The best horror movies of the year, ranked by scariness

It’s been a banner year for horror movies. While 2022 was full of good movies, it also saw the biggest IPs in the world contract for the first time in almost a decade (with neither a Star Wars or a Marvel movie topping the box office this year) but amid all that theater-going turmoil, horror once again proved itself the most reliable genre in town.

Breakout smaller budget hits like Smile and Barbarian became genuine word of mouth sensations, smashing ticket sales expectations and reminding movie goers there are some scares worth experiencing in a theater – if you’re able to. Even micro-budget splatter-house joyride Terrifier 2 managed to scare up a shocking profit.

But box office success was far from the only place where horror movies thrived this year. Some of the best directors in the world, including Jordan Peele, Luca Guadagnino, and David Cronenberg, branched out from the kind of horror they’ve worked on in the past and fused it with new genres, giving us blockbusters about aliens, love stories about cannibals, and a whole new kind of crime.

And, as it has been for the past several years, theaters weren’t the only place to find great horror this year. Premium streaming services like HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Netflix, and the rest all got into the horror game to varying degrees of success. But the true standout of 2022 was Shudder.

The streaming service with the best pound-for-pound original programming, Shudder once again flew its horror-flag high, putting out exciting, and often great, movies like A Wounded Fawn, Resurrection, Hellbender, Saloum, The Last Thing Mary Saw, Deadstream, Dark Glasses, Sissy, Flux Gourmetand the truly wild stop-motion marvel Mad God. This year, you could have only limited yourself to Shudder originals and still marveled at the fact that it was one of the best horror years in recent memory.

To celebrate the greatness in horror movies from theaters to streaming and everywhere else, we’ve put together a list of the best horror movies of 2022. Because everyone deserves the exact fright they want, we’ve ordered them based on scariness. Scariness isn’t an easy thing to define, so we’ve divided the topic up into two categories: Terror, which could be anything from creepiness to something genuinely frightening, and Gore, which is just about how bloody a movie ends up getting. Each category gets a rating out of five, then we add the two numbers to reach a, more or less, scientific scariness score.

Of course, like any year and any list, there are always movies that find themselves on the wrong side of genre lines. These tight lines kept otherwise great movies like Saloum or Prey, which both felt a little more action than they did horror, just off this particular list. But with the caveats in mind, here are 2022’s best horror movies, ranked by just how scary we think they really are:

Hellbender

Photo: Christine Ramage/Shudder

Run time: 1h 26m
Director: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
Cast: Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, Lulu Adams

A sweet (and a little bit sick) coming-of-age movie about a girl living in the woods with her mother and learning that they come from a long line of witches. Hellbender isn’t terribly scary or gory, but it’s a ton of fun and looks excellent, with small splatters of blood that feel more like an addition to the color palette than something gross. – Austen Goslin

  • Terror: 1
  • Gore: 1
  • Total scariness score: 2

Hellbender is available to stream on Shudder.

The Menu

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the movie THE MENU.

Photo: Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures

Run time: 1h 27m
Director: Mark Mylod
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult

Violence, gore, and mayhem are all served up as part of The Menu, but it earns its spot on this list by never being too terribly graphic. So while it’s possible (and encouraged) to be at least mildly disturbed by the increasing horror at this restaurant, it’s relatively easy to sit back and enjoy the feast of laughs and skewering of fine dining. –Zosha Millman

  • Terror: 1
  • Gore: 2
  • Total scariness score: 3

The Menu will be available to stream on HBO Max on Jan. 3.

Nope

OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer), and Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) standing in a parched field in Nope

Image: Universal Pictures

Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun

Nope follows two siblings (played excellently by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) as they try to capture real-life, undeniable proof of a UFO. This is Jordan Peele’s least scary movie so far, but it’s also arguably his most entertaining, which is pretty high praise for the director of Get Out and Us.AG

  • Terror: 2
  • Gore: 2
  • Total scariness score: 4

Nope is available to stream on Peacock.

Crimes of the Future

Léa Seydoux eyes Kristen Stewart viciously as Viggo Mortensen lies between them in an Assassin's Creed-style cape and hood in Crimes of the Future

Photo: Nikos Nikolopoulos/NEON

Run time: 1h 47,
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart

Surgery is the new sex, and while Crimes of the Future isn’t very scary, it revels in the vivid depictions of its surgery scenes, which ups the horror factor significantly. It’s a great sci-fi movie with efficient worldbuilding and excellent production design from the master of body horror himself. – Pete Volk

  • Terror: 1
  • Gore: 4
  • Total scariness score: 5

Crimes of the Future is available to stream on Hulu.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Casey, covered in glow in the dark facepaint and holding a stuffed animal's eyeball in front of her left eye, gazes ominously into her webcam in We're All Going to the World's Fair.

Image: Utopia

Run time: 1h 26m
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast: Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers

Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun’s unnerving horror thriller is at once a coming-of-age story with strong trans themes, and also an ode to the stranger corners of the internet. The movie is light on horror scares (although there is plenty of tension and uncertainty), but there are sequences from real internet creators that lean into body horror, with some gore. – PV

  • Terror: 2
  • Gore: 3
  • Total scariness score: 5

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is available to stream on HBO Max.

Orphan: First Kill

Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther in Orphan: First Kill looking at something on a shelf

Photo: Steve Ackerman/Paramount Pictures

Run time: 1h 39m
Director: William Brent Bell
Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland

The decade-late prequel to Orphan brings back Isabelle Fuhrman, now 25, to once again play a 9-year old, and the result is a hilarious horror movie played perfectly straight. Although Esther certainly takes out her fair share of people in this movie, it isn’t particularly gory and has a nice balance of fun and scary. – AG

  • Terror: 3
  • Gore: 2
  • Total scariness score: 5

Orphan: First Kill is available to stream on Paramount Plus.

Adult Swim Yule Log (aka The Fireplace)

A roaring Yule log fire

Image: Adult Swim

Run time: 1h 31m
Director: Casper Kelly
Cast: Megan Hayes, Tordy Clark, Brendan Patrick Connor

Too Many Cooks director Casper Kelly did it again — it being “hiding a horrific work of surrealism behind mundane late-night Adult Swim filler content.” But with Adult Swim Yule Log aka The Fireplace, he’s out done himself. What starts with a locked-off shot of a yule log explodes into a giddy horror exercise warped by weirdo dream logic that puts the filmmaker in a camp with David Lynch and Sam Raimi. The secret feature film stars Andrea Laing and Justin Miles as a couple at a crossroads, hoping a romantic getaway might nudge them in the right direction. A group of stoners rolling into the overbooked Georgia cabin on the same night immediately kills the vibe. A bunch of maniac hillbillies kill the people. That’s the tip of the iceberg, as alternate dimensions, extraterrestrials, and ghosts of Georgia’s racist past all find their way into Kelly’s puzzle box. Fans of Too Many Cooks and the director’s Cheddar Goblin work on Mandy will immediately understand the clash of cartoon nightmare and violent realism that sloshes around in The Fireplace. For everyone else… uh, get on board! – Matt Patches

  • Terror: 2
  • Gore: 4
  • Total scariness score: 6

Yule Log (aka The Fireplace) is available to stream on HBO Max.

A Wounded Fawn

Josh Ruben from the Shudder horror movie A Wounded Fawn carrying a lantern with a bandage on his head

Photo: Peter Mamontoff/Shudder

Run time: 1h 31m
Director: Travis Stevens
Cast: Sarah Lind, Josh Reuben

One of the stronger under-the-radar horror entries of the year, A Wounded Fawn is about a serial killer who brings his latest victim to a cabin in the woods. The serial killer element already ratchets up the scariness (and goriness) of the movie, and the back half is one of the most delirious (complimentary) sequences of the year. Get ready for spooky iconography and some bloody kills. – PV

  • Terror: 3
  • Gore: 3
  • Total scariness score: 6

A Wounded Fawn is available to stream on Shudder.

Bones and All

A young woman (Taylor Russell) places her forehead against a young man (Timothee Chalamet) with streaks of pink dye in his hair.

Photo: Yannis Drakoulidis/MGM

Run time: 2h 11m
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance

A road trip romance may not seem like the obvious choice for a top three slot on a horror movie ranking, but when it’s a Luca Guadagnino cannibal love story with this much gore, and a Mark Rylance performance this disturbing, the spot starts to explain itself. Aside from all the blood and guts, Bones and All‘s central love story between characters played by Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell is so good and well grounded that it makes Bones and All one of the sweetest movies of the year, along with one of the most gruesome and creepy. – AG

  • Terror: 2
  • Gore: 5
  • Total scariness score: 7

Bones and All is available for rental from YouTube, Apple TV, and other services.

Resurrection

Rebecca Hall screams in her car in the Shudder movie Resurrection

Image: IFC Films

Run time: 1h 43m
Director: Andrew Semans
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman

Resurrection is relatively light on gore for a movie so high up on this list. Instead it rests its laurels on the scare factor, with a general sense of unease and tension constantly permeating this taut thriller. Rebecca Hall’s performance is more than enough to sell the deep, persistent mounting dread of the movie, but with Tim Roth doing his best unhinged menace, Resurrection really takes it to the next level — and that’s all before the grim (and bloody) final act. – ZM

  • Terror: 5
  • Gore: 3
  • Total scariness score: 8

Resurrection is available to stream on Shudder.

Barbarian

Georgina Campbell pulls a rope in Barbarian

Image: 20th Century Studios

Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long

Barbarian is absolutely one for the freaks; perhaps the most divisive horror movie of 2022, thanks to some wild shifts in tone and story. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but for those who jibe with it, Barbarian‘s wild thrills — which are best left unspoiled, if at all possible — are well worth maxing out the scariness scale here. For those who don’t (or would like to be warned) there’s a couple of brutal on-screen deaths that rank high for gore, which are mostly telegraphed. Either way, you should probably watch it. – ZM

  • Terror: 5
  • Gore: 4
  • Total scariness score: 9

Barbarian is available to stream on HBO Max.

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