The Best of 21st Century Horror Films: Volume 01

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

The Best 21st Century Horror Films For your Halloween Spooking: Volume 01

You don't need Halloween to enjoy a good horror flick. But it sure does help add to the atmosphere! And what is a good horror film without the right atmosphere, be it a dark theater or simply watching it alone at home? You could probably name the classics but what about the 21st century? There have been some simply brilliant terror flicks that have left you queasy, uneasy or just afraid to look behind you.

But horror is not a singular entity, is it? When you say you love horror movies, what are you thinking of? Are you referring to the sustained tension present throughout The Shining or the harrowing bloodlust of Evil Dead; the head-twisting child of Exorcist or creature fests like The Fly?
Keeping that in mind, instead of the usual countdown, for a change, I thought we could make up a list of the best horror films of the 21st century, dividing them based on genres (which, I accept, will often overlap).

1. Slow-brewing dread
2. Gore fest 
3. Old School Terror 
4. Asian 
5. Chasers
6. Found footage
7. Meta horror.

When I started making this list, I had no idea, the article would get so big. So, to make this an easy read. I will be dividing it into two parts. 

The first part - this article - will deal with the first 3 sub-genres of horror.
Part 2 will deal with the other 4 sub-genres so don't forget to check it out as well.

Remember, you can find all these horror movies and even more at hellhorror.comWithout further ado, shall we walk along the dark side?

Slow-Brewing Dread


A mother returns to the abandoned orphanage where she grew up, looking to turn its fortunes around. Her own life, however, is turned around when her son - who had been communicating with his invisible friend - suddenly disappears.
Why It Makes the List - El Orfanato (Spanish) won 7 Goya (the Spanish equivalent of Oscars) Awards. Very few cheap thrills reside in this tale and yet, it will leave its mark on you as the mystery unfolds.

Orphanage movie


A group of women decide to go for a fun weekend spelunking trip. Within the claustrophobia of the cave, they find themselves confronting their darkest secrets and emotions. But are their hidden feelings the only thing lurking in the darkness?
Why It Makes the List - Claustrophobia Masterclass. 'Emotional Vulnerability' meets 'Creatures in the dark'.

The Others

A devout Catholic mother and her two children - both of whom suffer from photo sensitivity - live in a country house after World War 2 under strict rules and guidelines to keep the children safe. The arrival of three servants starts a chain of events, leading the mother to realize that 'others' too are living within the premises.
Why It Makes the List -  8 Goya Awards including Best Film & Director. A very good mystery. 

The Others Movie

Let the Right One In

A young boy prone for being bullied at school befriends a strange girl who moves in to the next door apartment.
Why It Makes the List - A lovely film with beautiful visuals, there is romance, coming-of-age and horror all within this (the Swedish version, there is an American version 'Let Me In' that is pretty good too). Brilliant acting by the young leads.


The Devil's Backbone

Set in the time of the Spanish Civil War, a recently orphaned child arrives at an orphanage that doubles as a treasury for the Republicans. Slowly, he begins to get visions of a ghostly being wandering the premises.
Why It Makes the List -  Guillermo del Toro as a director is always reliable. Few jump scares or outright terror moments, it is the sense of dread and sorrow that adds to the overall atmosphere of this movie.  


A mysterious mist covers an entire town and soon terrifying monsters appear. Barricaded within a grocery store with strangers, the survivors are about to realize that the people within are just as bad as the creatures outside.
Why It Makes the List - The only Stephen King - Frank Darabont collaboration with actual monsters, this remains vastly underrated. The critique on what fear does to people and how religious beliefs can be misused by fanatics was far too real here. Still features the most heart-breaking ending I have seen in a movie.


The Witch

In 1630, a farmer and his wife are heartbroken when their youngest child goes missing while under the care of the eldest daughter Thomasin. When their twin children accuse Thomasin of witchcraft, religious beliefs and love for the family collide.
Why It Makes the List - Perfectly captures the atmosphere and mindset of that time. A good mystery. A very creepy goat.

The Witch Movie 2016

Old School Terror

The Ring

There is a cursed videotape. If you watch it, you will die 7 days later.
Why It Makes the List - The original Japanese version does not make the list as it was released in 1998. But the American version does a brilliant job with a tighter screenplay, a good mystery, effective jump scares and an iconic ending.

The Ring Movie

The Babadook

A tired widow and her child begin to find themselves terrorized within their house at the hands of a tall, thin creature that resembles the one in the child's pop-up storybook.
Why It Makes the List - Slow horror. An allegory to how grief affects us all. Creepy original monster. Genuinely emotional mother-child storyline.

The Babadook Movie

Woman In Black

The ghost of a woman dressed in black haunts a small English town in the 1880's, driving young children to kill themselves.
Why It Makes the List - Genuinely scary. Gorgeous visuals. Haunted house. Daniel Radcliffe finally finding someone scarier than Voldemort.

The Conjuring

There is something wrong in the house the Perron family has just bought and inhabited. Or rather, everything wrong with the house.
Why It Makes the List - Based on a real case investigated by husband-wife duo / paranormal investigators the Warrens, The Conjuring is the gold standard for 'modern day old-school horror.' The terror builds up effectively and long before you see the 'thing behind the deeds', you already want to leave that house. While it was not to everyone's liking, I would recommend its sequel 'The Conjuring 2' as well.
Director James Wan has been slowly sharpening his horror skills over years with Saw 1-3 and the Insidious series (FYI, Insidious does not make the list because the brilliant first half gives way to a hokey second). With Conjuring, you see the fruition of those years.


The Conjuring


A true-crime author takes on a project involving a serial killer and chooses to reside in the house of the late killer. Coming across a box of films in the basement, he discovers the killer may not yet be truly gone.
Why It Makes the List - Genuine scares. Some smart twists. Creepy villian.


A horror writer famous for investigating 'haunted houses' decides to spend a single night in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel to disprove the spooky stories behind it. 
Why It Makes the List - A very underrated horror movie, in my opinion. Once the horror starts inside the room, it never really quits.

Gore Fests

Saw (1 and 2)

Two strangers wake up chained in a room with a dead body between them. They are about to play a game of choice, courtesy the killer psychopath, Jigsaw.
Why It Makes the List - Though it got convoluted as more and more sequels followed, The original Saw series was a game changer. A creepy premise, some terrible choices to make and a real badass villain alongside a brilliant twist-in-the-tale... and oh, yes, that iconic theme tune too that heralded the twist!

Jigsaw Saw Movie


Two college kids travelling across Europe find themselves victimized by a mysterious group that kidnaps people for the pleasure of torturing and killing them.
Why It Makes the List - The genre 'Torture porn' probably began from this movie. Not for the faint-hearted.

Evil Dead

A bunch of friends meeting at a cabin in the woods come across a book of witchcraft, the 'Naturom Demonto' unfortunately releasing the evil of the land.
Why It Makes the List - Many were not sure a remake of the classic Sam Raimi movie would be effective. Director Fede Alvarez (whose 2016 film 'Don't Breathe' also makes the next list) proved them all wrong. Bloody violent and gory, it is unrelenting. 


A young woman returns with her friend to a house where she claims she was held captive and brutally tortured as a child. Her actions within the house start off a devastating sequence of events.
Why It Makes the List - There are two halves to this movie. The first is the part I have revealed. The second half is what makes this movie one of the most controversial of the 21st century and involves some very tough-to-watch scenes.


A pregnant woman finds herself alone in her house with an absolute stranger who is hell-bent on taking the child within her.
Why It Makes the List - The French have some very good entries in horror, if you choose to check it out. À l'intérieur stands out because of how realistic it is at all levels - within the movie and also in a possible real-life scenario. This is a brutal, brutal movie.

Inside  l'intérieur movie horror

Those were my picks for this genre. In part 2 of this article, we will list Asian horror, found footage, creatures that chase us and meta horror. 

So tell me, which of these movies have you watched and loved (or hated?)
Which other horror films deserved to make the list of slow brewing psychological terrors, old school horrors and outright gore fests?

The Best of 21st Century Horror Films:

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Let me know what you think.

  1. Right now I am thinking why did I click on the like. Horror is the only genre I tend to stay completely away from, be it writing reading or watching. So safe to assume I haven't seen any of these yet. Though I dont think I will be watching any in the near future, I am sure these recommendations are brilliant because of who they come from.

    1. hehe... ah well. At least I got you to comment :)
      Checked out your home page as we discussed. Nice. It's all-inclusive, touching upon everything essential. Now to find something similar on blogger!

  2. Oh, sweet gracious Lord! There is Volume two also for your post?
    So, as you know, I can't stand horror movies. But just for my husband's delightment (for I squeal in horror every two minutes), I join him in watching them once in a blue moon. I've watched Conjuring (1 and 2), Ring, Hostel and Saw 1. Insidious too and I found the ending even more scary. Well, even Annabelle was scary enough for me. So you know how that goes. Haven't watched from the "slow-brewing dread" though. Given your description, I'm sure I'd wet my pants in no time.
    Awesome compilation, doc! Masterpiece!
    P.S: I'm so in love with how your blog looks right now! So chic!

    1. Insidious had tremendous jump scares for me at the start, especially with the 'redhead'... but I don't know... the astral thing and ghostbusters didnt work for me. :)
      And thanks... worked hard to re-decorate :)

  3. What a yummy list!! I am all for the slow brewing horror .. That too I sometimes watch with eyes closed ;) the gory stuff isn't for me but I m just so tempted to know what's driving the insanity if at all i tune into one of those . My personal fav is conjuring, the others & that john cusack movie in which he's an author who covers haunted places ? Can't recollect its name. Eagerly waiting for part 2

    1. That movie was 1408 and thank you very much. I had forgotten all about it. Added it to the list.. yes, it was really good.

  4. I have watched them all!! Yayyy!!! :D :D For some reasons I liked Saw III more than Saw II. Do watch 'It Follows' if you haven't.
    For Gore fest, No movie can be as brutal as Martyrs for me and no scene can be as sick as what happens in Inside.
    Would like to add 'The Shining' in slow brewing.
    Glad to find The Babadook here. Most people hated it but I thought it was really good.

    1. Awesome to find a fellow movie lover. I will grant you up to Saw 3... For me, the best of the series ended with what happens at the end of that one.
      Shining is definitely slow brewing and extremely persistent... It doesn't make the list because I'm focusing on those movies in the 21st century, after 1999.
      And yes, It Follows is brilliant and will be appearing in Volume 2 of this list, due a few days from now.

    2. Ah! Right, I failed to register that :p
      Okay! You really have seen them all I guess :D

    3. haha.. No, as you mentioned on Facebook, I missed Midnight meat Train which seems to be a popular choice for gore.

  5. I have seen none of these movies. But my brother in law, who has autism, loves horror books. I don't know if he has read any of the classic horror books but it is interesting that someone with a super sensitivity to a lot of environmental stimuli would choose horror as a preferred genre. (He also likes books about the weather.)

    1. Wow. that is surpising. Can't imagine the connection between autism and scary movies.. weather atleast has a certain symmetry to it.

  6. Firstly, have you revamped the site or am I noticing things like the stethescope Y only now? Looks cool! Are you telling me you've watched all these horrors? Part of med-school training or ragging? I mortally dread them myself. So dont mind me if I don't sound too gung-ho about this list. I will use this list to steer clear of these titles. That said, hats off to your indepth research and compilation! AToZ din yaad aa gaye! A big boo to you doc ;)

    1. haha... no, I'm just a movie enthusiast, I guess. I look forward to trying a bit of everything. So imagine me at buffets!

  7. Not a horror buff at all, so I've never seen these films. I get enough horror hearing the news, so I think I'll leave it at that!

    1. sigh... sadly, you are right.. the news does make up for any shortage of film based horror nowadays

  8. Good blog which contains all movies


  9. I can't stand horror movies! And you have volume two of this as well? Doc, how many horror movies have you watched?

    1. hehe.. tons over the years. These were the good ones... there have been god awful ones as well :)

  10. Woah what a list! It must be a thrill to watch them and a dedicated fan of horror. I gotta check them one by one, Doc. Well done!

  11. I thought I had watched a lot of horror films but from your Slow Brewing Dread, I haven't seen any of them ones. I've seen all the Old School Terror movies and a few from the Gore category. Now I have a list of movies to watch! Thanks for sharing and linking up to #AnythingGoes! Janet

    1. Hope you find a few new favorites. Most of these are pretty good and scared me!

  12. Great collection. Have watched most of them and love all of them.
    Surprised that Exorcist & The Shining have found its way out of slow dread now. Maybe a sign of the times?

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