"They have the skirts too of course,
so many skirts and veils that you could never hear or see their feet. "Hover Nuns" we used to call them. [...] They're damn spooky."
— John Rodgers, on his time in a Catholic School.
Nuns follow a spiritual calling, and the word "ghostly" used to be a synonym for "spiritual" (see, for example, Ivanhoe
by Sir Walter Scott
, and the King James Bible
which refers to the Holy Ghost), so maybe this is why nuns in movies are sometimes otherwordly, and seem touched by the supernatural in ways that are frankly disturbing. Other times it's more that the nun's reason for having become one is less about being 'called' than a try at redemption or willing away some horrible trauma in the past.
There is an exception, of course, for when Nuns Are Mikos
. Contrast Naughty Nuns
. Compare and contrast Nuns Are Funny
and Nun Too Holy
. For when they're actually villains see Sinister Minister
- The Blues Brothers: The Penguin (With the extremely-intimidating name of Mother Stigmata) does not walk, she glides. Doors open and close without her touching them. Of course, this is all Played for Laughs.
- The Omen: The nun at the hospital seems quite sinister, as she tells Gregory Peck that she can't give him any information. She then rises silently up the paternoster lift.note .
- In Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, the gliding dark spectre which prompts Kim Novak to jump to her death turns out to be — a spooky nun.
- The dwarfish nun from Federico Fellini's Amarcord. We never see her face or hear her voice.
- In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy's story is told by a spooky nun who turns out to be the ghost of his mother.
- The black comedy film Death Becomes Her has three. Bruce Willis meets the trio at a hallway leading to a morgue. Like Penguin, they do not walk, they glide. Ghostly sobbing for added creepiness.
- Spy Hard has gun-toting nuns.
- Invoked in The Town, where Doug MacRay and his gang don nun masks and habits with rubber faces to rob an armored car.
- The supernatural horror film The Nun.
- When the evil alien first appears in Species The Awakening, she's disguised as a nun.
- The blind nun on the cover of The Devil Inside definitely fits this. However, she's merely a background character with no plot significance.
- While the Mother Superior in The Song of Bernadette is a sweet old dear, Sister Therese Vauzous the novice-mistress is hell on wheels. Dame Gladys Cooper has been described as "positively cadaverous" in this role, and she is: by the time she gives Bernie her big "The Reason You Suck" Speech, she appears like a living, whispering skull.
- The Armchair Thriller Quiet As a Nun played upon the quietness of a nunnery and The Faceless appearance of nuns as a form of horror.
- Parodied with the Satanic nuns of the Chattering Order of Saint Beryl from Good Omens, who are only scary if you have a phobia of little old ladies who don't know when to shut up. (Who doesn't?!)
- In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the hero escapes Inspector Javert, in one memorably spooky scene, by ducking into a small monastery in Paris, and immediately is convinced the place is haunted as he witnesses the self-flagellating rituals of the resident nuns.
- Parodied in Four on the Floor, with the videogame spoof "Karate Nuns".
- Subverted in Call the Midwife; though Jenny is a bit freaked out when she first arrives, the nuns are very nice and ordinary.
- American Horror Story: Asylum has the nuns of Briarcliff, headed by the undeniably spooky Sister Jude. Then there's Sister Mary Eunice, an innocent, kindhearted nun who spends most of the season as a victim of demonic possession.
- Jack Taylor: In the episode "The Magdalen Martyrs," one of his clients have asked him to trace the identity of a nun who had abused her charges physically and psychologically at a Magdalene laundry, one of whom included the client's mother, and as we find out later, Jack's mother. The nun was so terrifying that all the girls called her "Lucifer".
- In Chrono Trigger, the nuns in the church of the past appear to be creepy, but this is later shown to be because they are secretly all Nagas.
- Painkiller has demon nun enemies.
- The battlenuns in Brütal Legend managed to prove that this trope and its opposite are NOT mutually exclusive.
- In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, there is a picture of Sister Agnes, a nun with a creepy face, which is what Noogie is afraid of.
- Double from Skull Girls usually takes the appearance of a nun, but her true form...
- Despite being a nun in a horror game, Sister Agnes from Castle Red is an aversion, being one of the friendliest characters in the game. She lives up to this trope a bit more in the E Ending, aptly named "Lost and Damned."
- And yet another parody, sort of - the Satanist, gas-mask wearing "Little Sisters of Belial" in Scary Go Round.
- There's something a little off about Sister Edith in Silent Hill: Promise.
- Anyone who's studied in Catholic school will have met one. Perhaps not vampire-like spooky, but the Sadistic Teacher hall monitor type spooky certainly.