50. Don’t Breathe (2016)
Don’t Breathe is an excellent example of the age old saying, “never judge a book by its cover.” Why? Because that book might just fuck your shit right up, that’s why. In this film, said book is a visually impaired veteran (Stephen Lang) who wins a hefty cash settlement following the death of his child. After receiving a tip about the settlement, a trio of thieves from Detroit (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto) plot to invade the veteran’s home to steal the pile of cash and get the hell out of dodge. However, once inside, the group quickly finds that they have extremely underestimated their target and must fight for their lives. For such a simple movie, Don’t Breathe really delivers on the horror and thrills without relying fully on
jump scares like so many films in the genre. It focuses more on messing with the psyche of the viewer, forcing them to imagine themselves in a similar situation.
Additionally, the movie preserves a sense of humanity with both the blind veteran and the group of thieves addressing their own struggles, albeit incorrectly, which stirs feelings of pity, sympathy, and even anger from the audience due to the ability to somehow relate to one or even all of the characters. Elements like this, along with a stellar performance from Lang, are what really take this movie to the next level. From its grim opening scene through its seemingly happy ending, Don’t Breathe is a gripping, suspenseful ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves your anxiety sky-high until the very end.
49. Hush (2016)
Hush is an amazing example of the saying, “less is more.” It doesn’t rely on a star-studded cast, detailed environments or even a ton of dialogue, yet it still manages to be an outstandingly thrilling film. At first, it doesn’t seem like much – a girl who lives alone in the woods is terrorized by a psychotic killer. It feels tedious, almost like something we’ve seen before, right? However, this film provides twists and turns that will keep you captivated from start to finish. It also provides a fresh perspective to the “cabin in the woods” trope by making the main character deaf.
Since she is unable to hear, she has to figure out how on Earth she’s going to outsmart the bad guy outside her window, and since she can’t speak, she can’t just yell for help which only adds to the suspense. Another great thing about Hush is that it isn’t actually a completely silent film. Director Mike Flanagan didn’t want the audience to be totally aware of their surroundings, taking away from the experience of the film, so ambient sounds, such as ultrasound waves, were added to represent the world of his mute character. With stellar directing from Flanagan and an amazing performance by his wife Kate Siegel, Hush is a well crafted horror film worth adding to your list for a watch or two.
48. I Saw the Devil (2010)
I Saw the Devil is a brutal and rip out your heart cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic serial killer and an unhinged secret agent hell-bent on revenge. A serial killer, Kyung-Chul, viciously slaughters the love of Kim’s life (and mother of his unborn child) so Kim sets out on an elaborate quest for vengeance. Kim would be there at every turn to thwart Kyung-Chul’s attempt to carry out his next sadistic deed. The film is relentless and grueling, and the roles of predator and prey are in a constant state of evolution as the two find new ways to inflict pain and sabotage one another’s life.
In his sixth film, Kim Jee-Woon proves himself a master of violence, setting the film in a slightly fantastical version of real-world where killers, cannibals, and rapists lie around every corner, and where a body can withstand an ungodly onslaught of violence, if only so that violence can continue. Gorgeously shot in a palette of red and cold blue with incredible acting, I Saw the Devil is an unwavering look at the darkest depths of the human heart.
47. Mama (2013)
Del Toro isn’t interested in making horror films, which is an odd statement considering his immense love of the genre and the fact that most of his films have to one degree or another, some sort of horror element. He is however, interested in making dark fairy tales. As much as he is in love with the old-school horror films of Hammer and Universal, he’s also a huge fan of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. Which, while Disneyfied now, were originally dark parables that almost always had a messed up ending. They were essentially scary stories for children to keep children from doing something stupid. You can see this framework all over Del Toro’s work. There’s almost always a child in peril and there’s almost always a monster who’s after them.
But since he’s in love with both the fairy tale and the horror movie, he smashes them together to create his own take on those stories. Mama isn’t a horror movie. If you go into it expecting a ton of scares or spooks, you’ll most likely be disappointed. There are some effective jump scares mind you but the film’s goal isn’t to make you piss yourself because you are not the film’s audience. This is a dark fairy about a family of three, two little girls and their protective mother. The mother just happens to be a murderous ghost. It, like a lot of Del Toro’s work, acts as a gateway horror to bring younger audiences into the genre and it does so marvelously.
46. Halloween (2018)
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in my life who isn’t a fan of Michael Myers, including those who don’t even like horror films. He’s such an iconic villain that if you asked anyone to name a random scary guy, he would probably top the list. So, when it was announced that Halloween was being rebooted, it’s no wonder why a ton of people lost their shit. Some of us were eager to get back to Haddonfield to watch as Myers brutally murders those unfortunate enough to cross his path, while the rest were pissed that this franchise is being dug up yet again. However, the film was mostly met with positive response.
This version of Halloween is a direct sequel to the 1978 original that saw Myers terrorize a teenage Laurie Strode. When we meet Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael (Nick Castle) again in this film, 40 years have passed. Michael has been institutionalized since his killing spree and Laurie has lived her life in so much fear that it has caused her to become a heavy drinker who alienates everyone aside from her granddaughter. When Michael escapes, Laurie is ready and waiting for the final showdown with the monster who has caused her to live her entire life in fear and paranoia. Halloween is a non-stop ride of bloody terror and thrills that will keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see who falls victim to Michael Myers next (spoiler: it isn’t the little black kid).
45. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
A single mother returns home after facial plastic surgery that leaves her entire face bandaged while it heals, but her twin sons aren’t too sure who this person is impersonating their mother. As this woman exhibits strange behavior, the boys begin to question her identity and try to unravel the mystery themselves.
Dread. Dread is the word that comes to mind anytime I think about this film. Usually, in horror movies when young child actors are involved, they can be rather annoying or simply pull you out of the film because of their acting, but Elias and Lukas Schwarz do a fantastic job here. These two really carry this film as they are on screen the most. The writers and directors, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, do an excellent job of letting the slow pace and atmosphere help these to young actors, as we begin to feel sympathy for their situation up until the brutal climax. If you like heavy and bleak films, then this is for you.
44. One Cut of the Dead (2019)
As they attempt to make a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, the cast and crew involved in the production are suddenly set upon by actual zombies. One Cut of the Dead is one of those rare movies that hits every target it’s aiming at. It pumps new blood into the stale zombie genre, is one of the few horror comedies that’s both scary and funny in equal measure and somehow pulls off the film-within-a-film mechanic so many films before it have tried a failed. Every couple of years there’s an immediate candidate for a greatest horror movie ever made list and One Cut of the Dead is the strongest contender in awhile. It’s an instant classic.
43. Green Room (2015)
A white knuckle nail biter, Green Room escalates tension as effectively as pulling back a rubber band on your wrist or slowly cranking a jack in the box. You know something terrible is going to happen but no amount of mental preparation can save you from the inevitable shock. One of the best siege films in recent memory, Green Room is about a punk band that plays a gig at a Nazi club, then witness a murder and then must fight their way out of the deadly lockdown.
Taking place in a single location for most of its run time, the film is a claustrophobic nightmare filled with blood and broken bones and vicious violence. It’s a harrowing experience made all the more suspenseful due to the likability of the leads. The punk rockers (which include the late, great Anton Yelchin, the always fantastic Imogen Poots and the underrated Alia Shawcat) have amazing chemistry together and feel like a real band. On the flip side, the Nazis (lead by Patrick Stewart in arguably his greatest screen role) are all believably evil. It’s a relentless thriller that gets under your skin and stays there.
42. Satan’s Slaves (2017)
A prequel to the 1982 cult-classic of the same name, Satan’s Slaves is the closest a foreign film has come to hitting the same level of success as IT. A massive box office success in its home country of Indonesia, the film eventually became a hit in Malaysia and South Korea, which lead to it being released in 26 other countries, including the America. Tonally and visually like The Conjuring, the film is about a mother who comes home to collect her children after succumbing to an illness six months earlier.
Deriving tension and thrills through its well-sustained ominous ambience, Satan’s Slaves is a finely tuned supernatural thriller with some of the best designed jump scares in any film. There is at least one moment so expertly designed, immediately after watching it, you knew you’d see a variation of it in every horror film to follow. The film is an impeccably made jump-a-thon filled with clever gags and an aura of dread that offsets the haunted house-esque spooks with genuine unease. That is, of course, till the third act kicks in and it goes from unsettling to badass. The ending is one of the best crowd pleasing moments ever. Few films go from bone chilling to badass as effectively.
41. Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014)
Dead Snow has a premise that guaranteed it a cult following. Any film that combines two ridiculous things will automatically garner attention. Such as: snakes + plane, sharks + tornado, ghost + clown, and Nazi + zombie. It’s an easy recipe for success but unlike say Iron Sky (Nazi + Moon) or The Gingerdead Man (cookie + shit), Dead Snow did more than just smush two things together and wait for the coin to come rolling in. The film is a loving homage to the splatter films of yesterday, namely Evil Dead and much like the Evil Dead, it’s sequel is bigger and crazier in every way possible.
Everything in the first is amplified in Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead. Now, instead of waiting the whole movie to see zombie mayhem, you get hordes of them from frame one, a handful of zombies now turn into literal armies complete with tanks, the humor is dialed up to the extreme and if the first film went through gallons of blood, this used an entire slaughterhouse worth. In terms of pure spectacle, this should be talked about with as much reverence as Evil Dead II and Dead Alive. It’s that crazy.
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!