Over the last decade the genre has produced so many stand-out horror characters. They have warmed our hearts, got under your skin, and scared the living sh*t out of us.
With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the most brilliant characters to come out in the last decade that I think you will agree with.
Top 10 Stand-Out Horror Characters of the last Decade
Kirby – Scream 4 (2011)
There’s never been a fan base quite like the one for Kirby Reed, the stand-out character from Scream 4.
The fourth installment in the Scream franchise finds Sidney Prescott returning to Woodsboro. Sidney’s arrival also brings the return of Ghostface, putting both her and her cousin Jill, along with Jill’s friends in danger of becoming the killer’s next victims.
Played by Hayden Panettiere, Kirby is introduced as one of Jill’s best friend and also a horror aficionado. Kirby is smart, spunky, edgy and proves herself to be a formidable opponent against Ghostface. Who could forget the moment that Kirby spouted out all the remakes, only to have herself get stabbed and left for dead?
Essentially Randy Meeks in the form of a teenage girl, Kirby won fans’ hearts over because she was bold, fun and brought a fresh energy to the franchise. Her death hit hard among fans, but others point out that Kirby’s death has never been confirmed so there’s still hope that she will pop up in the upcoming Scream film.
Erin – You’re Next (2011)
The past decade has seen a lot of final girls emerge, but none are like Erin from You’re Next. Played by Sharni Vinson, Erin ranks right up there with other legends like Ginny Fields, Sidney Prescott and Sarah Connor. She’s smart, strong, and undeniably resilient.
During You’re Next, three masked killers crash a family dinner party but are surprised when one of their potential victims turns out to be a bad-ass survivalist. Like many “final girls” that have come before her, she does everything right in a horror movie: she always makes the right decision, she’s resourceful, remains level-headed throughout, and is tough as nails.
Proving herself as a woman not to be messed with, Erin manages to take down the masked assailants one by one by setting traps, bashing one of their head in with a meat tenderizer, and even uses a blender as a weapon!
Masked killers beware- Erin is a bad-ass final girl that proves she is not a girl to be messed with.
Josef – Creep/Creep 2 (2014/2017)
More of a “human” villain compared to someone like Jason or Freddy, Josef from Creep has been killing since he was 15 and has racked up an impressive total of 39 victims.
Even though he’s not a masked lunatic chasing young girls in the woods, he’s still a psychopath, and like any true psychopath, Josef can easily blend into society. He also gaslights his victims, earns their trust, worms his way into their lives, and does it all with his killer smile.
Giving audiences everywhere chills, Mark Duplass steals the show with his unhinged performance. With his eccentric behavior, he makes things just slightly uncomfortable, and the way he stares at you is nightmare-fodder. From his morbid sense of humor to his wild dance as Peachfuzz, Josef has become one of the most eccentric characters that I have seen in a long time.
Tree – Happy Death Day/Happy Death Day 2U (2017/2019)
In the 70s, we had Laurie Strode. The 80s introduced us to Nancy Thompson, and the 90s brought the unstoppable Sidney Prescott. Now we have Tree Gelbman-this generation’s ‘final girl.’
Tree, played by Jessica Rothe, is a vapid, self-centered sorority sister who wakes up in her own slasher version of Groundhog Day. Doomed to repeat the day, Tree is trapped in a time loop that ends with her suffering a violent death over and over until she figures out how to break the vicious cycle.
From repeat murder victim to heroine, she becomes a fully fleshed-out character as the film does a great job of handling the transition from bitchy sorority sister to a sympathetic final girl that you can root for. Rothe manages to find the perfect balance between funny and terrified while also being strong and conveying a sense of vulnerability during the film’s more emotional scenes.
Annie – Hereditary (2018)
Let’s face it, Toni Collette was snubbed by the Oscars for her portrayal as Annie Graham in Ari Aster’s debut film Hereditary.
In the film, Annie’s trauma begins when she loses her mother. Then Annie ends up losing her daughter in a tragic car accident caused by her son. If that wasn’t enough, Annie and her family begin experiencing supernatural occurrences and become the targets of a satanic cult.
An emotionally dark film about a mother’s journey through grief and trauma, Annie suffers so much that it feels like you’re living through it right along with her. You’re suffering all her pain, sadness, and all her undeniable grief so that it almost possesses you.
Personally, I can’t choose which moment stands out because every scene with Collette is phenomenal. Whether it be the gut-wrenching moment Annie finds out her daughter has been killed or that intense dinner scene that only be compared to a scene from Mommie Dearest, Toni Collette delivers one hell of a performance that will be talked about for years to come.
Grace – Ready or Not (2019)
Ready or Not, here comes Grace (Samara Weaving) the blushing bride from Ready or Not.
The film revolves around Grace who, on her wedding night, is forced to play a warped game of Hide and Seek against her new in-laws. But this is not the game you played as kids. Here the family hunts Grace down in an attempt to sacrifice her before dawn or they will all be killed themselves.
Never becoming a damsel in distress, Grace doesn’t hide; she fights like hell. Getting down and dirty-punching kids and bashing a pot into one of the Le Domas’ skulls. She gets shot, but ends up beating the Le Domas family at their own game by surviving.
From her satanic role in The Babysitter to her kick ass performance as Grace, Weaving is on her way to becoming the next Scream Queen.
Art the Clown – All Hallows Eve/Terrifier (2013)
More brutal than Jason, more nightmarish than Freddy Krueger, and more terrifying than Pennywise. Art the Clown has become one of the most sadistic clowns in film history.
Based on the character from the anthology All Hallows Eve and the short film the 9th Circle, Art the Clown is a silent, unstoppable killing machine that appears on Halloween night to wreak mayhem.
Art is scary as Hell and is great throwback to the horror villains of the 80s. He’s a truly unsettling character that is not only frightening to look at but also extremely violent. When he kills, he’s savage– one of Art’s gnarlier kills features Art splitting a girl in half by sawing her from her crotch to her head.
He’s easily one of the most disturbing characters to come out in the last decade and with Terrifier 2 soon to be released, I can’t wait to see what nasty kills Art has in store for us.
Adelaide/Red – US (2019)
Similar to Toni Collette, Lupita Nyong’o was robbed during awards season for her performance as Adelaide Wilson and her doppelgänger Red. Adelaide Wilson is the heart of the story as her and her family are under siege by a family of doppelgängers.
Nyong’o’s performance for both characters is equally riveting as the actress gives a warmth to the character of Adelaide that is just as powerful as her chilling performance as Red, Nyong’o shifts between the two characters flawlessly. Whether its Adelaide’s terror filled eyes or Red’s raspy voice, she gives an everlasting performance.
The shocking plot twist that reveals that our heroine Adelaide was really a Tethered who swapped with the real Adelaide and stole her life will make you question is Red the antagonist or is Adelaide? And if she is, does that mean the whole time you were rooting for the villain?
Nica Pierce – Curse/Cult of Chucky (2013/2017)
Nica (Fiona Dourif) is the heroine in the Child’s Play franchise first introduced in Curse of Chucky as a resourceful, strong-willed paraplegic with a personal connection to Chucky.
Like her father Brad Dourif, Fiona has become a horror icon in her own right. As Nica the protagonist in Curse of Chucky she is revealed to be one of Chucky’s first victims as Chucky–Charles Lee Ray at the time–stabbed her mother while she was pregnant with her resulting in Nica losing the ability to use her legs.
While not physically strong, Nica use her intelligence and resourcefulness to survive. With her survival instincts, Nica puts up one hell of a fight. Her character proves that someone with a disability can be a ‘final girl’ instead a victim.
The ensemble – What We do in the Shadows (2014)
Not since Leslie’s Nielsen’s Dracula Dead and Loving It have vampires been so hilarious. It’s hard to pick just one as the entire cast of What We do in the Shadows all give memorable performances.
Released in 2014, What We Do in the Shadows is devilishly funny telling the story about a quartet of vampires living in the modern world while being filmed by a documentary crew.
Paying homage to classic vampires, the characters in the film include the romantic and suave Viago (Taika Waititi) who must have copied his style from Tom Cruise’s Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. Next, we have Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), also known as Vladislav the Poker, a Romanian vampire that is haunted by his past. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the groups sexy, dangerous vampire that was the most recently turned, even though he’s 183. Then we have the 8,000-year-old vampire Petyr played by Ben Fransham, that bears a remarkable resemblance to the original Nosferatu.
Playing out like a documentary, horror fans will relish these vampires struggling with modern day life in their endless bickering, the struggle to find a virgin, and just their ordinary life as a vampire which include transforming into a dog and having sex. What We Do in the Shadows created some of the most outrageous, absurd vampires that will make you scream with laughter.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Blind Man from Don’t Breathe, Get Out’s Chris, and the cult-mistress, Danica, from Satanic Panic.