This article is part of our 2023 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best horror movies of 2023 from all around the world.
Real life is endlessly scary as the unknown is literally right around the corner each and every day. We live like it’s not, but we know it is, and that’s part of why we love horror movies so damn much. The terror, scares, thrills, and unease that the best ones make us feel are cathartic stand-ins for reality, and it’s a high we genre fans chase throughout each and every year.
The fifteen titles below are the best horror films released in 2023… that I’ve seen. That last bit is important as no one can see everything, and I’ve definitely missed some horror movies this year. So with that understanding, these are the movies to watch if you crave nerve-jangling thrills and chilly fun.
Keep reading for a ranked look at the best horror movies of 2023.
15. Leave the World Behind (USA)
Some of you will be wondering how this, a Netflix film that most people belittled and quickly moved on from, has landed on a list of the year’s best horror movies. Well the answer is simple and comes in two parts — this is my list, and this is one of the year’s best horror films. To be fair, it doesn’t quite look like a traditional horror film, what with its Netflix lighting palette, big stars (Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Bacon, Myha’la), and initial setup that appears to be exploring race and class discrepancies. Stick with it, though, and director Sam Esmail‘s second feature (after 2014’s underseen Comet) becomes an entertaining, unnerving, and undeniably slick descent into existential horror. It’s an apocalypse of uncertainty and fear, delivered with dark humor, a glorious cynicism, and a pitch-perfect ending. Hell, it’s arguably the best “Shyamalan film” since 2002’s Signs, and that’s no small potatoes.
14. Brooklyn 45 (USA)
While most of the entries on this list find horror in monsters, gore, vicious killers, and more, the latest from director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here, 2015) offers up some deceptively quieter terrors. A chamber piece run through with the supernatural, the tale unfolds in a single room as a small group of friends gather for misguided purposes. A ghostly presence makes itself known, but like Clive Barker before him, Geoghegan knows that the true monsters come in human form. Sharp dialogue, characters and performances that take hold in their familiar desperation and doubts, and some dark surprises await. Gorehounds should temper their expectations — but on that count, come on Geoghegan, when we getting another fantastically wet Fulci riff? — but fans of softer, more emotionally affecting horror should settle in for a treat.
13. The Conference (Sweden)
Going in to work each day can be a bummer for numerous reasons, and chief among them is often the people known as your coworkers. Now imagine going on a “vacation” with those same people under the guise of a work retreat. Lucky for these folks, a serial killer is also along for the ride to liven things up a bit. This Swedish slasher delivers some legitimately fun horror/comedy vibes and beats as an engaging ensemble find themselves targeted by a mask-wearing murderer prone to mixing things up with some creatively satisfying kills. Director Patrik Eklund and friends also ensure the film looks good with vibrant cinematography and lighting that will make you do a double take as to its Netflix Original origins. And while too many horror films stumble in the third act, The Conference nails its finale and leaves a smile on your face.
12. Evil Dead Rise (USA)
The Evil Dead franchise, much like the undead monstrosities who call it home, refuses to stay dead. Kicking off in 1981 with Sam Raimi’s vicious little original and continuing on through a direct sequel/remake, a comical, time-hopping trilogy capper, a brutal and excellent redo in 2013, and even a television series, the latest entry comes courtesy of writer/director Lee Cronin. Two adult sisters, the three kids who call them mom and aunt, respectively, and some spooky mojo that soon leads to possession, all of it leading to some terrifically cruel and mean-spirited carnage. The familiar cabin in the woods is traded out for a high-rise condo, but the gory, messy, and sometimes darkly humorous antics remain resulting in a grimly entertaining ride that should keep the franchise’s many fans happy until the next one.
11. The Nun II (USA)
This sequel to 2018’s monster hit still managed blockbuster box-office, but the critical reception was far chillier. That’s nuts as director Michael Chaves‘ third time at bat in the Conjuring Universe is far and away his best effort yet — Hell, it’s arguably his first good film as both 2019’s The Curse of La Llorona and 2021’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It are fairly dull affairs that fail to find real thrills. — as the film ups the ante on its predecessor in every way. Characters both good and evil are memorable, the lore is plentiful, and the scares find new life through some entertaining set-pieces that move well beyond spooky jumpscares. Equally good is the always great Taissa Farmiga who gets to step up from the passive role she played in the first film to deliver a far more proactive protagonist who you’ll be rooting for as she goes toe to toe against evil. That’s right, nun fight!
10. Saw X (USA)
Ten films into the franchise, and Saw X makes the smart play of pressing pause on the usual shenanigans to instead give viewers an unseen chapter in John “Jigsaw” Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) life. I’m not the biggest fan of the series as a whole — the first film is still great, but the rest feel like a mix of high points (cool kills, general absurdity) and low points (everything else). Here, though, Kramer is turned into a protagonist of sorts who takes aim on those actively exploiting ill people for profit. You want to see these bastards pay, and pay they do. It’s basically a B-movie entry in the Equalizer franchise in that sense, but the kills are gorier and it still has a few tricks up its sleeves.
9. The Sacrifice Game (Canada)
It’s never a bad time to find a new Christmas horror gem, so consider this me strongly suggesting you add Jenn Wexler‘s sophomore feature to your holiday horror rotation immediately. A handful of stragglers alone at a private school over Christmas break see death, terror, and devilish surprises getting in the way of their holiday fun — so yes, it’s exactly like The Holdovers — when some demonically motivated killers come calling. Wexler and co-writer Sean Redlitz give viewers a simple enough setup before peeling back some fun twists and turns, and it all unfolds with a healthy dose of holiday atmosphere, engaging visuals, and satisfying kills.
8. Thanksgiving (USA)
Time for another slasher as Eli Roth‘s triumphant return to good, fun, horror-movie filmmaking is a winner across the board. Thanksgiving might be absent of the explicitness found in Roth’s faux trailer from 2007’s Grindhouse, but it’s absolutely stuffed with treats for horror fans in the form of bloody deaths, some genuine scares, and a clear love for the slasher subgenre. Roth and writer Jeff Rendell pack their movie with all manner of goodies ensuring it will become both a holiday horror staple and a film that leaves fans clamoring for leftovers (even if the villain claims there will be none). It sits comfortably among the best of the 21st century slashers, in part because the script wisely avoids the trendy need for meta elements and/or a commentary of some sort. This is an old school slasher executed with modern proficiencies, and fans of 2009’s triple slasher punch of My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th, and Sorority Row will be happy campers indeed.