The year 2019 continues the trend of knockout years for the horror genre. While many standout horror films have found their way to a wide theatrical release (Midsommar, Ready or Not) the popularity of streaming content has helped smaller films find an audience while also allowing them more freedom of content. My only regret is the dozens of amazing horror movies that I have not yet seen. Let’s hope 2020 continues bringing us some killer horror movies! Here are the movies that made my list of best horror films of 2019.
Check out some of our other end of year coverage here!
Top 10 Films of 2019
10. Daniel Isn’t Real
To start off my list of best horror films of 2019, we have Daniel Isn’t Real. This film’s super imaginative vision turned it into a nice little gem that was only recently released.
On paper, Daniel Isn’t Real is a somber tale of mental illness, but in this film’s execution, this idea becomes much more supernatural and menacing. Luke (Miles Robbins) is a troubled young adult who, due to a traumatic family life, manifests his childhood imaginary friend, Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger), back into being. Finding out about his mother’s history of mental illness, Daniel fears that he is developing the same problems, but is he? Or is it something even more dangerous?
The performances from Robbins and Schwarzenegger are both menacing and emotional, and are the driving force of this sinister film. The movie also benefits from some crazy gore and special effects, and seems to nicely mix practical effects with CGI for a gross and very supernatural feel. It’s not often that a horror film so nicely matches with fantasy elements and still keep the creep factor.
9. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Controversies aside, I thought Extremely Wicked was a solid film. Despite focusing on serial killer Ted Bundy, this is probably the least horror-based entry on my list, as it’s closer to a drama. However, the movie still should be on horror or true crime fans’ watch lists!
Zac Efron was a risky choice as someone who is still associated with his past roles but he actually gave a great interpretation of the well-known serial killer and I am excited to see what he brings to the screen in the future. The storyline was fresh enough to keep it interesting by showing events from his first girlfriend’s perspective and it definitely tapped into more modern ideas of believing women’s stories and holding men accountable, which is interesting to say the least.
Full disclosure: I am a native Floridian and have dealt with many a hurricane and grew up with gators as pets. This movie made me proud to be from Florida, and is one of the most Floridian movies I’ve ever seen.
Barring the fact that the alligator behavior is ridiculously unrealistic (which you could say about any creature feature) this is a tense survival movie along the lines of The Shallows. Crawl is a great revival of the alligator horror film especially with modern special effects making the gators pretty darn realistic.
In the film, our protagonist (Kaya Scodelario) gets trapped underneath a house while trying to find her father as a hurricane is rapidly approaching Florida. Coming from the excessively gory vision of Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes (2006)) the filthy setting and bloody chomps in the film make it pretty hard to watch at times. While it’s not breaking any boundaries, Crawl turned out being one of the best crafted creature features I’ve seen yet.
7. Ready Or Not
This movie was a lot of fun! In addition to being on my top ten list, it is also probably my favorite entry of movies based on kid’s games.
Samara Weaving, who has been kicking butt for awhile in horror (and out of it!), shines in this action-based flick about the anxieties of marrying into a new (and rich) family with some strange traditions. The tone and gore was over the top, and looked especially awesome on Weaving’s character’s pristine white wedding dress as the night goes on.
This movie is also representative of a year marked by lots of anti-rich sentiment (Joker, Parasite), with perhaps the best line in the film being: “F*cking rich people.” If you’re a fan of You’re Next or Get Out, this is a great movie to check out!
This movie was so unexpected for me but I’m glad I got a chance to see this incredibly quirky, wholesome horror movie while it was briefly in theaters.
I was initially pulled in by horror legends Bill Skarsgard (IT) and Maika Monroe (It Follows, The Guest) who I consider on top of their game for this cute flick, delivering their best performances to date.
The rest of the cast also flourished in its whimsical tone. The main characters play dense criminals who continuously make stupid choices, but despite this, you can’t help but love them. This is also definitely on the lighter side so it’s a great comedy as well!
I never thought I would see the day when a huge comic book movie comes out that functions as a pretty disturbing horror movie. While Joker has many detractors, it truly deserves to be celebrated as a horror movie this year for the sheer audacity of it to be made when the standard for the last decade has been family-friendly, CGI-heavy superhero flicks (AKA Marvel movies).
Todd Phillips’s bold version of the Joker mixed with a chilling performance by Joaquin Phoenix is equal parts dark character study and critical social thriller. Based on the box office, I hope this film to encourages more mainstream movies to flirt with darker themes and horror elements. Joker is great as a comic book film and a horror film and definitely will be a movie whose legacy could carry on for many more years.
What is there to say about Midsommar that hasn’t already been said? Ari Aster’s second film may not be as horror-oriented as Hereditary, but it spins its own tale that seems similar to other horror films, like The Wicker Man, while still being an incredibly unique experience and film. The scare factor is mostly gone from this film and instead is replaced with an uncomfortable feeling throughout, but when Midsommar tries to be scary, it succeeds.
Where Midsommar really shines is in its visuals. It really knows how to highlight color in this highly-pigmented trip through a cult. The visual effects used when drugs are involved are equally unique and cool to experience, and are some of the most accurate “tripping” effects I’ve seen yet.
3. The Lighthouse
All I have to say is that I am happy to live in a time where a film like The Lighthouse not only is made but reaches the amount of people it did when it was released. I was a huge fan of The Witch, and so this film pretty much exceeded expectations by being not only an equally good film but completely different thematically and visually.
The Witch is a slowburn horror movie, but The Lighthouse steers more toward the bizarre and comedy. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give stellar performances in this that are truly astounding considering they are the only speaking characters. Being in black and white is always a tough choice, but it definitely worked here and completed the look. If you’ve ever been on a bender, this film will definitely be appealing.
2. Knife + Heart
Knife + Heart is one of the most unique movies I’ve seen in a particularly unique year. This Yann Gonzalez flick takes place in 1979 and stars Vanessa Paradis as a gay porn producer in the midst of a breakup with her girlfriend and editor, who then has a mystery unfold as her actors start dying on set.
Think Halloween, but gay and French.
This movie does a great job at mimicking the Italian Giallo style of the ‘70s with some truly beautiful and colorful cinematography. As an added bonus, the dreamy soundtrack was composed by the M83, led by Gonzalez’s brother. It’s impossible not to feel the intense emotion contained in this trippy and visually-appealing film.
Gaspar Noe films may be an acquired taste, but one can’t deny the artistry of his films or say that they are like any other. Climax is one of Noe’s best, showcasing his years of work and, in my opinion, his most audience-friendly.
The film is mostly made up of several extremely long takes that allow the camera work to really tell the story in this insanely tense and chaotic journey into a drug-filled night of partying for a company of dancers in France. The characters, which are made up of almost twenty crazy talented dancers, all compete for the position of protagonist, as there is no singular person who seems to be that in this film.
Nothing really beats the opening dance sequence shot in one take, until you realize that’s what the rest of the movie is like too, which is not a bad thing. Between the extreme drug use and extreme themes, there’s a lot of horror to be found here. This once again may not strictly be considered a horror film, but by the end of it you will definitely be horrified.
Ad Astra and High Life would have been much higher in my ranking of best horror films of 2019 if they were closer to being in the horror genre. Both are amazing space movies with awesome, vast and colorful cinematography. Another surprising film that came out this year was Godzilla: King of Monsters, which was leaps ahead of its predecessor in the franchise and definitely one of the better Godzilla films. The Nightingale and Gwen were also great and incredibly dark and depressing.
So those are my best horror films of 2019! This turned out to be an amazing year for horror with many filmmakers really trying to break the mold for the genre. Comment down below if you like my rankings and what your best horror films of 2019 are!