Few toys have the potential to be as sinister as dolls. Whether it’s their unblinking eyes, their eerily frozen smiles, or the fact that we’re pretty sure they move as soon as we turn our backs, dolls are often more creepy than cute. It comes as little surprise, then, that this fear of dolls (otherwise known as pediophobia) has crawled out of our nightmares and crept onto the silver screen.
A number of beloved horror films and scary shows tap into creepy doll terror, from Child's Play's not-so-good-guy-doll Chucky to Annabelle from The Conjuring universe and Annabelle spin-off films. And with 2019's Child's Play reboot already in theaters and Annabelle Comes Home set to debut on June 26, it's clear that the terror shows no signs of stopping.
Below are seven of the scariest dolls from horror movies and scary shows that left us sleeping with one eye open.
Chucky from The Child’s Play Series
Thanks in large part to the voice acting of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Brad Dourif as Chucky, this pint-sized murderer has joined the ranks of iconic killers from slasher films. His bloody legacy has spawned a slew of sequels, including 2017’s surprisingly fun Cult of Chucky and 2019's well-received Child's Play reboot featuring Aubrey Plaza and Mark Hamill as the voice of the killer doll. The franchise follows occult serial killer Charles Lee Ray (named after actual murderers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray), who transfers his spirit into a “Good Guy” doll to avoid death and terrorizes the many unfortunate people who cross the path of the vessel in which his soul resides.
Related: The 5 Scariest Haunted Dolls
All the dolls from Dolls
Beating Child’s Play to theaters by a year, Stuart Gordon’s Dolls presents an equally grisly but very different story of deadly playthings. Equal parts twisted fairy tale (from the screenwriter of Troll, no less) and old dark house film, Dolls crams every shadowy frame with tons of creepy dolls. Not to mention the doll-like fate that befalls one of the doomed punk girls who takes refuge in the old house, or the grisly discovery of what lies beneath those porcelain features …
Annabelle from The Conjuring, Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle Comes Home
The horrifying doll Annabelle stole the show in James Wan’s The Conjuring, despite having a relatively small role in the 2013 haunted house movie. Anabelle went on to star in her own movies; 2014’s Annabelle, 2017’s prequel Annabelle: Creation, and 2019's Annabelle Comes Home. Part of the horror behind Annabelle is no doubt due to the fact that she’s based on a real haunted doll named Annabelle, who is famously kept in a glass case in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Occult Museum.
Blade, Pinhead, Jester and the rest from the Puppet Master series
Pro tip: If you ever stumble upon an old chest packed with dead-eyed puppets, back out of the room and seal the door. The direct-to-video cult classic Puppet Master (also stylized as The Puppet Master and Puppetmaster) disturbed many a mind in 1989, inspiring multiple sequels, a comic book series, and even model kits. Psychics converge at the Bodega Bay Inn where they discover that their friend has died of an apparent suicide. Visions trouble the mourning clairvoyants, yet they suspect something else stirs in the old home. Soon it becomes clear that homicidal marionettes, created years ago by a sinister puppeteer and brought to life by an ancient curse, lurk within. And these killer figurines are dead-set on eliminating the new arrivals.
He Who Kills from Trilogy of Terror
The murderous doll, He Who Kills, steals the show in the made-for-TV 1975 anthology horror film Trilogy of Terror. The final installment is based on the short story “Prey” by I am Legend author Richard Matheson and stars Karen Black as Amelia, a young woman who must battle a ferocious evil doll while alone in her apartment.
Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone's "Living Doll"
The 1963 Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll” put a terrifying spin on the Chatty Cathy dolls that were all the rage at the time the episode first aired. The Chatty Cathy stand-in in the episode is Talky Tina, known for comforting catchphrases like “My name is Talky Tina and I love you.” But when Erich winds up the Talky Tina doll that belongs to his girlfriend’s daughter, her sentimental phrases take a sinister turn for the worse...
Brahms from The Boy
Greta Evans, a young American from Montana, sets out to England for what sounds like a plush gig nannying for a well-heeled elderly English couple. Upon arrival, however, Greta is shocked to learn that her charge is actually a life-sized doll named Brahms. The couple outlines a list of strict rules in taking care of little Brahms—rules that Greta ignores. Big mistake, Greta. Soon, disturbing events plague the English estate, and Greta suspects the doll may be alive. Those bewitched by this creepy doll English horror movie are in luck: a sequel starring Katie Holmes is set for release in July 2019.
Dolls, puppets, and other miniaturized representations of humans have always held a sinister power for people. And that fascination has led to countless movies about scary dolls; so many that there’s no way we could honor every scary doll movie in one post. Did we leave off one of your favorite dolls? Want to petition for the inclusion of the clown doll from Poltergeist? Let us know in the comments below! And remember: If you collect dolls, maybe take a page from the Warrens' book, and keep those creeps under lock and key.
Featured still from "Annabelle: Creation" via Warner Bros. Pictures