Horror is a genre that lends well to a broad spectrum of emotion, and in 2021, we got horror films that were weird, funny, bleak, and also cathartic experiences. So, we put together a list of the Top Horror Movies of 2021.@OhMyM. From Shudder exclusives that put a new spin on escaping a captor or getting revenge and an abuser, to the “larger titles” that allow directors to go completely unhinged, and the streaming darlings that are a one-woman-show or use horror to tell the painful historical truth, there was a lot to love.
To make our Top Horror Movies in 2021 list the film had to have had a release available to audiences in the calendar year of 2021. That means festival films that have not come out in theaters or on digital platforms can’t make the Top Horror Movies of 2021 list and films that had delay after delay despite being screened at festivals in 2019 could. Additionally, horror is a broad genre that intersects with other genres. Films included here are either pitched as horror by the studios, on horror streaming platform or categorized as such — save the “this isn’t horror” argument for social media. So, without further ado, here are our Top 15 Horror Movies of 2021.
15. The Beta Test
A married Hollywood agent receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, murder, and infidelity in this scintillating satire.
In the film, Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
Oxygen is a French survival thriller directed by Alexandre Aja. The film tells the story of a young woman, who wakes up in a cryogenic pod. She doesn’t remember who she is or how she ended up there. As she’s running out of oxygen, she must rebuild her memory to find a way out of her nightmare.
Adela and her husband Juan live in Texas, where Juan is working as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. Juan impresses the Tucker patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton, Halloween), but that fuels the jealous anger of Caleb’s son, Dylan. On the morning after The Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks the Tucker family—including Dylan’s wife (Cassidy Freeman, HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones), and his sister (Leven Rambin, The Hunger Games), forcing both families to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to disintegrate around them.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Writer: Nia DaCosta, Jodan Peele, Win Rosenfeld
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
An artist unwittingly unleashes a wave of violence after learning the true history behind the urban legend of Candyman in this chilling film from Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele.
Director: Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Writer: Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Stars: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger
Where to Watch: Shudder
With her marriage about to implode, Miriam returns to her hometown to seek solace in the comfort of her younger sister and brother-in-law. But one evening a tiny slip in judgement leads to a catastrophic betrayal, leaving Miriam shocked, reeling, and furious. Believing her only recourse is to exact revenge, Miriam takes extreme action, but the price of retribution is high, and she is not prepared for the toll it takes as she begins to emotionally and psychologically unravel.
9. Psycho Goreman
Mimi and Luke resurrect an alien overlord and, using the magical amulet they discovered, force him to obey their childish whims. It isn’t long before intergalactic friends and foes converge in suburbia to battle for the fate of the galaxy.
8. Last Night in Soho
Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie. But the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
7. Fear Street Trilogy
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Leigh Janiak, Kyle Killen , Phil Graziadei, Zak Olkewicz,
Stars: Maya Hawke, Benjamin Flores Jr., Charlene Amoia, Kiana Madeira, Gillian Jacobs, Ted Sutherland, Sadie Sink
Where to Watch: Netflix
A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. Welcome to Shadyside.
6. Saint Maud
A newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul – but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling.
Titane is a feverish and jaw-dropping ride from the mind of Julia Ducournau. With a titanium plate surgically fused to her skull following a car crash as a child, car model Alexia embarks on a wild and ultimately unpredictable journey that questions our assumptions about family, identity, and love.
Beto and Diana, a young Mexican-American couple expecting their first child, move to a small town in 1970’s California where Beto has been offered a job managing a farm. Isolated from the community and plagued by confusing nightmares, Diana explores the rundown company ranch where they reside, finding a grisly talisman and a box containing the belongings of the previous residents. Her discoveries will lead her to a truth much stranger and more terrifying than she could have possibly imagined.
3. Werewolves Within
After a proposed pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger Finn and postal worker Cecily must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
2. The Night House
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. Before long, disturbing visions of a presence in the house begin to beckon her with a ghostly allure. Yearning for answers, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, only to discover strange and disturbing secrets.
1. The Boy Behind the Door
After Bobby and his best friend Kevin are kidnapped and taken to a strange house in the middle of nowhere, Bobby manages to escape. But then he hears Kevin’s screams for help and realizes he can’t leave his friend behind.
Whether you want b-movie comedy or deep stories about grief, these are our Top Horror Movies of 2021. With so many great titles, we’d be remiss not to list a few honorable mentions as well: Antlers, Spiral, The Feast, False Positive, and There’s Someone Inside Your House. Did your favorite film make our top horror movies of 2021 list? Let us know on social media: @butwhythopc.
Synopses for Top Horror Movies of 2021 were taken from information pages on streaming platforms or marketing materials.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.