You’ve arrived at TechRadar’s list of the best horror movies. We’re going to guide you through some of the darkest nightmares that have been conjured in the medium of film, so brace yourself.
Horror movies have been a dark obsession of cinema-goers for decades – people love them. There’s really no other genre that can stir up your deepest, most primal emotions like one of the best horror movies, and these days you can get scared out of your wits right at home too.
We’ve wandered through years’ worth of nightmares from watching the best horror movies, and compiled a list the best horror movies you can watch from the comfort (and supposed safety) of your own living room.
Now, sit down and steel yourself while you still can; we’re venturing deep down into the best horror movies around.
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Annihilation is a sci-fi meets horror flick based on the popular series of books from Jeff VanderMeer, The Southern Reach trilogy. It follows a group of scientists as they bravely explore the quarantined Area X, where a strange magnetic field has changed everything they know about the natural world.
Horrifying and beautiful in equal measure, this is a film you really should get round to watching if you haven’t already.
If we’re not counting Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby is likely one of the most significant horror films of all time. Roman Polanski’s mercilessly dark story of an expecting mother and the malevolence that befalls her is a classic by any measure, even earning a prestigious placement in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. If you’ve never watched Polanski’s horrifying film, it sinks into deep and dark territory that is still unnerving even 50 years after its initial release.
Directed by the unequaled Ridley Scott, Alien remains a milestone of both horror and science fiction. The story of the unlucky crew of the spacecraft known as the Nostromo, led by Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley, and their run-in with a brutal alien stowaway is still a savagely exhilarating thrill ride from beginning to end. While the later films in the Alien franchise each pursued separate goals and flip-flopped on their genres, the original from 1979 still stands as a perfectly executed opus in horror cinema with no lack of twists and turns along the way.
The Babadook is one of the most breathtakingly original horror movies to come out in years. It effortlessly does away with the cheap jump scares and loud dissonant music of horror’s past and instead replaces them with an eerie and subtle story of a distressed mother and her relationship with her son. Centering around a creepy children’s book, the film forces together a traditional horror story with a grounded look at grief, loss and other psychological issues with great finesse. The final product is a movie unlike any other on this list, or even in the genre as a whole, and is absolutely essential watching for anyone with even a passing interest in horror cinema.
Much like Joss Whedon’s more recent movie Cabin in the Woods, Scream is a razor-sharp spoof of the cliches we have come to expect in the horror (more specifically slasher) genre. Even past the commentary though, is an intriguing “whodunit” mystery that quickly turns into genuine terror. The late legendary director Wes Craven commands this instant classic and helps make it the intelligent and downright horrifying Halloween night standard that it is.
We know, just by seeing the title of this movie you started hearing that foreboding shark theme in your head. Don’t worry, we did too.
Steven Spielberg’s breakout work created a legendary nationwide phobia of swimming in the ocean during the summer of 1975 and still stands out in our mind every time we go for a swim. While technological limits of the time kept the shark itself from being a realistic creature of nightmare, Spielberg wisely kept the beast hidden for most of the film, slowly building up the suspense to an almost unbearable level.
While we wouldn’t necessarily classify this film as a horror movie, it’s beyond doubt that Jaws has enjoyed some of the most enduring cultural and cinematographic influence over the last four decades.
The Blair Witch Project
The very origin of modern found footage horror movies is still one of the very best films in the style. The Blair Witch Project is a low budget film that follows three film students who are looking to investigate an urban legend known as the Blair Witch. They then disappear into the woods and are never seen again. The next year, the footage is found (hence the name “found footage”) and the horror that was inflicted upon them is shown for all to see.
The Blair Witch Project works so well because of this unique shooting style. The found footage style gave it a sense of realism that is often missing from horror movies. This is a legendary cult horror film and should be seen by anybody who cares about the genre.
The Witch, much like the Babadook, is one of the most unique horror movies you’ll ever see. Robert Eggers’ parable of a family in 1630 New England is a subtle yet deeply unnerving spiritual thriller that will keep you guessing up until the very end.
The movie centers around a faithful Protestant family who is beset by all sorts of evil, which causes them to turn on each other and revealing the evil within themselves. The Witch might not be the most historically accurate reflection of America’s Puritan past, but it’s a dark and disturbing art film that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
We promise you’ll never look at goats the same way again.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Although the Cloverfield title is attached, don’t be fooled – it’s only superficially connected to the first monster flick. Rather, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a dark and malicious thriller that keeps you trying to figure out which side you’re on for much of its runtime. Anchored by sublime performances from its small cast, 10 Cloverfield Lane is deeply unnerving and will rattle around in your brain for hours on end long after the credits have rolled, even if it doesn’t fit perfectly into the generic horror movie mold.
James Wan is quickly becoming one of the best horror directors around, repeatedly delivering terrifying and unique films in a genre that’s become plagued with cliches and copycats. (Spoiler alert: this isn’t the last time you’ll see Wan on this list.) Insidious easily could have been a throwaway film in lesser hands, being yet another film about a family who moves into a mysterious house only to have things things begin to go awry. With a great cast and an even better director however, the tried and true horror tropes feel fresh, at least for the first two acts. While this isn’t Wan’s best film, it’s a brilliantly made horror film that does all the old tricks right.
If you’re afraid of tight spaces and the walls closing in around you, this is the horror film for you. Director Neil Marshall, helmer of the upcoming Hellboy reboot, delivers a horror film that’s stuffed with jump scares and cliches, but remains a terrifying experience that literally takes your breath away. If the premise of trapped cave divers and horrible creatures in the dark is scary to you, just wait until you’ve sat all the way through it.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
The most fun film on this list by a country mile has to be Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. The film begins on solid ground by casting two of the funniest, and sadly underrated actors working today: Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk. Pepper in an insane premise where these innocent and lovable hillbillies are mistaken for chain-saw wielding maniacs and you’ve got a blood-ridden good time. If blood and guts aren’t a dealbreaker for you, throw this one on with some friends and settle in.
Sadly, Bone Tomahawk was almost wholly overlooked by the general moviegoing audience. For those who missed out, Kurt Russell leads a stellar cast in a film about the collision of a classic cowboy sheriff and a gang of vicious cannibals. The end result is a brilliant marriage of the western and horror genres that plays to the strengths of both. While it’s not a perfect film, Kurt Russell and his supporting cast are all perfect in it, and although it’s a bit longer than your standard horror flick, Bone Tomahawk is well worth the investment.
When Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick are both in a film’s credits, you know you’re in for a treat. And while King hasn’t been shy about his disdain for this “unfaithful adaptation,” there’s no one that knows film like Kubrick. Although it’s immortalized by the infamous axe scene in the image above, the entire film is comprised of a tight script, suspenseful direction, and a brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson as the increasingly terrifying Jack Torrance. Stephen King may not have liked this one, but we sure love it.
The Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs virtually wrote the playbook on psychological thrillers: this Academy Award-winning adaptation of the novel of the same name is propelled by characters as timeless as film itself. Jodie Foster’s Clarice must turn to the incarcerated cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter to try and get inside the mind of a despicable serial killer who’s still at large, and the end product is a chilling and suspenseful drama with notes of horror that won’t leave you anytime soon. If you’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs, strap in and treat yourself to a true suspense classic.
An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in London is a brilliant piece of comedy horror that earns its rightful spot as a cult classic. The film follows two American students on a tour of Britain who are mauled by a werewolf, killing one of them. The survivor has nightmares of being a werewolf and suddenly has visions of his friend and others convincing him to break the werewolf curse. Sounds weird, right? It definitely is weird, and all the better for it. Pop on some popcorn and throw this one on for a slightly lighter time in the horror realm.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had such an illustrious and successful career, so much so that the last thing you’d expect is for him to deliver a brilliant dramatic performance in an indie horror film. But what do you know? The Governator does exactly that as Wade Vogel in Maggie.
The film is set in a post-apocalyptic setting in which Wade’s daughter has been infected with the virus that transforms humans into the undead. Although she still has her wits and her personality, the clock is ticking to the moment that Wade must make the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a shockingly heart-wrenching story with top-notch performances all around. Maggie is inexplicably a joy to watch – or at least as joyful as zombie movies can be.
That’s right, James Wan has scored another spot on our list, and coincidentally, it’s his best movie to date. It’s also one of the best horror movies of the last 20 years. The Conjuring is taken from the real-life case files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and chronicles a family in Rhode Island that is haunted by satanic spirits. The Warrens must face this evil and prevent it from destroying everyone involved.
The fact that this film, although dramatized, is inspired by real-life case files that can be read to this day makes it that much more intriguing and terrifying. Although James Wan is assuredly destined to direct many more wonderful movies, The Conjuring presently stands as his most impressive achievement in this difficult-to-master genre.
Scott Derrickson may well be a Marvel maestro now but he cut his tooth on horror movies – and great ones at that. Sinister is his best, a creepy heart-wrenching movie centered on a true crime writer who moves into a new home and finds a box of Super 8 snuff movies. The film takes its time to tell its tale but when it does, it’s pretty horrifying. Ethan Hawke plays the author who discovers the chilling secret, raising this above your average horror yarn.
Mick Taylor should be up there with Freddy and Jason in the pantheon of horror monsters. He may well look like a regular Ozzy guy who likes a Tooheys New or two, but underneath all that he’s a serial killer who likes to kill tourists in some of the most inventive ways possible. Interestingly, John Jarratt – unknown outside Australia – was an inspired choice for Mick. The reason: he was the good guy in hit show McLeod’s Daughters, so it completely flipped his good guy image.
I Saw the Devil
This is not a film for the faint-hearted. It’s about revenge, it features some of the most horrific acts of violence ever put to film, but it’s also a compelling, if flinching watch. Directed by genius Korean director Jee-woon Kim, who also did the amazing The Quiet Family, the film is a masterpiece in shock and awe, focusing on a serial killer who is hunted by a retired cop who has vengeance on his mind.
Train to Busan
South Korea is on a roll when it comes to its horror movies, with Train To Busan being one of its recent best. The plot is ingenious: unbeknownst to the public a zombie outbreak is happening in Seoul. We see the effect on this on a fast train to Busan where the outbreak takes over the speeding train and threatens all the passengers on board. This is one of the most frenetic zombie films ever, filled with some fantastic set pieces and a helluva lot of tension.
Hell House LLC
Hell House LLC is an under appreciated gem, a found footage horror movie that really does shock and scare you throughout. The premise is simple: a group of entrepreneurs have created a horror house for frat boys and others to scare themselves silly in. The problem is, the house actually seems to be haunted. Regardless of it being a little-known movie, this is one of the best horror movies to be released in years.
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