Draw the curtains, lock the door, and arm yourself to the teeth, the boogeyman is coming. We all love a good scare, and what better way to give yourself the willies than by watching a good modern horror. Bogged down in reboots, remakes, and rehashes, the horror landscape can sometimes seem clogged with more of the same; however, with a resurgence in innovative films, the genre is bloodier and bolder than ever before. Gone are the days of wobbly sets, corn syrup, and food coloring, and more cheese than you can grill on a sandwich, while horror is back to remind you that it never really went away.
Sure, we may never return to the highs of films like Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but there are some serious contenders out there. As one of the most-anticipated horrors of 2017, Jordan Peele’s Get Out is making big waves on the scene and its near-perfect score. Since the turn of the century we have seen directors constantly coming up with ways to shock and scare us, so, with this is in mind, here are the (official) Highest-Rated Horror Movies Of The Century.
17. Zombieland – 90%
Rating: 90% based on 237 reviews
A fresh take on the tried and tested zombie film, Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland showed that the aging zombie genre was anything but dead. A witty take on the lighter side of the end of the world, the film followed four unlikely allies as they trod the American backwaters while staving off each other and hordes of the undead. Zombieland gave us a whole new appreciation of Twinkies and Bill Murray, while everyone remembers the rules on how to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The lead cast of Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin were all perfect in their roles during the apocalypse, while Eisenberg especially excelled in his usual role as the uncomfortable nerd that you love to hate. Harrelson himself said that when filming wrapped, he hugged the writers and said he had never wanted to do a sequel until Zombieland, so why a sequel hasn’t been made yet is a mystery and a crime. A TV pilot around the idea wasn’t picked up in 2013, but all parties still remain hopeful that a big-screen continuation is coming!
16. The Host – 93%
Rating: 93% based on 197 reviews
Korea’s The Host, aka Gwoemul, may be slightly similar to The Hills Have Eyes, with its message that government dumping/testing can have long-lasting effects, but that’s where it ends. The Host is a huge monster movie, but also a dysfunctional family drama. Korean superstar Song Kang-ho stars as snack bar owner Park Gang-du. When Park’s sister Hyun-seo is kidnapped by the giant amphibious monster, Seoul descends into panic. Along with his father, his other sister – who happens to be archery champion – and his alcoholic brother, the family’s only mission is to rescue Hyun-seo when she reveals she is trapped in the sewers with the creature.
As monster movies go, it is up there with the likes of Cloverfield, while riffing off the classic nostalgia towards Japan’s Godzilla. The creature itself is like an Alien Xenomorph, hunting its victims in a nationwide epidemic before retreating to its underground lair.
The inspiration came from a 2000 incident when a mortician dumped formaldehyde into the water supply, as well as reports that a deformed fish was discovered in the Han River with an S-shaped spine. The Host was the perfect mix of family and fear, so it is no surprise that it set a Korean box office record by selling over 10 million tickets in just 21 days.
15. Shaun Of The Dead – 92%
Rating: 92% based on 201 reviews
Not only one of the best horror films out there, but also one of the best comedies ever, Shaun of the Dead crosses into that rare territory of zom-com. Directed by Edgar Wright, and written by/starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead formed part of the duo’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, which included Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. As easily their best work, it isn’t hard to imagine that the Zombieland creators watching this 2004 film for inspiration. The film is so well received, George A. Romero even offered Pegg and Frost a role in his film Land of the Dead.
Following two layabout Englishmen who would rather sip pints than save their loved ones, Shaun of the Dead was British humor at its very finest. The true magic comes from the film’s constant references to Romero’s Dead films, without coming off as a Scary Movie-type parody film.
Shaun of the Dead was deadpan in its delivery, while still using the F-word over 77 times, and excelling as a new twist on zombie films. Featuring the who’s who of British comedy, cameos included Billy Nighy, Jessica Hynes, Peter Serafinowicz, and Martin Freeman. Shaun of the Dead is a ray of light in an otherwise dismal genre and even features its own version of a happy ending – what more could you want?
14. Green Room – 90%
Rating: 90% based on 204 reviews
A grim look at something could the horror of something that could actually happen, Green Room came from acclaimed director Jeremy Saulnier and blew critics away in 2016. A film about neo-Nazis may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when Captain Jean-Luc Picard is heading up the proceedings, it is hard to look away. Low-budget movies are far too easily dubbed “indie” horrors, but Green Room deserves that title with its jagged look at how easily those around us can be influenced. It is hard to pinpoint what made Green Room the runaway success that it was, but something stuck to the bottom of your shoe like old gum from the film’s grungy nightclub setting.
To say that the film’s 90-minute runtime was tense would be a massive understatement. One of those toe-curling films that has you screaming at the screen, Green Room is at times an uncomfortable watch, packed with blood-splatters, animal violence, and more than enough human mutilation. While it can be accused of being slightly slow to start, the pace certainly picked up in the second half. The confounding likeable cast of heroes and antiheroes were dispatched in quick succession and graphic gore, meaning that Green Room wasn’t a film that hung around.
13. The Love Witch – 96%
Rating: 96% based on 70 reviews
As a nod to a bygone era, 2016’s The Love Witch is a deliberate homage to the B-movie horrors of the ‘60s and ‘70s, except here there are no Swamp Things or Body Snatchers. Instead, the lead character is a witch – but not in the typical sense. Samantha Robinson’s Elaine is a Hepburn of an actress, who attempts magic with disastrous results; think of her as a haphazard Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched. She sophisticatedly motors around the coast in her scarlet mustang, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake.
The Love Witch is a power trip for women, but Elaine learns that sometimes things can work too well as the men around her fall victim to her spells. Elaine and everything around her burns bright red, from her red dresses to her matching luggage, further amping up the horror. She verges on the occult and almost seems like a more realistic of Cassandra Peterson’s Elvira. Underneath all the pastels beats a much darker heart of the film, and while director Anna Biller may resemble Wes Anderson in her style, The Love Witch is definitely not twee.
12. Train To Busan – 96%
Rating: 96% based on 78 reviews
All aboard the zombie express. Adding to this list’s already substantial zombie horde, Train To Busan found yet another way to reinvigorate Romero’s version of shuffling sickies. Yeon Sang-Ho applied his directorial magic to a few heroes trapped with the undead on the rails of a South Korean train. By confining 90% of the action to the simple carriages of a bullet train, Busan can at times feel a little claustrophobic but is all the better for it.
You had all the typical stereotypes you would expect from a horror film: the loving father, the estranged daughter, the upper-class villain, the sacrificial hero, the pregnant women, and the token elderly person. Busan’s use of quick-moving World War Z-esque zombies are all the more terrifying when smashing through the glass of a train, however, the final quarter of the film literally derailed (in a good way) and took the outbreak further.
11. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – 95%
Rating: 95% based on 110 reviews
Tagged as the first “Iranian vampire Western,” Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night certainly has the market cornered. Part Spaghetti Western, part gothic horror, and part graphic novel, Girl Walks Home is so stylized, it is almost a shame to finish it. A hijab-wearing Nosferatu is the premise of the film, as she seduces a downtrodden Iranian named Arash. Played by the Iranian James Dean – Arash Marandi – Arash cares for his heroin-addict father while being drawn into a world of drugs and crime. “The Girl” and Arash are unexpectedly drawn together, but everyone knows there will be bloodshed on the way.
Set in an imaginary Iranian underworld, we also meet the repugnant pimp with “sex” tattooed across his throat, who becomes a larger than life comic book stereotype. Forget the likes of Twilight, Girl Walks Home teases us into the barring of the vampire’s fangs, proving this isn’t your standard vamp-fest, while the black and white sparks imagination that you are watching some surreal David Lynch movie unravel in front of you.
Amirpour puts her cinematic skills to the test, but there is an equally perfect soundtrack to accompany her debut. Sure, the subgenre may remain untouched for a while/forever, but with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night propping it up, who really cares?
10. The Loved Ones – 98%
Rating: 98% based on 45 reviews
The Loved Ones turns teen dream into teen scream. As an Annie Wilkes of Australian horror, Robin McLeavy excels in the role of Lola. She is a non-supernatural Carrie, who just wants her prom night to be perfect. Any sympathy for the outcast Lola is soon lost as she puts her sickening plan in progress to nab the dreamboat boy from her school. As psycho women go, Lola is up there with the best, which sadly makes McLeavy easily hateable.
Long-haired heartthrob Brent (Xavier Samuels) clearly has some issues at home since the death of his father, but surely he wouldn’t run away before the big prom? And John Brumpton’s role as Lola’s doting father is equal parts caring and creepy, while the final act twist treads into monster movie territory.
What elevates The Loved Ones above your typical hillbilly horror is its use of graphic torture alongside the song “Not Pretty Enough” by Casey Chambers, which is put to great ironic use by director Sean Byrne. You will wince more than once, including when Brent’s chest is carved with a giant love heart, the scenes of lobotomy, and an unusual use for draining fluid. The Loved Ones is a film that will stick with you like salt to a wound.
9. Under The Shadow
Rating: 98% based on 66 reviews
Continuing the trend of great horror films from 2016, Under The Shadow was right up there with the rest. Another Iranian horror, this film is Babak Anvari’s directorial debut. As the malevolent “djinn” spirits become as dangerous as the raging Iraq-Iran war, Under the Shadow takes Roman Polanski’s The Tenant as an influence, but quickly moves away from its wartime premise. As the supernatural forces take over, the real twist is that the horror isn’t the monsters, it is the world that the leads find themselves in.
As a ghostly Iranian gem, Under the Shadow follows former medical student Shideh and her daughter Dorsa, both of whom are harassed by sinister apparitions in their apartment block while also being hammered by air raids. Shideh becomes more worried about the state of her daughter than the sharia law that threatens her outside, but as the various inhabitants of the building begin to flee, Shideh and Dorsa find themselves increasingly isolated among the spirits. Under the Shadow offers a more feminist approach to the genre in an uncharted area, and with great results.
8. Drag Me To Hell – 92%
Rating: 92% based on 254 reviews
Sam Raimi returned to form, doing what he does best with a horror film that at times can verge on ludicrous. At times it might feel like a parody, but Drag Me to Hell is anything but. Alison Lohman’s Christine is a mundane loans officer, who has her life disrupted when she ignores a haggard gypsy woman’s pleas for help. After being hexed, Christine has three days of torture ahead before she will be dragged to the titular Hell. It will have you laughing your socks off, reaching for the cushion, and whispering “here kitty kitty” all the way up the stairs.
The sign of a true horror heroine is a good set of lungs, and Lohman certainly puts hers to the test, screaming through most of the film’s runtime. You may find yourself shouting at the screen since clearly horror films have taught Christine nothing: if a one-eyed gypsy with hangnails asks for a third loan extension, just give it to her. Drag Me to Hell balances the campy carnage of Raimi’s other highs like the Evil Dead series, showing that he should concentrate on what he is good at, ie: not Spider-Man 3.
7. The Witch – 91%
Rating: 91% based on 270 reviews
One of the best slow-burning horrors out there, Robert Eggers’ The Witch isn’t just bedknobs and broomsticks. The tension builds to palpable terror in a family plucked straight from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. However, here there is no hammy Winona Ryder or Daniel Day Lewis performances, instead we get a “talking” goat called Black Phillip – the latter is definitely the better option. A God-fearing farm family are trapped in the horrors of 17th century New England, but should their run of bad luck be blamed on someone closer to home?
With the forces of evil living nearby and a chilling backdrop of sparse woods, The Witch is a cross between The Village and Sleepy Hollow, but so much more. Anya Taylor-Joy is far from the stereotypical demon child, managing to dodge all the annoying habits that come with the trope.
6. The Cabin In The Woods – 92%
Rating: 92% based on 258 reviews
Really living up to its tagline of “So you think you know the story,” Drew Goddard’s 2012 wooden shack flick couldn’t be further from the likes of Evil Dead and Cabin Fever. With scare maestro Joss Whedon on hand, The Cabin in the Woods never fails to surprise. The film is quite literally layered, swapping the action between the titular cabin and a secret underground facility, where those inside bet on the end of the world while guarding a whole host of oogly booglies. It’s truly insane premise that plays out in an even more insane film.
Cabin‘s clever gimmick is that is a deconstruction without treading into Scary Movie territory. We have the horny teens, the token virgin, and the stoner loser, but they all become more memorable than their assigned stereotypes. In parts, Goddard’s film is just like an episode of Whedon’s series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is by no means a bad thing. No horror boogeyman is safe – from werewolves to zombies, clowns to aliens, they all have a part to play. With Sigourney Weaver listed as part of the cast, viewers may question where she is, but her arrival is definitely worth the wait – The Cabin in the Woods has one of the best WTF endings in horror.
5. Pan’s Labyrinth – 95%
Rating: 95% based on 225 reviews
As one of the most imaginative directors out there, no one does subtle horror like Guillermo del Toro, and he’s at his best in 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Premiering at Cannes and going on to a limited release, the film rightfully received the critical acclaim it deserved on a worldwide release. Sitting somewhere between fantasy and horror, Pan’s Labyrinth takes us into the nightmares of children, without alienating them for an adult audience. Set just after the Spanish Civil War, Labyrinth follows 11-year-old Ofelia who ventures into an ancient stone labyrinth and the mysterious world inside.
The world that del Toro has crafted is unmeasurable in its scale, while the creatures that inhabit it are unique to his imagination. In particular, everyone remembers the Pale Man, with eyes grafted into his palms. With an appetite for children, the Pale Man is a superb example of a horror monster, while the image of him has become synonymous with the film.
No interested interest in making this a children’s films with the usual happy ending, del Toro explored the horror that is left out of Disneyfied tales like The Little Mermaid and Snow White, giving us a Grimm-style film that doesn’t skimp on the magic.
4. Let The Right One In
Rating: 98% based on 178 reviews
Rounding off the visual group of vampire films, 2006’s Let the Right One In mixes elements of Dracula and The Little Vampire into a chilling tale of children. There’s something about the icy backdrop of nighttime Sweden that sets Tomas Alfredson’s horror away from the rest – perhaps it is the way that the blood stands out against the snow, or the icy weather that suits the film’s cold heart.
It is tragic in ways; poor Oskar is lonely after neither of his parents want him in the divorce, so he instead seeks solace in the curious Eli – but she is not a girl; she is already dead. While the two don’t embark on a romantic relationship in the typical sense, having a vampire as your BFF can have its advantages.
The casting process for the two leads took over a year, but it paid off. Toning down the novel to focus more on the relationship between the children, 11-year-olds Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson were perfection in their parts.
There was, of course, the token Western remake, which was by no means bad, but nothing can compare to Alfredson’s original. There is something about demonic or helpless children that rings true with some of the greatest horrors out there. All too often it is hard to reinvent the vampire genre, but Let the Right One In gave just the bite it needed.
3. It Follows – 97%
Rating: 97% based on 219 reviews
Forget what you know about horny teens and high school horror, because It Follows just threw it out the window. Before general release, It Follows had generated enough buzz from Cannes to have genre aficionados salivating in anticipation. David Robert Mitchell’s film is a love letter to John Carpenter, as our heroine is pursued by a part Thing, part Michael Myers-style entity. Serving as a real-life urban legend that you could be told by parents to prevent pre-marital sex, It Follows literally uses sex as a haunting. Our final girl, Jay, is brilliantly performed by Maika Monroe, who gasps and claws her way through the story when she gets a nasty surprise from her new boyfriend.
Somewhat similar to The Ring, the premise means that you can only get rid of this demonic STD by giving it to someone else – how very 21st century – if you don’t, it will come back down the line and kill you all off. The real horror comes in the fact that we never lose the mystique surrounding what the “It” of It Follows is. With that classic horror idea of helplessness, it could really be anyone, even those closest to you, meaning no one trusts anyone and no one is safe.
2. The Babadook – 98%
Rating: 98% based on 206 reviews
From Candyman to Freddy Krueger, cinema has had some great boogeyman. Then 2014 introduced us to the Babadook. Like a surreal Jack the Ripper, the titular Babadook scares its way across the screen in its top hat and grinning, pale, face. Based on her 2005 short film Monster, Jennifer Kent returned to direct the feature-length The Babadook.
Essie Davis rules as struggling mother Amelia, while Noah Wiseman plays her 7-year-old son, haunted by a monster straight out of his bedtime stories. Like a realistic version of Monsters, Inc., The Babadook brings to life the things that go bump in the night.
Relying on atmospheric tension other than cheap jump scares, The Babadook received rave reviews at Sundance and went on to huge success outside its home in Australia. The Babadook itself becomes a representation of the lead’s repressed emotions since her husband died, mixed with the strained relationship between her and her son – grief is the real monster here. While the final chapter becomes more like an exorcism film, the majority of the runtime is layered in gothic horror. As the films says, “you can’t get rid of the Babadook,” and neither can the horror genre, but that is the best bit.
1. Get Out – 99%
Rating: 99% based on 163 reviews
Tackling race is always a sensitive issue in film, but Jordan Peele’s Get Out does it with such relevance to 2017, it is a refreshing twist on the tale. Daniel Kaluuya is (as usual) superb in the role of Chris, an black photographer who is taken to meet his white girlfriend’s parents. Things soon take a turn for the worse when Chris becomes concerned with the town’s residents and their backward stance on race. Chris is right to be cautious when he begins to investigate the disappearance of several African American people in the area.
The Stepford Wives-esque town is populated with white privilege, the few black characters who live there seem entirely subservient – and that’s what really gets under your skin; Get Out’s social commentary. Hypnotism, kidnapping, and supernatural elements play second fiddle to the film’s poetic stance on racism.
The film’s perfect score was knocked by one petulant reviewer, but everyone else is adamant that Get Out is one of the best horror films ever. Considering that this is Peele’s directorial debut, it is sure not to be his last, while he reportedly has four more social thrillers for the next decade. Expect a Black Mirror-esque continuation to the Peeleverse rather than a direct sequel.
Which do you think are the best horror films since 2000? Sound off in the comments below!
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