10 classic movies to get your fear on

October 24, 2022 2:16 pm in by

A recent study has revealed the top 10 fears of Australians, with snakes, spiders and heights topping the list.

The research was released by technology company McAfee in August and shows sharks are next on the list followed by hackers/cybercriminals.

Rounding out the top 10 are dentists, bees or wasps, ghosts, flying and clowns.

Article continues after this ad

We reckon the list makes for scary movie inspiration, so we’ve gone into the archives to bring you some classics films that deserve a rewatch – or a first watch if you’re young enough or just missed them the first time around (maybe because you were too scared to watch them).


#1 fear: Snakes

Movie match: Anaconda

Australia is filled with deadly animals trying to kill us, so it’s good to be cautious around most of our animals, but especially with snakes given we have so many deadly ones slithering across our continent. Of course, many of us don’t even want to cuddle up to a friendly non-venomous python. (Poor python, sorry to reject you!)

Article continues after this ad

Classic snake movie Anaconda turns 25 this year and has one of the most “what the heck is happening?” death scenes ever as a main character gets eaten then spat out again then… hang on, we won’t spoil it. The cast of the 1997 film includes Jon Voigt, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson.

#2 fear: Spiders

Movie match: Arachnophobia

Much like snakes, a fear of spiders also seems like a healthy thing to have from an evolutionary standpoint. A bit like not running up to befriend bears if you live in America.

While it’s easier to outrun a spider, just the thought of having one crawl over your face or drop into your lap is terrifying, so we completely understand this fear.

Article continues after this ad

When it comes to spider movies, nothing beats 1990’s Arachnophobia with John Goodman and Jeff Daniels. So. Many. Spiders. And thankfully one flamethrower for the win.

#3 fear: Heights

Movie match: Vertigo

Our fear of heights comes from the simple worry around falling and hurting ourselves and the pain that would bring. Thanks gravity, you beast.

People who suffer from acrophobia can easily manage their fear by not going into such situations – they’ll never work on a tower crane high above a building site for example or free climb up a cliff face or walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on their next holiday.

Article continues after this ad

But even if we don’t suffer from a fear of heights, it’s still scary to imagine ourselves up high and falling to the ground.

There’s a heart-in-your-throat scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol where Tom Cruise scales the exterior of the tallest building in the world, the 828-metre tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Check it out:

But for a real insight into the physical and psychological terror of heights, you can’t go past master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo from 1958.

#4 fear: Sharks

Movie match: Jaws

Article continues after this ad

It turns out shark attacks are pretty rare, so it must be the gruesome details of the injuries – and deaths – that make us so scared of them.

Watching a National Geographic documentary about sharks will go a long way to appreciating these creatures, but since we’re talking scary movies here, we can’t go past 1975 classic Jaws.

Did you know that famous line uttered by Roy Scheider – “We need a bigger boat” – was improvised?

#5 fear: Hackers/cybercriminals

Movie match: Sneakers

Article continues after this ad

It’s no surprise to see this very modern fear land in the list, given the recent Optus data breach and new online scams popping up seemingly every week.

This is obviously a different type of terror to spiders and snakes and we obviously don’t want to have too much sympathy for these identity and money thieves. But the early movies in this genre are still worth a watch just to see the beginnings of hacking and how it was perceived back then.

1995’s Hackers is a cult classic featuring Angelina Jolie, but the best movie to see is 1992’s Sneakers, which also has a stellar cast including Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, Sydney Poitier, David Strathairn and Mary McDonnell.

#6 fear: Dentists

Movie match: The Dentist 2

Article continues after this ad

Poor dentists. Imagine doing a job where you know many of your patients would rather be hanging out with bees or wasps than sitting in your chair? (Yes, that’s right, fear of bees or wasps come in at number 7 after dentists.) 

Thankfully we don’t see too many horror movies where a dentist is running around killing people, because we’d never make it to our annual teeth-cleaning. But someone went there, resulting in The Dentist and its sequel The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself. Beware, the true horror – aside from the awful pun in the title – is the low star rating. 

#7 fear: Bees and wasps

Movie match: The Swarm

Bees and wasps can be scary if you disrupt their hive – just ask anyone who’s had a nasty sting or ended up with an anaphylactic reaction. But given how important bees are to our ecosystem and food supply, we probably need to move away from seeing bees as the enemy when it comes to movies.

Article continues after this ad

Check out the 1978 movie The Swarm starring Michael Caine. Netflix also made The Swarm in 2021, though it’s a different kind of storyline.

#8 fear: Ghosts

Movie match: Poltergeist

While many of us don’t believe in the paranormal, clearly enough of us think ghosts exist – and are scary – to warrant an entry in the top 10. Telling and hearing scary ghost stories is a rite of passage as a kid around campfires and during sleepovers and has carried into our adulthood thanks to movies that are less Casper the Friendly Ghost and more like Poltergeist (the 1982 original is still the best) and more recent ones like The Conjuring.

#9 fear: Aeroplane travel

Article continues after this ad

Movie match: Flight 7500

Flight safety has come a long way since the Wright Brothers successfully flew their plane in 1903, and most of us are excited instead of scared to jump on a plane for a getaway. But the white knuckle flyers with sweaty palms still exist. 

When it comes to movies about flying, the themes are generally around scary things that happen on the flight – or afterwards in the case of Final Destination – rather than the fear of crashing and dying. Because nothing creates horror like being trapped thousands of feet in the air with no escape right?

Which brings us to Flight 7500 (not quite a classic, being made in 2014), where a supernatural force starts killing people on the plane. 

And if you have a fear of both plane travel and snakes, then we recommend Snakes on a Plane starring Samuel L Jackson for a double dose of terror. You’re welcome.

Article continues after this ad

#10 fear: Clowns

Movie Match: It

When was the last time you saw a clown at a birthday party? You might be surprised to learn that the fear of clowns, called coulrophobia, has really only been documented since the 1980s, with many people crediting Stephen King’s clown Pennywise in his It books and movies for the shift in attitude.

The fear doesn’t seem to be going away, fuelled by movies with clowns that keep us watching through our hands. The TV miniseries of It made in the 1990s starring Tim Curry was terrifying, but we’re recommending the more recent movies (Part 1 and 2) with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise for a modern update that’s even scarier.