People appreciate a good scare, as seen by the long-running popularity of horror films. Getting scared silly might be a shared experience, a cheap delight, or a therapeutic release, but some films go a step further and discover irrational and pathological frights that deeply affect a specific sort of spectator. We’ve narrowed down our selection of films that evoke our fight-or-flight responses to phobias by considering some of the best examples of films that do just that.
Don’t forget to check out the Honorable Mention section at the bottom of this list for any phobia-heavy films we may have overlooked. If you’re able to, relax and take it all in!
1. Buried (2010)
In this claustrophobic psyche-out from 2010, Spanish filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés (Red Lights ) evokes Alfred Hitchcock. Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an Iraqi truck driver who is kidnapped by rebels and wakes up in a hellish coffin. Since Paul has no other means of communication save for his overpowering fear of being alone, he must make do with dwindling battery life, finite oxygen supply, and the dim prospect of rescue.
Reynolds has charisma to spare and Cortés has more than a few narrative and stylistic tricks up his sleeve in this gimmick film. It’s like no other chamber piece you’ve ever seen, and the abrupt ending will give you a good shake. Buried is twisted and intense. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, this one might be fun.
2. Contagion (2011)
Shortly after Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is introduced, she coughs and, as everyone knows, a character who coughs in this type of pandemic catastrophe movie thriller is virtually designated for death. While the opening sequence is a bit predictable, the rest of the film is dramatic and carefully structured (The Limey , Logan Lucky ).
Using an ensemble cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet, the film “Contagion” cleverly imagines a global panic caused by a lethal bacterium that causes societal collapse.
Contagion is an experimental but emotionally engrossing horror movie that will have you washing your hands repeatedly for days following. It plays on a variety of concerns, including mass panic, germophobia, contamination OCD, vaccine fear, social phobia, and anxiety disorder. This may not be all horrible after all.
3. Klute (1971)
Director Alan J. Pakula’s study of claustrophobic anxiety stars Oscar-winning Jane Fonda as New York City call girl Bree Daniel (To Kill a Mockingbird , The Parallax View ).
Detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland), a small-town Pennsylvania officer transferred to the tawdry big metropolis, is a regular fixture in this razor-sharp thriller. TIME Magazine’s Jay Cocks sums it up best when he writes, “[Fonda] makes all the correct choices, from the mechanics of her walk and voice inflection to the penetration of the girl’s boiling brain. “This is a one-of-a-kind show.”
You may want to take a series of cold showers after checking in on Klute to see what all the hoopla is about.
4. The Descent (2005)
In The Descent, there’s some pretty severe sh*t going on. Those weren’t just some lame reasons to make a poor joke (sorry, not sorry). Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers ) links the lives of six pals together in an increasingly tight-knit underground tunnel system through the Appalachian Mountains in his latest film. You’ll be gasping for oxygen by the end of the movie, for sure.
While exploring the collapsing, unmapped, drippy, horrible, nasty-assess caves, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza) relive their bittersweet pasts. All-female cast adds an extra layer of awesomeness to an otherwise excellent drama/horror hybrid. There’s compelling character development, tense tension that eventually devolves into lunacy, and unforgettably terrifying monsters.
Even when fighting predatory subhuman mutants, these ladies get catty payback on each other — so no, even stabbing horrific monsters in the face together won’t make things over over that time someone may have slept with someone’s husband. What’s that water under that bridge, sis?
5. The Parallax View (1974)
Director Alan J. Pakula, whose bizarre 1971 film Klute you’ve already read about in this list, clearly enjoys documenting various forms of paranoia.
From New York to Seattle this time, where journalist Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty) is sucked into an ever-deepening nightmare in one of the decade’s most relentlessly agoraphobic dramas.