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Are These The 20 Greatest Horror Movies of the 21st Century (So Far)?

By  · Published on October 28th, 2016

One essayist makes a convincing supercut just in time for Halloween.

What makes a truly great horror film? Is it an inventive antagonist, a lot of gore, a twist ending, a final girl? Sure, that stuff helps, but it’s a lot simpler than that: basically a truly great horror film is one that truly scares you. And by “truly” I kinda mean “permanently.” So much of the horror genre today is built upon moments like jump scares or other such techniques that frighten you one instant but then dissipate the next, there’s nothing memorable about them, they are sensory reactions and as such once the stimuli has left the screen, so too has the fear left your bloodstream.

By contrast, a great horror film lingers, it echoes, it’s more than sensory, it’s emotional, psychological, it goes past the moment and burrows into your psyche where it festers and breeds, able to be recalled on a nightmare’s notice, and more importantly, able to scare you again and again. Rosemary looking into the baby crib; Michael Myers rising up behind an unsuspecting Laurie Strode; Nosferatu ascending the stairs ‐ these are the moments that make for great horror movies.

More: What Makes a Movie Scary?

But those are all “old” horror movies, 20th century horror movies. What about the cream of today’s crop? In an era where there’s more horror being made than ever before ‐ every week a fresh batch drops direct-to-DVD or on streaming services ‐ finding the needles in the haystack can be a daunting task. Which is why the following video from Plot Point Productions for Fandor is so useful. In it, editor Zach Prewitt has selected (in no certain order) his 20 favorite horror films of the century so far ‐ domestic and foreign ‐ and cut them together using their choicest scary moments. Being only a few days away from Halloween, it’s the perfect list at the perfect time, and Prewitt’s selections (listed below the video) are pretty on-point. Check them out and let us know in the comments and on Twitter how many you’ve seen, and which films omitted from the list you would have included (ahem, The VVitch).

Then, for an alternate take on the same subject from right here at Film School Rejects, check out the list compiled last year by Rob Hunter and Matthew Monagle of their picks for the 15 best horror films of the millennium so far. There are a couple films that overlap with Prewitt’s list but our guys plunge a little deeper, especially into foreign territories. Between the two you have plenty of choices to keep you awake this weekend.

The Strangers (2008), dir. Bryan Bertino
Hush (2016), dir. Mike Flanagan
You’re Next (2011), dir. Adam Wingard
Inside (2007), dir. Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Audition (2000 (US theatrical release date)), dir. Takashe Miike
Starry Eyes (2014), dir. Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
May (2002), dir. Lucky McKee
It Follows (2015), dir. David Robert Mitchell
The Ring (2002), dir. Gore Verbinski
Paranormal Activity (2007), dir. Oren Peli
The Babadook (2014), dir. Jennifer Kent
The Others (2001), dir. Alejandro Amenábar
Let The Right One In (2008), dir. Tomas Alfredson
Goodnight Mommy (2014), dir. Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Cabin In The Woods (2012), dir. Drew Goddard
The Mist (2007), dir. Frank Darabont
The Host (2006), dir. Joon-ho Bong

The Descent (2005), dir. Neil Marshall
[REC] (2007), dir. Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
28 Days Later (2002), dir. Danny Boyle

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist