12 Phobias You Can Trigger Through Horror Movies

Even if you don’t have any of the phobias below, there’s a good chance watching one of these films could cause you to develop one.

The needle pit scene in Saw II (2005) is one of the most upsetting scenes in horror.

There’s something compelling about watching a horror movie that taps into your biggest fears. Demons, ghosts, and blood-thirsty killers are typically the antagonists because most of us can agree that those tropes are objectively terrifying. Rational fears are a safe bet because we can all relate to them. But what about the unconventionally scary? Phobias are uncontrollable and irrational fears that take over when put in a specific situation or near particular objects. Although somewhat uncommon, they give horror directors a new and exciting angle to work with.

Interestingly, some experts believe that certain horror movies can create new fears for some people. For example, clowns were once a profession that brought joy to anyone who encountered them. However, after several killer clown movies, audiences became more creeped out by their colorful makeup, outfits, and mannerisms. Even if you don’t have any of the phobias below, there’s a good chance watching one of these films could cause you to be a bit more tense around these objects or situations.

Acrophobia (Fear of Heights)

A tower was built for filming that put the actors 100 feet above the ground (so, one twentieth of the height viewers see in the final product).

Movie: Fall (2022)

Two best friends and thrill-seekers, Becky and Hunter, embark on a thrilling adventure to climb the 2,000-foot-tall abandoned B67 TV tower. After Becky loses her fiance due to a mountain climbing incident, the two hope this climb will help her begin to overcome the tragic loss and compounded depression. Unfortunately, several problems arise as they work their way to the top, eventually getting stranded with no way down.

Fall does an excellent job of making your stomach drop as if you’re really up on the tower with them. Watching items fall from the top, slowly disappearing to the ground, and the frequent pans showing the extreme height will surely make anyone with acrophobia’s heart race.

Other films that bring acrophobia to life:

  • Everest (2015)
  • The Walk (2015)
  • Trapped (2016)
  • Frozen (2010)

Thalassophobia (Fear of Deep Bodies of Water)

47 Meters Down shows the dangers of the ocean to the extreme.

Movie: 47 Meters Down (2017)

While some people find the ocean serene, others are terrified of what lurks beneath the surface. In 47 Meters Down, sisters Lisa and Kate travel to Mexico, where they meet a couple of locals who give the girls a thrilling offer. They decide to take the risk, climbing into a cage where they can get an up-close look at sharks—however, the cable breaks, causing the cage to sink deep into the shark-infested waters. After losing communication with the men and having a limited amount of oxygen, they have to form a plan quickly if they want to survive.

This movie taps into several primal fears by vividly depicting the vast darkness and the strange noises of unknown predators. It’s hard not to put yourself in their shoes, imagining the horror of being trapped on the ocean floor, not knowing what’s lurking around you.

Other films that bring thalassophobia to life:

  • Open Water (2004)
  • Deep Blue Sea (1999)
  • Underwater (2020)
  • Leviathan (1989)
  • Below (2002)
  • Deep Rising (1998)

Cynophobia (Fear of Dogs)

Cujo deserved better.

Movie: Cujo (1983)

Cujo is based on the 1981 Stephen King horror novel of the same name. Cujo, a beloved St. Bernard owned by a local mechanic, Joe Camber, gets bitten by a rabid bat. Donna and her son, Tad, go to pick up their car from Joe when they are forced to take shelter in the vehicle to protect themselves from vicious Cujo. The situation becomes a fight for survival as they are stuck in the hot sun with Cujo attacking the car.

Even if you’re an animal lover, you may think twice about petting an unknown dog after watching this film. Although most dogs are loveable, Cujo depicts what could happen if you encounter a potentially deadly situation with one of the dangerous few.

Other films that bring cynophobia to life:

  • The Breed (2006)
  • The Pack (1977)
  • The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939)
  • Man’s Best Friend (1993)

Pediophobia (Fear of Dolls)

The Annabelle movies are based on a real doll from Ed and Lorraine Warren’s occult museum.

Movie: Annabelle (2014)

Dolls may be a popular children’s toy, but their uncanny-valley-like appearance gives many people the creeps. Based on a true story, Annabelle is about a couple who experience several supernatural situations involving their eerie vintage doll, Annabelle.

Annabelle combines two fears—dolls and demons—into one spine-chilling plot. If you have pediophobia, you may give your kid’s dolls a double-take after watching this film, hoping you don’t ever experience them moving on their own (or housing a malevolent spirit).

Other films that bring pediophobia to life:

  • Child’s Play (1988)
  • Dead Silence (2007)
  • Robert (2015)
  • Dolls (1987)
  • Poltergeist (1982)

Ophidiophobia (Fear of Snakes)

Snakes on a Plane sees a plane overrun with poisonous snakes.

Movie: Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Sean Jones is riding his motorcycle in Hawaii when he witnesses a mobster,  Eddie Kim, brutally murder a prosecutor because he was intent on putting him behind bars. FBI agent Neville Flynn convinces Sean to testify against him and offers to escort him on the flight. Kim and his men board the plane with hundreds of venomous snakes to take Jones out. Now, Flynn and other passengers must fight the hoard of deadly snakes they’re trapped with for the remainder of the flight.

Snakes on a Plane embodies the nightmares of anyone with ophidiophobia. Not only is there an inconceivable number of snakes to be trapped with, but the cinematography brings it to life. Although it’s a little corny, it’s hard not to jump at some of the serpents striking the screen.

Other films that bring ophidiophobia to life:

  • Anaconda (1997)
  • Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)
  • Snake Island (2002)
  • King Cobra (1999)

Agoraphobia (Fear of Going to New Environments)

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man (2020)

Movie: The Invisible Man (2020)

Cecilia Kass is stuck in an abusive relationship with a wealthy businessman and optics engineer, Adrian Griffin. She plans her escape by drugging him with her diazepam and with the help of her sister, Emily. Detective James and teenage daughter Sydney house Cecelia as she starts to put the pieces of her life back together. She’s terrified to leave the house because she fears Adrian will seek revenge. Although Emily notifies Cecelia that he committed suicide, she can’t shake the feeling that an unseen entity is watching her no matter where she goes.

The Invisible Man is a compelling representation of agoraphobia due to several factors beyond Cecelia’s extreme fear of leaving the house. The film also adds the concept of an invisible threat that only she can see, which plays on the paranoia someone with agoraphobia may experience. Even worse, the paranoia becomes a reality for her, and she has to try to convince everyone that her experiences are real.

Other films that bring agoraphobia to life:

  • The Falling (2014)
  • Copycat (1995)
  • Intruders (2015)
  • Pontiac Moon (1994)
  • The Woman in the Window (2021)

Claustrophobia (Fear of Tight Spaces)

Claustrophobic viewers face their worst nightmare while watching Buried.

Movie: Buried (2010)

Paul Conroy is an American truck driver working in Iraq. After an attack, he groggily wakes up in pitch blackness, gagged and blindfolded, and discovers he is buried alive inside a coffin. Although he has a Blackberry phone in his pocket, it’s not much help. As time passes, he makes more discoveries, some of which aid in his survival. However, there are dangers besides the lack of oxygen awaiting him.

Claustrophobia makes you feel like the walls are caving in on you, even if you’re safely above ground. However, this tight-chested feeling can only be intensified by being paired with limited air. Buried is an excellent representation of a claustrophobic person’s idea of horror.

Other films that bring claustrophobia to life:

  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Cube (1998)
  • Stranded (2001)
  • Panic Room (2002)
  • Pandorum (2009)

Aerophobia (Fear of Flying)

The plane the characters just exited explodes in midair at the beginning of Final Destination .

Movie: Final Destination (2000)

Teenager Alex Browning and his classmates are boarding an airplane for a class trip to Paris. As the plane is about to take off, Alex has a premonition that the aircraft explodes and kills everyone on board. Panicking, he tries to warn everyone of what’s to come, causing a disturbance that leads to him and a few others being taken off the plane. Although those who disembarked missed the fatal explosion, they’ll soon learn that death is coming for them.

Although there are several films about airplane crashes, Final Destination sticks out because it tends to get in the heads of those with aerophobia. After seeing this movie, it’s hard not to speculate if the anxious thoughts are actually a terrifying glimpse into the future.

Other movies that bring aerophobia to life:

  • Airborne (2013)
  • Non-Stop (2014)
  • Executive Decision (1996)
  • Fearless (1993)

Trypanophobia (Fear of Needles)

The needle pit scene in Saw II is one of the most upsetting scenes in horror.

Movie: Saw II (2005)

Detective Eric Matthews is called to the scene of another death due to a disturbing Jigsaw trap, only to discover he is now a part of the game. The monitors in the building he arrived at show a group of several other victims who are confined and forced to play Jigsaw’s sadistic puzzles. One of the rooms houses the infamous needle pit, filled with thousands of filthy, used syringes. Amanda Young, one of the players, was picked up and thrown into the hole, causing dozens of needles to pierce her skin. Now, she must dig through as she’s repeatedly injected to find the key that will allow them all to escape.

Even if you don’t have trypanophobia, this scene in Saw II is unsettling. It’s hard for most of us to watch one clean needle pierce through someone’s flesh, much less several at a time from head to toe. 

Other movies that bring trypanophobia to life:

  • Friday The 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
  • Antiviral (2010)
  • Audition (1999)

Arachnophobia (Fear of Spiders)

It will be very difficult for viewers with arachnophobia to watch Arachnophobia.

Movie: Arachnophobia (1990)

A group of researchers venture out to the jungles of Venezuela, where they discover an unknown spider species in their traps. One escapes, killing one of the researchers, and hitches a ride back to the United States on his body. After returning, the spider gives birth to a herd of offspring that soon take over the California town. It becomes a race against time to stop this dangerously venomous spider from taking over the entire state (and country.)

Although Arachnophobia has some comedic relief, the film does an excellent job of inducing fear with the realistic depiction of the arachnids’ appearance and behaviors. Watching dozens of spiders scurry across the screen and pop up in less-than-ideal locations is enough to freak nearly anyone out, especially if you have arachnophobia.

Other movies that bring arachnophobia to life:

  • Tarantula (1955)
  • Itsy Bitsy (2019)
  • The Mist (2007)
  • Possum (2018)

Coulrophobia (Fear of Clowns)

While the miniseries with Tim Curry playing Pennywise is still beloved by fans, It (2017) is an excellent remake.

Movie: It (2017)

Stephen King’s IT, the 1990 miniseries that likely sparked the rise of coulrophobia, was recreated as a two-part film series to make It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019). Based on the Stephen King 1986 horror novel, the movie opens with a young boy, Georgie, sending off his paper sailboat down the street during a rainstorm. When his boat falls into the sewer, a pair of yellow eyes belonging to Pennywise, a killer clown, appear. Pennywise tricks Georgie before yanking him down to his sewagey lair.

Although the storyline is unrealistic, both the 1990s miniseries and the 2017 film have a way of turning what seems unimaginable into a reality. Whether you have coulrophobia before or after watching the film, you may catch yourself avoiding walking too close to sewer drains… just in case.

Other movies that bring coulrophobia to life:

  • Hell House LLC (2015)
  • Haunt (2019)
  • Clown (2014)
  • Terrifier (2016)
  • Stitches (2012)

Mysophobia (Fear of Germs)

Gwyneth Paltrow plays a businesswoman returning to Minnesota from a trip to Hong Kong… and bringing a highly contagious virus with her.

Movie: Contagion (2011)

Beth Emhoff returns home from a business trip to Hong Kong after sleeping with her ex-lover at a layover in Chicago. Initially, she thinks she has jet lag, but her symptoms worsen over the next few days. She spreads the illness to her son, leaving her husband, Mitch, to mourn alone in quarantine with the couples surviving daughter. Meanwhile, a deadly contagious virus is spreading rapidly, and the CDC and WHO are struggling to determine where it came from. Chaos ensues as more and more people’s lives are taken by the illness.

Contagion takes a fear of germs to a new level by realistically portraying how rapidly an airborne virus can spread. The characters in this movie react similarly to someone with mysophobia, understandably, by excessively washing their hands and isolating themselves to avoid any exposure to germs.

Other movies that bring mysophobia to life:

  • Cabin Fever (2002)
  • 28 Days Later (2002)
  • The Crazies (2010)
  • Quarantine (2008)

Further reading:

Meet The Author

Brandy Eaklor is a writer, artist, and content creator who specializes in entertainment and horror subjects. Her favorite horror movies are Hereditary and The Strangers.