the alien in the kitchen, Spielberg had to find a way to change Guffey’s emotions from joy to frightened and back to joy again, and he did.

In order to pull it off, he had a crewman dress up in a gorilla suit come from behind a cardboard partition when Guffey turns the corner into the frame. Guffey stood there frozen, scared and confused. The crewmen then took off the mask to reveal himself and the boy’s face lit up when he recognized him. And scene.

Hitchcock Was Hard On Tippi Hedren In The Birds

Universal Studios

While filming Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, theactress didn’t have one particular scene that actually scared her, but countless. Apparently, Hitchcock was unnecessarily hard on her the whole time and would continually put her in stressful situations. Already disliking birds, she was told that they would be using mechanical ones for the sake of safety and her comfort.

However, that was a lie, and during numerous scenes, there were live birds constantly being hurled at her. So her attempts of escaping and swatting away from them are not all acting. You can’t blame her though, who wants to have live birds hurled at their face?

Steven King Went Over The Top In Maximum Overdrive

De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Apparently, while directing the rather questionable film Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King was under the influence the majority of the time. He though that putting the actors in actual danger would add a greater effect on the film. In one particular scene in which a rampant lawnmower is chasing the actors, King insisted that they keep the blades in.

Even though King was controlling the lawnmower with a remote, the actors begged him not to, saying that you couldn’t see the blades anyway but he refused. So, the actors ran in actual fear from a real lawnmower, and a cameraman ended up losing an eye after the blade hit a stick in the lawn.

Ever wonder why Alan Rickman’s reaction was perfect when he fell in Die Hard?

Shelly Duvall Was Put Through The Ringer In The Shining

Warner Bros.

While filming The Shining, director Stanley Kubrick pushed actress Shelly Duvall to her absolute limits. At times, she would leave the set and experience anxiety and panic attacks for doing takes over 100 times simply because Kubrick was a perfectionist. At times, she would come to Kubrick and show her clumps of hair that had fallen out from the stress. Although filming the movie almost broke her mentally, physically, and spiritually, one scene, in particular, actually left her in tears.

In the scene when Jack Nicholson breaks down the door with the axe, she became so scare of Nicholson that when she was screaming for Jack to stop she wasn’t talking about his charter named Jack, but Nicholson himself.

The Horse Head In The Godfather

Paramount Pictures

In one of The Godfather’s most iconic scenes, actor John Marley character Jack Waltz wakes up to find a horse’s head in his bed. During rehearsal, they used a fake head for obvious reasons. However, when it comes time to roll the cameras for real, it was decided that they were going to use a real horse’s head.

So, when Jack Waltz wakes up to find horse head in his bed, it’s also John Marley screaming because he’s in the bed with an actual horse head, covered in blood, with no idea that there was going to be a real head.

They Actually Dropped Alan Rickman For Real In Die Hard

Twentieth Century Fox

While the debate rages on whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not, one thing is certain. Alan Rickman’s character Hans showed the audience what it might feel like to be suddenly dropped from a building. While some may chalk this up to to excellent acting, he had a little help from director John McTiernan.

They rehearsed the scene numerous times, dropping Rickman 25 feet onto an airbag below, always letting go after counting to three. However, when it came time to shoot the scene, they dropped him at one to capture the face of someone that is now in an unexpected free fall. Looks perfect, but we’re not sure how much Rickman liked it!

Never give Sean Penn a prop gun again.

A Near Death Experience Filming The Abyss

Twentieth Century Fox

In James Cameron’s production of The Abyss,the actors were expected to show panic and anxiety, especially during the underwater scenes. However, in one scene, Cameron put his actors’ safety secondary to getting the perfect shot. Actor Ed Harris had to dive underwater without any equipment and would signal to a diver when he needed air. On one occasion, when Harris signaled for air, the diver got stuck and another diver accidentally gave him an upside down respirator.

Cameron made sure to keep rolling the whole time in order to capture true panic. When Harris got out of the water, he punched Cameron in the face and refuses to talk about the film to this day.

Electric Wires On Poltergeist


The controversial set and filming techniques forPoltergeist has been the topic of discussion for some time now — like how they used real skeletons. Oh, and how actors claim that there was a weird aura going on at all times. Although actress Jobeth Williams wasn’t thrilled about being lied to about swimming in the mud with real skeletons, her real fear during that scene was something entirely different.

Apparently, there were lights and electrical wires all over the place as she swam below in a pit of water with artificial rain pouring down. Williams claims that she has a paranoia about electricity and feared someone was going to drop a light into the water. To reassure her, Speilberg even stood in the water during the scene.

Christopher Walken’s Paranoia Got The Best Of Him In At Close Range

Orion Pictures

It’s widely known in the movie business that Christopher Walken doesn’t play around when it comes to having a gun pointed at him on set. Before every scene, he will check the gun himself just to make sure that any freak accidents can be avoided. While filming At Close Range,Sean Penn knew about Walken’s paranoia and decided to take advantage of it.

Before a scene when Penn points a gun in Walken’s face, Walken routinely checked the gun and gave it the clear. Before Walken could stop him, Penn ran and grabbed another prop gun that Walken hadn’t checked, and the cameras started rolling. Penn might as well have been pointing a real gun in his face.

Michael J. Fox Had a Close Call While Filming Back To The Future Part III

Universal Studios

While the Back to the Future series may be a light-hearted comedy, something terrible almost happened on the set of Back to the Future Part III. During the hanging scene, they tried a few different shots to make it seem realistic. First, they had Michael J. Fox stand on a box, but that didn’t work. Next, Fox put his fingers through the rope for a few quick shots.

Then, on the third take, when Fox tried to fit his fingers into the rope, he missed and he ended up actually hanging from the rope. Fox recalls that he hung on the rope unconscious for a few seconds until his friend knew he wasn’t that good of an actor.