It’s always difficult to sum up an entire year of horror, especially when no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot watch everything released in a given year. With so many streaming services consistently dishing out quality horror, you’re lucky to see half of them, and even that’s being optimistic. While I felt like I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the genre this year, there are plenty of movies I just didn’t have time to see. So hopefully you’ll find that my list of favorites has a little bit of everything, and maybe you’ll discover something new as well.
So take a look and let me know what some of your favorite horror films of 2019 were. Did you think this was a good year for horror? Sound off below!
15. Daniel Isn’t Real
Topping the list is the second feature film from Adam Egypt Mortimer. It’s a massive improvement from his first film (Some Kind of Hate), and shows that he’s going to have a pretty big voice in the genre for years to come. While the acting in this one was brutal at times (sorry, it was just bad), the overall story is one of the most unique takes on mental illness the genre has seen and Mortimer does a fantastic job of bleeding reality with the surreal. The ending was a little goofy but overall I dug this one.
A troubled college freshman, Luke, suffers a violent family trauma and resurrects his childhood imaginary friend Daniel to help him cope.
14. Doctor Sleep
Although it’s definitely as goofy (and unnecessary) as the novel, Mike Flanagan’s film looks absolutely stunning and found a brilliant performance from its villain in Rebecca Ferguson, who totally steals the show. If it weren’t for Ferguson and her performance, there’s a good chance Doctor Sleep wouldn’t even be on this list.
Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother was my favorite movie of 2016, so I was incredibly excited to see how he would follow up that freak show of a debut. While not nearly as twisted, Piercing is still just as strange and engrossing. A deeply intimate, brilliantly shot film about the evil of desire. It’s too weird of a movie to explain, but it’s an altogether trippy indie effort from Pesce and there was nothing else quite like it this year.
A man kisses his wife and baby goodbye and seemingly heads away on business, with a plan to check into a hotel, call an escort service, and kill an unsuspecting prostitute.
I was so close to writing this one off—it takes far too long to get interesting, but holy shit the film’s final act is just too fucking good. That last 15-20 minutes is so gnarly, so disgustingly awesome that there was no way I wasn’t including it here. I totally understand the need to build things up in a story, but had Begos committed more of that final act’s intensity to the rest of the narrative we would have something really special here. Either way, it’s still a kickass little movie and well worth the watch.
A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.
Hats off to first-time director Mitzi Peirone, whose directorial debut was gnarly as hell and all sorts of weird. The film was anchored by some fantastic performances and a unique vision from Peirone really brings this one’s uncanny atmosphere to life. I can’t wait to see what Peirone does next. Don’t sleep on this one!
Two wanted women decide to rob their wealthy psychotic friend who lives in the fantasy world they created as children; to take the money they have to take part in a deadly perverse game of make believe.
10. Little Monsters
Man, how awesome is it that Lupita Nyong’o has become quite the scream queen. She was in two great horror films this year, showing that she most definitely has a knack for the genre. What’s interesting about Little Monsters is that it’s very much working with a formula—there’s really nothing new here, but it’s so entertaining (and quite funny) that this was an easy pick for me. Side note: what the fuck was going on with Josh Gad’s character? I couldn’t decide if I hated him or loved him. Dude was in a completely different movie.
A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
9. Child’s Play
First of all, if there was ever a case of why people shouldn’t shit on a movie prior to its release, look no further than the Child’s Play remake. The movie took a lot of heat after it was revealed that Don Mancini was not involved in the film, so fans unfairly lashed out on Lars Klevberg’s modern retelling of the classic franchise. At the end of the day, 2019’s Child’s Play was a faithful adaptation to the original, and does a fantastic job of modernizing its killer doll. It also had one of my favorite kills of the year: dude getting chopped in half dick-first on a buzz saw (ouch!). Not mad at that.
A mother gives her 13-year-old son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.
Alexandre Aja desperately needed a hit (and a good movie for once) and he finally found it with his monster movie Crawl. Its simple concept and fantastic creature effects created one of the most intense and fun movies of the year. The movie is certainly a bit ridiculous, but in an old-school creature feature kind of way. Like I needed more reasons to stay out of the water.
A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.
There’s a really good chance you’ve heard people praising Rob Grant’s dark comedy Harpoon by now. Word of mouth was strong with this one, and it’s the only reason I watched it in the first place (but I’m glad I did). The buzz is worthy, folks. This one is absolutely hilarious and a nasty, mean-spirited narrative that constantly has you guessing until the very end. Not exactly a horror movie, but plenty dark for genre fans to appreciate.
Rivalries, dark secrets, and sexual tension emerge when three best friends find themselves stranded on a yacht in the middle of the ocean desperate for survival.
Directing tandem Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (Body) have another hit on their hands with Villains. I’m surprised that this one didn’t make much of splash in the genre. Not only is it great, but it stars Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe—two of horror’s biggest stars. It’s a fun and twisted story of cat and mouse with plenty of great (and hilarious) moments.
After a pair of amateur criminals break into a suburban home, they stumble upon a dark secret that two sadistic homeowners will do anything to keep from getting out.
Hard to believe a new film from Neil Jordan could go under the radar, but that’s exactly what happened with his thriller Greta. I was a little hesitant going into the film because reviews haven’t been great, but I found a lot to like about this one. It’s definitely not re-inventing the wheel or anything, but once this one starts picking up in the final act it’s pretty intense and the performance out of Isabelle Huppert was just so good. She plays batshit quite well.
A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.
4. It Chapter Two
This was never going to be as strong as the first film—Chapter One is just end-to-end great—so I’m not at all surprised that Chapter Two struggled to live up to expectations. That being said, I really enjoyed Andy Muschietti’s approach to the sequel—he leans much heavier on comedy (for better or worse) and showcases a bunch of creepy monsters for nearly three hours. Could have used more Pennywise and an actual story, but overall I enjoyed a lot of the gore gags.
Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.
3. The Lighthouse
One day Robert Eggers will make a movie we don’t have to watch with subtitles to understand, but whatever he’s doing is working because The Lighthouse is just as thought-provoking and hypnotizing as his first film The Witch. I’m still not entirely sure how to process this one, but all I know is I dug every strange minute of it. From its nightmarish imagery to the hilarious drunken banter, The Lighthouse is 2019’s weirdest and absolutely one of the best genre films of the year.
Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
As soon as I finished Us, I knew that I was going to have to go back and watch it again to fully appreciate all of its layers and oddities. I love that this film just comes out swinging, too. It gets weird and it gets weird fast. But ultimately, the reason why I enjoyed this one so much was because it’s not at all how I expected Peele to follow Get Out. It always has its foot on the gas and it’s surprisingly vicious and creepy. More horror from Peele, please!
A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.
1. Ready or Not
I think we all knew that Ready or Not was going to be good (the trailers were dope as hell), but I don’t think anyone was prepared for it to be this good. It’s 90-minutes of wild, non-stop fun with one of my favorite survivor girls in quite some time. I would watch Samara Weaving fight anything the genre has to throw at her, she’s that good. And that ending? Yes, yes, yes. Not only was Ready or Not my favorite horror film of the year, but I think it’s miles above the rest. It was in a league of its own.
A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.
So there you have it. My favorite horror films of 2019. What were some of your favorites? I’m curious to see how different your list is compared to mine, so let me know!