10 Unsettling Non-horror Films

Horror means something different to everyone. Its inherent insidiousness (alliteration not intended) allows it to permeate anything. There happen to be a lot of non-horror films that cause the discomforts we expect from horror genre films in some unexpected ways. The films featured in this list are the ones that affected me the most, but there are many, many others out there.

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Animal Farm (1954)

How do you make Animal Farm by George Orwell more unsettling? Adapt it into a cartoon, of course.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Recreational violence, questionable rehabilitation methods, and general societal turmoil have set this film apart from the pack for fifty years. Learn more about A Clockwork Orange and its cultural impact in this post.

Taxi Driver (1976)

I did not expect the anxiety I experienced throughout this movie when I watched it for the first time last year. In a world full of angry people who fly under the radar, this movie makes our everyday fears of mass violence a little louder.

Watership Down (1978)

Whether you innocently watched this cartoon rabbit movie as a child or watched it later in life knowing the reality, nearly everyone has some notable connection to Watership Down.

When the Wind Blows (1986)

This anti-war cartoon is adapted from the graphic novel of the same title. Jim and Hilda are an older couple living in the English countryside during the height of nuclear threat in the 1980s. The first thirty minutes show Jim calmly following the government-recommended safety measures while Hilda does not appear disturbed by the situation. After a nuclear missile lands in England and some of the impact reaches all the way to their cottage, they deal with the aftereffects: damage to their home, evaporated water supply, no food, no electricity, no running water, no television or radio communications, no neighbors or other survivors for miles, and, most of all, radiation sickness.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Telling the story of two young siblings in Japan during World War II, this acclaimed film by Studio Ghibli shows the horrors of war and how deeply they affect every facet of life.

Parasite (2019)

The only thing scarier than the reality of wage inequality Parasite exposes is the…well, I won’t ruin it if you haven’t seen it.

P.S. Please watch this if you have not yet. It is superb.

Joker (2019)

Sharing many similarities to Taxi Driver (including Robert De Niro), Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill and socially isolated man who gradually becomes more dangerous through a series of violent acts. This movie is still polarizing to audiences for its reflections of real-life enactors of mass violence in the character of Arthur. No matter what, this movie still gives us a lot to think about.

Cats (2019)

I don’t know how to explain it…of all the very real phenomena that qualify the rest of this list, Cats is still worse. I know people who stopped watching because it was so disturbing. There is an overall image that I can only describe as repulsive. I do not think I could manage ever watching it again (I, who sometimes fall asleep watching slasher films).

The House (2022)

This new Netflix film is a stop-motion anthology of three stories that take place in the same house over time. Each story is unsettling in its own way, but the second one in particular earned this movie a spot on this list. The second segment is about a mouse contractor/realtor whose finished work on the house catches the interest of a strange couple. The way this story plays out is so disturbing that I still think about it weeks later and shudder.

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Until next time,

Jordan

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