Film4’s 50 Must-See Horror Movies of the 21st Century

top50horror

Just a couple of weeks after the BBC released their list of the Top 100 American Films of All Time, another British media entity has released their own “best of” list that has movie fans talking. Film4 has put together a list of the 50 Must-See Horror Movies of the 21st Century, or in other words, the best horror films released in the last 15 years. The list was chosen by “a panel of horror experts and friends of Film4 and FrightFest” and it definitely does not focus exclusively on British or American films as there are plenty of international picks here as well.

You may not be that surprised to hear that Tomas Alfredson’s coming-of-age vampire drama Let the Right One In topped the list, but I was somewhat surprised to see Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone at #2 (it seems like a substitute for Pan’s Labyrinth, which probably didn’t qualify as being horrific enough). There are a couple of Canadian films on the list (Ginger Snaps, Pontypool), a handful of very recent entries (Spring, It Follows, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), and even a movie I had never heard of before: the Belgian film Calvaire. What do you think of this list? Check out the full countdown after the jump and let us know what you think.


50. Shutter Island
49. Pulse (2001)
48. Black Swan
47. The Mist
46. The Innkeepers
45. Calvaire
44. American Psycho
43. Paranormal Activity
42. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
41. We Are What We Are (2010)
40. We Are What We Are (2013)
39. Trollhunter
38. Wolf Creek
37. Trick ‘r Treat
36. Thirst
35. Martyrs
34. Amer
33. May
32. Anti-Christ
31. The Woman
30. Dark Water (2002)
29. Cabin in the Woods
28. Them (Ils)
27. Berberian Sound Studio
26. Detention
25. Saw
24. House of the Devil
23. Session 9
22. Timecrimes
21. Sleep Tight
20. The Others
19. You’re Next
18. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
17. Spring
16. Lake Mungo
15. Inside
14. High Tension
13. Shaun of the Dead
12. Pontypool
11. Ginger Snaps
10. The Loved Ones
9. [REC]
8. Kill List
7. The Orphanage
6. A Tale of Two Sisters
5. The Babadook
4. It Follows
3. The Descent
2. The Devil’s Backbone
1. Let the Right One In (2008)

Around the Web:



  • Colin

    There is some absolute garbage on that list… would love to hear Jay defend it.

  • I wouldn’t call Shutter Island a horror film. And I agree with Colin, some of these films are utter garbage.

  • devolutionary

    Is the horror genre (according to Film4) really that watered-down that this is their full list? I am surprised that I’ve already seen the majority of these though. Speaking of J-Horror remakes from last week’s episode, the remake of Pulse in 2005 was pretty good too. I guess psychological thrillers are interchanged with horror now? Black Swan?

  • And including both original and remake of we are what we are? Why not just put Let me in on there too.

  • Anthony

    So many of these aren’t horror films.

  • Jr

    I haven’t seen every film on this list (30 out of 50) but it seems good. I don’t see anything that needs defending. I don’t think that Saw or Paranormal Activity are good movies but at the very least you could make the argument that they were influential and made a huge impact on the genre so in that sense are “must-sees”. I also love that everyone has a definitive definition of what a horror movie is. Obviously, the people who wrote this list need to updated on the rules.

  • LordAwesome

    I wouldn’t call it must see either.

  • Jay Cheel

    Via Wikipedia: “Horror is a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears.”

    I would say that’s a fair definition of horror and I would say that Shutter Island falls within that definition.

  • Jr

    I’d also say that this definition applies to every movie on this list (that I’ve seen).

  • pcch7

    Black Swan should’ve been a lot higher imo. Good to see Let the Right One In at the top, don’t know that I feel it’s a horror movie though. Neither is Black Swan tbh, they just have horrific elements in them

  • Sure, by that definition it is a horror film. It just so broad, a lot of thrillers could then be classified as horror (not that it’s anything wrong with that). Why not Panic room then? Surely a lot of people are scared of a home invasion.

    I usually draw the line between horror and thrillers by the way they portray the world the movie lives in. In a thriller the rules and logic of the real world that we are used to are valid, while a horror film breaks those rules in some way.

  • pcch7

    I would, I thought Let Me In was fantastic too.

  • It was not far behind at least. It just feels kind of like a cop-out to include basically the same movie twice.

  • pcch7

    I haven’t seen We Are What We Are but given how similar Let Me In is to Let the Right One In and that is the top choice, you’d assume Let Me In would get a place somewhere on the list too.

  • PaulKuK

    A good list. A fair few a Film Four funded I notice, but still good

  • I would assume so, too.

  • Jay Cheel

    What about John Carpenter’s Halloween? Is it not a horror film because the logic of the world is valid?

    Also, could something that falls 100% into the “horror” genre suddenly NOT be a horror film because it’s revealed that it was all a dream and therefore grounded in a realistic, logical world?

    Is April Fool’s Day not a horror film because of its twist ending?

  • devolutionary

    I actually think there’s bigger stylistic and artistic differences between both versions of We Are What We Are (than Let Me/The Right One In) but I actually prefer the remake.

  • Gerry

    So ‘Onibaba’, the creepiest film I’ve ever seen, isn’t deemed a horror film? Very puzzling.

  • ReelJunkie

    4. It Follows

    I’m done.

  • It’s only a rule of thumb so of course it’s not perfect, but the definition given on the Wikipedia page is to broad for my taste. To many thrillers fulfill that criterion.

  • devolutionary

    http://www.writerscafe.org/forum/Horror/Horror-vs.-Psychological-Thriller/358/
    Someone over at WritersCafe.org brought up an interesting barometer for how to gauge this (although it’s all subjective heresay): My issue is the constant debates over the majority of Hitchcock’s filmography being horror or not.

    Movies can progress with the plot or stay within the realms of the following scale: Suspense >> Thriller >> Horror

  • Onibaba came out in the 20th Century.

  • Thrillers are horror films. Don’t let a marketing term dictate what a genre is.

  • devolutionary

    Even if Onibaba was remade shot-for-shot today, not being on their list doesn’t mean it’s not a horror.

  • If you want to include all thrillers as horror this list is missing a lot of movies, like memento, the girl with the Dragon tattoo, mulholland Dr., and so on. I wouldn’t call any of those horror.

  • So suspense and horror are the ends of a sliding scale with thriller somewhere in between?

  • devolutionary

    In theory I like his sliding scale rule but the problem is still subjective. How do you separate the difference when so many movies (especially nowadays) blur the lines between the two divisions. There’s tons of horror with thriller elements but then what separates a horror? If the dictionary definition is taken literally then there’s a lot of writers out there that need to rethink the term. There’s a few Hitchcock films indisputably deemed horror but a ton of his films tug at the idea of darkness within the human psyche.

  • The ending to Memento is pure nihilistic horror (as is really the entire movie) Dragon’s rape scene is absolutely a horror scene and Mulholland, like almost all Lynch films, uses horror tropes and techniques to manipulate and creep out the audience.

    Horror is far more than just scares. If that’s what you’re measuring horror on, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Generally its considered that thrillers are the crossing over of action and horror genres. Suspense is just a synonym for thriller.

  • scoobydelite

    Surprised I’ve seen 47 out of 50 (Amer, Anti-Christ, & We Are What We Are 2010 being the 3 not seen). Pulse and Martyrs are way too low IMO. If Tucker & Dale and Shaun of the Dead are on there, Bubba Ho-Tep should be too. A couple of overrated films on the list are Dark Water and High Tension, would put the American version of The Ring, Hong Kong version of The Eye, The Machinist, Starry Eyes, 28 Days Later, Frailty, or Drag Me To Hell on instead. If a PA movie has to be on there, would put Paranormal Activity 3 instead. Glad the superior Them (Ils) is on the list rather than the slightly overrated The Strangers. Also nice the under-seen Sleep Tight, The Woman, and The Loved Ones get a mention.

  • Jameson

    I’ve always separated horror and thriller with the comprehension that horror usually deals with something supernatural or otherworldly, even if it’s only suggested. That’s how something like Psycho passes as horror (to me) cause it at least raises the possibility of Mrs. Bates being brought back to life.

    Thrillers are, for the most part, grounded in realism.

  • Essie

    Amer is really good, neat to see it made the list. Can’t a horror film be whatever horrifies you? 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is the best horror film of the century.

  • Why would that be “wrong”? A genre is ultimately an arbitrary label that means nothing. A definition as the one posted by Jay would disqualify movies from being horror as well. Like horror-comedies, that is striving for a positive emotional response, ie make you laugh.

    How would you define horror?

  • Colin

    Now you have to define “primal fear” which is a bit more difficult.

    For example, being abandoned in space is a huge fear for my girlfriend… she finds movies like Gravity, Intersteller, and Apollo 13 to be unnervingly frightening, although I doubt most of us would consider these to be horror films.

    And yet, if you think about it, Gravity does possess many of the core elements found in horror films? Boil it down to its essential elements and you have a lone woman (the final girl) fighting for her survival against a force that is unrelenting and without empathy. Time after time she thinks that she is safe, and yet the faceless, shapeless attacker forces her to seek shelter from death.

  • Jared Kerr

    I’m just glad that “Inside” is on this list. That movie is fantastic.

  • Jonny Ashley

    Rewatched The Orphanage recently which I was enamored with when it came out. That movie does not hold up.

  • Bob

    Is Non-Stop a horror movie?

  • Gerry.

    Thanks.

    Clearly I skimmed Sean’s intro. I didn’t notice that it was just this century. That explains the list.

  • Flo Lieb

    If any (or let’s say: most) rape scenes qualify as horror than Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible would/should qualify as well although I wouldn’t describe it as a horror film. Maybe it depends on the person watching the film seeing as although I see why one would call it horror I don’t think of Jaws as a horror film in the same way I do of A Nightmare on Elm Street or Event Horizon.

  • Irreversible is a classic rape/revenge horror film. It’s a whole damn sub-genre. I don’t know what to tell you, that’s like saying I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on the Left aren’t horror films.

    I’m also not saying you should be classifying every horror film as the same. There is nuance in horror and its subgenres, and they all act on different feelings as horror doesn’t simply mean scary, which too often the general populace seems to think that’s all it is. It’s why they are so dismissive of the genre, by mis-labelling it they can treat it as a lesser genre, when the opposite is true.

  • *sigh*

    Like all thrillers there are certainly horror elements, but like most Hollywood thrillers, they are whitewashed as much as possible to instead focus on action because Hollywood is terrified of making/marketing any movie aimed at people older than 25 as horror, because they think its box office death. It’s a sliding scale, and Non-Stop clearly is leaning far more towards action than horror.

    An example of a really great horror film that Hollywood refuses to call a horror movie is Gravity. Which is a classic survival horror movie but which is pushed time and again as a “thriller” when that’s about as pure horror cinematic experience as you’re bound to find at a mainstream theatre.

  • Bob

    Understood, Non-Stop is a thriller but not a horror movie.

  • Andy

    “We Are Still Here” is a must.