The best horror movies aren’t just scary, they lurk in your memory long after you’ve left the comfort of your couch. Plus, the interesting thing is that they affect us all differently. One man’s The Exorcist could be another man’s The Conjuring. This also means that collecting the best horror movies in one place is quite challenging.
Anyhow, below is a list of 20 horror movies which we think fare the best.
Note: The movies below are in no particular order.
1. Us (2019)
Us follows the Wilson family as they head to a holiday home and take a trip to the beach. While they get ready for bed after a day of fun, a ‘family’ arrives in the drive – a ‘family’ that looks like a lot like them. They don’t have the most welcoming of demeanours and happen to be armed with a pair of ludicrously sharp scissors. Oh dear.
2. Hereditary (2018)
Home is where the heart is. It’s also where the worst horror lives. You know, hiding just beneath the surface of the perfect family life. Hereditary follows a similar strain wherein a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences after their matriarch passes away.
Nowhere during Hereditary‘s runtime will you feel that you can stop and take a breath or even guess what’s going to come next. The movie is a tour de force of modern horror that will leave you reeling long after its gruelling third act.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.
The movie introduced one of the scariest villains of all time – Freddy Krueger. Gory, tense, and full of over the top death scenes, A Nightmare on Elm Street brought something new to the horror genre which made it go down in history as one of the best horror movies ever made.
4. I’ll Take Your Dead (2018)
A man who disposes of bodies for gangsters in a nearby city faces a difficult decision when one of the ‘corpses’ turns out to still be alive.
I’ll Take Your Dead is frighteningly raw and takes a long hard look at human suffering and how that can skewer your perspective on almost everything, including your relationship with the people that you care about.
5. The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist follows the tale of Regan, the daughter of a successful movie actress who one day occupies herself in the basement playing with an ouija board. If you’ve wondered why your parents never allowed you to play with innocuous-looking objects, you can rest assured that young Regan had something to do with it. Using the ouija board as a gateway, an unwelcomed guest takes root in the little girl and the rest is cinema history.
6. Apostle (2018)
Apostle is set in 1905 and follows a man who infiltrates a religious cult on a remote island with the intention of rescuing his kidnapped sister.
The movie leaves the realm of the ‘real’ and embraces the supernatural, throwing in some horrific torture, surreal, nightmarish imagery, and even a couple of bone-crunching fights along the way. In an era of generic, formulaic horror, there aren’t many movies quite like Apostle.
7. Get Out (2017)
Get Out follows a young Afro-American and his girlfriend as they go upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. At first, he reads the family’s overly accommodating behaviour as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship. But as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Bubbling with resonant social commentary, Get Out draws the viewers’ attention to the real frightening truths rooted deep in the identity politics of contemporary America.
8. The Mist (2007)
The movie follows a freak storm which unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town. In an attempt to shield themselves from the horror, a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.
Adapted from Stephen King’s 1980 novella of the same name, The Mist is an unsettling and utterly hopeless film which stands in line with the most cynical and depressing classics from the good ol’ 70s.
9. Evil Dead (2013)
The age-old tale of woodland cabins and BOOKS YOU DEFINITELY SHOULDN’T READ, Evil Dead follows a drug addict who is taken to the worst intervention venue by her well-meaning brother and friends in an attempt to detox. The horror starts when her mind starts to get tormented and things slowly start to get much worse.
The movie delivers the most rampant, relentless, gruelling, and obsessively dedicated cavalcade of nightmarish disgust that’ll make it difficult to digest.
10. The Ritual (2017)
The Ritual follows four men as they go on a camping trip after the death of their friend. However, it is a holiday from hell like no other. While there are plenty of ‘humans go to the woods, terrible things ensue’ horrors out there, this movie dodges all of the predictable bullets.
11. Ringu (1998)
Based on an urban legend of a videotape that once watched, will result in one’s horrific death seven days later, Ringu presents the purest strain of Japanese horror. The pure nightmare of Reiko Asakawa’s investigation into the cursed tape is sheer nightmare fuel.
There’s a butt load of gore and bumps on screen but while we’re wrapped in a blanket and sipping tea, we like to believe that nothing can get us, right? Ringu upends that idea, not only with the infamous ‘cursed video’, but the idea that what we watch can change our lives – after watching a few frames of surrealist imagery, we’re marked for doom.
12. The Conjuring (2013)
Now expanded into a Marvel-style universe, this nasty piece of work ticks off all the right jump-scare filled boxes. Based on the real-life paranormal chapters of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the self-styled paranormal researchers attempt to save the Perron family from the horrors that haunt them.
13. The Descent (2005)
After the tragic death of Sarah’s family, her friends take her on a cave trip to make her feel better. From the moment the group descend into the darkness below the Appalachian mountains, it gets clear that getting back out into the light again is not going to be likely. If there was a dip in caving and bouldering trip attendance, it’s probably the fault of The Descent’s terrifying and claustrophobic creature feature.
14. REC (2007)
This film’s setup is similar to found footage horror movies. The crew of a morning TV show follows a team of firefighters when a call comes in about a woman behaving strangely in her apartment. And of course, the TV crew excitedly follow the emergency workers into, well, hell.
REC ramps up slowly and expertly – you won’t realise just how tense you are until a little too late. REC is a claustrophobic nightmare and its ‘found footage package’ is painfully realistic and believable.
15. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Five teenagers head off for a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. When the cellar door flings open, they go down to investigate and stumble upon a book. But when one of the women reads a passage from it, she unleashes a horror they were never prepared to brace.
The Cabin in the Woods will tackle plenty of your phobias. This is a creature feature like you’ve never seen before with gallons of gore and every nasty creature you’d ever imagine lurking in the dark.
16. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This ‘found footage horror’ follows 3 young documentary makers as they journey to Burkittsville. They start off interviewing the locals about the local legend of The Blair Witch, a particularly nasty tale you’d hope was just to keep children eating their veggies, before heading into the woods where the witch apparently resides. Let’s just say that it doesn’t really go well for them.
The Blair Witch Project stands as a landmark for being the cornerstone that pushed the ‘found footage’ format into the mainstream. The cinematography, if one would call it that, was so real that people actually believed that it was a true story.
17. Suspiria (1977)
Less of a movie and more of an assault on your senses, Suspiria follows a young dancer as she arrives at a famous ballet school. Unfortunately, she doesn’t heed the girl running in the other direction and finds herself surrounded by horrific murder as young women are picked off one by one.
Note: The soundtrack is so disturbing that you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled across Hell’s playlist on Spotify. So yeah, nothing about the movie is easy to experience.
18. The Babadook (2014)
The tale of a young grieving widow trying to look after her young son, The Babdook is a movie that sneaks under your skin and stays there. It also makes you ask a lot of questions – what would you do with a pop-up book about a creepy black-clad figure in a top hat? Would you read it to your already traumatised young son? And how would you deal with the ‘haunting’ that follows?
19. It Follows (2014)
While the 21st-century lore about a sexually transmitted curse sounds like it should’ve been scrapped by the studio that produced it, It Follows is genuinely a horrific experience in all the right ways. The horror manifests itself when a teenager who is plagued by ghosts that no one else can see ‘passes’ it on to his partner.
Technically, the grim plodding nasty of It Follows comes to get you if you literally, well, do the nasty.
20. 28 Days Later (2002)
28 Days Later follows the same strain as The Walking Dead – a man wakes up in a hospital bed, much like Karl, he staggers out into an apocalyptic London that will never be the same again.
Replete with a heartbreaking as well as heart-pounding soundtrack, 28 Days Later feels like the truest glimpse at the modern British apocalypse as the survivors quest for safety in Scotland.