30. It (2017)
Was there ever a doubt that an article about horror movies would include a story about a killer clown? Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, 2017’s It is one of the best horror films of the past decade. Set in a small Maine town named Derry, a group of kids are tormented by an evil, shape-shifting clown named Pennywise. This movie is downright creepy and often terrifying. Bill Skarsgard gives a haunting performance as the Dancing Clown — a performance that will linger in your mind long after watching the film. Good luck sleeping well after seeing Pennywise’s ghoulish smile.
29. The Invisible Man (1933)
“If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” That is the question that we have all been asked at one point in our lives. In 1897, H.G. Wells’ novel The Invisible Man explored what could happen if an individual gained the ability to become invisible. More than 30 years later, Wells’ novel was brought to the big screen. In this classic tale, a scientist named Dr. Jack Griffin discovers the formula to become invisible. Upon his ‘breakthrough’, Griffin descends into madness. The invisible doctor begins committing murders and becomes increasingly unstable. How do you stop something that you can’t see? A true horror classic, The Invisible Man is a must-watch for any big fan of the genre.
28. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods is an absolute gem. Directed by Drew Goddard, the film follows a group of college students who trek to a remote cabin for some good old-fashioned fun. At first glance, the story looks like it will follow a familiar storyline — a bunch of attractive young adults head out to the woods for a good time, only to eventually meet a gruesome end. Instead, this story is incredibly unique and very impressive. As it turns out, two technicians are in control of everything that happens inside/around the cabin. The Cabin in the Woods contains a good amount of gore, but is also full of laughs and clever plot twists — it is a modern classic.
27. Possessor: Uncut (2020)
Released in 2020, Possessor is a very disturbing film. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor takes the concept of mind control to a whole new level. Played by Andrea Riseborough, Tasya Vos is an agent who uses brain-implant technology to coerce people into committing terrifying acts — namely, assassinations. Vos taps into people’s minds and has them carry out assassinations as a way to benefit her company. However, in the same vein as The Invisible Man, too much power can result in disaster. The more assassinations Vos initiates, the more she begins to spiral. Will she be her own undoing?
26. The Witch (2015)
Debuting writer-director Robert Eggers knocked it out of the park in 2015 with The Witch. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Eggers’ film takes place in 1600s New England. During that time, many unexplained events in the region were determined to be the result of witchcraft. The Witch follows a family that has been separated from society and must deal with tons of inner turmoil. The Christian family of seven becomes a family of six when their newborn son mysteriously vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) for the son’s disappearance, and soon accuses Thomasin of witchcraft. While the film takes a while to get going, the intensity of the story is well worth the wait.
25. Host (2020)
During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of people were forced into a lockdown. Some people took advantage of their extra down time — including director Rob Savage. Clocking in at 57 minutes, Host was created during the lockdown and released on Shudder. In this film, a group of six friends meet over Zoom and decide to have a séance. To do so, the friends hire a medium to help lead the group. Predictably, things go terribly wrong in a hurry. While the premise may seem a bit dull, the film is full of energy and impactful scares. The director and cast do an excellent job building the suspense and creating scary moments — with a little help from an evil spirit.
24. Repulsion (1965)
Directed by Roman Polanski (not the last film of his you’ll see on this list), Repulsion represents the director’s first English film. The film is centered around a woman named Carol — played by Catherine Deneuve. Carol is a schizophrenic manicurist who also suffers from androphobia, the pathological fear of interaction with men. Unfortunately for Carol, she shares an apartment with her sister — and her sister isn’t shy about making love to her partner. After hearing her sister and her lover…having fun…Carol locks herself in her apartment and abandons her job. The longer she keeps herself away from the real world, the worse her mental state becomes. Can Carol recover before it’s too late?
23. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Despite Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar for Best Director emanating from The Shape of Water, many would argue that 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth is his greatest work. In this triumph of a film, del Toro created a fantasy world that captivates people of all ages. Set in 1944, a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her mother — Carmen (Ariadna Gil) — meet up with the mother’s new husband. Upon arriving at the husband’s army post, Ofelia wanders off and discovers an ancient maze. While in the maze, Ofelia meets a mythical creature named Pan. Pan convinces Ofelia that she is the lost princess of the underworld and that she must embark on a dangerous journey to become immortal. To put it lightly, Ofelia’s journey to become immortal is dark.
22. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Let’s be honest, the title of this film suggests that it is guaranteed to be creepy as hell. A French-language film, Eyes Without a Face tells the tale of a surgeon who accidentally disfigures his daughter’s face due to a mistake of his own. While everyone believes his daughter to be dead, Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) and his lab assistant Louise hatch a diabolic plan to give his daughter a new face. The doctor and his assistant begin kidnapping young, attractive women and bring them to the Génessier mansion. Once there, the pair remove their faces in hopes of grafting them onto the daughter. This film is incredibly disturbing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great piece of work.
21. Halloween (1978)
You can’t convince me there are 20 horror films better than Halloween, but the people — according to Rotten Tomatoes — have spoken. Written and directed by the legendary John Carpenter, Halloween is a fantastic film regardless of genre. 15 years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers returns to his hometown intent on killing once again. Myers’ iconic mask, blade, and gait remain frightening more than 40 years later. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as Laurie Strode cannot be overlooked, as she was one of the first female lead protagonists in a horror film. Everything about this film — including the score — is absolute perfection.
20. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Mia Farrow as the titular character, Rosemary, Rosemary’s Baby is a bone-chilling film. Starring alongside Farrow is Ruth Gordon as Minnie. Director Roman Polanski created one hell of a story in this one — tackling real-life issues relating to pregnancy, while also weaving Satanism into the story. Rosemary comes to believe that her baby is not normal. As she is increasingly ostracized by those around her, Rosemary becomes tormented by her thoughts and suspicions. It isn’t until she gives birth that the truth comes to light. While Farrow was spectacular as Rosemary, it was Gordon who stole the show. For her performance, Gordon won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
19. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
When it comes to zombie films, George A. Romero is in a class of his own. Romero made his directorial debut with Night of the Living Dead and went on to dominate the genre for nearly 40 more years — directing Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005). Romero’s debut film is set in an old farmhouse on the East Coast. Inside the farmhouse, a group of Pennsylvanians try to shield themselves from the zombies who are hungry for their flesh. With clever shots, realistic gore, and a permanent sense of dread, Night of the Living Dead remains the king of zombie flicks.
18. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter may look like an unassuming person, but instead, he is one of cinema’s greatest villains. Played by Anthony Hopkins, two-time Oscar-winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role — The Silence of the Lambs, The Father — Lecter is an absolute terror. An imprisoned serial killer who also happens to be a cannibal, Lecter is approached by FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster, won the Oscar for Best Actress) with the hopes that he can help her track down another serial killer — Buffalo Bill. An argument can be made that Silence of the Lambs is the greatest thriller — and one of the best horror flicks — of all-time. In addition to Hopkins and Foster taking home Oscars, the film was named Best Picture and Jonathan Demme won Best Director.
17. Aliens (1986)
Set 57 years after the events of 1979’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver’s Lieutenant Ripley wakes up from her long hyper-sleep and is immediately in danger. Well aware of the threat that the aliens pose, Ripley warns everyone around her of the dangerous situation they are facing. An entire space colony on the moon LV-426 has been obliterated by the aliens — except for one young girl. As the space marines who found Ripley enter a bloody battle with the aliens, Ripley sets out to protect the colony’s lone survivor — Newt. This is one of the greatest sequels of all-time, and the aliens are even more terrifying than they were when we first met them.
16. Freaks (1932)
Released in 1932, Freaks remains a legendary horror flick nearly 90 years later. Olga Baclanova stars as Cleopatra — a beautiful trapeze artist who sets her sights on a circus performer’s large inheritance. Cleopatra learns that Hans, the circus midget, is sitting on a nice inheritance and decides to marry him to steal his fortune. All the while, Cleopatra is in a relationship with Hercules — the circus’ strongman. While Hans has his suspicions, it isn’t until Cleopatra drunkenly tells Hans’ group what she thinks of them that her motive is exposed. Hans and Co. don’t respond kindly…
15. Let the Right One In (2008)
Smart storytelling and a fresh take on the vampire genre truly sets Let the Right One In apart. A Swedish film directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In introduces the audience to a young boy named Oskar. Sadly, the 12-year-old has a tough time growing up in his small hometown as he is often bullied by other kids his age. One day, however, Oskar meets his new neighbor — an equally peculiar young girl named Eli. After a little while, the two youngsters begin to form a close bond. Oskar comes to learn that Eli must avoid the sun and needs an invitation to enter a room. How will Oskar react when he learns Eli’s biggest secret?
14. It Follows (2015)
It Follows is one of the best horror films in years. The premise is simple but unique — a woman named Jay sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time, and now she is cursed because of it. Sounds weird, right? While it is strange, the film itself is riveting. After sleeping with her boyfriend, Hugh, for the first time, Jay is saddled with a death curse — one that travels from victim to victim, going after those who have had sex with the ‘infected.’ While It Follows doesn’t tap into the level of primal fear a slasher film might, the film is terrifying at a psychological level.
13. Hereditary (2018)
From start to finish, Hereditary is a very disturbing film. The death of the family’s matriarch results in a run of terrifying situations. As it turns out, Ellen Taper-Leigh — the deceased matriarch — led a cult of demon-worshiping followers. In addition to a number of them appearing at her funeral, there is a very quick scene in which a ton of cult members appear surrounding the house. Following Ellen’s death, her daughter, Annie, and grandchildren slowly become aware of Ellen’s dark secrets. Annie and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) are particularly drawn to the sinister, supernatural side of their family. You won’t forget about this movie for a long time after watching it.
12. The Lighthouse (2019)
Robert Pattinson has had quite a journey during his career. From playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter to starring as Edward in Twilight to his role as Batman, Pattinson has tapped into many different types of roles. In The Lighthouse, Pattinson stars alongside Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers. Set in the 1890s, the pair live alone on a remote New England island. As a result of strenuous work, bleak conditions, and growing tired of one another, the two begin to break. The atmosphere of this film is heavy — you will feel every ounce of anguish that the main characters do, and you will never want to step foot near a lighthouse again. Also, mermaids.
11. Frankenstein (1931)
When discussing horror’s greatest monsters of all-time, Frankenstein’s monster must be one of the first characters brought up. In the 1931 epic Frankenstein, Boris Karloff plays The Monster to perfection. Karloff’s performance remains the high bar for portraying the iconic character — his mannerisms remain frightening to this day. As we all know, Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) attempts to create life by putting together body parts of the dead. Frankenstein’s experiment is a success as The Monster is animated, but he soon escapes and becomes a problem. Torn between doing what’s right and putting an end to his mad science experiment, Dr. Frankenstein must face the consequences of his creation.
10. The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook joins It, The Cabin in the Woods, and a handful of others as one of the best horror films of the past decade. Part of what makes this film so terrifying is that it is centered around a story that people can connect to. After a terrible car crash results in a man losing his life, his widowed wife is left to raise their son alone. The loss is all the more tragic because the crash occurred while the couple were on their way to the hospital — as the baby’s birth was imminent. While the mother grieves her loss and attempts to adjust to her new norm, a creepy book titled “Mister Babadook” appears in the house. Soon, the Babadook begins to torment the mother and son. This film is as suspenseful as they come.
9. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Four years after Boris Karloff’s iconic performance as The Monster in Frankenstein, the horror legend returned in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. While The Monster and Dr. Frankenstein’s fates were unclear at the end of the original film (and book), we soon learn that they both avoided almost certain deaths. In this film, a scientist even more deranged than Frankenstein, Dr. Pretorius, kidnaps Frankenstein’s wife. As a way to ensure her safety, Frankenstein agrees to help Dr. Pretorius animate a second monster — this time, a female companion for The Monster. Can The Bride and The Monster coexist?
8. The Invisible Man (2020)
87 years after the original The Invisible Man was released and 20 years following the Kevin Bacon starrer Hollow Man arrived in theaters, Leigh Whannell introduced The Invisible Man to a new generation of horror fans. In the 2020 version, Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia — a woman who inherits a fortune following the death of her abusive ex. However, Cecilia isn’t so sure her ex committed suicide. As the strange coincidences in her life begin to mount, Cecilia’s suspicions become more intense. This reboot offers a fresh take on the classic story and benefits from very strong performances from Moss and her co-stars.
7. Psycho (1960)
This film is the reason why you always make sure to lock the bathroom door before taking a shower. Alfred Hitchcock created numerous masterpieces during his time, and Psycho is at the top of the list for many film buffs. Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, is caught in a rainstorm while making a long drive and decides to stop for the night. Of course, this is a terrible decision. Marion pulls into the Bates Motel and meets the manager, a quiet man named Norman (Anthony Perkins). We all know what happens next — the infamous shower scene. This Hitchcock classic should be at the top of your watchlist if you haven’t seen it.
6. King Kong (1933)
Back in 1933, King Kong shocked audiences and instantly earned the admiration of people throughout the industry. Nearly 90 years later, the film is still regarded as arguably the greatest monster movie of all-time. At the time, the film was groundbreaking. The use of stop-motion effects to that level of ability was unheard of. When it comes to Kong, the beast wasn’t as friendly as he is made out to be in more recent iterations. Kong saw Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) as a prize and not as a friend/love interest. While we are all familiar with the story of Kong, this original tale is the best in the series and a tremendous viewing experience.
5. Nosferatu (1922)
Everyone loves a good vampire movie, and Nosferatu is one of the best films of the genre. Released in 1922, Nosferatu doesn’t rely on some of the main components modern-day horror films utilize. Instead of relying upon gore, jump scares, and loud noises to break the tension of the moment, Nosferatu dazzles with its visuals and eerie tone. And for good reason — Nosferatu is a silent film. Vampire Count Orlok (Max Schreck) is looking to buy a new house, and he enlists the help of real estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim). Why? Because Count Orlok is mesmerized by Hutter’s wife, Ellen.
4. A Quiet Place (2018)
If you have ever watched a horror movie in a theater, you are all too familiar with the uneasy feeling that blankets the audience. As you wait for something bad or scary to happen, you can feel the tension and the silence becomes deafening. But in 2018, A Quiet Place explored the horror genre in a new way. What if your only chance of survival was to never make a sound?
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, A Quiet Place follows the lives of Evelyn and Lee Abbott (Emily Blunt, John Krasinski) and their children as they hide from monsters that have ultra-sensitive hearing. It’s hard enough to make zero noise, but what do you do when it is time for your baby to be born? Can an in-labor Evelyn and her family survive the night? Welcome to the mute world — good luck with the monsters.
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Dating back to 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is often recognized as the first true horror film of all-time. The German film tells the tale of a heinous man named Dr. Caligari. In Caligari’s possession is a special cabinet — one that contains a somnambulist (sleepwalker) named Cesare. Caligari controls Cesare to the point that the sleepwalker commits murders under Caligari’s guidance. Now over 100 years old, the film remains a truly iconic watch and one that influences the genre to this day.
2. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele hit a home run with his first feature film. Starring Daniel Kaluuya as Chris and Allison Williams as Rose, Get Out is a tale about a couple’s weekend getaway gone awry. Chris and Rose travel to Rose’s parents house and things immediately appear off. An interracial couple, Chris first assumes that the family’s uncomfortable demeanor is because he isn’t white. Instead, Chris quickly comes to learn that the family has far more sinister plans. There is a reason why this film earned four nominations at the Academy Awards — including Jordan Peele’s Oscar win for Best Screenplay.
1. Us (2019)
Only two years after Jordan Peele captivated audiences with his debut film Get Out, the ascending director released Us. This time around, Peele introduces us to a family of four who set out to enjoy a beach vacation. Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) first bring their children to the Santa Cruz pier for a day of fun. After some bizarre incidents involving their son, the Dukes carry on to their vacation home. Shortly after arriving, the family is confronted by their doppelgängers — doppelgängers who are incredibly violent. In classic Peele fashion, this story is filled with incredible twists and turns, strong dialogue, and a truly impeccable story. This is a film that gets better with each viewing.