The greatest showdowns in horror movie history

Every horror movie needs an amazing showdown. We're talking about the scene when the forces of good finally square off against the forces of evil. For the whole movie, the hero has been running from the slasher, warding off the vampire, keeping the beasts at bay, but now it's time to stand and fight. Of course, not all of these creepy confrontations are created equal. So gather up your courage and grab your weapon of choice—crucifix, butcher knife, bocce ball—as we take a look at the greatest showdowns in horror movie history.

Carrie (1976) - A family fight

Since time immemorial, mothers and daughters have argued, but few wind up killing each other. Of course, Margaret and Carrie White aren't your typical mom and daughter. A religious psycho straight from Stephen King's twisted psyche, Margaret (Piper Laurie) has been abusing Carrie (Sissy Spacek) for years, locking the teenager in closets and shaming her about her budding sexuality.

Their relationship only gets more complicated when Carrie rebels by going to prom…plus Margaret isn't thrilled her daughter has suddenly developed psychic powers. Suspecting Carrie of witchcraft, Margaret decides it's time for some Old Testament justice. After Carrie returns from her disastrous dance—covered in blood and boasting an impressive body count—she seeks solace in the arms of her understanding mom, who plants a butcher knife in Carrie's back.

Desperate, Carries tries crawling away from her crazed mother, who's gliding across the room, knife in hand, accompanied by Pino Donaggio's uber-creepy score. Smiling from ear to ear, Margaret hasn't been this happy the entire movie, but before delivering the coup de grace, Carrie telekinetically transforms her mom into the world's creepiest St. Sebastian statue, skewering her with an assortment of pointy silverware.

Instead of screaming in pain, Margaret seems to, um, enjoy the whole experience, but just because she'd dead, that doesn't mean things get any easier for poor Carrie. Cradling her mother's corpse, Carrie watches in horror as the house collapses all around her, catching on fire before disappearing into the Earth, setting the stage for one of horror's greatest jump scares.

Jaws (1975) - Smile, you son of a…

 

Everybody knows animals aren't evil, but there's something a little different about the shark from Jaws. It dragged a terrified swimmer to her death, turned the Kitner boy into a chew toy, and lopped off some poor dude's leg. And now, the 25-foot Great White is actively hunting our heroes—police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), scientist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and everybody's favorite drunken fisherman, Quint (Robert Shaw).

Even though it's three against one, things aren't going well for our trio. When Hooper stabs the shark with a poisoned dart, the fish makes short work of his cage, forcing him to swim for safety. Good and angry, it retaliates by jumping onto Quint's boat and having the fisherman for a little snack. Alone on a sinking ship, Brody tosses an oxygen tank into the shark's mouth and then climbs up onto the mast, rifle in hand.

When the shark circles around for one final attack, Brody takes aim with his gun, firing multiple times before finally hitting the tank, causing the beast to explode. And yeah, we know Mythbusters proved this couldn't happen in real life. But so what? It's a heart-pounding scene—one of Steven Spielberg's greatest moments—and after that shark blows into a million little bits, you definitely feel like celebrating with a little sushi.

Halloween (1978) - Laurie and Loomis vs. Michael Myers

How do you beat pure evil? With a knitting needle, a coat hanger, and a bald psychiatrist. It worked for Laurie Strode, anyway, when she was forced to fight the bogeyman himself, Michael Myers.

In John Carpenter's Halloween, a serial killer sporting a William Shatner mask is on the prowl, and after murdering some promiscuous kids, he turns his attention to Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis)—final girl, babysitter, and badass survivor. After jabbing Myers in the neck with a needle, Laurie takes shelter in a closet, cowering in the corner. But when Michael finally smashes down the door, Laurie turns into Horror Movie MacGyver, stabbing Myers in the eye with a wire hanger and then getting ahold of his butcher knife, putting the monster down…for a minute or two. This is a slasher movie, after all, and soon, Myers is back in action. Fortunately, Michael's shrink, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) just so happens to be walking by Laurie's house, and when he sees a bunch of screaming kids, he figures something suspicious is going on.

Armed with a pistol, Loomis puts a couple of rounds into the killer, sending him sprawling out a second story window. But you can't kill pure evil, and when Dr. Loomis looks outside, Michael is gone, setting the stage for at least nine more movies.

Alien (1979) - You are my lucky star

When your co-worker has an alien parasite stuck to his face, follow ship protocol and don't open the door. If you let him in, you just might find a Lovecraftian creature crawling through the air ducts, picking people off left and right—like on the Nostromo. After John Hurt brings a xenomorph onboard, the extraterrestrial makes short work of the crew, all except for Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), warrant officer, cat lover, and (soon-to-be) alien killer.

Realizing it's practically impossible to defeat the xenomorph, Ripley blows up the entire spaceship, seeking shelter in an escape pod. Of course, she's not the only one who thought it was a good idea to get out while the getting's good. After stripping down—leaving herself vulnerable, exposed, and a lightning rod for controversy—Ripley discovers she's got a stowaway, one with murder on its mind. Startled, Ripley takes shelter in a closet, but after noticing she's surrounded by space suits, our hero starts formulating a plan.

While singing a little ditty from Singin' in the Rain, Ripley slips into a spacesuit, straps herself into a chair, and opens the pod door. The vacuum sucks the alien out of the ship, and Ripley shoots a harpoon into the alien's chest, knocking it into the blackness of space; when the xenomorph seeks shelter inside the ship's thruster, Ripley blasts it to kingdom come. Traumatized but alive, the last survivor of the Nostromo signs off and falls asleep, relieved to know she'll never fight another xenomorph ever again.

Gremlins (1984) - Monsters versus Supermom

While the battle between Billy Peltzer, Gizmo, and Stripe is a lot of fun, the Gremlins showdown we all want to see—the one that'll make you applaud and puke at the same time—comes shortly after the monsters hatch from their slimy green eggs. Even though they've only been onscreen for a few minutes, they've already incapacitated a school teacher and used Gizmo as a living dartboard. And now they plan on turning the Peltzer house into their own personal playground.

Of course, Billy's mom (Frances Lee McCain) isn't giving up her kitchen without a fight. When she hears the gremlins trashing her home and eating her gingerbread cookies, Supermom grabs a knife and goes mano y mano with the monsters, taking them out with a variety of household appliances. When one gremlin sticks his head into an electric mixer, Lynn Peltzer presses the "on" button, turning the goblin into bloody green bits. Then she borrows a page from the Captain America playbook, deflecting a barrage of dishes with a TV tray before stabbing a gremlin to death.

Then there's gremlin #3, the one who's locked in a microwave and dies in an oozy eruption, sickening audiences and guaranteeing the PG-13 rating. And sure, after losing a grappling match with a Christmas tree gremlin, Lynn needs a little help from her sword-wielding son, but taking out three of four gremlins ain't bad, earning Mrs. Peltzer a place right along badass movie moms like Ripley, Sarah Connor, and Beatrix Kiddo.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Turning your back on the bogeyman

Sorry, Stranger Things. Your showdown involving a teenager named Nancy who's trying to lure a child-murdering monster into her world so she can kill it with booby traps is pretty awesome, but if you think it's better than A Nightmare on Elm Street, you must be dreaming.

Poor Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) has had a pretty rough couple of nights. There's a sweater-wearing serial killer haunting her dreams, and when he's not chasing Nancy around some super creepy boiler room, he's off butchering her buddies. But after Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) turns her boyfriend into Old Faithful, Nancy morphs into Rambo, setting up all sorts of Vietnam-style traps around her home.

Of course, her traps are worthless if Freddy is in the dream world, so Nancy has to fall asleep and drag the demon back into reality. But things get a little complicated when Freddy finally pops up in her bedroom. Sure, the light bulb grenade goes off without a hitch, but with the front doors locked and the windows barred, Nancy can't escape Freddy and his knives. Terrified, she manages to set him on fire, but after the flaming monster kills her mom, Nancy challenges Freddy to one last face-off.

This time, though, Nancy doesn't need any guerrilla gimmicks. When Krueger appears, ready to split her in half, she simply turns her back on the beast, draining Freddy of his energy. And as she walks away, ignoring the killer behind her, Freddy vanishes into nothing, leaving our hero feeling victorious…for a like a full minute before she finds herself stuck in the carpool from hell.

Fright Night (1985) - Getting rid of the neighbors

Props to the 2011 remake for giving us David Tennant with a shotgun, but if we're going for pure action awesomeness, it's hard to top the original 1985 Fright Night. This showdown between man and vampire features everything you could possibly want from a 1980s fright fest: we've got monsters, explosions, Roddy McDowall, and all the practical effects your heart desires. Plus, we can't wait to watch our hero finally face his bloodsucking neighbor.

Yeah, that's right. Teenage horror fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) lives next door to a vampire, the sexy and sociopathic Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon of Princess Bride fame). Things get even worse when Jerry turns Charley's girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), into his undead mistress. Desperate for help, Charley turns to TV show host Peter Vincent (McDowall), and together, the duo goes full Van Helsing, grabbing their crucifixes for a showdown with serious stakes.

Of course, these guys have got their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to worry about Jerry, but there's also a psycho wolf, a super-powered familiar, and Charley's toothy girlfriend to contend with. During the battle, Jerry even transforms into a monstrous rubber bat, but our heroes get the upper hand when the vampire retreats into his basement. With the sun rising outside, Charley and Vincent smash all the windows, causing Jerry to burst into green flame and disintegrate into a monstrous skeleton.

Makes you miss the '80s, huh?

Misery (1990) - Wrestling Annie Wilkes

Generally speaking, it isn't cool when your male protagonist punches a woman in the face. Of course, that all changes when the woman you're punching is Annie Wilkes. Played to perfection by Kathy Bates, Annie is a super fan of romance novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan). So when the author crashes near her home, she's only too happy to bring him inside, break his legs with a sledgehammer, and keep him as a prisoner until he finishes a novel just for her.

The situation gets even trickier when a police officer (Richard Farnsworth) shows up and discovers Paul's being held hostage. Ever the negotiator, Annie blasts him with a shotgun, and then tells Paul it's time to commit suicide. Thinking on his hobbled feet, Paul agrees to die if she'll let him finish the novel. Annie can't wait to see how the story will end, but before she can read the last page, Paul sets the manuscript on fire, distracting the murderous nurse long enough so he can bash her head with a typewriter.

But Annie is one hard-headed woman, and she recovers quickly, pulling a pistol and firing at her favorite writer. What follows is a full-blown wrestling match that involves knees to the crotch and palm strikes to the face. Annie jumps on his back, Paul gouges her eyes, and the two roll across the floor until Paul caves in her head with a pig-shaped doorstop. It's savage, screwy, silly, and scary. In other words, it's the quintessential Stephen King showdown.

The Host (2006) - The family that fights together…

Part horror movie, part black comedy, part political satire, The Host is ultimately about a dysfunctional family coming together to kill a giant fish monster. The madness starts when an amphibious creature rises out of the Han River and captures a little girl named Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung). Determined to get her back, the girl's misfit family puts aside their squabbles to find her, which leads to a fiery showdown beneath Seoul's Wonhyo Bridge.

After days of searching for his daughter, simple-minded Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) spots his daughter's arm dangling from the monster's mouth. When the creature is temporarily paralyzed by a chemical agent, Gang-du pulls his daughter free, only to discover he's too late to save her. But instead of breaking down, the girl's family wants some revenge, with everyone using their own special skills to battle the beast.

Hyun-seo's uncle (Park Hae-il) was a political protester back in the day, so he chases after the creature with Molotov cocktails. A homeless guy (Yoon Je-moon) gets in on the action, covering the creature with gasoline. And Hyun-seo's aunt (Bae Doona), a competitive archer who's never won the gold, makes the best shot of her career, setting the monster ablaze with a flaming arrow.

Burning, the creature makes a run for the river, but before it reaches the water, Gang-du impales the monster with a pole, killing it almost immediately. Of course, with his daughter dead, Gang-du's victory feels a little hollow. However, the depressed dad finds some light in the darkness when he discovers an orphan boy Hyun-seo saved from the beast, giving him a second shot at fatherhood and a way to honor his daughter.

Let the Right One In (2008) - Swimming lessons

Not every horror movie showdown is good versus evil. Sometimes, it's bad guys versus bad guys, murderers versus murderers, ambiguously-gendered vampires versus homicidal bullies. That's certainly the case for Let the Right One In, a Swedish fright flick that finds 12-year-old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) trapped in a pool, surrounded by a bunch of psychopathic kids who want to give him some swimming lessons.

Led by a sadistic older boy, the bullies pull a switchblade and attempt to drown Oskar…and that's when Eli, Oskar's vampire buddy, shows up. Most of the carnage is kept offscreen; instead, the camera stays under the water with Oskar as he slowly loses consciousness. But as Oskar fades away, we see a pair of feet being dragged through the water. We see a decapitated head float to the bottom of the pool. We watch as a severed arm bobs past the camera. And when Eli (Lina Leandersson) pulls Oskar onto dry land, we finally see the vampire's handiwork, eviscerated bodies covered in blood.

Of course, this isn't exactly what you'd call a victory. Chances are good that Oskar will now spend the rest of his life traveling the world with an undead bloodsucker, serving as Eli's familiar in a quest to find future victims. Honestly, we're not sure which fate is worse: being killed or becoming a killer.

The Conjuring (2013) - The final exorcism

If The Conjuring taught us anything, it's that you should stay far away from creepy old homes. If you don't, you might wind up possessed by a devil-worshipping witch. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens to Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) after her family moves into a 19th-century farmhouse inhabited by Bathsheba, a malevolent spirit who possesses moms and forces them to kill their children.

Under the witch's control, Carolyn is prepared to murder two of her daughters, but before she can do the deed, who should arrive but Ed and Lorraine Warren? Demonologists extraordinaire, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) need a priest to perform an exorcism, but with Bathsheba threatening to kill Carolyn and damn her soul, they realize they don't have time to wait for the local exorcist to show up.

Deciding to go solo, Ed makes a risky move and performs the exorcism himself. After tying Carolyn to a chair, he starts reciting Latin, but Bathsheba isn't going down without a fight. She forces Carolyn to vomit blood, makes the mom float around the cellar, and tries to kill Ed with a supernatural shotgun. And that's when the Warrens go into tag team mode, with Ed condemning Bathsheba to hell, and Lorraine helping Carolyn remember a special day she spent with her family.

For a movie about killer demons and devil dolls, it's a shockingly emotional scene, and thanks to that beachside memory, Carolyn summons enough strength to defeat Bathsheba, sending the witch to the underworld and audiences home on a surprisingly upbeat note.

Bone Tomahawk (2015) – Kurt Russell victorious

Some bad guys you love to hate, while others you want to see murdered in the most violent way possible. The troglodytes from Bone Tomahawk definitely fall into the latter category. These cannibals kickstart the movie by invading the sleepy town of Bright Hope and abducting a couple of citizens. This prompts Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) to form a posse, and together, our heroes set off to save their loved ones…only to end up captured by the cannibals.

Well, all except for Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), a ranch foreman who was left behind due to his broken leg. But Arthur is a determined dude, and since the troglodytes kidnapped his wife, he's crawling on all fours to reach their hellhole. Along the way, he picks off several cannibals, and he finally shows up at their cave in time to see Kurt Russell in all his action star glory.

After the troglodytes hack a man in two, things are looking pretty bad for the sheriff. The monsters knock him out, slice open his stomach, and shoot him with his own rifle. But it's impossible to keep Kurt Russell down: the sheriff grabs a tomahawk and chops off the chief's toes, giving the recently-arrived Arthur the perfect opportunity to pump the villain full of lead.

And that's when Russell really goes crazy, chopping off the chief's head with a sharpened chunk of bone. We know Sheriff Hunt only has a few minutes left to live, but as he stands over the troglodyte's body—covered in blood and anger in his eyes—we can't help but look at the man and feel something like awe.

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) - Funeral home showdown

In most movies, we're supposed to root against the sociopath, but that's not the case in I Am Not a Serial Killer. Instead, we find ourselves cheering for John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records), a homicidal teen who's trying to keep his murderous impulses in check, as he stalks an elderly man named Bill Crowley (Christopher Lloyd). So why are rooting for this psychopath?

Well, Crowley is actually a demon dwelling inside a human corpse, a demon that needs to replace his aging body parts in order to survive. After all, he desperately loves his human wife, and doesn't want to leave her alone. So if Crowley needs a pair of lungs or a new leg, he just goes shopping for an unsuspecting victim.

But his killing days come to an end when John discovers a cadaver in Crowley's car. Realizing the demon plans on stealing the victim's heart to stay alive, John hides the corpse in the woods. In retaliation, Crowley captures John's mom (Laura Fraser), stashing her away in a mortuary and threatening to use her heart if John doesn't bring him the body.

But instead of handing over the heart, John hooks the old man to an embalming device, pumping him full of pink fluid and draining Crowley of his oily, black blood. The killer screams in pain until, finally, the demon rips free from its human shell. Weak, frail, and dripping with black sludge, the creature asks John to watch after its wife before stabbing itself in the heart. Yeah, it's one slimy showdown, and we guarantee that after watching this film, you'll never look at Doc Brown the same way again.

Get Out (2017) - Chris gets revenge

It's always awkward meeting your girlfriend's parents, especially when they're racist mad scientists who plan on hypnotizing you and cutting your skull wide open. Unfortunately for photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), he's wandered into a bizarro cult that puts white brains into black bodies, and now he's in line to become their latest victim.

Strapped to a chair, Chris is forced to watch the world's creepiest TV show, a pre-op program that sends out hypnotic messages. But Chris avoids falling into "the sunken place" by filling his ears with cotton. So when his girlfriend's psychotic brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), shows up to wheel him off to surgery, Chris breaks free and bashes his head with a bocce ball.

Simmering with over 200 years of anger, Chris goes on a killing spree, murdering his girlfriend's dad (Bradley Whitford) with a deer trophy and then dispatching the hypnotist mom (Catherine Keener) with a letter opener. And when Jeremy returns for a jiu-jitsu match, Chris escapes a rear naked choke with a beautifully set-up knife to the leg. It's an absolutely glorious bloodbath, one that caps off with Chris facing his girlfriend and her grandparents. One car crash, a camera flash, and a couple of gunshots later, and Chris is driving off to freedom in one of the most uplifting, fist-pumping endings in horror history

Split (2017) - Meet the Beast

Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) has had a pretty rough life. She's a high school student who's learned to survive after years of abuse at the hands of her uncle, and things get worse when she's locked in an underground prison as a sacrifice for a mysterious monster.

His name is the Beast, the 24th personality of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a troubled man who was beaten by his mom and abandoned by his dad. As a result, he's developed a horde of distinct personalities, and the newest one has a thing for snacking on young girls. Impervious to bullets and able to crawl up walls, the Beast is no mere human, and he plans on ridding the world of "the untouched," people who've waltzed through life without suffering…and Casey is next on his hit list.

Our hero gets her hands on a shotgun and flees into an underground tunnel system, but when she takes aim, the buckshot just bounces off the Beast. With only one shell left, Casey barricades herself inside a cage, ready to make her last stand. But as the Beast bends the bars so he can reach inside, he notices that Casey is covered in scars, the result of her abusive childhood. Realizing now that Casey's "heart is pure," the Beast disappears into the darkness, leaving Casey alive and with enough courage to escape from her uncle.

And as for the Beast, well, he's getting ready to show the world how powerful he can be.