The best 100 horror movies of the decade. Part 1: #100 to #51.

Here they are: this site’s favourite horror films of the decade.

A note on the list

I’m going with a pretty elastic definition of horror here: there’s plenty in here that’s “horror-adjacent”, and I’m fine with that. This list generally leans towards the weird, eerie, cosmic, psychological, sublime and transcendent – because that’s what I love.

I like the odd slasher or old-school bloodbath now and then, but they’re not my absolute favourite, and they tend to be down the lower end of this top 100. I enjoyed jump-scare flicks like the Halloween remake, The Visit, or Sinister, but they didn’t quite make it on. Not even The Conjuring. That’s right – it was languishing around 110 or so. Sorry, The Conjuring, that’s just how it goes. The very best examples of that kind of horror did get into the list though, just about.

You may also notice that the list leans towards the later years of the decade. That might be partially because I’ve seen more films from recent years, but I think more importantly things are just getting better and better – we’ve gotten over torture films, crappy found footage knockoffs, and “new extremity” snooze-fests, and found interesting new models for horror in a new age.

Horror seems to be increasingly interested in exploring human consciousness, identity, community and politics, and unpicking narratives in a thoughtful way – not just reflexively responding to “9/11” or “the internet” as it often did in the decade before.

You will also no doubt notice how anglophone this all is. Sorry – alternative suggestions in that regard (and all other regards) are gratefully received.

Example VOD options are given for UK readers. People in other locales – I’m sure you can figure it out, you’re smart.

Part 2: #50-#1 cane be found here.

And with that… here we go.

The best horror (and horror-adjacent) movies of the 2010s: #100-#51.

100. Better Watch Out (2016)
Go in cold for the best Chirstmassy horror of the decade (sorry, Rare Exports). A clever subversion of slasher and home invasion tropes; mixes the playfully humorous with the fairly disturbing.
Amazon (Rent)

99. Gerald’s Game (2017)
Mike Flanagan spent the decade turning out consistently solid work – a lot of which are hovering just outside this top 100 list. His best effort is Netflix TV show The Haunting of Hill House by a country mile, but Gerald’s Game was the film that made me notice he was more than just a skilled journeyman. A controlled summoning of dread, and as for that scene, well…

98. You’re Next (2011)
The decade’s best home invasion (from the point of view of the people in the home.) Hugely influential, and deservedly so.
Amazon (Rent)

97. Don’t Breathe (2016)
The decade’s best home invasion (from the point of view of people breaking into the home, then trying to get out!) Rather icky third act that I’m still not sure we needed, but that consideration aside this is superbly crafted.
Amazon (Buy)

96. The House That Jack Built (2018)
Lars Von Trier messes with us yet again in his deconstruction of the serial killer movie. That’s a genre that’s been solidly deconstructed ever since Man Bites Dog (1991), Benny’s Video, Henry, etc. – but in his final act LVT manages to find something new to do.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

95. The Cured (2017)
“Cured” Irish Zombies as a metaphor for post-Troubles truth and reconciliation. Deserved a bigger audience – more interesting than yet another Walking Dead style preppier fantasy, as so many post-event zombie films seem to be.

94. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The best in the Conjuring series, or any of those fast-food franchise horrors. Don’t, as they say, @ me.
Amazon (Rent)

93. Mandy (2018)
Heavy metal, pulp sci-fi fantasy, post-hippy despair and the world’s worst trip combine in a way that’s delightfully off the chain.
Sky/NowTV (Stream) / Amazon (Buy)

92. Starfish (2018)
Elegiac John Carpenter-esque dronecore tale of lost friends and lost realities in the crunchy new year snowscape. Features my favourite fourth-wall warping scene of the year.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

91. The Bay (2012)
Hugely underrated found footage body-horror environmental nightmare; water-bourne parasites that really get under your skin. If you can put aside why they are filming, this is for you. If you hate found footage, this will probably just annoy you.

90. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Almodovar does horror, with this spin mad scientist mystery thriller.
Amazon (Rent)

89. Come to Daddy (2019)
Elijah Wood has been a committed presence as a producer in the decade’s horror scene, and this go-in-cold mystery thriller is maybe the best example in which he also stars (although shout out to his turn in Maniac, too). Michael Smiley is one of the best villains of the decade.
Seen at FrightFest 2019; wider release in 2020.

88. Honeymoon (2014)
Rose Leslie (of “you know nothing, Jon Snow” fame) and her boyfriend head off to her family cabin for their titular honeymoon. But is she keeping something from him? It’s great fun watching the couple in this almost-but-not-quite two-hander descend into a spiral of paranoid acrimony within just a few days. Just what is she doing in the woods? Amazon Prime (Stream) / Shudder

87. Color Out of Space (2019)
Proof that you can do HP Lovecraft pretty faithfully in tone, and have it work. Milage will depend on your love for Nic Cage – personally I loved him throwing tomatoes into a trashcan, point blank, shouting SLAM DUNK! SLAM DUNK!
Seen at LFF 2019; wider release in 2020

86. Creep / Creep 2 (2014/2017)
Kind of a cheat, but I recommend taking these as a pair. The second one is the better of the two, but it riffs on, and develops, the first in such a smart way that they operate as a one-two punch. The best found-footage of the decade. And you know, the second one features Desiree Akhavan.

85. Ready or Not (2019)
Just fun. Remember fun? This is that. Another honeymoon horror, with this one featuring the world’s most deadly game of hide-and-seek. Features a villain using his iPhone to quickly Google how to use a crossbow. The whole thing depends on the performance of the bride, Samara Weaving – and she nails it. Cinema release in 2019; DVD/Blu/VOD release in early 2020

84. John Dies at the End (2012)
Reality-bending cosmic horror played for laughs – and somehow it works. Smartly adapted from the novel by Don “Phantasm” Coscarelli.
BFIPlayer, oddly enough

83. Shutter Island (2010)
Scorsese started the decade as he didn’t mean to go on – a playful exercise in ominous pulp mystery. It’s the hidden core of moral dread and soulful doom that elevates it.
Sky/NowTV (Stream) / Amazon (Rent)

82. Personal Shopper (2016)
Favourite scene – Kristen Stewart trying on that dress. A slippery tale of souls as transient entities and Earth as a liminal space.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

81. The Guest (2014)
Great pulp fun that cycles through at least three different genres, including (in its own way) the slasher. Dan Stevens aces it as the titular interloper, radiating increasingly psychotic charm.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

80. Housewife (2017)
Another cosmic horror – Can Evrenol followed up Baskin (2015) with this excellent time-shifting, mesmerising, hallucinatory Lovecraftian tale. It played at a FrightFest Halloween all-dayer, then never got a full UK release. SOMEBODY rectify this – it’s the best Carpenter-esque post-apocalypse-trilogy movie out there. A must for fans of, say, Prince of Darkness.
Bewilderingly unavailable in the UK

79. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
After being tied up in legal wrangling for so long, this finally came to Shudder in 2019. The best tale of Mexican street kids, gangs, and ghosts you’ll ever see. But who will come out top in this beautifully shot three-way clash? Isa Lopez emerges as the heir to Guillermo del Toro.
Shudder, and this on its own would make a subscription worthwhile.

78. It Comes at Night (2017)
The film that gave “post-horror” (sigh) a bad name, by setting itself up as one kind of horror but then not really being what was expected. On a revisit, it works so much better. Unfairly caught up in a grumpy cultural conversation.
Amazon (Rent)

77. Thelma (2017)
Joachim Trier switches from indie dramas to flat-out sci-fi horror, with the best ‘psychic girl’ movie of the decade, featuring a nerve-shredding scene at the opera of which any director would be proud.
Amazon (Rent)

76. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Panos “Mandy” Cosmatos’s first feature. “Beyond Science. Beyond Sanity. Beyond Control.” Great tagline, great film, with a delightfully odd meta-textual coda.
US Blu-Ray import from Amazon.

75. American Mary (2012)
The Soska Sisters’ breakthrough movie was this smart, gnarly, unapologetic surgical twist on the rape-revenge movie – with just a touch of offbeat noir.
Amazon (Rent)

74. A Field in England (2013)
One of a number of Ben Wheatley films on this list. This folk horror parable is probably his least approachable of the decade, but the sheer gall of making a hallucinatory cosmic horror in a 17th century fields somehow pays off. The scene with Reese Shearsmith emerging, demented, from a tent has to be one of the moments of the decade.
Apple (Rent) / Amazon (Buy)

73. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
Director Oz Perkins is one of the great emerging talents of recent years; this ultra slow-burn alone-in-a-haunted-house film really paid off for me. Popcorn lovers may want to give it a swerve, but I’m a big, big fan.

72. Evolution (2015)
Aquatic, cosmic, body-horror shenanigans from “new French Extremity” director Lucile Hadžihalilović. Nurses and their children, down by the shore. One little boy suspects his community is not all it seems…
Amazon Prime (Stream)

71. Tragedy Girls (2017)
This sassy slasher deconstruction is a great contribution to the emerging strain of Gen-Z always-online horror. Alexandra Shipp (Storm in the the recent dreadful X-Men movies) and Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the Deadpool films) ace the tricky horror-comedy tone. Don’t forget to click and subscribe!
DVD/Blu-Ray – very odd that this isn’t streamable.

70. The Ritual (2017)
A simple setup for this UK horror (guy friends looking for manly bonding get lost in the woods) done very well – and with excellent creature design as a payoff.

69. Us (2019)
In the final analysis, the fundamental conceit beyond Jordan Peele’s second horror feature doesn’t 100% work – but it scores a place on this list through the superbly realised horror moments and already-iconic original imagery that he he delivers along the way.
Amazon (Buy)

68. Prometheus / Alien: Convenant (2012/2017)
Another twofer. Plenty of haters for each, and yes: they both deliver a solid sense of having their scripts thoroughly scuzzed up at the last minute, then lightly trashed a little more in the editing suite just to completely ensure they don’t make sense. But there’s so many great individual moments to love – from the medi-pod in Prometheus to the initial encounter (and final moments) in Convenant. Say what you like, I really hope Scott gets to round out his trilogy – hopefully he can maintain his focus the third time around.
Amazon (Rent)

67. A Dark Song (2016)
The best occult film of the decade – all the better for taking its subject matter (and damaged characters) deadly seriously.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

66. The Babadook (2014)
Superior haunted-family action from breakout director Jennifer Kent, starring unexpected gay icon The Babadook.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

65. Summer of 84 (2018)
Part of the throwback 80s trend, and an excellent example of the kids-investigate horror movie tradition of that era (the Goonies, Explorers, etc.) But nothing from the 80s ever had the darkness of the this film. Genuinely tense, too.
Amazon (Rent) / Shudder (Stream)

64. The Innkeepers (2011)
Ti West’s superb slow-burn haunted house riff. Recommended for fans of #73, and vice versa.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

63. What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Girl-vs-girl out in the woods in this survivalist psycho-thriller. One odd character choice can’t derail this from being one of the purest vehicles for white-knuckle genre thrills in years. A great film for shouting “don’t do that!” at the screen.

62. The Painted Bird (2019)
As if Lars Von Trier remade Ivan’s Childhood, but minus his usual sense of humour. Almost three hours long. Crushingly on-the-nose. I liked it.
Seen at LFF 2019; wider release coming in 2020.

61. The Blackcoat’s Daughter aka February (2015)
Oz Perkins’s best film to date. Two tales on their way to collide: Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, Sabrina) and Lucy Boynton are stuck in a girls’ school over the winter. Emma Roberts makes her way there. But an evil entity is after someone…
Google Play (Rent)

60. Revenge (2017)
The greatest of perhaps all rape-revenge movies, in terms of the sheer level of catharsis it ultimately gifts the audience.
Amazon (Rent) / Shudder (Stream)

59. Swallow (2019)
Like a spin of Todd Haynes’s [SAFE] (1995), if that film’s cryptic environmental sensitivity disorder was instead the easting disorder Pica, and it had an identifiable antagonist in the form of a complete asshole husband and his family. One of my favourite endings of the year – bold and unapologetic. Bravo!
Seen at FrightFest 2019; hopefully a wider release to come in 2020.

58. A Quiet Place (2018)
Look, I don’t know what they don’t just build a house by the waterfall. It is what it is, ok? A wonderfully tense audience-pleaser.
Sky/NowTV (Stream) / Amazon (Buy)

57. The Nightingale (2018)
The second of the rape-revenge film on this list, both directed by women, and each taking a very different approach to their subject. Kent’s film seems far more brutal, far less interested in catharsis, and far more interested in the existential ennui that comes from systemic violence against women and ethnic minorities. Beautifully shot; hard to look at.
Amazon (Rent)

56. Bedevilled (2010)
Another revenge movie; another blood-soaked strike against the patriarchy. But this Korean film is a fascinating deconstruction. Which character is the protagonist here? Who exactly is the heroine, if there is one? This is also the best horror movie about going to a remote island and dealing with a a honey-farming community (sorry, Wicker Man remake fans e.g. Mr Brad Hanson).
Amazon (Rent)

55. Calibre (2018)
An excellent, excellent British example of the “we’ve really f*cked up, how are we going to get out of this?” horror/thriller genre. That calm-before-the-storm feeling that you’ve done something wrong and punishment is coming (as soon as people notice) is a one of the universal human emotions. This film superbly leverages it for devastating tension.

54. Lords of Chaos (2018)
The true-life tale of the genesis of Norwegian Black Metal that left people vomiting int he aisles. A real “good GRIEF” climax.
Apple (Rent – for 99p!)

53. Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)
A post-English civil war home-invasion folk horror that draws intelligently from the real religious divisions of the age. Charles Dance give it the full strength as the patriarch who WILL NOT BE QUESTIONED. Beautifully shot on 35mm, and with the best folk horror soundtrack of the decade (provided on period-appropriate instruments by the director himself).
Seen at LFF 2019; wider release to follow in 2020. Watch it on 35 mm if you can!

52. Take Shelter (2011)
Still probably Michael Shannon’s best performance, and that’s saying something. A haunting picture of paranoid schizophrenia with a memorably ambiguous ending that’s at once troubling and touching.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

51. The Wailing (2016)
A kaleidoscope of horror tropes in this Korean serial-killer/supernatural nightmare. A police procedural that slowly gives way to something much more terrifying. You would hope that a film almost three hours long would deliver a killer ending; it does. It really does.

Part 2: #50-#1 can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s