10 Horror Classics for People Who Don’t Like Horror

Think horror isn't the genre for you? Then maybe you should give these classic scary-but-not-TOO-scary films a try. There's a reason a lot of these movies are award winners and box office hits.
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On the one hand, you hate horror movies. On the other hand, you also hate missing out. You were too chicken to see The Witch, and you’re not sure you could handle Midsommar even though everyone was talking about it.

Being a horror wimp this time of year is the worst! It seems like everyone else is getting into the spooky spirit of the season, while you’re binge-watching The Great British Bake Off reruns. (To be fair, it’s truly horrifying when Iain throws his baked Alaska in the bin instead of presenting it for judging.)

BBC/Love Productions

But what if you could just dip your toe in the scary movie pool? We’ve put together a list of essential horror viewing that won’t give you too many nightmares. There are no slashers on this list, but there are ghosts, zombies, and serial killers.

The Shining

Let’s start with a big one, shall we? In terms of gore, The Shining isn’t that bad compared to modern horror films. I mean, there’s a literal deluge of blood, but the scariest thing in this film is Jack Nicholson’s performance as a man whose sanity is rapidly unraveling.

Make no mistake: This is a scary movie. But it’s also a fantastic film, and you owe it to yourself to at least give The Shining a chance.

The Shining
Warner Bros.


Alien is usually considered to be science-fiction because of the futuristic setting, but make no mistake. It follows the classic horror conventions, including a “final girl” who ultimately confronts the monster.

If you haven’t watched Alien, then it’s well worth your time. Sigourney Weaver is fantastic. In fact, a double feature of the first film and the more action-oriented Aliens would be a great way to spend a Saturday night.

Silence of the Lambs

The legend of Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter looms large in our collective imagination. But if you’ve never seen the original film–or if it’s just been a while–then revisiting Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece is worthwhile. This one leans harder on feelings of dread than gore or jump scares. Plus–spoiler alert–Silence of the Lambs has a relatively happy ending.

Get Out

One of the most surprising plot twists ever is discovering that comedian Jordan Peele is actually a horror auteur. Get Out is a revelation, and a deeply uncomfortable look about race and class. But it’s not really that scary in the traditional sense of the word. It’s horrifying without being horror, so to speak.

Get Out promotional image
Universal Pictures

What We Do in the Shadows

Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary isn’t scary at all. But it is bloody–and bloody funny. (Sorry about that.)

If you missed this weird, absurdist gem of a film before it became a series on FX, then check it out. Waititi stars alongside Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) as vampires just trying to get by in modern-day New Zealand. There is a shocking amount of fake blood splashed around, but it’s all in good fun.

The Lost Boys

If you want a vampire movie with a little more bite to it (Okay, seriously, I’ll show myself out…) then you need to revisit this 1980s classic. It’s a decadent time capsule of a film with one of the best soundtracks ever.

Aside from a very gross scene involving Chinese takeout, there aren’t many scares in The Lost Boys. But there are some amazing one-liners, righteous vampire slayage, and a really cute dog who does not get harmed in any way.

Still from the 1987 film 'The Lost Boys'
Warner Bros.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is both a satire of the horror genre… and a pretty good horror movie itself. It plays on the tropes that you’ll recognize even if you aren’t a fan of the genre. Plus it has the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that you’d expect from a Joss Whedon project–he executive produced.

Attack the Block

This indie horror film launched the careers of several British actors, including John Boyega (Star Wars) and Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who). It skews more toward humor than horror, so this is a particularly good place to start your journey. Plus it’s just an awesome movie that more people need to see!

Crimson Peak

still image from 'Crimson Peak'
Universal Pictures

Mark my words: in twenty years, film critics will “rediscover” this film and declare it to be an unsung masterpiece. Although Crimson Peak was kind of a dud at the box office, it’s actually brilliant. There is some blood and gore, but it’s splattered on some of the most exquisite set designs and costumes you’ll ever see. The story is bonkers in the grand tradition of Victorian Gothic romance novels.

Dead Again

Okay, let’s end on a deep cut (yes, the pun was intended; no, I won’t make any more). Dead Again stars Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, back when they were married. Robin Williams and Andy Garcia are also in it. The movie is part murder mystery, part love story, and just a gorgeous piece of 90s cinema that should not be forgotten.