Every year, dozens of new horror movies come out, but only a handful of them will be remembered a few years later. To be memorable, you need to stand out—and one way is to be creative with your deaths.
Not every murder in a horror film is equal. Psycho's shower kill, Cube's laser kill, and Alien's chestburster kill all brought something new to the table. A great horror director goes to great lengths to elevate their deaths in new ways that'll catch viewers off guard and get them talking.
Here are our picks for the most creative deaths in horror movies—the kind that make you think: "Whoa, I never would've thought of that...!"
Fair warning: Each of these kills is obviously a minor spoiler!
15. Raw (2016)
I suppose when you're a cannibal, you have to get creative—not just in avoiding detection, but in how you get your meals.
At the opening of Raw (2016), we see a character playing chicken with a car on a street lined with trees, which causes the driver to swerve and crash. Well, that's certainly an innovative way of catching a meal!
14. Us (2019)
Jordan Peele is a creative genius, so it's no wonder that the deaths in his films are often inventive. In this scene from Us, an affluent American family is suddenly murdered by a collection of doppelgangers.
While the method itself isn't especially mind-blowing—they're just stabbed to death—we're picking it for the symbolism of them dying at the hands of oppressed and subjugated versions of themselves.
13. American Psycho (2000)
The entirety of American Psycho (2000) feels like a hellish fever dream, and it absolutely has some inspired moments. While the majority of deaths happen through the use of guns or knives, Patrick Bateman gets creative when one of his victims is about to get away.
Wielding a chainsaw, he decides to throw it down the stairs just as the poor woman is about to escape. Patrick Bateman's resourcefulness works wonders and we watch on, gobsmacked.
12. Oculus (2013)
Another example of symbolism done well, Mike Flanagan's Oculus (2013) was absolutely bone-chilling throughout. In the latter half of the film, we're unsure what to believe as the two adolescents have their perceptions of reality warped by a demonic mirror.
Thinking he has finally gained the upper hand, Tim decides to send the glass back to hell. However, the evil ornament is one step ahead. It distorts the audience's perception of time and space, only to reveal a gruesome death has occurred while we were distracted. Very, very clever.
11. Jaws (1975)
A shark eating people isn't too imaginative. But how about a shark getting killed by what it eats? That's ingenious! Okay, perhaps an explosion isn't the most visionary way to off a villain, but once again, it's the symbolism behind the death that makes it interesting.
With this little ironic twist, this death scene in Jaws is also one of the most gratifying to watch in cinema history.
10. The Wicker Man (1973)
The folk horror genre is one of the most specific in horror cinema. Much like Se7en (1997), The Wicker Man (1973) has strong Biblical themes that run throughout the entirety of the story.
The creativity here comes from the manner in which our protagonist is finally killed: by being burned alive. This scene acts as both a history lesson and a disturbing watch.
In a story that pits a Christian against a whole island of pagans, Sgt. Neil Howie's disposal is reminiscent of how Christian martyrs were burned when they went to spread the message of God.
9. Deep Red (1975)
Dario Argento was a master of the horror genre, even popularizing his own subgenre called the giallo film. In Deep Red (1975)—originally titled Profondo Rosso—Argento goes all out in the ending sequence.
After the killer reveals themself, they get their necklace caught in an old elevator shaft. As the machine starts moving, the necklace gets tighter and tighter until... Well, I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.
8. Jason X (2001)
While Jason X (2001) is far from the best film in the franchise, it does feature one of the most creative deaths of the series.
After being unfrozen, Jason finds his first victim. He places her face in a sink of liquid nitrogen, which turns her head into a big block of ice—and he summarily smashes it to pieces.
Did it take inspiration from James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)? Either way, it's a welcome change from his conventional machete.
7. Final Destination 2 (2003)
Final Destination 2 (2003) comes through with one of the most implausible deaths in the history of cinema—implausible but creative.
An explosion sends razor-sharp barbed wire hurtling through the air at Rory, who's too busy doing cocaine to duck in time. He's sliced into pieces, and those pieces of him fall to the floor.
While I can't say with any certainty that this is actually how physics works, it's still a most imaginative death.
6. Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar (2019) clearly takes great inspiration from The Wicker Man (1973), but the brilliant Ari Aster kicks it up several notches and puts out a film that's breathtakingly refreshing.
Seated firmly within the folk horror genre, Midsommar features several creative murders—about as many as you might expect in a movie about a Swedish pagan cult.
In the final sequence, Christian is paralyzed and sewn into a bear's skin. He's then placed inside a large structure made out of hay, which is then set alight. A harrowing scene to watch, Ari Aster creatively pays homage to the forefathers of the folk horror genre.
5. Scream (1996)
This death scene in Scream is a classic—so much so that it's been endlessly parodied for how illogical it is.
Wanting to escape Ghostface, Tatum tries to squeeze out through a pet door. (Not the smartest of moves!) However, she clearly catches Ghostface in a playful mood: instead of stabbing her writhing body, he simply presses the "Open" button on the motorized door.
The result is both darkly funny and unusually creative in the kind of way that only horror movies can afford to be.
4. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter is arguably the greatest horror director of all time. The imagination he's demonstrated in a number of his films is astounding, but for us, The Thing (1982) stands out for its sheer innovation.
In one scene in particular, Dr. Copper tries to revive Norris with a defibrillator, only to discover that his stomach has opened up and munched his arms all the way up to the elbows.
In an insanely creative film, this moment stands out as the most creative bit.
3. Final Destination 5 (2011)
We could fill a whole list using nothing more than the creative deaths in the Final Destination universe. However, the best death in the franchise is Isaac's unfortunate experience with acupuncture.
While there are so many things that could potentially kill him in this room, it's a Buddha statue that comes crashing down onto his head that does the trick. Certainly creative, definitely unexpected.
2. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher is no stranger to dark films. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Fight Club (1999) are evidence enough of that. However, it's Se7en (1997) that stands out as his darkest work to date.
The film opens with one of the most creative murders in the history of horror movies: a man has been forced to eat himself to death.
The Biblical underpinnings of this film add a whole other layer of creativity, and the description of the biological processes that occur before death are chilling. Few deaths in cinema are as imaginative as this one.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Freddy Krueger is one of the most famous horror movie villains of all time. Is it any surprise that he tops this list?
In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), we get the most innovative death in the whole franchise. After extracting the tendons from Phillip's body, he starts moving him like a puppet, leading him up towards a tower. At the precipice, Krueger cuts ties... so to speak...
Wes Craven was one of the most creative horror directors of all time and this is him at his imaginative best, which is why it tops our list.