Sure, we love to go to the movies to be scared, even anxious. But what if movies like The Hunger Games weren’t made up? Any chance we’d be as brave as Katniss? Probably not.
1. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games’ concept of sending our teens to battle each other to the death for entertainment is absolutely frightening, not to mention every parent’s worst nightmare. If this were real, there would be massive riots and parents would hide their kids away in secret. We even wonder if some kids would refuse to fight altogether. If one group of teens decided to make a pact to not kill each other, then the whole process may come to an end.
Why it works as a movie: As an audience, we love to indulge in wondering “what would I do?” or “could I survive?” Katniss is clever, skilled as an archer, but also just a regular girl. We identify with her normalcy and feel exalted when she succeeds. She’s the true definition of a hero — a regular person put into extraordinary circumstances who must outsmart an evil entity more powerful than herself.
2. Jurassic World
The word dinosaur means “terrible lizard” in Greek and should be our first clue as to why these creatures are bad news. We’re as intrigued as any scientist to bring one of them back to life, but putting a bunch together on an island is just a really bad idea. Like in the franchise, the dinosaurs will always get off the island. We’ve heard for years about alligators in New York City sewers. Can you imagine a Europasaurus invasion in Manhattan? Or a Microrapter feasting on pigeons in Central Park? We’d need to invent special weapons to to take them down.
Why it works as a movie: As humans, we’ve evolved to deeply fear reptiles. Yet we’re also fascinated by these mysterious and giant creatures from the past that once ruled the earth. In movies, it seems, our curiosity will always outweigh our better judgement.
Image: Warner Bros.
Sure, the world of hobbits sounds fun on the surface, but Middle Earth is also full of dangerous predators that rival the dinosaurs. On top of giant spiders and the dungeons of wood elves, another giant reptile is on the loose! His name is Smaug and he breathes fire, and he’d have us peeing our pants at just the sound of his roar.
Why it works as a movie: Most people who love The Hobbit movies were first introduced to the story through the book by J.R.R. Tolkien when they were teenagers. The novel made very clear this was an exciting world of fantasy where, as passive readers, we could all sit back and let the various magical characters in the story deal with the dangers. We carry this nostalgia for The Hobbit to the cinema with us, knowing the ending will be a happy one.
Image: Warner Bros.
In the latest installment, Godzilla is a giant, radiation-eating beast whose existence has been kept secret by the U.S. government since the 1950s. If our government was attempting to contain a beast like this, they would no doubt wake it up and send it to battle our enemies. It would be an unprecedented type of warfare never before seen by the world, and that is truly frightening.
Why it works as a movie: The giant, fire-breathing reptile theme is obviously popular. Perhaps reptiles are so darn frightening because their cold-blooded, reptilian brain doesn’t allow for such emotions as compassion or sympathy. Reptiles are also brutal killers and will stop at nothing to get their prey. The story of Godzilla originated in Japan as a possible response to Americans bombing their county with horrible nuclear weapons.
More: Why Godzilla is the new zombie-vampire
5. Planet of the Apes
Image: 20th Century Fox
Sort of the opposite of the giant reptile genre, Planet of the Apes movies are frightening for a completely different reason — they scare us because they are so much like us. If our scientists were able to create superintelligent great apes, they’d probably be so much like us that they wouldn’t be much more of a threat than any of our enemies. Some type of class warfare would certainly take place, however, and those afraid of people different than ourselves would likely try to exterminate them.
Why it works as a movie: Even though science has proved that we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, we as a culture have never been fully able to reconcile our humble ancestry. We are fascinated to see apes acting so intelligently, so emotionally, that it helps us to see ourselves in them. Until humans embrace their inner ape, this franchise will keep going strong.
What franchise movies terrify you? Let us know in the comments section below.