After four weeks of counting down, we’ve finally arrived at the end. Distilling an entire decade’s worth of movie down to a list of just 50 titles is no easy task. Inevitably, some movies have probably been missed. Some rankings will spark disagreement. Nevertheless, the 10 (okay, maybe 11) movies at the peak of The Top 50 Horror Movies of the 2010’s are all examples of horror at its best. Found-footage, a remake, and a monster movie all make the grade. But other entries on the list illustrate a promising trend for the genre. This was a decade defined by new ideas.
10 – Creep (2015)
Found-footage horror slowly played itself out this decade. But even horror fans jaded with the format have to be impressed with Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass’ Creep. A videographer responds to an ad and finds himself at a secluded cabin with the increasingly odd Josef. Simply put, Creep is slow-burn horror done right. As Josef, Duplass ratchets up the discomfort level as he gradually morphs from eccentric to downright terrifying. If you don’t think a wolf mask called ‘Peachfuzz’ can’t be scary, you haven’t seen Creep. With jump scares and moments of unbearable tension balanced throughout the movie, Creep proved found footage could still work.
9 – The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, The Witch, is haunting. Despite its challenging old English dialogue, The Witch instantly immerses the audience in its uneasy atmosphere. While the violence is sparse, Eggers’ imagery disturbs. This is an ambiguous psychological horror movie about the ‘devil’ in people’s own hearts. You’ll be left guessing where the true threat lies right to the very end. And Eggers’ final image is one of the more unsettling endings since The Blair Witch Project.
8 – It Follows (2015)
Another trend that emerged this decade was a nostalgia for 80’s horror. And not just deconstructing the slasher movie formula. Several movies released in the 2010’s emulated the grainy, VHS aesthetics that defined much of 80’s horror. Aside from its strong premise, It Follows is a genuinely disturbing and frightening film. The opening prologue may be the best pre-credits horror scene since Wes Craven’s Scream or The Ring. Throw in a fantastic jump scare and ambiguously eerie ending and you have the Number 8 horror movie of the 2010’s. Yet perhaps the best thing about It Follows is that it’s a completely unique concept. Amidst a sea of remakes, reboots, and sequels, It Follows was proof that original ideas could still lure horror fans.
7 – Evil Dead (2013)
No one asked for an Evil Dead remake. Yet here’s a remake that actually works. Director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) takes Sam Raimi’s basic concept and infuses it with just enough tweaks to make it his own. Simply put, Alvarez honours the original while making a movie that can be watched alongside it. Buckets of blood are spilled and body parts dismembered with cringeworthy detail. The final act twists nicely while ratcheting up the tension. And Evil Dead gave us new ‘Scream Queen’ Jane Levy. Now can we just get a sequel with Levy and Bruce Campbell?
6 – A Quiet Place (2018)
Comedic actors directing good horror was an unexpected trend this decade. David Gordon Green directed and co-wrote the Halloween 2018 sequel along with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Jordan Peele has not one, but two, movies higher up on this list. And John Krasinski directed A Quiet Place. This 2018 monster movie takes its simple premise and wrings every last bit of tension out of it. Once A Quiet Place hits its final act, Krasinski doesn’t relent with the edge-of-your-seat moments. Most importantly, A Quiet Place remembers that horror movies are scarier when you care about the characters. Now we just have to wait for the 2020 sequel.
5 – The Conjuring (2012)
What a decade for James Wan. From writing Saw to helming Aquaman, Wan has earned a spot alongside some of the genre’s best filmmakers. Following Insidious, Wan re-visited the haunted house subgenre with The Conjuring. It’s easily one of the best horror movies released in the last 20 years. The ‘clapping game’ is one of the most effective and inventive jump scares put on screen. And it’s certainly not the only scare in the movie. Wan expertly milks his chills for maximum suspense. Everything is built around a compelling family drama anchored by outstanding performances from Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. The Conjuring spun off a horror franchise to fill the void left by a lack of Elm Street and Friday the 13th sequels. .
4 – The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Taking up where Wes Craven’s Scream left off, The Cabin in the Woods is one the best deconstructions of the horror genre. It’s right there in the title – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard riff on the horror trope of bad things hacking up dumb teens at isolated rural cabins. The humour is irreverent, the gore is over-the-top. With The Cabin in the Woods, you get to watch a stellar cast work with a clever script and a wicked ensemble of horror movie baddies. Goddard’s final all-out monster battle in the climax is one of the best horror scenes in recent memory. And Sigourney Weaver’s ‘You work with what you have’ line is classic. I’m still waiting for a merman spin-off.
3 – Us (2019)
Not surprisingly, 2019’s best horror movie ranks high in the Top 50 Horror Movies of the 2010’s. With his second feature film, Jordan Peele avoids a sophomore slump. Like Get Out, Us balances an accessible, innovative approach to scares with thoughtful storytelling. Whereas Get Out’s subtext is explicit, Us is more ambiguous. On the surface, Us is a home invasion movie about a family fighting off intruders who look like them. But that’s just one small part of the movie. Peele’s ‘Tethered’ draws in 80’s nostalgia, science fiction, and, yes, ‘The Hands Across America’ event. What does it all mean? Well, that’s a big part of the movie’s brilliance. Us necessitates multiple viewings, and it’s entertaining enough to justify it.
2 – The Babadook (2014)
Writer and director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is a brilliantly scary movie. Its story of a single mother with a troubled son battling an imagined – or real – boogeyman is frightening and emotionally affecting. As an allegorical tale of the very real struggles single-parents face, The Babadook is a relatable movie with a human core. In regards to horror, Kent builds tension expertly with some unbearable jumps thrown in for good measure. Like It Follows, Us, and A Quiet Place, The Babadook’s titular monster proves you don’t need vampires, werewolves, or hockey mask-wearing killers to get under your skin. As a side-note, The Babadook has gone on to become an icon for the LBGTQ community.
1 – TIE: Hereditary (2018) and Get Out (2017)
Okay, I’ve cheated with my Number One pick. But Hereditary and Get Out are both amazing horror movies. Both movies mark the debuts of their directors. Each movie feels distinct from most other horror movies. And each of these movies has a story-within-a-story. Ari Aster’s Hereditary is, on one hand, a story about a demon-worshiping cult. But it’s also a story about family grief and trauma. Hereditary’s final 30 minutes are unrelenting, uncomfortable, and unforgettable. As for Toni Collette’s performance, she deserved at least an Oscar nomination.
Get Out may be the most important horror movie of the decade. Regardless of what some might say, horror is at its best when it has something to say. In a decade that witnesses white supremacists publicly marching in major US cities, Get Out’s story of rich white people using black people’s bodies to live forever makes for searing commentary. And the tension from that final scene works precisely because of this subtext. Peele mixes this commentary with dark humour and genuine scares. Simply put, Get Out and its ‘Sunken Place’ is one of the most refreshingly creative horror movies in years.