19 Entry-Level Horror Movies for the Squeamish

cabin in the woods poster
The name is the plot. But it’s the most original way it’s ever been done, and the most fun.

Horror movies aren’t for everyone. But sometimes a film will come around that everyone can enjoy, even if you’re a little (or a lot) nervous about seeing it.

To sum: if you found you could handle the scarier episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The X-Files, you’ll be okay with my suggestions below. It’s going to be a subjective list, though, so your mileage will vary. That’s all the warning I can give you, besides my little story notes next to the movie titles. And some films I really can’t talk about..because…you know — spoilers.

Because I have a low tolerance for grossness, I’m not including any real body horror, like Slither, even though a lot of people found it quite funny. I refuse to see it, even though I’m a huge fan of James Gunn’s best-known Guardians of the Galaxy. The Thing has the most body horror on this list, and a few of the Alien and Predator installments have icky moments that are hard to forget. But since those films are more sci-fi than real horror, I think these are okay. In any case, read my notes about each to see which iterations in the franchises are more story-based, and less gore or jump-scare oriented.

I’m including some comments from RunPee Dan here and there, mostly where he disagrees with my choices. 😉

Best Horror Movies for Non-Horror Fans

  1. Zombieland — With perfect casting, sparkling chemistry, an engagingly funny (!) post-apocalyptic zombie plot/buddy road trip film, you can’t beat this. There’s even a great list of rules to live by and a cameo that must not be missed. The only gross scenes are pre-loaded in the beginning and they aren’t too bad. If you can survive watching the first five minutes, the rest is cake: slender yellow cream-filled Hostess cakes. (If you don’t get this reference, you’re too young, or haven’t seen the film yet.)
  2. Army of Darkness — I’m a long time Bruce Campbell fan. After discovering his classic B-movie comic character work on Xena: Warrior Princess, I began tracking down his filmography. Army of Darkness is a precious concoction of horror, fantasy, and comedy. The horror is actually almost non-existent compared to Evil Dead 1 and 2, which I do NOT recommend viewing in any form. Those are straight horror and the Evil Dead remake is the worst. Fortunately, Army of Darkness requires no prior knowledge. Ash describes what you need to know in less than a minute before you’re thrown, car and all, into the time of castles, wizards, and knights.
  3. Shawn of the Dead — There’s only one gross-out moment in this funny, funny zombie film. It’s set in the UK and involves a slacker and his best friend in a fun bromance where they are less interested in fighting hordes of the undead than having a beer in their favorite pub. My second-favorite zombie film, with Zombieland only coming first by a hair’s width. And the scene set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now must be seen by everyone. I demand this. 😉
  4. A Quiet Place — I’m not sure why this was even billed as horror. This A level film hits all the sci fi and dystopian marks, and hits them so well you’ll be floored. Don’t watch this if there’s any racket or busy activity in the house, because you need absolute silence to appreciate this fully for the first viewing. I’m excited a second Quiet Place was announced, and can’t gush enough over how exciting and smart this film is. Also, Emily Blunt can do no wrong. She should have gotten at least an Oscar nod for the bathtub scene.
  5. Happy Death Day 1 (and 2) — The original is definitely horror, although on the lighter, funnier end. The sequel barely qualifies as horror, and is more like a comic sci-fi movie with some continuing horror themes. I heard this got green-lit for a threequel, so we’ll see if that installment goes in yet another direction. They might drop the “killer baby” element completely by then, seeing as how it’s only kind of shoe-horned into the sequel.
  6. The Alien Franchise — Every installment qualifies as horror, in my book. It’s firmly in the sci-fi genre, but it’s scary every time, and has horrific elements. But the first film is mostly a suspense thriller with jump scares, and the second is pure adrenaline-pumping action. It’s the first movie I sat forward in my movie seat for the entire way through. So watch Alien and Aliens, and then STOP. I can’t recommend anything else in the entire ourve. Actually, you can see the first Aliens vs Predators, but not the second. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.
  7. The Terminator — Few people would consider The Terminator horror, but the original is intended as a scary sci-fi film, regardless of where the rest of the franchise went. (Dan says he doesn’t think this film belongs here.)
  8. The Predator franchise — These are intended as horror/sci fi films, but they are very watchable. Most of the horror has safe discretion shots, or long off views of the Really Bad Things. You can safely watch any of these except Predator 2, which is a freak show and awful. Sorry. (Dan: I wouldn’t put this here, but it’s borderline.)
  9. The Thing — This sci-fi horror/thriller (the original, not the update) has some true gross-out moments, but since I can handle this film, I’m including it. If I can tolerate these scenes, I think anyone can. (Dan: Carpenter’s The Thing is way horrific. Like body horror to the extreme.)
  10. Cabin in the Woods — Some scenes are a little brutish, but they happen to be amusing at the same time (remember: mermaids). And I can’t say a single other thing about Cabin in the Woods without spoiling your first experience. This one has made my regular movie rotation. (Dan: Again, borderline. It’s really graphic.)
  11. Tucker and Dale vs Evil — Another regular viewing film for me. The horror is funny (we’re noticing a theme here — humor helps a lot), and there are no jump scares, gross outs, or even much ‘evil’. It’s just Alan Tydyk (Beloved as Wash in Firefly) and Tyler Labine (Sock from Reaper) having a grand old time, as they twist the horror trope on its head. Enjoy!
  12. Pitch Black — I don’t know why I resisted this film when my husband wanted to show it to me. I watched it eventually, and instantly fell in love with both it and Vin Diesel. If you liked Aliens, this will be easy. It’s more like scary science fiction, with no gore I can recall (again with the discretionary shots), and a rousing adventure tale that unfolds like some alien orchid under three suns. Pitch Black, as Part One of The Chronicles of Riddick, now has two sequels, plus an animated short. All are easy to view horror-wise, but nothing will come close to the original in execution, appeal, and pure excitement. I love that we figure everything out as the characters do. One of my faves.  Enough of my gushing, eh?
  13. Poltergeist — This one still scares me, even though there’s only one bad moment (in a bathroom, which is a trope for trouble if there ever was one).   Lots of good lines, too: “You moved the tombstones, but you forgot to movie the bodies!” I think I had more shudders from the simple “They’re here,” than anything with a nominally higher fear factor.
  14. Gremlins (1 and 2) — You’d think this was a cute and cuddly kid’s flick, but you’re wrong. The Mogwai is way high in the cuteness charts (he’s like a Pokemon), but his progeny are just mean. Funny, I guess, but nasty. But except for the infamous “microwave’ scene, I think it’s mostly discretionary shots. Have you clued in by now that I think violence in a film is tolerable if I’m not subjected to actual gore and realistic suffering?
  15. The Sixth Sense — Yes, this has some scary moments, but they’re always jump scares, with almost no gore. It’s about dead people after all, but it turns out that the dead don’t always want to hurt you. And that’s all I can say if you’ve never seen this genuinely great movie.
  16. Signs — This is honestly more about suspense. You never actually SEE anything. Not well, and not for more than a heartbeat. You’ll enjoy this film. It’s an updated and isolated version of…wait. I can’t say more. It’s Shylaman. You can’t discuss his films. It’s a law.
  17. Jaws — I saw this as a kid and was terrified. Times have changed. Now Jaws is a buddy thriller set in the ocean against an implacable foe. There are only two genuine jump scares, and they barely qualify as gory these days. (I’ll just say it: the crabs in the early scene; the ‘head’ mid-way through.) In my recent re-watch, I was amazed how spectacular Jaws is, and it still holds up. It’s a freaking masterpiece that’s the forerunner of today’s blockbuster. If it’s been a while, try it again. A +, with the Indianopolis monologue reaching legendary status (that tale really happened, BTW…Goggle it. Man, to live through that…). Anyway, Jaws qualifies now as an adventure movie. As far as other Jawses, I can’t comment. Try me later when I I’ve seen them. I’ve heard Jaws 2 is okay.
  18. Warm Bodies — Not horror. But it’s got regular octane and super octane zombies, so I guess it qualifies. It’s actually a zom-rom-com. Seriously. A love story! And a sweet one at that. Your kids could watch this and not be scared.
  19. Maze Runner — This is science fiction dystopian film, but the creatures in the maze are pretty hideous.  (Dan: I don’t think this has anything to do with horror. But maybe I just don’t remember it well enough.)

You’ll probably think some of these don’t belong on the list, and you might find some of the films  scarier or grosser than you personally prefer. Or I might have left some good choices off the list completely — like Silence of the Lambs, which might be considered more of a scary thriller than anything else, and bring this list to 20. I haven’t seen Silence of the Lambs yet, so I can’t say anything about it. Maybe The Shining, which actually is super creepy, but I lived through it and now see a lot of it as ludicrously amusing (it has not held up so well). I do want to see the recent Us, but I’m a weenie and need someone to hold my hand. I’m sure there will be a number 20 in my future eventually.

I’d love to hear what I missed, or what you disagree with in the comments.

Top 10 Films Set in Ireland to Watch on St Patrick’s Day Weekend

far and away ton cruise Niccole kidman
Ireland is only a movie away…

If you’ve never been to Ireland (I have and loved it), then these 10 movies will give you a thirst for Guinness Beer and a craving for corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. Pull out this list for March 17th on St Patrick’s Day, or anytime you get a wistful hankering for the sights and sounds of the old Emerald Isle. (Not listed in any special order, ye lads and lasses).

Angela’s Ashes  (1999)
IMDB score: 7.3

This Oscar nominated movie, filmed in County Cork, Ireland, is based on the best selling autobiography by Frank McCourt, an Irish expat whose family tries against all odds to escape the poverty in the slums of Limerick.

Far and Away (1992)
IMDB score: 6.6

This movie, filmed in Dublin, Ireland, and starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, tells the story of two young people in Ireland who wish to travel to America and take part in the Oklahoma land rush.

The Quiet Man (1952)
IMDB score: 7.8

This two-time Oscar-winner tells the story of a boxer who returns to his place of birth, Ireland, to escape his past. A true classic, The Quiet Man starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hare, and was directed by John Houston, for which he won a Best Director Oscar. The movie is most notable for the lush photography of the Irish countryside.

Excalibur (1981)
IMDB score: 7.4

Oscar-nominated Excalibur, starring Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson is a bona fide fantasy-action cult classic. Filmed entirely in Ireland, including Derrynane in County Kerry, situated between County Cork and County Limerick. Killarney, the county seat, is one of Ireland’s most famous tourist destinations.

Song of the Sea (2014)
IMDB score: 8.1

Even though this is an animated film, it deserves a place on this list. The movie doesn’t necessarily show us the actual beauty of Ireland, but it lets us feel the spirit embedded in the ancient folklore of the Emerald Isle.

ireland and cliffs of mohar
The Cliffs of Insanity and of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)
IMDB score: 7.6

As with many other movies, this Harry Potter flick was filmed partially in Ireland, using the ominous Cliffs of Moher as exterior shots of the Horcrux Cave.

Reign of Fire (2002)
IMDB score: 6.2

Reign of Fire, starring Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, is a sci-fy film about a brood of fire-breathing dragons who emerge from the earth and begins setting everything on fire, establishing dominance over the planet. The film was filmed entirely in Wicklow Mountains, the largest continuous upland area in the Republic of Ireland.

My Left Foot (1989)
IMDB score: 7.9

This two-time Oscar-winning movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker, both of whom won Oscars for their roles, tells the story of an Irishman, Christie Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy, learns to paint and write with his only controllable limb – his left foot. The movie was filmed in County Wicklow Ireland, the filming site of numerous other films.

The Princess Bride (1987)
IMDB score: 8.1

A real family-favorite, a swashbuckling fantasy-comedy-satire winner, The Princess Bride has been voted as one of the greatest films of all time. The film’s vertigo-inducing Cliffs of Insanity were actually the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. (Same place as the Horcrux cave in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.)

Leap Year (2010)
IMDB score: 6.5

Amy Adams stars in this charming travel movie about a young American woman travels to Dublin, Ireland to propose to her boyfriend who — by Irish tradition — cannot refuse the proposal. Principal photography took place in County Wicklow, Dublin, County Mayo, and County Galway.

Pi Day Movies – the Best Math (or Pie) Films to Watch on March 14

20 Groundhog Day Type Movies – The Ultimate Repeating Day Film List

Best Movies to Watch Over President’s Day Weekend

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

 

 

 

Pi Day Movies – the Best Math (or Pie) Films to Watch on March 14

the symbol for pi in blue
Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. There might be a few numbers involved.

Mid-march, three unusual holidays rear their heads for movie rewatch fun: Pi Day, The Ides of March, and St Patrick’s Day. It all starts on March 13 with Pi Day. That’s the 14th day of the third month: 3.14. If you pay enough attention, you can even celebrate Pi Minutes and Pi Seconds. (1:59:26 comes around the clock twice, unless you use Military Time.)

If you scroll down, you’ll see every Pi and math movie we consider crucial for your home entertainment curriculum. But first, you have to understand what Pi is, then prepare some actual pies for feasting. On Pi Day, both sweet and savory pies count. More on that soon.

Do you know what Pi is?

long string of Pi numbers
Just memorize this and you’ll be fine.

This is a big topic. You can start by thinking about Pi as the ratio of a circle’s circumference, related to its diameter. Do you consider yourself smart? Apparently you can spend the rest of your life digging into the mysteries of this transcendental,  irrational number. (WIRED gives it a relatively simple whack, while the Wikipedia offers more Pi detail than most people actually want.)

Feast with Pies on Pi Day

Whatever your feelings about Pi, math, and advanced mathematics, I’ve long considered March 13 Pi Day. It’s a holiday that’s picking up more pop-culture steam every year.  For decades, my husband and I used to rewatch a classic math movie each year, feasting on Chicken Pot Pie, Pumpkin Pie, or sometimes Pizza Pie.  Even a Calzone or Omelette is a pie, albeit half of one.  We’d use fractions to eat them, as one does with flat, round food. 🙂 Make a meal with lots of circular edibles. Maybe Pita Bread. Be creative.

Announce the fractions you cut from the whole. Eat like math is your passion for one day a year!

We celebrated Pi Day this way because we’re geeks. RunPee loves weird holidays where you can watch movies, dress for the occasion, and plan an appropriately themed meal.

So. Pull on your geekiest science tee shirt and pick something from this list of great Pi adjacent films.

Make Pi Day 3.14 Times as Nice

It’s a good idea to phone your favorite ‘pie’ place and ask for the Pi Day Special: it’s fun to spread the word, and many places will give you an off the menu deal just for choosing them for your Pi needs. At the very least, you might encourage them to make a Pi Deal for next March.

Oh, please tell them RunPee sent you.

the first few numbers in the Pi string
Pi, looking friendly and fun and not at all intimidating.

Here’s RunPee’s list of favorite math, Pi, and pie movies for Pi Day, in no particular order, with release dates, and a few thoughts to help you select the perfect film to celebrate an irrational number.

Linked titles go to RunPee’s own movie reviews, where we have them. Eventually, we’ll review them all. It’s an easier task than calculating the exact value of Pi.

16.5 Movies To Enjoy in Honor of Pi Day

    1. Pi (1998) – Pure numbers, baby.
    2. Life of Pi (2001) — Not about math, or even pie, but a man named Pi. It’s a great, quietly gripping story, where you’re not sure what’s going on. Pay attention to the details, whether this is your first, or Nth viewing. It’s a very worthwhile film and almost Inception-lite. And BTW, that’s not a spoiler. Just enjoy the rhythm of the film.
    3. Good Will Hunting (1997) – Matt Damon makes this list twice, because he’s got a lock on that understated, funny, and too-pretty-to-be-so-smart look that perfectly bellies his mad science skills.
    4. Hidden Figures (2016) – This recent feel-good film centers around three black women hired by NASA as human computers during the 1960s events of Project Mercury, and its fabulous. (‘Sheldon Cooper’ even has a small role.) Award-winning and based on real people, including John Glen, who was apparently a great guy. If his computers said not to go, he stayed put. Smart man.
    5. The Theory of Everything (2014) – If you adored Stephen Hawking, like we did at RunPee, you probably found news of his death so very, very sad. But from all indications, he loved his life, had joy, family, a great career, and  unfettered commitment to allow his fine brain to roam the cosmos. We saw his sense of humor was as extraordinary as his mind. Not a bad legacy at all. Eddie Redmayne did an A+ job saluting Hawking’s contributions to our understanding of the universe.
    6. A Beautiful Mind (2001) –  I honestly don’t remember much about this film (it was too upsetting and sad for my tastes), but realize it would be a big snub to leave this inspired-by-a-true-life-story it off the list. The IMDb writes this: “From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash Jr. experienced it all. A mathematical genius, he made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery.
    7. The Imitation Game (2014) – Benedict Cumberbatch plays a lot of geniuses, or at least men smarter than the average bloke. If you like Alan Turning and enjoy cracking impossible Nazi codes, this movie was made for you. It’s also a drama with a message. 
    8. Gifted (2017) – I enjoyed this light film about how a normal brained single Dad (Chris Evans) learns to beat to the system to keep and raise his young, brilliant protegee. This scene is a standout — be sure to watch the whole segment:
    9. x and y (UK)/A Brilliant Young Mind (US) (2014) – A kid with ‘special powers’ in math learns to navigate childhood.
    10. Apollo 13 (1995) – First of all, it’s a space mission that really happened, and through massive sciencing, everybody makes it home alive. Not a spoiler; this is history. Also, Apollo 13 is has Tom Hanks as Captain Jim Lovell,  and those men are gods to me. I think the inspiration for Legos must have come from that scene with the square filter an the round vent — “Work the problem, people!” (Ed Harris is a god too. Godhoods for everyone in Apollo 13!)
    11. The Martian (2105) – Matt Damon’s character scienced the SHIT out of this movie.  A pure joy to watch and rewatch, and I have to remind myself this, unlike Apollo 13, hasn’t actually happened. Yet. 🙂
    12. Contact (1997) – This one happened in real life too, didn’t it? Didn’t it?  Damn. Watching this movie just makes me happy, and yes, it’s full of life, death, and MATH. The scene where we’re contacted with Prime Numbers is a standout. It’s one of those scenes that makes me tear up without a single line of dialog, or even much facial expression. Remember in The Return of the King, when we saw the lighting of the fire beacons above Gondor, calling to Rohan for aid? Same thing. When you saw Contact for the first time, how long did it take you realize those pulses were primes? I expect the universal  language of math will prove yet again that fiction pre-dates fact. This is the best segment in an already outstanding film. I had to add two videos to catch the whole scene:
    13. The Accountant (2106) – Ben Affleck gave a surprisingly charming and understated performance as a certain kind of savant specialist who learns to relate to people in his own, sometimes deadly way.
    14. Stand and Deliver (1988) – What is Calculus? Why should we care, unless we’re lucky enough to have someone like Edward James Olmos teach it? I need to re-watch Stand and Deliver, as I’ve forgotten much of this classic 80s film.  Here’s a summary:  A Los Angeles high school teacher opts to immerse his students in higher math. After intensive study, his students ace California’s calculus test, only to learn their scores are being questioned.
    15. The Cold Equations (1996) – This short, harrowing film details to the Nth degree how important math is – specifically, down to milligrams of weight in space.  Are there any space movies where weight limits aren’t a thing? In this one, math is the whole plot. As the pilot and young stowaway work frantically against the clock, we’re reminded how dangerous space is, how fragile spaceships are, and how very, very much math matters. It’s only 40 minutes and it’s worth a watch, even if the effects are a bit dated. The story is still a good one. Here’s the entire video for The Cold Equations:
    16. Real Genius (1985)  – Taking a trip in the way back machine, Real Genius makes this list by pure force of fun. In fact, you can watch the entire feature film right here. I’ll leave this up until someone takes it down — it’s clearly a film taped on a cell phone. Enjoy this blast from the nerdy past!

…Aaaaand the promised .5 movie: American Pie (1999, the original):

Don’t worry if you hate numbers.  Lock yourself alone in the bedroom with a warm apple pie, and try out just how good it feels. Or, less weirdly, rewatch one of the movies in the American Pie franchise with friends, compare Band Camp Stories, and laugh again at the awkwardness of being young and inexperienced. Beware: this scene is suggestive, and  is clearly intended to be. You can’t unsee it. It’s the PIE scene. On Pi Day. Have fun.

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Quick question: How many numbers in a string can you list for Pi? Write them out in the comments below, and no cheating! Surely there must be some out-of-the-closet geeks out there.

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Just below: a brilliant Pi video for those of you who are too smart for Pi itself. Just peruse this movie list on Tau Day, and you’ll be set.

Super Pi Geeks Argue About how Tau is Better…

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RunPee Movie Reviews Related to Math and Pi

Movie Review – Hidden Figures

Movie Review – The Theory of Everything – More About Stephen Hawking Than Math

Movie Review – Gifted

Movie Review – The Accountant

Prettiest Live Action Movies

Here’s a fun topic, a list of the “prettiest” ever live action movies. They have to be gorgeous on their own merits, plot aside. I’m looking for outstanding visuals. [pullquote]What qualifies as pretty? Lots of color, slick visual or computer generated effects that stand up through time, creative set-pieces, stylish direction, and lavish location scenery.[/pullquote] If you leave a theater thinking, “Wow! That was stunning,” then it’s a contender.

You’ll notice that most of the following are in sci-fi and fantasy genres, which is a viewing bias some of us at RunPee have. Help out in the comments so I may add more to this ongoing list. NOTE: Linked titles go to our movie reviews.
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Well, there’s our short list, ready for you to add your opinions to. What are we missing? Where do you disagree?