Another decade is behind us and, with it, all the movies that came out during those years. The 2010s were a great decade for horror movies big and small, and there’s no way we could cover them all on this list. So we conjured up a cross-section of blockbuster hits and more arthouse fare, from horror movies you probably saw to the ones you may have missed.
We also didn’t include any movies from 2019, as those are all still too fresh in our minds, but films like Us, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Midsommar, Ready or Not, In Fabric, and The Lighthouse all promise to stay with us for years to come. So dim the lights and get ready to relive the terror. Here are the best horror movies of the 2010s.
Norwegian writer/director André Øvredal made a handful of great horror flicks in the 2010s, but he kicked off the decade with one of his best, the darkly-comic mockumentary Trollhunter, about a put-upon government servant whose job is to act as solo game warden for the massive trolls who secretly haunt the Norwegian wilderness.
Attack the Block (2011)
What if Edgar Wright had directed a socially-conscious, Amblin Entertainment-style sci-fi flick about aliens invading an inner-city apartment block in London? You’d get something an awful lot like Attack the Block, the fun, audacious, and inventive feature debut from writer/director Joe Cornish. Besides great, low-budget creature effects, more sci-fi references than you can shake a stick at, and a stylistic debt to John Carpenter, Attack the Block is worth remembering as the movie that introduced us all to John Boyega.
This haunting flick (which technically debuted at TIFF in fall 2010 before a U.S. release in spring 2011), launched its own franchise and cemented director James Wan's reputation as a modern horror master of atmosphere and dread. The story follows married couple Josh and Renai Lambert (played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, respectively), whose son slips into a coma and transforms into a conduit for, well, insidious spirits.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Stop us if you've heard this before: a group of typical college students—the jock and his alluring girlfriend, the bookish virgin, and the stoner buddy—hit the road for a weekend getaway at a cabin in the woods. The cobwebby old abode is creepy, and there is definitely someone, or something, lurking out there in the woods. Scans as a run-of-the-mill horror flick, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. The grisly and hilarious meta-horror of Cabin in the Woods' is unlike anything you've seen before. Sit back and enjoy.
The Conjuring (2013)
By the time The Conjuring hit theaters, James Wan was already a familiar name to horror fans. He had previously injected new life into the genre with the original Saw and the previously mentioned Insidious. With The Conjuring’s 1970s throwback aesthetic, its inspired-by-true-events Perron Family haunting logline and Ed and Lorraine Warren connection, he had his biggest hit yet, spawning a shared-universe franchise that currently numbers seven movies and counting.
The Babadook (2014)
The 2010s were a good decade for directorial debuts, and you’ll find several more on this list. One of the first ones to take the horror community by storm—and produce an unexpected gay icon—was The Babadook. Jennifer Kent’s unsettling story follows a grieving mother and her special needs son who are haunted by a sinister creature from a children’s book. It’s not easy to create a thrillingly new movie monster in a world so saturated with classics, but Kent and her team pulled it off.
The Guest (2014)
Maika Monroe had a good year in 2014, and while more people probably saw her in It Follows, she was every bit as good in The Guest, where she had to play opposite Dan Stevens’ amazing turn as a psychopathic ex-super soldier who is basically the answer to, “What if Captain America were a bad guy?” The story goes that writing/directing duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard put this one together after watching a double-feature of Halloween and The Terminator. Even if it isn’t true, it sounds about right.
It Follows (2014)
Speaking of great new movie monsters, It Follows introduced one of the best of the decade. The unnamed supernatural force at the heart of this film can look like anyone. It pursues its victims slowly but inexorably, and you can pass it along (however temporarily) via sex. It sure sounds like a nightmare metaphor. And the fact that we’re still not sure what it’s a metaphor for is part of this movie's lasting power.
The Witch (2015)
One thing that director Robert Eggers proved with 2019’s The Lighthouse is that he isn’t afraid of taking chances on difficult or inaccessible material. But he had already proved that pretty well in his 2015 debut, The Witch, a parable about religious repression set in an immaculately-captured reconstruction of puritan New England. Not only did The Witch give us a devilish goat named Black Phillip, it also delivered what is likely the best horror movie quote of the decade: “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
Train to Busan (2016)
Sure, zombie movies were already pretty played out by the time the 2010s rolled around, but don’t tell that to South Korean director Sang-ho Yeon, who breathed new life into the genre with this frenetic zombies-on-a-train story. There’s human heart mixed with heart-stopping suspense in Train to Busan. It also examines how we react, as individuals and as societies, in the face of a global refugee crisis—all while delivering a terrific zombie horror flick.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut achieved that rare horror movie distinction of being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture—and winning one for Best Original Screenplay. And for good reason. Get Out combined the polish of a Hollywood studio picture with the intricate themes of the best arthouse horror to create a searing and socially conscious flick that is also one of the tensest and most effective horror movies of the decade.
The first half of Andy Muschietti’s ambitious two-part adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most beloved novels, 2017’s It—which focused its attention on the members of the so-called “Losers' Club” when they encounter the eponymous monster as kids—became one of the highest-grossing horror films of all time, depending on how you count, and what you qualify as horror. The second half didn’t quite set the box office afire like its predecessor, but both triggered a horror movie phenomenon, and introduced us to Bill Skarsgård’s jittery, animalistic, and unforgettable portrayal of the evil sewer clown, Pennywise.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Issa López’s dark fairy tale about life on the streets in Mexico in the shadow of the violence of the drug cartels—and the literal and metaphorical ghosts that are created by that violence—feels like a Guillermo del Toro film in all the best ways, while also signaling the arrival of a unique new voice. It took the festival circuit by storm and then spent way too long in limbo before finally getting a wider release. Still, not nearly enough people have seen this haunting and heart-rending film.
Toni Colette gives a jaw-dropping performance in this heart-pounding story of grief that catapulted writer/director Ari Aster to instant genre royalty and made horror fans lose their heads. Familial discomfort has never felt as jagged as it does in Hereditary, a horror movie that is as intricately-constructed as the lead character’s tiny dollhouse dioramas.
The 2010s saw the advent of plenty of droning, heavy metal-inspired horror flicks, from The Devil’s Candy to Deathgasm. None, however, quite capture the feel of a heavy metal album cover like Panos Cosmatos’ funeral dirge Mandy, starring a suitably off-the-rails Nicolas Cage going up against demonic bikers and a sinister cult.
Feature photo of "It" via New Line CInema