Top Ten Horror Films of the 21st Century

It’s difficult to really make a great horror film while setting it in modern times. We now live in an age in which we all have mobile phones, devices which can put us straight through to the police while we’re hiding from an axe-murderer in the woods. In a world in which help can be contacted at the simple click of a button, suspense can be tricky to create. And to have the phone’s signal be unavailable or the battery drained of power is now considered a cliché to roll one’s eyes at.

Horror films date all the way back to the late 1890s, really getting its blood pumping in the ’20s and ’30s, a time when Lon Chaney’s goofy make-up in 1925′s “The Phantom of the Opera” had audience members fainting in cinema screenings. Nowadays, we look back at this and laugh, as each new decade sees filmmakers upping the ante and desensitising us to past eras of horror. Currently, it seems to be a popular trend to just cut up your protagonists, focus on their shrieks of anguish, spray some blood on the camera lens, reveal some surgically enhanced tits, and call what you’ve made a horror.

With all its history of mixed attempts at shocking and horrifying, the genre is increasingly difficult to sustain and enliven while keeping it fresh, hence we keep getting these same tired old gore celebrations. It’s true that originality comes only so often from this area of filmmaking, but there are some contemporary horrors that stand above all else of the times. And since the turn of the 21st Century, there have been some right corkers worthy of recognition as slices of gruelling terror. Here is my list of the top 10 horror flicks since the year 2000.

10. “The Descent” (2005)
Following the critical success from his tongue-in-cheek werewolf horror “Dog Soldiers,” British director Neil Marshall continued exploring the genre with a much more serious fright fest. While the cast of his 2002 cult hit was primarily made up of male soldiers, “The Descent” has an all-female cast of six cave explorers who, on their latest adventure, find themselves trapped underground. They also find out that they are not alone down there, as vicious creatures lurk and screech in the darkness, licking their lips at the smell of the women’s blood. Marshall, who also wrote the picture, orchestrates some awe-inspiring tension, the kind that will have you slipping off the edge of your seat and landing hard on your backside. He also caters to the gore-guzzling crowd, as literal pools of blood are swum through by the petrified cast. As a creature feature it’s bloody terrifying, and will require one to buy a night light to get a good night’s sleep after viewing.

9. “The Ring” (2002)
A remake of Hideo Nakata’s Japanese “Ringu” of 1998, Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” was the first in a trend of American adaptations of Asian horrors, and it remains the best of the bunch. Naomi Watts plays an investigative journalists who learns of a video tape that is said to kill people. Apparently, once the viewer has finished watching the tape, their phone rings and a voice tells them they will die in seven days. And once the week is up, they’re as dead and disfigured as a handicapped dodo. Watts decides to play the tape and is subjected to a slew of unnerving images before white snow crackles on the screen. And then her phone rings… The film has a very eerie atmosphere, Verbinski’s visuals suitably haunting from beginning to end. It’s disturbing, it’s menacing and it is certainly a unique story. And while the premise may be ridiculous, trust me, when the evil Samara climbs out of a TV screen you’ll be soiling yourself.


8. “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)
Another remake, Zack Snyder’s update of George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie masterpiece “Dawn of the Dead” is an expertly handled reimagining that thankfully didn’t stain the legacy of the beloved original. The basic plot is the same: a gang of people who are lucky to still have a pulse barricade themselves in a shopping mall to escape the thrashing gnashers of the living dead. However, in this contemporary remake, the reanimated corpses are no longer slow and lumbering, Snyder going for more agile zombies who can leap and sprint. The film does lose the social commentary of Romero’s version, but that doesn’t matter when the film is so exhilarating, James Gunn’s script going for thrills instead of depth. Depth in a modern-day horror film? Ha! Poppycock.


7. “28 Days Later” (2002)
There’s been much dispute over whether or not “28 Days Later” should be considered a zombie film; the rabid monsters that chase the protagonists are not technically dead or resurrected, just infected with a disease that turns them more than a little disgruntled. Zombies or not, they’re a scary swarm of antagonists in a particularly scary film. Danny Boyle’s horror starts with Cillian Murphy waking up from a coma and discovering that Britain has been overtaken by a deadly virus that turns those infected livid beyond reasonable thought. Along with three other survivors, he tries to get to Manchester, where a rescue shelter apparently exists — however, this shelter turns out to be a bit different than he expected. Boyle’s one and only venture into the genre is breathtaking, the film revelling in raw terror as well as effective human drama, given a degree of intelligence by Alex Garland’s script and a bleak charm through its direction. The shots of a deserted London are stunning.


6. “Let the Right One In” (2008)
Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” is probably the most arty film on here, it going less for scares and more for depth, focusing on the relationship between its two young main characters. The film is Swedish, based on the book of same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and is a tale of young love. The two leading characters are Oskar (Kåre Hedebran) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), both pale-skinned twelve-year-olds who become friends when Eli moves into Oskar’s apartment complex. A bullied boy, Oskar is delighted with their friendship, but is taken aback when he discovers Eli is a bloodsucking vampire. This is an exceptional, one-of-a-kind horror film that’s impressive both technically and emotionally, the cinematography astonishing and the mood effectively chilling. It’s like a deeper, less hormonal version of “Twilight.”


5. “Let Me In” (2010)
Yes, following “Let the Right One In” on the list is its American remake, written and directed by Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield” fame. Relocated to New Mexico, as opposed to the original’s setting of Stockholm, “Let Me In” sticks very close to the storyline of the Swedish film, some scenes practically exactly the same. However, there’s something about the remake that has much more of an impact than its filmic inspiration, the film somehow much more striking than Alfredson’s version. The eerie atmosphere is built upon to perfection and the relationship between Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) carries more weight. The character of the murderous “father” (Richard Jenkins) is also much more intriguing and memorable, Jenkins’ performance oddly sympathetic. And the scene in which this character’s attempt at murdering a young adult in a car goes horribly wrong was one of the best scenes of last year.


4. “Drag Me to Hell” (2009)
Before “Drag Me to Hell,” the last time director Sam Raimi properly touched upon the realms of horror was the “Evil Dead” trilogy, which ended in 1992. And, after concluding the “Spider-Man” franchise in 2007, Raimi decided to take another stab at the spook-em-up genre with this tale of gypsies, demons and murdered pussycats. Alison Lohman plays a loan officer named Christine, who denies an extension on a gypsy’s loan, resulting in the old woman losing her home. Unfortunately for Christine, this gypsy has some friends of the demonic sort, and places a curse on the loan officer after attacking her in a parking lot. Christine then learns that a demon called the Lamia will claim her soul in three days unless she does something about it. Meanwhile, the Lamia taunts Christine and makes her suffer until time runs out and he gets to drag her kicking and screaming ass into the fiery pits of Hell. The film is a comedy of sorts, featuring some brilliantly bloody slapstick while serving up some suspenseful scares, making for one of the most entertaining films of the last decade. It’s not quite “Evil Dead 2,” but it definitely made up for the disappointment that was “Army of Darkness.”


3. “The Others” (2001)
Set in an isolated country house in the aftermath of World War II, Alejandro Amenábar’s “The Others” is a traditional, old-fashioned ghost story. The film only has six main characters, half of which are Nicole Kidman and her two children, the other half being the newly appointed servants of this family of three. The servants’ arrival is met with some odd events occurring throughout the house, the mother becoming increasingly suspicious that there’s something in the residence with them, something that is not of flesh and blood. “The Others” is partly a drama and partly a psychological horror, showing Kidman at the top of her game as this desperate woman who goes a little off her rocker. It’s a very atmospheric, very gently paced haunted-house ghost story that’s remarkably creepy and sucker punches the audience with an unexpected twist ending that only psychics will see coming.


2. “The Mist” (2007)
Frank Darabont had already directed two adaptations of Stephen King novels before “The Mist,” namely “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile.” However, it wasn’t until 2007 that he adapted one of King’s famed horror stories in the form of this glorious monster movie. The story is of a group of people who huddle up together in a supermarket to avoid the dreaded mist that has formed outside. Why are they avoiding this mist? Because within the mist lurk supernatural creatures from another dimension that will tear them limb from limb if they step outside. What makes “The Mist” so exhilarating is its decision to make the monsters not the creatures outside but the people inside, as religion comes into discussion and causes the survivors to turn on each other. With an epic bummer of an ending, the film is strikingly poignant and beautiful while having enough true monster moments to satisfy die-hard horror fanatics.


1. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
Now, before you get your pitchforks out, let me first say that I am fully aware that “Shaun of the Dead” is not necessarily intended to be scary. The film is a very sharp satire and a comedy horror that, while revolving around a band of survivors of a zombie plague, was never intended to frighten audiences. Its intention is instead to tickle their funny bones, which it undoubtedly does on many, many occasions. It stars Simon Pegg as the titular character, a slacker salesman who is dumped by his girlfriend the day before a zombie virus breaks out in Britain. Co-written and directed by British filmmaker Edgar Wright, it is his first full-length feature and is, in my opinion, one of the most promising and confident directorial debuts in cinema history. Crisply edited and wowing with a side-splitting script that farts wit and personality, the relentlessly amusing “Shaun of the Dead” is a loving homage to the George A. Romero days of zombie horrors.


Honourable mentions: “[Rec]” of 2007 for being a downright terrifying found-footage zombie horror from Spain. Also, “Paranormal Activity” of 2009, another found-footage chiller, this time about a house that’s haunted by a demon. The film split audiences between those who found it traumatisingly suspenseful and those who found it dull and boring. I’m proud to say I’m in the former category.

Comments

  1. Matt says

    Good list, but was 1308 even a consideration? Easily one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen

  2. Ingrid says

    Well, I haven’t seen the entirety of those movies but I would just add REC, a spanish horror movie who really scared me and the whole theater too =)

  3. PNM says

    ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    Where is:

    I Saw the Devil?
    Attack the Block?
    Zombieland?
    Stakeland?
    Aah! Zombies!!
    30 Days of Night?
    Trick R’ Treat
    Human Centidpede?
    The Orphanage?
    Shadow of the Vampire?

    Your list looks like it was made by high school students with no concept of horror outside of Twilight or Saw!

  4. SJC says

    Actually PNM I have to say although I don’t entirely agree with this list, the films you suggest are mostly dire and are some of the worst horror films!

  5. Awezoom says

    PNM: ARE YOU SERIOUS???? Obviously you love zombie movies, but what the hell??????

    I saw the devil? Poor
    Attack the block? Scary? It’s just teen adventure action with a couple of creepy scenes
    Zombieland? HORROR??? Are you serious?????
    Stakeland?? HORROR? Are you crazy???? Just interesting to watch. Horror? Nor a single scene.
    30 days of night???? more gorish than scary. The comic is 100times scarier than the movie. But, well, this could have a point.
    Trick r’ treat…fun to watch, but nothing else. Just a couple of cool scenes. Not in a top 10 definitely.
    Human centipede???? WHAT??? ARE YOU SANE???
    The orphanage: Yes, a nice point. This COULD be in this top 10, more than let me in.
    Shadow of the vampire? Nosferatu is still creepy, but this movie isn’t.

    I agree with this page ranking, appart from Shaun of the Dead, Let me in, and The Ring USA. The ring Japan is much more scary (appart from USA corpses, which were really awesome and scary), I would also add Insidious to the list, and Dark Water (original version, not the usa remake). Then I would really agree the list.

  6. gac241 says

    wow howmuch didthese directors give you to mention some of these horrid movies come on really some of these movies should have been b movies at best … best horror film u didnt even mention on this of this century has to be 1408 come on get over the zombie bs its been done to death pun not intended and watch sme real horror and dont waste peoples time with nonsense such as this

  7. Alex Burchell says

    I can’t see why the Human Centipede 2 wouldn’t be in there – it’s easily one of the nastiest movies ever made.

  8. deymnn says

    Paranormal 1 should be at the top 10, it’s not that scary while you’re watching it, but that horror effect will take place after you watch it ;)

  9. stormofthedragon says

    House on Hunted Hill (the newer one) Is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. Ghost Ship, Thirteen Ghost, The Grudge, The Skeleton Key and The Amityville Horror are all on my creep list too. Drag Me to Hell, The Ring and to some extent The Mist are also at the top of my list. Zombies don’t scare me but I love the movies and all the ones picked here were really good. I would suggest Cabin Fever, Diary of the Dead, well just about anything by Romero, and Return of the Living Dead. Can’t wait to see The Descent and Let Me In.

  10. berr says

    the grudge is gash, it was a japanese girl in a mask and it shows you the face of the monster on the cover (how scary), as are most of these. shaun of the dead is a blooldy comedy, why is it on this at all? let me in and let the right one in is a drama. I agree with the others because its spooky. GORE IS NOT HORROR

  11. Jay says

    ok why the FUCK is Shawn of the Dead at the number oe spot on like 10 different top 10 horror movie lists. like seriously WTF. You even mention in the description that it is not a horror and more of a comedy. SO WHY THE FUCK IS IT NUMBER 1 ON YOU TOP 10 HORROR MOVIE LIST. How fucking stupid r u.

  12. Quill says

    Hey!!
    Why the hell’s Drag me to hell included?!
    And where are Mirrors (2008) and Insidious (2010)??
    This list sucks!

  13. Javon says

    So true and attack the block was an awesome move but one last call freaked me out when i was little ( im 13)

  14. scott says

    Nice list of some very stylish and entertaining horror films. I have a few minor bones to pick however.I think “Let the Right One In” is a much better film than “Let Me In”. In fact I think LTROI is the best film in the list.I agree with the person who thought REC should have been included.That was a truly scary movie.The French films “Martyrs” “Inside” and Frontiers” were all missing and excellent if uniformly bleak offerings.Finally a movie I think is heading for cult glory and overlooked is “Dead End” which I found hilarious and creepy and very entertaining.
    Oh-and someone also mentioned “Shadow of the Vampire” in which I think Willem Defoe pulls off the best depiction of a vampire in film history.

  15. kevin says

    Top 10 scariest movies (my opinion):
    1)Insidious
    2)Paranormal activity 3
    3)Woman in Black
    4)A Haunting in Connecticut
    5)Grudge
    6)Drag Me to Hell
    7) The Devil Inside
    8)Paranormal Activity 2
    9)Mirrors
    10) Cabin In the Woods

    All these movies came out in the 21st century. I saw them all in the theatres which makes them scarier. Some i watched at home and they weren’t as scary such as paranormal activity 1, but 2 still got me.

  16. nicoleskids says

    Kay, first thing both versions of Let Me In shouldn’t be there, bc the remake is wayy better and a lot more frightening. People say “LTROI” the original is better simply because its more “artsy”(poor quality) and simply that… cause its original. Definitley not better.

    1. The Descent – was she really in the cave again? did she ever get out?? WHO KNOWS! PLUS BADASS MURDEROUS HOT CHICKS!

    2. The Devil Inside – so fucking scary man, demons….*shudders* and how they tied in the Vatican was genius, plus it felt like a real documentary unlike paramormal activity

    3. Last House on The Left – Deep as fuck and a truly fucking scary situation, rape scene is a little much but sooo fucking chilling and the Dad actor in this movie is impecable

    4. Insidious – DAFUQ. That’s all

    5. The Orphan – That kid is waaay scarier than chucky or the grudge dude, and her past….

    6. 28 Days Later – A great story with perfect scare and gore factor and precisely paced

    7. Quarantine – fucking badass, fucking scary, although right from the beginning I knew the plan was to leave them in there, obvs americans would never risk infection of the whole city to save a few lives lmfao

    8. Let’s not forget 2001′s HANNIBAL- fucking amazing sequel and freaky shit! Germans, man!

    9. Mirrors – don’t look at the mirriors in my bathroom for too long cause of that movie, the specialFX were phenominal

    10. Chernobyl Diaries- if u haven’t seen it yet… oh boy after 30 mins in of suspense you’ll be shitting

    If I could add a couple more I would, for example
    Cabin Fever (thats fucked up)
    Thirteen Ghosts (classic)
    Amityville Horror (ryan reynolds version)
    The Posession (new, fucking freaky shit bro!)

    to kevin… the grudge, paranormal activity 1 and 2, the woman in black and drag me to hell are NOT SCARY. The acting is bad (except for woman in black), the camera tricks are obvious, and the story lines fail to create suspense or tension.

    PNM, no, you are clearly the highschool student who considers gory comedys to be horror movies…. skateland? zombieland? those aren’t even close to horror movies….and “ahh!zombies”… that is literally the product of stupid youth’s obsession with zombies being the cool thing to be scared of right now, and its not even good for 1 minute.

  17. nicoleskids says

    ALSO I forgot a few!!

    Dead Silence, although criticized for the acting, the tale is scary and was one of the best “pop ups” I’ve seen in a while
    A Haunting in Conneticut was preeetty creepy
    Saw 3 – Fuck off, the Saw movies have a very well thought out complex plot and are fucking scary in the moment, not top ten material though
    SILENT HILL – DUDE. ITS FUCKING SCARY.THAT TOWN MAKES ME SHIT BRICKS. SHOULDVE PUT THAT ONE IN THE TOP TEN. Even the video game was scary as shit
    Dawn of the Dead is amazing, but its not top 10 material in my opinion
    The Children – creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep

  18. Alex says

    I agree 100% with The Grudge. “Monster On The Box” or not, that was one of the scariest F’n movies ever.

    Disturbingly frightening.

  19. raghav says

    see the bollywood movie VEERANA i can bet you will be the piss in ur pant half an hour of the movies…..nd can someone tell me the nastiest horrable movie…with some hot seens if u…den pls mention here….

  20. Al says

    Terrible list. I thought Drag me to Hell was a comedy when I saw it. Also, re-makes of movies that where made the year before should be shameful to mention and The Mist? Scary??? Also, Let the right one in is a great movie but I don’t think either it nor it’s re-make should make the cut since they are not horror films… not really, more of a coming of age drama with some embedded horror, due to a character being a vampire. Again if you where to put it in the list… it should be the original.

    The only things I agree should be there are The Others, 28 Days Later. The rest of the list should have Saw 1 (the rest of the franchise is crap) THe grudge, The Japanese version of The Ring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, amongst others. The point is… your list is in itself Horrific. Please do not write about movies ever again.

  21. Pako says

    Shaun of the dead ??? r u kiding me ??
    what about
    the rite
    30 days of night
    The Exorcist
    and some others

  22. Daniel says

    This is such a bad list omg why is there an honourable mention to paranormal activity? The PA series is a boring rip off of every other “haunted house” movie ever. There are scenes that are directly copied from movies like poltergeist and a nightmare on elm street.
    Your other honourable mention, REC, should not only be on the list but be towards the top of it.

  23. Abinash Panda says

    according to me … paranormal activity 1 . 2. 3. and 4 shuld be included
    and also saw 1 .2.3.4.5.6 and the new one 7

    hunting in connicyicut is bit scary………
    but exorcist is the mother of all scary movies…..:)

  24. Veronique says

    Yes, I couldn’t sleep after watching The Descent.
    It was a horror to imagine a monster coming out from below my bed and eat my throat when I turned off the light at night.
    Geeeezz……

  25. pnm says

    hy . i like zombie movies & looking for all the name of all movies related to zombies. or like wrong turn type plz help me.
    .

  26. Patataboy says

    WTF … How can you put he crappy adaptation of “the ring” instead of the original.
    So what … a movie can’t be good if it is not American or English made!? That is so full of sh*t

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