Horror movies have been around almost as long as filmmaking itself, and while the genre has always been cyclical in nature –dipping, sometimes drastically, in both quality and quantity from time to time — all it usually takes is a well-timed box office hit, a fresh new angle or a hot young filmmaker to reanimate it again.
The 21st century has been, overall, an extremely healthy one for horror. There’s been the usual amount of dross, of course, but the genre has branched out in a number of interesting new directions as well. We had absolutely no problem tallying the initial batch of movies for this article
These hidden gems should help out any fan on their quest for the best, and most underrated, modern horror movies available today.
Top 10 Horror Movies List On TrueTalkies
1. Hereditary (2018)
Hereditary is a 2018 American supernatural psychological horror drama film written and directed by Ari Aster, in his feature film directorial debut. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother.
It’s still hard to believe that this is the first feature ever from writer/director Ari Aster, who brings a literal parade of horrors to his terrifying exploration of a family’s complete breakdown from forces within and without.
Toni Collette is off-the-charts stunning as the mother who tries to hold her clan together even in the face of unspeakable tragedy and the knowledge that her own family history is working against them. Harrowing and thoroughly unsettling, Hereditary is perhaps the best example yet of a new wave of genre films that are about something while still scaring the living shit out of you.
2. Get Out (2017)
Get Out is a 2017 American horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele in his directorial debut. It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, and Catherine Keener. Get Out follows Chris Washington (Kaluuya), a young black man who uncovers shocking secrets when he meets the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Williams).
The directorial debut of comedy writer/actor Jordan Peele is a sharp, funny and creepy horror satire on race relations, white liberal hubris and socal justice. It’s also a genuinely suspenseful thriller, albeit with nods to earlier movies like The Stepford Wives, and proves that horror continues to be an effective genre through which to tell culturally and socially relevant stories.
Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young African-American photographer who heads to the country with his white girlfriend (Alison Williams) to meet her parents for the first time. The meeting does not go well as Chris realizes that the seemingly nice yet awkward Armitages (led by an excellent Catherine Keener) are not what they appear to be at all. Get Out is thrilling, refreshing and a nice change of pace for the genre.
3. The Wailing (2016)
The Wailing (곡성/ 哭聲;/Gokseong) is a 2016 South Korean horror film directed by Na Hong-jin and starring Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee. The film centers on a policeman who investigates a series of mysterious killings and illnesses in a remote Korean village called Gokseong in order to save his daughter. The film was both a commercial and critical success.
South Korea struck again with this epic-length (156 minutes!) story of possession and exorcism in a small village from director Na Hong-jin. Once again a father must fight to save his daughter’s life: in this case he is a cop (Kwak Dowon) investigating a series of mysterious and violent deaths, only to discover that they have a supernatural cause that soon infects his family.
Despite odd moments of humor here and there, The Wailing is almost unremittingly bleak and its imagery is thoroughly unsettling. Deliberately paced and building an atmosphere of unspeakable dread, The Wailing is a standout of Asian horror.
4. Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar is a 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, and Will Poulter. It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every 90 years, only to find themselves in the clutches of a Scandinavian pagan cult.
Ari Aster blew everyone away in 2018 with his writing and directing debut, Hereditary (see below), a frightening tale of family dysfunction, grief, memory and naked witches summoning an ancient demon (Was that a spoiler? Sorry). His follow-up, Midsommar, wears its direct influences on its sleeve and tries a little too hard to signal its own importance, but it’s supremely eerie in its own way and quite nasty in what it shows and what it hints at.
Four college friends — including disintegrating couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) — are invited by an exchange student to Sweden, where they’ll visit the reclusive commune in which he was raised. Fans of films like The Wicker Man will have a pretty good sense of what’s coming, even if Aster doesn’t quite answer all the questions he raises. What he does do, however, is chill the blood with both the way the travelers turn on each other and how the Harga find spirituality and transcendence in their deeply disturbing rituals.
5. The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film written and directed by Jennifer Kent in her directorial debut, and produced by Kristina Ceyton and Kristian Moliere. The film stars Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. It is based on Kent’s 2005 short film Monster.
An instant classic upon its release, this Australian shocker is, astoundingly, the debut film from writer/director Jennifer Kent, who retains the kind of complete and unwavering grip on her story, themes and tone that you would expect from a much more seasoned filmmaker. Essie Davis is outstanding as Amelia, a widowed mother still reeling from the loss of her husband Oskar as she does her exhausted best to raise their troubled six-year-old son Sam (Noah Wiseman), who was born the night that Oskar died.
Enter the Babadook, the subject of a frightening storybook that Sam finds and an entity that is soon terrorizing mother and child. Thoroughly frightening and unnerving, The Babadook is also quite profound as it touches on the nature of grief and parenthood, hinting that both can drive a person to the edge of madness — or into the clutches of the Babadook.
6. A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place is a 2018 American horror film directed by John Krasinski and written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and Krasinski, from a story conceived by Woods and Beck. The plot revolves around a father (Krasinski) and a mother (Emily Blunt) who struggle to survive and raise their children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by blind monsters with an acute sense of hearing.
Who knew that mild Jim Halpert from The Office would end up directing one of the most acclaimed and outright scary movies of the past few years? In his third outing behind the camera (which he also co-wrote and stars in), John Krasinski uses silence — which can be deployed to great effect in horror movies — in the most ingenious manner possible. He, Emily Blunt and their three children live in a near-future world overrun by hideous, blind creatures that use their superior hearing to track prey by sound, thus necessitating that the human survivors remain as quiet as possible.
The result is a thriller in which literally every footstep is suffused with dread and a rusty nail becomes an object of extreme terror. While the script creaks a bit and could have used some better development, there’s no doubt that Krasinski directs this for maximum tension while getting terrific work out of himself, his wife and the kids. A Quiet Place is not just compelling horror, but a loud announcement of an outstanding new directorial talent.
7. The Orphanage (2007)
The Orphanage (AKA: El orfanato) is a 2007 Spanish gothic supernatural horror film and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona. The film stars Belén Rueda as Laura, Fernando Cayo as her husband, Carlos, and Roger Príncep as their adopted son Simón. The plot centers on Laura, who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but after an argument with Laura, Simón goes missing.
The film’s script was written by Sergio G. Sánchez in 1996 and brought to the attention of Bayona in 2004. Bayona asked his long-time friend, director Guillermo del Toro, to help produce the film and to double its budget and filming time. Bayona wanted the film to capture the feel of 1970s Spanish cinema; he cast Geraldine Chaplin and Belén Rueda, who were later praised for their roles in the film.
The debut feature from Spanish director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) was produced by his friend Guillermo Del Toro, and frankly feels like it. It certainly has many of the hallmarks of Del Toro’s own Spanish-language horror films, with its focus on children, its marvelously atmospheric setting, its short bursts of shocking violence and its ghostly apparitions.
Either way, it’s a rich, beautifully crafted film that becomes unexpectedly and powerfully emotional at the finish. Belen Rueda is sensational as Laura, who returns to her childhood home — an old orphanage — with her husband and adopted son, only to find that it is not exactly empty. An English-language remake was planned for a long time, but perhaps fortunately, it has not happened.
8. It Follows (2014)
It Follows is a 2014 American supernatural horror film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell and stars Maika Monroe as Jaime “Jay” Height, a 19-year-old college student who is pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter, as well as Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe.
One of the best horror films of the past couple of years is, like all the genre’s standout entries, rich in metaphor and subtext – is the curse passed through sex among the movie’s characters a stand-in for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, or is the sex act itself a way to affirm life or at least postpone the inevitable onset of death? Writer/director David Robert Mitchell keeps it ambiguous – much to some viewers’ chagrin – and instead focuses on the movie’s overall atmosphere and tone, which is dream-like and full of dread.
Lead actress Maika Monroe is a star in the making, but the most unforgettable thing about It Follows is its implacable walking phantoms, who cause your flesh to crawl every time they enter the frame.
9. I Saw the Devil (2010)
I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다/ 惡魔를 보았다/ Angmareul boatda) is a 2010 South Korean psychological action thriller film directed by Kim Jee-woon and written by Park Hoon-jung. Starring Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik, the film follows NIS agent Kim Soo-hyun (Lee), who embarks on a quest of revenge when his fiancée is brutally murdered by the psychopathic serial killer Jang Kyung-chul (Choi).
Director Kim Ji-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) sends an intelligence agent (Lee Byung-hun) on a mission of vengeance against a sadistic serial killer (Choi Min-sik) in this shocking and stunningly depraved cat and mouse thriller in which all notions of morality go out the window along with numerous bloody body parts. Yet Kim keeps you invested in the characters as well, and this Korean epic has an undertone of sadness that’s hard to shake. Kim holds it all together masterfully, creating a horrifying experience like nothing else we saw the year it came out.
10. The Witch (2015)
The Witch (The VVitch, and subtitled A New England Folktale) is a 2015 period supernatural horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson. Set in the 1630s, The Witch follows a Puritan family who encounter forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.
A stunning feature film debut from director Robert Eggers, The Witch tells the story of a 17th century Puritan family
who are excommunicated from their village and build their own farm on the edge of a vast forest — only to be preyed upon by an ancient, malevolent witch who lives deep in the woods. Touching on themes of religious persecution and mania, sexual awakening and humanity vs. nature, The Witch is a fully immersive and wholly terrifying experience.
Director Robert Eggers maintains astonishing control of mood and texture throughout, and the entire cast — including newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy as the family’s teen daughter — seems eerily snatched out of the past. The Witch is classic supernatural horror.
That’s our list — did we miss any of your favorites that you’d like to add? Let us know below!