10 Best One Scene Performances In Horror Movies

These horror performances were short and sweet.

Little Shop of Horrors Bill Murray
Warner Bros.

Anthony Hopkins won an Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs, despite only appearing on-screen for 16 minutes. The fact his brief role as Hannibal Lecter has endured in the horror genre for decades reaffirms the classic quote, "There are no small parts. Only small actors."

Even though horror features like Shutter Island, Scream, and Little Shop of Horrors have solid acting all round, certain performers outshone the main ensemble despite being relegated to a single scene. With a minute of screen time and a handful of lines, these roles had little reason to stand out, especially if the character is superfluous. However, certain talented stars found a way to make a minor role their own, delivering a performance that was hilarious, enthralling, or bone-chilling.

Although some of the characters featured on this list weren't meant to be important, they are memorable purely because of the acting skills of those involved. Delivering so much with so little, one has to wonder what these actors could've accomplished if they were offered a beefier role.

They may have only briefly popped up once, but there's no question the following ten actors stole the show in their respective movies.

10. Christopher Lee - Sleepy Hollow

Little Shop of Horrors Bill Murray

In this Washington Irving adaptation, Constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is tasked with investigating three decapitations in the town of Sleepy Hollow. During his time there, Crane discovers a startling conspiracy involving the legend of the Headless Horseman. 

Serving as a love letter to 1950s horror, it's no surprise to see Hammer legend Sir Christopher Lee making an appearance in Tim Burton's gothic slasher. Though his time on screen is brief, it's also crucial. Tired of Ichabod's criticisms towards the justice department, Lee's Burgomaster orders the eccentric officer to lead the most dangerous murder case possible.

Though the Burgomaster only appears once, his importance cannot be emphasised enough since he's the one who kickstarts the whole plot. 

Not only that, Lee makes the most of his role, allowing the character to stand out even more as he intonates every syllable so impeccably that he commands his only scene from beginning to end. The iconic actor effortlessly makes the simplest phrases sound immeasurably unsettling. (The way he compares the decapitations to dandelion heads is deeply unnerving.)

Though Sleepy Hollow has some over-the-top performances (especially from Christopher Walken), Christopher Lee showcases how an understated performance can leave an impact.


James Egan has written 80 books including 1000 Facts about Superheroes Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Horror Movies Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about The Greatest Films Ever Made Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Video Games Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about TV Shows Vol. 1-3 Twitter - @jameswzegan85