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Scariest Horror Films from Around the World, Ranked

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 27 October 2017
Horror isn’t just the domain of Hollywood. Over the years, filmmakers from around the world have mined the genre and produced some terrifying cinematic experiences. Here are our picks of the best (and scariest) horror films from around the world.

You might also like: Greatest Horror Films of the 21st Century

13. Train to Busan (2016) – South Korea

© Next Entertainment World

Part of the new wave of zombie-horrors, this fast-paced ride of terror boasts some superb special effects to go with its innovative high-concept. A train (surprisingly heading to Busan) suddenly comes under attack from the hideously infected detritus that is left behind by a virus. Unknown to the passengers, the outside world is suffering an even worse fate…

12. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – Iran

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night | © Vice Films

Pitching a black and white vampire movie set in Iran (although it is predominantly backed by American money) is a tough sell. The creepy tone throughout and stark use of visual cues is what really make this work. The sight of a young Muslim woman in a headscarf skateboarding through the still night air is one that will live long in our memory.

11. Goodnight Mommy (2014) – Austria

Goodnight Mommy
Goodnight Mommy | © Dimension Films

Another multinational production, Goodnight Mommy has twists galore but that’s not at the expense of a core story that is genuinely unsettling. When a woman returns home following reconstructive facial surgery, her twin sons begin to suspect she might not be the woman she claims to be. Then we find out the full horror of the situation, and things get seriously deranged.

10. Suspiria (1977) – Italy

Suspiria
Suspiria | © Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

A cult classic, in the best possible sense, Suspiria is remains the best example of Italian horror from the 70’s. Blood readily flows throughout the movie, but the imagery throughout is what sets this apart. Dario Argento perfected a look that many have tried to imitate, but none have mastered to the same effect. We’re not too optimistic about the upcoming sequel starring Dakota Johnson and Mia Goth…

9. Let the Right One In (2008) – Sweden

© Sandrew Metronome

Another take on the vampire genre, this Swedish chiller has already had a remake. The American version was effective enough, but lacked the subtly that made the original so effective. The two young leads make a mockery of the old adage that you should never work with kids, providing the quiet script with moments of spell-binding gravitas.

8. The Babadook (2014) – Australia

© Entertainment One

One of the few horrors of recent years to work as both a cerebral exercise in terror as well as outright jump scares, The Babadook attained cult status even before it was released. The performances, most notably from Essie Davis, have won plenty of plaudits.

7. The Silent House (2010) – Uruguay

The Silent House
The Silent House | © Studiocanal

Another film that has an unnecessary remake already in the can, this effort was unfairly overlooked as a ‘gimmick’ given that it is essentially a one-take movie. The ‘based on a true story’ hook also did it no favours, but when watching it on its own merits, you can’t help but fall into its clever traps.

6. Ils (2005) – France

Ils (Them)
Ils (Them) | © Icon Films

The home invasion genre has gained rapid popularity in recent years. The idea of using “real-life” antagonists to freak us out is one that appeals, if that is the right word, to the casual viewer. Keeping it real makes for unnerving movies, and this French/Romanian co-production is about as good as it gets.

5. We Are What We Are (2010) – Mexico

© Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica

Cannibalism is not for the queasy. There have been many takes on the subject matter, most recently it was effectively explored in French thriller Raw but there is something about the way We Are What We Are approaches it all in a matter-of-fact way that disturbs the most. The everyday and mundane outward appearance makes for a horrifying eventual realisation about exactly what is going on. The Hollywood remake isn’t half bad either…

4. The Orphanage (2007) – Spain

The Orphanage
The Orphanage | © Picturehouse

Creepy kids are, well, creepy. The Orphanage (and it was tough to pick out just one modern Spanish horror given the resurgence in recent years), has arguably the best jump scene in decades. Not since Spielberg decided to pop out a decapitated head in Jaws (1975) have we seen the popcorn fly across the cinema.

3. Under the Shadow (2016) – UK/Iran

Under the Shadow
Under the Shadow | © Studiocanal

We might be cheating slightly here, we already have another Iranian entry in our list, as well as another British film to come, but this is such a unique blend of both cultures we just had to include it. It’s also so darn scary that our rundown wouldn’t be complete without it. If you want to know what really gets critics jumping out of their seats, then Under the Shadow is the answer.

2. Ringu (1998) – Japan

Ringu
Ringu | © Toho

Overall, J-Horror (horror genre films from Japan) fail to travel successfully. There are cultural sensibilities that need to be fully understood as well as difficulties in translating lengthy dialogue without it sounding like unnecessary exposition. Ringu does away with these issues by having a tremendous central premise (a cursed video tape that will kill you if you watch it) and an unspeakably horrifying villain that has universal appeal. Every girl we know that has long hair has done the old ‘hair over the face’ trick at least once…

1. The Descent (2005) – United Kingdom

The Descent
The Descent | © Icon Films

So here it is. Our second British entry and one that still doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves. Perhaps it’s the simple premise, which sees a bunch of female cave-divers tormented by something sinister on their latest expedition, that puts people off? Or perhaps it’s just too scary to watch? We sign up to the latter theory, because The Descent is about as relentlessly evil as a film has any right to be.

Are these the best horror films from around the world, or have we missed any out? Let us know what you think!