No doubt, any great horror film will make the spectator scream in terror, white-knuckle their armrest, and feel like they’re having a heart attack. However, there are a slew of horrifying films that aren't in the horror genre. These movies that traumatize don’t need to rely on gimmicks like an invincible slasher or a haunted house that terrorizes its inhabitants. For these 14 scary non-horror movies, there is no monster hiding underneath the bed, and the boogeyman is real.
What makes several of the films on this list especially terrifying is that they actually happened in real life. Is there any greater horror than the events depicted in Schindler’s List? Would a genre horror film like Halloween make one question humanity like 12 Years a Slave?
These movies force the spectator to examine issues of race, psychological torment, and the depths of the human spirit. They delve into the deepest pits of the soul and force us to question our own morality. Most of these movies are not for sleepy Sunday afternoons, and most are too disturbing to watch more than once, but certainly important enough to screen when the time is right.
Make your voice heard; vote up the scariest films that aren't horror movies.
After you've seen Seven, the opening of a box will forever be no simple task. David Fincher's 1995 stylish neo-noir tells the sordid tale of a serial killer who bases his victims off of the seven deadly sins.
Fincher creates a hellish unnamed city in which it it never stops raining, and the streets always seem dirty and dank. Each crime scene is carefully crafted to take the spectator inside the psychotic mind of the aptly named John Doe. The film's twist ending still packs a walloping punch, no matter how many times you've screamed in mock horror, "What's in the box?"
Buried tells the story of Paul Conroy, a US contractor working in Iraq who is kidnapped and buried alive. With nothing to save him other than a lighter and a cell phone, Buried is a horrifying movie that make its audience feel as though they are choking for air alongside the protagonist.
If a spectator was not claustrophobic heading into the cinema, they definitely were after watching Paul struggle helplessly in his confined space for an hour and a half.
Of all the films made surrounding mass school shootings, Benjamin Coccio's 2003 faux-documentary Zero Day may be the most disturbing. In Zero Day, two students make a year-long plan to shoot up their high school, but even though audiences are being told what is going to happen, it somehow doesn't seem like the boys will actually go through with it in the end.
However, when the reprieve does not come, the boy's pointless killing spree is terrifying. Knowing that this kind of horror actually happens in real life only makes Zero Day more dizzying to watch.
In Room, a young woman and her son are being held captive by a violent psychopath in a small shed. The five-year-old son, a product of rape, knows only the sheltered life of the shed, or "room," as Ma calls it. The small space is his whole world, as the young boy doesn't even know that he's a prisoner.
Room is essentially two horrifying films. The first half deals with Ma and Jack's claustrophobic life inside the shed – culminating in the audience's realization that their captor rapes Ma every night while Jack listens.
But then there is the second half, Ma and Jack's life after the escape. After being held captive for years, the elements of the real world seem just as psychologically terrifying to them as their life inside the shed.