Best Horror Movies iMore 2021
Horror movies are a genre that span hundreds of different films with dozens of sub-genres from witches and haunted houses, to maniacal killers, creature features and even psychological horror where you never see the baddie chasing down the main characters. As we get closer to Halloween you'll probably want to curl up with a special someone and scare the pants off yourself, and there is no better movie to do it with than Get Out which features a black man trapped with his white girlfriend and her parents in a seriously sinister situation.
- Best Overall: Get Out
- Best Value: Cabin in the Woods
- Best Slow Burn: Hereditary
- Best Dread Inducing: It Follows
- Best Creature Feature: A Quiet Place
- Best Zombie: Train to Busan
- Best Haunted House: The Conjuring
- Best Slasher: Halloween
- Best Book Adaptation: IT
- Best Witches: Suspiria
Best Overall: Get Out
Jordan Peele comes out swinging with a directorial debut that brings something entirely new to the horror movie genre with break out hit Get Out. Young black man Chris Washington has reluctantly agreed to go and spend the weekend with his girlfriend Rose and her parents in upstate New York. When his best friend tells him it's a bad idea, he blows him off and travels up to the house where something is off. There's only one other person of color, Rose's parents are giving off a weird vibe, and all his spidey senses are tingling.
At a get together at the house, things get even weirder. The only other black guy is married to a much older woman and seems to act strange until Chris tries to take a photo of him. The flash goes off, and the other man starts yelling at Chris to get out before being ushered into the house by Rose's parents. Chris and Rose bail away from the party, which is when we see Rose's father start an auction using a photo of Chris.
It wasn't so long ago that seeing black people in horror films, much less as the main character, or someone who survived, was a strange thing. This is a horror film from the perspective of a black man, and it lampoons old ideas of horror while turning creepy white people into the big antagonist. It plays on the fears of black folks, past issues of racism, and plenty more to bring a new brand of horror to fans everywhere.
If the horror genre has seemed stale to you for some time, then Get Out is just the fix. It delivers stellar acting, a fantastic story, and is filmed in a way that gets under your skin from the beginning. We won't spoil the climax, or what leads up to it, but this is a movie that absolutely should not be missed.
- Absolutely terrifying story
- Amazing cast
- Excellent camera work
- Movie takes a bit to get going
Best Value: Cabin in the Woods
You probably think you've seen this movie before. Five kids head up to the mountains for the weekend at a cabin in the woods, and terrible things start to happen. Been there, done that, right? Wrong. Cabin in the Woods takes the formula built by The Evil Dead and spins it on its head with humor and a lot of subversions when it comes to the horror tropes that fans already know and love.
Instead of the kids causing havoc, the real culprits are a vast underground corporation who is letting them decide how they will meet their demise. It treks between real horror, and plenty of humor as the kids fight back again perceived destiny, the corporation in question, and plenty of things that want them dead.
- Excellent subversion of horror tropes
- Funny and scary
- If you're looking to be frightened look elsewhere
Best Slow Burn: Hereditary
Generational trauma becomes something more visceral in the world of Hereditary. When Annie's elderly mother passes on the entire family begins to grieve, each in their own way. It isn't long before strange events start to fill their home and the space between the family members. After a second tragedy rips the family apart, things only get worse for Annie, her son, and her husband.
It seems that her mother was hiding all sorts of secrets that involved magic, demons, witches, and more. The terror only builds with each passing scene as you try to work out what is happening before the characters do. It's a slow burn of a horror movie with care put into every frame. If you enjoy movies that keep you on the edge of your seat with tension tight as a wire, this is the movie to check out.
- Chilling story that unfolds slowly
- Cast of three-dimensional characters
- Cinematography is excellent
- The first twist will mess you up
- Slow burns aren't every horror fans cup of tea
Best Dread Inducing: It Follows
"Someone passed it on to me, and now I've passed it on to you." This is the terrifying phrase that explains what is going on in It Follows, a 2014 indie horror flick that is a horror classic for a new generation. 19-year old Jay goes on a date and after fooling around her date roofies her. When she wakes up, tied to a chair, he explains why he's done what he's done. There is something following him, and it knows that he has slept with Jay; it will follow her instead. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it along.
It Follows takes the horror of an STD and elevates it to the next level. The cinematography is lush and gorgeous, and you're always on edge. The thing that is following Jay can look like anyone, anything, and all it wants is to get close. At all time, it follows her, walking towards her, unless she manages to pass it along to the next person. It Follows manages to be terrifying without much in the way of gore or jump scares, and it's easily one of the best horror movies to come out in the past decade.
- Great cinematography
- Excellent skewering of horror tropes
- Chilling Story
- Jump scares
- May be triggering for sexual assault survivors
Best Creature Feature: A Quiet Place
The world used to be a place that burbled with noise from cars and conversation and sounds of the world. Then the monsters came, and the world became A Quiet Place. In this new world, the only way that you survive is through silence. This movie follows a family as they try to survive in this new world.
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in this family-based horror about a post-apocalyptic world overrun by monsters. Most of the dialog through the movie isn't spoken. Instead, they use actual American Sign Language to communicate. It shows their trials, and tribulations as they attempt to do more than eke out a survival. It's an excellent movie sure to give you chills, especially once you see the monsters hunting the survivors!
- Horrifying story
- Excellent use of ASL to communicate
- Some viewers may dislike lack of spoken dialog
Best Zombie: Train to Busan
Only a few years ago it seemed like there was a new zombie movie every few months. It got to the point where the genre became oversaturated and lost much of its critical appeal. If you missed Train to Busan, you missed a zombie movie that rises far above the competition. It delivers heart-thumping action sequences, cheers, chills, and maybe even a few tears; it's the zombie movie you'll want to watch again and again.
The train from Seoul to Busan was supposed to be normal. Except that a zombie outbreak changes everything. Suddenly survivors and infected are both trapped on a train as it barrels towards the perceived safety of Busan. Trying to survive is no easy task, and the living will have to band together if they want to make it off the train alive.
- Fantastic story and characters
- Excellent special effects
- One of the best zombie movies you'll ever see
- Subtitles may turn off some viewers
- Zombie purists may scoff at fast zombies
Best Haunted House: The Conjuring
In 1971 Carolyn and Roger Perron moved their family into an old farmhouse in Rhode Island. However, it isn't long before a dark presence starts to make itself known in the house, scaring the girls at night and terrorizing the family at large. When these incidents become too much to handle, they call on the help of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Warrens work with the church and attempt to clear out the spirit inside the house. Ed, by using exorcism rites, and Lorraine gains insight by using her psychic abilities. What they encounter is a dark spirit that kicks of The Conjuring cinematic universe with a terrifying haunted house tale.
- Great cinematography
- Excellent cast
- Plenty of scares to go around
- Falls into some tropes about witches
- Last third isn't as solid as beginning of movie
Best Slasher: Halloween
Forty years ago Laurie Strode managed to survive the masked madman Michael Myers as he went on a killing spree. He wound up in a secure facility, but the damage was done. Laurie spent decades preparing for the eventual day when Michael would escape and come back for her.
When he escapes his facility and comes for Laurie and her family, he doesn't find the doe-eyed victim. Instead, Laurie is a marksman with severe trust issues, agoraphobia, and the will to survive. The big question is whether her daughter and granddaughter will believe her about what's coming before it's too late.
- Great story
- Excellent cast
- Great turn about of horror tropes in the slasher subgenre
- Slashers aren't everyone's favorite
Best Book Adaptation: IT
There is something wrong with the small town of Derry, Maine. Kids go missing, and they're never found again. It doesn't often happen, only once every 27 years. But when it does kids die, and this time, Bill's little brother is one of the taken. The culprit is a terrifying monster that looks like a clown, is named Pennywise, and lives down in the sewers. In 1989 seven outcasts band together determined to deal with Pennywise once and for all.
IT is the first movie in a 2-move series based on Stephen King's novel by the same name. It's creepy in an entirely un-gory fashion thanks to slick camera work, cinematography, shadow play...and the seriously deranged performance by Bill Skarsgård. It manages to scare without needing cold autumn or winter nights since the story takes place over summer. It's true to the book and is an excellent adaptation for King fans old and new alike.
- Extra creepy story
- Great cinematography
- Excellent cast
- If you don't want to watch a movie with kids, avoid it
- It only tells half the story
Best Witches: Suspiria
In 1970 young American dancer Susie Bannon comes to Berlin to audition for the Helena Markos Dance Company. It's an enormously prestigious company and offers to open doors for her that would otherwise stay unavailable. However, when she is accepted, strange things start to happen to, and around her. A recently expelled student is murdered, and evidence leads Susie to believe someone at the school may be to blame. What she finds though is far beyond anything she could have comprehended or dreaded, and not everyone at the company will survive what is coming.
Suspiria is a remake of a classic horror movie from the 1970s. It's got a beautiful camera style that brings each frame into focus and makes you concentrate on what is happening on screen, even when it's tacitly terrible. At times it's hard to parse precisely what is going on in the movie, but the climax that it builds to will drop your jaw, and you won't want to look away. As far as atmospheric remakes go, Suspiria takes the cake.
- Vivid cinematography
- Creeping story that will send chills up your spine
- Movie can be confusing if you don't pay attention
- Body horror isn't everyone's cup of tea
- Gore may be problematic for some viewers
There are dozens of fantastic horror movies out there, and every film that made our list delivers a different kid of scare from the supernatural to humans doing terrible things. While each option delivers an excellent experience, the absolute best horror movie that is available today is definitely Get Out.
It's director Jordan Peele's first film, and it is a horror movie from the perspective of a black man surrounded by terrible white people. The tension ratchets up throughout the film. And even when you know what's coming, you don't know what's about to happen. With a refreshingly original story and a fantastic cast, this is what horror looks like when it's done well.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Jen Karner is a self-professed horror aficionado who lives for Halloween and watches horror movies year-round. You can follow her on Twitter
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