The 19 Best Horror Films of 2023

It wasn't a great year for the genre, but there were some scary movie standouts.

Horror fans can't hide from the truth: This was not a great year for the genre. That doesn't mean there weren't some real standouts, but 2022—a banner year for horror—was a tough act to follow. I've been doing a year-end list like this for the past 10 years, and I can't remember the last time so many of the most-hyped titles fell flat for me. At the same time, there were some surprising winners among studio releases that I expected to feel less enthused about. What I was left with when putting together this list of my favorites was an eclectic mix of twisted indies, solid sequels, and some truly potent scares. Read on to see my picks for the 19 best horror films of 2023.

RELATED: The 30 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time, According to Science.

19
Swallowed

still from swallowed
Momentum Pictures

Part thriller, part body horror, but all viscerally uncomfortable to watch. Carter Smith's Swallowed is hard to describe—particularly on a family website. Suffice it to say, it's about a drug deal gone very wrong. This descent into hell reunites Smith with The Ruins star Jena Malone and also features a gonzo performance from cult horror star Mark Patton, who memorably played Jesse in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.

Rent it on Prime Video.

18
The Blackening

still from the blackening
Lionsgate

OK, it's far from the scariest slasher on this list, but The Blackening is definitely one of the most fun. This sharp satire by Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins—the latter of whom also stars as one of the friends celebrating Juneteenth at a cabin in the woods—skewers horror tropes, particularly those surrounding Black representation in the genre. The stellar cast make even the lesser jokes land. Here's hoping they all return for the recently announced sequel.

Rent it on Prime Video or stream it with a STARZ subscription.

17
Sick

still from sick
Peacock

But if you're looking for a more traditional slasher, don't skip this under-appreciated throwback. The script, co-written by Katelyn Crabb and Kevin Williamson, has the feel of the '90s horror we loved, and there's a clear reason for that: Williamson is responsible for some of the most iconic movies of that era, most notably Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Yes, this is a movie about COVID, but it'll bring you right back to your youth.

Stream it on Peacock.

RELATED: The 10 Scariest Movie Characters of All Time.

16
Totally Killer

still from totally killer
Amazon Prime Video

Nahnatchka Khan's Totally Killer answers a question I didn't even know needed answering: "What if Back to the Future were a slasher movie?" Kiernan Shipka stars as a teenager who goes back in time to 1987, where she has to stop a killer from picking off all her mom's friends. It may not reach the heights of 2017's Happy Death Day, to which it owes a debt, but it's a delight to watch.

Stream it on Prime Video.

15
The Pope's Exorcist

still from the pope's exorcist
Sony Pictures Releasing

Russell Crowe riding a Vespa should be all that you need to know. But if that alone doesn't convince you that this surprisingly silly movie is worth your time, let me assure you that it's also one of the most entertaining horror films of the year. Critics were not particularly kind to The Pope's Exorcist, and I get it, but I think too many overlooked the tongue-in-cheek tone that makes this film way more watchable than the dreadful The Exorcist: Believer.

Stream it on Netflix.

14
The Outwaters

still from the outwaters
Cinedigm

The Outwaters, a found footage film about a group of friends who go missing in the desert, may not be for you. I'm saying that upfront because this deeply unnerving movie will worm its way under your skin—it's a 110-minute nightmare that not everyone can stomach. Writer-director-star Robbie Banfitch has created something that feels dangerous in a way few contemporary horror films do. It's the 2023 release that's stuck with me the most.

Rent it on Prime Video or stream it with a Screambox subscription.

13
Knock at the Cabin

still from knock at the cabin
Universal Pictures

If you're looking for the classic M. Night Shyamalan twist in Knock at the Cabin, you might be disappointed. But this movie, adapted from Paul Tremblay's novel The Cabin at the End of the World, offers something richer. It's a home invasion thriller about a family told they have to sacrifice one of their own to prevent the apocalypse. A stellar cast helps ground the film's complex moral questions, creating a chilling and emotionally resonant experience.

Stream it on Prime Video.

RELATED: 30 Celebrities You Forgot Were in Horror Movies.

12
Infinity Pool

still from infinity pool
Neon

Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg earns constant comparisons to his father, David Cronenberg, and given the way both men traffic in body horror, that's not terribly surprising. But Brandon proves he's no one-trick pony with Infinity Pool, which follows a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman) whose resort vacation takes a very dark turn. Co-star Mia Goth cements her status as a horror icon with another go-for-broke performance.

Stream it on Hulu.

11
Talk to Me

still from talk to me
A24

One of the year's biggest breakouts—hence the hastily announced sequelTalk to Me is an impressive horror feature debut from Australian YouTubers Danny and Michael Philippou. The plot, about teens letting themselves get possessed for fun, requires a level of suspending disbelief that some might find challenging. But the set pieces are undeniable. There's one gruesome moment in particular I wish I could unsee—consider that a warning.

Rent it on Prime Video.

10
M3GAN

still from m3gan
Universal Pictures

Few horror villains have emerged as an instant icon like M3GAN, the robot doll with homicidal urges. She's clearly Chucky for the new AI-infected generation, but she's got a style on her own. M3GAN is very much a horror comedy, never forgetting or shying away from the ridiculousness of its premise (credit there to Akela Cooper's savvy script). For those looking for something a bit more R-rated, the unrated cut offers some extra bloodshed.

Stream it on Prime Video.

9
Influencer

still from influencer
Shudder

I know what you're thinking, because I was thinking the same thing: Do we really need a horror film about influencers? As it turns out, this movie is so much more than that. Yes, it's about an influencer (Emily Tennant) on a sponcon vacation in Thailand, but once she meets a mysterious stranger (Cassandra Naud), things get more complicated. Tesh Guttikonda and director Kurtis David Harder's twisty script will keep you on your toes.

Stream it on Shudder.

8
Huesera: The Bone Woman

still from huesera the bone woman
XYZ Films

Pregnancy horror is nothing new, and yet, Huesera: The Bone Woman manages to feel thoroughly fresh. Part of that is because writer-director Michelle Garza Cervera's script—which she co-wrote with Abia Castillo—never arrives at the expected destination. But the other part is the Mexican-Peruvian film's distinctive visual language, which includes plenty of haunting imagery, as well as some of 2023's most bone-chilling (and bone-breaking) scares.

Stream it on Shudder.

RELATED: The 12 Most Popular Horror Series of All Time, New Data Shows.

7
Beau Is Afraid

still from beau is afraid
A24

Is it a horror film? Writer-director Ari Aster would probably say it isn't—and would perhaps be annoyed that because he's known for his previous genre efforts, Hereditary and Midsommar, critics and audiences are miscategorizing his work. But the nightmare logic of Beau Is Afraid makes it horror enough for me, while also being a surrealist comedy and a fantasy quest about the title character (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to make it home for his mother's funeral. Call it what you want: It's thrillingly ambitious and very funny.

Stream it on Showtime via Paramount Plus.

6
Saw X

still from saw x
Lionsgate

Surely, the 10th installment of a horror franchise can't be one of the year's best, can it? Never doubt the power of Jigsaw! Saw X is both prequel (taking place between Saw and Saw II) and legacy sequel (Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith make their long-awaited returns), and it's so much better than Saw fans dared dream. Yes, it delivers the gnarly kills the series is known for, but it's also perhaps the sharpest and most thoughtful Saw movie ever made.

Rent it on Prime Video.

5
Do Not Disturb

still from do not disturb
Dark Star Pictures

Do not read anything about this movie. Maybe don't even read this brief recommendation, even though I'm going to try my best to not reveal a thing. John Ainslie's Do Not Disturb benefits from not knowing anything about it—you just have to go in with an open mind and a strong stomach. Kimberly Laferriere and Rogan Christopher star as a troubled couple whose vacation plans go awry. That's it, that's all the information you need.

Rent it on Vudu.

4
Evil Dead Rise

still from evil dead rise
Warner Bros. Pictures

Evil Dead is one of the hardest-to-pin-down horror series. The first two are cabin-in-the-woods horror comedy—way more emphasis on comedy in the sequel—but the third throws time travel into the mix. The gritty 2013 reboot(ish) was followed by a much lighter TV series, and now Evil Dead Rise has a little of everything. (OK, no time travel.) It's darkly funny, relentlessly brutal, and just as blood-soaked as its predecessors. In other words, a blast.

Stream it on Max.

RELATED: 20 Movie Sequels Better Than the Original.

3
Birth/Rebirth

still from birth/rebirth
IFC Films

A deeply disturbing modern-day Frankenstein story, Laura Moss' Birth/Rebirth is one of the best feel-bad horror films of the year. I don't say that as a negative—sometimes sitting with discomfort is what the genre's all about. Marin Ireland and Judy Reyes deliver top-tier performances as two women whose lives become entwined by tragedy and a very experimental treatment. The movie is as compelling as it is disturbing.

Stream it on Shudder.

2
Thanksgiving

still from thanksgiving
Sony Pictures Releasing

Holiday horror is plentiful, but Thanksgiving has always been underserved—at least, until now. Eli Roth's expansion of the fake trailer he made for 2007's Grindhouse proves to be completely worth the wait. Thanksgiving is another unapologetic slasher throwback that feels both nostalgic and new. The real stars here are the endlessly creative holiday-themed kills, which will make you cringe and laugh in equal measure.

Rent it on Prime Video.

1
Godzilla Minus One

still from godzilla minus one
Toho

You thought it was impressive to see the 10th Saw film make an appearance on a list of the year's best horror? How about Toho's 33rd Godzilla movie? Godzilla Minus One, a semi-prequel to the 1954 original, has been called a series best, and with good reason: It's a thematically resonant and overwhelmingly human approach to the giant lizard, a tear-jerker melodrama that also presents the title kaiju at his most frightening. Whether you're a decades-old Godzilla fan or a newbie, you'll find something to love here.

See it in theaters.

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Louis Peitzman
Louis Peitzman is the Editor-in-Chief of Best Life, currently overseeing content across all verticals. Read more
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