Four Awesome Horror Scenes in DC Superhero Movies

Anybody who knows my taste in movies knows that my love for horror is rivaled only by my love for superheroes. I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with these films, and I especially like it when they include a few horror elements to spice things up. Movies like Blade, Hellboy, and the upcoming Morbius feel like they were made just for me. But, this kind of genre mashup isn’t limited to explicitly horror-centric superheroes.

About a year ago, I wrote an article about horror scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While you might not think I would’ve had much to write about, I had to leave out some really cool scenes to keep it from being too long. Even the most family-friendly superhero films sometimes incorporate a bit of horror into their otherwise wholesome stories. And it’s not just Marvel that does it; their rival DC is just as good at it. So, let’s take a look at the other side of the superhero coin and revisit some of the best horror scenes in DC movies.


The Joker talking to a burned corpse

1989’s Batman holds a very special place in my heart. I also love Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and absolutely adore The Batman. However, growing up in the ‘90s, there was only one true live-action Batman: Michael Keaton. Sure, George Clooney and Val Kilmer tried their hand at the role, but their films were….well, the less we say about them, the better.

So, until 2005, Batman and Batman Returns were the only good live-action Batman movies. Part of what makes them so great is director Tim Burton’s signature borderline-horror style. Both of these films incorporate horror elements so naturally you might not even notice them at first. However, if you pay close attention, you can see something horrific in just about every frame.

On top of that, there are also a few times in these movies when the horror really comes to the fore. For example, after the Joker kills his former boss in Batman, there’s a really cool scene where he gathers the man’s associates together and tells them he’s now in charge. At first, these mobsters are pretty skeptical. But, that all changes when the Joker shakes hands with one of them, electrocuting him with a hand buzzer.

The buzzer burns the guy to a crisp, turning him into a smoldering skeleton that looks like a blackened version of Norman Bates’s mother. Then, after everybody else leaves, the Joker sticks around and talks to the dead body like a total lunatic, which cements this scene as a legit horror moment. Sure, it’s not super scary, but it features enough genre elements to earn its spot on this list. It has murder, a disgusting corpse, and a creepy display of insanity. All of which lets you know the Joker is as much a murderous madman as any horror villain you’ll ever see.

Batman Begins

Batman looking like a demon

It should come as no surprise that I’m putting two Batman movies on this list. He’s called the Dark Knight for a reason, and most live-action versions of the character have done at least a decent job of showcasing the darker side of his mythology. Granted, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy toned down the explicit horror elements quite a bit from Burton’s films, but it didn’t leave them behind entirely. In fact, Nolan’s first Batman movie, Batman Begins, has arguably the scariest shot in the Caped Crusader’s entire filmography.

There’s a scene where Batman encounters Dr. Jonathan Crane—the sinister head of Arkham Asylum—and sprays him with a fear-inducing hallucinogen that makes people view the world around them as a frightening hellscape of horrors. The drug is featured throughout the story, and whenever we glimpse the hallucinations it causes, it’s super freaky. It makes for a whole bunch of really cool horror moments, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

In Crane’s mind, Batman is no longer a man wearing a mask. Instead, he looks and sounds like a full-on demon and is absolutely terrifying. Granted, we only see him like that for a few seconds, but it’s enough to indelibly imprint this image in the viewer’s mind. It’s an unforgettable shot and one of the best horror moments in any superhero film.


One of the Trench being terrifying

On the whole, Aquaman is one of the more whimsical and lighthearted entries in DC’s recent filmography.  However, it was directed by horror maestro James Wan, so it’s not all sunshine and roses. It has a legit horror scene too, one so good that Warner Bros. almost made a spin-off movie about the monsters in it. Unfortunately, that spin-off is no longer in the works, but the scene is still just as scary as when we first saw it.

As Aquaman and his companion Mera are searching for the lost Trident of Atlan—the legendary first ruler of Atlantis—they enter the territory of the Trench, a race of Atlanteans who have evolved into deadly monsters. These creatures have razor-sharp teeth and deadly claws that would make Freddy Krueger jealous. When they go on the attack, you’d be forgiven for thinking they came straight out of the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s nightmares.

These are quite possibly the scariest monsters I’ve ever seen in any superhero movie, Marvel or DC, and I’m bummed that we’re not going to get a whole film about them. No doubt, it would’ve been a real treat for horror fans. But, if you’re craving some aquatic comic book chills, you can always rewatch this terrifying scene.


A demon about to kill a a businessman

Much like Aquaman, Shazam! is another very lighthearted superhero movie that includes an unexpectedly awesome horror scene. Unexpected, that is, until you realize that the film was directed by David F. Sandberg, the man behind Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. Those are two of the best studio horror movies of the last decade, so it’s not surprising that he would give us one of the best horror scenes in a DC superhero film.

The movie’s villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, is powered by a group of demons called the Seven Deadly Sins. At one point in the movie, he crashes a board of directors meeting at Sivana Industries, the company run by his father and his brother. When he arrives, he throws his brother out a window and then unleashes the Sins on the rest of the board.

These creatures look like gargoyles on steroids, and each one has a uniquely frightening design. They rival the Trench for the scariest monsters in any comic book movie, and when they go to town on their victims, it’s a thing of horrific beauty. Admittedly, this attack doesn’t last very long, and we only see part of it. But, the little bit the film does show us is awesome, and it’s more than enough to make this scene a real treat for horror fans. So, if you like superhero movies that have a slightly sinister touch, you need to check out Shazam!

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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