The 2010s have been an incredible decade for horror movies, both on a creative level and at the box office - rivalling only comic book movies as the genre that can most reliably get audiences into theaters. This decade in particular has seen some incredible emerging talent, with filmmakers like Ari Aster, Robert Eggers and Jordan Peele making their feature film debuts with instant horror classics.
Whether your favorite horror movie monsters are ghosts, demons, witches, cannibals, or just plain old humans, there was something for just about everyone in the 2010s - which made picking the best of the best that much harder. Great movies that didn't quite make the list include mind-bending sci-fi horror Annihilation, the psychedelic revenge rampage movie Mandy, and post-apocalyptic monster tale A Quiet Place.
With the arrival of Halloween, there's no better time for a horror movie marathon to visit (or revisit) some of the scariest films of the decade. Here are our picks for the best horror movies released in the 2010s.
Andy Muschietti's adaptation of one of Stephen King's most celebrated novels is one of the most outright fun horror movies of the decade. Bill Skarsgård embraces the role of Pennywise the Dancing Clown with gleeful enthusiasm and an iconic new look, but it's the young cast that really makes this one work. Finding one really good child actor is difficult enough, but finding seven (eight, including Tony Dakota as poor little Georgie Denbrough) is a near-miracle. The nightmarish monster designs are balanced out by top-notch banter between a club of losers that you can really root for, and Muschietti's film effectively sells the small-town seediness of Derry, Maine, where all the adults are unreliable at best and monsters themselves at worst. It's a story where the kids really have to fend for themselves - and they do.
A stunning feature debut from director Coralie Fargeat, Revenge stars Matilda Lutz as Jen, a young woman who is flown out to her married boyfriend's house in the desert for a weekend getaway, only to be interrupted when his hunting buddies show up for their trip a day early. While her boyfriend is away, Jen is raped by one of the men and then pushed off a cliff, leaving her impaled on a tree branch. Instead of dying, she patches herself up and returns to the house to wage a war that's as much about survival as it is about the titular revenge. The film's climax features a cat-and-mouse chase where both characters involved are simultaneously the cat and the mouse, and you won't be able to look away.
After the release of Get Out, director Jordan Peele didn't waste any time jumping right back into the horror genre with another spine-chiller, Us. Featuring an unforgettable orchestral remix of Luniz's "I Got 5 On It," Us stars Lupita Nyong'o as a woman whose beach holiday with her family turns into a nightmare when they're accosted by their own doppelgangers: twisted versions of themselves in red jumpsuits whose intentions are unclear, but are surely nothing good. The cast of Us deliver pitch-perfect dual performances as Peele's strikingly original story unfolds to reveal what's really going on, where the "Tethered" came from, and what exactly their dark plan is.
12. What We Do In The Shadows
Though it might elicit a lot more laughs than scares, Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows is an ardent love letter to the horror genre. What makes the film work so well is its dedication to world-building, as the mockumentary gradually reveals not only the history of its four vampire flatmates, but also the wider community of supernatural beings prowling through the streets of Wellington at night. There's equal dedication to simple but convincing practical effects: arterial blood spray, levitation, bat and werewolf transformations, and even a vampire crawling out of someone's backpack to attack them. Put together, all of this elevates What We Do in the Shadows from simply a parody of vampire movies to a classic of the genre in its own right.
11. Crimson Peak
Easily one of Guillermo del Toro's most underrated films, Crimson Peak is well worth revisiting. The titular "Crimson Peak" is Allerdale Hall, a rotting English mansion built on red clay soil, so that footsteps in the surrounding snow leave behind blood-red tracks. American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself living in this unsettling relic after marrying its handsome and charming owner, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who is desperately trying to restore his family's lost glory by mining the red clay the homestead is built on. Also living in the house is Thomas' sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), whose chilly attitude towards Edith escalates to outright hostility as Allerdale Hall's secrets are unearthed. A gripping gothic romance in the tradition of Rebecca and The Fall of the House of Usher (with a few ghosts thrown in).
Directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw stars Garance Marillier as Justine, a young woman who has followed her sister to veterinary school. Like her parents, Justine is a steadfast vegetarian, but one of the rituals in the school's chaotic week-long hazing of rookie students involves eating a raw rabbit kidney. After Justine gets her first taste of meat, she develops an insatiable hunger for human flesh, and finds her moral principles at war with her cannibalistic desires. By turns gory and sensual, Raw is a delightfully nasty coming of age tale in the vein of Ginger Snaps and Teeth, and an instant classic of modern French horror.
9. You're Next
A home invasion movie that turns into an R-rated take on Home Alone, Adam Wingard's You're Next is gory fun that flies in defiance of every stupid decision made by every horror movie character since the genre began. Sharni Vinson plays Erin, a woman who accompanies her boyfriend to a family reunion at the wealthy person's equivalent of a cabin in the woods. At first it seems like the scariest thing about the visit will be passive-aggressiveness at the dinner table, but then the evening is interrupted by the arrival of assailants in animal masks who appear to have only one goal: kill everyone in the house. Unfortunately for them, Erin was raised in a survivalist commune, and she's not going to go down without a fight.
8. It Follows
If you want to make a great horror movie, it's always good to start with a great premise. In David Robert Mitchell's chilling 2014 film It Follows, teenager Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with the guy she's been dating for the first time, only to find out that his real goal with dating her was to pass on a curse. He tells her that something is going to follow her, and that it will always be walking directly towards her. The only way to escape it is to keep running, forever, or to pass the curse on to someone else. The most frightening thing about It Follows' villain is that it can look like anyone, so you may find yourself nervously looking over your shoulder at people walking behind you in the days after watching it. Set against the backdrop of suburban Detroit, It Follows pairs an eerie atmosphere with rising tension and abrupt shocks, and has a killer synth score that, like the movie itself, is unforgettable.
7. Green Room
Proving that Nazis are still some of the scariest monsters around, Jeremy Saulnier's brilliant horror-thriller Green Room follows a penniless punk band called The Ain't Rights, who get offered a gig at what turns out to be a Neo-Nazi compound. Not to be deterred by a dangerous crowd, The Ain't Rights scream the Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks F**k Off" into their mics before retiring to the green room, where they accidentally become witnesses to a violent crime. Knowing that they can't be allowed to leave the compound alive, a high-stakes standoff ensues between the punks and the Nazis (led by Sir Patrick Stewart in a brilliantly understated performance), resulting in carnage, dog attacks, and guerrilla warfare. The late Anton Yelchin leads the cast of punks, and Green Room's defiant spirit makes it one of the most unmissable horror movies of the decade
The first of two appearances on this list by director Ari Aster, Midsommar is a 21st century answer to The Wicker Man in which a terrible relationship is as much the source of horror as the Pagan cultists. Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a young woman who loses her family in an unbearable tragedy. Several months later she decides to join her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his buddies on a trip to a remote commune in Sweden, where the community is preparing for a nine-day festival filled with dancing, feasting, and... other activities. Aster's love of showing artistically graphic deaths makes Midsommar not for the faint of heart, but there's a surprisingly uplifting (if twisted) message at the heart of it.
5. The Conjuring
Director James Wan is easily one of the greatest horror auteurs of the 21st century, and has been a driving force behind the genre's dominance at the box office. He first shot to fame when he made the short horror film Saw in 2003 and then turned it into a feature film of the same name in 2004, and Wan came out of the gate hot in the 2010s with the deliciously chilling possession tale Insidious. However, if there's one James Wan film that must be named as one of the best of the decade, it's The Conjuring. Based on the story of the Perron family haunting and case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring balances the kind of expertly-crafted scares that will have you hiding behind the couch with genuine heart and characters you can care about. It kicked off an entire cinematic universe of horror stories, and it's easy to see why.
4. Get Out
Jordan Peele's first feature film (and also his horror debut) Get Out was one of the most talked-about movies of 2017, and became one of a very small number of horror movies that have gone on to win an Oscar (for Best Original Screenplay, with nominations in three other categories). Daniel Kaluuya plays photographer Chris, who is invited to meet his white girlfriend's parents for the first time. His nervousness about the visit is proven to be founded when both the family and their estate's staff exhibit strange behavior, and soon dozens of guests arrive for an annual get-together, who seem to be sizing Chris up for something. The steadily building tension and hellish dream imagery, not to mention Kaluuya's central performance, will pin you to your seat from start to finish.
3. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
André Øvredal's 2017 film The Autopsy of Jane Doe is brilliant in its minimalism. The body of a young woman, found buried in the basement of a house where a massacre has taken place, is delivered to a family-run mortuary staffed by coroner Tommy (Brian Cox) and his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch). The sheriff asks them to perform an autopsy to figure out how the woman, whose skin is eerily unmarked, was killed, and to find clues that might identify her. As Tommy and Austin peel back the strange layers of Jane Doe's body, they begin to experience frightening phenomena - and the more they learn about Jane Doe, the more terrifying the implications become. A slow descent into terror that seduces the audience with its central mystery... until it's too late to escape.
2. Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk is a standard enough pitch on paper: Kurt Russell leads a ragtag group of character actors - Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox (a standout as the blunt atheist) - to save townspeople kidnapped by native American tribesmen. But writer/director S. Craig Zahler twists that into something bleaker. This isn't the real west, it's worse, and slowly the futility of their mission dominates every moment, spoken or no. Long before they face against the barely-human tribesmen, death is in the air. It all builds to the film's defining scene, a test on the audience to not look away in disgust. But like all of Bone Tomahawk, it's horrifying not because of the unflinching violence, but the pitiful calls from the witnesses trying to calm the victim's extreme agony.
A common sentiment heard about Ari Aster's Hereditary is that it's both brilliant, and a movie that you'll never want to watch again. The less spoiled about this one the better, as Hereditary is filled with jaw-dropping shocks and the kind of nightmarish scenarios that will keep you up at night. Toni Collette leads the cast as artist Annie Graham, who is dealing with the death of her overbearing mother and trying to keep her remaining family - husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Millie Shapiro) - from falling apart. A painstakingly crafted two hours of hell that reveals itself to be even more masterful on a second viewing... if you can stomach it.
Related: The Best Horror Movies of 2018