Halloween has always been one of the more spectacular events of the year, especially for me. It’s a time that allows me to pull together my favorite horrors and ghost stories and celebrate them. And to think, we’re officially SIX weeks closer to Halloween than when this journey began.
I’ve had the absolute honor sharing this list with you and I hope you have enjoyed the twists and turns of the countdown as our ghostwriter G.C. delves into the rules of horror, foreign films we may never have heard of and paints a beautiful picture of how directors develop throughout their careers.
As we jump into the final ten movies, we get to see exactly what qualities make a horror movie truly spectacular.
This week, we celebrate our final Friday the 13th of the decade and as a special gift to you G.C. has put together two more Bonus List: The best Anthology Films of the last decade and The best Found Footage Films of the last decade – which celebrates on of my personal favorite horror sub-genres.
If you’ve missed out on the beginning of the countdown or want to reference it, everything can be found on my new page: Horror Corner.
10. Kill List (2012)
The scariest hit man movie ever made, but forget I said that. The key is in not knowing what to expect from a film that starts as a British kitchen sink drama about a family feeling the economic crunch and leanly transmogrifies into something increasingly stranger and more visceral. The tunnel sequence near the film’s end is in the running for scariest scene of the decade.
9. Annihilation (2018)
Annihilation is one of my favorite kinds of movies, and one of the best movies of its kind. The kind I’m talking about is a film that sends its protagonists on a journey into uncharted territory, where each deliberately paced moment sends them deeper into the fray and reveals some new and often visual discovery about the world that is more intriguing than the last, essentially getting better with each passing minute. Blending highbrow sci-fi, horror, action and adventure films into a hypnotic whole, Annihilation contains mysteriously beautiful images and concepts that make the mind ponder existence and evolution, culminating in the most avant-garde sequence in a mainstream thing since Twin Peaks: The Return, and perhaps the most abstract climax in a major sci-fi film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, featuring a terrifying dance with the unknown, made all the more terrifying by the suggestion that the greatest unknown could possibly be oneself. If that sequence is too vague for some, there’s one earlier in the film that ranks among the great scare scenes of the decade, involving a mutated bear with the distorted voice of one of its human victims.
8. I Saw the Devil (2011)
If Oldboy is the quintessential modern revenge film, then Korean bedfellow I Saw the Devil is the one that somehow devised a way to, if not necessarily top it, add enough new wrinkles to the formula to make you believe that you were seeing a well-worn genre play out for the first time. A scary, intense and surprising ride so relentless it borders on exhausting, the film remains the most exhilarating horror movie of its time, as well as perhaps the best shot and most technically accomplished.
7. Raw (2017)
Stylish, atmospheric, gory, gross and unpredictable, Raw is the great French and feminist horror film of the decade, and equally wonderful as both a horror film and a collegiate coming-of-age drama. It’s a fight against heredity that homes in on the bizarre cruelty of initiation rights and sibling rivalry and the toll of living up and fitting in.
6. It Follows (2015)
One helluva premise, of course, but the key to It Follows is both the way it executes that premise – the slow-burning, neck-tingling, never-ending sensation of never knowing if something is following you, or what it even looks like, or if others can see it – as well as the dreamy atmosphere that is at once reminiscent of lazy hang-out summers and 80’s-movies while simultaneously heightening its dreamlike sense of disorientation by seeming to exist outside of time as it purposely avoids any era-specific references.
5a. The Witch (2016)
So authentic is The Witch in its period setting, dialogue/dialect and performances and so uncompromised in its storytelling that it makes no concessions to the viewer who enters looking for a thriller, but instead finds himself in the period itself, alongside a strictly religious family who has isolated themselves from those they’ve deemed less devout, from those who would rather live deliciously. The movie has its share of very scary moments but does not depend on them, instead instantly locking into one of the most unsettling atmospheres ever conjured in horror, almost Kubrickian in its control and use of music.
5b. The Lighthouse (2019)
Eggers’ second film, which I’ve seen only just recently seen once, is built with the same authenticity as The Witch, but is wilder, madder, and less classifiable, establishing the director as perhaps the best in his class.
4. The Babadook (2014)
Unlike most of the other films in the top six, The Babadook is an outlier in that it doesn’t rely on period aesthetics or stylish cinematography, but rather on the rhythm of its editing to give it a flavor as distinct as anything on this list. Sure, the Babadook itself is as artful as anything in horror, composed of pop-up book stylings and silent film imagery (at one point ingeniously inserted into classic Melies films being watched by the protagonist), but that monster is a more subtle and imaginative effect rather than the main course. The film first puts you on a knife’s edge via the escalating tantrums of a screaming child, cut in a perfectly unorthodox, jarring style as his single mother finds herself sleep deprived and at the end of her wits, and then shreds your nerves to pieces via the most sustained sequence of tension and terror of the decade, a 30-minute climax that twists, turns, combines and subverts the nature of the haunted house, possession, and descent-into-madness genres. Quite simply, The Babadook’s thematic vision is more complete than any other film on this list, a relatively effortless and far from overbearing study in grieving and loss that still manages to boldly suggest not a neat-and-tidy solution, but that you can’t get rid of your demons, only keep them at bay as life goes on. It’s that level of subtlety, ambiguity and clarity that sets The Babadook apart. Also, I had wanted to make a list of the best performances, but failed to do so. Essie Davis would probably take the top spot over her two formidable opponents up ahead, while the chill-inducing 2-minute sequence surrounding her “I AM YOUR MOTHER!” speech would place among the decade’s three scariest scenes. Chills every time I’ve watched it, and I must say that The Babadook is the film that has remained the scariest of any of these on repeat viewings.
3. Under the Skin (2014)
The best and perhaps most impenetrable film on this list would rank more highly if not for the fact that it grows less scary and more sympathetic throughout its runtime. The end is indeed scary, not for its haunting visuals so much as its sad, disturbing vision of mankind, but the first half of the film is driven by a tensely hypnotic, waking nightmare mood that is genuinely unnerving, topped off by frights and imagery that are perhaps more terrifying for being so abstract, and have already been copied many times since. For one thing, Eleven’s psychic dream space in Stranger Things would likely not exist without this film.
2. Hereditary (2018)
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a horror movie that allows grief to play out with such harrowing realism on screen, consuming its characters, affecting its tone with a somber heaviness, and carrying a dramatic weight that is evident in very few horror movies, causing this one to seem more mainstream than most genre films despite also being arguably scarier and more infused with dread than almost any modern genre equivalent. Like The Exorcist, Hereditary very well could have been nominated for Best Picture, and Toni Collette’s lead performance could have won Best Actress. While some have rebelled against Hereditary for being, it seems to me, too serious and overbearing, I don’t see how anyone could actually argue against its place as the single most terrifying film of the decade. And I say that as someone who will freely admit that it is easily my least favorite film of the entire top 20. Its aggressively intense final 20 minutes are rivaled only by those of The Babadook.
1. Get Out (2017)
This is perhaps a boring or predictable conclusion to this horror list, and it feels like a compromise that is also somewhat of an inevitability, and here’s why. Overall, Get Out is a better film than Hereditary, and more of a horror film than Under the Skin. And so on and so forth, that logic can be applied all up and down the list. It’s almost a certainty that Get Out is the most brilliantly written of all modern horror films, a deep and uncomfortably hilarious dive into America’s tense racial atmosphere that is as terrifically surprising as it is scary – just think back to the first time you saw it. It’s also nearly as strange as Being John Malkovich, a film which it surprisingly resembles, and as rewatchable as any great comedy. Rewatches are in fact a must, as it is the type of script wherein nearly every line of dialogue hides a double meaning that will only become apparent after knowing the many unpredictable twists of the plot. While not quite as viscerally scary as other films near the top of this list, Get Out displays a multi-layered tension that never wavers, and it proved to be that rarest of things, the rousing horror crowd pleaser, engaging theatergoers like few films I’ve ever seen. But it’s not a movie of the moment. Whether or not it deserves the top spot on this list or just achieved it due to having the best mixture of quality, depth and thrills, it’s certainly already a classic of multiple genres.
Further Breakdowns: Anthology Films and Found Footage
I don’t know why I picked these two categories, but I was drawn to them while making this list. Perhaps because they are defined by their structure/construction rather than their content.
10. VHS: Viral (2014)
9. The ABCs of Death (2013)
8. The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
7. Nightmare Cinema (2019)
6. V/H/S (2012)
5. Tales of Halloween (2015)
4. XX (2017)
3. V/H/S/2 (2013)
2. Ghost Stories (2018)
1. Southbound (2016)
27. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
26. VHS: Viral (2014)
25. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
24. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
23. As Above/So Below (2014)
22. Digging Up the Marrow (2015)
21. Blair Witch (2016)
20. The Houses October Built (2014)
19. V/H/S (2012)
18. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
17. Afflicted (2014)
16. Hangman (2016)
15. The Sacrament (2014)
14. V/H/S/2 (2013)
13. Trollhunter (2011)
12. The Den (2014)
11. The Visit (2015)
10. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
9. The Last Exorcism (2010)
8. Rec 2 (2010)
7. Willow Creek (2014)
6. The Bay (2012)
5. Creep (2015)
4. Creep 2 (2015)
3. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
2. Found Footage 3D (2016)
1. Unfriended (2015)
More Good Horror Movies of the 2010s
Looking at the consistently high quality and varied content of all the films in the top 101 brings a smile to my face. All films could be awarded 4-stars or better. What’s even better is when you take into account the 100-plus films I had already mentioned in my Unclassifieds, Underrateds, Further Favorites, Iconic Cuts, Slashed Films and Runners Up categories. What’s even better is that there’s so many more. I’ve listed the best of the remainder below. I’m proud of how the top 101 turned out – it more or less looks right to me – but I know I must have screwed up some exclusions, and some of these, in addition to many on the pre-lists, are just as worthy of attention.
47 Meters Down (2017), The Alchemist Cookbook (2016), Anna and the Apocalypse (2018), Antiviral (2013), Apostle (2018), The Babysitter (2017), Backcountry (2015), Bad Milo (2013), Before I Wake (2016), Bitter Feast (2010), Bloodsucking Bastards (2015), Carnage Park (2016), Citadel (2012), Crawl(2019), Dark Touch (2013), Darling (2016), The Dead (2011), Detention (2011), The Editor (2014), Emilie (2016), Excision(2012), Frozen (2010), The Hallow (2015), The Harvest (2015), Honeymoon (2014), A Horrible Way to Die (2011), Howl (2015), I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016), Incident in a Ghostland (2018), John Dies at the End (2013), Late Phases (2014), Let Us Prey (2014), The Little Stranger (2018), M.F.A. (2017), The Mind’s Eye (2015), Moebius (2014), The Monster (2016), Piercing (2019), Pod (2015), Pyewacket (2018), Rabies (2010), Ready or Not (2019), The Ritual (2018), Rubber(2011), The Shallows (2016), Stitches (2013), The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2014), Tragedy Girls (2017), Veronica(2017), The Voices (2015), The Void (2017), Wake Wood (2011), Warm Bodies (2013), We Are the Flesh (2017), Wolfcop (2014), The Woman in Black (2012), Wyrmwood (2015)
With the conclusion of the list I would like to personally extend a thank you to G.C. for sharing this incredible list with me and with all of you. It has been an honor to publish and now store such a fine tuned and intricate list on my ever-expanding website. I am humbled to have this opportunity and to get to share my passion for Horror and uplift someone else’s voice in the process.
To all of my lovely readers, thank you for being on this journey with me. All of this content will remain in the Horror Corner Tab of my blog allowing you to always reference it.
Drop a comment below sharing your favorite part of this list or to simply say thank you to G.C.!