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The best horror movies of the last decade

The 2010s were a decade of slicing, dicing, and monstrous thrills, and horror fans were treated to a whole host of legitimately terrifying films. And in addition to the scare factor, the horror movies of the last decade explored themes like childhood trauma, racist violence, and life during the apocalypse, not to mention greed, family secrets, and child-eating monsters. And granted, while the 2010s had their fair share of lousy films, there were quite a few gory gems that sent shivers down our spines.

These modern-day classics were heart-wrenching, shocking, and nightmare-inducing. And in many cases, they tried to wake viewers up to underlying social and cultural issues that only increase in relevance with each passing year. Plus, they had lots of zombies, aliens, and contagious diseases. So today, we're looking at the films released from 2010 to 2019 in order to find out which ones were the best and bloodiest. From satanic thrillers to psychological suspense flicks, these were the best horror movies of the last decade.

Black Swan is a disturbing film about the scary side of ballet

One of Darren Aronofsky's best films, Black Swan is a fever dream that follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a solid corp ballerina in an esteemed New York ballet company with dreams of one day dancing the lead. With the news that prima ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) is being replaced and that the company's next production will be Tchaikovsky's Black Swan, Nina sees her big break on the horizon. But after she's unexpectedly cast in the lead role, Nina begins to crumble under pressure to embody perfection as her already-tenuous grasp on reality slips from her grip entirely. And that's where things start to get a little bit freaky.

"Fantastically deranged at all times, Darren Aronofsky's ballet psycho-melodrama is a glittering, crackling, outrageously pickable scab of a film," The Guardian writes in reference to Nina's penchant toward self harm, as well as the body horror that comes with being a ballerina. (We're talking cracked toenails, starvation, and worse.) Maclean's Magazine says, "Outlandish and electrifying, Darren Aronofsky's ballet melodrama takes wild risks, leaping from high camp to horror, with a grand jeté of high tragedy." In a rare event for a horror movie, Black Swan went on to sweep almost all of the awards, including Portman's Best Actress wins of an Oscar, BAFTA, Critic's Choice, SAG Awards and more for her nuanced portrayal of a mentally ill artist teetering on the brink of sanity until her eventual and terrifying fall. 

The Cabin in the Woods was the best horror-comedy of the decade

"It sounds like the oldest horror story in the book but from the first scene of The Cabin in the Woods, it's clear that the director, Drew Goddard, and his co-writer, Joss Whedon, are bent on turning the formula upside down," says The Sydney Morning Herald about arguably one of the most self-aware horror movies since Wes Craven's Scream. A group of gorgeous youngsters and their one goofy stoner friend plan a long weekend at a cabin in the woods owned by a distant relative. As spooky things, of course, begin to happen — including the group getting set upon by a rampaging family of zombies — the camera travels deep underground to reveal a secret facility that's actually manipulating all the events above. Things get incredibly bloody and funny, and the movie works as a genuine horror flick, a comedy, and a fantastic critique of the slasher genre. And as Exquisite Terror put it, The Cabin in the Woods is "a perfect introduction to the genre that's accessible enough to reel folk in. The rest of us will go giddy counting the references."

The Babadook is a terrifying look at grief and trauma

Sometimes the aftermath of a huge loss can be even scarier than a monster, but Jennifer Kent's debut film The Babadook features both in a haunting balancing act that follows recently widowed Amelia (Essie Davis) and her problem child, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), in the wake of their husband/father's gruesome and unexpected death. Amelia isn't processing her grief well, so it's no surprise she can't help her son with his, either. When Samuel brings her a creepy pop-up book featuring a black-clad and top-hat-wearing creature, they soon both come to learn that the Babadook isn't just in a book, book, book, but living right in their house. 

The film relies on strong performances and taut writing rather than special effects or jump scares, and Amelia's descent into post-traumatic psychosis is easily as frightening as the Babadook itself. As a result, it's possibly the best horror movie of the decade, and Buzzfeed calls The Babadook, "A deftly inventive and psychologically charged horror story that trades on the ways in which the prospect of maternal failure can be just as fearsome a boogeyman as any monster under the bed."

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is fascinating twist on vampire films

One of the few global truths women are taught is to avoid walking alone at night whenever possible. Ana Lily Amirpour takes that truth and spins it on its head in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night with her chador-and-Chucks-wearing skateboard-riding antihero, the Girl (Sheila Vand). She walks whenever and wherever she wants to ... because she's a vampire. The film's logline, "the first Iranian vampire western," only partly encompasses the genre-bending magic of the film, making it both as iconic as original vampire stories like Nosferatu while simultaneously reinventing vampire movies altogether. 

Need more proof that it's awesome? Well, The Globe and Mail writes, "Combing horror, film noir and westerns, Ana Lily Amirpour's debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is a refreshing take on vampire lore," while Dog and Wolf raves, "It has visual echoes of early [Jim] Jarmusch and [David] Lynch. It's stunning to look at, slow paced, moody and haunting — an original feminist reinterpretation of vampire mythology and its gender politics."

Goodnight Mommy will make you second-guess reality

When twin brothers Elias and Lukas' mother (Susanne Wuest) comes home to their quiet lake house after cosmetic surgery on her face, the boys (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) begin to suspect this woman isn't actually who she says she is at all. Goodnight Mommy quickly takes a dark and grotesque spiral into madness as the boys test the woman in horrifying ways, trying to prove that she is or isn't their mother. By the end, the very nature of Elias and Lukas' reality is called into question when the extent of their extreme post-traumatic psychosis is finally and brutally revealed.

Needless to say, this movie is pretty rough. As The Atlantic writes, "Beneath it all is the nagging and heartbreaking feeling that these boys have lost their protector. That vulnerability — combined with their isolation, their confusion — can be harder to stomach than some of the more graphic scenes." North Shore News agrees, saying, "Ripped straight from the pages of your therapist's notebook, Goodnight Mommy is a thoroughly terrifying fairy tale with a killer twist."

It Follows is a horror movie that will keep you looking over your shoulder

"It Follows represents a compelling evolution in how studios and audiences can (and should) conceive of its monsters," The Atlantic writes about David Robert Mitchell's spooky horror noir parable about sexually transmitted infections. After one of the most terrifying opening scenes in horror history, we're introduced to Jay (Maika Monroe), a young girl who has an uncomfortable sexual tryst with a dude named Hugh. The affair results in Hugh chloroforming and tying up Jay to inform her she's now the vehicle for a monstrous creature that will kill her and the person it haunted before her if she doesn't pass it on to someone else through sexual contact. The shape can only be seen by the person infected, making this a gritty film not just about sexual paranoia, but also the old-fashioned kind of paranoia where Jay questions her very hold on her sanity. 

Further, It Follows' backdrop of a crumbling Detroit adds yet another level of social commentary about cultural disintegration, along with mental and physical degradation. "It's a testament to how scary a movie It Follows is that for days after watching it, you walk around thinking up survival plans — should you hide, stay on the move forever, pass the haunting on to someone else?" Buzzfeed asks. Is there a third option? Not get infected at all? Let's pick that one instead. 

Don't Breathe is a tense horror flick that goes in a very dark direction

Fede Álvarez's taut invasion horror with a twist, Don't Breathe features three young thieves who decide to rob a blind man who's rumored to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash in his house. Little do these inept robbers know, the homeowner Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) is ex-military, and his blindness hasn't affected his physical prowess or tactical abilities in any way, shape, or form. Things get even worse when the three thieves make their way into the basement and make a truly gruesome discovery. But the hits don't stop until a harrowing showdown between our hero, Rocky (Jane Levy), and Nordstrom in a vicious battle for survival.

The New Yorker writes, "The suspense is built as carefully as it is in a good John Carpenter movie; Alvarez uses the camera like a stealth weapon, exploring dark corners and hidden areas of the house with devilish glee," and Father Son Holy Gore agrees, saying, "There's so much to enjoy, even when we're taken down the rabbit hole of depravity after the secrets of the house are finally revealed."

Train to Busan is definitely the best zombie film of the decade

The premise of Train to Busan is pretty straightforward. A father, Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), and his estranged young daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an), get on the train from Seoul to Busan so Su-an can visit with her mother for her birthday. On the way there they find out a zombie virus has been unleashed when a passenger turns and begins infecting others. But this is more than just a zombie movie, even for all its gore and violent action as the humans struggle to survive. Written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the story is a character study of Seok-woo and his fractured relationship with his daughter and ex-wife. Plus, it also manages to create three-dimensional characters quickly within the other humans battling for their lives (and mostly losing), which only makes the story even more wrenching. 

Asian Movie Pulse says, "Yeon Sang-ho directs a film, which definitely moves towards being a blockbuster, but manages to induce it with a number of elements that make it much more meaningful than the majority of zombie and action films." And RobertEbert.com raves, "The most purely entertaining zombie film in some time, finding echoes of George Romero's and Danny Boyle's work, but delivering something unique for an era in which kindness to others seems more essential than ever."

The Witch is a truly eerie film that will haunt you for days

In rural New England, decades before the Salem Witch Trials and panic that continues to haunt the region, a farmer (Ralph Ineson) and his family are forced to relocate to an even more remote area after unwarranted suspicions about them threatens full-out banishment by the church. But soon enough, the community's distrust of the family seem to be justified when one of the farmer's children goes missing and another appears to be possessed by an evil spirit. They blame their eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), and accuse her of witchcraft, but as it turns out, there really is something evil lurking in the forest.

A grim installment of the folk horror sub-genre, The Witch is a truly scary film that deals with far more than just the devil. And according to The Dispatch, The Witch's "masterful blending of the sacred and the blasphemous makes it not just a great horror film, but perhaps the first true horror masterpiece of the new century. And as The Guardian says, "Like any outstanding horror film, its true impact only reveals itself once the credits have rolled and it stays buried under your skin, breaking through every now and then to remind you of its insidious power."

Get Out was the perfect horror movie for the 2010s

While Jordan Peele's seminal Get Out was far from the first important installment of black horror, it was one of the first to garner mainstream attention that hasn't abated even slightly in the years since its release. This quietly menacing horror movie is about a young black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who's dating a white woman, Rose (Allison Williams), and now, he's going to meet her liberal family. However, when he shows up at their secluded home, he discovers they have some very nefarious plans for him.

Get Out isn't just a parable about the underlying racism that seeps into all corners of American society, including supposedly progressive and liberal circles — Rose's father Dean (Bradley Whitford) repeatedly claims he "would have voted for Obama for a third term" — but it's also a scathing indictment of modern day slavery as pertains to the commodification of black bodies in America in particular. 

For Cosmopolitan, Kendra James writes, "In using both realities in his movie, Peele brings Get Out to a higher level of horror, at least for any person of color in the audience. We're all keenly aware of how possible it is." Salon calls the film "a horror movie for our time," and Slate notes the film explores the horror of "existing while black." No teacups allowed while watching this one, though. 

It Comes at Night is a post-apocalyptic horror film about the power of fear

Trey Edward Schult's sophomore feature It Comes at Night takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, but don't expect a film like Zombieland or Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead of zany laughs or wild action, this is a grim and atmospheric horror drama that features a family doing its best to survive the end days after a deadly disease wipes out most of the world. Here, paranoia is as contagious as the deadly infection, and the surviving family living in a remote cabin does what they need to do in order to survive ... no matter what.

The movie features powerhouse performances from its small cast of Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keogh, and Christopher Abbott, and as Smash Cut Reviews notes, "This is a morality play at its finest. There are no heroes and no villains. There are simply humans in a house." The Times UK says, "The 'It' of the title refers to the contagious disease that has devastated the outside world (a world that, like much in this beautifully minimalist film, we never see), but it also denotes something even more virulent and destructive: human fear."

Gerald's Game is one of the very best Stephen King movies

In what isn't just one of the best horror films of the past decade but also the performance of Carla Gugino's career, the Netflix original film Gerald's Game takes horror of the home to the next level. Based on Stephen King's gruesome novel and directed by Mike Flanagan, Gerald's Game introduces us to Jessie (Gugino) and Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood), a couple on a weekend getaway to rekindle their quietly toxic relationship with sex play that Jessie hasn't enthusiastically consented to. When her husband has a Viagra-induced heart attack and dies while Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, Gerald's Game opens up into as much psychological horror as body horror, as Jessie is forced to confront the childhood abuse that led to her entanglement with her sadistic husband. As if that wasn't enough, the film also features a flesh-eating dog and a monstrous "Moonlight Man" (Carel Struyken) who also terrorize Jessie as she tries to escape her physical and mental binds. 

HorrorNews.net writes, "Combining strength and resiliency alongside gruesome imagery, Flanagan releases a relevant film to the times and pays homage to a lesser known literary gem in the most satisfactory manner." And honestly, it's one of the very best Stephen King movies of all time.

It was the highest-grossing horror movie of the decade ... and all time

Even though Andy Muschietti's adaptation of Stephen King's killer clown opus It diverges wildly from the book in some problematic ways, that didn't stop the movie from becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time. After all, despite the differences, the movie is pretty awesome. It follows seven youngsters who call themselves the Losers' Club as they navigate not only the perils of childhood, trauma, school bullies, and abusive parents, but also a shapeshifting alien monster named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who eats children and has moved the seven Losers to the top of his dinner list. 

While fans of the still-scary 1990 It miniseries were unsure how Skarsgård could take on Tim Curry's iconic performance as the murderous Pennywise, Skarsgård's old-world European spin on the character has become one of the most terrifying monsters put to screen. About Skarsgård, the Albuquerque Journal says, "It's such a great performance that you wish Muschietti had eased up on the CGI and just let Skarsgård do the talking." About the broader power of the film, Cultured Vultures writes, "It provides a worthy adaptation to one of King's best works. It's scary as all hell, but has enough heart to keep even the most horror-averse audiences engaged."

Cam is a Netflix original that goes to some horrific places

"Cam plays with both psychological horror genre tropes and darker existential themes, and its clear-eyed view of the drab realities of a cam-girl's life is both refreshing and ultra-creepy," says The Boston Globe about Daniel Goldhaber's Netflix original film. Alice (Madeline Brewer) is a webcam sex worker who's trying to make a name for herself on one particular platform that relies on audience engagement in order for her to hit the big leagues. Her shows are sometimes grotesque, sometimes funny, and always with a fresh-eyed sexuality that demonstrates Alice's comfort with her own body and being on display. That is, until one day she notices an exact doppelganger, using her own login name no less, stealing all of her thunder. Alice is forced into a horrific confrontation with this digital version of herself in order to reclaim not just her camming ID, but her own identity in the process.

Combustible Celluloid writes, "The movie's nightmarish quest for Alice to assert and establish her true identity is the stuff of all our darknesses, but the digital design and the focus on alluring sex workers gives it an odd, unique spin."

Hereditary is truly scary look at grief, depression, and family

After the death of her overbearing mother, Annie Graham's (Toni Collette) grief and anger begin to spiral out of control in Ari Aster's debut film, Hereditary. It doesn't help matters any that her relationship with her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and her daughter, Charlie (Millie Shapiro), aren't exactly the best. And it's that rage and depression that prevents her from noticing that something is very, very wrong with her kids until it's far too late. And as the family dynamic begins to unravel, Annie begins to realize there might be supernatural forces at play. The result is a movie that's almost too disturbing to finish.

About this atmospheric film, Newsweek writes, "Hereditary feels like an endless drawing out of that queasy, shocking, falling dream sensation, as the ground beneath the Graham family, and the viewer, crumbles." The London Evening Standard concurs, saying, "The results are horrific, emotionally and aesthetically, and launch a corkscrew spin towards hell." Toni Collette's nuanced and three-dimensional performance of a mother past the edge in particular received accolade upon accolade. Chicago Reader calls her "flawless," and Times UK writes, "It's an astonishing performance from Collette, a disorientating cocktail of humane, hurtful and hysterical."

A Quiet Place left audiences screaming

In a surprising twist worthy of a horror movie itself, The Office alum and comedian John Krasinski wrote, directed, and starred in the family apocalypse horror drama A Quiet Place, alongside his wife Emily Blunt. In the film, the Abbott family is doing their best to survive in a world that's been ravaged by aliens that kill anything that makes a sound. The Abbotts mostly communicate by American Sign Language, a language they already spoke since their eldest daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), is hearing impaired. The film opens with a grotesque alien snatching of one of the Abbott children, and it eventually veers into body horror territory as Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) gets pregnant. The family must coordinate a diversion while she gives birth, all the way through to the explosive ending that has brutal consequences for all of them.  

Geek Horror Life writes, "A Quiet Place proves that PG-13 horror can be scary. A solid cast, strong family dynamics, and sheer terror makes the film a hit for the genre." And Slate says, "There are moments when the movie takes us firmly by the hand and escorts us down a darkened path, and they lead to one of the most profound of communal pleasures: the sound of a movie audience screaming as one." In a movie filled with jump scares where the cast can't vocalize, the only quiet place is on-screen.