The Top 20 Scariest Roller Coasters In America

There are thrill-seekers, and then there are fear-seekers. If you've purposefully come to this list of the 20 scariest roller coasters in America, you're probably a bit of both. In her book about Disney theme park design, "The Imagineering Story," author Leslie Iwerks quotes Imagineer Eddie Soto as saying, "Fear minus death equals fun." Guests at amusement parks and theme parks stand in lines for hours to chase that thrill of feeling scared — but knowing everything will (likely) be perfectly safe.

On the other hand, perhaps you've come to this list for the polar opposite reason: you've got a trip to a big park coming up and you'd like to know which coasters to avoid! No judgment — this is a safe space.

Whatever brings you here, below we've compiled what we consider some of the nation's scariest coasters in alphabetical order. That being said, many fear-inducing coasters are basically the same ride, cloned or slightly modified in multiple parks. In those cases, we've selected the most intense of their category, rather than giving duplicate spots on the list to a number of similar coasters.

20. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit — Universal Studios Florida (Orlando, Florida)

In terms of height (167 feet) and speed (65 mph), Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is hardly the tallest or fastest in our list of scariest roller coasters in America. Why are we mentioning it, then? Its lift hill is ... something else. While some coasters ascent a traditional lift hill and then descend 90 degrees, this one does the opposite. The lift hill itself is 90 degrees, meaning riders face straight toward the sky as they move upward (pictured above; that's the coaster train headed up). It's wild.

Maurer Rides and BRPH collaborated with Universal Creative to bring Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit to life. The coaster opened in 2009 at Universal Studios Florida, one of two (soon to be three) theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort. The coaster's name comes from its loose theme of "ripping" music and "rocking it," as each rider gets to choose which song they listen to while onboard.

19. Banshee — Kings Island (Mason, Ohio)

Banshee at Kings Island is an inverted coaster, meaning it positions its steel track above riders, not underneath them. At its tallest, Banshee, (which was manufactured by Bollinger & Mabillard and opened in 2014), takes riders 167 feet into the air. At its fastest, the mythologically named coaster moves at 68 mph. Many similar inverted coasters are located in parks nationwide, from Afterburn at Carowinds to Raptor at Cedar Point. Banshee, though, retains bragging rights as the world's longest among them. The ride contains 4,124 feet of track and lasts three minutes.

18. Cannibal — Lagoon Amusement Park (Farmington, Utah)

If you thought a roller coaster track could only descend a maximum of 90 degrees, think again. Cannibal, which opened in 2015 at Lagoon Amusement Park in Utah, transports the entire coaster train in an elevator, then thrusts riders down its biggest hill at a staggering 116 degrees. Just take a sec to picture that, and then try not to be terrified. ART Engineering manufactured Cannibal, which reaches a height of 208 feet and speeds of up to 70 mph.

17. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain — Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park (Lake Buena Vista, Florida)

Disney is all about storytelling. In the case of Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, the foreboding narrative elicits as much fear as the ride itself. Riders travel aboard "abandoned" tea trains up Mount Everest, ignoring warnings of a mysterious yeti who guards the mountain. The ride, which opened in 2006 at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, includes segments indoors and outdoors, forward and backward. It sounds rollicking on paper, but its steel track is actually quite smooth.

Vekoma built the coaster, while Walt Disney Imagineering provided the surrounding theming of the imposing mountain. Disney also curated the props and designed the special effects that tell the attraction's story. The coaster's tallest height is 112 feet, but the faux mountain is 199 feet, making the experience seem all the more intimidating — as does, y'know, the abominable snowman who tries to kill you. Still, it's a nice alternative to scaling the real Everest.

16. Goliath — Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, Illinois)

"Are you ready to conquer Goliath?" the coaster's webpage teases. Goliath opened in 2014 at Six Flags Great America and was designed by Rocky Mountain Construction Company. Reaching speeds of up to 72 mph, Goliath impressively holds multiple distinctions, including the world's tallest (180 feet) and steepest (85 degrees) drop on a wooden roller coaster. Semi-rare for a wooden track, Goliath goes upside-down. If you've got a hankering for other intense wooden roller coasters, add to your list Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City, The Voyage at Holiday World, and Texas Stingray at SeaWorld San Diego.

15. Pantheon — Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg invites guests to travel across Europe in different areas themed to unique European countries. Located in the Italy-themed area of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Pantheon "harnesses the speed and strength of five of the greatest Roman gods." Pantheon reaches speeds of 73 mph as it blasts through four launches along its track. As is the case with many coasters on our list, the manufacturing company Intamin built Pantheon. The coaster opened in 2022, sits pretty at 180 feet tall, and boasts a whopping 95-degree drop.

14. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith — Disney's Hollywood Studios (Lake Buena Vista, Florida)

Sure, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is pretty scary on its own. The track is in complete darkness and goes upside-down multiple times. What gives the ride an edge and earns it a spot on our list, though, is its unbelievable beginning. Following a soundwave-piercing countdown from "5" directly in your ears from Steven Tyler, the coaster train launches from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds. Visible to guests waiting in line, the launch knows how to prompt fear into nervous riders, heightened by the fact that the train blasts into immediate darkness. Naturally, the on-ride photo snaps its capture while the launch is in progress. For many families, it's a hilarious, must-have souvenir.

The coaster train is made to look like a super-stretch limo. Within the world of the story, you're on your way to an Aerosmith concert in Los Angeles. The soundtrack randomizes an Aerosmith song that riders hear onboard, meaning you can ride several times and have a slightly different experience. Vekoma built Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering. The ride opened in 1999 at Disney's Hollywood Studios, one of Walt Disney World's four theme parks, all of which have coasters of their own.

13. Xcelerator the Ride — Knott's Berry Farm (Buena Park, California)

Xcelerator the Ride isn't messing around. The coaster sends riders from 0 to 82 mph in 2.3 seconds directly into a 90-degree drop from 203 feet. Whoa. Built by Intamin, Xcelerator the Ride opened in 2002 at Knott's Berry Farm. We're not sure why the coaster's name specifies the obvious fact that it's a ride — but you do you, Xcelerator the Ride. The '57 Chevy aesthetic of the coaster trains is a chic touch.

12. Manta — SeaWorld Orlando (Orlando, Florida)

Ok, so plenty of newer coasters have opened at SeaWorld Orlando (which calls itself the "coaster capital of Orlando") since Manta debuted in 2009, but none are as scary as Manta for one key reason. On Manta, you face the ground. Upon boarding, the seating appears to be somewhat similar to any other coaster. Before leaving the station, though, the train repositions riders, leaning them forward, their bodies now parallel with the track above them — looking straight down the remainder of the ride (and occasionally flipping over on your back).

While riding Manta and other "flying coasters" of similar nature, it's difficult to not think of the imminent peril you'd be in should the safety restraints fail. Sure, this is true of any roller coaster, but there's a certain visceral feeling of actually facing the concrete that makes Manta, manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, a bit more frightening. SeaWorld likens the coaster's movements to being "what it's like to spin, glide, skim, and fly on like a giant ray." (Note: SeaWorld San Diego also has a coaster called Manta, but it's a completely different ride — and you don't face the ground).

11. Iron Gwazi — Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (Tampa, Florida)

The longtime favorite Busch Gardens Tampa Bay wooden coaster formerly known as "Gwazi" has been reborn as Iron Gwazi. Having originally opened in 1999 as a fully wooden coaster, Rocky Mountain Construction majorly overhauled the ride in 2022. It's now a hybrid of steel and wood. Running at 76 mph and reaching 206 feet tall, Iron Gwazi is the scariest of its fellow hybrid coaster competitors — but only ever so slightly. This "all of them are scary" category also includes Gemini at Cedar Point, Invadr at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point, and El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure.

10. GateKeeper — Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)

GateKeeper at Cedar Point is a winged coaster, meaning the only part of the coaster train to rest on the track is its very center. Riders sit on either side of that center, on the train's "wings," so to speak, their legs loosely dangling with no track above or below them.

As if that wasn't scary enough, GateKeeper's juxtaposition to Lake Erie adds another layer of intrigue and/or peril to this Cedar Point favorite. Bolliger & Mabillard built GateKeeper, which opened in 2013. The ride stands at 170 feet tall and moves riders at 67 mph. If you're closer to Pigeon Forge than Sandusky, you can check out another winged coaster, Wild Eagle, at Dollywood instead. (While we're on the subject of geographic proximity, do you know the best amusement park in your state?)

9. Valravn — Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)

It's not called a dive coaster for nothin'. At the top of its first hill, Valravn pauses and tilts riders forward, giving them a moment to panic (or pensively soak in the view, whichever) before descending in a dive. Though all dive coasters can be scary, Valravn at Cedar Point takes the cake for being the nation's tallest (225 feet), fastest (75 mph), and longest (2 minutes, 23 seconds). Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, Valravn opened in 2016. If you're up for the challenge, you can take on other dive coasters like Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego, Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, HangTime at Knott's Berry Farm, or Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

8. X2 — Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, California)

Like GateKeeper at Cedar Point, X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain is a winged coaster, with riders dangling on the extended "wings" of the coaster train. The sensation of riding, with the track only connected to the center of the train and nothing above or below riders, is daunting based upon this premise alone. X2 takes things a step further. It functions as a winged coaster, but spins riders 360 degrees as the coaster train travels along the track. Yeah. Yikes. X2 reaches 200 feet tall and 76 mph. Arrow Dynamics opened the original version of the coaster, simply known as "X," in 2002. X2 followed in 2008 with new audio and fire effects.

7. The Intimidator 305 — Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia)

If descending from 305 feet in the air and accelerating to 90 mph doesn't scare you, not much will. The Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion borrows its title from the nickname of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, whose career the ride is loosely themed around. It opened in 2010, having been manufactured by Intamin.

Though you'd be forgiven for thinking The Intimidator 305 is a twin of Intimidator (a coaster whose name and theme also derives from Earnhardt and opened in 2010) at Carowinds (a sister park of Kings Dominion, both being owned by Cedar Fair), the rides are quite different. Carowinds' version, while scary in and of itself, is manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard and stacks up at 232 feet tall, a totally unique experience from Kings Dominion's version. (Similar B&M-built coasters include Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Mako at SeaWorld Orlando).

6. Millennium Force — Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)

Cedar Point's Millennium Force is a towering 310 feet tall, a height made even more impressive when considering the ride opened in 2000, years before other coasters on this list with similar statistics. Upon its debut, Millennium Force was the tallest and fastest (93 mph!) roller coaster in the world. The Intamin-built Millennium Force is among the most scream-worthy coasters at Cedar Point, the self-appointed "roller coaster capital of the world."

5. Jurassic World VelociCoaster — Universal Islands of Adventure (Orlando, Florida)

Though it's not as tall or fast as several other coasters on this list, Jurassic World VelociCoaster's 155-foot height and 70-mph speeds are nothing to snuff at. Its picturesque/terrifying lakeside location, and the fact that its premise involves running for your life from dinosaurs, probably makes the coaster seem scarier than it would be otherwise. Intamin built VelociCoaster, which opened in 2021 at Universal Islands of Adventure with accompanying theming elements from Universal Creative.

Unique track elements include a breathtaking/horrifying crest over the coaster's highest point and an incredible/nightmarish barrel roll of sorts (dubbed the "mosasaurus roll") directly over the water. Adding to the fun, videos in line feature Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard setting up the story, returning as their characters from the "Jurassic World" movies. VelociCoaster is one of the best roller coasters at Universal Orlando, and certainly its scariest.

4. Superman: Escape from Krypton — Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, California)

Somewhat resembling a Hot Wheels track, Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain is little more than a launch and descent, but its simplicity is the only "little" thing about it. The jaw-dropping Superman: Escape from Krypton begins with a launch of 0 to 100 mph in seven seconds at 90 degrees. The coaster train reaches 415 feet in the air before careening forward in the direction it launched from.

Uniquely, you can choose between one of two side-by-side tracks: one that launches forward, and another that goes backward. The coaster's backstory alleges riders visit — and then escape from — Krypton, Superman's lethal home planet. That being said, the ride is outdoors and leaves most of the theming to the imagination. Built by Intamin, the coaster opened in 1997 as "Superman: The Escape" before being renamed in 2011.

3. Fury 325 — Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina)

You'll never forget your first ride on Fury 325. Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, Fury 325 opened in 2015 at Carowinds. It reaches an astonishing 325 feet into the air before sending riders down an 81-degree hill, ultimately reaching 95 mph.

Fury 325 is one of those coasters you disembark from and ask your friends, "What just happened?!" Though it never goes upside-down, it's more intense than many coasters that do. Fury 325 is not officially connected to the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, but it shares the franchise's insect mascot and teal blue color. 

Let's also address the elephant in the room: Yes, Fury 325 is the coaster that made national headlines in summer 2023 when a guest noticed a crack in a support beam. Carowinds closed Fury 325 to install a new beam, and reopened the coaster several weeks later.

2. Top Thrill Dragster/Top Thrill 2 — Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)

Forward launch? Check. Backward launch? Check. Launch that starts forward and then rolls backward? (Gulp). Check. Top Thrill Dragster, built by Intamin, debuted in 2003. Now, another manufacturer called Zamperla is collaborating with Cedar Point to reimagine the coaster as "Top Thrill 2." 

When the upgraded coaster opens in 2024, it will utilize portions of the existing track with all-new elements. Top Thrill 2 will reach speeds of 120 mph and heights of 420 feet (what!), just barely short of the world records retained by Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure — but arguably just as terrifying. The new version will contribute to 2024's promising slate of coasters, following 2023's impressive line-up.

1. Kingda Ka — Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, New Jersey)

Even a photograph of Kingda Ka elicits secondhand scaries. The Intamin-manufactured coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure is the tallest coaster on the planet and the fastest coaster in the continent. Kingda Ka launches riders up a 90-degree incline with a height of 456 feet at 128 mph, leaving every other coaster on our list in the dust.

There's not much else to Kingda Ka beyond its colossal launch hill, but there doesn't need to be. That's plenty to scare you right into next week! Kingda Ka, located in a jungle-themed area of the park and displaying a feline predator as its mascot, opened in 2005.