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What is the Best Horror Movie of the 21st Century? An In-Depth Look Into Critical and Audience Ratings

August 10, 2015

Hello all. Mark here.

If you’ve been reading MFF for sometime you know that we love writing and podcasting about horror (we recorded a podcast specifically for this post where I break down the research and talk about Kurt Russell. You can listen to it on Itunes or Blog Talk Radio). We’ve written and talked about horror wardrobes, tank tops, survivors, villains, monsters, gore, zombie survivors, trolls, 1999 horror and the best moments.  I recently wrote an article about the exciting horror hybrids that have been unleashed in the last several years. When I finished up the article I saw a fantastically researched Reddit post where somebody combined the Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic scores to reevaluate the Top 245 Films of all time. It got me thinking about a 21st century horror ranking system involving critics AND audiences.

It is an exciting time to be a horror fan and I am going back to 2000 in order to figure out what is the best “horror” film of this century. The reason I put horror in quotation marks is because the genre covers an all expansive collection of blood, dark humor and gore. For instance, my top five of the century are:

  1. The Descent
  2. Drag Me To Hell
  3. I Saw the Devil
  4. 28 Days Later
  5. Thirst

Descent blood

Gotta love those subterranean killing machines.

It is an odd collection of hybrids that fall into the “horror” genre via themes of serial killers, rampaging demon goats and soul sucking vampires. Roger Ebert summed up the Thirst director perfectly with this quote:

Park Chan-wook of South Korea is today’s most successful director of horror films, perhaps because there’s always more than horror to them.

If you are worried about the data analysis, my data wrangling cousin and I once compiled fourteen years of action movie posters (256 total) and analyzed if explosions on movie posters mattered or not (not really, but it was cool). I also examined Jason Statham posters and have a pretty good idea of when his movies will be good judging by the poster. 

If an effort to collect a varied collection of films I sorted through hundreds of movies and pulled together 160  “horror” films and broke down the data for each (click the link to see my data in glorious PDF form). Below you will find four categories comprised of accumulative, critic, audience and horror aficionado ratings.

These rating work differently from the one on reddit because I’ve added Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic audience scores. Horror is such a cult genre I felt it was important to add horror specific sites and audience ratings to the mix. I gave the same weight to critic and user ratings despite there being more users. Critics can push the agenda so their fewer ratings get equal weight. Also, the Reddit post out kept out films with under 75,000 votes on IMDb. Since this is about 21st century horror films I didn’t take the number of ratings into account.

If you are interested in watching any of these films I searched through Amazon/Netflix and put together a list of films available for streaming.

Top 20 Critically Rated Horror films according to Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic Critics

  1. Pans Labyrinth (96.5)
  2. The Babadook (92)
  3. Let the Right One In (90)
  4. It Follows (89.5)
  5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (88.5)
  6. The Host (88.5)
  7. Drag Me To Hell (87.5)
  8. Housebound (86.5)
  9. Trick r’ Treat (86)
  10. What We Do in the Shadows (85.5)
  11. The Devil’s Backbone (85)
  12. Shaun of the Dead (84)
  13. Let Me In (83.5)
  14. Battle Royale (83.5)
  15. Black Swan (83)
  16. The Guest (83)
  17. Only Lovers Left Alive (82.5)
  18. Attack the Block (82.5)
  19. Hellboy 2 (82)
  20. Zombieland (81.5)


Under the Skin, Cabin in the Woods, Berberian Sound Studio, Wake Wood, Mulholland Drive, Excision, The Orphanage, The Gift, Grindhouse, 28 Days Later, House of the Devil, Ginger Snaps, Spring, Juan of the Dead, We Are Still Here, We Are What We Are, The Descent, Slither, Thirst, The Conjuring, Sightseers, Hellboy, Cheap Thrills, Shadow of a Vampire, The Skin I Live In, Paranormal Activity, This is the End, Infection, Absentia, A Tale of Two Sisters


The award for best burlap sack costume goes to Sam.

[Rec] (96%), Creep (93%), Inside (83%) Rogue (100%) , Eden Lake (83%), The Loved Ones (98%), Livid, (88%) and Three Extremes (84%) did not have Metacritic scores. They are pretty awesome though.

Top 20 Audience Rated Horror films according to IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes Audience Scores and Metacritc Users

  1.  Pans Labyrinth (86.6)
  2.  Shaun of the Dead  (86.3)
  3.  Let the Right One In (86)
  4.  The Gift (85.3)
  5. The Devil’s Backbone (84.3)
  6. What We Do in the Shadows (82.3)
  7. American Psycho (82.3)
  8. Zombieland (82)
  9. Black Swan  (81.6)
  10. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (81)
  11. I Saw the Devil (81)
  12. Grindhouse (80.6)
  13. The Others (80)
  14. The Skin I Live In (80)
  15. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (80)
  16. Frailty (80)
  17. A Tale of Two Sisters (79.6)
  18. Mulholland Drive (79.3)
  19. The Orphanage (80.5)
  20. Saw (79.3)


The Conjuring, 28 Days Later, Ginger Snaps, Ichi the Killer, [Rec], Bubba Ho-Tep, The Descent, Dawn of the Dead, Let Me In, The Loved Ones, Shadow of a Vampire, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Three Extremes, Shutter, The Babadook, Housebound, Only Lovers Left Alive, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Constantine, Cabin in the Woods, Thirst, Joyride, Inside, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, Spring, Hellboy 2, Devil’s Rejects, A Field in England, Attack the Block, Troll Hunter

Top 25 Rated horror films from Rotten Tomatoes Critics, RT Audience Score , Metacrtic, Metacritic User Score and IMDb Users

I consider these to be the highest rated “horror” films of the 21st century! It is a combination of critic and user scores which gives us a solid representation of the multiple scores.

  1. Pans Labyrinth (90.4)
  2. Let the Right One In (87.6)
  3. Shaun of the Dead (85.4)
  4. Devils Backbone (84.6)
  5. [REC] (84) – Did not have Metacritic score
  6. What We Do in the Shadows (83.6)
  7. The Gift (2015) (83.2)
  8. The Loved Ones (82.25) – Did not have Metacritic score
  9. Black Swan (82.2)
  10. Zombieland (81.8)
  11. The Babadook (81.4)
  12. Grindhouse (80.4)
  13. Mulholand Drive (80)
  14. Let Me In (79.8)
  15. The Orphanage (79.8)
  16. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (79.4)
  17. The Others (79.2)
  18. 28 Days Later (79)
  19. Ginger Snaps (79)
  20. Housebound (78.4)
  21. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (78.2)
  22. The Conjuring (78.2)
  23. The Skin I Live In (78)
  24. I Saw the Devil (77.8)
  25. A Tale of Two Sisters (77.8)
  26. The Descent (77.8)
  27. Only Lovers Left Alive (77.4)

27-75 Below

The Host, Cabin in the Woods, Shadow of a Vampire, Inside, Hellboy 2, Attack the Block, American Psycho, Frailty, The Guest, Creep, Spring, Thirst, Drag Me To Hell, Bubba Ho-Tep, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Joyride, Dawn of the Dead, Hellboys, Cheap Thrills, Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead, This is the End, Rogue, Troll Hunter, 28 Weeks Later, House of the Devil, Eden Lake, The Snowtown Murders, Sightseers, Ichi the Killer, Livid, Berberian Sound Studio, Under the Skin, Juan of the Dead, Battle Royale, We Are Still Here, Cloverfield, Shutter, Pulse, Orphan, Excision, Stoker, The Mist, You’re Next, Kill List, The Gift, Paranormal Activity, Session 9, Slither, Back Country.

Quick note: There were some neat surprises in here. Joy Ride, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, Attack the Block, Spring, Drag Me To Hell and Frailty all did really well! Frailty needs more love and I hope more college kids start killing themselves in a T&D sequel.

tucker and dale react 3

The list below doesn’t affect the rankings above. I just wanted to know what the top horror websites thought were the best 21st century horror films. The Top 10 rated according to Shocktillyoudrop, Dread Central, Fangoria (with info from the chainsaw awards), Bloody Disgusting and Bloody Good Horror

Sidenote: Four of the sites had “Best of the 00” Lists. Some featured 25 films while others featured 15 or 10. So, I picked the top 10 of each list. Then, I went through their 2010-2014 “Best of” lists and took the number one film from the list. Fangoria was a little trickier. I picked from from their 25 Greatest Horror Post then I went through their Golden chainsaw awards on IMDB. The following has the movies that were featured the most on the lists.

  1. Let the Right One In 
  2. Shaun of the Dead 
  3. The Babadook 
  4. The Descent 
  5. The Mist 
  6. Dawn of the Dead remake 
  7. Cabin in the Woods 
  8. 28 Days Later 
  9. Maniac, Inside, Attack the Block, Saw, I Saw the Devil, The Ring 
  10. You’re Next, Piranha 3D, Housebouend, Conjuring, Evil Dead, May, Ginger Snaps, Devil’s Rejects, Shadow of a Vampire, Paranormal Activity, American Psycho, [Rec], Excision, Session 9. 

Sidenote: Empire magazine did a massive 2011  “best of” horror list  that was voted on by readers and only four films that were released after 2000 cracked the top 50. The Mist (48), The Descent (39), Let the Right One In (34) and 28 Days Later (25).

Now that you’ve checked out the top rated “Horror” films I want you to vote for the best of the 21 century. This is a mixture of the top ten and other favorites that got left out. Vote and let me know who should win.

The polls are closed. Thank you for voting! Here are the top 21 horror films of the 21st century! Enjoy!

You get three votes! Use them wisely! . I will announce the winner on our Facebook page next week.

49 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2015 9:27 am

    Great job on compiling the list (although I was bummed that “Cabin in the Woods” didn’t make the cut).

    • August 10, 2015 9:30 am

      Thanks! It took some time haha. I just added Cabin to the voting section. Hopefully it gets some love!

    • August 10, 2015 9:35 am

      Thanks! It took some time haha. I just added Cabin to the voting section. Hopefully it gets some love. Also, if you have any friends who love horror make sure to share.

  2. August 10, 2015 10:10 am

    solid list all around! This is a really good read and really in-depth with the numbers. I had spoken to Mark earlier about my favorite horror film of the 21st-century, after reading the list, it’s really difficult to pinpoint on one actual film.
    There really was so many good horror films that came out in the last decade and a half, all of which are beautifully showcased here. Great job bud!

    • August 10, 2015 10:47 am

      Thanks! There were some pleasant surprises. Stoked that Joy Ride, Tucker and Dale and Descent did well!

  3. August 10, 2015 11:35 am

    Never even seen Pans Labyrinth, and yet it’s at the top of a lot of those lists. Is it worthy of the hype?

    • August 10, 2015 11:36 am

      Totally. It is an original story that has beautiful visuals. You can’t forget it.

    • August 11, 2015 7:21 pm

      Pan’s Labyrinth is so overrated. Not even a ‘horror’ in the classic sense. It Follows was by far the scariest film I’ve watched in 10 years. For me that is the best and smartest movie that taps into the human instinct more than the rest. It Follows get’s the top spot.

    • August 12, 2015 1:38 am

      Pan’s Labyrinth was brilliant. One of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever seen, and some of the most creative creepiness ever. Del Toro is a master of this kind of understated, beautiful film.

    • August 12, 2015 3:13 am

      It’s a great movie, but it’s definitely more of a dark fantasy than horror. It deserves the praise, though.

    • Shawn permalink
      December 19, 2016 8:28 am

      A Field in England is a stunning psychedelic addition to the folk horror subgenre. It’s too bad it isn’t on the list because as a film in general and a revisionist horror film in particular, it surpasses all the hype and lack of balls of films like The Babadook. This article was written before The Witch was released, but I’d add that to my top three were it available.

  4. Scott permalink
    August 11, 2015 3:51 pm

    Jeez, how badly did It Follows fare with audiences that it was fourth on the critics’ list and didn’t even make it onto the combined list of 75?

    • August 11, 2015 4:12 pm

      It Follows had a 69% audience score. That hurt. I think people were expecting a slasher film and got a smart little horror hybrid.

    • August 12, 2015 3:10 am

      It definitely deserves a spot on the list. Incredibly creepy movie. My guess is that it scored very well with serious horror fans, but was hurt by the casual fan who is conditioned to jump scares.

  5. MathDebater permalink
    August 11, 2015 6:50 pm

    Good list! It’s not mentioned, but the remake of the Crazies deserves a nod.

    • August 11, 2015 6:53 pm

      Thanks! I really like that movie. Have you listened to the commentary on the DVD? Really informative stuff.

  6. August 11, 2015 7:23 pm

    IT FOLLOWS is the scariest movie and smartest horror I’ve seen in years. Taps into your human fears and feels so old school. Should be No. 1

    • August 11, 2015 7:45 pm

      I love that It Follows features urgency, dread and patience. It isn’t in a hurry but it is always moving along. Fantastic film.

  7. Stinkfinger permalink
    August 11, 2015 10:15 pm

    Voted for Devils Rejects, but only because We Are what We Are wasn’t an option. Not just a great horror film, but one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

  8. August 12, 2015 12:37 am

    Aww you dropped HOUSEBOUND off the list? After it being #8 and on other lists. But you have SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE on there?!

    • August 12, 2015 7:05 am

      I should’ve kept it in there. Did you write it in the “other” section?

  9. August 13, 2015 6:05 pm

    Slither should have been much higher on these lists. Also, Lucky McKee’s May is very good, but I think “The Woman” is his masterpiece.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 20, 2015 8:43 am

      Oh, God. Slither blew my socks off when it came out and every few years it does it again. Love that one.

  10. segaam13 permalink
    August 18, 2015 4:38 pm

    This list makes me sad when I think about comparing it to say an all time greatest horror movie list because while there are some fine films here (Drag me to Hell, Trick r Treat, Tucker and Dale, Cabin in the Woods), most are severely lacking when compared to Jaws or Psycho or some such. Also am I the only one who thinks that Freddy vs Jason is criminally overlooked here? I revisited it last Halloween with my nephew, you know, showing him the horror movie ropes and goddamn if that ain’t a freakin’ good movie. It hit all the notes, probably one of the last times that a well budgeted hollywood horror movie had gratuitous gore AND nudity AND drug use. They’ve about removed all traces of those last two from movies in general. Also drug use and nudity doesn’t make a movie, I know, but movies are meant to be escapism rolled up in logic, and logically, people get nude and do drugs. Maybe I just prefer a wilder version of the world in movies, I don’t know. Sorry for getting long winded. Also Black Sheep and Pupper Master vs Demonic Toys deserve a mention. Full Moon still pumps out the hits. Also Sharknado and Sharktopus vs Whoever. Okay, I’m done.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 20, 2015 8:42 am

      I’ll open by saying that while I agree Freddy vs Jason was uber-awesome-fun (and, of course, I own it), I don’t think it’s a film of such acclaim as to be on the list. However, I’ll also say some things on this list don’t belong in my opinion either–that is, they should have been bumped down by others that won my favor much as Jason vs Freddy did for you. Again, love that movie! Now that you mention it, Black Sheep was an epic of grossout horrific awesomeness. I guess–where our opinions differ from the list–just go to show how divisive movie fandom and favoritism can be when comparing our own opinions to that of the voting/rating masses of the internet. Are some people judging these as “films” rather than entertaining horror; do they gauge the “scariness” in lieu of the fun of the horror genre; do they let a few tropes tactfully played indicate flaws rather than solid filmmaking honorarium? Who’s to say?

      In either case, that was a sincere and constructive criticism.


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