Movies & TV Shows

15 Scary Movies That Aren’t Horror Films

The horror genre isn’t for everyone, and with Halloween approaching, some people might be looking for alternative films to enjoy on the autumn night. The spooky occasion definitely calls for a few scares, but what non-horror movies are there that still play upon the fear of the audience?


Whether it’s a psychological thriller or a comedy that happens to contain terrifying elements, there are still movies that can capitalize on the fear factor without turning into a full-on slasher or horror. Spooky season can become repetitive if people are still watching the same films, so these are some out-of-the-box pictures to enjoy.

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UPDATE: 2022/10/20 14:47 EST BY GEORGE CHRYSOSTOMOU

It’s that time of year again, when audiences are looking for something a little different to watch at Halloween. These movies continue to be terrifying in different ways, but were never intended to be outright horror productions, nor were they actually created with All Hallow’s Eve in mind.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

The imagery of the Mad Max series has always been harrowing. It’s a reminder of what could happen to the planet if the natural resources that humanity relies upon become scarce. Fury Road is troubling as a watch, and the antagonists of the piece are genuinely terrifying in their design.

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It’s an action and adventure flick with a dystopian edge, which might be thrilling and high-octane, but also focuses on some of those nastier realities of human desperation. That’s scarier than any other horror or slasher film since those dystopic themes are rooted in reality.

Gravity (2013)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

There isn’t much scarier than space. The unknowns of that realm beyond the skies have always been nauseating to think about, because of how little humanity truly knows about it. It’s infinite in its expansion and the old phrase ‘no one can be heard screaming in space’ certainly sticks with audiences.

That isolation and the concept that an astronaut could keep on floating on forever continues to play in the minds of Gravity viewers, with the IMAX-enhanced disasters becoming ever-more desperate as the crew attempts to survive the situation. Once again, reality collides with deep, dark fears.

Cats (2019)

Available To Rent On Apple TV+

The premise of Cats isn’t supposed to be creepy; most musicals don’t set out to be unnerving. Yet, there is something deeply haunting about the CGI monstrosities that have been put to screen, the uncanny valley freaking out audiences across the globe.

The music is iconic and the premise of the production has made its secure home on stage. But the theming of the show just didn’t land on the screen. The use of computer effects to try and create these characters in a new setting was a big mistake and plagued the release from day one. The fact that Cats has become a horror film is deeply ironic.

Zodiac (2007)

Available To Stream On Paramount+

Zodiac is a psychological thriller, designed to tell a very real story, which makes it all the more creepy. While it’s not supposed to be a part of the horror genre in any capacity, playing as a crime piece instead, it’s hard to ignore just how nightmarish the murder sequences are.

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These scenes aren’t even as graphic as most horror pieces and there is nothing supernatural involved. But the audience knows that this once happened and is grounded in a version of the truth. The erratic nature of the zodiac killer makes him far more dangerous and horrifyingly unpredictable.

Foxcatcher (2015)

Available To Stream On Starz

It is becoming a pattern that any narrative rooted in a version of reality will play on the darkest fears of the audience. The shocking story portrayed in Foxcatcher, which is an intense watch that culminates in a sudden and brutal murder, is all based on a true tale.

While the premise backs onto the sports genre, with an amateur wrestler looking to a highly respected but unusual trainer to aid their athletic journey, the ominous tone of the piece quickly demonstrates that something isn’t right. The climatic finale pays off that dramatic build, bringing to realization all the worst-case scenarios.

Watership Down (1978)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

There are some differences between the new animated series and the original Watership Down movie. But the original movie, based on the novel of the same name by Richard Adams, is incredibly haunting. Despite being a children’s film about rabbits, there’s a great deal of violence in a film thematically centered on war.

With the rabbits just trying to survive among the dangers of the great outdoors, fighting against their rivals in a series of bloody battles, this supposedly family movie certainly isn’t one that very young audiences can enjoy. It’s intense, scary, and emotionally draining, yet beautifully animated.

The Truman Show (1998)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

Featuring one of Jim Carrey’s best performances, The Truman Show might be primarily a comedy, but there are sinister undertones throughout. The feeling that someone is watching Truman at all times permeates through this larger-than-life story.

Stuck within a television show, the movie sees Truman uncover the clues about his reality. This harsh truth is a terrifying one to realize, with his whole life crumbling in mere days. Although there are moments of brilliant writing and sheer hilarity, there’s also something dark in this haunting take on reality TV.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Available To Stream On Paramount+

The Cloverfield franchise in general is billed within the horror and monster categories, yet 10 Cloverfield Lane is quite different in essence. It’s primarily a psychological thriller, concerned less with surviving sci-fi beasts and more with the dangers of humankind.

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With protagonist Michelle trapped in a bunker, terrified of her captor who may or may not be telling the truth about the apocalyptic fate of the outside world, every scene is brimming with the notion that anything could happen at any second.

Love And Monsters (2020)

Available To Stream On Prime Video

In regards to monster movies, the focus really is on the creatures of Love And Monsters. Although the film is an action-adventure with plenty of romantic elements, this road-trip story features plenty of scares thanks to the terrifying beasts lurking in these rural environments.

With gorgeous visuals and incredibly realistic monster designs, there’s something quite daunting about the notion of an apocalyptic event that could result in a future not too dissimilar to what’s portrayed in the film. The relationships in Love and Monsters result in many great quotes, as this is so much more than a monster movie.

Joker (2019)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

Joker is a psychological thriller that aims to delve deeper into the mind of the mass murderer and Batman’s greatest rival, and this Joaquin Phoenix-led film is extremely polarizing.

Audiences are both afraid of the corruption that can be felt in every single street of Gotham and the erratic nature of Joker’s actions. As the character continues to spiral, the reality around him breaks down further, with his murderous needs becoming a horror show unto themselves.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a classic in every sense, advertised largely as a family film. The idea that a family could build a flying car is fantastical in nature and the musical elements add a whimsicality to the piece which would feel out of place in a horror.

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But the Child Catcher and the rules applied to the King’s vicious kingdom are nothing short of horrific. Plenty of kids have had nightmares starring the antagonists of the piece and even adults have been creeped out by the design of the Child Catcher.

Return To Oz (1985)

Available To Stream On DIsney+

The Wizard of Oz already employs visuals that feel more at home in a horror film rather than a fantasy project. Return to Oz seems to draw upon those concepts further and demonstrates that kids’ films can be truly scary for all audiences, regardless of age.

The designs of the characters alone have turned this picture into an almost nightmarish return to the seemingly magical lands that Dorothy had previously visited. Dorothy’s own fate at the start of the film, with the child receiving electric shock therapy, is disturbing, with layers of creepiness applied to every scene. Those Wheelers definitely don’t help.

The Road (2009)

Available To Rent On Apple TV+

An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel of the same name, there’s a haunting undertone to The Road which allows it to be so compelling and yet so terrifying. The version of society it puts forward explores the notion that this story may be humanity’s not-too-distant future.

The road trip genre is heightened by this piece, which focuses heavily on the relationship of a son and father who have to survive the trials and tribulations of what has become of humankind. It deals with themes of loss and the inability to trust, plus the disease and famine that left the Earth so disturbingly empty.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Available To Stream On Disney+

Sometimes kids’ movies push the antagonist a bit too far, and for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the villain of the piece is still nightmare-inducing to this day.

The idea of the worlds of live-action and animation crossing over is fun in its premise. But to see the evil Judge Doom melt a toon in acid, killing it amongst its painful shrieks, is a disturbing thing to watch. The concept that this could happen to Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse creates a film that’s rather frightening for many kids.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Available To Stream On HBO Max

Another action adventure that crosses over into disaster movie territory, Jurassic Park is of course terrifying because of its dinosaurs. The film effectively builds up to the first encounter between human and animal, with the former coming up short. Its Frankenstein-esque theme about the dangers of playing God is pure horror.

The movie takes full advantage of the technology available at the time to forge believable beasts that could gobble up the leads at a moment’s notice.

NEXT: 10 Not-So-Scary Disney Movies For Halloween

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