The 26 Best Horror Films of 2022 You Need to See
From haunting folk tales to scary slashers, here are the 2022 horror movies that left an impression.
At this point "2022 was a great year for horror" has been said so much that it's lost a bit of its punch. But just because it's already become something of a cliché doesn't make it any less true. You could pick just about any year and find a handful of standouts: Horror is plentiful, expansive, and a welcome home to some of the most creative filmmaking minds out there. And still, 2022 rises above other recent years with a truly daunting number of films worth celebrating—from micro-budget indies to mainstream studio hits, from thoroughly original stories to inventive remakes and sequels. The best horror films of 2022 include stomach-turning zombie mayhem, pitch-black comedy, haunting folk horror, throwback slasher kills, and cannibal romance. And that's barely scratching the surface.
This year, the biggest challenge of compiling this list was simply seeing all the horror that 2022 had to offer—and I know there's still plenty that I missed. (I'd say that choosing what to include was difficult, but I've never been all that restrictive about my year-end horror list. Previous years have fallen just under 20.) While rankings are ultimately subjective, I'm hopeful that this list will encourage people to seek out under-the-radar movies they missed, or maybe even give a film they were lukewarm on another look. And while the genre is decidedly not for everyone, if you're horror-curious, many of these movies would be a great place to start.
Read on for my list of the best horror films of 2022, ranked from the good to the great.
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Hellbender is truly a family affair: It was written and directed by husband and wife John Adams and Toby Poser and their daughter Zelda Adams. It stars Zelda as Izzy, a teenage girl living in the wilderness with her mother (played by Poser, naturally). Izzy begins to learn about the family history of witchcraft—and what she's capable of. (John and another daughter, Lulu Adams, have smaller roles in the movie, which John also edited, scored, and shot, along with Zelda.)
There's a version of this film that's too insular to be enjoyed by outsiders, existing in isolation like Izzy and her mother. But instead of working against it, the small scale and extremely low budget make Hellbender feel intimate and grounded. Tiny as it is, the movie manages to contain some rich and innovative witch mythology, not to mention a chilling ending that's both surprising and well-earned.
You Won't Be Alone
Another unusual take on witchcraft with distinctive mythology of its own, You Won't Be Alone is not a scary movie so much as a meditation on humanity. Thankfully, it's sufficiently steeped in the genre to qualify for inclusion here. Yes, Goran Stolevski's debut feature is an art film that seems heavily inspired by the work of Terrence Malick, but it's also about shapeshifting witches who take different forms by stuffing a wound in their chest with entrails.
I've rarely been able to vibe with Malick's work as much as I'd like, but You Won't Be Alone really resonated with me. Maybe the entrails are what make the difference, or maybe it's because Stolevski's film offers a compelling entry point into its exploration of what makes a person a person, as Nevena (played by Sara Klimoska, Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta, and Alice Englert in her various forms) discovers gender, sex, death, grief, and maternal love through her lives-long journey.
Finnish body horror is probably not for everyone: Some people have an aversion to subtitles, while others don't necessarily want to see grotesque imagery. (Can't relate!) But if you're someone who thinks a freakish bird-human hybrid could be cute, then you might be on the right wavelength for Hanna Bergholm's offbeat horror film, which follows 12-year-old Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) as she tries to reckon with a doppelgänger hatched from a giant egg.
Hatching is about influencer culture and the pursuit of perfection—or at least perfection for appearance's sake—but it's also, in a more literal sense, about a monster, with some of the best practical creature effects I've seen in ages. If that were all the movie had to offer, it would be worth the watch. Thankfully, Hatching has more on its mind.
Every year, there's a movie that I hear about right as I'm putting my list together and feel compelled to watch before I finalize my ranking. Ultimately Andy Mitton's The Harbinger is a hidden gem that I'm glad ended up on my radar—but now I'm a little stressed about what else I might be missing.
While I had reasonably high hopes for a movie starring Gabby Beans and Emily Davis, two actors who have made quite a name for themselves among New York theater crowds, I wasn't entirely prepared for how genuinely scary The Harbinger would be. More impressively, the film is able to extract new horror from COVID. The Harbinger manages to justify its height-of-the-pandemic setting with both existential dread and more immediate frights that are especially resonant for those of us who spent March 2020 in New York.
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Written and directed by Carlota Pereda, Piggy is the kind of movie that's hard to pin down. For much of its runtime, it feels less like a horror film and more like a darkly comedic thriller or even a forbidden romance. Laura Galán plays Sara, who finds herself in a unique ethical dilemma when she witnesses the girls who have been brutally bullying her get kidnapped by a stranger (Richard Holmes).
Ultimately, Piggy is all the more interesting because of the turns it takes, allowing for narrative and genre deviations that keep things (intentionally) messy. By the time the movie arrives at its blood-soaked conclusion, it's a real challenge to predict how things will turn out, particularly when it comes to the direction of Sara's vengeance.
Cannibalism: so hot right now. Surely, it wasn't intentional to have two cannibal romances released in the same year—this movie is admittedly less about true love than the other on this list—but it's almost enough to make it a trend. (Cannibalism also popped up in Showtime's Yellowjackets and Netflix's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.) Of course, it makes sense that while plenty of horror films have featured flesh-eating zombies and blood-draining vampires, the taboo of people who eat people still has the power to shock.
Before it dives into the gory details, however, Fresh plays as a romcom starring the very appealing Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan. Director Mimi Cave effectively lures you in and then pulls out the rug from under you. There's nothing all that subtle about the themes here—men treat women like meat and dispose of them accordingly. And yet, Fresh still pushes the envelope in its all-too-real depiction of unconventional tastes, pairing the gruesomeness with a satisfying finish that helps it go down easy.
There are several films from directors making their feature debuts on this year's list—another reminder of how much burgeoning talent there is in the horror space—but Nanny is the one that has me most excited to see what its filmmaker does next. Nikyatu Jusu offers such a rich depiction of her distinct vision, pulling from African folklore to create something that feels brand new. It's also just a stunning movie to look at—for which cinematographer Rina Yang deserves praise, too.
Anna Diop stars as Aisha, a Senegalese immigrant looking to make a new life for herself in New York so that she can bring over the son she had to leave behind. While there's a creeping dread as Aisha works as a nanny for a seemingly gracious couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector), the secret buried at the heart of Nanny still manages to take you by surprise. Anchored by strong performances, it's not standard horror fare, but that doesn't make it any easier to shake.
I put off watching The Sadness as long as I could, because it felt like a dare I wasn't quite ready to take: the goriest, bleakest, most depraved zombie movie ever made. When I finally did watch it, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's a disgusting film that includes scenes of brutality I would never come close to describing here, but it's also beautiful, showcasing the breadth of first-time feature filmmaker Rob Jabbaz's abilities.
The set-up is simple: Amid a mutated virus that turns people into sadistic killing machines, Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) try to stay alive and find each other again. While it might be easy for some to dismiss as a nihilistic gore-fest, it's really a story of survival—and yeah, it's also a movie about COVID. Though less overt than The Harbinger, it's not exactly subtle, with much of its messaging (including about the danger of politicizing science) clearly spelled out.
The problem with the vast majority of horror-comedy is that it tries to do too much of both and ends up not being scary enough or funny enough to justify its existence. What a thrill, then, to watch something that succeeds on both fronts. Vanessa and Joseph Winter—you guessed it, both making their feature directorial debuts—have crafted a found-footage movie about a canceled YouTuber trying to livestream his comeback that's actually a total delight.
Joseph Winter plays Shawn, the influencer in question, who decides to spend the night in a haunted house to get his career back on track. This is a horror film, so duh, the ghosts are real, but they manifest in unexpected ways—and that's still not Deadstream's biggest surprise, which is that it gets you on the edge of your seat watching a truly unlikable character fight for survival (and livestream viewers).
There have been plenty of horror films about children being creepy—there's even another one called The Innocents, the classic 1961 adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. The subgenre of children being creepy and having supernatural powers is also well-trod terrain, but there's a reason this deeply disturbing Norwegian film stands out among its predecessors.
However trite a maxim "kids can be so cruel" may be, Eskil Vogt's The Innocent does not shy away from that reality, and the results are at times hard to watch. The casual violence done by children is unsettling in its own right. Add to that power they don't understand—and can't yet control—and you have a harrowing thriller. It all comes to a head in one of the most tense yet understated climaxes I can remember.
Before things take a turn to the supernatural, Saloum feels less like a horror film and more like an action movie or revenge thriller. In fact, it's all of those things, and in taking the time to develop distinct characters with rich backstories before diving into genre territory, the movie is able to do a lot of the heavy lifting that its admittedly low-budget effects alone might have a harder time with.
That's not really a mark against it—even with some less-than-perfect CGI, Saloum is a gorgeous movie, bursting with vibrant color. Congolese filmmaker Jean Luc Herbulot evokes everything from Westerns to crime dramas to monster movies, infusing the Senegal-set story with Afro-Caribbean folk horror. But the story—about a band of mercenaries fleeing a coup d'état who learn that one of their own is on a personal mission of vengeance—propels you so effectively that it ultimately doesn't matter what genre you want to put it in.
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It feels like Smile was built around Caitlin Stasey's ability to smile in a really unsettling way. And you know what? Good for writer-director Parker Finn if that's the case. This is a movie that's, at least on paper, not really reinventing the wheel: Sosie Bacon plays psychiatrist Rose Cotter, who is tormented by a creature that can take the form of anyone, with a creepy smile fixed on their face. But one of those forms happens to be Stasey's Laura Weaver, a patient who died in front of Rose, and her smile is honestly just very scary.
I don't know why I'm being defensive. Who cares if the plot of Smile feels a little close to that of It Follows? Does it matter that it's occasionally weighed down by some of contemporary mainstream horror's most inescapable tropes? Smile knows what it is, and has fun with endless jump scares and a surprisingly subversive skewering of the all-too-common theme of trauma. If all studio horror were this effective, I'd have a lot less to complain about.
Another studio offering, but one that walks a little more off the beaten path, Barbarian is a fascinating exercise in "how did this get made?" Except, you know, in the good way. Zach Cregger's completely unexpected horror debut quickly became 2022's movie that you're not supposed to read a single thing about, because the less you know, the better.
With that in mind, I won't reveal the real story of Barbarian. And that's not the basic set-up—in which strangers Tess (Georgina Campbell) and Keith (Bill Skarsgård) are forced to share a Detroit Airbnb—but everything that happens after that. What I will say is that it's rare to watch a horror film where you can't begin to guess where you'll go next. Even if the characters' motivations require a suspension of disbelief I simply don't possess, the sheer chaos of the "yes, and…" approach to storytelling makes the journey worthwhile in the end.
As a person who has seen Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II countless times—and who generally likes to pretend that the many sequels thereafter don't exist—I approached the reboot with the kind of excitement and dread usually reserved for those trying to solve the Lament Configuration. Thankfully, the new Hellraiser is easily the best installment in the series since 1988's Hellraiser II, and while yes, the bar is on the floor, this movie gracefully skips over it.
Much of the credit goes the director David Bruckner and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski—the filmmaking team behind last year's standout The Night House—who capture the style and tone of Clive Barker's original story, while also introducing their own flourishes, including some nifty Cenobite creature design. And while it's hard to accept a new Pinhead, Jamie Clayton makes the character her own and (I'm truly so sorry for this) nails it.
Far too many modern slashers try to offer a new twist on the genre and end up falling flat. Ti West decided to go the opposite direction with X, which proudly wears its influences on its sleeve, and ended up delivering one of the best new slashers in recent memory. It's a Texas Chain Saw Massacre pastiche that ends up feeling much closer to the 1974 original than this year's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and that one had Leatherface in it.
As in the movies it pays homage to, there's not much plot here. In 1979, pornographic filmmakers head to a Texas farmhouse to make their next movie, and end up getting hacked to bits (among other unsavory ends). But the cast is top-notch (more on scream queens Mia Goth and Jenna Ortega below), the kills are memorable, and the smut and grime are so authentic to the time period West is conjuring that you'll feel like you need a shower when it's all over.
Speak No Evil
You'll hear people call Christian Tafdrup's Speak No Evil "bleak" and "shocking" and "unbelievably depressing," and yes, it is all those things—but it's also funny! The film largely plays as a dark comedy of manners, poking fun at the way our need to be polite sometimes leaves us in deeply uncomfortable situations. Danish couple Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) are willing to overlook an awful lot from Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders), their Dutch hosts, before things really take a turn.
But oh, the turn that they take! Speak No Evil is a descent into hell, ratcheting up the tension to an almost unwatchable degree before pummeling you with a breathtakingly brutal climax. It's the kind of movie I never want to watch again, and that I'll recommend only for those I know can handle it, but insofar as some of the best horror films are an experience, it's certainly a successful one.
Adult Swim Yule Log
Adult Swim Yule Log has no right being as good as it is. Its mere existence feels like a miracle: The film purports to be—you guessed it—your standard yule log video, before transitioning into a full-blown narrative feature that arrived on HBO Max with zero warning or fanfare. But the fact that it's somehow also one of the best horror movies of the year? Writer-director Casper Kelly might just be a genius.
As with other entries on this list, Adult Swim Yule Log is best enjoyed blind, but while I could easily summarize the plot of Barbarian for you, I wouldn't even know where to begin here. Kelly borrows liberally from horror and sci-fi films that came before, but there's a sincerity to this satire. It's part parody, part exploration of generational trauma and America's original sin. Above all, it's a wild ride that will make certain you never look at yule logs (or pimento cheese) the same way again.
I promised to talk more about Mia Goth, and what better opportunity than in a celebration of Pearl, Ti West's surprise follow-up to X that finally asks the question, what if you made a Sirkian melodrama that was also a slasher film? Pearl is an origin story for the titular character, the killer in X, but it's an achievement in its own right, thanks in large part to Goth's fully committed performance. She is equal parts tragic and terrifying, giving it her all whether she's delivering an eight-minute monologue or having her way with a scarecrow.
To me, the debate over which 2022 Mia Goth-led Ti West film is better comes down to the question of which movie is more effective at translating and subverting the style it's paying homage to. And that's Pearl, with its rich Technicolor hues and musical fantasy sequence hitting like a pitchfork to the chest. West is concluding his trilogy with next year's MaXXXine, but here's hoping he and Goth collaborate on several more horror films down the line.
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Bodies Bodies Bodies
From the cast to the soundtrack to the color palette and visual style, Halina Reijn's Bodies Bodies Bodies feels like a quintessential A24 movie. But the dialogue that might seem a bit too clever for its own good and a vibe that can best be described as "very online" are only a little heightened to make the Gen-Z satire sing. Once you get on the film's wavelength, you realize how smart it really is.
Amandla Stenberg stars as Sophie, who brings her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova), along to a hurricane party at her estranged bestie David's (Pete Davidson) family mansion. Shortly thereafter, the bodies start dropping. The execution is more whodunnit than slasher, but Bodies Bodies Bodies escalates firmly into genre territory. More importantly, it retains its sharp edge throughout, never sacrificing laughs even as it heightens the anxiety and turns the screw on its characters.
Orphan: First Kill
Remember fun? Orphan: First Kill remembers fun. The long-awaited sequel to 2009's Orphan—a film best known for the delightfully unhinged twist that nine-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is really a homicidal 33-year-old Estonian little person—is actually a prequel. Fuhrman, now 25, returns to play the role, with costuming and camera tricks to make her look like a child. Somehow that casting choice is not the craziest thing about this movie.
Fuhrman is better than ever as Esther, elevating the character to slasher icon status. She's joined by an equally game Julia Stiles as Tricia Albright, the matriarch of the family who takes Esther in. There's another big twist, of course, and while it's hard to compete with the original's notorious reveal, First Kill comes close by leaning into the absurdity and having a blast doing it. Director William Brent Bell and writer David Coggeshall understand that sometimes horror should be a little silly, and they take that mission very seriously.
I've never been a big fan of the Predator series, but it turns out all I needed was to watch the Predator face off against a young Comanche warrior in the 18th century to really enjoy myself. Amber Midthunder plays Naru, who is training as a healer but dreams of hunting like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). She gets her wish when a Predator arrives in the Great Plains and starts wreaking havoc the way only an alien trophy hunter can.
Director Dan Trachtenberg keeps his projects shrouded in mystery, and for a while, it wasn't apparent that Prey was a Predator movie at all. Even after that reveal, however, the film doesn't feel like any previous installment, and that works in its favor. There is a deliberately stripped-down quality to the proceedings, with a tight focus on the cat-and-mouse game between Naru and the Predator. That, coupled with a real respect for Indigenous culture and actors, make Prey a clear step up from 2018's fun but forgettable The Predator.
Jordan Peele could be making films in any genre, so how lucky are we that he keeps choosing horror? It makes sense, of course. First, because Peele is clearly a fan—he cites his influences proudly—but also because horror is perhaps the best vehicle for the themes Peele wants to explore. The social commentary and satire of his films (and of Get Out in particular) helped popularize the concept of socially conscious horror for a mainstream audience, but that subgenre has always existed.
Nope stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings OJ and Em Haywood, Hollywood horse trainers whose lives take a turn when they realize a UFO is hovering over their family property. The film earned a slightly more muted response than Peele's previous efforts, but perhaps that's because it's not as easily digested as the more straightforward Get Out or as pulse-pounding as Us. That having been said, Nope features some of Peele's more visceral sequences yet, including a scene that's terrifying for what you can hear and not what you can see.
You can sum up Watcher succinctly: A woman believes her neighbor is a serial killer who has his eye on her. Chloe Okuno's high-tension thriller doesn't have a ton of surprises, because it doesn't need them. It takes its Rear Window-adjacent story and makes it about a woman who unravels as she struggles to be believed. Its paranoia shares DNA with Roman Polanski's Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, with a more pointedly feminist edge that underscores the potency of female intuition in a world where men behave very badly.
Okuno is someone to watch—this is her first feature-length film, both as writer and director. And Maika Monroe, who stars as Julia, is proving herself to be one of the best scream queens of her generation after memorable turns in It Follows and The Guest. She's also the lead of another 2022 horror film, Significant Other, which didn't quite make my list but deserves an honorable mention. (She's terrific in it, naturally.)
It's an annual tradition: Rebecca Hall stars in a new horror film and delivers one of the rawest, gutsiest performances of the year. To be clear, the tradition so far is limited to The Night House and Resurrection, but I do hope we can keep it going. Hall is incredible as Margaret, a single mother being tormented by Tim Roth's David, a violent man from her past. Like Mia Goth in Pearl, Hall gets to perform a lengthy (in this case, seven-minute) and haunting monologue. Also like Goth, Hall deserves accolades but probably won't get any because these movies are simply too out there for most awards voters.
And Resurrection really is out there. While Margaret's trauma feels grounded in reality, the story she weaves—including the reveal of the horrifying secret she's been keeping—is harder to swallow. Filmmaker Andrew Semans propels the story along to a climax that it's shocking as it is inevitable. Surely the movie wouldn't go there, you think, while recognizing, on some level, that it's the only real option.
After 2018's Halloween (and countless other attempts at rejuvenating horror franchises), it seemed only fair for Scream to have its turn with a decade-later sequel that's also a reboot that also confusingly shares a title with the original. Diehard fans of the slasher series will tell you there's no Scream movie that's all bad: We probably would have accepted any excuse to reunite Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette. But the 2022 Scream isn't just passable—it's the best Scream movie in 25 years.
The filmmaking team of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick manages to create a requel (that's a reboot-sequel) that honors the original movies while perfectly setting up a new trilogy. From the opening sequence (again, the best since Scream 2), it's clear we're in good hands. The style and scares are familiar, with the satirical targets updated for an older audience and a new generation of fans. And in star Jenna Ortega—who cemented her scream queen status with this and X—Scream finds a worthy successor to Campbell's best-ever Final Girl, Sidney Prescott.
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Bones and All
Apparently there is some debate over whether or not Luca Guadagnino's Bones and All qualifies as a horror film. I've always argued for the most expansive genre definition possible, but I ultimately don't really care how people want to label Bones and All, as long as they recognize it as one of the most stunning movies of the year. Call it a coming-of-age drama, a road-trip movie, a tragic romance—it's all of those things, of course, along with being an artful horror film about two young cannibals in love.
Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet bring real pathos to "eaters" Maren and Lee, and the undeniable chemistry between them forces you to invest deeply in their love—even if, yes, they do sometimes murder and eat people. Guadagnino has such compassion for his characters that it's contagious, but he also never shies away from the blood-drenched reality of their urges. It's one of Bones and All's most impressive achievements that through its filmmaker's eyes—and with two emotionally resonant performances at its center—acts of grotesquerie become something almost beautiful.