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The 50 Best Horror Movies of the Decade

Monsters, killers, cults, and more… these are the best horror films of the decade as decided by eight horror-loving nerds with internet access.
Decade Rewind Best Horror
By  · Published on October 31st, 2019

This very special list is both the end of our 31 Days of Horror series and the beginning of our Decade Rewind, which runs throughout November.

There are a lot of things that have gone horribly wrong for the world over the past decade, but the quality of horror movies reaching our eyeballs from around the globe is not among them. Between theaters, Blu-ray, streaming, and festivals fans of genre thrills have little to complain about. The great ones rarely find big success at the box-office, but there are plenty of them out there if you make the effort to look. As this decade — 2010 to 2019 — comes to a close, we decided to do just that and look back over ten years of horror cinema in order to celebrate the best of the best.

Who’s “we” exactly? Well, if FSR is a big, happy family of film fans then the Boo Crew is made up of those of us whose movie tastes run dark, weird, gory, and wet. We love all kinds of movies, of course, but our twisted little hearts belong to the dark arts, and that means we’ve seen thousands of horror films over the last ten years from the good to the bad to the ugly. So join Chris CoffelValerie EttenhoferKieran FisherBrad GullicksonMeg ShieldsJacob TrussellAnna Swanson, and myself as we put that knowledge and subjective taste to use with a ranked list of the decade’s 50 best horror movies.

We’re a democracy of eight meaning the list below isn’t the taste of a single person — several of my personal favorites failed to make the cut including The Den (2013) and Deadman Inferno (2015) — and that in turn guarantees a terrifically varied look at the best the decade has to offer. (This is a celebration, though, so with that in mind each of us have snuck in an extra movie, ones that didn’t make the list but that we want to highlight anyway.) As with the rest of our 31 Days of Horror Lists, these results are arrived at through a combination of 90% math and 10% editorial veto power. That editor is me, so if you have a problem with what’s here, the order, or what’s missing, be sure to email your mom and she’ll get it to me ASAP. And now, without further yammering, here are the 50 Best Horror Movies of the Decade!

Red Dots

50. It: Chapter One (2017)

In 2017, It: Chapter One seemed poised to kick off a Renaissance of Stephen King adaptations.Two years and at least six adaptations later, and nothing has even come close to matching this coming-of-age masterpiece. Part horror story, part adventure comedy, part coming-of-age saga, this sprawling retelling of King’s killer clown epic hits all the beats that are essential to the author’s greatest works. Bill Skarsgaard may be the face of Pennywise, and his full-body performance is one for the ages, but it’s the very real adult fears — abuse, bigotry, loneliness, mortality, and more — that most threaten to isolate our adolescent heroes. The scariest sequences genuinely shock and upset, as when Pennywise taunts the kids at Neibolt House, but the moments of levity and that pure, perfectly channeled joy that comes with the discovery of a first best friend group are just as memorable. The entire child cast of the Loser’s Club has gone on to do interesting other projects (including other horror films) after these star-making roles, which makes this nostalgia-heavy film already feel like a bit of a time capsule. The good news is, you can always go back to Derry. (Val Ettenhofer)

49. The Tall Man (2012, Canada)

I get it. You watched Pascal Laugier’s brilliantly structured, socially damning follow-up to his masterpiece, 2008’s Martyrs, scoffed at the narrative turn in the back half, and decided it wasn’t for you. Well that’s your loss, because The Tall Man is a horror film that shifts effortlessly between truly terrifying elements resulting in a movie that delivers as a genre gem while also landing with a heavy punch to the heart and gut. Jessica Biel shines in a darkly unglamorous role as a woman whose child is abducted by a vicious phantom — or is she? The story flips in smart, affecting ways while retaining a focus on the singular key horror of children in imminent danger, and while it tests viewer loyalties it does so in ways that encourage thought, debate, and empathy in ways the genre rarely touches. I’ve written an entire defense of The Tall Man, but it’s filled with spoilers, so if you’ve yet to see this uniquely crafted and daring horror flick don’t read it yet. Give the movie a chance… hell, give the movie a second chance, and marvel as the pieces fall into place with a film that goes above and beyond by giving far more than most genre fare even attempts. (Rob Hunter)

48. Piranha 3-D (2010)

This B-movie exploitation throwback is a maximalist delight that is buoyed (ha!) by director Alexandre Aja’s undeniable skill and love for well-crafted gore. The premise is simple: Spring break. College kids in a lake. Flesh-hungry piranhas. What more could any of you want? Piranha 3-D is a movie that knows what it is and never purports to be anything other than a good old fashioned, bloody, bananas schlockfest. Sure, “elevated” might be the horror buzzword for the 2010s, but Piranha 3-D excels by going in the opposite direction: straight down to the depths of its aquatic setting until it dredges up every over-the-top kill scene that a horror fan could hope for. And then, naturally, it goes back for seconds. (Anna Swanson)

47. As Above, So Below (2014)

One of the great under-seen genre gems of the decade, As Above, So Below hits a horror sweet spot by balancing thrilling adventure with a smorgasbord of unnerving moments and images. The plot alone is auspicious enough: an alchemic scholar (Perdita Weeks) teams up with her ex (Ben Feldman, who should be in everything) and a group that includes a cameraman and tour guide in order to scour the Paris catacombs in search of Nicholas Flamel’s legendary philosopher’s stone. The Indiana Jones-lite plot gives way to a series of horrors as the group discovers, in frightening increments, that the dingy, shadowy catacombs may be a gateway to someplace even darker. John Erick Dowdle’s direction utilizes a handheld camera POV better than almost any other horror film, making nearly every shot an anticipatory setup as the group rounds corner after corner, shining a light on a seemingly endless string of horrors as they go. Even in its freakiest moments, As Above, So Below never forfeits its surprisingly layered mythology, and Weeks’ brainy, fearless Scarlett is a character deserving of her own franchise. (Val Ettenhofer)

46. Overlord (2018)

In a decade sorely lacking in A-level action horror, Overlord easily triumphs. Armed with the pulpy glee of EC Comics and the narrative clarity of the best B-Movies, Overlord sees a group of American soldiers dropped into a French town with a serious Nazi problem… and a secret. With limited time, and a tower to blow up, our Yankee heroes must race against the clock to complete their objective, come hell or high horror. Speaking of which: damn. Mashing genres and body parts in equal measure, Overlord is like someone put Saving Private Ryan and Re-Animator in a blender, and it kicks all kinds of ass. Always a pleasure to see this much inventive, full-frontal gore on the big screen. It’s the best video game movie that isn’t based on a video game, and it’ll take you to church. Wait… no, not that church—wait! NO! (Meg Shields)

Horror Hagazussa

45. Hagazussa (2017, Austria)

Slow as molasses and as richly sublime as the best Romantic artworks, this atmospheric horror masterwork is a testament to the merits of a slow pace. Set in the 15th century Austrian Alps, Hagazussa explores the freedom and terror that come from a life spent fending for oneself. The film revolves around Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen), an isolated goat farmer who aims to make her way in the world while the supernatural lurks at her periphery. Director Lukas Feigelfeld expertly balances his expansive location with his narrative’s interest in the claustrophobic confines of existence itself. Contemplative, foreboding, and genuinely saddening, this film allows unease to slowly creep in until the feeling of dread consumes all. Hagazussa is the ultimate example of a film where nothing happens and everything happens; it sneaks up on you, taking its time but imbuing each frame with an eerie sense of misery. It is, as the kids say, a mood. (Anna Swanson)

Bonus! Baskin (2015, Turkey)

When the word of Can Evrenol’s Baskin started slithering its way into the horror community, it was met with dangerously hyperbolic statements like “pure nightmare fuel” and “insane descent into hell”. A normal movie wouldn’t be able to live up to such lofty appraisal, but Baskin isn’t a normal movie. While the Turkish film – about cops responding to a call in a remote abandoned building – clearly is drawing from Clive Barker, Lucio Fulci, and a little H.P. Lovecraft, Evrenol doesn’t put all of his weight onto his influences. Rather he pulls inspiration from each of these masters of horror to make something truly unique. It’s bursting at the seams with violent gore, cyclical dream logic, and incredible surrealistic imagery evocative of artists like Zdzisław Beksiński and Rene Magritte. Not to add to the hyperbole around the film, but Baskin is a monumental achievement of art house horror. It transcends mere splatter film to become a true work of art. Something that would have made Luis Buñuel say “Holy fuck, dude.” (Jacob Trussell)

44. Scream 4 (2011)

Die-hard fans of the franchise know there’s no such thing as a bad Scream movie. The sequels to the 1996 classic are dated, sure, but each is a cleverly set-up window into the Hollywood ideologies of its time period. Scream 4 was released in 2011, a year during which 18 of the top 20 U.S. box office films were some form of sequel, spin-off, adaptation, or reboot. Naturally, the film has a lot on its mind regarding the dearth of original content that would go on to preoccupy us for the rest of this decade. Core cast members Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette all return for what would ultimately turn out to be horror master Wes Craven’s final film, while franchise newcomers like Emma Roberts, Hayden Pannetierre, and scene-stealing Rory Culkin (who plays the film’s requisite movie nerd, this time a Very Online teen) round out the cast. Scream 4 manages to keep the franchise fresh after 15 years, and it’s got a go-big-or-go-home attitude that teeters wonderfully between parody and true horror. (Val Ettenhofer)

43. Cargo (2017, Australia)

All we’re looking for nowadays from a zombie movie is to be surprised. By anything. Just one unique take on the well worn ghoul that doesn’t remind us of something The Walking Dead has already beaten to death is a win in my book. So with Cargo, writers/directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling take all of the familiar tropes — survivors bobbing and weaving between the undead, the “monsters of men” — and drop them into a new environment (the Australian bush) from a fresh perspective (a widower, racing against the clock to bring his daughter to safety before he goes full zombie and eats her) that absolutely revitalizes a sub-genre that’s been going through the motions for almost two decades now. Cargo is the natural progression of the type of films George A. Romero made his name creating. It’s a new story that makes tired tropes feel alive again. (Jacob Trussell)

42. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Ana Lily Amirpour’s confident debut, a morose horror western told in B&W will be rightfully remembered for playing with vampire tropes and twisting them to give us a fresh feminist perspective to an overly patriarchal archetype. But what is also surprising, and less discussed, is its tender view towards masculinity in the film’s toxic environment. Sheila Vand, the titular girl, is drawn towards Arash (Arash Marandi) because he breaks her perception of what masculinity can be. Surprise! We don’t always woo the ladies by doing rails of coke before pumping iron over the worst techno Iran has to offer. It’s mad how progressive it is that a man just listening is refreshing, but as we untie the bundle of snakes that has defined masculinity for centuries, having young men be seen as caring and compassionate is vital, and it’s also an indicator to Amirpour’s future. She is a writer/director looking for the important truths we need to hear today, refreshingly told through familiar stories we’ve heard forever. (Jacob Trussell)

41. They Look Like People (2015)

Horror films come in all shapes and sizes, and while I love monsters, maulings, and mayhem as much as the next Boo Crew member I also have a soft spot for quieter horrors. Credit my affection in part to the stories of the late Charles L. Grant who crafted tales that seem gentle at first glance only to reveal they sliced your throat and stabbed your heart on page one — and you didn’t even notice until it’s far too late. Which brings me to writer/director/everything Perry Blackshear’s harrowing, devastating, and ultimately terrifying feature debut. It’s a simple tale involving old friends, both lost in life and dealing with rejections and depression, but one is sicker than he’s let on. Voices in his head have revealed an unsavory truth, that many of the people around him are actually demons invading our world and dedicated to humanity’s destruction. The voices seem sincere, the visions feel real, and the only response is to kill the demons first. Are they real, or is it all in his head? The film delivers a tense, frightening, and fist-clenching slow burn seemingly destined to end poorly for those around him, and viewers will feel every anguished thought, cry, and suspenseful beat. (Rob Hunter)

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.