Psycho’s shower scene music voted cinema’s scariest sound

The music from the shower scene in Psycho has topped a poll of the scariest sounds in movie history.

The shrieking strings which accompany Janet Leigh’s screams beat Hannibal Lecter’s slurp in The Silence of the Lambs and Jack Nicholson’s chilling “Here’s Johnny” line in The Shining to take first place in the survey.

The sinister shark attack music from Jaws took second place, with the terrifying ‘chestburster’ scene from Alien coming third in the vote. 

Although the spine-tingling shower scene in Psycho was never supposed to include music, composer Bernard Herrmann went against director Alfred Hitchcock’s wishes, adding the now familiar jabbing, screaming strings reminiscent of animal cries. Hitchock changed his mind as soon as he heard it, and the rest is cinema history.

Darth Vader’s heavy breathing in Star Wars also claimed a place in the Top Ten, alongside Tubular Bells – better known as the theme tune from The Exorcist

The survey of 2,000 people, conducted by the world’s leading hearing specialist, Amplifon, was released to coincide with the Oscars to highlight how important good hearing is to the movie-going experience. Barry Downes, Audiologist and Professional Services Manager for Amplifon said: “Ever since The Jazz Singer won an Oscar back in 1929 sound has been central to our enjoyment of the cinema.

“Sounds, music and sound effects can evoke emotions in a way pictures alone simply can’t, making us cry, laugh or feel absolutely petrified – as this list proves.

The Top Ten Scariest Movie Sounds are:

1. Music from the shower scene (Psycho)          

2. Shark attack music (Jaws)          

3. An alien emerges from John Hurt’s stomach (Alien)           

4. Tubular Bells (music from The Exorcist)         

5. Hannibal Lecter ‘slurping’ (Silence of the Lambs)   

6. “Here’s Johnny” – Jack Nicholson’s breakdown (The Shining)       

7. Darth Vader’s heavy breathing (Star Wars)   

8. Annie breaks Paul’s legs (Misery)       

9. The sound of the chainsaw (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre)      

10. Freddy Kruger’s laugh (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

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About The Author

Having upped sticks and marched down the A13 from Essex into the smog of London, Greg can be found ranting and raging as the Film Correspondent on the Jon Gaunt Show from time to time and also on his weekly 'The Film Review' podcast (plug alert - available on iTunes and Audioboom). Aside from Front Row Reviews, he also scribbles regularly for HeyUGuys. Lowlights, thus far, have been John Hurt scolding with the question 'do you really think like that?', upsetting acclaimed filmmaker Ondi Timoner with his piece for the Sunday Mirror and falling out with the blog editor of the Huffington Post. Oh, and he did bring Liv Ullmann to tears (but in a good way... more of a highlight, that one). He can also be found writing on theatre and music for the Islington Gazette, Ham & High, Hackney Gazette, Bargain Theatre, SupaJam and others. He's often moaning about how tired he is, and he's a frustrated musician.

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