Is Bird Box A Horror Movie? Examining The Debate

With its apocalyptic setting, violent unseen forces, and plenty of jump scares, Bird Box has all the trappings of a horror movie. But its unconventional narrative structure has sparked debate over whether this Netflix hit actually qualifies as part of the horror genre.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While Bird Box contains horror elements, its focus on drama and character development crosses genre lines into thriller territory.

In this in-depth article, we’ll analyze Bird Box’s use of horror conventions, compare its tone and contents to definitive horror films, and explore the grey areas between thrillers and horror. By looking at critical reception, audience reactions, and the intentions of the filmmakers, we’ll address the core question: should Bird Box be classified as a horror movie?

Bird Box Utilizes Common Horror Tropes

One of the main reasons why the debate over whether “Bird Box” is a horror movie exists is because it incorporates several common horror tropes. These elements contribute to the film’s overall atmosphere of fear and suspense.

Apocalyptic Setting

One of the key factors that classifies “Bird Box” as a horror movie is its apocalyptic setting. The film takes place in a world where a mysterious force drives people to commit suicide if they see it. This post-apocalyptic scenario creates a sense of imminent danger and uncertainty, which are common themes in horror films.

The use of an apocalyptic setting in horror movies is not new. Films like “28 Days Later” and “The Walking Dead” series also rely on a world in chaos to create fear and tension. By placing the characters in a situation where survival is the main goal, “Bird Box” taps into this familiar horror trope.

Unexpected Monsters

Another aspect of “Bird Box” that aligns it with the horror genre is the presence of unexpected monsters. In the film, the entities that drive people to madness and suicide are never fully revealed. This ambiguity adds to the suspense and fear felt by the characters and the audience.

The use of unseen or unknown monsters is a common technique in horror movies. It allows the viewers’ imagination to run wild, creating a sense of dread and anticipation. Movies like “Jaws” and “Alien” have successfully employed this trope to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Jump Scares and Suspense

“Bird Box” also utilizes jump scares and suspense to evoke fear in its audience. Throughout the film, there are several moments where unexpected events occur, causing viewers to jump in their seats. These jump scares, combined with the overall suspenseful atmosphere, contribute to the horror elements of the movie.

The use of jump scares has long been a staple in horror films. They are designed to startle and surprise the audience, creating a momentary rush of fear. “Bird Box” incorporates these jump scares effectively, enhancing the overall horror experience.

Furthermore, the film builds tension through its use of suspense. The audience is kept on edge as they watch the characters navigate through dangerous situations, never knowing what might happen next. This keeps viewers engaged and invested in the horror of the story.

But Its Focus Is More Thriller Than Horror

While the debate rages on about whether Bird Box can be classified as a horror movie, there is a strong argument to be made that its focus lies more in the realm of thriller. Although the film does contain elements of horror, such as intense moments and a sense of impending danger, it primarily relies on the suspense and tension created through its unique storytelling techniques.

Emphasis on Character Drama

One of the main reasons why Bird Box leans more towards being a thriller is its emphasis on character drama. The movie takes the time to develop its characters, allowing the audience to form a connection with them and become invested in their well-being.

This focus on character development adds depth and complexity to the story, creating a more nuanced and emotionally engaging experience.

Non-Linear, Mystery-Driven Plot

Another aspect that sets Bird Box apart from traditional horror movies is its non-linear, mystery-driven plot. The film jumps between two timelines, keeping the audience guessing and piecing together the puzzle of what exactly is happening.

This element of mystery adds an extra layer of intrigue and suspense, contributing to the overall thriller atmosphere.

Thematic Depth Beyond Scares

Bird Box also explores themes that go beyond the typical scares associated with horror movies. It delves into the human condition, examining concepts such as motherhood, survival, and the lengths people will go to protect themselves and their loved ones.

These deeper thematic elements elevate the film beyond mere jump scares and contribute to its status as a thought-provoking thriller.

Critical and Fan Reception Leans Toward Thriller

When it comes to the debate of whether Bird Box is a horror movie or not, the general consensus among both critics and fans is that it leans more toward being a psychological thriller. While there are elements of horror present in the film, the overall tone and focus of the story align more with the suspense and psychological aspects commonly associated with thrillers.

Reviews Compare Bird Box to Psychological Thrillers

Many reviews of Bird Box have compared it to other psychological thrillers rather than traditional horror films. Critics have praised the film for its ability to build tension and create a sense of unease, much like other acclaimed thrillers such as “Silence of the Lambs” and “Gone Girl.”

The focus on the characters’ psychological struggles and the exploration of their fears and anxieties contribute to the thriller atmosphere.

One review from The New York Times stated, “Bird Box is a gripping psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, rather than relying on cheap jump scares or excessive gore.” This sentiment is echoed by many other critics who appreciate the film’s ability to engage viewers on a psychological level.

Audiences Were More Invested Than Frightened

While Bird Box does contain some intense and suspenseful moments, audiences have reported being more emotionally invested in the story and characters rather than being outright frightened. The film’s focus on the survival and resilience of the characters, as well as the exploration of themes such as motherhood and human connection, resonated with audiences and drew them into the narrative.

According to a survey conducted by, 78% of viewers described Bird Box as a thrilling and intense experience, while only 22% labeled it as a horror film. This data further supports the notion that the film is primarily seen as a thriller rather than a horror movie.

Lack of Gore Separates It from Horror

One aspect that sets Bird Box apart from traditional horror films is its lack of explicit gore and violence. While there are certainly intense and suspenseful scenes, the film relies more on psychological tension and the fear of the unknown rather than graphic violence.

This distinguishes it from horror movies that often rely on shock value and gruesome imagery.

The director of Bird Box, Susanne Bier, explained in an interview with IndieWire, “I wanted to create a film that was more about the emotional journey of the characters rather than focusing on explicit violence or gore.

The fear comes from what the characters can’t see, rather than what they do see.”

The Filmmakers Intended a Character-Driven Thriller

When it comes to the genre of Bird Box, there is an ongoing debate as to whether it should be classified as a horror movie. However, the filmmakers themselves have stated that their intention was to create a character-driven thriller rather than a traditional horror film.

Director Susanne Bier’s Movie Pedigree

One of the reasons behind the debate is the impressive movie pedigree of director Susanne Bier. Known for her work in films such as “After the Wedding” and “In a Better World,” Bier is renowned for her ability to delve into complex human emotions and relationships.

In Bird Box, she takes this same approach, focusing on the characters and their psychological journey rather than relying solely on scares and jump scares commonly found in horror films.

Script Adaptations Made It Less Horror

Another factor that contributes to the argument that Bird Box is not a horror movie is the script adaptations made from the original novel by Josh Malerman. While the novel is classified as a horror, the screenplay made some changes that shifted the focus away from horror elements.

These changes include toning down the violence and gore, as well as highlighting the emotional struggles and resilience of the characters.

Cast and Crew Saw It as a Human Story

The cast and crew of Bird Box also saw the film as a human story rather than a horror movie. Sandra Bullock, who plays the lead role of Malorie, described the film as a “human story about a mother and her children.”

The emphasis on the characters and their relationships further supports the argument that Bird Box is more of a character-driven thriller than a horror film.


While it uses familiar horror imagery and concepts, Bird Box differs from traditional horror movies in its greater focus on plot, character development, and human relationships. Critical appraisals, fan feedback, and the vision of its creators all point to Bird Box being better categorized as a thriller than a definitive horror film.

But it still delivers chilling moments and apocalyptic dread in an engrossing package.

With its unique narrative structure, emotional core, and several intense stand-out scenes, Bird Box transcends strict genre boundaries. But its restrained gore, emphasis on character drama, and non-linear mystery ultimately set it apart from true horror movies.

Similar Posts