In regards to movies, 2022 will likely be remembered as a volatile year with a lot of big highs and a number of deep lows, but one source of consistency throughout the year was the horror genre. Great movies built to scare were released in every season in the last 12 months, and a great number of them will be remembered for a long time, if not as some of the best horror movies ever.
As such, it was extremely difficult to put together this year’s ranking of the best horror films. We had to make some hard decisions – like Ti West’s X and Pearl, Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny and David Bruckner’s Hellraiser being labeled “honorable mentions” – but while we wait for these upcoming horror movies, here's what we consider to be the best of the best from the genre in 2022.
Watching Zach Cregger’s Barbarian, it’s unclear what is going on for a surprisingly long time. It certainly triggers “stranger danger” instincts as Tess (Georgina Campbell) unwittingly finds herself sharing an Airbnb with a stranger (Bill Skarsgård), but it also wouldn’t take a whole lot of alterations to change the first act into a setup for a romantic comedy.
Then the horror arrives, and the movie then just becomes “what the fuck” moment after “what the fuck” moment.
The twists are wicked and freaky, and there is also some wonderful character makeup, production design, and special effects in play that deliver excellent scares.
You can stream Barbarian on HBO Max.
9. Bones & All
It’s not often that we see a heavy mesh of horror and romance, but that’s precisely what director Luca Guadagnino delivers with his tale of teen love and cannibalism. The filmmaker previously proved to be an adept storyteller in the genre with his brilliant 2018 remake of Suspiria, and while this movie has a wholly different vibe, it’s likewise engrossing, hypnotic, and intense.
Based on the novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis, it’s first and foremost an emotional coming-of-age story about a young woman (Taylor Russell) abandoned by her father (André Holland) who forges a bond with a young man (Timothée Chalamet) she meets while searching for the mother she never knew – but it gets quite horrific when it digs into the fact that the protagonist is an “eater” with an insatiable desire for human flesh. Russell and Chalamet are excellent together, though Mark Rylance is a tremendous scene-stealer.
You can rent Bones & All on Amazon Prime Video.
The excellence of Chloe Okuno’s Watcher can be recognized in its execution of atmosphere and perspective. Julia (Maika Monroe) is a young woman living in a city she doesn’t know where strangers speak a language she doesn’t speak, and with wide shots and limited subtitles the audience is immersed in her isolation and perfectly understands her loneliness. The setting, cinematography, and editing alone successfully raise the anxiety of the movie-goer… and then it throws in the idea of the protagonist being watched by a person who may or may not be a psychotic serial killer.
It’s another tremendous genre credential for Maika Monroe, whose excellent resume also includes Adam Wingard’s The Guest and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, and the movie is both plays the “Is she really just paranoid?” game and delivers a satisfying conclusion. Okuno previously showed off her skills with her segment of anthology V/H/S/94 (ranked #9 on CinemaBlend’s list of the Best Horror Movies of 2021), and whatever movie she makes next will earn instant anticipation.
You can stream Watcher on Shudder.
7. The Harbinger
You might think that Freddy Kruger has a monopoly when it comes to monsters that can attack you through your dreams, but Andy Mitton’s The Harbinger is a wonderful retort to that argument. The film invents a whole new kind of nightmare creature, and it motivates a scary story set during a scary time.
The Harbinger is set during the height of the pandemic in 2020, and it follows a young woman (Gabby Beans) as she travels to check on a friend (Emily Davis) who has been getting trapped in sleep. It’s clever and executes fantastic world-building to go along with engaging characters and some top-notch surreal dream sequences.
You can rent/buy The Harbinger on Amazon Prime Video.
6. The Black Phone
Taking a detour into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott Derrickson spent eight years away from the horror genre, but he broke that streak in 2022 with The Black Phone, and it’s his best movie to date. Based on the short story of the same name by author Joe Hill, the film is an unsettling tale of child abduction with some fantastic and spooky original ideas, and it features one of the standout villain performances of the year.
Ethan Hawke has spent just about his entire career playing good guys, but he is unleashed here as the child killer known only as The Grabber, and he does spectacular work. It speaks to the power of his performance that he wears a mask for almost all of his screen time, as he is able to deliver high levels of terror just with his eyes, gestures, and voice.
You can rent/buy The Black Phone on Amazon Prime Video.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had all the pressure in the world on their shoulders in the making of Scream. Wes Craven is a filmmaker recognized as a god in the horror genre, so one would think it would be impossible for anyone to properly continue the legacy of the beloved series that Craven directed every chapter of himself. And yet that’s exactly what Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett were able to do – kicking off 2022 with a terrific dose of slasher horror back in January.
Like the best among its series predecessors, Scream succeeds by not only delivering amazing scares and kill sequences, but by operating as a meta commentary on franchise filmmaking with an examination of both the growing trend of legacyquels and toxic fandoms. In addition to being a fun, self-contained entry in the series, it also sets up a wonderful new generation of lead characters that audiences can look forward to seeing again in 2023’s Scream VI.
Paramount Plus: from $4.99 a month/$49.99 a year Home to CBS TV shows and Paramount movies, subscribe to Paramount Plus and watch titles such as Yellowstone's 1883, The Good Fight, on top of live sports including NFL and UEFA. New and eligible returning subscribers can even benefit from a free trial period. Opt for its Essential plan or go ad-free with Premium from $9.99 a month.
4. The Menu
Sticking with satire, Mark Mylod’s The Menu is a treat. It’s a genre melange, as it could also be described as a dark comedy, a mystery, and a thriller, but horror is very much at the forefront as a group of wealthy customers at a prestigious and remote restaurant are served a meal of escalating terrors.
Mylod works with an outstanding cast that includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, and Ralph Fiennes, and it’s a sharp and vicious take on class warfare that has all of its stars playing a special, individual role in the mix. You should most definitely watch with a full stomach, however, as the ironically beautiful food photography might otherwise leave you feeling starved.
The Menu will be available to stream on HBO Max on January 3, 2023.
3. Soft & Quiet
Ambitious filmmaking always earns a lot of points, and Beth de Araujo’s Soft & Quiet most definitely has that – as the movie is made to unfold in real time with only a few hidden cuts. That alone, however, does not qualify the feature for consideration on this list. What qualifies it is that as soon as the movie reveals what it’s actually about, it throttles you hard and throws down metaphorical iron bars that make you feel trapped with the main characters (in a great way).
I won’t use this forum for spoilers, but not only is the movie ceaselessly skin-crawling, but it manages that feeling by never getting fantastical or unreal. It’s grounded, real-world horror, and as such it’s a searing commentary on modern America. It’s de Arujo’s feature directorial debut, and instantly establishes her as an exciting talent to keep an eye on.
You can rent/buy Soft & Quiet on Amazon Prime Video.
Psychological horror is tricky business for even the most talented filmmakers, but Andrew Semans’ Resurrection is a movie that gets knuckle-deep in your brain and then wiggles your body around like a puppet. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival all the way back in January, and it has not left my mind since then.
This is the second year in a row that Rebecca Hall has had a high-ranking title on this genre Top 10 (I ranked David Bruckner’s The Night House as the best horror movie of 2021), and her work is breathtaking and haunting. Hall’s brilliance is matched with one of Tim Roth’s greatest performances, as he portrays a man so frightening that you hold your breath whenever he is on screen.
You can stream Resurrection on Shudder.
Thanks to smart marketing, Jordan Peele’s Nope was able to arrive in theaters with audiences not wholly aware of what to expect… and then what they were delivered was (in part) a phenomenal homage to one of the greatest horror movies of all time: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. It has a genius take on a science-fiction staple, and it balances impressive dread and jumps with exceptional commentary about modern society’s relationship with spectacle.
It’s been a long time since anyone has made such an indelible mark on any genre as Jordan Peele, and he is three-for-three since his surprising 2014 revelation that he was pivoting his career focus from comedy to horror. He is a brilliant filmmaker with a stunning eye for detail, symbolism, and metaphor, and Nope is pure proof. There is every expectation that we’ll be seeing his movies top lists like these for many years to come.
You can stream Nope on Peacock.
Be on the lookout here on CinemaBlend for more of our Top 10 lists for the year 2022, and you can get a preview of everything that’s coming in the year ahead with our 2023 Movie Release Calendar.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.