With the rise of CGI effects and endless sequels, 2000s cinema was a mixed bag. But, as with any decade, the so-called “shoulds” have brought many classic horror films. As long as there are clever filmmakers like Sam Raimi and James Wan bent on terrifying audiences, there will always be great horror movies like drag me to hell and Saw.
Every horror movie needs a protagonist that audiences can root for, and horror movies of the 2000s provided such likable heroes as Jim de 28 days laterOfelia from Pan’s Labyrinthand Shaun from Shaun of the dead.
ten David Drayton (The Mist)
Frank Darabont adapted two Stephen King stories in prison before finally translating one of his traditional horror tales to the screen. Thomas Jane stars in Mist as David Drayton, a painter who holed up in a supermarket with his son when monsters invaded his sleepy little town.
David is sort of the Rick Grimes of Mist‘s Lovecraftian apocalypse, and offers insight into how Jane could have played Rick in The Walking Dead. His arc turns into a very dark, very dark, very tragic ending.
9 Zoë Bell (proof of death)
Quentin Tarantino’s Carsploitation Slasher Proof of death has two groups of protagonists. The first group of characters are gruesomely killed by murderous stuntman Stuntman Mike in his “death-proof” car midway through. The second group of protagonists are also targeted by Mike, but he doesn’t know they are ready for him. Stuntwoman Zoë Bell plays herself in this group.
The dialogue scenes allowed Bell to show off her precise comedic timing, while the action scenes used her well-established skills as a stuntwoman. The “as herself” credit meant Bell could show her face during the most thrilling stunts (which she can’t do when she has to dub for a star like Uma Thurman). Bell hangs from the hood of a car throughout the climactic chase.
8 Susan Watkins and Daniel Kintner (open water)
Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis star in The wide like Susan Watkins and Daniel Kintner, a pair of tourists stranded in shark-infested waters. Although they are fictional characters, Susan and Daniel were based on a real couple who were left behind by a dive boat crew.
Since they have no hope of survival from the start, The wideThe haunting real-life premise offers a classic horror setup. Minimalist cinematic styling presents a shockingly realistic counterpoint to any blood-soaked movie Jaws– inspired shark thrillers there.
seven Grace Stewart (The Others)
Nicole Kidman directs ghostly thriller Others as Grace Stewart, a caring mother (an instantly likeable lead) who begins to fear that her house is haunted. Despite its PG-13 rating, Others is a truly scary horror movie.
Anchored by Kidman’s captivating performance, Others turns into a shocking ending that brings everything together in a subversive way.
6 Dr. Robert Neville (I Am Legend)
Will Smith is directing the big-budget adaptation of I’m a legend as Dr. Robert Neville, the former US Army virologist who lives in the ruins of Manhattan after a global plague wipes out the rest of the human race and replaces them with “Darkseekers”.
This film proves that Smith is the ultimate leader. Neville is believed to be the last man on Earth for most of the film, so Smith anchors the entire film by himself (with the help of a lovable German Shepherd) for the first two acts. Then he makes a heartbreaking sacrifice in the third act.
5 Jim (28 days later)
Danny Boyle’s gritty, pseudo-realistic take on the zombie genre, 28 days later, is anchored by the grounded performance of Cillian Murphy as Jim. Jim is a scared, relatable man who slept through the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse and needs to be caught.
At the start of the film, Jim wakes up after undergoing routine surgery to find he is a month away from the end of time, surrounded by bloodthirsty undead.
4 Christine Brown (Drag Me To Hell)
Alison Lohman makes a convincing lead in Sam Raimi drag me to hell as Christine Brown, a loan officer who is cursed after refusing a loan to a mystical elderly woman.
Christine’s arc is riddled with Raimi’s signature dark humor as the curse unfolds in grim and gruesome fashion. Lohman plays this character as a classic woman who finds it easy to put down roots as the walls close in on her.
3 Eli (Let in the good)
Lina Leandersson tricked audiences into caring for a vampire in Tomas Alfredson Leave the one on the right in. Although billed as a horror movie, Leave the one on the right in is truly a heartfelt love story that would appeal to non-horror fans.
In the film’s central romantic dynamic, a bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar is contrasted with a lonely vampire named Eli as the quintessential pair of strangers.
2 Shaun (Shaun of the Dead)
by Edgar Wright Shaun of the dead is poised to be a spoof of zombie movies, but it’s also a classic entry into the canon of the genre. Wright’s co-writer Simon Pegg stars as the titular slacker-turned-zombie-slayer.
Shaun is a main character in a romantic comedy who is drawn into a different genre and called upon to keep people safe until the end of the world. Throughout the film, he contrasts with his roommates, Ed and Pete, who represent the two halves of Shaun’s personality.
1 Ofelia (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Guillermo del Toro’s first Oscar-winning fantasy hit, Pan’s Labyrinthstars Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, a tribute to the titular heroine of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who is destined to become a princess in a parallel dimension pulled straight from classic fairy tales.
Ofelia is a dark inversion of the Alice archetype. She disappears into the fantasy world down the rabbit hole to escape the war crimes committed by her sadistic stepfather, Captain Vidal, in Francoist Spain.
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