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25 Best Horror Movies of Each Year Since 1998

Critics and audiences together select the best horror movie of each year since the start of Rotten Tomatoes.

by | March 21, 2023 | Comments

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We’re celebrating 25 years of Rotten Tomatoes with a look back on some of the most celebrated genre movies of each year, since 1998! Right now we look at horror, with each title selected using our recommendation formula, a calculation based on the Tomatometer that prioritizes titles which stood out among critics and fans, combined with a pinch of curatorial love from our editors.

The guide begins with 1998’s The Ring, whose 2002 remake kickstarted a rash of Japanese and horror adaptations in America. And Asian horror overall is well-represented, as critics and audiences aligned on Audition, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Host, and Train to Busan.

The top 2000s horror movies are almost an exclusively international affair, with a swath of countries representing, like Spain (The Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage), United Kingdom (28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, The Descent), and Sweden (Let the Right One In).

America starts to make a comeback with 2009’s Zombieland and the satirical The Cabin the Woods, before launching into blockbuster territory with the classic-styled The Conjuring. Since then, horror has had a resurgent decade, with low-budget sensations (The Babadook), social thrillers (Get Out, His House), and sci-fi (A Quiet Place).

#1998

The Ring (1998)
98%

#1998
Adjusted Score: 100010%
Critics Consensus: Ringu combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way.
Synopsis: When her niece is found dead along with three friends after viewing a supposedly cursed videotape, reporter Reiko Asakawa (Nanako... [More]
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

#1999

Audition (1999)
83%

#1999
Adjusted Score: 86755%
Critics Consensus: An audacious, unsettling Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike, Audition entertains as both a grisly shocker and a psychological drama.
Synopsis: This disturbing Japanese thriller follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who decides to start dating again. Aided by a film-producer... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#2000

Ginger Snaps (2000)
90%

#2000
Adjusted Score: 91714%
Critics Consensus: The strong female cast and biting satire of teenage life makes Ginger Snaps far more memorable than your average werewolf movie -- or teen flick.
Synopsis: The story of two outcast sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), in the mindless suburban town of Bailey... [More]
Directed By: John Fawcett

#2001
#2001
Adjusted Score: 97026%
Critics Consensus: Creepily atmospheric and haunting, The Devil's Backbone is both a potent ghost story and an intelligent political allegory.
Synopsis: After losing his father, 10-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the Santa Lucia School, which shelters orphans of the Republican... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#2002

28 Days Later (2002)
87%

#2002
Adjusted Score: 95222%
Critics Consensus: Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory.
Synopsis: A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the "Rage" virus from a medical research... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#2003
#2003
Adjusted Score: 87510%
Critics Consensus: Restrained but disturbing, A Tale of Two Sisters is a creepily effective, if at times confusing, horror movie.
Synopsis: After being institutionalized in a mental hospital, Korean teen Su-mi (Yum Jung-ah) reunites with her beloved sister, Su-yeon (Im Soo-jung),... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#2004
#2004
Adjusted Score: 99300%
Critics Consensus: Shaun of the Dead cleverly balances scares and witty satire, making for a bloody good zombie movie with loads of wit.
Synopsis: Shaun is a 30-something loser with a dull, easy existence. When he's not working at the electronics store, he lives... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#2005

The Descent (2005)
87%

#2005
Adjusted Score: 93969%
Critics Consensus: Deft direction and strong performances from its all-female cast guide The Descent, a riveting, claustrophobic horror film.
Synopsis: A year after a severe emotional trauma, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes to North Carolina to spend some time exploring caves... [More]
Directed By: Neil Marshall

#2006

The Host (2006)
93%

#2006
Adjusted Score: 99142%
Critics Consensus: As populace pleasing as it is intellectually satisfying, The Host combines scares, laughs, and satire into a riveting, monster movie.
Synopsis: Careless American military personnel dump chemicals into South Korea's Han River. Several years later, a creature emerges from the tainted... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#2007

The Orphanage (2007)
87%

#2007
Adjusted Score: 94005%
Critics Consensus: Deeply unnerving and surprisingly poignant, The Orphanage is an atmospheric, beautifully crafted haunted house horror film that earns scares with a minimum of blood.
Synopsis: Laura (Belén Rueda) has happy memories of her childhood in an orphanage. She convinces her husband to buy the place... [More]
Directed By: J. A. Bayona

#2008
#2008
Adjusted Score: 105786%
Critics Consensus: Let the Right One In reinvigorates the seemingly tired vampire genre by effectively mixing scares with intelligent storytelling.
Synopsis: When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor,... [More]
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

#2009

Zombieland (2009)
89%

#2009
Adjusted Score: 99489%
Critics Consensus: Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead.
Synopsis: After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world's surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the... [More]
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer

#2010

Let Me In (2010)
88%

#2010
Adjusted Score: 97637%
Critics Consensus: Similar to the original in all the right ways -- but with enough changes to stand on its own -- Let Me In is the rare Hollywood remake that doesn't add insult to inspiration.
Synopsis: Bullied at school, neglected at home and incredibly lonely, 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spends his days plotting revenge on his... [More]
Directed By: Matt Reeves

#2011
#2011
Adjusted Score: 103969%
Critics Consensus: The Cabin in the Woods is an astonishing meta-feat, capable of being funny, strange, and scary -- frequently all at the same time.
Synopsis: When five college friends (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams) arrive at a remote forest cabin... [More]
Directed By: Drew Goddard

#2012

Sightseers (2012)
86%

#2012
Adjusted Score: 90620%
Critics Consensus: Director Ben Wheatley and writer-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram deliver a wicked road trip movie that successfully walks the line between dark comedy and horror.
Synopsis: A couple's (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram) cross-country road trip takes a deadly turn when they decide to start killing everyone... [More]
Directed By: Ben Wheatley

#2013

The Conjuring (2013)
86%

#2013
Adjusted Score: 96467%
Critics Consensus: Well-crafted and gleefully creepy, The Conjuring ratchets up dread through a series of effective old-school scares.
Synopsis: In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of... [More]
Directed By: James Wan

#2014

The Babadook (2014)
98%

#2014
Adjusted Score: 109681%
Critics Consensus: The Babadook relies on real horror rather than cheap jump scares -- and boasts a heartfelt, genuinely moving story to boot.
Synopsis: A troubled widow (Essie Davis) discovers that her son is telling the truth about a monster that entered their home... [More]
Directed By: Jennifer Kent

#2015

Green Room (2015)
90%

#2015
Adjusted Score: 101963%
Critics Consensus: Green Room delivers unapologetic genre thrills with uncommon intelligence and powerfully acted élan.
Synopsis: Members (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat) of a punk-rock band and a tough young woman (Imogen Poots) battle murderous white supremacists... [More]
Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier

#2016

Train to Busan (2016)
95%

#2016
Adjusted Score: 100608%
Critics Consensus: Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique -- and purely entertaining -- take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action.
Synopsis: A man (Gong Yoo), his estranged daughter and other passengers become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak... [More]
Directed By: Yeon Sang-ho

#2017

Get Out (2017)
98%

#2017
Adjusted Score: 120541%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#2018

A Quiet Place (2018)
96%

#2018
Adjusted Score: 117576%
Critics Consensus: A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that's as original as it is scary -- and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.
Synopsis: If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by... [More]
Directed By: John Krasinski

#2019

Us (2019)
93%

#2019
Adjusted Score: 122877%
Critics Consensus: With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Synopsis: Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#2020

His House (2020)
100%

#2020
Adjusted Score: 106664%
Critics Consensus: Featuring genuine scares through every corridor, His House is a terrifying look at the specters of the refugee experience and a stunning feature debut for Remi Weekes.
Synopsis: A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new... [More]
Directed By: Remi Weekes

#2021
#2021
Adjusted Score: 109940%
Critics Consensus: A nerve-wracking continuation of its predecessor, A Quiet Place Part II expands the terrifying world of the franchise without losing track of its heart.
Synopsis: Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they... [More]
Directed By: John Krasinski

#2022

X (2022)
94%

#2022
Adjusted Score: 106221%
Critics Consensus: A fresh spin on the classic slasher formula, X marks the spot where Ti West gets resoundingly back to his horror roots.
Synopsis: In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their... [More]
Directed By: Ti West