From the zombie-apocalypse tales, retro-slasher flicks, neo-giallo nuggets, to Hollywood franchise films that have spooked us, here is a list of all the great horror movies that you need to watch at least once in a lifetime. Here are the greatest horror movies of the 21st century.
You could make the perfect friend if you put your best friends together, right? To cure her crushing loneliness, May literally does that. With her character’s deteriorating state of mind, Angela Bettis channels the spirit of Carrie White. The audience becomes more complicit with May’s craziness with every rejection, as she kills and dismembers people in her quest for the impossible: finding someone to love and hold. We admire director Lucky McKee for creating such a relatable character that makes us wish she would succeed.
Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ eerie empowerment parable (or is it the other way around?) finds its way into the unsettling portrait of the unraveling of “picture-perfect” housewife Hunter Conrad (Haley Bennett). This woman is quiet, dresses like a 1950s sitcom spouse, and seems one casserole away from going Stepford. As she began ingesting marbles, push-pins, chess pieces, Hunter began feeling empowered in some way. With a genuinely fearless performance at its core, this is straight-outta-the-DSM body horror that touches a nerve – and gives viewers a lot to think about.
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Many children are innately creepy, and identical youngsters are pretty much vessels for evil without exception. (It’s called science, people.) But the little rascals in this sleek debut by Austrian duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala are unique. After Mom returns from an intensive surgery, the boys suspect she’s not the woman she claims to be – look up “capgras delusion” in your DSM – so they begin to brutally interrogate her. A DIY crossbow, a jar of cockroaches, Krazy Glue, and a DIY crossbow are just a few of the unusual weapons the boys have on their side in this front-to-back novel piece. Never trust a twin.
Spain joins the “found-footage” horror scene (sort of) in this short tale about a TV news reporter (Manuela Velasco) at a local fire station doing a human interest story. Little does she know that a quarantine, an infected feeding frenzy, and a mysterious epidemic await her on the call with an elderly woman stuck in her apartment. Through the lens of a cameraman’s recordings, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s take on zombie flicks takes its time setting up the mayhem, only to hit exhilaration in its frantic finale. This is arguably the most effective horror movie use of a little girl since Night of the Living Dead.
Welcome to the abyss. Gazpar Noe’s dance party in hell begins innocently enough with Sofia Boutella and a host of underground scenesters voguing and krumping. But soon, the screaming begins (in addition to paranoia, depravity, beatings, and extreme self-harm) as it becomes evident that someone has spiked their punch with some powerful hallucinogens. Throughout the second half of the film, a portrait of mass derangement is painted based on a real-life incident in which a dance troupe went mad after being dosed. Noe set out to make a documentary about that story before deciding to recreate one very bad trip without drugs. Ultimately, he succeeds.
Final Destination (2000)
Teenagers may have outrun hockey mask-wearing homicidal maniacs and unstoppable killing machines, but what happens when they face off against the Grim Reaper? After avoiding a plane crash, a high-school student (Devon Sawa) and several fellow passengers learn that Death does not enjoy being cheated. With each entry, this durable horror franchise would up the ante on baroque “accidental” deaths. Even so, its first installment remains eerily prescient, marking the beginning of a decade marked by horrific, random acts of violence.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) and writer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) are known for their superhero movies. A remake of George A. Romero’s sacrosanct zombies-in-a-mall masterpiece defies everything you know about horror remakes. Sarah Polley’s suburban neighborhood is the setting for one of the scariest set pieces in the history of your subgenre with its opening sequence, an absolute showstopper of mounting terror. In addition, the opening-credit sequence uses Johnny Cash’s Bible-quoting song “The Man Comes Around” to further the sense of Armageddon.
La Llorona (2019)
The Guatemalan general (Julio Diaz) is standing trial for decades of persecuting, torturing, and imprisoning political opponents. ‘The past is in the past,’ declares his wife (Margarita Kenéfic) who may or may not be a coven leader keeping him in power and out of trouble. Yet the past is always with us, and so are its ghosts – a concept that director Jayro Bustamante brilliantly exploits for slow-burning dread and the feeling of chickens finally roosting. Likewise, if you think that the unexpected appearance of a young Mayan woman (Maria Mercedes Coroy) claiming to be the family’s new maid fits into a return-of-repressed-revenge scenario, you are absolutely right. In its near-suffocating sense of foreboding, this is the kind of mystery and imagination that prefers to get under your skin rather than shock your system.
American Psycho (2000)
Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ serial-killer satire of Reagan-era excess, based on the novel about Wall Street psychopath Patrick Bateman, reveals the original text’s feminist subtext about objectification and consumption. Christian Bale’s performance as Huey Lewis became an instant classic (“Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?”) and is perpetually quotable. This film’s most powerful sequence, however, involves no dialogue at all: Bateman running through the halls of his apartment building, naked except for a chainsaw he drops on a fleeing woman’s head with a howl of ugly, pointless triumph.
Coralie Fargeat’s debut would fit nicely into the middle of a vintage Forty-Deuce triple feature, sandwiched between Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45. As a way to spend some extra time alone, a businessman (Kevin Janssens) takes his mistress (Matilda Lutz) along for an out-of-the-way weekend. Later, his buddies arrive early, assault the woman, and leave her for dead in the desert. But she’s not going gently into the night because she has some apex-predator douchebags to hunt first. Every age gets its own version of I Spit on Your Grave. Now we have ours.