The 31 Best Modern Horror Movies

Horror movies come in many shapes and sizes, and the past two decades of the genre have certainly produced a ton of great films that are also as varied as they come. We’ve gotten sympathetic kid vampires, dizzyingly disturbing new yarns about colonial New England, fresh variations on the classic zombie story, remakes of oldies but goodies that bring something meaningful to the table, parental/child dissonance couched in a storybook monster, and so much more.

Yeah, the 21st century has been a good time to be a horror fan. And so join us in celebrating the form with IGN’s list of the 31 best modern horror movies. (We’ll let you figure out why we picked the number 31…) As for how we made our selections, we weighed several factors, including overall quality, scare potential, originality, thematic weight, impact on the genre, and of course good old Editor’s Choice.

Read on for all our picks in the slideshow below or scroll down for the full article. And be sure to also check out the Best 90s Horror Movies you can stream now and the Best Movies on Shudder. And happy Halloween!

The 31 Best Modern Horror Movies

31. Malignant

Have you seen 28 Days Later?

Let’s get this out of the way first: Malignant is, indeed, weird as hell. But aren’t all the best horror movies? The word “wild” has been a widely used, and completely appropriate descriptor for James Wan’s latest masterful and effective storytelling in the horror genre. And as brow-furrowing as its familiar horror trope mishmash beginnings are, Malignant trades on its initial scenes with one of horror’s all-time best pay-offs possible. Even its early hints manage to coalesce to catch you off-guard ultimately. At the top, Malignant explores a fairly well-trodden plot introduction by focusing on a woman suffering from horrifying visions of brutal murders by an unfeeling (and unknown) murderer. But the movie simultaneously leads you down less explored paths as its mysteries open up, rapidly shifting from slow pace teases to full-on action that is surprising and delightful (and a little chuckle-worthy). The vicious scenes are complemented by incredible (and, sure, incredibly over-exaggerated) choreography that really drives at the heart of what makes Malignant great. After a frenetic intro that tricks you into thinking it’ll be just another haunting tale, Malignant ends up being quite an enjoyable ride that indulges in its absurdity in the best way. -Tina Amini

30. The Devil’s Rejects

One of the few horror sequels that’s vastly superior to its predecessor, Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects picks up with the homicidal Firefly family seven months after the horrific Halloween Sacrifice in House of 1000 Corpses. After narrowly escaping from a shoot-out with a posse of state troopers and one Texas Sheriff—who’s thirsty for blood and drunk on revenge—Otis, Baby, and local TV clown Captain Spaulding go on a rampage, torturing and murdering their way across the U.S. southwest. But what makes The Devil’s Rejects really stand out is the sadistic family played by Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and Sheri Moon Zombie. Because they are just that: a family.They play fully fleshed-out characters, with long-standing and complex relationships, who truly care about each other. The movie is also disturbingly funny, but not like other horror movies, which include deliberate moments of levity separate from the violence. Instead, the Firefly family cracks jokes like the Seven Dwarfs whistle (while they work), but instead of diamond mining, it’s murder. Oh, and the film also features cinema’s best use of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” -Michael Calabro

29. Rec

Rec is hardly the first or the last horror movie to adopt the found-footage format, but it’s certainly among the most effective. This Spanish-language film follows an enterprising news team who accompany a group of firefighters, only to discover far more than they bargained for inside an apartment complex. By combining the shaky-cam format with elements of zombie and demonic possession movies, Rec truly captures the feeling of being locked inside a deathtrap. It’s no wonder this horror film inspired three sequels and an English-language remake. -Jesse Schedeen

28. One Cut of the Dead

This Japanese Zom-com, shot on a shoestring ¥3 million ($25,000), is a love letter to both zombie movies and the trials and tribulations that come with low-budget filmmaking. The film starts with a small film crew shooting a zombie movie at an abandoned water filtration plant. The director, who desperately needs the film to succeed, paints a blood pentagram in the haunted plant to summon real zombies. The single-take film follows the cast and crew as they fight off the zombies after the director deliberately puts them in harm’s way for the camera. Of course, this first section of One Cut of the Dead is chock-full of b-movie shlock and amateurish acting, but what makes the film great is everything that happens after the “film” within the film finishes. Two-thirds of the movie is basically the “making of” of the first third. And it follows the IRL actors through pre-production and the actual shoot of the film’s first third. Director Shin’ichirō Ueda turns what feels like shoddy filmmaking in the first part into jokes that really pay off in the second half when the audience learns the real-life reasons for some questionable creative decisions. More than that, the film even manages to squeeze out a touching ending that really tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever tried to make a movie with almost no money. -Michael Calabro

27. Candyman (2021)

This thoughtful sequel/reboot to the 1990s supernatural slasher franchise follows the adult Anthony McCoy, a visual artist with a connection to the original film whose exploration of the urban legend of Candyman unleashes murder and mayhem. Nia DaCosta’s timely, visceral film digs deeper into the ideas suggested in the earlier films’ depiction of Candyman’s painful legacy, while also pivoting the mythos into a new, yet appropriate direction. -Jim Vejvoda

26. The Ring

Japanese horror movies (or J-Horror) were a goldmine for Hollywood in the early-2000s. And while most adaptations were pale imitations of their Japanese counterparts, a case could be made for Gore Verbinski’s American version of The Ring as a superior remake. Like its Japanese contemporaries, the original Japanese version of The Ring combined sumptuous imagery with an absolutely horrifying premise. But it lacked teeth. The American version took these elements and supersized it all, creating a maximalist vision that combined the originality and high-gothic concept of J-Horror with scares that hit like a jackhammer. -Matt Kim

25. The Strangers

A surprising number of horror movies get panned upon their initial release. Home invasion flick The Strangers is no exception, but it’s hard to see why this film was so hated back in 2008. (Not including IGN, who gave the film an 8!) Not only is it quietly terrifying in ways that a lot of horror could only dream to accomplish, but The Strangers’ introduction of its antagonist is one of the most iconic moments in contemporary horror. The Man in the Mask (Kip Weeks) simply standing behind Kristen (Liv Tyler) as she paces while on the phone. The Man’s choosing to do nothing is such a viscerally haunting moment… matched only by the line uttered by Dollface (Gemma Ward) in The Strangers’ climax. -Amelia Emberwing

24. Hush

Mike Flanagan has become known for his impeccable horror TV series of late, but his films often pack a similar horrific punch. Hush gave us a new spin on home invasion, following the deaf and mute Maddie (Kate Siegel) as a mysterious masked figure (played by John Gallagher Jr.) discovers her disability and seeks to add her to his list of victims. As a fun aside, the character Maddie is the author of something called Midnight Mass in Hush, which you’ll recognize as the title of Mike Flanagan’s most recent Netflix series! -Amelia Emberwing

23. Midsommar

Hereditary director Ari Aster once again proves his ability to get under your skin in Midsommar, but where his debut existed mostly in the shadows, his follow-up plays out in the broad, terrifying daylight. Grounded by a raw, anxiety-inducing performance from Florence Pugh, Midsommar is otherwise dizzying and over-saturated, which is fitting for a film about an unknowable cult. Depending on your outlook on life, Midsommar might also be the most cathartic thing you see all year. -Lucy O’Brien

22. Raw

Imagine looking at your sister passed out on the floor because she accidentally cut her own finger off trying to give you a bikini wax. Instead of helping her, you feel an overwhelming urge to taste the blood dripping from her severed finger. Of course, you indulge. And before you realize it, you’re eating her finger. That was Justine’s first exposure to cannibalism; it wouldn’t be her last. Raw follows Justine, a lifelong vegetarian, and first-year veterinary student, who slowly develops an insatiable appetite for human flesh after a college hazing incident forces her to eat raw rabbit kidneys. This French art-house body-horror flick garnered a ton of press during its release thanks to reports of numerous people puking in screenings, but it isn’t just some schlocky college cannibal story. Writer-director Julia Ducouranu combines Justine’s sexual awakening with her primal instinct to consume human flesh into a coming-of-age story that probes how a changing body and the hedonistic decisions of youth can irrevocably alter one’s identity into something that seemed unrecognizable not too long before. -Michael Calabro

21. Pulse (2001)

While the ’90s were arguably the golden age of Japanese horror cinema, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa continued to innovate in the new millennium. Pulse offers a perfectly chilling premise for our ever-more digitally connected society—the dead are using the Internet as a conduit into the real world. The film succeeds both in building a mounting sense of dread and in exploring just how lonely and isolating modern life can be, even in the most densely populated cities. -Jesse Schedeen

20. Sinister

Before they were scaring the heck out of us with The Black Phone, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill were creating a different kind of scare with Sinister. It’s the kind of horror movie that keeps you up at night, whether you’re most afraid of its ghoulish Baghuul, the creepy kids, or the terrifying home movies. If you don’t believe us, then look to the scientists who deemed Sinister as the scariest movie of all time. Fans still talk about the unique thrill of the home movies used to haunt Ethan Hawke’s Ellison, and the abject terror inspired by Sinister’s antagonist. -Amelia Emberwing

19. Green Room

It’s all punks versus Nazis in Jeremy Saulnier’s survival horror film Green Room. A punk rock band lead by Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat find themselves trapped in the green room of an out-of-the-way skinhead bar when they inadvertantly witness a murder. Patrick Stewart plays the casually-very-evil leader of this particular chapter of white-power assholes eager, and terrifyingly willing, to cover the killing up. In the violence and claustrophobia that ensues, the advantage ebbs and flows between the punks and the Nazis, as characters on both sides find out how far they’re willing to go. The biggest strength of Green Room though is creating an environment where horrific violence might be lurking around every corner or just on the other side of that door. And for much of its runtime, that’s absolutely the case. The film is nails on a chalkboard tension where relief comes in the form of a dog attack. -Clint Gage

18. The Cabin in the Woods

Though definitely a horror-comedy, The Cabin in the Woods delivers enough on the horror that it deserves a proud spot on this list. While its primary drawcard is its wildly creative subversion of tired tropes, it could have been much more cynical: The Cabin in the Woods features a charismatic central cast of characters who you don’t really want to die, even though you know director-writer Drew Goddard is having a grand old time calling the sadistic shots. -Lucy O’Brien

17. Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo can technically be considered part of the found-footage horror subgenre, but it goes about things in a very different way. This Australian psychological horror film takes more of a mockumentary approach, modeling itself on the sorts of supernatural documentaries you might find on The Discovery Channel. By employing a combination of supposed archival footage, old photographs, and interviews, Lake Mungo becomes a surprisingly convincing tale of a grieving family dealing with the supernatural aftermath of a tragic drowning. The creep factor is strong with this one. -Jesse Schedeen

16. Saint Maud

After losing a patient, a nurse turns to the Catholic church to reinvent herself. Then everything goes to hell. Saint Maud is a daring and disturbing film about grief, religion, and womanhood, not to mention an incredibly powerful directorial debut from Rose Glass. Equal parts horror film and character study, Saint Maud is a gripping and unsettling tale of one woman’s deterioration and her inability to find salvation, even in the house of God. And it all comes together with one of the most intense and deranged finales of any film in the genre. -Brian Altano

15. The Devil’s Backbone

Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language ghost story is set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, where the heartbreak of that era is as wrenching as the supernatural goings-on that unfold. As with some of del Toro’s best work, The Devil’s Backbone is mostly told from the vantage point of a child, in this case Fernando Tielve’s Carlos, and to great effect too as the child puzzles at not just the orphanage’s whispers of a ghostly presence but also the life he has found himself living as a result of the war. Horror certainly follows, but so does some measure of healing, which is ultimately what sets the film a cut above. -Scott Collura

14. Paranormal Activity

Though Paranormal Activity spurred so many sequels and copycats it feels wrung dry, any cynicism disappears on a rewatch of the original. Through the lens of security cameras, Paranormal Activity captures just enough horror onscreen that keeping your eyes focused on an empty room is a singularly terrifying ordeal. Its mundane, middle-class trappings will have you questioning what’s lurking in the shadows of your own bedroom long after its final, devastating blow is delivered. -Lucy O’Brien

13. The Invitation

After seeing Karyn Kusama’s 2015 The Invitation, it is all I wanted to talk about. The premise is simple: A group of friends reconnect at a dinner party, where the hosts’ motives turn out to be not so innocent. If you haven’t seen the movie, I hope you dig no further. It is a film that truly deserves to be seen unspoiled, not because of a remarkable plot twist or Matt Damon cameo (don’t worry, there’s not one) but because of the way the film leaves you feeling. It’s determined to show just how complicated and dangerous its own simple premise can be. A sudden burst of violence in the final act notwithstanding, The Invitation is an excruciatingly slow-simmering exercise in “oh God what would I really do in this situation” and if it’s all you want to talk about after you see it, do everything in your power not to spoil it too. -Clint Gage

12. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a fascinating blend of genres. Equal parts horror film and Western with no small amount of wry humor, Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 film follows a lonely vampire in a run-down Iranian town. It’s a film that uses every bit of vampire lore we all know and love, but recontextualizes them in desolate black-and-white and with a surprisingly stylish soundtrack. The titular Girl roams the streets on a skateboard, hunting the truly bad men in the town. In true spaghetti Western fashion, she’s a Ronin in a fringe-y town, inserting herself in the lives and problems of the townsfolk. She’s a Girl With No Name who happens to be a vampire. In a subgenre filled with a century’s worth of rules to be followed, this is a vampire movie that truly does something new. -Clint Gage

11. Train to Busan

Zombies are the reigning champs of 21st century horror, but not all zombie movies are created equal. Enter Train to Busan, a roller-coaster of a zombie movie that reinvigorated the genre with a bit of fun. A bullet train is a novel setting for a zombie outbreak—a small, cramped, two-way tube is the perfect petri dish to explore all kinds of madcap situations, whether that’s crawling through the overhead baggage storage to avoid zombies, or straight-up fighting through the narrow aisles to get to the front of the train. Along the way, you’ll fall in love with a cast of characters who won’t all survive the trip to Busan. -Matt Kim

10. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 Under the Skin may on the surface seem more science fiction than horror. The story of an extra-terrestrial disguised as a young woman prowling through Scotland in a van for some alien purpose is, as the title suggests, just the outer appearance of a truly terrifying movie. In what I consider one of the most disturbing scenes ever filmed, from a distance Scarlett Johannson’s nameless character quietly and dispassionately watches a tragedy unfold in broad daylight on a beach. The film is less about things that go bump in the night, although the horrible void where her unsuspecting victims are liquified certainly haunts. Instead, her study of our species shines a light on what it is to be human, causing her to question her own sense of self, and the audience to ask those questions ourselves. -Clint Gage

9. His House

A pair of South Sudan refugees escape to London and move into a rotting, dilapidated house where an evil presence lurks. Outside of its walls lies a city rife with crime, chaos, and racism. His House tells the story of a couple trying to stay alive and trying to fit in, both in their new home and in their new society, neither of which seems to welcome them with anything but evil and animosity. It’s a bold and perilous take on the tried and true haunted house genre with some genuinely scary moments and a story that will stick with you long after the credits roll. -Brian Altano

8. The Descent

Some horror movies are about the terrifying power of mother nature, while others are about horrifying monsters out to get you. The Descent combines both in a claustrophobic nightmare of a movie. Six friends get together for a spelunking adventure, only to find themselves trapped in an unknown cave system miles below the Earth and far away from help. And as they navigate the tight caves they realize they aren’t alone… The Descent is a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare of a film, but it’s the particularly bleak ending that serves as one final, fatal kicker. -Matt Kim

7. It Follows

This slow-burning modern take on a good old-fashioned slasher subjects its protagonist to an incredibly unenviable curse that will have you asking: “What would you do?” Attach any subtext you want—the film can be read very flexibly and plays with familiar slasher tropes—but It Follows is also deeply frightening. If you’ve ever noticed someone just out of the corner of your eye and thought “are they following me?” then this is the film for you. Or not. -Lucy O’Brien

6. 28 Days Later

The past couple of decades have been very good to zombie fans, but no modern zombie movie has left as strong an impression as 28 Days Later. This is the film that turned the old formula on its head. It gave us fast-moving savages infected with “rage” in place of the usual shambling, mindless zombies. 28 Days Later was also an early pioneer in the use of digital cameras; the grainy, low-fi look makes the film feel all the more like an authentic glimpse into London’s post-apocalyptic future. -Jesse Schedeen

5. The Witch

Filmmaker Robert Eggers’ folk horror film fully immerses the viewer in puritanical colonial New England, even having his characters speak in period-accurate language. The dread builds to a shocking finale in this slow-burn tale of an isolated, pious family falling afoul of a supernatural evil inhabiting the woods. -Jim Vejvoda

4. The Babadook

A fatigued widow struggling to raise her deeply troubled son opens the wrong pop-up book in this harrowing psychological horror tale from Australia. As the titular monster insinuates itself into the lives and home of Amelia and young Samuel, Jennifer Kent’s film suggests that some horrors we just have to learn to live with. -Jim Vejvoda

3. Let the Right One In

Sweden’s Let the Right One In—not to be confused with its American adaptation, Let Me In—is a vampire movie that shines in its subtlety. It’s not terribly often that you can find yourself empathizing and rooting for the “bad guy/girl” in a horror movie, but that’s exactly what makes Let the Right One In a unique examination of a vampire’s plight—starting with the insatiable hunger and confines of the darkness and edging into the lonely existence of developing relationships with humans. Ultimately a blend of a drama that’s rooted in those classic vampire quirks, Let the Right One In mostly focuses on two 12-year-olds as they struggle to connect and fit in in their worlds (for completely different reasons) who, in doing so, find comfort and understanding in each other. The movie’s precise and selective reveals of older-than-she-looks Eli and her vampire tendencies combine beautifully with that discovery of friendship, self-confidence, and even a bit of juvenile romance. Let the Right One In is a vampire story with heart and, dare we say, even realism as it depicts a quiet unfolding of vampire existence in a small suburb of Sweden. -Tina Amini

2. Hereditary

The plot and central conflicts in Hereditary were deliberately obfuscated in the trailers and supplemental marketing leading up to the film’s initial release, and for good reason. To honor that tradition, we won’t spoil any of it here, but it’s safe to state that it’s a story about a family wrought with tragedy and grief with some sinister powers at play beneath it all. At the core of the film are some incredibly strong performances from its leads, most notably Toni Collette who portrays a terrorized mother in one of the most genuinely haunting displays of acting in horror movie history. By the end of the film you’ll likely be a bit stunned, confused, and terrified, but that’s all the more reason to watch it again… well, that and the myriad hidden terrors lurking in the background of several shots. But we’ll let you find those on your own. -Brian Altano

1. Get Out

Jordan Peele made his directorial debut with this 2017 film, which does what all the best horror cinema does—explore real issues and ideas through the lens of its genre trappings. So on the one hand, we have Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris, who visits the home of his girlfriend’s family to meet them for the first time, only to realize that something very, very strange is going on in the community. Like, Body Snatchers strange. But on the other hand, there’s the fact that Chris is a Black man and his hosts are white, and the apparent “Body Snatched” are also all Black… Get Out of course is centered on the issue of race and racism, but when his girlfriend’s dad (a despicably even-keeled Bradley Whitford) announces upon first meeting Chris that he would’ve voted for Obama a third time if he could—and seemingly means it—it’s clear that the film is more complicated than simply being about neo-Nazis-are-bad histrionics. Get Out subverts movies’ usual depictions of racists as skinheads and the like by making its villains the well-meaning suburbanite who think themselves open-minded and progressive. And that’s what’s truly scary about Get Out. -Scott Collura

What are your favorite modern horror movies? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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