For fans of horror and thriller genres, the year 2023 will be quite exciting. In this article, discover the most successful and unforgettable horror and thriller films that will take you on an adrenaline-filled film journey.
2023 has been a unique year for horror, with films ranging from microbudget fare to Hollywood sequels making headlines. What better time to catch up on the best scary movies of the year than October? This list is sure to get shaken up a bit more by the year’s end, as there are a handful of titles still on the horizon, including “Five Nights At Freddy’s” and “Thanksgiving.” Before revealing the top spots, here are some honorable mentions:
Even though it’s the tenth chapter in the long-running franchise, “Saw X” takes a decidedly back-to-basics approach by going back in time and making the menacing Jigsaw killer John Kramer the protagonist. After he’s duped into paying for a fake miracle surgery to cure his cancer, Kramer seeks revenge on the faux doctors in the only way he knows how. The twists are plentiful and the traps are stomach-churning, and by going back in time, the film dodges some of the overly-complicated plotting of previous chapters.
Although it was saddled with a PG-13 rating, America’s new favorite killer doll proved to be a box office sensation and a fun theatrical watch. Owing plenty to the 2019 reboot of “Child’s Play,” this tech-gone-wrong feature was filled with enough viral moments and GIF-able kills to keep the momentum going through a thin plot. Hopefully the sequel will capitalize more off of Allison Williams’ strong performance and create an even darker experience.
“Scream” creator Kevin Williamson co-wrote this low-profile COVID movie, a cozy mystery that felt right at home on streaming. Set primarily in one location, the claustrophobia of the central house made for a bloodthirsty experience able to gloss over budgetary restrictions. Although the ending got a little crazy, it’s nice to see a throwback slasher go for broke, with Williamson clearly having a ball again.
“The Wrath of Becky”
This amusing and violent genre picture stars Lulu Wilson as teenage assassin Becky, who targets Proud Boy-esque goons in the sequel to the 2020 neo-Nazi-killing first feature. Seann William Scott is a hoot as the leader of the all-male organization that is about to cause serious destruction if Becky doesn’t get to them first. They’ve stolen her dog and killed her only friend, setting the stage for some “Home Alone” meets “John Wick” mayhem. The final act ratchets up the tension and a funny coda begs for a sequel.
14 Best Horror and Thriller Films of 2023
A haunting, heartbreaking riff on the Frankenstein tale, a doctor losing her grip on reality brings a dead girl back to life — yet the child’s mother slowly realizes her baby isn’t the same. Anchored by Judy Reyes as the bereft parent who is willing to do anything for her daughter and Marin Ireland as the doctor focused on a breakthrough at any cost, the dread and grief are dense. But director and co-writer Laura Moss is adept at managing multiple tones at once, balancing the joy of the revived little girl with the deep unease of knowing that things aren’t alright.
13. Knock at the Cabin
Audiences’ mileage may vary with M. Night Shyamalan depending on the film, but this intimate apocalyptic thriller benefits from great ideas and the director’s keen eye. Evil lurks around every corner as a small family (beautifully played by Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui) has their vacation in the woods interrupted by four desperate strangers, all claiming that the apocalypse will happen unless one of the family members kills another. Dave Bautista is a standout as a gentle giant teacher trying to convince the couple using his brain versus brawn. A cerebral event with a controversial ending, “Cabin” is Shyamalan’s most impactful work in years.
An underseen gem, “Influencer” smartly skewers social media culture in ways that are surprising, with twists that are impossible to predict. Emily Tennant stars as Madison, an influencer who travels to Thailand for a paid vacation. To say anymore would ruin the nasty tricks, but the film is kept on the tracks via realistic views of technology and influencer economy. MVP goes to Cassandra Naud, a fellow traveler who has secrets of her own. Sexy and shocking, this sun-kissed mystery is twisted enough to search out.
11. The Blackening
A sugary treat for horror fans, “The Blackening” is one of the best genre comedies since 2000’s “Scary Movie.” Filled with wacky characters and clever twists on well-trodden tropes, “The Blackening” succeeds in throwing dozens and dozens of gags at the screen. They might not all work, but the pace is enough to keep audiences laughing. One of the most joyous theatergoing experiences of the year, this film has already made a whopping $16 million on a $5 million budget, proving strong word of mouth is enough to fill seats. The action opens with Jay Pharoah and Yvonne Orji giving a sly nod to the “Scream” series and never lets up, even through a funny mid-credit scene. Hopefully writers Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins are able to make a sequel to this rollicking satire.
10. Scream VI
One of the freshest chapters in the long-running slasher series is the most recent, a big surprise filled with lots of great setpieces, nods to previous installments, and wonderful actors. Picking up after 2022’s “Scream,” the main two sisters (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) have moved to New York City, only to be pursued by yet ANOTHER Ghostface. The cast rocks, with some welcome returns (Ortega, now in movie star mode; “Scream 4” alum Hayden Panettiere) and new players (“The Other Two” charmer Josh Segarra; a game Samara Weaving; Dermot Mulroney, acting to the cheap seats). It’s rare that the sixth installment of a slasher franchise can get pulses moving, but some great fight scenes and lore building make for an electric watch.
9. Brooklyn 45
Ted Geoghegan’s historical séance thriller is filled with style and heart far beyond what’s expected from a real-time movie primarily set in one room. As a group of WWII vets gather right after the war so their friend can try to contact his recently deceased wife, they’re in for much more than they bargain for once spooky stuff starts happening. The cast of character actors exudes a lived-in feel for this group of soldiers, and key twists in the first and third act are truly jaw-dropping. Anne Ramsay and Kristina Klebe are particularly impactful as women trying to figure out how to escape their predicament, and New York horror legend Larry Fessenden delivers some delicious moments.
8. No One Will Save You
A compact, fleet alien adventure, Kaitlyn Dever is magnificent as Brynn, a troubled loner whose world is turned upside down when aliens descend upon her house. The most interesting wrinkle is that, because of a traumatic incident in her past, she’s convinced that no one in her small town will be inclined to help her keep the extraterrestrials at bay — even if the end of the world is near. An impressive element of the film is its nearly dialogue-free script, which amps up Brynn’s isolation to unbearable levels. From the fast-moving set pieces to inspired creature design, “No One Will Save You” is a wonderful riff on a creature feature. It’s too bad Hulu didn’t release it in drive-in theaters, where it would have been a perfect fit.
7. Deliver Us
When a nun claims that she’s pregnant through immaculate conception and expecting special twins — namely, the Messiah and the Antichrist — it’s no surprise that the Vatican wants to get involved. This wild premise is the basis of Lee Roy Kunz and Cru Ennis’ “Deliver Us,” a gorgeously shot low-budget film that relies on fire and brimstone imagery to bring unease. Consistently bubbling with gory, unsettling ideas, the journey of Father Fox (played by Kunz) and his examination of Sister Yulia (Maria Vera Ratti) is constantly oscillating between dreams and reality, metaphors and the literal. Offering outrageous images with gorgeous settings, lighting and cinematography, “Deliver Us” is a unique recommendation for audiences seeking something both over-the-top and deathly serious.
6. In My Mother’s Skin
A supremely unsettling fairy tale set at the end of World War II, “In My Mother’s Skin” is a Filipino film about a young girl named Tala (Felicity Kyle Napuli) who must protect her little brother Bayani (James Mavie Estrella) and sick mother Ligaya (Beauty Gonzalez) when their father is taken away for potentially hiding gold from Japanese soldiers. As the trio begins to run out of food and resources, a beautiful fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) begins offering hope, as evil spreads in Ligaya. “Skin” doesn’t reinvent the wheel but does a very solid job of genre mishmash, mixing Guillermo del Toro’s dark dreams and infusing them with possession horror and troubling gore. A nearly overwhelming slab of darkness, “Skin” is gorgeous and brutal until the last frame.
5. Evil Dead Rise
Lee Cronin’s gory tribute to the Sam Raimi series has plenty of Easter eggs for fans, but banks on the changed scenery of an apartment complex (vs. a cabin in the woods) to paint on a different canvas. A young aunt is stuck in a high-rise while as her sister becomes a Deadite hell-bent on killing her own children, and there is a massive amount of viscera as each gory scene keeps things unbalanced. Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland are top-notch as the sisters, the former heroic and the latter evil as hell. A great wraparound tale, as well as a gnarly new monster added to “Dead” lore, leave things primed for a sixth movie.
4. Infinity Pool
Between his disruptive role on the last season of “Succession” and his performance in “Infinity Pool,” Alexander Skarsgård spent 2023 brutally skewering the wealthy. Directed by “Possessor” helmer Brandon Cronenberg, James (Skarsgård) is a novelist who marries rich and starts to enjoy the violent, sexual bacchanalia engaged in by those staying on vacation destination Li Tolqa. But if the 1% have too much fun, they’re cloned and killed for a price, something which seems obscene to Foster at first but then gives him a thrill. The film is a blend of psychedelic images and distressing brutality, watching James as he sheds his humanity like a second skin. Mia Goth does excellent supporting work as a seemingly normal tourist who soon swings into batshit mode and walks away with the movie.
3. Beau is Afraid
Another divisive stunner, Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” follow-up analyzes anxiety with such a microscopic lens that it’s hard to breathe through long stretches. Joaquin Phoenix plays the titular Beau, whose nerves get the best of him morning, noon, and night. Living in a rundown near-future neighborhood, this three-hour beast is thick on satire and social commentary. The plot revolves around Beau’s constantly thwarted travels to visit his mother, who conjures the bulk of his anxiety. “Afraid” was an expensive bomb for A24, but it will inevitably find a cult audience on streaming. Give it 30 years and it’ll be taught in film school. In the meantime, this suffocating tale is a waking nightmare.
2. Talk to Me
From festival darling to A24’s highest-grossing horror title domestically, “Talk to Me” was the talk of horror fans over the summer. With inventive imagery and shocking gore, twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou elevate the style they developed on their YouTube channel RackaRacka to tell the story of moody teen Mia (a fearless Sophie Wilde). When a supernatural party trick that communicates with the dead becomes a viral sensation, Mia tries to connect with her late mother, and the results are terrifying. The Philippou brothers keep everything off-kilter: All of the characters are worth caring about, even the annoying ones; places of refuge like hospitals and well-lit parties become insidious quickly; and there is a very real sense that this is exactly how dumb, young teens would act if they could easily pierce the veil between the living and the dead.
Easily the most divisive film of the year — and one that seems unlikely to get knocked from this top spot — Kyle Edward Ball’s debut feature walks the tightrope of narrative and art piece; anxiety and tedium; fantasy and reality. Shot at his childhood home for $15,000, Ball recreates the specific fears of growing up better than scores of auteurs could imagine. For those willing to suspend attention spans to dive into something completely new, “Skinamarink” will alter perceptions of how things go bump in the night.