The best 100 horror movies of the decade. Part 2: #50-#1.

Here they are: this site’s favourite horror films of the decade, this time from #50 to #1… what did I miss? Let me know!

The best horror (and horror-adjacent) movies of the 2010s: #50-#1.

50. The Invitation (2015)
Karyn Kusama is such an unapologetic lover of genre cinema. Destroyer was also great later in the decade, but her best work to date is, I think, The Invitation – a gloriously paranoid exercise in dinner-party duplicity, with a great payoff.

49. Upstream Color (2013)
Shane Curruth’s sequel to the low-budget time-travel gem Primer. If that seemed complicated, Upstream Color is some next-level strangeness- memory transference (and maybe thought or consciousness transference?) through the ecological cycle around a strange species of flower and the bigs that eat them. Genuinely odd, and I say that as someone who watches a lot of odd things. Transcendent.

48. Border (2018)
A modern day border security guard/customs inspector is a bit shy, because she looks somewhat like a troll. Well, there’s a reason for that. This fable of belonging, and cycles of pain and trauma, goes somewhere very dark part way through – and is all the better for it. Once seen, never forgotten.
Amazon (Rent)

47. Saint Maud (2019)
A great entry in the “nice girl – a bit religious, though” school of horror. Maud just wants to help – perhaps by bringing her charge closer to the Lord? This British effort boasts one of the most no-nonsense final shots I’ve seen in quite a while. Saint Maud is, as the kids say, lit.
Seen at the LFF 2019; wider release to come in 2020

46. Prevenge (2016)
Alice Lowe’s twisted comedy pregnancy horror featured my favourite karaoke scene of the decade – all set to the swinging pop beats of Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t It be Nice?
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

45. Atlantics (2019)
A lot of people were willing Mati Diop’s debut feature to be an artistic success – they were not disappointed. A poetic modern day spin on possession that manages to say something about the migrant crisis. Some lessons clearly learned from Clare Denis, but this blows Denis’s own (very different) horror effort, Trouble Every Day, clean out of the water.

44. Resolution (2012) / The Endless (2017)
Another twofer. I came to directing duo Moorhead and Benson via The Endless, which is actually a loose sequel to Resolution. I then watched Syncronic, then Spring, then Resolution itself. Guess what? Resolution is their best, with The Endless close behind. They can each be watched entirely separately, but my advice? Watch them as a pair, in the right order!
Resolution is on DVD/Blu; The Endless is on Netflix

43. The Neon Demon (2016)
A nightmarish giallo-tinged meander through the city of dreams, as wannabe model Elle Fanning gradually discovers to her delight that they want to be like her.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

42. Hagazussa (2017)
Dronecore folk-tale that draws you into its woodland trance. If you ever get a chance to see it on the big screen, please do so – and sink into the monstrous sublime. Features as ossuary. C’mon, there’s nothing as cool as an ossuary.
Amazon (Rent)

41. Sator (2019)
We don’t use the term ‘elevated horror’. So let me just say this: what a film. Drawing on a history of mental illness in the Director’s own family, this is a tale of two brothers, of their secluded life in the woods, and of their grandmother’s Nani and her friend, Sator. Sator lives in the woods too, or to be more precise Sator lives inside Nani’s head, as Sator isn’t really a corporeal being, more of a spirit that talks to her. But Sator is getting restless… and stronger.
Seen at the Soho Horror Festival 2019 – hopefully to get a wider release in 2020!

40. Stoker (2013)
A strong contender for my favourite Nicole Kidman performance – wonderfully off-the-chain. Who would’ve thought Wentworth Miller and Park Chan-wook would make such a delightfully-realised remix of the Trouble With Harry? Not me!
Google Play

39. Coherence (2013)
Another dinner-party horror where people turn on each other, but this is very different to The Invitation. Coherence has a Sci-fi edge. Beyond that – go in cold.
Rokuten TV (Rent)

38. The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Superior British zombie flick that was crushingly mis-marketed. Stars breakout Sennia Nanua as the titular zombie child, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and Glenn freakin’ Close. It’s hard to be a fresh zombie flick these days – but this one manages it.
Rokuten TV (Rent)

37. Good Manners (2017)
I’d say go in cold, but the trailer very much gives it away. It’s a monster movie, but the exact nature of the monster is kept tightly under wraps under the halfway mark – until then, this Argentinian tale just the delightful story of a bougie white pregnant housewife, her black cleaner, the unexpected relationship between them, and the housewife’s penchant for unexpected snacks. Manages to says some pretty pointed things about class, race, capitalism and motherhood for a [redacted] movie… Gorgeous fairytale matte painted backdrops, too.
Somehow not available in the UK.

36. A Ghost Story (2017)
Perhaps the quintessential A24 horror – for all its lo-fi instagram preciousness, though, it’s still an unexpectedly cosmic tale of grief and loss. Features one of the decade’s key scene of someone eating pie – and let’s not forget that Rooney Mara claims that before this scene she had never eaten a pie before, a suggestion that is itself more haunting than most ghost stories.

35. Madeline’s Madeline (2018)
The most strongly “adjacent” of all the horror-adjacent films on this list, but I couldn’t leave off Josephine Decker’s wonderful tale. The relationship between a budding performance artist, her mother, her surrogate artist-mother, and the inner darkness that threatens to consume them when her gift is properly unleashed. It’s… almost the same plot as the Suspiria remake, only without the literal witchcraft? Another great ending, and a jaw-droopingly superb performance from relative newcomer Helena Howard.

34. Aniara (2018)
The film High Life wishes it was. Based on an epic Swedish poem about an off-course spaceship them that tumbles endlessly into the void. Can they turn it around and return to Earth? Basically the space plot as Red Dwarf, in a way. Favourite bit is when the ship’s highly sophisticated AI, designed mainly to help humans process their emotions, learns so much about people that it promptly commits suicide.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

33. Black Swan (2010)
Aronofsky found a way to make the internalised horror of psychosis and identity fragmentation work for a modern audience. Again: great climactic scene. Love me some dance horror.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

32. A Cure for Wellness (2016)
Gloriously, euphorically overcooked hokum. I loved every second. Jason Issacs as the mad scientist baron he was born to play. A glassy gothic fancy of delirium, trapped princesses, and eels. Lots of eels. I saw this on the biggest non-IMAX screen in London, and it was a phenomenal choice if I say so myself. Gore Verbinski’s Swiss vistas look so coldly enchanting. A chilly, manic delight.
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

31. Cam (2018)
This supernatural tale of a cam girls, stalkers, slut-shaming and stolen identities was one of a number of bold, inventive, smartly feminist horrors to come along this decade. Like nothing I’d seen before.

30. Holiday (2018)
I really liked Holiday: an unflinching work about terrible people doing terrible things in a terrible world. At every stage, in every dimension, it refuses to give the audience an easy out. Isabella Eklöff throws down the gauntlet with the feature debut she called Melania Trump: The Movie. Brutal, cynical, and menacing.
Apple (Rent)

30. Enemy
A cheeky duplicate #30 felt right for this twisted doppelgänger tale of alienation., secret lives, and spiders. Once again, a great film that’s taken to the next level by its gloriously out-there curveball ending.
DVD / Blu-ray

29. Train to Busan (2016)
Most Zombie movies are “about” something, thanks to zombies’ ability to serve as an endlessly malleable metaphor. Korean zombies-on-a-train flick Train to Busan is perhaps the greatest ever zombie movie that’s really just about zombies.
Amazon (Rent)

28. Deerskin (2019)
I didn’t like the playful ‘killer tyre’ meta-horror Rubber as much as some people, but Quentin Dupieux’s follow-up more than won me over. Like a soft-Haneke farce gently absurd, with a bleak edge and a cheeky grin. Perfectly paced, with all its escalations doled out nicely. The plot? It’s just about a man who really, really loves his new jacket.
Seen at the LFF 2019; wider release to come in 2020

27. One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Another case of go-in-cold for this not-what-it-seems Japanese zombie flick. a breakout hit in its own country. Just remember, if you’re not feeling it in the first half, don’t worry: everything pays off in spades well before the end!

26. mother! (2017)
What can I say? I’m a fan of this cheeky (but actually very heartfelt) religious fable. Aronofsky rather tells on himself with his muse-as-metaphor shenanigans, but the film is none the worst for that. A remarkable cameo from Kristin Wiig too, and a feasting scene that prompted many stern walkouts from my relatively elderly Greenwich Picturehouse audience. Just remember: that sink hasn’t been braced yet.

25. Suspiria (2018)
Yeah, I liked it.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

24. Midsommar (2019)
The characterisation and interpersonal dynamics are so strongly drawn, and so caustic, that’s it’s worth watching for that alone. Favourite bit of dialogue: “my girlfriend’s here: I invited her but she’s not coming” followed by Will Poulter’s confused, de-escaltory “right, I though you were saying something else.” The entire “American” cast is great – especially Florence Pugh and jack Reynor.
Amazon (Rent)

23. Climax (2018)
Dance horror with the emphasis on dance. And also on LSD, immolation, and dead kids. But mainly dance. Delighted that FrightFest gave us the chance to see this on an IMAX screen.

22. Under the Shadow (2016)
Looking for a superb British/Iranian haunted house story? This Djinn is just the tonic. (Sorry.)

21. Hereditary (2018)
Sorry The Graduate, this is now the greatest drive home in all of cinema.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

20. Green Room (2015)
Imogen Poots. That’s it, that’s the review.
Amazon (Rent)

19. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
This Yorgos Lanthimos horror about retribution via an inexplicable curse is not quite up to The Lobster, or The Favourite. But it’s close. Best spaghetti scene since Gummo.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

18. Raw (2016)
Another of the decade’s wonderful run of bold, inventive feminist horrors – and a cannibal movie like no other.
Amazon (Rent)

17. Annihilation (2018)
The best dip into Lovecraftian weird in all of cinema? Beats Color Out of Space at its own game (both book and movie). The howling bear creature that replays the screams of its last victim provides one of the scenes of the decade, but my favourite moment was Tessa Thompson simply walking away… out of shot, and out of humanity.

16. Unsane (2018)
Hopelessly missold as “Soderbergh does a film on his iPhone!” this was actually one of the great paranoid horror-thrillers of our age. Escalating anxiety, a white-knuckle climax, and surprise Matt Damon (if this is news to you, well, you had your chance.) Genuinely great.
NowTV/SkyGO (Stream)

15. In Fabric (2018)
Peter Strickland’s hymn to Reading. I loved the incantations in this… the trancelike repetitions of numbers, sales patter, washing machine diagnoses… somnambulant and hypnotic. As if Lynch & Gilliam did a voyeuristic Amicus spin on commuter town otherworldliness. Masterful.
DVD/Blu-Ray – with a superb Director’s commentary

14. It Follows (2014)
The greatest film ever about an STD – sexually transmitted demon. The lullaby quality of the non-specific time period (80s? 90s? Now?) is just the icing on the cake. And I thought the ending worked, so there!
Amazon (Rent – for 99p!)

13. The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers’s film knows what it is to live deliciously, and serves it up with elan.
Amazon (Rent)

12. Zombi Child (2019)
A sly, provocative, troubling postcolonial satire that showcases Bonello’s instincts for sharp juxtapositions & complex endings – refusing to force meaning on the audience. This film (the greatest zombie film of the decade) shows Bonello to be one of the best directors we have: projecting the enigmatic depths of the subconscious out onto the nominally real, to see both more clearly. Zombi Child sits on the edge of a strange abyss. I loved it.
Amazon (Rent)

11. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
This was Peter Strickland’s decade – we just lived in it. There is too much I could say about Berberian Sound Studio, so let me pick out Santini – one of the decade’s great, insidious, bullying alpha-male villains, and in the emerging Strickland tradition of shit men.
Amazon (Rent)

10. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Transcendent: the vampire as a post-mortal human, their minds wandering beyond time and space. A beautiful final image of Tilda, just coming for ya.
BFIPlayer / plus right now this is on MUBI

9. The Lighthouse (2019)
Robert Eggers’s Beckettian follow-up to The Witch was less horror, more mood/character piece about severe cabin fever, moving into hallucinatory delirium with horror elements. It looks ravishing: Defoe & Pattinson chew away at their meaty, juicy, raving-mad monologues.
Seen at LFF 2019; wider release in Jan 2020

8. Sightseers (2012)
Another superb performance from Alice Lowe in this, the tale of perhaps the worst caravan holiday in the history of the midlands Ben Wheatley’s most accessible film, and almost his best.
Google Play (Rent)

7. Ex Machina (2014)
Toxic dudebros and the women they want to understand… all the better to own and control them. A scathing, caustic takedown of juvenile sci-fi’s love of the sex-bot trope, and a smart reinvention of the mad-scientist and bride-of-Frankenstein traditions. Men are the real horror here, with the female-coded robot forced to weaponise their preconceived notions of femininity against them in order to be free. Plus: another great dance scene.

6. Get Out (2017)
There’s not enough space here to do justice to the rich, playful skewering of racism in Jordan Peele’s iconic horror. So I’ll just say this: the audience roar when the car door opened at the end was perhaps my favourite audience moment in all of cinema this decade.
Amazon (Rent)

5. Nocturama (2016)
Another masterful Bonello. Disaffected teenagers launch simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris, then hide out in an out-of-hours high-end department store to surveil the unfolding chaos. It’s the tone of quietly building dread as they amuse themselves with consumer goods, plus the bluntly apocalyptic ending, that places this in the horror-adjacent column for me. A Masque of the Red Death for our times; sooner or later, the outside’s coming in. Plus: superb use of Willow Smith’s I Whip My Hair Back and Forth.

4. Kill List (2011)
Still Wheatley’s greatest film; a triumph in every regard.
Amazon (Rent)

3. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
The greatest horror-comedy of the decade, and the smartest deconstruction of the cabin-in-the-woods scenario anyone could wish for. Not only genuinely hilarious, not only actually frightening in places, but above all that this is an unmistakable love letter to horror. You love to see it.

2. Melancholia (2011)
Lars Von Trier’s best film. A apocalyptic hymn for depressives everywhere.
Google Play (Rent)

1. Under the Skin (2013)
I love Under The Skin even more every time I see it. The last time around (at the BFI, my fourth viewing) three things really caught my attention…

  1. The eye/sight imagery is threaded throughout. We see her eye constructed in the opening sequence. Later on, her minder inspects her eyes for… damage? Humanity? Then she stares directly into her own eyes in a trance right before defecting. Then she loses her human sight, before again staring into her own eyes; this time not in a reflection, but by looking into her blank human eyes with her sorrowful alien ones.
  2. She watches her male companion tap his foot to Real Gone Kid by Deacon Blue. Then her fingertips start tapping on the table. Empathy is eased along by music. Compare this to her rejection of the club techno, earlier.
  3. She has a set of questions to confirm people will not be missed: do you have any family; are you meeting anyone; where do you work? When she meets the ranger at the end, he gives her a rambling blather about the forest, then slips in “are you alone, eh, are you alone?” It’s the same test she used, but she doesn’t notice. Perhaps her new empathy has betrayed her.

Under The Skin is, for me, the greatest horror of the decade.
Amazon Prime (Stream)

But what do you think? What did I leave out? Let me know!

Part 1: #100-#51 can be found here.

2 thoughts on “The best 100 horror movies of the decade. Part 2: #50-#1.

  1. Pingback: The best 100 horror movies of the decade. Part 1: #100 to #51. | Whitlock&Pope

  2. Pingback: Review: Sator | Whitlock&Pope

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