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Billy the creepy puppet rides a creepy bicycle creepily in Saw X. Photo: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

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Best horror movies of 2023, ranked by scariness

Scary movies are having a great year

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Horror’s looking great in 2023. There are established masters doing some of their best work in years, undeniable new talents making waves with their first or second big features, and old franchises breaking records at the box office.

With so many good horror movies out, here’s a list of the best of the best to give options for everyone, from the scaredy-cats to the horror-curious to the freaks (in a good way) who can’t get enough fright and gore. No matter what you like, there’s probably a 2023 horror movie for you, and to help you find it, we put together a list of the year’s best horror so far, ranked by how likely they are to give you a chill — and what kind of chill that might be.

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 frightful, 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.

So for everyone looking for a good scare, here are the best horror movies of 2023 (so far), ranked from least to most scary. And for a broader look at the year in movies, here’s our list of the best movies of 2023 so far. Our latest update added Saw X.


The killer AI doll M3GAN (Amie Donald) grabs her creator Gemma (Allison Williams) by the face in M3GAN Image: Universal Pictures

Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng
Where to watch: Prime Video

A horror comedy with an emphasis on comedy, M3GAN is easily one of the most fun and least scary movies on this list. It’s also one of the best. The story follows a career-obsessed toy engineer named Gemma who has been tasked with taking care of her recently orphaned niece, Cady. Instead of actually doing anything, Gemma builds a robot to parent Cady, and things quickly go off the rails. Murder and mayhem ensue, but thanks to the movie’s constant barrage of jokes and its PG-13 rating, it stays fun and creepy without ever actually getting too far outside the comfort zone of just about any moviegoer. —Austen Goslin

How scary is M3GAN?

  • Terror: 1/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 3/10

No One Will Save You

An alien foot approaches the bed of Brynn in No One WIll Save You Image: 20th Century Studios

Run time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Director: Brian Duffield
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Elizabeth Kaluev, Zack Duhame
Where to watch: Hulu

Home invasion movies are a classic genre that always pairs well with a neat little twist. And in the case of No One Will Save You, that twist is aliens.

The movie stars Kaitlyn Dever as Brynn, a homebody who doesn’t talk much. We see her go through her routine day, preferring to keep things old-timey and traditional just like her clothes and her house, and ignoring the finer points of modern life. This is rudely interrupted one day by an unexpected presence in her house that just happens to come from beyond our world.

The best parts of No One Will Save You take place inside Brynn’s gorgeous house, constantly finding new ways to surprise her (and us) with a menacing alien. The movie also ventures beyond the walls of the home for a few great chase sequences and neat alien reveals.

Nothing about the movie is too particularly spooky, beyond the existence of aliens and the home invasion, of course, but it’s got a nice light-and-spooky vibe without too much gore. While No One Will Save You’s extra-terrestrial spin on the genre isn’t exactly unheard of, it is a lot of fun and a perfect warm-up for fans of not-too-scary movies that still have some thrills. —AG

How scary is No One Will Save You?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 1/5

Total scariness score: 3/10

The Pope’s Exorcist

Russell Crowe as Father Gabriele Amorth in The Pope’s Exorcist facing the camera with short hair and a glowing orange light behind him Image: Sony Pictures

Run time: 1h 43m
Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe
Where to watch: Netflix

Russell Crowe isn’t in the habit of taking himself too seriously at the moment, and the entire world is better for it. In The Pope’s Exorcist, Crowe plays father Gabriele Amorth, the guy the Catholic Church, and the Pope himself (here played by the legendary Franco Nero), sends in when it needs an exorcism done right.

Amorth rides on a moped, bumbles effectively, and gives Crowe the chance to lay on the thickest Italian accent this side of House of Gucci. It’s all an excellent time and a tremendous amount of fun, but that’s not all the movie’s good for. It’s also a shockingly slick and well-made exorcism movie. It’s frequently pretty creepy, with some fantastic visual moments and a propulsive mystery (and demon) behind everything.

The comedy helps keep the movie from ever getting too scary, and like most exorcism movies, it never ends up getting terribly gory. But there aren’t many recent movies that walk the line of horror and fun as well as The Pope’s Exorcist. Here’s hoping for all 199 sequels the movie teases. —AG

How scary is The Pope’s Exorcist?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 4/10

Insidious: The Red Door

Dalton (Ty Simpkins), a tall, gangly, shaggy-haired teenager, enters a room lit entirely in dark red light in Insidious: The Red Door Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Run time: 1h 47m
Director: Patrick Wilson
Cast: Ty Simpkins, Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne
Where to watch: VOD

The Insidious movies have always been fun little horror romps with inventive jump scares, excellent demon/monster designs, and exquisitely creepy production design. The latest entry in the series is no different, building on the success of the series for one of its stronger entries.

Insidious: The Red Door is a direct sequel to Insidious: Chapter 2. The movie picks up nine years after the previous entry, with Dalton (Ty Simpkins) off to college and Josh (Patrick Wilson) struggling with the life of a divorced dad. While at college, both Dalton and his dad start to reconnect with the Further, the spirit realm that has haunted them both throughout their lives, dredging up fresh demons who want to use them as a portal to our world.

The movie’s plot doesn’t get much more complicated than that, and thematically it’s a nice bow to tie onto the series, letting us know the characters are trying to deal with their connection to the Further rather than hiding it or hypnotizing it out of themselves — like they did in Chapter 2. But The Red Door’s greatest trait is the same as the other movies in the series: providing new(ish) horror directors with a fun staging ground to try stuff out.

The first two entries gave the great James Wan (The Conjuring, Malignant), the chance to reinvent the haunted house movie and reframe The Shining, and The Red Door lets longtime series star Patrick Wilson step behind the camera to try his hand at the scares. It turns out he’s pretty good at it! The movie never gets too gory despite some traces of blood, but it is full of excellently orchestrated and tremendously fun jump scares, which seems to be a passion of Wilson’s. —AG

How scary is Insidious: The Red Door?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 4/10

Totally Killer

The teen stars of Totally Killer stand together in front of some bushes, one holding a bat. Photo: James Dittiger/Prime Video

Run time: 1h 46m
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Charlie Gillespie
Where to watch: Prime Video

A small town was rocked by a trio of murders in 1987. Decades later, the killer seemingly returns to finish what he started. When the daughter (Kiernan Shipka) of the newest victim goes back in time to the date of the first murder, she tries to stop it all from happening.

For most of its run time, Totally Killer is a fun and funny time from director Nahnatchka Khan (Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) with an intriguing premise and a game cast. It’s more often comedy than it is horror, but it does commit to horror when those opportunities come around. The slasher scenes are tense and bloody, and the movie doesn’t shy away from that terror. —PV

How scary is Totally Killer?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 5/10

The Boogeyman

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer Harper holding her light ball in The Boogeyman Photo: Patti Perret/20th Century Studios

Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Rob Savage
Cast: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair
Where to watch: Hulu

This adaptation of a Stephen King short story comes off more like a sequel than a straightforward retelling, but it does so to tremendous effect. It’s a scary movie that manages to walk its PG-13 line well, all while telling one of the bleakest stories of any movie this year.

The movie follows a father and his two daughters who are suddenly plagued by a strange presence. The presence arrived just after a haunted-seeming man (played by the always haunted-seeming David Dastmalchian) wanders into the father’s at-home psychiatry practice and dies. From there, the two daughters start seeing more and more evidence of some kind of shadowy monster that feeds on grief.

The Boogeyman, like almost all non-slashers these days, is chiefly a movie about grief and trauma being supernaturally reflected back at the sufferers. The Boogeyman doesn’t handle it quite as well as some of the recent classics — like The Babadook, Talk to Me, or Midsommar — but it’s a cut above a movie like Smile, which goes from scary to silly when it tries to wrap things up.

What makes The Boogeyman really creepy, however, is the insinuation that the curse is seemingly random and never stops hunting its victims until they die. On one hand, it’s a sad but sometimes true statement about trauma; on the other, it’s also just a despairingly bleak premise that few horror movies are bold enough to go for right now.

Despite that lurking terror, the movie’s PG-13 rating keeps it from ever being too gory, even if it does have quite a few great jump scares. —AG

How scary is The Boogeyman?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 5/10


A woman wearing sunglasses and a blue face mask sits behind the wheel of a vehicle with a passenger beside them wearing a purple face mask. Image: Peacock

Run time: 1h 23m
Director: John Hyams
Cast: Gideon Adlon, Bethlehem Million, Dylan Sprayberry
Where to watch: Peacock

John Hyams is one of my favorite directors working today, so it’s no surprise that his COVID-19 slasher Sick worked well for me despite many of the COVID elements of the movie not landing. A modern master of tension, pacing, and brutal action scenes, it all comes together in a slick 80-minute package, following two college students who travel to a cabin in the woods at the start of the COVID outbreak, and encounter an unexpected guest.

More tense than scary, there is nonetheless some gore in this one, including some broken bones and a few spurts of blood. —Pete Volk

How scary is Sick?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 5/10

Infinity Pool

James (Alexander Skarsgård) in close-up drips blood out of his mouth while kneeling and wearing a black dog collar in Infinity Pool Image: NEON

Run time: 1h 57m
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman
Where to watch: Hulu

Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature is a dystopian vision of the world as nothing more than a playground for the uber-wealthy (yes, even more than it already is). The movie is set at a resort where the wealthy go to get away in a country where all of its strict laws can be bent, broken, or otherwise twisted if you’ve got the money. There’s cloning, murder parties, drug-fueled orgies, and Alexander Skarsgård on a leash, so basically everything you need for a good tropical vacation, or a good trippy horror movie that asks a lot of questions about how you know you’re really you or if you’ve been replaced by something lesser. As for gore, Infinity Pool is a little less subtle, going hard on the blood and guts of the clones and showing close-ups of people dying in all sorts of horrible ways. —AG

How scary is Infinity Pool?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 4/5

Total scariness score: 6/10

Knock at the Cabin

Dave Bautista standing in front of several other people in Knock at the Cabin Image: Universal Pictures

Run time: 1h 40m
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge
Where to watch: Prime Video

Seldom has a day passed that Knock at the Cabin has not crossed my mind since I first went to see it in theaters. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest psychological horror thriller centers on a family, Eric, Andrew, and Wen (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui), who are terrorized by a group of four heavily-armed kidnappers while vacationing in a remote cabin located in rural Pennsylvania. The kidnappers, however, have no intentions of either harming them or demanding ransom; quite the opposite. Leonard (Dave Bautista), the unofficial leader of the group, tells the family that he and his “associates” have been commanded by a higher power to plead with the family to sacrifice one of their own. The alternative? The death of every single human being on the planet, with the exception of the family.

Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, the terror of Shyamalan’s film is not found in its moments of gore, which are bracing yet brief. Nor is it attributable to the global scenes of apocalyptic imagery that unfold outside of the cabin’s walls, the kind of cataclysmic spectacle one would expect from a late-aughts Roland Emmerich disaster epic. No, these surface-level scares are only window-dressing for a far more terrifying, existentially troubling question that goes virtually unuttered throughout the course of the film but nonetheless exists at the fulcrum of its thematic focus and power. Why does God ask the most from those who have already lost so much? Furthermore, why are we so often asked to love those who would choose instead to hate us, so much so that we would be willing to sacrifice what happiness we have in our own lives for the sake of those who would likely never so much as spare a thought, let alone their own happiness, on our behalf?

It’s not exactly the type of question horror audiences are used to being asked, which more often skew toward more sensationalized subjects such as “Wouldn’t it be fucked up if someone like, kidnapped somebody and tortured them?” or “Wouldn’t if be fucked up if rich people like, cloned themselves and had weird sex and went on killing sprees?” Knock at the Cabin doesn’t propose such easy and escapist scenarios, but rather poses one that challenges its audience to look inward and ruminate not only on disparity between one’s beliefs and what one does unto others, but with the question how much they are willing to sacrifice for sake of a stranger.

I guess one of the reasons why Knock at the Cabin affected me so deeply is because, after I walked out of the theater and drove home, I couldn’t stop turning a question around in my mind. That question was and remains this: If this exact scenario were to play out today, and a trans woman, or a migrant child, or an unhoused person were presented with the same ultimatum given to Eric, Andrew, and Wen, and they chose their own love over the lives of others, could you blame them? —Toussaint Egan

How scary is Knock at the Cabin?

  • Terror: 4/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 6/10


A young boy sits in a dim, blue hallway with his back to the camera, facing a series of open doorways, in a typically grainy, fuzzy shot from the horror movie Skinamarink Image: Shudder

Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Kyle Edward Ball
Cast: Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul
Where to watch: Shudder, Hulu

There’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker is commanded by his master Yoda to enter a cave in order to advance in his training as a Jedi. When asked by his apprentice what is inside the cave, Yoda gravely replies, “Only what you take with you.”

While Yoda was in fact describing the Dark Side of the Force, he could have easily been talking about Skinamarink. The feature horror debut of director Kyle Edward Ball has more than earned its reputation as one of the year’s most surprising and divisive releases. Produced on a crowdfunded budget of $15,000 and filmed in Ball’s childhood home in Canada, the film has been equated as cult favorite on par with that of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s seminal found-footage horror classic The Blair Witch Project not only for its content, but its controversial composition.

Skinamarink’s narrative is confounding at times and more often than not inscrutable, with its focus primarily on skewed off-center hallway shots, chasmic shadows, and flickering television screens beaming reflections of ghoulishly distorted cartoons. The basic gist of the film’s premise concerns two children, 4-year-old Kevin and his 6-year-old sister Kaylee, who awaken one night to find that their father has seemingly disappeared… along with every door and window in the house. Their mother appears bedridden until she too mysteriously vanishes without a trace. Worse yet, Kevin and Kaylee are not alone. Someone — or something — is also inside the house, twisting reality into ever more phantasmagorical shapes, and it wants the pair to come upstairs and play a game with them… or else.

Truth be told, Skinamarink is not going to land for everyone who sees it. This is mostly attributable to the fact that, much like the cave Yoda urges his young Padawan to enter, what you’ll get out of the film is entirely dependent on what you bring into it. If you come into this film expecting clearly defined characters, conventional cinematography, crystal-clear sound design, and a definite beginning, middle, and end, boy are you in for a frustrating watch. But if you approach Skinamarink with the mindset of, say, a latchkey kid with an overactive imagination who grew up in the ’90s, you’ll discover a film as primordial and terrifying as any of your most unspeakable childhood nightmares. Your mileage may vary! The only way to know for sure is to watch it.

A word of advice, though: Please turn your phone off and turn off all the lights when you watch Skinamarink. It really does make all the difference. —TE

How scary is Skinamarink?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 6/10

Evil Dead Rise

Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), possessed and turned into a red-and-yellow-eyed, greasy-haired, grimy-faced Deadite, smiles eerily over a barrier in Evil Dead Rise Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Run time: 1h 36m
Director: Lee Cronin
Cast: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies
Where to watch: Max

Evil Dead is a shockingly consistent franchise. Five entries from three different directors ranging from slapstick horror to one of the bleakest movies around, there isn’t a dud in the bunch. The latest to join the series’ vaunted ranks is Evil Dead Rise, which pulls the series out of the woods and into the big city, all while focusing on family. Isn’t that sweet?

Unlike previous movies in the series (or many of the movies the series has inspired), Evil Dead Rise is set in an apartment building, which provides it with a totally fresh vocabulary for its scares and brutal kills. Of course, all the Evil Dead touchstones are still around, like someone reading from a Necronomicon to inadvertently summon a spirit and a shotgun and chainsaw playing prominent roles. But Evil Dead Rise updates each of these classics with a flair all its own and adds to the series’ long list of memorable — and exceedingly gory — moments. —AG

How scary is Evil Dead Rise?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 4/5

Total scariness score: 7/10

Saw X

The signature Jigsaw puppet from the Saw movies, a red-eyed, white-skinned, black-haired humanoid with prominent cheekbones painted with red spirals, as seen in Saw X Photo: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

Run time: 1h 58m
Director: Kevin Greutert
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund
Where to watch: Rent on YouTube, Prime Video

The Saw franchise is ten entries deep now, but Jigsaw’s still finding new traps for his victims who need to be taught a lesson. Saw X finds the self-righteous killer in one of his most justifiable hunts for karma as he takes on a group of fake doctors preying on cancer patients. This movie has a little more set up than certain previous Saw movies, but once John Kramer gets going, the traps are still as gruesome as ever.

Chances are if you’ve seen the previous movies in the series, you know what’s up here: a whole lot of gore. But aside from the tidal wave of blood and gore, Saw X is a tense thriller with quite a few harrowing scenes and enough twists to keep you on your toes until the very last minute. —AG

How scary is Saw X

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 8/10

Talk to Me

Mia (Sophie Wilde), a short-haired, dark-skinned young woman in a fluffy mustard-colored sweater, shakes hands with a plaster molded hand sitting on a table next to a lit candle in the horror movie Talk to Me Image: A24

Run time: 1h 35m
Directors: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Cast: Ari McCarthy, Hamish Phillips, Kit Erhart-Bruce
Where to watch: VOD

Talk to Me has about as good a horror premise as any movie could want: Some kids come by a mysterious embalmed hand that allows you to briefly greet the spirit world. While the spirits can’t really hurt you if the visit is brief, if you commune too long, they’ll take over your body. Armed with this information, the kids do what anyone would: use it as a party drug. One teen, Mia (Sophie Wilde), has recently lost her mom and realizes this could be a way to talk to her again. And that goes about as badly as you might think.

Talk to Me is a pitch-perfect lesson in horror efficiency. Everything you need to know gets meted out in a couple of concise scenes, and everything after that is pure gas. The movie’s party scenes are electric, flipping the camera with each possession and sending the whole movie into a spin when all hell breaks loose. The possession scenes in Talk to Me feel almost like action movie beats, with kinetic movements and powerful hits that give each spiritual movement its own kind of otherworldly impact.

Adding to the movie’s inventive scares is the fact that it’s also pretty gory. Though the gore is mostly limited to a few specific places, when bad things happen to a character, they really happen, giving Talk to Me an edge that makes it pretty easily one of the scariest movies of the year so far. —AG

How scary is Talk to Me?

  • Terror: 4/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 9/10

The Outwaters

A young blonde woman wearing a colorful top iss seen through desert plants in The Outwaters. Image: Cinedigm

Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Robbie Banfitch
Cast: Robbie Banfitch, Angela Basolis, Scott Schamell
Where to watch: Tubi, Vudu, The Roku Channel, and Plex

The Outwaters is a found-footage movie about a group of friends who go missing while exploring the Mojave Desert. While most found footage is more about the horror you don’t see and the mysteriousness of the disappearances of the characters, The Outwaters prefers to keep its violence front and center, putting together what’s sure to be one of the gnarliest horror movies of the year with incredible-looking blood and guts. On top of that, the movie’s full of disconcerting images and creepy cosmic horror — at least when it’s bright enough for you to see what’s going on. —AG

How scary is The Outwaters?

  • Terror: 4/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 9/10

When Evil Lurks

Ezequiel Rodríguez, with his face covered in blood, sits in the driver’s seat of a car with his hands on the wheel in When Evil Lurks. The car’s front windshield is shattered, with lots of blood. Image: Shudder

Run time: 1 hour 39 minutes
Director: Demián Rugna
Cast: Ezequiel Rodríguez, Demián Salomón, Luis Ziembrowski
Where to watch: Shudder

2023 really seems to be the year of possession movies, but none of them are as bleak, haunting, or brutal as When Evil Lurks.

When Evil Lurks is set in a remote village sometime after a horrifying apocalypse of-sorts. While it’s never quite clear what happened, we know that evil is now everywhere and possession is commonplace. But when two brothers fail to properly dispose of a possessed soul, their entire world spirals out into a mess of bloodshed and death.

This is the kind of movie where half the delight of watching is seeing the new and increasingly creative ways that someone is going to die next. When Evil Lurks delights in its gore and increasingly brutal deaths, but unlike other extra-bloody movies, it’s restraned enough to know exactly how to avoid overdoing things, never becoming garish enough for you to look away, only enough to keep you glued to the screen.

When Evil Lurks is a gnarly movie with a mean-streak a mile wide. In a year full of possession movies, this one puts them all to shame, upping the gore to 11 and making its world full of doom feel inescapable and overpowering. —AG

How scary is When Evil Lurks?

  • Terror: 5/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 10/10


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