If anyone tries to tell you that the best horror movies aren’t what they used to be, you have my permission to graze their face with your open palm in a quick and painful manner. Slap them, basically, because without the rose-tinted glasses on, we might be in the best period for horror movies in history.
Part of that comes down to just how broad the spectrum is for horror these days, as well as how well-supported the genre is — there’s no shortage of movies available on VOD services and other platforms if they don’t “make the grade” for box office release. With more possibilities comes more room for experimentation; you don’t often see sequel after sequel like you used to, and if you do they are usually not all that bad. Sometimes they’re even better: who could have predicted that the Annabelle prequel/sequel would be an all-round superior effort to the first movie?
If you’re still on the anti-horror bandwagon, let the box office figures set you straight. Movies like IT and Get Out have made their budget back many times over, and that’s not just because they were hyped to the moon and back. No, those two –and countless others– have been good return on investments because, well, they’re good movies with fresh takes.
To celebrate the new golden era of the genre, we’re looking through nothing but the best horror movies of the 21st century from across all spans of subgenre and commercial success. There’s a good deal of mainstream efforts in here, but arguably just as many indie horror movies. We also have plenty of space for post-apocalyptic movies, zombie movies, and even found footage movies, despite them somewhat dying a death.
A couple of qualifiers before we start: the below list isn’t in a ranked or definitive order, just alphabetical; it’s just numbered so you can keep track of it. In addition, we’re only including one movie per franchise. This is also a living list, so we’re adding new horror movies as they release.
28 Days Later is a remarkable movie for many different reasons. It’s one of the first big films to be shot almost entirely digitally, but it also managed the unenviable task of closing down London as well as helping to bring around the new craze of fast-moving zombie-like creatures. Oh, and it helps that it’s one of the best horror movies around, inferior final third and all.
Watch if: you want to see what a quiet London is like. Avoid if: you love monkeys.
A year before vampires sparkled and ruined any fear of them for the next decade, 30 Days of Night came along and showed just how visceral and heartless they could be. Based off of the cult graphic novels, 30 Days of Night has buckets of grim violence, grim characters, grim vamp–it’s just a very grim movie, basically. Also, “God? No God.” is one of the best lines in any horror movie.
Watch if: you want a hard-boiled vampire movie. Avoid if: Josh Hartnett’s disappearance makes you sad.
I could just copy and paste the above when talking about Annabelle: Creation; it’s another sequel that far outstrips the underwhelming original. The only thing the original Annabelle had going for it was that really damn effective door scare, but Creation brings a whole cast of capable child actors, including the revelatory Lulu Wilson. Creation uses sound and the lack thereof to create some masterful scares and a knowing nod to its old-school inspirations.
Watch if: you can deal with creepy children. Avoid if: you can’t deal with creepy children.
4. Antichrist (2009)
Lars Von Trier lives to mess with people, something that is evidenced perfectly by the downright disconcerting Antichrist. When a couple elopes after tragedy strikes, they look to rekindle the romance in their lives, but not before everything quickly goes insane. It’s packed with some bewildering and, at times, disgusting imagery, so maybe don’t watch it with your partner on your anniversary.
Watch if: you love some fucked up visuals. Avoid if: you enjoy sex.
5. A Quiet Place (2018)
John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place isn’t effective because of what’s said, but because of what isn’t. A deathly silence hangs over the majority of the film, the keyword here being deathly. If you have the chance, this post-apocalyptic tale of a family trying to stay alive in a world in which they’re being hunted simply has to be watched at the cinema.
“A polished slice of fear inducing genre fare. Creating horror by relying on craftsmanship is a risk when your career is still young, but it pays off in spades here.”
Watch if: you can shut up. Avoid if: you can’t shut up.
6. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Families, eh? A lot of horror movies use familial conflict to great effect, but A Tale of Two Sisters capitalises on the troubled lineage of two sisters to unravel a slow and methodical tragedy. With one of the sisters recently being released from a mental institution, the movie is a drama wrapped up in the conventions of a ghost story that was so successful that Hollywood remade it. Badly. Anyone else sensing a pattern here?
Watch if: you adore Korean horror. Avoid if: you adore your sister.
7. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
If, like us, you had completely ruled out watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe because of its fairly humdrum trailer, you should probably change your mind. When a mysterious corpse lands on the gurney of a father and son’s gurney at their morgue, they have to try and find a cause of death. But there’s more to this body than meets the eye. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is at its best in its initial two thirds, when the intrigue surrounding the corpse is at its most potent — you will be gripping your thighs like rigor mortis has set in.
Watch if: you love a slow horror mystery. Avoid if: you don’t want to see what your insides look like.
The Babadook is, first and foremost, a metaphor about motherhood and the stresses it brings. It’s expertly handled, subtly drawing parallels to the disintegration of a struggling mother and normality. But is also has a few great scares. If you don’t like kids, don’t watch The Babadook — the young boy will definitely burrow under your skin, which kind of feels like the point.
Watch if: you can deal with annoying kids. Avoid if: you can’t deal with annoying kids.
A different kind of zombie movie, The Battery isn’t all about the guts and spectacle. It’s about its two main characters, who couldn’t be more different from each other if they tried. The Battery is a low-budget effort that is high on character development and a gripping script with a killer soundtrack to match. You might not be familiar with it, so it’s probably about time you acquainted yourself with The Battery.
Watch if: you’re tired of the same old zombie movies. Avoid if: you need your horror movies to have A+ production quality.
Speaking of horror conventions, The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to the horror genre, including its faults. A wild concept that I still can’t believe was greenlit, Cabin follows a group of attractive young people on vacation. You may think you know where it’s going, but you really don’t. It’s a hilarious and often utterly daft ride that will make you afraid of mermen.
Watch if: you want to watch a love letter to the genre. Avoid if: you want serious horror.
As much as some horror movie fans may fight against the big hitters, it’s hard to deny just how effective The Conjuring was in taking something totally tired and making it feel new again. Rather disingenuously “inspired by true events”, The Conjuring showed that sometimes old formulas can be turned into something contemporary and, most importantly, terrifyingly. I am still not over that clapping.
Watch if: you want classic horror repackaged for modern day. Avoid if: you need your horror movies to be based in more than half-truths.
12. The Crazies (2010)
As something of a Romero zealot, it pains me to say that the original The Crazies isn’t all that great. Luckily, then, its 2010 remake more than does it justice and exceeds it in more ways than one. When a town’s inhabitant contact a virus, their tiny pocket of civilisation collapses and all hell breaks loose. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly thrilling and often disquieting. Just don’t mention that ending, though.
Watch if: you loved 28 Days Later. Avoid if: Romero is gospel.
A movie so inherently dumb and watchable (zombie baby, anyone?) that it may well be the best guilty pleasure watch on this list. Zack Snyder’s remake of Romero’s iconic movie may lack the nuance or important commentary, but it makes up for it a relentless pace and plenty of mindless and fun action. There are plenty of stupid people in Dawn of the Dead, though, so be warned if illogical horror movie characters annoy you.
Watch if: you need some high-octane, dumb fun. Avoid if: Romero is gospel to you.
14. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
The best thing about Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes is that you’re rooting for the villain the whole time, someone who becomes so twisted by his quest for vengeance that he himself turns into the biggest monster of them all. Featuring a couple of iconic and unforgettable lines, this British cult classic is completely grounded and totally harrowing to the core. Remind me never to meet Paddy Considine down the local.
Watch if: you want to root for the bad guy. Avoid if: you’re a drug dealer.
15. Dead Snow (2009)
Eurotrash down to its very knowing DNA, Dead Snow is a b-movie zombie escapade that shouldn’t be viewed seriously for even a second. When a group of hikers come across a Nazi coin in a snowy expanse, they are targets for a brigade of Nazi zombies who hunt them down in this fun, camp, and energetic horror movie. Don’t expect a masterpiece and you will leave Dead Snow with a dumb smile on your face.
Watch if: you love camp horror. Avoid if: you are a Nazi.
If you get claustrophobic while in an elevator, maybe don’t watch The Descent. The movie that put people off spelunking features an almost all-female cast of friends who don’t stay that way for long. Neil Marshall’s oft-heralded horror deals in some important themes, but what you’re really here for are the creepy creatures who must go down as some of the most disgusting abominations in horror movie history.
Watch if: you want some classic British horror. Avoid if: you’re Gollum.
Before Hollywood came calling, Guillermo del Toro created The Devil’s Backbone: a ghost story with so many dissonant parts that it had no right to work, but it did. It’s thematically quite similar to The Others, though del Toro’s vision for the macabre and the unusual means that this Spanish horror movie is as good as any other this century. Heck, some people might say it is the best.
Watch if: you can deal with annoying kids. Avoid if: you can’t deal with annoying kids.
18. Dog Soldiers (2002)
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the effects in Dog Soldiers don’t look downright terrible in 2018 — they weren’t that hot back in 2002, either. Look past the outdated suits, though, and you have a funny but still discomforting horror movie that feels like the lycanthropic cousin to Aliens. As a bonus, Sean Pertwee has a major role in the movie, and Sean Pertwee enriches everything.
Watch if: you enjoy shlocky horror. Avoid if: outdated practical effects are a no for you.
If there’s anything you take away from Don’t Breathe, it’s that you absolutely shouldn’t mess with a blind guy, particularly if that guy happens to be Stephen Lang: professional badass. When a trio of friends break into a seemingly unassuming old man’s house, they discover far more than they bargained for. It’s an exhilarating and, funnily enough, breathless movie that gives Jane Levy another chance to shine as the new queen of horror.
Watch if: you want to root for the “bad guys”. Avoid if: your neighbours creep you out.
Drag Me To Hell isn’t scary, but it for damn sure is a lot of gross fun. Sam Raimi returned to his shlock horror roots in a bombastic, OTT horror movie that features goats, b-movie mayhem, and one very pissed off gypsy. Raimi may never return to direct another Evil Dead movie, but Drag Me To Hell is absolutely the next best thing. As a bonus, it was one of the last times we saw Justin Long before he mysteriously disappeared into the ether.
Watch if: you love campy horror. Avoid if: cheese isn’t your thing.
21. Eden Lake (2008)
The most Brexit thing before Brexit was even a thing, Eden Lake follows a beautiful couple after they are stalked and harassed by a gang of hoodies. It capitalised on the very British fear at the time of a disillusioned and violent youth to create something that will make you think twice before discrediting Ellesse. A pre-fame Michael Fassbender also stars in Eden Lake, but you may not be able to hang around for the credits to double-check after its brutal ending.
Watch if: you grip your keys between your fingers when you’re walking down the street. Avoid if: you’re wearing Slazenger right now.
The 2013 “re-positioning” of one of the most beloved cult franchises was better than it had any right to be and must go down as one of the best horror movie reboots/remakes ever. By toning down on the camp factor and ramping up the violence, Fede Alvarez’s demented mind was on full show here, creating some of the grossest moments ever committed to film. Carved chicken, anyone?
Watch if: you’re a gorehound. Avoid if: you’re sick of remakes.
Long before exorcism movies became all the rage again, The Exorcism of Emily Rose delivered something equal parts court drama and horror movie. Time has made people forget about Emily Rose, but they really shouldn’t. It’s low on scares and even gore, which may disappoint those of a more gruesome disposition, but Scott Derrickson’s unique spin on things made him one of the hottest properties in horror for the next decade.
Watch if: you want The Exorcist meets Suits. Avoid if: you need gore in your horror movies.
24. Funny Games (2007)
Both versions of Michael Haneke’s subtle brand of horror are more or less identical, so it’s really down to viewer preference; the one you prefer will probably be the one you watch first. As this list is just for the 21st century, however, we’re going with the American version. The true horror of Funny Games lies in not what is shown, but what isn’t. Michael Pitt’s eerily blue eyes and his preppy demeanour make him a chilling villain for this slow-burn of a horror movie that builds and builds a sense of dread until it’s unbearable.
Watch if: you haven’t already seen the original. Avoid if: you’re impatient.
Is it a horror movie or is it more of a social thriller? Frankly, I don’t care what Get Out is classified as, all I know is that it was one of the most unnerving movies I’ve ever seen. Acted perfectly by everyone involved, Get Out is a waking nightmare dealing in themes of class, racism, and why you should definitely use flash photography on anyone who seems a bit weird.
Watch if: you want a smart, subtly satirical horror. Avoid if: you enjoy drinking tea.
26. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Making this list by the skin of its (very pointy) teeth, Ginger Snaps was released right at the start of the century when the Columbine hysteria was still in full swing. Though it may seem somewhat tame almost two decades on, Ginger Snaps tells an unsettling story about a wild girl’s transformation into a werewolf. It tries too hard to be edgy sometimes, though that might just be a part of its early noughties charm.
Watch if: you want to see one of the only decent werewolf movies in recent times. Avoid if: you prefer the biscuit.
27. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
This Austrian horror has, what JJ Abrams would love to call, a mystery box or two up its sleeve. When two boys’ mother returns from cosmetic surgery, they become convinced that she isn’t the same person, setting up some of the most suspenseful and deftly-handled intrigue you will see in a movie. Goodnight Mommy is certainly a sparing movie and somewhat slow to get going, but stick with it and appreciate its details and you will walk away from the end credits with your mouth agape.
Watch if: creeping dread does it for you. Avoid if: you need your questions answering immediately.
28. Green Room (2015)
Green Room is a horror movie where the victims fight back just as viciously as their attackers. When a band becomes embroiled in a murder at a Nazi club, they desperately fight to see morning. Green Room is completely uncompromising in its depiction of brutality, evidenced by Patrick Stewart’s rare turn as the irredeemable asshole. Although it isn’t horror, director Jeremy Saulnier’s previous movie, Blue Ruin, is very much worth watching, too.
Watch if: you hate Nazis. Avoid if: you think Patrick Stewart is an angel.
29. Hereditary (2018)
A24 always deliver something worth talking about with their horror output, even if they’re never movies that everyone can agree on. Hereditary is a perfect example of that, a slow-burn ride that’s enthused just as many people as it has, quite frankly, pissed off.
It’s easy to see why some may not like it: there aren’t many jumpscares and long periods where seemingly nothing happens. But Hereditary is a movie that requires patience, your hands gripping your thighs with tension more and more as the movie goes on. Ari Aster is a name to keep an eye on; Hereditary feels like just a small sample of what he’s capable of as a director.
A homage to old-school horror down to its very DNA, you feel like The House of The Devil was custom-made for VHS. Its certifiably against the grain of modern horror movie-making, which may perturb some, but Ti West’s career highlight will no doubt appeal to those who were brought up on a healthy diet of Hammer. Despite being crazy low-budget, The House of the Devil also does a great job with its hideously great effects, too.
Watch if: you want some Fulci-inspired horror. Avoid if: you can’t deal with a slow pace.
31. Hush (2016)
I couldn’t get enough people to watch Hush when the micro-budget horror dropped on Netflix. While it isn’t necessarily the scariest movie you will ever watch, the way it approaches its heroine’s deafness made for some very unique, tense scenarios. Perhaps it loses some of its grim lustre once the killer is unmasked, but his patient stalking and his gleeful realisation of her condition chills me to the bone.
Watch if: you are a sound designer. Avoid if: you live in the woods.
As brutal as they come, I Saw the Devil is part revenge movie and part cop drama, but it’s also one of the most unsettling horror movies you’re likely to see. The disintegration of the hero as he hunts down his daughter’s killer will leave you asking who the real monster is. It’s a lot like an Asian version of Dead Man’s Shoes spliced with John Wick. If that isn’t high praise, I don’t know what it.
Watch if: you love Asian cinema and want to see one of its darkest offerings. Avoid if: you…I don’t know. You really should watch it.
33. Insidious (2010)
Blumhouse and James Wan are the masters of taking old ideas and putting fresh spins on them. We alway think we know what it happening in their movies, but it always smartly twists expectations and ramps up the jumpscares. Insidious is a movie that, overall, isn’t anything incredible, but it has these perfectly terrifying moments that helped it to launch a franchise. The original is still the best, and one of the best horror movies of the last decade in the process.
Watch if: you enjoy classic horror. Avoid if: you have a fear of Darth Maul.
Too many slept on The Invitation when it was released. It’s easy to see why — it’s a little light on scares and doesn’t exactly follow the template for a successful modern horror movie. But what it does have in abundance is tension that will leave you questioning every action of the most peculiar collection of dinner guests. By the time the credits roll, don’t be surprise to have cramp from just how tense The Invitation made you.
Watch if: you are a patient person. Avoid if: you need all-action.
Dodgy final ten minutes aside, It Follows is the perfect example of how broad and wide the net is now for horror movies. It’s almost crazy that nobody thought of making a movie based on a killer STD before that follows you around everywhere, but we’re glad it happened. It’s not a scare-a-minute affair, It Follows is more of a movie that burrows into your brain and refuses to leave. Speaking of “it”…
Watch if: you like lo-fi horror that takes its sweet time. Avoid if: you want to have sex for the next month.
Considerably better than anybody thought it would be, the adaptation of Stephen King’s cult classic horror novel left a lot of cinemagoers suddenly very afraid of clowns. Sure, the CGI is going to age just terribly, but Bill Skarsgård’s vision for Pennywise and a talented bunch of actors portraying The Losers’ Club meant that it was more than competition for the TV series.
Watch if: you want to catch the next generation of Hollywood actors. Avoid if: coulrophobia has you good.
37. Kill List (2011)
A strange mixture of horror and crime thriller, Kill List is basically a reworking of classic British horror movies. Ben Wheatley pays due to his inspirations, the most obvious being The Wicker Man, while also bringing some strange but welcome twists to the table. Imagine if In Bruges went down a decidedly darker and more pagan route and you aren’t a million miles away from Kill List.
Watch if: you can deal with genre-bending horror. Avoid if: you can’t deal with the slow-burn.
38. Let the Right One In (2008)
It’s light on scares, but Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire classic is about as perfect a movie can be while also being sensitive towards the two young actors at its heart. Let the Right One In is a love story told through necessary violence and a minimalistic but gorgeous style. It’s a patient and continually evolving movie that has successfully been adapted by Hollywood and for the stage.
Watch if: you love foreign horror. Avoid if: Twilight was too gory for you.
39. Mandy (2018)
Two words can make an entire nation either twitch with disgust or come alive in reverence: Nicolas Cage. The professional lunatic is on something of a tear with his output of late, and Mandy represents him at his volatile best. When his daughter is captured by a cult, Cage must do all he can to find her in this neon nightmare — even if that includes a fight with chainsaws.
“If you are still on the fence as to whether you should see Mandy, watch the trailer, and if the premise of Nicholas Cage hunting “crazy evil” with a battle axe appeals to you, you’ll enjoy it just fine.”
Watch if: Nicolas Cage gives you the good willies. Avoid if: Nicolas Cage gives you the bad willies.
40. Martyrs (2008)
If you’re of a squeamish disposition, watch the first half of Martyrs and then walk away — you won’t like what you see. Years after watching this revenge movie turned something almost undefinable, I still think back on it and get shivery. Part of the New French Extremity wave of truly visceral filmmaking, Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs was such a unique and gripping idea that Hollywood commissioned an American remake and then promptly ruined it.
Watch if: you are a gorehound. Avoid if: any kind of gore makes you sick.
Who wants to feel thoroughly depressed for an hour and a half? Frank Darabont’s bleak tale of otherworldly invaders holds almost no sign of positivity or hope, which is compounded by an almost unbelievable event that I don’t want to spoil here. Despite coming out over a decade ago, The Mist’s warnings on leadership and religion couldn’t ring truer than ever. Swerve the TV show, though.
Watch if: you want to see a movie that wonderfully twists its source material. Avoid if: you’re religious.
If you thought Children of the Corn was spooky, you should probably swerve The Orphanage. Whereas that cult classic was ultimately just, ahem, corny fun, J. A. Bayona’s Spanish film showed a real maturity in handling its themes, including some gruesome kills that you won’t forget in a hurry. The Orphanage deals with loss and love with grace, so make sure you don’t miss out on one of the best horror movies.
Watch if: you can deal with creepy children. Avoid if: you can’t deal with creepy children.
To explain why The Others is so great would be to spoil the whole experience. What I can say, however, is that The Others nails its aesthetic and mood, as well as offering approachable horror — it’s basically a good entry horror movie for anyone who’s squeamish. As a bonus, Nicole Kidman’s turn as the matriarch is one of the rare times when an A+ actor doesn’t sleepwalk their way through a horror movie.
Watch if: you’re trying to get into horror movies. Avoid if: you’re a gorehound.
44. Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
The original Ouija movie was just plain bad, a half-assed trip down cliche lane about nothing at all released to capitalise on Halloween. Origin of Evil, meanwhile, was one of the best horror movies of 2016, helped in no small part thanks to the steadying hand of Mike Flanagan. It doesn’t hurt that Lulu Wilson totally disappears into the role of the beleaguered younger daughter; she carries Origin of Evil on her back at such a young age.
Watch if: you can deal with creepy children. Avoid if: you can’t deal with creepy children.
45. Paranormal Activity (2007)
As convoluted as the canon and the series as a whole may have become after the nineteenth movie was release, there’s no denying that the very first Paranormal Activity was something of a marvel. It takes its sweet time to get going, but once it does, the scares come thick and fast; all the more of an impressive feat considering it was made –supposedly– on the tiniest of micro-budgets. Watch this entry and then watch no more PA movies.
Watch if: you loved Blair Witch. Avoid if: you like exceptional acting.
46. Planet Terror (2007)
A glorious pastiche of the pulpy horror movies of yore, Planet Terror doesn’t deliver bring the scares whatsoever, but it does bring an infectious personality and a spectacle so utterly overblown that it’s hard to not be won over by it. When your leading lady has a machine gun strapped to her amputated leg and blows the hell out of deformed creatures, you know you’re in for a wild, offbeat ride.
Watch if: you love B-movies. Avoid if: you like Fergie.
47. Pontypool (2008)
Sadly, Pontypool is not the cinematic adaptation of the goings on in a small Welsh town but rather the onset of a strange phenomenon that turns everyone into zombie-like vessels. Stephen McHattie kills it as the washed-up DJ protagonist, which when combined with its novel take on the apocalypse and its approach to language makes Pontypool a slow-burn success. A follow-up is currently on the cards, a whole decade after the first movie released.
Watch if: you want some slow-paced “zombie” horror. Avoid if: you need action scenes.
A movie so good that Hollywood decided to almost immediately remake it, REC did for found footage movies what The Exorcist did for exorcism movies. While many point to The Blair Witch Project as the dawn of the subgenre, it was REC that re-popularised and re-energised it with one of the most intense final fifteen minutes you will see in any horror movie. Maybe take your dog to the vet after watching this.
Watch if: you want to watch the best of found footage. Avoid if: you’ve seen one too many found footage movies.
49. Saw (2004)
My heart says Saw II, my head says the original Saw; it’s arguably where the idea of the franchise was at its most focused and most effective. When two strangers wake up in a dilapidated bathroom, they must work together to escape with the looming threat of the maniacal Jigsaw to contend with. Featuring an all-in performance from Cary Elwes and a twist so memorable that they did it for every single movie that followed, Saw is probably the pinnacle of “torture porn” in this century so far.
Watch if: you love twisty horror. Avoid if: you’re very protective of limbs.
Severance is a horror-comedy that probably doesn’t get the love it deserves outside of the UK. Danny Dyer is on rare form as the drug-addled lad at the center of a serial killer rampage during an office retreat in the middle of nowhere in Europe. It’s silly and hilarious, but it brings the scares and blood when it wants to. Plus, it shows you where not to put a severed leg.
Watch if: you loved Shaun of the Dead. Avoid if: you are on shrooms.
I don’t know what to say to you if you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead yet. Over a decade since it was first released, it’s constantly showing on television and just seems to grow and grow in adoration as the years pass. Watch this zombie classic as soon as you can and join the rest of us in quoting every line of its script until our dying days. Dogs can look up, by the way.
Watch if: you’re the king of the zombies. Avoid if: you’ve got red on you.
52. Sinister (2012)
Forget about Ethan Hawke being half-conscious throughout, Sinister deserves its spot on this list because of the ingenuity of its projector scenes. While the scenes surrounding these moments are somewhat basic and rote, the gruesomeness and shock factor whenever the Oswalt patriarch sits down to watch a new slide are what distances Sinister from a lot of its competition. There’s a good reason why I haven’t mowed my lawn in a few years.
Watch if: you want a horror movie with a great gimmick. Avoid if: you’re a landscaper.
Only Ginese people truly understand why Slither is so underrated. Perhaps it was caught up in the trend of horror comedy movies at the time, but James Gunn’s wormy ride never really resonated with cinemagoers in a big way. Luckily, it’s found a cult following in recent years. How can a movie featuring Michael Rooker turning into Willy Wonka’s most sadistic creation not be?
Watch if: you love horror comedies. Avoid if: you like to soak in the tub.
54. Stake Land (2010)
Just like 30 Days of Night did a decade prior, Stake Land reminded everyone that vampires are creatures to be feared. The ones you will find in Jim Mickle’s cult favourite border on feral and are completely primal in their instincts, so much so that they have a lot in common with their zombie cousins. There’s a good core to Stake Land that reminds me a lot of The Battery, but it has the budget and gorgeous cinematography to boot.
Watch if: you want vampire movies with an edge. Avoid if: you don’t like the idea of a dead serious Zombieland.
Technically speaking, The Strangers doesn’t do anything particularly new for the horror genre. It’s as cliched as you’d expect from a home invasion movie, but there’s something about it that makes it rise above its ordinary foundations. It could be that its antagonists are chilling, causing carnage for a couple of innocent people for a reason that is simple and just totally menacing.
Watch if: you want some old-school horror. Avoid if: you’re home.
Just as it looked like the found footage craze was bottoming out with mediocre after mediocre movie with no new ideas, along came The Taking of Deborah Logan to somehow present fresh and thrilling scares. While its visuals are what most people talk about, the utter dedication to the lead role shown by Jill Larson anchors her descent into darkness masterfully.
Watch if: you love found footage. Avoid if: you’re approaching retirement.
57. Thirst (2009)
South Korea’s Park Chan-wook certainly knows how to make a beautiful movie, but Thirst may just be his most eye-catching effort to date. Drenched in sleek, gothic visuals, Thirst is a vampiric tale that deals in themes of religion and love, as well provide some helpful lashings of the ol’ ultraviolence. The Oldboy director knows how to make movies unlike anyone else, and Thirst deserves to be a part of his brimming filmography of success. One of the best horror movies that has gone sadly underrated by many.
Watch if: Twilight was too soft. Avoid if: Twilight scared you.
Just when it looked like the zombie craze was over, along came Train To Busan to change minds. Like a cross between World War Z (but good) and The Raid, Busan is a rollicking journey on a train packed with the infected. It’s fast and frantic, but it’s also very human. In the midst of everything, Busan also manages to grow a relationship between a father and daughter and to also deal in even-handed social commentary. Essential.
Watch if: World War Z was too neutered for you. Avoid if: you’re a commuter.
59. Triangle (2009)
A movie that flattered to deceive at the box office on release but found a new lease of life through word of mouth, Triangle is a surprisingly deep and twisty horror movie. To explain why would be to ruin its main hook, which it utilises very well, so be sure to catch this underrated gem when you can. I can guarantee that you will need to talk to someone about Triangle once the credits roll.
Watch if: you enjoy twisty horror. Avoid if: Groundhog Day confused you.
60. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Anthology movies are tricky to get right; there are always some sequences that are worse than others and tend to bring the product down as a whole. There’s no such issue with Michael Dougherty’s Halloween-themed horror movie, which features one of the smallest but most frightening villains ever. All of the short movies that comprise Trick ‘r Treat are great, but my personal favourite has to be The Principal.
Watch if: you can deal with creepy children. Avoid if: you can’t deal with creepy children.
61. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
What would you do if you somehow found yourself wandering into a cliched horror movie? That’s exactly what happens when a bunch of accident-prone teenagers start dying all around them, leading the group to believe that the pair are out to get them. What follows is a cavalcade of one-liners, over-the-top gore, and a reminder that you shouldn’t base your opinion on someone by their appearance.
Watch if: you love Shaun of the Dead. Avoid if: you’re over horror comedies.
62. The Void
Granted, it may fall apart in its latter stages and become something of an Even Horizon homage, but everything leading up to that point was a tense and brutally beautifully wink back to the eighties. When a cult descends on a hospital, strange things start happening to those trapped inside. Not a classic, but certainly a visual feast.
Watch if: you can’t resist a good bit of hyper style. Avoid if: you need your horror movies to be consistently good throughout.
63. The Wailing (2016)
Utterly bizarre and equally brilliant, The Wailing is a South Korean horror that starts off simply enough before coming one of the most enterprisingly complex and captivating movies you’re likely to see this decade. When a series of bodies and strange occurrences start happening around a small town, it’s up to a cynical, almost useless cop to stitch it all together with devastating consequences. It’s a long one, but The Wailing is something that you can’t tear your eyes away from for even a second.
Watch if: you want to feel rewarded for your patience. Avoid if: you don’t have three hours to spare.
64. The Witch (2015)
When I first watched Robert Eggers’ The Witch, I hated it. Very much. But I think the marketing campaign misled me into thinking it would be something that it wasn’t, so let me boil it down for you. The Witch is a slow-burning, fantastically detailed look at witchcraft with a puritan New England family at its center. It looks gorgeous and is arguably more of an arthouse flick than one suitable for the mainstream, but don’t let that dissuade you from diving in. One of the best horror movies to feature a talking goat, that’s for sure.
Watch if: you’re studying cinematography. Avoid if: you need a fast pace.
65. Wolf Creek (2005)
What if Crocodile Dundee was an insufferable psychopath hellbent on murdering tourists? That’s the basic idea behind Wolf Creek, and an idea that it does very well. Mick Taylor’s laugh may well be one of the most unnerving sounds in all of horror, not harmed by just how brutal he is as a killer. It’s purposely exploitative and pulpy, which just add to its charm.
Watch if: you know what a knife is. Avoid if: you want to visit Australia.
By flipping horror movie conventions on their head, You’re Next is a slasher movie that came out of nowhere to become one of this decades best. It’s not all that scary, but the way it handles the heroine in distress and the eclectic cast of characters makes it a fun watch. You will laugh a lot during You’re Next and then immediately feel bad about it.
Watch if: you love unconventional horror. Avoid if: you turn off easily.
Update 18/09/18: Mandy chainsaws its way in.
Update 10/10/18: The Autopsy of Jane Doe is incisively added.