Over the last half decade, we have observed a shift in Hollywood: comedies have largely diminished, with horror films taking their place. Unfortunately, this has led studios to attempt to churn out as many horror films as possible, leading to countless generic, jump-scare-packed messes. It is unlikely that a movie as articulately crafted as “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Shining” would be produced in 2023. Nonetheless, when done well, modern horror may have the highest ceiling of any genre, bringing an even greater level of entertainment than its classic predecessors. With this in mind, here is a list of the top 10 greatest modern horror films.
Some honorable mentions include “The Babadook,” “Smile,” “The Witch” and the “Insidious” franchise.
10. Us (2019)
Starting off the list, we have “Us,” the film that proved to the world of cinema that director Jordan Peele was not just a one hit wonder. The story follows the Wilson family, whose beach house vacation takes a sinister turn when a group of identical but malevolent versions of the family - known as “The Tethered” - appear. As the Wilsons fight for survival, they must confront the terrifying realization that these malevolent mirror images are part of a larger, disturbing phenomenon. "Us' ' is both utterly petrifying and a completely unique exploration of duality, identity and societal issues that’s a great Halloween watch.
9. The Conjuring (2013)
How could we have a horror list without “The Conjuring,” the first film in the now expansive Conjuring universe? Directed by James Wan and based on the real-life paranormal investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, “The Conjuring” follows the duo as they help the Perron family, whose new home is haunted by a malevolent presence. As the Warrens delve deeper into the case, they confront a powerful demonic entity and face their own personal demons. “The Conjuring” may just be the 2010s most influential horror film, paving the way for our new age of thrilling, jump scare-packed, visual spectacles. It is 1 hour and 52 minutes of pure entertainment that will have your heart pounding out of its chest the entire time.
8. The Invisible Man (2020)
"The Invisible Man" is the most recent adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel, directed by Leigh Whannell. It follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who escapes an abusive relationship with a wealthy scientist, only to be tormented by what she believes is her vengeful and now seemingly invisible ex. The film's brilliance lies in its combination of psychological horror, intense suspense and an eerie sense of unseen threat. It explores themes of gaslighting and control, making it frighteningly relatable to real-world issues. “The Invisible Man” isn’t just great by the standards of horror either,, it is an incredible movie, period. The film's cinematography and Elisabeth Moss's standout performance add to the tension, creating an unsettling and gripping experience that showcases just how terrifying invisible manipulation can begin.
7. “A Quiet Place” (2019)
Quite simply, "A Quiet Place" took the horror world by storm in 2018.Set in a world where deadly, sound-sensitive creatures have decimated Earth’s population the film follows the Abbott family, who must live in silence to survive. What sets "A Quiet Place" apart from other horror films is its ingenious use of silence as a source of tension, with dialogue being replaced almost entirely by non-verbal communication. Every sound is a source of potential terror, helping craft a uniquely tense atmosphere. The film's emotional depth, incredible world building, and expertly crafted suspense also make it an outstanding and terrifying cinematic experience.
6. “Talk to Me” (2023)
The most recently released film on the list, “Talk to Me” is without question 2023’s greatest horror film so far. It centers on a group of friends who discover and experiment with an embalmed hand with the power to connect the living to the dead. When one takes it too far, they find themselves faced with an entire network of deadly and terrifying supernatural spirits. While the premise is both generic and common, “Talk to Me” without question elevates itself far above its peers. It does this through Sophie Wilde’s incredible performance as Mia – a girl coping with the tragic loss of her mother –, a suspenseful atmosphere and many moments that produce outright terror. “Talk to Me” also features one of the more satisfying endings in all of horror and of any film on this list.
5. “Midsommar” (2019)
"Midsommar" is a folk horror film directed by Ari Aster that follows Dani, a grieving and traumatized woman(Florence Pugh) who, along with her boyfriend and friends, travels to a remote Swedish village to attend their summer solstice festival. As the festivities begin, the group becomes increasingly entangled in the disturbing and ritualistic customs of the community, starting a nightmarish descent into madness. The film relies on slow-burning tension, fascinating and completely unique world building and an extremely unsettling atmosphere. If you are looking for a film that is entirely unique and utterly shocking, “Midsommar” is for you.
4. “Sinister” (2012)
Every year, the Science of Scare project panels 250 random participants to determine the top 20 horror films by scare factor according to resting heart rate, beats per minute, heart rate variance and sharpest heart rate spike. In 2023, “Sinister” sits atop that list. The film follows true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) as he moves his family into a new home that is also the site of the mysterious murder of the entire Stevenson family with the exception of 10-year-old Stephanie Stevenson (Victoria Leigh). Shortly after moving in, he discovers disturbing home movies that unveil a series of linked gruesome murders and plunge him and his family into a nightmare of supernatural horror. The film relies on religious imagery, a dark atmosphere and incredible suspense to craft what according to science is the scariest movie of all time.
3. “Barbarian” (2022)
If we’re rating by pure enjoyment received from a movie, number eight may honestly be too low for Zach Cregger’s “Barbarian.” The film is centered around Tess Marshal (Georgina Campbell) , a young woman who has booked a home that - to her surprise - is already occupied by a stranger (Bill Skarsgård). She decides to stay in the home anyways, which turns out to be a regretful and life-altering mistake. “Barbarian” is without question one of the more surprising films on this list with countless twists and turns, terrifying jump scares and humor mixed in throughout. Plain and simple - this movie is a downright fun time that will undoubtedly grow in popularity and acclaim.
2. “Hereditary” (2018)
I told you that “Midsommar” would not be the only Ari Aster film on this list. “Hereditary” focuses on the Graham family, who cope with the recent death of their grandmother while also beginning to unravel the sinister secrets of their ancestry, causing their lives to spiral into madness. Toni Collette puts together an absolutely masterclass for her performance as Annie Graham. The film also presents engaging storytelling, exemplifies psychological depth and establishes an atmosphere of pervasive dread while subverting genre conventions to leave viewers in a state of constant unease. And like a snowball, constantly picking up speed and gaining momentum, the film progressively becomes more terrifying, culminating in a shocking and stunning climax. It truly would not be an exxageration to call “Hereditary” the most bone-chilling film in cinema history.
1. “Get Out” (2017)
And finally, at number one, we have Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.”
Often, the mostly highly acclaimed films will sacrifice sheer entertainment value and up-tempo pacing to produce an emotionally enthralling work. Such cannot be said for Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”, which strikes the perfect balance between these things. The film follows Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) a Black man who visits the family estate of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Things quickly get stranger and stranger, and he soon discovers that the seemingly well-meaning family and their friends have sinister intentions for him. The film masterfully tackles racism and social commentary, using horror elements to explore deep-seated prejudices while also blending chilling horror with sharp, laugh-out-loud satire, creating an entirely unique experience. Strong performances, especially by Daniel Kaluuya and Peele's expert direction, make "Get Out" a compelling and relevant movie that challenges audiences while delivering genuine scares and thrills. The film is also packed with easter eggs that make it extremely rewatchable.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.