Horror is one of the most experimental and groundbreaking genres of all time. Audiences seem to cannot get enough of the thrill of pushing their sense of fear to the extreme. Prior decades have featured groundbreaking films like “Psycho” and “The Sixth Sense,” but modern horror movies are doing just as much to redefine the genre as these films did years ago.
For this list, we have assembled the most influential or groundbreaking horror film of every year for the last decade. Factors such as quality, significance, and influence were considered when deciding to include a particular movie. If you disagree with any of our picks, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @Filmnetic. Let go over our picks for the top 10 horror films of the decade.
James Wan, one of the most prolific horror directors of this generation, needed to prove that he was not a one-trick-pony after his iconic breakout with “Saw” in 2004. He needed one more big hit to launch himself into the Hollywood big leagues, and “Insidious” did the job. The success of Insidious allowed Wan to become a staple in the horror genre. He moved on to continue the “Insidious” franchise, startup “The Conjuring” franchise, and sign on to big blockbuster flicks like “Furious 7” and “Aquaman.” This film also managed to launch the career of writer Leigh Whannel, who went on to direct beloved films like 2018’s “Upgrade” and 2020’s “The Invisible Man.”
The film itself was underwhelming for some critics and audiences, earning only 66% on Rotten Tomatoes and a B CinemaScore, but served as a stepping stone for many of the most prominent Hollywood figures to get to where they are today. The film follows a family searching for help for their son, who fell into a coma after a mysterious incident. After discovering the details of his condition, the family must fight for their son’s life against a significant supernatural threat.
Like “Insidious,” 2012’s “Sinister” was a significant stepping stone film for Hollywood’s prominent talent to get their big break. Director Scott Derrickson received a high-profile gig with Marvel Studios “Doctor Strange” off of this film’s success. This film holds such high regard to this day because of its ability to up the standard of fear in horror cinema.
The story follows Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke), a true-crime writer looking to revive his career. He discovers a set of mysterious tapes in his new home that seems to document a serial killer’s work in the 1960s, but Oswald finds something more sinister than he expected. A recent scientific study determined that “Sinister” is the scariest movie of all time, so it more than earns its spot on this list. Click here to learn more about the study.
2013: The Conjuring
One of the most famous modern horror franchises began in 2013 with the release of “The Conjuring.” Hot off the heels of 2011’s “Insidious,” James Wan created a film based on the adventures of real-life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The first film in the franchise follows the Warrens as they help out a large family after moving into a haunted house. This simple set up allowed for a series of plot twists, spectacular visuals, and iconic scares. Since the first film, “The Conjuring” series has led to multiple sequels and spinoffs, making it one of the most prolific horror movie franchises in movie history.
2014: The Babadook
No one expected a movie like “The Babadook” to garner the reaction that it did. What started as a low budget indie film that made less than $1 million at the domestic box office became a true cult classic when it reached streaming services. Soon, critics got a hold of the film and rewarded it with a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with over 200 reviews.
The film follows a widow and her young son when she discovers that the monster from her son’s book is real. The film is praised for its ability to terrify audiences while also telling a touching story about a mother and her son.
2015: The Witch
2015 was a smaller year for horror, but one managed to stand out. “The Witch” takes place in 17th century New England where a devout Christian family is tested when their son vanishes, and their world starts to crumble around them. Their eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is accused of witchcraft, and their loyalties to one another are tested. The film had a stark divide between critics and audiences with a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a C- CinemaScore. Ultimately, it’s up to everyone to form their own opinion, but “The Witch” is worth the risk.
2016: Train to Busan
After 2019’s “Parasite,” U.S. audiences were introduced to the incredible films coming out of South Korea, but “Parasite” was not their first film. South Korea has been producing films of this quality for decades, one of them being 2016’s “Train to Busan.”
The film follows a man and his daughter as they find themselves on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak. “Train to Busan” features break taking visuals, action, and horror. The film boasts a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and is credited with reinvigorating the zombie genre by constructing a unique take on a classic premise.
2017: Get Out
Jordan Peele changed the standard for horror films with his 2017 directorial debut “Get Out.” He came from a prolific career in sketch comedy to become an overnight star in the horror genre. Not only did he create a horror film that managed to thrill and engage audiences, but he made a horror film with dramatic and societal substance.
“Get Out” follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man who visits his white girlfriend’s family in suburban New England. The film explores both subtle and overt racism that has become the norm in society. “Get Out” features incredible performances from Kaluuya and his supporting cast. It also features an excellent script that earned Peele an Academy Award. It is now one of the most famous horror films of all time and a must-watch for any film buff.
Check out our full review of “Get Out:”
“Get Out” (2017) is one of the best and most important movies of the 2010s, and not just within the horror genre.
Ari Aster’s debut film “Hereditary” is one of the most divisive films in modern history. The film follows a seemingly ordinary family that finds themselves in the midst of tragedy. “Hereditary” explores family dynamics in a uniquely terrifying way that makes the film a must-watch for anyone remotely interested. Toni Collette also gives one of the best performances of the decade, a fact that even the most staunch detractors of the film cannot deny.
“Hereditary’s” claim to fame is the massive divide between critics and audiences. It received an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and a D+ CinemaScore; a split so drastic that everyone should form their own opinion before skipping to judgment.
Check out our full review of “Hereditary:”
Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is one of the only two movies that have left my jaw hanging open for over five minutes straight. Halfway through the movie, I was speechless, which is a big feat in and of itself.
Jordan Peele pulled off the massive achievement of living up to his debut film. “Us” manages to differentiate itself enough from “Get Out” that it can thrive on its own while also feeling very much like a sibling to it. “Us” features two iconic performances from Lupita Nyong’ o as well as mesmerizing visuals and plot twists.
Peele also created an abstract film that different people can extract different meanings from. This choice left the film divisive among audiences despite its obvious groundbreaking achievements. While not as divisive as “Hereditary,” “Us” is another film that everyone should watch to form their own opinion.
Check out our full review of “Us:”
Not only does Peele manage to top his groundbreaking debut, but with ‘Us,’ but he pulls off the rare feat of creating a purposefully divisive film that different viewers interpret in different ways.
2020: The Invisible Man
It’s not hard to stand out in the almost non-existent 2020 movie season, but “The Invisible Man” does more than that. Even if the year went according to plan, this film would have likely retained its top spot. Leigh Whannel, fresh off of his debut in the “Insidious” franchise, updated a Universal Classic Monster better than anyone thought possible. “The Invisible Man” significantly changes the original story to a modern, relevant take on the title character’s premise.
“The Invisible Man” features inventive action, jaw-dropping plot twists, and impeccable writing that make it a perfect movie. It was a massive crowd-pleaser for critics and audiences, but its success was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Invisible Man” makes for the perfect movie night that is sure to please everyone watching.
Check out our full review of “The Invisible Man:”