With a new Hellraiser flick on the horizon, movie buffs may find themselves looking back on other films that depict the scariest setting of all: hell itself. The mythological nightmare realm has cropped up again and again in film history, and some of the scariest depictions leave audiences shaken.
Whether in a supernatural horror such as Hellraiser II or a drama like What Dreams May Come, hell never fails to capture the imaginations of artists and give viewers nightmares. Though plenty of movies have taken a stab at the underworld, some stand out as having delivered the scariest depictions of hell according to the Redditors who commented on the subject.
Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Not all movies depicting hell necessarily have to be of a horror persuasion, and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey managed to serve up a pretty chilling afterlife. When asked which movie hell stuck with them the most, user say-hi-to-Bri-guy called out the film simply when they said “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey!”
Hell has often been shown as a menacing place of fire and brimstone, but Bill and Ted’s hell was somewhat more mundane but just as unsettling. Ushered there by the Grim Reaper himself, the duo of dudes finds that hell is an exacerbation of all the worst aspects of life. Tiny hallways and uncomfortable settings are less about over-the-top torture and more about the slow pain of discomfort.
As Above So Below (2014)
Dante’s classic poem Inferno was one of the first pieces of literature to attempt to describe hell, and the found footage film As Above So Below aped its ideas from the ancient work. User nutsotic described the movie when they wrote, “As Above So Below is pretty good. Found footage flick about exploring the Catacombs under Paris.”
What starts as a surface-level horror movie descends into madness as the characters find themselves in what can only be described as hell itself. The claustrophobic environs of the Catacombs make the feeling of dread much worse, and the absurdity of Dante’s Inferno comes to life in one of the best found footage movies of all time.
Mixing the classic Judeo-Christian Hell imagery with Japanese mythology, 1960’s Jigoku presented a surprisingly vivid account of Satan’s domain. User shiztastik listed it as their favorite movie hell, calling it a “rather shocking depiction of Hell, considering the year the film was made” and ” a Japanese horror classic.”
Shot in vivid color, the movie’s version of hell is all about the torture and torment of perceived sinners. Bringing to life surrealistic imagery with an almost stagey look is both beautiful and frightening at the same time. Ranking highly among some of the best Japanese horror movies, Jigoku is one of the most unusual films the country has ever produced.
The Black Hole (1979)
Disney is known for their squeaky clean family image, but their off-the-wall sci-fi film The Black Hole scared the wits out of countless unsuspecting kids. User stumpcity got personal with it when they commented, “the only thing I can remember from The Black Hole is that the big red robot with spinny blades on him ends up reigning in actual Hell at the end and that f—ed me up as a little kid.”
Cast in the typical red hue of hell’s older depictions, there was something so unsettling about seeing a malevolent robot lording his power over the underworld. Satan is scary enough as is, but a totally unfeeling robot equipped with dangerous weaponry was enough to have kids running scared from the theater.
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
Hell and purgatory are often linked together in some religious circles, and in some ways the latter is just as scary as the former. Set in a purgatory of sorts, Wristcutters: A Love Story was named by user MaskedBandit77 who described how the characters “go to a special version of hell that is made for people who commit suicide. It’s exactly like real life, but just a little bit worse. I thought that was a clever concept.
Trapped in a purgatory that mirrors real life without the good parts, Wristcutters envisioned the afterlife as much more personalized. Though it isn’t wall-to-wall torture, there is an emotional element that preys on the mind and not so much on the body.
Mad God (2021)
With an idea that sat on the shelf for decades, Mad God offers viewers director Phil Tippett’s own personal vision of hell, and it is harrowing. A deleted Reddit user commented that Mad God is “the most unsettling movie that’s ever existed” and described the film’s version of the underworld as a “dystopian type of hell where the only thing that makes sense is all the suffering.”
The stop-motion epic is set within a hellish landscape of the mind. While there is much beauty to be found in the craft of animation, the absurd and surreal images are like an acid trip gone horribly wrong. Though there have been stop-motion films like Mad God, none have rivaled its originality in depicting the underworld.
Hell is usually a supernatural underworld separate from the realities of life, but Constantine depicted a man-made horror at the heart of its hellscape. The DC Comics movie was at the top of user RB30DETT‘s list when they described the movie’s version of hell as simply a “hot, windy, s—ty, post-apocalyptic version of earth with demons.”
Depicting a world shattered by what appears to be a nuclear blast, Constantine‘s hell is decidedly realistic. On top of the haunting environs, the denizens of hell are a nightmarish mixture of man and animal, and the movie shows demons in a way that viewers had never seen them before.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Though it left many viewers asking themselves what they just watched, What Dreams May Come not only depicted Heaven, but its dark opposite as well. User hereticjones had a specific reason for preferring the hell of the movie, writing, “I think it’s the only one that’s cold, and that jives with me more than the traditional firey hell”.
Seeing beloved actor Robin Williams literally go to hell was shocking enough as it is, but the plateau of tortured faces he must cross to see his wife is pure nightmare fuel. As the user alluded to, a cold and dreary hell can be more unsettling because there is a hollow emptiness that is much more frightening than silly cliches.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Though the first film brought hell to earth, Hellraiser II saw characters enter the dominion of the dreaded Cenobites. Speaking of the hell in Hellraiser II, user Real_Paramedic_1789 wrote, “It’s pretty cool just this massive stone maze filled with all sorts of weird and spooky s—“.
Simple but effective is perhaps the best way to describe the movie’s hell, and the dryness of the environment is perfectly juxtaposed by the nightmarish Cenobites. The movie posits that the real evil is back on earth, and hell is more of a purgatory that traps souls forever, waiting to truly make them suffer.
Event Horizon (1997)
Science fiction usually steers clear of the metaphysical, but Event Horizon speculated that hell was not a place below the earth, but far above it. User PraiseThePun81 had no doubt in their mind when they named the movie’s depiction of hell as the scariest, writing, “You see very brief footage of what the crew went through and it’s enough to make you extremely uncomfortable.”
Gruesome and shocking, the hell of Event Horizon was drenched in blood and filled with a heaping helping of human suffering. In most stories it is seen as a punishment for those who are wicked, but in the movie, hell is waiting for anyone who is unfortunate enough to stumble across it.