This past decade was a time of great change for the horror genre. We saw a wave of fresh and diverse voices and new kinds of horror films, from new directors from all over the globe. The proverbial gates were opened up wide for anyone to come through and use the genre to tell their stories, which birthed what many fans refer to as the second “golden age” of horror. It was a decade that saw an MCU level crossover universe from James Wan, a massively successful Carpenter and Spielberg influenced TV show that created an 80s horror nostalgia boom, tons of independent and foreign gems, and more King adaptations than you can shake a stick at. We, unfortunately, lost a ton of masters of horror within this decade but with all the gold these new directors are churning out, it looks like the baton is in safe hands. This list chronicles the end of an era but more importantly, provides a small glimpse of the future of horror.
This is The 50 Greatest Horror Films of the 2010s.
10. Kill List (2011)
A film that, at first glance, would be more appropriate on a thriller list but appearances can be deceptive. Starting off as a Tarantino-esque hitman yarn, Kill List slowly devolves into something far more sinister. The clues to what the film is and where it eventually goes, are there from the beginning but director Ben Wheatley effortlessly diverts our attention like a sleight of hand magician.
He’s showing you the trick and you subconsciously know that you should be paying attention to the opposite hand he’s telling you to look at but you just can’t. You’re hypnotized by the mis-direct. This film is structured exactly like a magic trick. It shows you one thing but then reveals everything else entirely and the end result is fucking brilliant. Go into this one cold. Read nothing. Watch nothing. Don’t let the experience be tainted by spoilers because you really need to know nothing going in.
09. The Conjuring (2013)
After the horror boom of the ’80s, came the horror crash of the 90s and with it, the end of the “masters of horror.” Wes Craven had a sudden resurgence with Scream but almost every other master of the ’70s and ’80s were nowhere to be seen. It wouldn’t be until the beginning of the new millennium till we’d eventually get the “splat pack” which included directors like Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Greg McLean but none would have the same impact as James Wan.
The man is a one-man franchise machine. He created Saw, which is ten films deep, created Insidious, which has produced four sequels, and created The Conjuring which, my god, is the closest thing we have to a marvel universe of horror franchises. Not only is it about to get a third sequel, its spin-off has two sequels and there’s also another spin-off and another on the way. It’s a seed that grew a tree with branches made up of gold. But that’s how strong The Conjuring was, it left audiences wanting more and more and more and…
08. Terrified (2017)
A nonstop barrage of frights and creepy atmosphere, Terrified is one of those films that gets under your skin and lingers. We jump right in the middle of this horrific tale as bewildered as the characters on screen. We aren’t talking about a haunted house story, we are talking about a haunted neighborhood block story with the frightening occurrences taking place at three different houses.
As a doctor specializing in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex-police officer decide to investigate further, they are simply not prepared for what they discover. And neither are you. The first film to take the horror of Evil Dead and mix it with the frenetic pace of Evil Dead II, Terrified is a cinematic haunted house filled with constant jump scares and an intense atmosphere. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, till it scares you to death.
07. Sinister (2012)
One of the biggest questions that every haunted house film has to address is “why the fuck are not leaving the house?” But before you make that jump, you usually also ask “why are they not calling the cops, I mean maybe it’s just somebody fucking with us.” The brilliance of Sinister is that not only does it answer both questions, but the answers are also the backbone of the plot.
The main character won’t leave because he specifically chose that house specifically because of its horrible past and he can’t call the cops because a book he wrote threw, what the kids refer to as, “mad shade” on the local police department. It starts by addressing clichés and ends by creating one of the most interesting new monsters in the last decade. It’s a mean little movie that has a jump scare so great, it actually made my wife cry. She refused to finish this film because of that scene. What more can you ask for?
06. The Witch (2015)
It’s hard to pick the best aspect of this film. The score is perfectly dread-inducing; the tone is deadly serious, which adds to Its creepiness; the acting is top shelf brilliant and the cinematography looks like a goddamn Malick film but with witches. The entire film is almost perfect which makes the fact that this is director Robert Eggers’ first film, Even more insane. Most directors will work their entire careers and not even come close to this film’s brilliance. It’s Kubrick levels of good and I don’t use that comparison lightly.
Eggers’ ability to create an authentic world set in 1630’s New England at such a proficient level, in his debut no less, is remarkable. The story follows a family cast out of their local village and left to make it on their own on a farm at the edge of the woods where this Puritan family begins to face supernatural forces of evil. The committed performances are all outstanding with Ana Joy-Taylor shining bright in her first starring role. With a methodical pace designed to spook the fuck out of you and a thick layer of atmosphere and dread that lingers throughout, The Witch is of the best horror films ever made and is a must-see for fans of the genre.
05. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
When a father and son coroner team are presented with a perfectly preserved corpse labeled as a Jane Doe, they quickly find that they are in over their heads. Diving deeper into both their autopsy and the mystery surrounding her death, Tommy and Austin Tilden (Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch) learn that they are dealing with something more supernatural than scientific and that maybe Jane Doe’s secrets aren’t meant to be uncovered. Andre Ovredal really hit it out of the park with this film. I mean REALLY hit it out of the park because there is nothing negative to say about The Autopsy of Jane Doe. In fact, it’s so good that it even earned a stamp of approval from the master of horror himself, Mr. Stephen King.
What makes this movie so great is that it delivers extreme chills while managing to maintain its simplicity. No over the top settings or characters and a single, straightforward storyline pave the way for the scares and discomforting atmosphere to take center stage, in turn creating a memorable horror experience. Ovredal’s chamber film provides just one setting and three characters – one of whom never speaks or moves – giving us one of the creepiest, dread stirring horror movies of the decade.
04. Get Out (2017)
Get Out will go down as one of the most impressive debuts in history, not because it changed the cinematic landscape like Citizen Kane or Reservoir Dogs or because it’s technically impressive like the Shawshank Redemption or because it became instantly iconic like This is Spinal Tape but because it came out of fucking nowhere. Before it’s crazy as hell trailer dropped (that skeleton deer still haunts my dreams), Jordan Peele was best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, along with fellow comedian Keegan-Michael Key.
Together the two worked on projects like Mad TV, Fargo, Keanu, and obviously, Key & Peele. Based on those shows and movies, nobody on Earth could’ve predicted that he would become the modern-day Rod Serling but 2017 came around and Peele dropped an atomic bomb of a debut. A perfect blend of comedy, horror, race issues, and satire, Peele threw The Stepford Wives and The Mephisto Waltz into a blender, added a dash of Rosemary’s Baby and Carpenter’s trademark genre subversion, hit frappe, and then served with a sledgehammer.
03. Train to Busan (2016)
Zombies have been done to death especially over the past couple of decades, so it is tough to get excited over yet another film where a horde of undead attack a group of people. Well, until writer-director Sang-Ho Yeon brought us his glorious Train to Busan. Sometimes the best concepts are the simplest. The film is zombies on a train. That’s it. But that simple change of location makes all the difference in the world. The quickness of the undead combined with a confined location makes the horror unrelenting and the threat inescapable, which in turn makes all the action immediate and the tension unbearable.
It also has the best set of characters found in a zombie movie since the original Dawn of the Dead, which raises the stakes even higher. You’re actively rooting for these characters to live but the film also has no problem killing people off, so knowing every decision they make could be life or death, turns every moment into an edge of your seat experience. It is a pulse-pounding thrill ride with a surprising amount of heart that barely gives you time to catch your breath.
02. It Follows (2014)
Over the years, we’ve seen many a filmmaker try and fail to take over the mantle of their idols. The late ’90s was littered with Tarantino wannabes, this last couple of years has been plagued by ’80s inspired nostalgia porn by Spielberg worshippers and God knows we have enough Hitchcock devotees but David Robert Mitchell is the first director in a long time that’s come close to not only matching his inspiration but one-upping him. It Follows perfectly captures the style and tone of a John Carpenter film. While every other director was focused mainly on the more action-y aspects of his work like Robert Rodriguez or merely ripping him to make another Halloween knockoff, Mitchell was the first to tap into the feel of his films.
Every element is designed to invoke the unmistakable feeling of a Carpenter film. From the unforgettably haunting score, which sticks with you long after the film has ended. It’s unrelenting tension – every scene seems to be created to cultivate as much dread as humanly possible. The cinematography, everything shot is designed to put the viewer on edge and it’s unique, bone-chilling premise that weaponizes sex and will make you afraid of anyone slowly walking towards you in the same direction. The film bottles the magic of Carpenter while also surpassing him in many ways. The gauntlet has been passed.
01. Hereditary (2018)
Some horror films live and die by their premises. They ask an audience to believe a guy can kill you in your sleep or that a little boy can see ghosts. Some horror films live and die by their villains, others by how much sex and violence they promise, and a select few live and die by the performances. While Aster crafted a horror film so head and shoulders above the majority of its respected genre, critics referred to it as “elevated horror,” the film, as good as it is, is only as strong as its performances.
Hereditary would not have worked if the lead was weak. The character of Annie needed an actress who could run the full gamut of emotions, who could inspire sympathy and disgust in the audience. You needed to believe her but there also needs to be doubt. Is she crazy or is something malicious happening to her family? Hereditary is a perfect example of a film being completely dependent on the strength of the central character and Toni Collette knocks it out of the park. She turns what could’ve easily been a standard-issue possession story into a meditation on grief, loss, and mental health. Her performance adds layers of complexity to the film. It’s one of the best performances in any horror film to date. It just happens to also be one of the best horror films ever made.
What do you think of the selection? Agree or disagree? Let us down below!