Best of the Decade: Horror

Following some lively debate about what qualifies as a horror film, we present the 50 highest-rated horror films of the decade, as voted by the Letterboxd community.

Congratulations to Robert Eggers and The Lighthouse team on a late sprint past Get Out to take the top spot in our top 50 highest-rated horror films of the decade. The nautical nightmare was only released in US cinemas a few weeks ago, but its impact on the horror landscape has been felt since its spectacular Cannes debut, where film lovers queued for upwards of four hours in pouring rain in the hopes of securing a seat.

Films were eligible for inclusion in the list if they met the following criteria:

  • They were listed in the “horror” genre on one or more of the major databases (IMDb, TMDb, Wikipedia and others), or were included in a horror list by another notable outlet;
  • They were released in the US market theatrically or on streaming services between January 1, 2010 and today;
  • They were watched by at least 1,000 Letterboxd members.

Where there was uncertainty, we delved into Letterboxd reviews and lists to gauge the general mood of the community, and in one case we checked with the director himself. Robert Eggers told us he is fine with his film being categorized as a horror (not just by us, but by aggregation sites, reviewers and best-of lists).

Observations:

  • While contemporary horror films have taken us in wild new directions over the past decade, overall it remains a divisive and somewhat underrated genre compared to others. Many dramatic features released in the 2010s easily attained a score of 4.0 and above on our scale, but only the first six films on this list rate a 4.0 or higher.
  • Jordan Peele, Robert Eggers, Ari Aster and Sion Sono are the horror MVPs of the 2010s, with two films each in the list (and Sono’s new Netflix original The Forest of Love may make the list by year’s end).
  • Five women directors appear in the list: Ana Lily Amirpour, Julia Ducournau, Juliana Rojas, Anna Biller and Jennifer Kent.
  • As always, the US is strongly represented in the geographical stakes, but Japan makes a decent showing with six films, and South Korea has five (including director Park Chan-wook’s English-laguage Stoker).
  • Films from Iran, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Estonia, Italy and France also make the list, and in terms of common themes, we’d like to see the dancers from Black Swan, Suspiria and Climax choreograph a joint extravaganza—we’d buy tickets to that.

We’ll update this list at year’s end as part of a wider roundup of the decade; please consider it an interim ranking until then, and feel free to join the discussion in the comments.

Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017).
Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017).

Highest-rated horrors directed by women

While we were in a Hallowe’en mood, we also took the opportunity to unearth the 50 highest-rated horror films directed by women, according to the Letterboxd community. Congratulations to Mexico’s Issa López on taking the top spot with her frightening drug-cartel fairy tale, Tigers Are Not Afraid (which also placed seventeenth in our top 50 horrors of the decade).

For this list, we dropped the minimum view count to 400, to make room for some older, important entries, such as Jane Arden’s 1972 psycho-horror The Other Side of the Underneath, which made the list in second place, no less.

Observations:

  • The list spans a century of filmmaking—beginning with Salomé (1922)—but has a stronger representation from the past decade (a combination of ‘recency bias’ and the slow rise in the number of women making movies more generally).
  • Genre heroines on the list include Mary Lambert, Jane Arden, Karyn Kusama, Kathryn Bigelow and Anna Biller.
  • Veronika Franz and Hélène Cattet are the horror MVPs, each appearing twice.
  • The list represents a wide variety of sub-genres, including body horror, gynaehorror, friendships-gone-wrong, wedding horror, road horror, house horror, religious psychodrama and sharksploitation.

Due to the vagaries of genre tagging at IMDb and TMDb, we initially omitted ‘American Psycho’ from the Women-Directed Horrors list. We consider it horror, so this has been rectified.

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