The horror genre has always had a complicated history in cinema. While there is no arguing that some of the greatest films of all time fit into the category, it can sometimes feel as though the most incredible achievements are outshined by the thousands of titles that purely take advantage of the fact that horror often offers opportunities for high production values at low budgets. Still, every year sees the release of some new titles that you just know audiences are going to be enjoying for decades -- and it's those features that we are here to celebrate today.
Within the 21st century (which is to say going back to 2001), we've seen the release of some horror movies that are guaranteed to be considered classics in the long run, and we've decided to take a look back by ranking them. Below and across the next few pages are our picks for the 21 best horror movies of the century, so far. Can you guess our number one pick? Read on and find out!
#21. The Conjuring (2013)
Director James Wan has launched a number of horror franchises in his career, including the Saw movies and Insidious, but The Conjuring films are arguably the best he's ever made -- with the 2013 original standing as his greatest achievement. Even at a time when we are getting an endless stream of supernatural terror features, this one still managed to be successful haunting. A lot of it is Wan's direction, with his awesome moving camera consistently creating anxiety in a beautiful period atmosphere, but then there is the power of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga's paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who instantly solidify themselves as modern horror icons while trying to protect a family from a haunting specter.
#20. IT (2017)
Because of its immense length, Stephen King's IT was long thought to be totally unadaptable... but then director Andres Muschietti came along. Armed with a script that cuts the epic novel in half and focuses solely on the kids' side of the narrative of the haunted town story, the movie not only weaves a fantastic, self-contained scary story, but also immediately makes you start begging for the adult-centric sequel. Transplanting the story from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, the film is successfully both a nostalgia bomb and hilarious, while also being surprisingly scary and shocking (with a great deal of credit in that department going to Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise).
#19. The Host (2006)
As you'll discover reading the rest of this list, the 21st century hasn't been tremendous when it comes to giant monster movies, Bong Joon-ho's The Host is the notable exception. The Korean horror film is as inventive as it is exhilarating as it is devastating, and ultimately a rather powerful cinematic experience. The story of a family in search of a missing daughter during a kaiju attack along Seoul's Han River, it packs a serious thrills and a sharp emotional punch, while also notably featuring some seriously impressive CGI for the era.
#18. It Follows (2014)
Slasher films in the 1980s did their part to illustrate some extreme dangers of teenage sex, and it's with deep respect for and partial homage to that particular decade of filmmaking that we got David Robert Mitchell's It Follows. Establishing a creative metaphor for STDs, the story sees a young girl (Maika Monroe) have sex only to learn that it comes with a serious consequence. She is passed a condition that will see her constantly pursued by a supernatural force that A) can take any human form and B) wants to cripple and disfigure her body. It's a wonderfully inventive film that packs more than a fair share of big shocks and chills.
#17. The Loved Ones (2009)
We regularly hear about horrific things coming out of Australia, but most of those stories involve sharks or creepy crawlies. In the case of The Loved Ones, writer/director Sean Byrne brought us a wonderfully messed up features bursting with colorful psychopaths. Robin McLeavy is fantastic as the absolutely crazy teenager Lola, who has the habit of trying to find her perfect man by kidnapping and lobotomizing them. Between the foot-stabbing, skull-drilling, and bleach-injecting, this one is definitely not for the faint of heart.