Top 3 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror

Not every terrifying moment has to necessarily take place in a horror film. Sometimes the scariest moments in non-horror media are the ones which stick with us more, due to them being more unexpected. There are times when a director feels like inserting a disturbing or distressing scene out of the blue in order to keep the audience on their toes. At times, it feels as though it can come out of nowhere. These are three of the scariest moments in non-horror media:

The Sopranos – Paulie sees the Virgin Mary


In a scene from Season 6 Episode 9 of The Sopranos, the aging, paranoid gangster Paulie Walnuts enters the Bada-Bing strip club in the early hours of the morning. The place is seemingly empty until he walks past a mirror briefly showing the reflection of someone else in the club. He stops and turns around to see a vision of the Virgin Mary levitating above the stage, accompanied by a loud musical stinger.

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This moment is a clear reference to the scene in which Jesus Christ appears to Harvey Keitel’s character in Bad Lieutenant. Still though, it comes as a true shock to the viewer as it jarringly appears in an otherwise quiet moment.

Also, the knowledge that Mary’s reflection can be seen in the mirror is chilling as this means that Paulie didn’t just see the vision due to a lack of sleep, she was actually in that room with him. All of this combines to make this one of the scariest moments in non-horror.

Mulholland Drive – The hobo behind the diner

Mulholland Drive is a David Lynch movie, so right off the bat some strange goings on are anticipated. What is not anticipated though is one of the most utterly terrifying and well-executed jump-scares in the history of cinema.

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The scene takes place in a run-of-the-mill diner. It is a public space, not secluded or decrepit. Somewhere that you likely pass on a daily basis on your commute to and from work. It also takes place in broad daylight, not in the dead of night.

Lynch even goes as far as to tell the audience what to expect, the scare is described beat-for-beat before it happens. However, instead of taking away from the scene, it introduces an inescapable sense of dread. This feeling of inevitability is enhanced through the use of a fantastic tracking shot and some clever sound design.

Se7en – The sloth victim is discovered

David Fincher’s Se7en is an unsettling film throughout. The semi-religious nature of the murders is distressing enough, but by far the worst belongs to the ‘Sloth,’ victim. We are told that the man who suffered this fate deserved it due to his despicable past, but what has befallen him is a fate worse than death.

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The man has been restrained to a bed for exactly a year, being fed only the minimal amount of food and water by John Doe. Due to the putrid smell and decayed state of his body though, the detectives presume him to be dead, only for him to jolt alive with a heart-stopping cough.

scariest moments in non-horror - You can almost smell this image...
You can almost smell this image…

Those are three of the scariest moments in non-horror. Do you agree? Were you too taken by surprise by these scenes? Let us know in the comments section below and let us know if there are any other moments we missed.

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Daniel is a 27-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.