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Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s

From Ari Aster to Stephen King, our favorite genre had one hell of a decade

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Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
Top 25 Horror Movies of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche

    Our favorite genre had one hell of a decade.

    Even though the decade is drawing to a close, for the horror genre, it feels like a new dawn. For decades, horror has often been relegated to B-movie fare and tended to be considered a lesser-than genre outlier. In the 2010s, however, horror has emerged as a dominant force at the box office. Tumultuous times call for provocative movies that explore our deepest, darkest fears through the safety of our seats, and audiences have craved scares on the big screen these past 10 years like no other.

    The landscape of how we consume film has changed dramatically, as well. Now, we’re just as likely to consume film from the comfort of our own homes through streaming platforms or digital rentals, if not more so, as we are to have the traditional theatrical experience. The digital landscape hasn’t just changed how we consume film, but how these films are made. It’s allowed a slew of innovative, new filmmakers to start making films with a creative intimacy and fearlessness like never before.  The sheer volume of ferocious horror films by bold new voices that debuted this decade is astounding, and this list is a clear reflection of that.

    Horror has connected us entirely on an international scale, as well, redefining the boundaries of the genre along the way. Genre films from Poland, Iran, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, and beyond have put out horror films that defy convention and classification, yet chill us to our core just the same.  More than any other decade, the 2010s have taught us that horror can come from anywhere and everywhere, and we can’t get enough. Whether major theatrical productions or micro-budgeted indies, you don’t have to look far to find stellar genre offerings these days.

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    From major box office franchise starters to early adopters of the Stephen King renaissance to even the avant-garde and experimental, the 2010s have delivered an embarrassment of riches in horror. Even more exciting is the promise of what’s to come from all the bold new voices. Enough looking ahead, though. While horror’s future is robust, now is the time to reflect upon the memorable bone-chilling seeds or terror planted this decade.

    –Meagan Navarro
    Contributing Writer

     


    25. Spring (2013)

    Spring (Drafthouse Films)

    Spring (Drafthouse Films)

    The creature feature has never been as poignant or as romantic as it is in Spring. Think Before Sunrise, but with talons and tentacles. Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead staked a significant claim in indie horror with this stunning and genre-bending meet-cute of a troubled man from the U.S. and the mysterious woman from Italy with a dark, deadly secret. A whimsical romance abroad flirts with imminent danger, yet an emotional earnestness grounds it. Benson and Moorhead elevate a simple story with suspenseful sequences, captivating creature transformations, and ingenious defiance of genre convention that claws its way into your heart. –Meagan Navarro


    24. The Lure (2016)

    The Lure (Kino Świat)

    The Lure (Kino Świat)

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    Hailing from Poland, The Lure marries the grim origins of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid with a fevered disco dream awash in a neon haze. Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska makes one powerful feature debut by infusing a fairy tale coming-of-age story with autobiographical elements from her youth, including the film’s seedy night club setting. For her lead mermaid sisters, Golden and Silver, genres collide as they navigate their way through lust, love, and the exploitive nature of the modern world. A psychedelic and wild overture that seamlessly blends styles and tone, Smoczyńska delivered a profoundly assured and captivating horror musical that makes her one to watch. –Meagan Navarro


    23. The Devil’s Candy (2015)

    The Devil's Candy (IFC Midnight)

    The Devil’s Candy (IFC Midnight)

    The tortured artist tale gets a Satanic facelift in Sean Byrne’s sophomore feature. In a subversion of its usual role in horror, here heavy metal is a savior for the struggling artist tempted by the demonic force inhabiting his family’s new home. Byrne creates a feeling of unease and a haunting atmosphere that requires the viewer to fill in the rest of the blanks, but the film’s biggest asset is its impressive character development. Ethan Embry delivers a standout performance as the father torn between his profound love for his family and the allure of artistic success. The riveting emotional heartbeat carries us through the entire film, straight into the fiery pits of hell. –Meagan Navarro


    22. The House That Jack Built (2018)

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    The House That Jack Built (IFC Films)

    The House That Jack Built (IFC Films)

    The House That Jack Built is a comedy from Lars von Trier. Simple as that. Watching Matt Dillon seamlessly trade one coat for the next —  from reclusive creeps to would-be drill sergeants, dickhead boyfriends to ticking time bombs — warrants the kind of twisted humor that would make Bret Easton Ellis blush. That’s not to say it isn’t terrifying, though: At a hefty 155 minutes, this Dantesque dissertation on the serialized depravity of its lead character — and our own carnal obsessions with his every move — refuses to pull its punches. This is MoMa gore with myriad brutality on full display, mostly because von Trier knows we wouldn’t have it any other way. –Michael Roffman


    21. Gerald’s Game (2017)

    Gerald's Game (Netflix)

    Gerald’s Game (Netflix)

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    Stephen King’s 1992 novel takes place almost exclusively from the confines of a single room, where protagonist Jessie Burlingame lies handcuffed to the bed. Most of her harrowing journey was internal. Meaning, no one believed it could translate to screen. Enter Mike Flanagan, who transformed an impossible-to-adapt novel into a compelling psychological and visceral horror movie. At the forefront of this adaptation is a powerfully complex and raw performance by Carla Gugino. The physicality of it is impressive; every bit of Jessie’s discomfort, pain, and fear is keenly felt. Her emotional journey moves at a brisk speed, punctuated by euphoric triumph and moments of stark terror. –Meagan Navarro


    20. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

    10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures)

    10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures)

    Who needs gigantic, city-decimating monsters when you have John Goodman? 10 Cloverfield Lane is only tenuous in its connection to its predecessor. Instead, it forms its thesis around the concept that humans can be just as terrifying as any monster. A chamber piece potboiler where Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a woman trapped with a controlling stranger (Goodman), Dan Trachtenberg’s feature debut is a masterclass on claustrophobic paranoia and palpable tension that leaves you breathless. A polished script, smart production design, two central leads that bring their A-game, and a series of twists culminates in an exceptional case study on fear and the capacity for evil. –Meagan Navarro


    19. A Quiet Place (2018)

    A Quiet Place (Paramount Pictures)

    A Quiet Place (Paramount Pictures)

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    A great premise goes a long way, especially in this genre, and A Quiet Place is a dream pitch straight outta the elevator. A post-apocalyptic world forced into silence by mysterious monsters? Don’t tell Roger Corman! Fortunately for Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, they found John Krasinski, who turned their spooky farmstead story into a blockbuster thrill ride (and soon-to-be franchise for Paramount). Behind-the-scenes guff aside, A Quiet Place excels from juicing every ounce of its billion-dollar premise and tossing audiences into a world that’s both constrained and enlivened by its strict set of rules. It’s survivalist horror with ungodly stakes — and please, no popcorn. –Michael Roffman

     


    18. It (2016)

    It (Warner Bros.)

    It (Warner Bros.)

    Andy Muschietti tapped into something special with It. Blame it on the popularity of Stranger Things, the meme-ability of Pennywise, or the simple fact that Hollywood had been sleeping on Stephen King for nearly a decade, but his adaptation didn’t just scare up box office records, it created a phenomenon. It was warranted. Jump scares and CGI notwithstanding, Muschietti plumbed the depths of King’s 1986 tome, capturing the small town ethos that makes his worlds so affecting … and terrifying. That’s not easy. Neither is casting seven believable kids, and yet it’s impossible not to root for The Losers’ Club, which is why this coming-of-age blockbuster found everyone floating in 2017. –Michael Roffman


    17. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

    A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Vice Films)

    A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Vice Films)

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    When you think you’ve seen it all, a new voice in horror emerges to prove there’s a lot of new life left even in the most tired of subgenres. In this case, that unique voice is director Ana Lily Amirpour, who ushered forth the first Iranian Western film ever made. Let that sink in. Amirpour wasn’t just content to stop at there; her heavily styled, ultra-cool B&W vampire film pulsed Iranian New Wave, spaghetti western, pulp noir, horror, and graphic novels together in a blender to create something wholly unprecedented. With tremendous confidence, Amirpour’s debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is a sumptuous aural and visual feast that electrifies with every frame. –Meagan Navarro


    16. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

    The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight)

    The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight)

    With a claustrophobic premise recalling the glory days of John Carpenter and the dusty works of Edgar Allen Poe, André Øvredal‘s The Autopsy of Jane Doe goes down like a pumpkin spice latte in October. At the center of it all are two A-list performances by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, who sell each and every one of their supernatural revelations with palpable terror and dread. Where so many filmmakers of his generation would reach for the Jack in the Box, Øvredal exercises patience as he slowly pulls the thread on his story. What unfolds is a chilling ghost story, the kind he would later adapt for the screen with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and a Friday night rental for the ages. –Michael Roffman


    15. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

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    Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

    Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

    A haunting examination of Mexico’s drug trade collateral damage, Issa López crafted a compelling debut that merges blood-drenched realism with the terrifying surrealism of a child’s imagination. This modern horror fairytale follows a group of orphaned children evading the cartel that murdered their parents while dodging ghosts. Following in the wake of Guillermo del Toro, López merges horror convention with fantasy and an engaging young cast to offer up a profound viewing experience guaranteed to elicit chills and leave you in tears. Above all, it will have you shouting the beloved characters’ favorite anthem, “Tigers are not afraid!” –Meagan Navarro


    14. I Saw the Devil (2011)

    I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

    I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

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    Revenge is one of the most common threads in South Korean cinema, so much so that their brand of gory, twisted revenge thriller has carved out a niche in film on an international scale. There are countless, often memorable, Korean revenge thrillers available. Yet, all pale in comparison to genre master Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil . An uncompromising and profoundly affecting tour de force that’s so shocking and depraved in its violence, it’s almost too easy to overlook what an accomplished masterwork this is in filmmaking. It casts a captivating spell, even when the stomach-churning tragedies continue to mount. –Meagan Navarro


    13. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

    Bone Tomahawk (RLJ Entertainment)

    Bone Tomahawk (RLJ Entertainment)

    S. Craig Zahler came out of the gate screaming, hollering, and bludgeoning anyone who got in his way with Bone Tomahawk. For his feature-length debut, the muscular filmmaker delivered an unforgiving Western horror, tearing apart our favorite genre stars one by one. Literally. Have you ever seen someone hacked away from the groin up? Look no further. Or maybe look away! Zahler doesn’t care, and that unflinching attitude is why the film’s so chilling. Never once do you feel safe, always on high alert, scanning his frontier portraits for any signs of danger. It’s there, though. From cannibalistic Native Americans to runaway thieves, this is how the West was won — one appendage at a time. –Michael Roffman


    12. The Witch (2015)

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    The Witch (A24)

    The Witch (A24)

    The 2010s was in no short supply of prestige horror, and Robert Eggers’ Sundance stunner The Witch will forever rank high among them. A Puritanical nightmare, sequestered in the backwoods of an aimless America, this slice of historical terror is at once both beautiful and unnerving. Anya Taylor-Joy leads the way, navigating through familial dread and whatever lies within the woods. There’s something out there, alright, and Eggers ensures her journey  is not without its share of bloodshed and deceptive farm animals. Between its candlelit cinematography and rustic set designs, The Witch is a career-making effort for Eggers, and proof that redemption wears many hats. –Michael Roffman


    11. Under the Shadow (2016)

    Under the Shadow (XYZ Films)

    Under the Shadow (XYZ Films)

    Writer and director Babak Anvari uses a chilling ghost story to thread together themes of oppression, rebellion, and feminism without ever feeling heavy-handed or overcrowded. In his feature film debut, no less. Set in 1988, in a war-ravaged Tehran, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her daughter are left alone to cope with their strained bond amidst social pressures and the looming threat of bomb explosions and a haunting supernatural presence. Using old school horror techniques to craft an unsettling atmosphere and effective jump scares that pack a serious wallop, Anvari shifts between family drama and claustrophobic nightmare with ease in Under the Shadow. –Meagan Navarro


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