Heartbreaks and hauntings: The most ghoulish modern gothic horrors
Did you throw on your most elaborate formal wear, back comb your hair into a desolate nest, and frame those eyes with the sort of black rings that would put a panda to shame on May 22 for Goth Day? The holiday is a celebration of goth culture and all the deliciously dark & morbid music, movies, and lifestyle choices that come with it.
As well as listening to Bauhaus and The Cure on a constant loop, you can also celebrate this fine day by enjoying some of the most macabre movies made in recent years – specifically some of the best gothic horror movies made since the early 00s.
Usually steeped in romanticism, gothic horror movies tend to revolve around a central story of love at odds with a supernatural world and a period story haunted by an otherworldly presence or by murder most foul. Here’s our ranking of the ten best gothic horror movies of the past 20 years to which you should definitely unleash your inner goth.
10. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Okay, so it’s a Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) film from around the time that he’d officially decided to give up and it also features Johnny Depp (Cry-Baby) doing a poor impression of a British rock star (this time David Bowie as opposed to Keith Richards), but it actually holds up well as a gothic horror. Particularly as one of the most fun reimaginings of this macabre classic tale ever committed to the screen.
9. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Centered around a dark, murderous desire born of a deep childhood trauma, Nicolas Pesce’s black & white horror tragedy is an atmospheric gem led by captivating characters and a standout performance from Kika Magalhães.
8. The Woman in Black (2012)
Based on the beloved novella by Susan Hill, James Watkins’s adaptation sees Daniel Radcliffe (Swiss Army Man) taking on the role of a young solicitor who unwittingly stumbles upon the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman. The movie isn’t the scariest ever made, nor does it play out in the most original manner. But it is satisfyingly gothic as hell.
7. The Handmaiden (2016)
Chan-wook Park’s movie might be more of a thriller than a horror but it still succeeds in delivering a dark story full of playful twists and turns, beguiling mystery, and moments of pure tension that ramp up the sensory experience of the film. Truly epic in every sense of the word, the film lacks any of Chan-wook’s usual horror cruelty and packs in stunning set pieces and moments of jaw-dropping gothic splendor instead.
6. The Witch (2015)
It may be a little controversial to qualify Robert Eggers’s period witchcraft flick as a gothic horror but it certainly features enough of the right beats. As well as showcasing a series of otherworldly ghoulish imagery, the film follows a young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her family as they’re torn about by demonic forces.
They may not be haunted by spirits in the traditional sense, but their farmyard home is nonetheless under the chilling grip of the supernatural and the irresistible lure of the fiendish stud, Black Phillip. (Don’t judge us – that devil goat got game.)
5. The Conjuring (2013)
Giving the standard gothic horror movie a glossy makeover, James Wan’s paranormal investigation flick is diabolically spooky as a family is tormented by a supernatural presence in their secluded farmhouse.
Starring Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) as real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol) and Ron Livingston (Office Space) as the parents trying to protect their five daughters from an unseen terror, the film is a frightful gothic treat.
4. Crimson Peak (2015)
Starring Tom Hiddleston (Avengers: Infinity War), Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), and Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror is full of romance and lusciously macabre visuals where an old mansion bleeds and breathes the ghosts of a vicious past.
3. Let the Right One In (2008)
Tomas Alfredson’s eerie vampire romance is unconventionally gothic in just about every possible sense. Set in Sweden and following the sensitive 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) as he forms a close bond with young vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson), the film is a brooding, dark delight full of sweetness and horror.
2. The Orphanage (2007)
Featuring one of the most gut-wrenching twists in horror history, J.A. Bayona’s gothic horror is a devastating exploration of grief and mourning full of morbid imagery and ideas. An old orphanage full of child ghosts? Absolutely terrifying.
However, at the heart of The Orphanage lurks a heartbreaking story of maternal devotion, providing a nice twist on the traditional love stories at the center of many gothic horror stories.
1. The Others (2001)
Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic ghost story has aged incredibly well in the 17 years since its release and has yet to be topped for the tragic and sinister yarn it unspools.
Starring Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies) as a woman protecting her photosensitive children from the outside world while becoming increasingly convinced their home is unsafe (because of those damn “others”!) and Christopher Eccleston (Thor: The Dark World) as a soldier pining for (but ultimately abandoning) his family, The Others is inexplicably sad and scary.