Horror films cater to a certain type of movie-goer. They’re the type of person that wants to see what they’re made of; the thrill-seekers, the outcasts, the cinematically bloodthirsty. A good horror film is about more than just scaring people; it’s about making them shit their pants and jump out of their seat. These films make you contemplate the nature of mortality and morality…but it’s still fricking terrifying. Two decades is a long time to feel afraid and we’d like to thank the following 20 films for irrevocably changing us.
Cover Photo: 20th Century Fox
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RANKED! Our 20 Favorite Horror Films of the Last 20 Years
20. 'Paranormal Activity'
Utilizing various found-footage techniques, this film follows a young couple who are haunted by a demon; they set up cameras in their house to document said haunting (because that's always a good idea).
19. 'The Girl With All the Gifts'
A child who is immune to a zombie-producing fungal infection (immune to the mind-altering part), leads a group of survivors through a dystopian future.
18. 'The Babadook'
After the violent death of her husband, a single mother must deal with her out-of control son and his delusions that a storybook monster (The Babadook) is real—which, spoiler-alert,
kind of is.
17. 'The Witch'
The youngest son of a 1630 Puritan family vanishes; paranoia and suspicion build as the family ultimately blames their eldest daughter, who was watching him at the time and is accused of being involved in witchcraft.
16. 'It Follows'
In some clever commentary on the relationship between sex and death,
It Follows is about a teenager, who, after having sex, realizes she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed through sexual intercourse.
15. 'The Cabin in the Woods'
An entertaining and comedic deconstruction of the horror genre following a group of college kids who arrive a remote cabin on vacation. Two scientists manipulate their holiday in the form of zombies, ghosts, monsters and an annual sacrifice to ancient deities.
14. 'The Mist'
A thick fog overtakes a community, and in the fog exist threatening creatures. To avoid what they cannot see, a man and his young son hide in a grocery store with other members of the community.
13. 'The Ring'
A videotape containing an assortment of nightmarish images results in a phone call telling the viewer they will die in seven days. After a strings of deaths revolving around the tape, an investigative reporter acquires the tape and watches it.
12. 'The Descent'
A young woman and her friends explore hellish caves inhabited (unbeknownst to them) by flesh-eating predators in North Carolina.
James McAvoy plays Kevin, a psychiatric patient with 23 personalities, one of which (the Beast) seeks to dominate all the others. After abducting three girls, Kevin becomes a threat to himself and everyone else.
10. 'Dawn of the Dead'
The remake of George Romero's classic film follows a woman whose Milwaukee neighborhood is overrun by a zombie horde.
9. 'The Conjuring'
Paranormal investigators visit the house of the Perron family, whose farmhouse is plagued by a supernatural entity.
8. '28 Days Later'
A group of animal rights activists free an infected "rage" chimp from a medical facility and cause the zombie apocalypse. Danny Boyle's film may have been the lightning rod that kicked off the intelligent version of the 21st century's undead genre.
A group of kids called the Losers' Club work together to defeat a shape-shifting clown that preys on children and their fears in the late '80s.
6. 'The Devil's Backbone'
Recently orphaned, Carlos is sent to the Santa Lucia School, a small orphanage in a remote part of Spain. Over the course of the film, Carlos discovers the school has a handful of secrets including, but not limited to, the fact that is it haunted.
5. 'A Quiet Place'
A family lives in silence after the world is invaded by creatures who hunt via sound. This film's ability to quiet not only a theater, but everyone's living room, will remain unparalleled...until the sequel.
Two men are captured by a serial killer known as "Jigsaw" and must solve his twisted puzzles in order to survive all while one of the men's family is forced to watch it all on video.
3. 'The Others'
Grace and her two children move to the English Coast during WWII. In addition to having to cater to a photosensitivity disease shared by her children, Grace begins to suspect her servants of treachery after her daughter claims she can she ghosts in the house.
2. 'Get Out'
Rose takes her boyfriend, Chris, to meet her parents upstate. Chris assumes that her parents' initial nervousness is due to the interracial nature of their relationship, but he's wrong. It's way worse than that.
1. 'Let the Right One In'
A young Swedish boy befriends the strange young girl next door...who turns out to be a vampire. What's horrifying in this film isn't just the way it is shot, but the chilling and poignant look at the innocence of young love.