The 5 Best Uses of Popcorn in Scary Movies


January 19 is National Popcorn Day. If you are on the mailing list of any movie theater chain you probably already know this. And since you’ve probably seen a movie in a movie theater you’ve probably eaten some popcorn in a movie theater. To celebrate this highest of holidays we’ve rounded up the best uses of popcorn in scary movies. 

Best Use of Popcorn as a Projectile: Gremlins (1984)

It’s completely reasonable not to find Gremlins scary. But if you first saw it as an impressionable youth or live in a city and fear things like giant rats or live in the suburbs and fear things like possums, Gremlins is a very scary movie. The gremlins in Gremlins are a disturbing mashup of rats, possums, snakes, lizards, and bats and SINCE water is unavoidable it makes the gremlins unavoidable.

Anyways, the movie theater scene popcorn is great because 1. gremlins have packed a movie theater which means they have an appreciation for cinema, 2. they’re reasonably seated before the major motion picture, 3. gremlins figure out how to use a projector (!?!), 4. a Warner Bros. picture was able to use footage from a famous Disney picture (!?!), 5. the gremlins hum along to a tune from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 6. an unreasonable amount of popcorn is consistently tossed in the air from multiple gremlins (how could a sole concession stand keep up with this much demand) and 7. the theater is blown up! So much awesome happens in under five minutes. It’s near perfect. 

The Gremlins 2: The New Batch movie theater scene is actually scarier. When the gremlins take over another theater, this one showing an unnamed thriller before the creatures do a short shadow puppet show and screen Volleyball Holiday (not a real movie), the theater manager has to ask Hulk Hogan to stop the gremlins. And it works. Hogan cuts a not-great promo on the gremlins and they stop their shenanigans. Scary. But no explosions and like 1/100th of the amount of popcorn from the original so it’s not as good. 

Best Use of Popcorn as a Title: Popcorn (1991)

There are surprisingly few films named Popcorn. The 1991 horror film gets this slot because, well, it’s called Popcorn. Unfortunately, there’s hardly any popcorn in this flick. You’d expect some Troll 2 level of popcorn from a movie named Popcorn. It should be titled The Ward Theater in Kingston, Jamaica is Beautiful.

Best Use of Popcorn to Build Suspense: Scream (1996)

Obviously. The best use of Jiffy Pop. The best use of a big-name actor being used on the poster and then only just the first scene. The one that revived an entire industry. 

The opening scene of Scream is iconic for multiple reasons. But the use of Jiffy Pop is often overlooked. Yes, lots of people make popcorn before they “watch a video,” but Barrymore’s popping of the popcorn does quite a bit. We see her start cooking the popcorn. A few seconds later we see her shake the popcorn. A minute later we see her almost pull the popcorn off the stove. Six minutes later we see her completely ignoring the popcorn, which is now on fire and filling the house with smoke, because she has a much bigger problem. It’s brilliant and somewhat repeated in Stab, the film in Scream 2. There’s quite a bit of popcorn in Scream 2’s opening scene. There’s almost as much thrown as in Gremlins

Sidenote: If you’re going to make Jiffy Pop, aren’t you going to take the paper outer covering off before you put it on the stove? I assume Drew Barrymore never made Jiffy Pop before Scream because most members of acting royalty aren’t making stovetop popcorn. Anyway, Drew Barrymore is currently selling a hot air popcorn maker in her Beautiful By Drew line of kitchenware. 

Best Use of Popcorn as an Alibi: 10 to Midnight (1983)

Early in 10 to Midnight, we see our protagonist eating popcorn while attempting to woo some attractive women before a screening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He’s a normal dude! But we’ve already seen him prepare to go out for the evening in a ritual that American Psycho may have borrowed from. Back to the movie. Our guy leaves the theater! It was all a ruse for an alibi! That’s not good! He only flirts with those women so he can stalk and murder a woman who previously rejected him! And he’s also nude! Except for surgical gloves. Our protagonist is a very in-shape naked man who murders and enjoys movie theater popped corn! 

Best Use of Popcorn That’s Technically Not a Scary Movie: “Thriller” Music Video (1984)

The John Landis-directed music video epic may not technically be a horror film but Michael Jackson happily eating popcorn in a packed movie theater, surrounded by people definitely not happy, while watching a different werewolf Michael Jackson murder an innocent girl has become iconic. 

Also, the opening title card, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult. -Michael Jackson” lets the viewer know this should be viewed as a film. So it kinda counts. And Michael Jackson’s entire life is a scary movie. 

Hail Satan and enjoy some popcorn! 



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