If you’re reading this list, we’re pretty sure you don’t need us to tell you that , , and are in a class of their own. So without restating the obvious, we put together this list of 24 horror movies that are – can you believe it? – good. They’re scary, they’re thrilling, and, most importantly, they don’t skimp on the story or the blood.
1. The Descent
Tight spaces make you nervous? What about tight spaces and creepy ghosts? What about tight spaces, creepy ghosts, and menacing night-dwelling creatures ready to rip your limbs off? Neil Marshall doesn’t hold back in his all-female cave-diving thriller that puts all five senses on high alert. Just be sure to watch the version with the original ending.
2. The Babadook
Jennifer Kent’s highly effective directorial debut is the very definition of good horror. It has , brave performances, and scares the pants off you. With little to no special effects, Kent takes the typical bedtime story to the dark side and shoves it in the closet with the boogeyman. Just try not to run for cover.
3. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky knows a thing or two about great storytelling. But don’t expect a happy ending from this guy. He has a knack for making films that punch you in the gut (he did do after all). And his first horror attempt does just that. A ballerina’s descent into madness is caught on stage in this Oscar-nominated psychological thriller that’s worthy of a standing O and an encore.
4. It Follows
Most cite as director Roman Polanski’s strangest contribution to the genre, but that’s because they haven’t seen a sex-repressed Catherine Deneuve succumb to madness and murder in an apartment of horrors somewhere in London. Polanski’s first English film, it’s a classic that puts Baby in the corner.
6. The Silent House
Not to be confused with the Elizabeth Olsen remake, this original Spanish head trip is based on a true story and follows one girl’s disturbing discovery moment by moment. Told in real time with seemingly one single shot, the film focuses on Laura, a young woman who plans to spend the night in an old cottage to make repairs before it’s sold. Little does she know, the house has other plans.
You won’t see a “best horror movies you haven’t seen” list without this little masterpiece on it. Technically a mystery thriller, Triangle rides a trippy wave of wuh? When bad weather forces passengers on a yacht to board a passing freighter, their vacay takes a turn for the worse. And, we, the audience are in for one warped, waterlogged mindf*ck.
8. You’re Next
Widower Shigeharu, his teenage son, and filmmaker best friend organize an audition luring women on the hunt for their big break. Instead, they’re being sized up for wifey material. Shigeharu makes his choice – and his bed. Hell hath no fury like a woman picked out of a lineup in this Japanese classic.
10. The Brood
Supposedly, David Cronenberg used what was going on in his personal life as the inspiration for this film about a guy, his therapy-seeking wife, and the sudden spawn of a bunch of . It’s super weird and has what may be the most disgustingly awesome “reveal” of all time. But more than that, it’ll make you think twice about having kids.
11. Eden Lake
Before Michael Fassbender was Fassy, he was just Steve protecting his Jenny (Kelly Reilly) from a group of sinister dudes in the woods. It’s your typical cat-and-mouse story, but what sets the British action horror apart from the rest are the solid performances – especially those from Reilly and a young Jack O’Connell, who you now know from , , and .
12. The Others
There’s something mesmerizing about Nicole Kidman’s delicate Aussie accent and the jingle jangle of that gimongous set of keys she totes around through Alejandro Amenábar’s supernatural period piece. Kidman plays a widow left to care for her two children who gallivant around their mansion mingling with ghosts and things that go bump in the night.
Blink and you may have missed Adam Green’s dialogue-driven survival tale back in 2010. It came and went like a whisper but is most definitely one of indie horror’s unearthed gems. Three friends get stranded, on a ski lift, near the top of a mountain, over night. As if that’s not scary enough, a storm rolls in, wolves set up camp below, and frostbite, well, starts biting.
14. Lovely Molly
Lovely, she is – when she’s not palling around the devil. Newlyweds Molly a Tim move into Molly’s childhood home, housing – you guessed it – secretssss. The more Molly digs, the closer to hell she gets. Again, Sanchez turns to his signature first-person POV horror but this time with a fresh ghost narrative, growling soundscape, and one excellent scream queen in newbie Gretchen Lodge.
15. The Blair Witch Project
Whether he was the inventor or not, Eduardo Sanchez is king of found-footage horror. The Blair Witch Project is his queen. What began as a sort of missing-persons’ hoax transformed into a box office juggernaut. Now dubbed a mock documentary, Witch follows three myth busters into the woods. And no one leaves alive.
16. The Skeleton Key
The story belongs to horror writer Ehren Kruger, who also wrote the screenplay for The Ring. For whatever reason his was dismissed by critics, but it casts a spell as intoxicating as its leading lady, Kate Hudson. Though it stars several more familiar faces (including John Hurt), the film with its veritable setting, download-worthy soundtrack, and twisty storyline is one of the most underrated scary movies.
17. The Ring
One could argue Gore Verbinski’s stylistic American remake is better than the Japanese original, Ringu. But one thing’s certain, Verbinski’s use of Cinema of the Unsettling, which is the super weird mash-up of disturbing images recorded on the infamous videotape that sparks death in all who watch it, is straight up awesome. Almost as awesome as the storyline’s seven-day odyssey, which takes audiences from a cabin in the woods to the depths of a water well.
18. El Orfanato
J.A. Bayona, who directed and one of the most unforgettable tsunami scenes, is responsible for the nightmares induced by this puzzle of a Spanish movie. A woman moves back into her old home (a refurbished orphanage), and then her son and his imaginary friend take her on a scavenger hunt that culminates in one of the most disturbing reveals to date.
19. A Tale of Two Sisters
You’ve seen the American remake. It’s called and stars Emily Browning and Elizabeth Banks. A solid effort, but if you’re looking for one of those daylight-can’t-come-quick-enough flicks, go with Jee-Woon Kim’s South Korean original. Two girls go from mental hospital to just plain mental thanks to an abusive stepmother and a persistent ghost in this creepy import. It’s literally one of those horrifying watches you may never want to see again.
James Wan calls it his “student film.” We suppose looking at the rest of his body of work, one might agree, but his gory project, which spawned six more movies about how far people will go to stay alive, is one of the genre’s masterpieces. We don’t care what the critics – or Wan – say.
21. Let the Right One In
Atmospheric and frighteningly beautiful, this romantic horror makes look like child’s play. It focuses on Oskar, a boy who gets bullied at school, and Eli, the mysterious girl who saves him. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. More like eternal darkness and gulp of freshly drained blood once Eli uncloaks her vampiric side.
22. 28 Days Later
If there’s anyone who knows how to throw a rager, it’s Danny Boyle. And his high-octane is definitely one creep fest you want to attend. A young man () wakes up in a hospital to find that humanity is all but wiped out. In its place? A new species we like to call insanely fast humans who only want to eat your face.
23. Paranormal Activity
We thought the same thing: How scary can a movie be that plays out on nanny cams? Answer: Very scary. Now a mega franchise, Paranormal Activity was originally slated to be a one-and-done movie, according to its creator, Oren Peli. But fans – whether they were booing or shuddering – couldn’t get enough of Katie and her unshakeable demon. There goes any and all chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
24. Drag Me to Hell
Still from “The Descent” via Celador Films; Still from “It Follows” via Northern Lights Films; Still from "Triangle" via Icon Entertainment International; Still from "The Brood" via Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC); Still from "Frozen" via A Bigger Boat; Still from "The Skeleton Key" via Universal Pictures; Still from "A Tale of Two Sisters" via B.O.M. Production Company; Still from "28 Days Later" via DNA Films; Still from "Drag Me to Hell" via Universal Pictures