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.
20. Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
According to Sailor, he has told me, and I quote, “A million times. One. Million. Times.” over the last ten years to watch this movie. I have no memory of this, but then again, I learned quickly to tune out about 40% of what he says to me. Let me tell you though, after watching Tucker and Dale vs Evil, I was immediately pissed that I didn’t listen to him and watch this movie sooner because it is fucking amazing. Tucker and Dale takes the typical “college kids vs backwoods hillbillies” concept and completely flips it on its head. On their way into the woods to fix up their new vacation home, hillbillies Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) run into a group of college kids led by a preppy asshole named Chad (Jesse Moss).
After a misunderstanding between Tucker and Dale, a hot blonde (Katrina Bowden), and dickhead Chad, what ensues through the rest of the film is comedic gold. Tyler Labine delivers an unforgettable performance as soft and sweet Dale, and Tudyk is just as wonderful as he is in every other role. If you haven’t had the chance to watch this brilliant movie yet, definitely take a couple of hours out of your day of doing nothing to do so.
19. The Ritual (2017)
After directing the best segments of a handful of horror anthologies, David Bruckner finally got his chance to helm a full-length picture and it’s every bit as good as his previous work. Acting like a male-centric Blair Witch Project sans the found footage aspect, the film is about a group of college friends who, after a tragedy splintered the group, reunite for a trip to the forest, only to encounter a menacing presence that’s stalking them. While that synopsis makes the film seem derivative as hell, it actually has more on its mind than just regurgitating the same old “lost in the spooky woods” tropes but since those tropes and clichés are done so well anyways, everything else feels like a bonus. You not only get the most original monster since the xenomorph but you also get a treatise on toxic masculinity, extreme guilt, and the deterioration of friendships, and how old buddies can turn on you based solely on how fresh some emotional scars still are. It’s an all-in-one horror film that marks the arrival of a potential new master of horror.
18. Raw (2016)
A twist on the coming-of-age movie, Raw is like Ginger Snaps but with cannibalism instead of werewolf-ism. After a hazing incident goes wrong, college student Justine (Garance Marillier) slowly develops an insatiable hunger for human flesh. While the plot synopsis would make it seem more like a horror film, it’s a bit more than that. There are horrible and shocking things in it (the film does not shy away from the gruesome) but it has more on its mind than just shock value. It tackles topics such as: the uncertainty of self, dark family legacies, fear of female sexuality, and possibly homosexuality. The cannibalism can be a stand-in for any number of issues. Or it could just be a clever take on the zombie genre. It’s a film that refuses to be categorized.
17. Us (2018)
Despite the fact that James Wan might’ve been the first director of the new millennium to earn the title of “master of horror” (a distinction he’s rightfully earned with his ambitious MCU-Esque Conjuring universe), none of his films hit quite as hard as Get Out. A rare horror that critics and audiences loved, Get Out was a cultural phenomenon, that turned its director, Jordan Peele into the most interesting voice in horror. But that instant acclaim was a double-edged sword—it provided him the freedom to do whatever he wanted for his follow up but it also put an insane amount of hype on whatever he did next. And for the most part, it delivers. Peele’s attention to detail, as well as his impeccable directing, definitely put him in the upper echelon of the horror directors working today and Nyong’o’s performance alone makes Us a worthy follow up but if Peele wants to be known as a master of horror, his next film needs to be more than just good. It needs to be scary.
16. The Babadook (2014)
Horror has had its ups and downs over the decades and whether or not you believe a particular decade to be better or another one to be subpar, one thing all horror fans can agree upon is that 2010s are giving us some of the most well made from a quality and technical standpoint like we haven’t seen in a long time. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is one of the best examples of the quality of horror films we have received this decade.
Essie Davis does a terrific job at playing a grieving widow who recently lost her husband while trying to be a nurturing mother to her incredibly difficult son. On the surface, it seems this is a simple storybook coming to life in the form of a terrifying creature, Mister Babadook. However, as we dive deeper, we realize this more about a bond between a mother and child, a constant of losing her grip on reality, and the instinct to protect her family at any cost. This is one of those that rattle around your mind long after seeing it while making constantly wanting to repeat “the babdook-dook”.
15. The Wailing (2016)
If I could shout about the greatness of The Wailing from the top of a mountain for all to hear I would. It is an absolute masterpiece and in my humble opinion, the best foreign horror film of all time. Director Na Hong-jin creates an incredible atmosphere of dread about South Korean folklore that delivers laughs, gore, and terror. As a small South Korean village experiences frightening occurrences and a series of possessions, all signs point to the presence of a demon. The gorgeous cinematography combined with a goofball police officer who investigates the happenings helps give the movie a horror noir type feeling.
The Wailing is mostly overlooked because of its run time (and being foreign) but it has a steady pace that is able to throw things at you constantly and still build a dreadful atmosphere without dragging or feeling like a slow burn like most two and half-hour horror films. It is one of the most entertaining and frightening films that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. If The Wailing was more widely seen, it would be hard for anyone not to consider it as one of the best horror movies of all time.
14. Evil Dead (2013)
I will say this is one of the best remakes of a classic out there. For most, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films were untouchable and revered classics. I was in that camp until I saw Fede Alvarez’s version. Like most good remakes, he was able to take the core elements of its predecessor and tell the story in his unique way. Where Raimi utilized an almost slapstick take to compliment the mayhem, Alvarez fueled it with pure terror, sick effects (practical and CGI), and a sympathetic final girl smack dab in the middle of it all.
Usually, gender-swapping isn’t effective but seeing how Bruce Campbell’s Ash was essentially a final girl in a male’s body, it works perfectly here. The third act is an exhaustive descent into bloody carnage that offers up what all horror fiends crave in an intense and satisfying execution of being frightening, unsettling, and gory.
13. You’re Next (2011)
Home invasions are a staple in horror with most filmmakers trying to add a wrinkle or something fresh to help their home invasion story stand out above the rest. Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard were able to do just that by giving us a terrifying violent and smart film. We get some great kills and some hilarious black comedy, but Shari Vinson as Erin is the real treasure here.
A family with their significant others arrive to gather for their ailing mother until family members begin being picked off by masked killers. Trapped in the house, they must figure out a to get help and survive multiple attacks. While all seems hopeless as bodies begin to pile up, an unlikely force arises to combat the deadly intruders. You’re Next is a fun romp filled with nasty kills, despicable people you root to see die, and a memorable horror hero.
12. IT (2017)
In 2017, fans of both the Stephen King classic and the made-for-TV adaptation flocked to theatres to once again return to the fictional town of Derry, Maine, and experience the horror that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The big question on everyone’s mind was whether or not this new Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) would be able to top Tim Curry’s iconic performance as the wise-cracking, killer clown. Well, let me tell you – Skarsgard fucking delivered. It’s got to be nerve-wracking to try to follow such an unforgettable performance, but Skarsgard’s Pennywise was nothing short of unbridled horror.
From the moment the audience catches a glimpse of those color-changing eyes in the sewers of Derry, it is obvious that this Pennywise is the embodiment of evil. His frightening appearance is more comparable to a murderous psychopath than that of a circus performer, which makes his ability to gain his victims’ trust that much more terrifying. Every word, contorted movement, and mannerism from Pennywise continues to leave the audience in dread, fearing what he will do to the next poor, unfortunate soul who happens across him. Adding to this already horrifying beast, Skarsgard brings his own individual style to the sadistic clown that is just as disturbing when he’s not in full makeup and costume. His unique ability to move his eyes in opposite directions and contort his face into what has become known as the “Pennywise smile,” as well as the way he is able to quickly switch up his tone and way of speaking gives him a spine chilling madness that only adds to his performance.
Speaking of stellar performances, the acting from the child stars in this film is so spectacular that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Finn Wolfhard’s Richie “Trash Mouth” Tozier is absolutely amazing and truly seems like he has an inability to hold back, and Jack Dylan Grazer’s performance of neurotic germaphobe Eddie Kaspbrak is the best I’ve ever seen. Don’t even get me started on Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. She is perhaps my favorite character in this film next to Pennywise. She’s sexually and physically abused by her father at home and doesn’t even have a safe place at school where she’s mercilessly bullied as well.
Despite this, she never plays the victim and is consistently the first to rise to a challenge among the members of the Loser’s Club. I literally can go on and on about this film, but I’ll stop here. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out from that rock you’re living under and go watch it, what the hell are you doing with your life? If you have seen it Though, give it another watch! A movie masterpiece is the sum of its parts, and every part of this film from the acting, to the villain, to the cinematography and score is just remarkable.
11. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The fact Cabin in the Woods—a film all about deconstructing horror tropes in a post Scream world—works at all, is a miracle. Meta horror films are nothing new, they predate Cabin in the Woods by almost twenty years. Letting the audience in on the joke that all of this shit is silly and dumb but here’s why it’s dumb, is not a new concept. And yet, writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard somehow made it fresh and original. They didn’t just point out all of the cliches, they took the time to explain why each one exists. The creepy old man found in every horror movie that tells the kids that they’re all going to die? He’s an actor. The fact that every victim falls within a stereotype (the jock, the cheerleader, the bitch, the nerd, etc.) Isn’t a coincidence, it’s by design. The film takes all the overused cliches and tropes you’re used to and brilliantly turns them into plot points. It also has a unique mythology built around all of those rules. It’s a clever take on horror movies that actually improves every other terrible horror movie by pretending they exist within this universe.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite horror movies from the past decade? Maybe they will show up further on the list!