The Best Horror Movies of the 2010s
When the previous decade ended I hadn’t yet risen from the dead so I couldn’t join in on the festivities of all the lists that appeared, celebrating the 2010s. In an attempt to rectify that I thought it would be fun, given what time of the year it is, to list my favourite horror movies of the past decade. I will declare the best horror movie of each year, along with honourable mentions, and then have the audacity to say which year was the best in general.
But why do this now? Because a lot of people like more recent movies and aren’t always sold on watching films when they’re considered older. I figured this would be a good time to shine light on the best horror movies released over the last decade.
There’s a few things to note before I continue. Like any list, this is just my personal opinion and I encourage you to give me your own list. I am not a horror aficionado; the genre is fine and has some truly amazing movies but there are genres I certainly enjoy more. I will have missed plenty of horror flicks that you may like.
It doesn’t have to strictly be a horror film, meaning that it could just be horror-tinged. Action horror, horror comedy, psychological horror, science fiction horror–as long as I see it associated with horror on a website such as IMDB I included it. This means that I’m not saying that these are necessarily the scariest horror films of the decade, just my favourite.
Some of the release dates may seem off. That’s because release schedules are weird due to festival dates and wide release dates. IMDB might say 2017 because of one showing somewhere but the film itself didn’t see a more public release until even two years later. I usually count the wide release date as the year in which it qualifies but due to the nature of it, a film technically has multiple opportunities to qualify. However, once I choose it for a year it gets stuck in that year.
Enough house cleaning, let’s get on with the show. Welcome to my favourite horror movies of the 2010s.
2010: A Solid Year, Headed up by a Horror Comedy
Best: Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Honourable Mentions: The Last Exorcism, Splice, Let Me In, Insidious, Paranormal Activity 2.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil was recommended to me because around the same time–which was actually years after release–I finally sat down and watched the Evil Dead franchise. I fell in love with Evil Dead, and while this is not to that level, I was enamoured by these lovable idiots who were not at all evil but kept falling into horror tropes.
It’s hilarious watching these guys try to be nice, only to watch the people they’re trying to save die in front of them. The way the flick plays with expectations and the genre is subversive and deeply satisfying. Definitely recommended for horror comedy fans.
In terms of the honourable mentions, I thought it was a solid year. I try to pick five honourable mentions for each year and it wasn’t too difficult to do so, even though the final pick–Paranormal Activity 2–actually signifies the downfall of a series. It hadn’t yet reached the point where they stopped being worth watching but it recycled ideas.
I recently saw that Insidious was considered one of the scariest horror movies and while I don’t agree, it’s definitely worth your time. The Last Exorcism and Splice are both underrated, while Let Me In is a solid American remake of the superior Let the Right One In.
2011: The Best Horror Film of That Year Is Directed by… Kevin Smith?
Best: Red State
Honourable Mentions: Megan is Missing, Seconds Apart, Scream 4, Maniac, Silent House.
Oh boy, I need to defend this one. With a lukewarm response from fans and critics as a whole, Red State would not be the first pick for many of us. It’s not my favourite film of his but it’s up there. I love it because it’s one of the only movies where he came into his own as a director. If you love his writing, as I do, then the strength of his films has always been the dialogue, but with Red State he showed how he had grown over the years. Meaning, y’know, he moved the camera sometimes.
It was an attempt to do something different with his brand. He got great performances from everybody and while there are some issues with the writing (strangely enough), the militant satire was effective.
Unfortunately, this was also when Smith started slipping for a few years. He followed this up with Tusk, which wasn’t bad until Depp showed up to tank the experience. After that he did a short film for the horror anthology Holidays, which sucked, then he did his best to destroy my interest in him with Yoga Hosers.
Megan is Missing is an overlooked film that actually disturbed me. Seconds Apart is what happens when you’ve never heard of something and decide to give it a go anyway; sometimes you find a gem. Scream 4 is not the best in the series but was a welcome return. Maniac, directed by Shia LaBeouf, is like a lesser Man Bites Dog but still showcases some directorial talent. Silent House had some truly illogical moments and needed some script tweaking, but the “gimmick” of it worked and it did some great, inspired things.
2012: A Year With Extremes
Best: The Cabin in the Woods
Honourable Mentions: ParaNorman, Sinister, The Tall Man
The Cabin in the Woods is in the list of considerations for the best horror films of all-time. It balances its horror with effective comedy. Normally a horror comedy seems to bend more comedic because it’s hard to build suspense if you have to undercut it constantly, but The Cabin in the Woods has some surprising scares.
But mostly I love it because of how it dissects the horror genre. The elevator scene, linked above, is the best example of that. Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon co-wrote a script that felt alive while being intelligent and amusing, without sacrificing too much in the way of terror.
ParaNorman is horror for all-ages but is also an expertly animated movie with a great story and doomy atmosphere. The best parts in Sinister were the Super 8 short films, easily, but the rest of the film took a familiar concept and worked well within that framework to deliver us something a little different. The Tall Man is more suspenseful than horror, but it’s included for the reasons I stated at the top of this article.
Then the year just falls off. Everything else I had seen only reached decent levels, which was not enough to warrant a place in the honourable mentions.
2013: You’re Next
Best: You’re Next
Honourable Mentions: Hello? Is anybody here?
You’re Next stands alone in 2013. In other years it would have been enough to be included in the honourable mentions, but it’s a big fish in a small pond. It wasn’t as good as I hoped but it did some intriguing things with the home invasion sub-genre. Sadly, you could make the case that this is a 2011 film technically so you could rob 2013 of great horror entirely. But that would be mean and you aren’t mean.
This is by far the weakest link. There are some okay horror flicks, but the closest any movie gets to reaching You’re Next is Under the Skin, which I didn’t consider horror when I watched it. I suppose it has elements.
2014: In Which You Really Start to Wonder, Do I Have Bad Taste?
Best: The Purge: Anarchy
Honourable Mentions: The Babadook, Killers, Tuck Me In, What We Do in the Shadows
You may have noticed that The Purge didn’t register in this list, even in a year like 2013 where I already expressed my discontent for what came out. That’s because it was only decent, despite the provocative premise that may not realistically work but leads to entertaining conversation. It wasn’t until the series decided to accept that it functions better as an action horror that it reached its potential.
The Purge: Anarchy is the best of them because the subsequent entries in the franchise admittedly recycle a lot of what makes this great. It’s over-the-top visually and with its social commentary, but I don’t care because it’s a horror-tinged, exciting romp. The jump in quality from the first to the second is astounding. I admit that the series is not that well received but I don’t care.
The Babadook has a memorable villain and serves as an important reflection on mental health. Killers delves into some deep and dark psychological stuff with a fascinating relationship between a serial killer and a journalist. Tuck Me In, based on a story in a Reddit thread, is a short film that does more with a minute than a lot of films do with an hour and a half. What We Do in the Shadows is just class comedy from Taika Waititi.
2015: At the Top of 2015 Sits the Most Surprising Horror Movie of the 2010s
Honourable Mentions: Bone Tomahawk, The Final Girls, It Follows, Krampus, The Visit
In my “13 Lightning Round Thoughts About Horror Movies” article I said that Unfriended has a stupid name but is anything but. Going in with a desire to see how the gimmick is used while having the lowest of expectations, I was completely drawn into this.
The relationship between the characters was genuine. The dialogue was believable and above all else, their interactions were sympathetic. So when evil came knocking I was invested in them, and it didn’t skimp on the scares and memorable imagery.
Seriously, if you thought it looked silly just give it a chance. I can’t speak for the sequel because it looked like a cash grab, but the original is worth a look.
When it comes to the best of the rest this was a year of surprises for me. Bone Tomahawk was a film I had never heard of before I received a screener; a great Western horror. The Final Girls excels in the relationship between Max and her mom, but it is also a great satire of the slasher flick with a compelling visual flair. It Follows is likely scarier to think about–imagine being stuck with this problem–than it is to watch, but I still admire the premise and while it has issues, it’s still a commendable effort. The more I think about this version of Krampus the more I like it–it’s more cool than anything and watching Krampus run across a rooftop is a hell of a lot of fun. There are plenty of bad Krampus movies but this one, from 2015, is not one of them. The Visit is not great but it flirts with it. It’s the return, in my eyes, of M. Night Shyamalan: it’s still a mess tonally, he slips into bad habits occasionally, but he also shows flashes of brilliance that he hasn’t shown since Unbreakable. At the very least the movie isn’t a complete dumpster fire, which was rare for him back then.
A year of surprises.
2016: A Year of Small Disappointments but Ultimately a Pretty Good Collection
Best: The Purge: Election Year
Honourable Mentions: Green Room, The Neon Demon, The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane
The Purge is not well received as a series, as I stated before. But I still didn’t care in 2016! The Purge: Election Year is lesser than Anarchy but it maintains all the features that I adored about its predecessor, up to and including the low-rent Punisher.
Green Room is a siege movie with a horror bent. Stewart is also the highlight as a neo-Nazi that manages to be menacing while also being understated. The Neon Demon has an odd uneasiness that permeates throughout and gets by mostly on the fact that Nicolas Winding Refn is stylish. The Witch disappointed me from a narrative perspective but it also introduced Robert Eggers to the world–a director who needs some improvement in the writing but absolutely crushes filmmaking from a technical perspective. 10 Cloverfield Lane only appears here because I wanted to shout out the overlooked performance of John Goodman.
2017: People Will Think I Chose the Wrong Movie for “Best”
Best: IT: Chapter One
Honourable Mentions: Split, Alien: Covenant, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Gerald’s Game, Get Out
At first I wasn’t going to watch IT because the trailers were doing nothing for me. I wasn’t invested in the source material or the TV movies. I was convinced to go and what I got was a movie I considered one of the absolute best of that year full stop. Visually inspired with some heart and a great villain, I love IT.
This is where I fall into some trouble, so I might as well kick it off. I think Get Out is overrated but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great flick. It just didn’t hit as hard with me as it did others. Split is rated highly in my books because the twist caught me off guard and made me more excited than any other twist in recent memory. Alien: Covenant is a well-told Alien story so of course it’s on here. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is odd–as the director is known for–and a little detached, but lovely in what it accomplishes. Gerald’s Game is a movie based on Stephen King property that I was actually invested in, and it didn’t disappoint.
2018: A Murderers’ Row
Best: A Quiet Place
Honourable Mentions: Hereditary, The First Purge, Mandy, Annihilation, Mom and Dad
While some may disagree, A Quiet Place ticks all the boxes. Both Emily Blunt and John Krasinski deserved actor nominations, with Krasinski playing double duty and deserving consideration for his directing. A Quiet Place is tense, smart, scary and emotional. There’s also something endearing about a horror movie with a title like that. It may be too early to call it but I do what I want: this is a classic of the genre.
Hereditary also ticks all the boxes. Toni Collette is superb and Ari Aster announced himself on the scene. Aster’s directorial presence is more pronounced, flashy and brilliant than Krasinski’s more subdued efforts, but that’s really the only way in which Hereditary is superior. That’s not a knock on Hereditary, that’s just praise towards A Quiet Place. Don’t get it twisted, Hereditary is one of the finest horror movies of recent years as well.
The First Purge, Mandy, Annihilation, Mom and Dad are all capable challengers. The First Purge delivers on more of the same but I haven’t grown weary of it. Mandy and Mom and Dad are both Nicolas Cage joints that use him in such a way that he excels (let him rage). Annihilation is a beautiful and haunting science fiction take on the genre; maybe not terrifying but it was still classified as horror at places around the internet.
Then we also have One Cut of the Dead, Possum, Cam, The Endless and some other solid flicks that may not reach the status of the other flicks but are worth watching in their own right. 2018 was stacked by needle movers and lesser knowns.
2019: A Contender to the Thrown at the Top, but the Foundation Below Isn’t Entirely Sturdy
Best: Tigers Are Not Afraid
Honourable Mentions: Midsommar, Us, VFW, IT: Chapter Two, The Lighthouse
Tigers Are Not Afraid was my favourite film of last year. It has a wonderful premise that it explores brilliantly in both a visual and narrative sense. It uses child acting and children as characters in a way that doesn’t shy away from the grim reality. Then it contrasts that grim reality with light at the end.
Of the honourable mentions, three slightly disappointed me. Midsommar was a step down from Hereditary while still showcasing Aster’s strengths as a whole. IT: Chapter Two did not live up to the expectations set by the first instalment but it managed to be entertaining regardless. The Lighthouse, once again, was a masterwork of directing by Robert Eggers but was rougher when it came to the story.
Us was about what I expected but it made me feel that Jordan Peele was really coming into his own. I didn’t know VFW existed before I watched it but was shocked by how exciting it was.
The Best Year Is…
2018. 2017 was probably the strongest contender but 2015 was a dark horse pick. Outside of 2013 (sorry) any given year could have had a chance to be the king, it just didn’t work out that way.
2018 was just really special, at least at the top. I didn’t factor in the bad movies in any given year because let’s be honest, horror is ripe for trash. Along with the films already mentioned, you can throw Apostle, Bird Box, Halloween, In Fabric, Marrowbone, Unsane, and The Witch in the Window into the crowd. None of those movies are what I consider great, but they’re all good to very good–and all have horror elements.
So what do you think? Is my list acceptable or are you questioning my credibility? Let me know in the comments below what you consider the best movies of the decade. And if you liked this content, tune in later on this week for a short list of my favourite horror movies of all-time, regardless of year.
Science has already shown us what the greatest horror movie of the 2010s is. Click here to see the study.