Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s

From Ari Aster to Stephen King, our favorite genre had one hell of a decade

Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
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Our favorite genre had one hell of a decade.

Even though the decade is drawing to a close, for the horror genre, it feels like a new dawn. For decades, horror has often been relegated to B-movie fare and tended to be considered a lesser-than genre outlier. In the 2010s, however, horror has emerged as a dominant force at the box office. Tumultuous times call for provocative movies that explore our deepest, darkest fears through the safety of our seats, and audiences have craved scares on the big screen these past 10 years like no other.

The landscape of how we consume film has changed dramatically, as well. Now, we’re just as likely to consume film from the comfort of our own homes through streaming platforms or digital rentals, if not more so, as we are to have the traditional theatrical experience. The digital landscape hasn’t just changed how we consume film, but how these films are made. It’s allowed a slew of innovative, new filmmakers to start making films with a creative intimacy and fearlessness like never before.  The sheer volume of ferocious horror films by bold new voices that debuted this decade is astounding, and this list is a clear reflection of that.

Horror has connected us entirely on an international scale, as well, redefining the boundaries of the genre along the way. Genre films from Poland, Iran, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, and beyond have put out horror films that defy convention and classification, yet chill us to our core just the same.  More than any other decade, the 2010s have taught us that horror can come from anywhere and everywhere, and we can’t get enough. Whether major theatrical productions or micro-budgeted indies, you don’t have to look far to find stellar genre offerings these days.

From major box office franchise starters to early adopters of the Stephen King renaissance to even the avant-garde and experimental, the 2010s have delivered an embarrassment of riches in horror. Even more exciting is the promise of what’s to come from all the bold new voices. Enough looking ahead, though. While horror’s future is robust, now is the time to reflect upon the memorable bone-chilling seeds or terror planted this decade.

–Meagan Navarro
Contributing Writer

 


25. Spring (2013)

Spring (Drafthouse Films)

Spring (Drafthouse Films)

The creature feature has never been as poignant or as romantic as it is in Spring. Think Before Sunrise, but with talons and tentacles. Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead staked a significant claim in indie horror with this stunning and genre-bending meet-cute of a troubled man from the U.S. and the mysterious woman from Italy with a dark, deadly secret. A whimsical romance abroad flirts with imminent danger, yet an emotional earnestness grounds it. Benson and Moorhead elevate a simple story with suspenseful sequences, captivating creature transformations, and ingenious defiance of genre convention that claws its way into your heart. –Meagan Navarro


24. The Lure (2016)

The Lure (Kino Świat)

The Lure (Kino Świat)

Hailing from Poland, The Lure marries the grim origins of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid with a fevered disco dream awash in a neon haze. Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska makes one powerful feature debut by infusing a fairy tale coming-of-age story with autobiographical elements from her youth, including the film’s seedy night club setting. For her lead mermaid sisters, Golden and Silver, genres collide as they navigate their way through lust, love, and the exploitive nature of the modern world. A psychedelic and wild overture that seamlessly blends styles and tone, Smoczyńska delivered a profoundly assured and captivating horror musical that makes her one to watch. –Meagan Navarro


23. The Devil’s Candy (2015)

The Devil's Candy (IFC Midnight)

The Devil’s Candy (IFC Midnight)

The tortured artist tale gets a Satanic facelift in Sean Byrne’s sophomore feature. In a subversion of its usual role in horror, here heavy metal is a savior for the struggling artist tempted by the demonic force inhabiting his family’s new home. Byrne creates a feeling of unease and a haunting atmosphere that requires the viewer to fill in the rest of the blanks, but the film’s biggest asset is its impressive character development. Ethan Embry delivers a standout performance as the father torn between his profound love for his family and the allure of artistic success. The riveting emotional heartbeat carries us through the entire film, straight into the fiery pits of hell. –Meagan Navarro


22. The House That Jack Built (2018)

The House That Jack Built (IFC Films)

The House That Jack Built (IFC Films)

The House That Jack Built is a comedy from Lars von Trier. Simple as that. Watching Matt Dillon seamlessly trade one coat for the next —  from reclusive creeps to would-be drill sergeants, dickhead boyfriends to ticking time bombs — warrants the kind of twisted humor that would make Bret Easton Ellis blush. That’s not to say it isn’t terrifying, though: At a hefty 155 minutes, this Dantesque dissertation on the serialized depravity of its lead character — and our own carnal obsessions with his every move — refuses to pull its punches. This is MoMa gore with myriad brutality on full display, mostly because von Trier knows we wouldn’t have it any other way. –Michael Roffman


21. Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald's Game (Netflix)

Gerald’s Game (Netflix)

Stephen King’s 1992 novel takes place almost exclusively from the confines of a single room, where protagonist Jessie Burlingame lies handcuffed to the bed. Most of her harrowing journey was internal. Meaning, no one believed it could translate to screen. Enter Mike Flanagan, who transformed an impossible-to-adapt novel into a compelling psychological and visceral horror movie. At the forefront of this adaptation is a powerfully complex and raw performance by Carla Gugino. The physicality of it is impressive; every bit of Jessie’s discomfort, pain, and fear is keenly felt. Her emotional journey moves at a brisk speed, punctuated by euphoric triumph and moments of stark terror. –Meagan Navarro


20. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures)

10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures)

Who needs gigantic, city-decimating monsters when you have John Goodman? 10 Cloverfield Lane is only tenuous in its connection to its predecessor. Instead, it forms its thesis around the concept that humans can be just as terrifying as any monster. A chamber piece potboiler where Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a woman trapped with a controlling stranger (Goodman), Dan Trachtenberg’s feature debut is a masterclass on claustrophobic paranoia and palpable tension that leaves you breathless. A polished script, smart production design, two central leads that bring their A-game, and a series of twists culminates in an exceptional case study on fear and the capacity for evil. –Meagan Navarro


19. A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place (Paramount Pictures)

A Quiet Place (Paramount Pictures)

A great premise goes a long way, especially in this genre, and A Quiet Place is a dream pitch straight outta the elevator. A post-apocalyptic world forced into silence by mysterious monsters? Don’t tell Roger Corman! Fortunately for Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, they found John Krasinski, who turned their spooky farmstead story into a blockbuster thrill ride (and soon-to-be franchise for Paramount). Behind-the-scenes guff aside, A Quiet Place excels from juicing every ounce of its billion-dollar premise and tossing audiences into a world that’s both constrained and enlivened by its strict set of rules. It’s survivalist horror with ungodly stakes — and please, no popcorn. –Michael Roffman

 


18. It (2016)

It (Warner Bros.)

It (Warner Bros.)

Andy Muschietti tapped into something special with It. Blame it on the popularity of Stranger Things, the meme-ability of Pennywise, or the simple fact that Hollywood had been sleeping on Stephen King for nearly a decade, but his adaptation didn’t just scare up box office records, it created a phenomenon. It was warranted. Jump scares and CGI notwithstanding, Muschietti plumbed the depths of King’s 1986 tome, capturing the small town ethos that makes his worlds so affecting … and terrifying. That’s not easy. Neither is casting seven believable kids, and yet it’s impossible not to root for The Losers’ Club, which is why this coming-of-age blockbuster found everyone floating in 2017. –Michael Roffman


17. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Vice Films)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Vice Films)

When you think you’ve seen it all, a new voice in horror emerges to prove there’s a lot of new life left even in the most tired of subgenres. In this case, that unique voice is director Ana Lily Amirpour, who ushered forth the first Iranian Western film ever made. Let that sink in. Amirpour wasn’t just content to stop at there; her heavily styled, ultra-cool B&W vampire film pulsed Iranian New Wave, spaghetti western, pulp noir, horror, and graphic novels together in a blender to create something wholly unprecedented. With tremendous confidence, Amirpour’s debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is a sumptuous aural and visual feast that electrifies with every frame. –Meagan Navarro


16. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight)

With a claustrophobic premise recalling the glory days of John Carpenter and the dusty works of Edgar Allen Poe, André Øvredal‘s The Autopsy of Jane Doe goes down like a pumpkin spice latte in October. At the center of it all are two A-list performances by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, who sell each and every one of their supernatural revelations with palpable terror and dread. Where so many filmmakers of his generation would reach for the Jack in the Box, Øvredal exercises patience as he slowly pulls the thread on his story. What unfolds is a chilling ghost story, the kind he would later adapt for the screen with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and a Friday night rental for the ages. –Michael Roffman


15. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

A haunting examination of Mexico’s drug trade collateral damage, Issa López crafted a compelling debut that merges blood-drenched realism with the terrifying surrealism of a child’s imagination. This modern horror fairytale follows a group of orphaned children evading the cartel that murdered their parents while dodging ghosts. Following in the wake of Guillermo del Toro, López merges horror convention with fantasy and an engaging young cast to offer up a profound viewing experience guaranteed to elicit chills and leave you in tears. Above all, it will have you shouting the beloved characters’ favorite anthem, “Tigers are not afraid!” –Meagan Navarro


14. I Saw the Devil (2011)

I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

Revenge is one of the most common threads in South Korean cinema, so much so that their brand of gory, twisted revenge thriller has carved out a niche in film on an international scale. There are countless, often memorable, Korean revenge thrillers available. Yet, all pale in comparison to genre master Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil . An uncompromising and profoundly affecting tour de force that’s so shocking and depraved in its violence, it’s almost too easy to overlook what an accomplished masterwork this is in filmmaking. It casts a captivating spell, even when the stomach-churning tragedies continue to mount. –Meagan Navarro


13. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Bone Tomahawk (RLJ Entertainment)

Bone Tomahawk (RLJ Entertainment)

S. Craig Zahler came out of the gate screaming, hollering, and bludgeoning anyone who got in his way with Bone Tomahawk. For his feature-length debut, the muscular filmmaker delivered an unforgiving Western horror, tearing apart our favorite genre stars one by one. Literally. Have you ever seen someone hacked away from the groin up? Look no further. Or maybe look away! Zahler doesn’t care, and that unflinching attitude is why the film’s so chilling. Never once do you feel safe, always on high alert, scanning his frontier portraits for any signs of danger. It’s there, though. From cannibalistic Native Americans to runaway thieves, this is how the West was won — one appendage at a time. –Michael Roffman


12. The Witch (2015)

The Witch (A24)

The Witch (A24)

The 2010s was in no short supply of prestige horror, and Robert Eggers’ Sundance stunner The Witch will forever rank high among them. A Puritanical nightmare, sequestered in the backwoods of an aimless America, this slice of historical terror is at once both beautiful and unnerving. Anya Taylor-Joy leads the way, navigating through familial dread and whatever lies within the woods. There’s something out there, alright, and Eggers ensures her journey  is not without its share of bloodshed and deceptive farm animals. Between its candlelit cinematography and rustic set designs, The Witch is a career-making effort for Eggers, and proof that redemption wears many hats. –Michael Roffman


11. Under the Shadow (2016)

Under the Shadow (XYZ Films)

Under the Shadow (XYZ Films)

Writer and director Babak Anvari uses a chilling ghost story to thread together themes of oppression, rebellion, and feminism without ever feeling heavy-handed or overcrowded. In his feature film debut, no less. Set in 1988, in a war-ravaged Tehran, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her daughter are left alone to cope with their strained bond amidst social pressures and the looming threat of bomb explosions and a haunting supernatural presence. Using old school horror techniques to craft an unsettling atmosphere and effective jump scares that pack a serious wallop, Anvari shifts between family drama and claustrophobic nightmare with ease in Under the Shadow. –Meagan Navarro


10. It Follows (2014)

It Follows (RADiUS-TWC)

It Follows (RADiUS-TWC)

Never doubt the power of peripheral horror. If there’s anything universal, it’s the notion (and ensuing confirmation) that something in the distance is staring and walking straight towards you. That’s ultimately the terror fuel that runs through David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. A genius subversion of the final girl trope, and one hell of a PSA on unprotected sex, this delightfully dreadful parable hits on all kinds of levels. Mitchell strangles his audience from the very first shot, chasing his protagonists through the Detroit suburbs with naked oddities and a punishing score by Disasterpeace. Clumsy third act aside, It Follows recovers with a diamond final shot and a rousing win for indie horror. –Michael Roffman


09. Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (TriStar Pictures)

Evil Dead (TriStar Pictures)

No remake has any right being as good as Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead. Alas, here we are six years later, clamoring for a sequel. That wasn’t always the case. When it was first announced that Ghost House Pictures would be serving up a reboot of Sam Raimi’s classic, every fan wondered if the guy had been possessed by the Necronomicon. Not so. Alvarez agreed to the Pepsi Challenge, serving up an instant classic that never lets up and explores all the nooks and crannies that were far too disturbing for Ashley Williams. This is sick, demented, and twisted stuff, shamelessly nailed together with all the right twists and turns that leave us screaming, “Hail to the Mia.” Groovy, indeed. –Michael Roffman


08. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother (Magnet Releasing)

The Eyes of My Mother (Magnet Releasing)

Sometimes monsters aren’t born; they’re made and nurtured by life’s cruel tragedies and unspeakable acts. A harrowing act witnessed during childhood irrevocably alters Francisca’s psyche, and her longing to reconnect with the world comes with catastrophic consequences in Nicolas Pesce’s disturbing feature debut, The Eyes of My Mother. Shot in B&W, Pesce wields style like a weapon, creating a visual and aural nightmare that’s as repulsive as it is beautiful. Actress Kika Magalhaes masterfully toggles between sympathetic and bone-chilling as the monstrous Francisca, exacerbating the brutality of it all. From the opening frame, Pesce uses unsettling imagery and atmosphere to chill you to your core. –Meagan Navarro


07. Raw (2016)

Raw (Focus World)

Raw (Focus World)

Filmmaker Julia Ducournau continued the French’s reputation from extreme horror with Raw, a coming-of-age tale steeped in blood and violence. Leave any expectations of subtlety at the door; the depiction of a young woman coming to terms with her womanhood and sexuality by way of cannibalism is overt and vicious. Garance Marillier unleashes a powerhouse performance as Justine, the teen who develops a craving for flesh while navigating her freshman year at vet school. From innocent prey to primal predator, Justine’s transformation infuses sensuality, desire, gross body horror, and savagery. As thoughtful as it is grotesque, Ducournau deftly toes the line between thoughtful meditation and provocative violence. –Meagan Navarro


06. The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (Entertainment One)

The Babadook (Entertainment One)

The Babadook is easily one of the decade’s scariest features, with thoroughly unsettling sound and character design and the titular beastie itself emerging slowly from the corners of the frame to spook our disturb our heroes. And yet that’s only half of the film’s chilling equation. The portrait of personal, parental struggle — the mix of love and hate and raw difficulty that emerge from a lost partner and a spirited child — make the plight of the beleaguered woman at the center of it all as unnerving as any haunting could be. The way director Jennifer Kent melds the supernatural and the all too real in The Babadook is sensational and results in one incredible, absolutely terrifying film. –Andrew Bloom


05. Green Room (2015)

Green Room (A24)

Green Room (A24)

Jeremy Saulnier really had it out for his audiences with Green Room. His punk rock thriller is meticulously built to subvert any expectations and yet also indulge them. In other words, you know shit’s gonna hit the fan, but you don’t know how much will get on you. It’s a relentless feeling, but thrilling in every sense of the word. For a little over 90 minutes, Saulnier essentially covers his protagonists with chum and leaves them with the wolves as the stakes literally punch through the linoleum floor. But he never sits back. No, he stays right beside them, filming every bruise, every laceration, and every broken appendage, leaving your stomach to decide how much you actually care to see. –Michael Roffman


04. Get Out (2017)

Get Out (Universal)

Get Out (Universal)

At its core, an excellent Twilight Zone episode, Get Out found writer/director Jordan Peele going full stop into the horror genre. It shouldn’t have come as much as a surprise as it did seeing how he and comedy partner Keegan Michael-Key routinely skewered genre cinema on their breakthrough sketch comedy show, Key & Peele. Peele’s Oscar-winning screenplay was at once terrifying and chock full of biting social and racial satire, deftly blending horror and comedy like An American Werewolf In London before it. In sum, Get Out announced Peele as a bold voice in genre filmmaking and will be remembered of one of the best horror flicks of the decade. –Mike Vanderbilt


03. The Invitation (2015)

The Invitation (Drafthouse Films)

The Invitation (Drafthouse Films)

A masterclass in building tension, a simple dinner party has never been as riveting or as terrifying as it is in Karyn Kusama’s taut psychological horror-thriller, The Invitation. When Will (Logan Marshall-Green) steps foot in his ex-wife’s home two years after a tragedy, their past comes back to haunt them in unsettling ways. Strange behavior and mysterious guests instill ambiguity and paranoia. Is Will succumbing to his depression, or is there something more sinister at play? Kusama creates a razor-sharp study of grief, coiling the claustrophobic suspense tighter until it explodes in a shocking finale. An airtight screenplay combined with Kusama’s stellar direction makes this thriller an all-timer. –Meagan Navarro


02. Under the Skin (2014)

Under the Skin (A24)

Under the Skin (A24)

A bellwether for this new era of abstract, discordant, Expressionistic “A24 horror,” Jonathan Glazer’s arthouse sci-fi masterpiece about a mysterious alien (Scarlett Johansson) consuming male human bodies for some unknown purpose puts much of its value in the eye of the beholder. Is it a deeply mysterious film about gendered power dynamics, longing and alienation? Is it just a slog about ScarJo driving around in a van for 45 minutes? Under the Skin expresses zero interest in explaining itself to its audience, which is what makes its virtues all the more appealing to those on its deeply bizarre wavelength. Johansson is a beautiful enigma, playing on her existing star power to give a decidedly un-showy performance, all gesture and intimation. And, there’s that Mica Levi score, the sonic equivalent of a swarm of hornets buzzing around in your skull. It’s gorgeous and inscrutable in that Antonioni kind of way, and we love that. –Clint Worthington


01. Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary (A24)

Hereditary (A24)

Heads rolled when this came out. Sorry, sorry, that may have been tacky. But you know what, why not let out a big roaring scream of applause for Ari Aster’s auspicious debut? Hereditary is homebound horror of the highest caliber. A tight-fisted thriller so nervy that actually, things get so scary you feel incapable of letting out a noise for fear of what comes next. The haunted house flick takes on grandiose, pagan qualities as Aster mines familial trauma and demonic practices for what could only be described as the most controlled, nuanced, and still somehow brazen and beautiful chiller of the 2010s. Watch it once, and never forget the power of Paimon. Hail him. And hail Aster. –Blake Goble

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