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The 2010s were transformative years for mainstream horror movies. The decade began by carrying over trends established in the 2000s, trends that were gradually supplanted. Remakes of classic horror movies dominated the 2000s, but unimaginative cash-ins like A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) gave way to some really great remakes like Evil Dead (2013). Similarly, legacy sequels and “requels” like Halloween (2018) showed that fans are receptive to continuing beloved franchises when it’s done well.
The 2010s also saw a swell in arthouse and highly metaphorical horror. In a way, the reductive term of “torture porn” used for movies like Hostel (2005) was replaced by the equally reductive term of “elevated horror” used for movies like The Witch (2015). Directors Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, Julia Ducournau, and Jordan Peele were at the forefront of this wave of meaningful fright flicks, and their movies attracted a whole new audience to the horror genre.
With more people getting into horror during the 2010s, the decade provided an expansive variety of movies to fit any taste. Supernatural movies were big business thanks in large part to The Conjuring (2013). Horror comedies like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) brought self-referential parody back to the genre. Bizarre trips like Mandy (2018) gave us some truly weird films to think about. And that’s just scratching the surface.
This list ranks the best horror movies of the 2010s. Attention was paid to providing a wide variety of sub-genres, while the ranking is based on overall quality and personal preference.
The Best Horror Movies of the 2010s
31. Tusk (2014)
Tusk is certainly not a movie for everyone. It’s weird and goofy, and it’s heavy on long scenes of just dialogue, but these reasons are precisely why Tusk is so great. It’s a movie made for a very specific audience, an audience consisting mostly of just Kevin Smith and his die-hard fans. It’s a movie made with passion by a director who was giving his fans exactly what they wanted. Also, Michael Parks is brilliant as reclusive madman Howard Howe, and Justin Long gives the performance of his career as a man whose body and mind are horrifically altered into that of a walrus.
30. The Purge (2013)
As a franchise, The Purge came to be known as an over-the-top action-horror series that takes glaringly obvious stabs at social commentary. In comparison to the rest of the series, The Purge (2013) is downright subtle. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star as James and Mary, an affluent married couple who lock themselves down in their home with their children during the annual Purge (one night where all crime is legal). Their son allows a homeless man to enter their house, making the family a target for a group of murderers. The Purge is a straightforward home-invasion movie that works very well thanks to relying more on tension and conflict rather than lots of bombastic violence.
Don’t Breathe takes a typical home-invasion movie and flips it around to tremendous effect. Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three burglars who pick the wrong house to break into. Once inside, the home invaders become the victims as the home’s blind owner (Stephen Lang) stalks them through the darkness. The fear in Don’t Breathe, as the title suggests, is built around the central idea of stalking in silence, and director Fede Álvarez crafts the tension extremely well. The characters are also surprisingly layered for a genre movie like this.
With movies like Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2011) on his resume, director Lars von Trier can be a challenging director to watch. His movies never take it easy on the audience, and The House That Jack Built is no exception. Matt Dillon stars as Jack, a serial killer who presents a few of his murders as a series of vignettes. Psychological horror is combined with blunt and brutal violence as we get uncomfortably close to the mind of a killer. The finale of The House That Jack Built takes some rather odd turns, but that’s all part of Lars von Trier’s artistry. Unnerving and disturbing, this is horror as art.
As Above, So Below is a bit like if you were to adapt the Tomb Raider video games not as an action film, but as a found-footage horror movie. Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) is a scholar who is on a quest to locate the mythical Philosophers’ Stone, a substance with alchemical properties and the power to grant immortality. Her quest leads her to the catacombs underneath Paris where she is joined by a group including an old friend, George (Ben Feldman), who is wary of Scarlett’s dangerous obsession. While venturing further and further underground, the group finds themselves in a maze of supernatural horrors and death. As Above, So Below is filled with interesting characters, and its plot builds up to its scares gradually so that the final act of the movie is fittingly intense.
There were some truly great horror comedies in the 2010s, and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is easily one of the best. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star as Tucker and Dale, two friendly country boys staying at a cabin in the woods who get mistaken for crazed killers by a bunch of young people. A series of misadventures then leads to multiple deaths in goofy circumstances in this fun riff on slasher movies.
25. Terrifier (2016)
With a highly memorable killer and a series of bloody murder scenes, Terrifier feels like a throwback to the gory slasher movies of the 1980s. Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) is a silent and mysterious man in a black & white clown outfit who appears on Halloween night to go on a murder spree. That’s about all the story of Terrifier involves, but, like lots of great slasher movies, the main draws in this movie are the practical effects and the gore. The acting isn’t always superb, and the low-budget aesthetics will certainly turn some viewers off, but for mean and nasty slasher thrills, Terrifier is one of the best of the 2010s.
24. Climax (2018)
From controversial filmmaker Gaspar Noé, Climax is a trip into madness and misery. Sofia Boutella stars as a member of a dance troupe whose celebration of their upcoming tour goes very, very wrong. Isolated in a snowbound building, a drug-spiked batch of sangria turns the party into an orgy of sex, violence, and psychosis. The camera movies through Climax in extremely long and fluid takes, documenting the increasingly disturbing events in a way that puts the viewer in the middle of all the chaos.
Directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place stars Krasinski and Emily Blunt as parents trying to keep their family alive in a post-apocalyptic world where vicious alien creatures hunt by sound. Complicating matters is the fact that Blunt’s character, Evelyn, is pregnant and due to give birth soon. A Quiet Place uses sound (and the lack of sound) very well, building a series of great sequences that combine action and horror in very smart ways. A Quiet Place was a hit with critics and audiences, becoming the top-grossing horror movie at the domestic box office in 2018.
Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, You’re Next is a home-invasion movie that stands out for its clever writing and amazing sense of tension. Sharni Vinson stars as Erin, a woman who goes with her boyfriend Crispin (A.J. Bowen) to gather together with his family at their vacation home in rural Missouri. The relative peace of the family reunion is shattered when a group of men wearing white animal masks arrive at the house and begin murdering everyone one by one. With a little mystery, some nice twists, a touch of humor, and a bunch of brutal violence, You’re Next is an immensely satisfying horror experience.
The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror movie that helped popularize the idea of “elevated horror” in the 2010s. While the term “elevated horror” is contentious for many horror fans, there is no doubt that The Babadook is a smart movie loaded with metaphorical relevance to those who choose to see it. The Babadook is about a widowed mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), who is struggling to raise her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel becomes terrified of the monster from a storybook titled Mister Babadook, and Samuel’s fear begins to spread to Amelia as well, eroding her fragile mental state as the Babadook seemingly begins to manifest within their home.
From director James Wan, The Conjuring is the best straightforward haunted-house movie of the 2010s. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the story takes place in a Rhode Island farmhouse haunted by the spirit of a witch. The Conjuring isn’t the most original haunted-house movie ever made, but James Wan’s skill as a director makes it an entertaining exercise in pure genre filmmaking. The movie inspired a shared universe of sequels and spinoffs, but the first movie is still the best.
The Lighthouse is a brilliant and bizarre arthouse horror movie from one of the breakout directors of the 2010s, Robert Eggers. Veteran lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is set in his ways, and new keeper Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) upsets Wake’s way of life. A storm keeps the two men trapped together for what could be a very, very long time, and the two of them grow increasingly erratic in a maddening frenzy of alcohol, arguments, and violence. The story is only part of the appeal of The Lighthouse though. Dafoe and Pattinson are incomprehensibly amazing in this, and the visual style employed by Eggers is mesmerizing.
Samara Weaving gives a breakout performance as a beleaguered bride forced to play a deadly game of hide-and-seek in Ready or Not. Weaving plays Grace, a woman who is marrying into a rich family whose wealth and success appears to be tied to a dark history. The movie smartly comments on topics such as class divisions and outdated traditions in ways deftly blended into the story and action. This is an action-comedy-horror movie first, and the social commentary comes as a nice bonus for those who notice it. It’s also really funny (and really bloody).
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is an insidious movie that draws you in with a spooky mystery before unleashing a truly creepy supernatural finale. If you haven’t seen it, then the less you know about the story of this underseen gem the better. The basic setup involves a father and son duo of coroners who perform an autopsy on the body of a woman found at the site of a mass murder. Their job is to determine the cause of death, but their investigation leads to more questions before any answers can be found. The Autopsy of Jane Doe takes place almost entirely inside the morgue where the autopsy is performed, and it employs a masterful use of tension.
16. Halloween (2018)
David Gordon Green had the unenviable task of making a sequel (or rather, a requel) to one of the most beloved horror films of all time with Halloween, but he pulled it off. Though its tone does feel quite different from the 1978 original by John Carpenter, Green’s Halloween manages to continue the story of Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) forty years later (while ignoring every other sequel since then) in a satisfying way. When it’s not being compared to the original classic, Halloween stands on its own as a good and very violent slasher movie with a compelling story.
15. Mandy (2018)
Nicolas Cage has become known for some wild performances in some really wild movies, and Mandy is about as wild as it gets. Cage is Red Miller, a man on a mission of vengeance when his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) is kidnapped by a demonic biker gang. With Mandy, director Panos Cosmatos created a gorgeous movie that exists in the space between arthouse horror and action-horror shlock. It is an amazing example of the magic that happens when the director and the star of a movie are a perfect match and bring out the best in each other.
14. Suspiria (2018)
This remake of Dario Argento‘s classic Suspiria (1977) is different enough from the original to negate many direct comparisons, allowing Luca Guadagnino’s version to stand on its own as a dark and gorgeous horror movie. Dakota Johnson stars as Susie Bannion, a mild-mannered young woman from Ohio who travels to Berlin in 1977 to attend the Markos Dance Company, a school run by a coven of witches. The plot then takes the lore of Argento’s film and spins it in a different direction, creating a series of incredibly horrifying scenes and scenarios. Suspiria (2018) is visually stunning in the most grotesque of ways.
The Cabin in the Woods may be the peak of self-referential and meta horror movies. Directed by Drew Goddard and cowritten by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods takes the tropes and archetypes of a wide swath of horror films and mashes them all together in a comical way that never feels like it’s being condescending towards the countless people who adore these types of movies. Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Ann Hutchison, Jesse Williams, and Fran Kranz form a group of college students who take a trip to an isolated cabin but are drawn into a deadly conspiracy with the fate of the world in the balance.
12. The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers’ feature debut as a writer and director instantly established him as a modern master of horror. Set in New England during the 1630s, The Witch is a dark folktale brought to life. Anya Taylor-Joy is Thomasin, the eldest daughter in a family who moved to an isolated home near the woods because the father was too pure even for the Puritan society they were a part of. One day, Thomasin’s youngest brother goes missing, and Thomasin is forced to take the blame as her family’s accusatory attitude drives her closer to whoever (or whatever) is living in the woods. The Witch is folk horror at its best.
11. Us (2019)
With Us, writer/director Jordan Peele set out to make a more horror-forward movie than he did with Get Out (2017). He succeeded, and Us became one of the best horror movies of 2019. The movie is about a family whose vacation becomes a fight for survival when their vacation home is invaded by a group of people who look exactly like them. The mystery behind who the doppelgängers are and what they represent drives the story forward, and the intense scenes of stalking and murder keep the audience on edge. As with Peele’s other movies, Us is meticulously crafted with layers of meaning that reward viewers who watch the movie multiple times.
10. Evil Dead (2013)
It’s not easy to remake a horror movie as influential as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and have it feel both like an homage to the original and a unique movie that stands on its own, but director Fede Álvarez succeeded wonderfully. The overall story is very similar to the original: five young people go to a cabin in the woods, accidentally awaken an evil force, and get possessed/mutilated. The details are different though, keeping the movie fresh for fans who have seen the 1981 Evil Dead countless times. Also, the gore is absolutely spectacular, the characters are just interesting enough to care about, and the tone nearly perfectly emulates the darker and less comical tone of the original.
Midsommar is one of the most disturbing breakup movies you’ll find in the 2010s or any other decade. Set in a blindingly bright and agonizingly picturesque commune in Sweden, Midsommar features Florence Pugh as Dani, a woman who accompanies her boyfriend Christian (Jack Raynor) and his friends on a trip to take part in a festival that happens once every 90 years. As the days go by, Dani and Christian’s already fragile relationship is fractured even further as the darkness contained within the festival is slowly unveiled. Midsommar is a breathtaking work of visual art, and a few of its scenes quickly grew to iconic status in the world of horror.
Prior to Shin Godzilla (also released as Godzilla Resurgence), it had been more than a decade since a Japanese-made Godzilla movie was released. The new Godzilla seen in Shin Godzilla was created for a Japan where the wounds of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster were still fresh. The movie works as a scathing and comical satire of Japanese politics, but for those who don’t know or don’t care about such things, it’s also an incredibly fun monster movie. This new Godzilla isn’t going around fighting other monsters. Instead, the approach for the movie is back to the basics of what made the original 1954 Godzilla such a classic: an unknown monster must be stopped before it destroys everything.
The resurgence of zombie movies that began around the year 2000 led to a glut of horror flicks about the living dead in the following decades, but Train to Busan managed to stand out from the horde. This South Korean movie features a unique take on the living dead that gives them an exploitable weakness while also making them intensely frightening. That alone wouldn’t have made Train to Busan the classic it is though. The true appeal of Train to Busan is how it quickly builds up numerous relatable characters who are either entirely sympathetic or completely infuriating. The characters give the movie heart, and the zombie-killing action gives it excitement. It’s a perfect combination.
In 2017, Jordan Peele exploded onto the mainstream horror scene with the release of his first horror movie, Get Out. The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya as a Black man who travels with his White girlfriend (Allison Williams) to her hometown, but something about the predominately White population feels sinister right from the start. Get Out deals with heavy issues like racism with a skilled touch that makes its themes clear, but the movie never resorts to being preachy. What is less clear for some people is what genre Get Out might fall into. If you ask the Golden Globes, it’s a comedy. But really, Get Out is a fantastic thriller that turns into a horror movie by the final act. It also established Jordan Peele as a filmmaker to watch.
5. Raw (2016)
From Julia Ducournau, Raw is a coming-of-age movie featuring cannibalism. The movie stars Garance Marillier as Justine, a student at a veterinary school who, as a lifelong vegetarian, discovers an emerging craving for meat. While the movie can be taken at face value as a kind of shocker that evolved from the horrors of the New French Extremity movement, Raw can just as easily be read as a metaphorical exploration of any number of dangerous desires. Any way you look at it, Raw is one of the most compelling movies of the 2010s, and Julia Ducournau is one of the most interesting filmmakers to emerge during the decade.
South Korean horror movies exploded in worldwide popularity in the 2010s, and The Wailing is arguably the very best pure horror movie produced in South Korea during that decade. In The Wailing, a small-town police officer, Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won), becomes entangled in a series of brutally violent murders in a nearby village. The murders are being committed by villagers who appear to be afflicted with some sort of illness, but rumors and paranoia lead Jong-goo to believe something far more sinister is behind everything. The first third of the movie is filled with humor as we get to know Jong-goo and his family, but the film takes some hard turns into gore, despair, and supernatural horror as the layers of the mystery are slowly revealed.
It Follows feels like a throwback to an older era of horror in the best possible way. Maika Monroe takes center stage as Jay, a young woman who is relentlessly stalked by a supernatural entity after having sex with her boyfriend for the first time. Monroe’s performance is beautiful, portraying Jay as confused, hurt, and terrified all at the same time. It Follows is a quiet movie filled with dread that is punctuated by surprising moments of unnerving terror. The visuals give the movie a retro aesthetic and a timeless appeal, and the music feels like it was inspired by the works of John Carpenter.
Black Swan is a masterful psychological horror movie from eclectic filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Natalie Portman won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role as Nina Sayers, a ballerina overwhelmed by the mental and physical stresses heaped upon her by her mother and by her desire to take the lead role in Swan Lake. But really, the whole cast deserves praise what they created here. Barbara Hershey is unnerving as Nina’s mother, Vincent Cassel is ominous as the ballet director, Mila Kunis is mysterious as Nina’s rival, and Winona Ryder is scary as the ballet company’s former star.
Hereditary is an easy choice for the #1 horror movie of the 2010s. Toni Collette’s Oscar-worthy performance drives the movie forward with an unsettling rage that feels almost too real. Ari Aster’s precise directing turns a somewhat familiar plot structure into something entirely unique and utterly terrifying. And the layering of a supernatural horror film involving possession on top of an intense family drama gives the more horrifying aspects of Hereditary roots in relatability. Hereditary isn’t just one of the best horror movies of the 2010s, it’s one of the best horror movies ever.
More Great Horror Movies from the 2010s
- A Serbian Film (2010) – A porn star unknowingly agrees to star in a film involving a plethora of illegal and disturbing acts in this infamous shocker.
- I Saw the Devil (2010) – Though it’s more of a dark thriller than a horror movie, this tale of all-consuming revenge from director Kim Jee-woon is one of the best movies of the 2010s.
- The Last Exorcism (2010) – This underrated found-footage movie depicts a preacher who has lost his faith. He documents his efforts to discredit the practice of exorcism, only to encounter what might be a true case of possession.
- Let Me In (2010) – Matt Reeves (director of The Batman, 2022) directs Chloë Grace Moretz in this well-received remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In.
- The Innkeepers (2011) – Ti West followed up his 2009 indie horror hit The House of the Devil with this incredibly fun ghost movie starring Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.
- Insidious (2011) – James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the filmmaking team that created Saw (2003), showed a different style of horror in this effective supernatural horror movie involving demonic entities in the astral plane.
- Scream 4 (2011) – Wes Craven‘s final movie reunited the core trio of of the Scream franchise in a fresh skewing of the previous decade’s horror trends.
- Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson solidified his status as top-level horror filmmaker with this creepy story starring Ethan Hawke about a collection of cursed home videos.
- Creep (2014) – Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice wrote, directed, and starred in this found-footage psychological horror movie about an odd man (Duplass) who begins stalking a videographer (Brice) after a supremely uncomfortable video shoot.
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – Described as an Iranian vampire spaghetti Western, this movie established Ana Lily Amirpour as promising new director.
- Goodnight Mommy (2014) – Two young boys distrust that their mother is who she says she is, and they go to terrifying lengths to find the truth in this uncomfortable psychological horror movie from Austria.
- The Invitation (2015) – Karyn Kusama (director of Jennifer’s Body, 2009) delivered a surprisingly tense horror/thriller about a dinner party that turns into a nightmare.
- Split (2016) – This stealth sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) is a great psychological horror movie about a man (or maybe a monster) with split personalities.
- It (2017) – Bill Skarsgård gives a creepy performance for the ages in this adaptation of half of Stephen King’s famous novel of the same name.
- Life (2017) – While fairly standard by monster-on-a-spaceship standards, Life is still a lot of fun, and it has a great cast.
- Annihilation (2018) – Alex Garland’s film (based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel) is as beautiful as it is unnerving.
- Overlord (2018) – Overlord is a super-fun action-horror movie set during World War II involving monstrous Nazi experiments. It’s big-budget shlock in the best way.
- Doctor Sleep (2019) – This sequel to The Shining isn’t nearly as terrifying as its predecessor, but it’s an engaging supernatural thriller with many memorable characters and performances.
- Detention (2019) – Detention is a nightmare-fueled supernatural horror movie from Taiwan that draws its story from the real-life horrors of Taiwan’s history.
- Parasite (2019) – Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is easily one of the best movies of the 2010s, but its story about a poor South-Korean family conning their way into a rich family’s home is more thriller than horror. Otherwise it would definitely be on the list above.