Right off the bat, I'll say that I love bloody horror movies as much as the next horror fan. Give me a gory bloodbath or gruesome body horror like in The Thing and I'm happy.
But I also know that horror doesn't need blood or gore to be terrifying. Give me some mind-bending psychological horror that makes it hard to fall asleep at night and I'm just as happy.
And there are plenty of scary horror movies that don't involve much blood or gore at all. Instead of aiming to shock and disgust, they burrow into the trenches of your psyche in a deeper, darker way.
Here are my favorite horror movies of all time that don't rely on blood, guts, or gore to earn their scares.
16. Insidious (2010)
Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 43m)
Insidious is one of the scariest movies on this list, but it's really not gory at all. There's a scene where a dead body is shown, but you don't actually see the violence that caused the death.
There are also some bloody handprints at one point, but again, the lack of violence should make it tolerable for those who are squeamish.
If you can stomach those things, Insidious really is quite terrifying as it centers on a husband and wife whose son becomes the vessel of possession for numerous demonic entities.
15. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
Drama, Horror (2h 17m)
Director Roman Polanski made one of the most unnerving movies of all time when he directed Rosemary's Baby, and he did it all without showing a single drop of blood.
Starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, the story follows a young couple who have just moved into a new apartment building. However, a death soon occurs right outside their front door when someone jumps from their window.
It doesn't end there. Rosemary begins to dream horrible things, hear strange things in the hallway, and suspects that her neighbors have sinister intentions for her and her unborn baby.
14. The Babadook (2014)
Directed by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Horror, Mystery (1h 34m)
Directed by Jennifer Kent (who is yet to make a bad film), The Babadook looks at how terrifying trauma can be.
The story follows Amelia and Samuel, a mother and son who have a strained relationship. When the death anniversary of Amelia's husband approaches, terrifying things begin to happen in their home.
In The Babadook, one character suffers from a bloody broken nose, but it's very minor. There's also a dream sequence with a bit of blood, but again, it's nothing too extreme.
Starring Essie Davis in a tour-de-force performance, The Babadook is a unique blend of horror and drama that will leave you breathless as you see the terrifying monster creep around the house.
13. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum
Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 55m)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an old-school horror movie that was originally released in 1956 and then remade in 1978. Either version of the film—which is about aliens who take over human bodies—is safe for gore-averse viewers.
That's because the movie's scares rely on paranoia-induced anxiety, which doesn't need any blood to be scary. However, there are small scenes with blood—including a bloody nose and someone being stabbed with a dart—but they're quick and minor.
12. The Ring (2002)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox
Horror, Mystery (1h 55m)
The Ring is an absolute classic horror film. Based on the Japanese film Ringu, the Westernized adaptation features some of the same intense chills as the original.
So many parts of this movie will make you feel deathly uncomfortable, but you don't need to worry about gore. There are a few scenes with blood, including some bloody noses, but none that will gross you out.
So, even though The Ring isn't all that shocking in a gory sense, the rest of the film will give you the creeps and make it impossible to sleep.
11. It Follows (2014)
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 40m)
It Follows is one of the most intensely gripping horror movies released in the last decade. Fortunately, there's no blood here.
The main character is being followed throughout the film by an unknown entity that never moves faster than a walk. It's super tense, but there's no actual violence in the movie.
It's all about the uncomfortable feeling of being followed, as well as the horrible sensation that a supernatural entity (that can't be killed) will never, ever, ever stop following you—unless you make one very difficult choice. Needless to say, It Follows is incredibly effective.
10. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Directed by Oren Peli
Starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs
Horror, Mystery (1h 26m)
Paranormal Activity is one of the more iconic films that followed in the footsteps of The Blair Witch Project. It took the popularity of the found footage subgenre and mixed it with the haunted house style of horror to create something else entirely.
It did a damn good job of it, too! The film is pretty freaky even to this day. While the sequels left quite a lot to be desired, the original is a fantastic movie that features almost no actual violence.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Starring Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Horror, Mystery (1h 21m)
The Blair Witch Project essentially launched an entire subgenre of horror films known as found footage.
The movie is absolutely terrifying, primarily for its innovative idea to have the characters being the ones actually filming the scenes, which made the whole thing feel that much more real and intense.
And while The Blair Witch Project keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time, there's almost no blood or gore, making it a perfect film for the squeamish. It's proof that subtlety can be terrifying in its own way.
8. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Directed by John Landis
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher
Comedy, Horror (1h 37m)
An American Werewolf in London is John Landis's best film. Not only is it an excellent horror film, but it's a werewolf movie that somehow earns its scares without using buckets of blood. No easy feat!
The story follows two American tourists who are visiting the UK on holiday. While trekking through the countryside, they cross paths with a frightening creature—and they're unaware of the supernatural nature of their encounter until it's too late.
An American Werewolf in London is one of the best horror movies of the 1980s, mostly because it revolutionized the werewolf movie, elevating it into something to be taken seriously: a tragic story with genuine frights that don't lean on gore.
7. A Quiet Place (2018)
Directed by John Krasinski
Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 30m)
Directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is the rare apocalypse monster movie that doesn't rely on blood or gore. It's all pure suspense.
The story follows a family that lives in a post-apocalyptic America that's been ravaged by alien creatures with an extremely acute—almost supernatural—sense of hearing. Because of this, they must all remain totally quiet at all times.
However, as one calamity follows another, these alien predators are inadvertently brought to their safe haven. A Quiet Place finds the terror in horrible, near-death situations without blood or gore.
6. The Changeling (1980)
Directed by Peter Medak
Starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Horror, Mystery (1h 47m)
The Changeling is one of the most underrated haunted house horror movies of all time. The reason? Because there's no use of shocking, gory tricks or gimmicks. It's just trepidation the entire way through.
John Russell (played by George C. Scott) is a New York City composer who's enjoying a holiday when his wife and daughter are killed in a car crash. In grief, he relocates to a mansion far away.
While there, he gradually begins to suspect that the house he's staying in is actually possessed by a ghost. The key word here is gradual.
Directed by Peter Medak, the slow-burn approach to horror that The Changeling takes is deeply unsettling, with no use of blood or gore to secure its well-earned scares.
5. Repulsion (1965)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
Drama, Horror, Thriller (1h 45m)
Directed by Roman Polanski, Repulsion is the oldest film on this list, yet it remains one of the most subtle horror movies out there.
A young woman named Carole (played by Catherine Deneuve) begins having visions of things happening in her apartment, hallucinations of horrifying things all around her.
There's never any blood or gore in Repulsion. The horror comes from the sensation that you're trapped inside someone's deranged psyche, walled inside a brain that's collapsing in on itself.
As you'll eventually discover, there's a reason for everything that happens on screen—but I won't spoil it for you.
4. Don't Look Now (1973)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason
Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 50m)
Nicolas Roeg directed this iconic horror film in 1973. It has aged fantastically, mainly because it doesn't rely on cheap tricks like blood or gore to deliver the horror.
The narrative follows John and Laura Baxter (played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), a man and wife who are in the midst of grieving for their daughter, who recently drowned in a terrible accident.
As they walk around Venice, John is haunted by visions of a girl in a red coat—the same red coat his daughter was wearing when she died.
This slowly builds to a terrifying boiling point, but there's never any blood or gore. Roeg simply turns the grief of the parents into a horrifying sensation of constant unease.
3. Alien (1979)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 57m)
Alien has always been a cut above the rest when it comes to sci-fi horror, mostly because all of the terror comes from a slow build-up of tension and fear of what might lie around the next corner.
Directed by Ridley Scott, the narrative follows the spaceship Nostromo on its way home after a long mission. However, there's a snag in their plan when they encounter a distress signal from a nearby planet. They decide to investigate, not knowing the horrors that await.
OK, so there's one scene in Alien that's a bit gory—the infamous chestburster scene—but that's it. The rest of the horror comes from the sustained sense of dread as the Xenomorph lurks in the shadows. (In fact, you never actually see the titular alien kill anybody!)
Starring Sigourney Weaver in a role that launched her to superstardom, Alien is unlike any other monster movie. It's slow, precise, and even artful—far more than just a slasher film in space.
2. Jaws (1975)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Adventure, Mystery, Thriller (2h 4m)
Why is Jaws still viewed as a perfect movie to this day? Because it doesn't have any cheap thrills. It's all dread, which is perfectly captured and augmented by John Williams's iconic score.
When Martin Brody (played by Roy Schneider), the police chief on Amity Island, discovers that there's a killer shark on the loose, he must face the reality that he has no choice but to bring it down.
Enlisting the help of two other men (played by Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss), he sets out to kill the immense beast. In doing so, Jaws made the entire world afraid of the open ocean.
To be fair, there are some scenes where blood is visible—particularly at the end, towards the climax—but for the most part Jaws is known for the anxiety that comes from not seeing the violence of the shark.
1. Get Out (2017)
Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 44m)
If you ask me for the greatest horror movie of all time that doesn't employ blood or gore, my answer will always be Get Out.
Directed by Jordan Peele, this film is recognized as a landmark in the modern horror genre: no cheap jump scares, no reliance on blood or gore, and layered symbolism that deepens the overall story.
Get Out is full of well-written, subtly unsettling interactions that build on the intelligent allegory that drives the story, so much so that even a woman smiling as her eyes tear up becomes disturbing. Similarly, a man going for a run at night is so dreadful that it's heart-stopping.
For me, Get Out is the best horror movie of the 21st century, and it doesn't rely on any blood or gore at all. Applause deserved.