The best horror movies of the year so far, ranked by scariness

Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate dressed like Mary with nuns flanking her on either side
Image: Neon

The year’s off to a terrifying start

The year got off to a rather slow start when it comes to horror movies, but now that the release calendar has ramped up, there are at least a few horror movies worth watching in 2024.

While it’s still early on, it’s hard not to feel like this year’s horror theme is “fun” (if you’re our kind of sicko), or at least “playfulness.” With killer swimming pools that haunt former baseball pros, deadly convents, and haunted talk shows, most of the year’s best movies so far are doing a delightful job of making their horror feel fresh and inventive, making us smile and scream in equal measure.

But whether you’re more toward the smiling end or just in it for the screams, we’ve put together a list of the best horror movies of 2024 so far, ranked by scariness. Scariness is certainly different for everyone, but we’ve tried to break it down into two categories: terror, which is the movie’s overall tension, jump scares, and general suspense, and gore, which is all about how bloody the movie gets.

Night Swim

Amélie Hoeferle, Gavin Warren, Wyatt Russell, and Kerry Condon stand in a pool surrounded by blood and grime in Night Swim Image: Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Bryce McGuire
Cast: Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Amélie Hoeferle
Where to watch: Digital purchase on Amazon and Apple TV

Night Swim is a movie about a killer pool, and it’s both better, funnier, and scarier than you might expect. With an fantastically goofy performance by Wyatt Russell as an ex-baseball player moving his family into a new house with an ancient and malevolent wish-granting pool in the backyard, the movie has a very specific tone that snaps back and forth from silly to creepy without a moment’s notice.

Night Swim is for the die-hard horror fans. Not because it’s especially scary (it isn’t) but because its scariness is limited to a few great ideas and specific moments, and otherwise the movie is a self-aware and silly blast. It’s a movie perfectly built for anyone that loves to scroll a streaming service and throw on nice little horror movie at 11:30 p.m. In other words, Night Swim is a pretty good time, but one you might not remember much about a week later.

How scary is Night Swim?

  • Terror: 1/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 3/10

Late Night with the Devil

Ingrid Torelli sits in a chair with a bloody nose and wrist straps while David Dastmalchian and Laura Gordon sit nearby in Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes’ Late Night With the Devil Image: IFC Films/Shudder

Run time: 1h 33m
Directors: Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes
Cast: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss
Where to watch: Theaters

In this terrific faux-documentary, we follow the behind-the-scenes story of a struggling ’70s talk show’s final episode, in which the host and producers attempt to communicate with a demon in a bid for show-saving ratings. Things don’t go well.

What makes Late Night with the Devil work so well is how completely it captures the vibe of its subject matter. Everything from the set to the studio audience is pitch-perfect, and it’s all held together by the desperate host, Jack Delroy, played with nervous energy and Carson-esque charm by the singular David Dastmalchian. Beyond just being an impressive feat, this loving re-creation also gives the movie a true sense of being some kind of illicit live TV broadcast that would thoroughly creep out those unlucky enough to be watching and inspire urban legends for years to come.

How scary is Late Night with the Devil?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 5/10


Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate, screaming with her face covered in blood Image: Neon

Run time: 1h 29m
Director: Michael Mohan
Cast: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Simona Tabasco
Where to watch: Theaters

Immaculate tells the story of a devout American nun who falls mysteriously pregnant shortly after transferring to a convent in Italy. Her seemingly immaculate conception leads to instant fervor from her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but she suspects something much darker than a miracle is at play.

Beautifully shot and led by a fantastic performance from Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney, Immaculate is more creepy and haunting than it is actually scary, but the shower of gore — both pregnancy-related and not — still makes it one of the year’s best and most harrowing horror offerings.

How scary is Immaculate?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 4/5

Total scariness score: 7/10

In a Violent Nature

A figure with a mask on and two hooks in his hands stands facing a forest in the movie In A Violent Nature Image: Shudder

Run time: 1h 34m
Director: Chris Nash
Cast: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Cameron Love
Where to watch: In theaters May 31

In a Violent Nature is easily the most unique horror movie of the year, taking a typical “teens in the woods” premise and following it from the killer’s point of view. The movie is light on details of the killer’s backstory, but in a further fun twist, they’re also mostly gleaned from snippets of teen campfire stories the killer overhears.

Surprisingly, for a movie about a supernatural murder monster, this is also one of the most quiet horror movies of the year, cleverly and beautifully passing its time with long, unbroken stretches of its monster just walking through nature, waiting for his next encounter with the teens who disturbed his slumber. Once he gets to them, though, In a Violent Nature transforms into one of the year’s most gruesome movies too, finding new and inventive ways to disembowel people that will make even the most hardened horror vets squirm.

How scary is In a Violent Nature?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 8/10

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