Don't get us wrong: We love us a good, old-fashioned rom-com. But now and then, like any other red-blooded American moviegoer, we also enjoy being absolutely scared out of our wits. Yes, the best horror films shake you to your core—they're the ones that keep you teetering on the edge of your seat, they incite screams in higher pitches than you ever knew possible, and they leave you completely paranoid for at least the next few days.
Sure, true horror connoisseurs have probably seen all the creepy classics—from the spine-chilling (The Exorcist, The Ring ) to the gory (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and psychologically thrilling (The Shining, The Blair Witch Project). But if (also like us) you're easily bored of seeing the same-old-same-old stateside fare, it's time to widen your horror horizons. Moviemakers from far-flung locales like Asia, Australia, and pretty much all of Europe also delight in the genre—and are just as talented as their American counterparts.
Yes, these 15 best foreign horror movies possess the most sinister storylines to titillate, torture, and absolutely freak you out—and they're just as frightening as all of the tried-and-true classics.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
South Korean director and screenwriter Kim Jee-woon is world-famous for his terrifying, well-crafted, and visually-striking psychological thrillers. And if you like a suspenseful, slow build with plenty of twists and turns, this one won't let you down.
Inspired by a 14th-century Korean Cinderella-esque folktale, A Tale of Two Sisters is about two sisters reuniting after one returns from a stay in a mental institution, and then going back to their father's country home. It makes Grimms' Fairy Tales seem mild. Made in South Korea; Korean with English subtitles.
Available On: Amazon
Funny Games (1997)
Funny Games brings the home invasion of your worst nightmares to life (on-screen, at least). Whether you watch horror films for the visceral thrill or you appreciate the way they thematize the underlying horror of everyday issues and cultural norms, there's a lot to take away from this film. We're not sure which is scarier: two psychopaths cruelly torturing a family for no reason or the way in which the family's home, once their safe haven, becomes a claustrophobic, inescapable prison. Made in Austria; German with English subtitles.
Available On: Amazon
Sci-fi-meets-thriller-meets-horror in this strange, beautiful, fantastic movie. A young boy goes for medical treatment in a hospital in a seaside town populated only by women and boys. In a quest to learn what the doctors and nurses are really doing to him and the others, he loses trust in everyone and everything, including his own reality. Made in France, Belgium, and Spain; French with English subtitles.
I Saw the Devil (2010)
At its core, Kim Jee-woon's suspenseful, gory I Saw the Devil is about a man's undying love. When a serial killer targets the pregnant fiancée of a special agent, he stops at nothing to track the killer's every move. In the process, the heroic protagonist devolves into someone quite sinister himself. Made in South Korea; Korean with English subtitles.
Verónica has every ingredient of a good horror film: a solar eclipse, a séance, and a teenage girl who desperately wants to reconnect with her deceased father. It's based on the true story of a girl in Madrid who died mysteriously after summoning the dead—the first police case in '90s-era Spain in which paranormal activity was ever reported. When Verónica's teacher talks about how solar eclipses inspired some ancient cultures to hold human sacrifices and conjure dark spirits, she's intrigued, to say the least. Made in Spain; in Spanish with English subtitles.
Available On: Netflix
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Even if you aren't always drawn to horror films, consider A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It's an incredibly fresh take on the genre with strong drama/romance undertones and an über-strong female lead.
A lonely vampire stalks the fictional town of Bad City, Iran, which reeks of rot and decay. (Look closely: There are corpses hiding in the shadows.) The movie, for all its brooding, is also an unconventional narrative on contemporary power struggles and gender inequality. At once, it's thought-provoking, empowering, artful, and spooky. Made in the U.S.; Persian with English subtitles.
Let the Right One In (2008)
A young boy is bullied at school, but when he strikes up a friendship with the mysterious new girl next door (with a dark past), things change. There are sweet, romantic moments, but Let the Right One In is mostly sinister, disturbing, and spine-tinglingly scary. Made in Sweden; Swedish with English subtitles.
Dogtooth reminds us of Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides (1999) in that both movies feature controlling parents who keep their kids under strict supervision, both explore sexual repression, and both, well, deal with tragedy. But this one's much, much bloodier and the "kids" are actually adults. The gist is this: A father employs a young woman to sexually service his son—and the encounter goes very, very south. Dogtooth earned director Yorgos Lanthimos an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Made in Greece; Greek with English subtitles.
The prolific Japanese filmmaker, Takashi Miike—of Ichi The Killer (2001) and 13 Assassins (2010) fame—delivers Audition, a slow-burning, terrifying, psychological thriller that's strangely enough, a worthwhile feminist study, too. (Its power dynamics are really fascinating.) When a recent widower holds auditions for a new wife, he quickly falls for an enchanting young woman with a questionable past. Made in Japan; Japanese with English subtitles.
Available On: Amazon Prime Video
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Yet another deeply unnerving film by the director, Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a strange, intellectual fright fest. A picture-perfect family is thrown off-course when the father mentors a young boy who quickly becomes obsessed with him and his family.
The father (a surgeon) bizarrely maintains his complacent, dull composure throughout the film, even as the boy's sinister acts affect his own children. A deep-dive into the DSM-5 manual of mental disorders can't even categorize this one—there's enough craziness for 100 psych students' dissertations. Made in the U.K.
The Vanishing (1988)
If you happen to like art house films, The Vanishing (aka Spoorloos, in Dutch) satisfies both horror buffs and the artsy-fartsy alike. A young guy and girl in love meet a charismatic killer who ends up abducting the woman, and for three long years, the boyfriend dedicates his life to finding out what happened. It's a must-see slow-burner with plot twists that scare and intrigue. Made in The Netherlands and France; Dutch and French with English subtitles.
Available On: Amazon Prime Video
The Babadook (2014)
Like M. Night Shyamalan's creepy, The Sixth Sense (1999), The Babadook, too, involves a mother whose young son becomes, well, compromised. This story centers on a terrifyingly scary children's storybook that has come to life, featuring a monster who hides in the dark recesses of people's houses. Made in Australia and Canada.
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
If you're into plastic-surgery nightmares and torture scenes, then Goodnight Mommy really delivers. Idyllic countryside vistas devolve into a house-bound horror show as twin boys' struggle to come to terms with just who their bandaged-up mother has become after a face-altering procedure. It's a bit slow-going but definitely worth the terrifying wait. Made in Austria; German with English subtitles.
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
This 1939 period piece takes place at the end of the Spanish Civil War, when, after little Carlos's father is killed in the fighting, he's sent to a miserable, isolated orphanage. It gets pretty bad, pretty fast as he realizes it's haunted—and chock-full of dark characters. The Devil's Backbone is directed by Guillermo del Toro (and produced by cinema darling, Pedro Almadóvar), who was nominated for two Academy Awards for his 2006 fantasy film, Pan's Labyrinth and went on to win Best Director and Best Picture and for his fantasy-romance masterpiece, The Shape of Water (2017). Made in Spain and Mexico; Spanish with English subtitles.
In Raw, a young vegetarian wants nothing more than to fit in with her fellow, first-year veterinary school classmates. Instead, she develops a taste for human flesh after being forced to eat meat during an unfortunate hazing ritual. Not only does the movie feature some truly gross, blood-soaked scenes, but it's also a sexy, coming-of-age thriller. Made in France, Belgium, and Italy; French with English subtitles.