10 Best International Horror Movies, Ranked


In the streaming era, international films have become increasingly accessible to US viewers, allowing audiences to experience the pleasures of global cinema. Many of the foreign films that gain mainstream US attention, such as by winning big at the Oscars, are dramas. However, international horror is also a rich and varied canon ripe for exploration.

Horror is one of the genres best equipped to showcase the unique qualities of different countries, with films drawing upon historical events, cultural anxieties and individual mythologies to create their scares. With dozens of countries and decades of fantastic films to choose from, these are ten of the very best that international horror has to offer.

10 ‘Under the Shadow’ (2016) – Jordan

Directed by Babak Anvari

Image via Wigwam Films

Filmed in Jordan by British-Iranian writer/director Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow is a supernatural horror film. Set in Iran’s capital Tehran during the 1980s War of the Cities, the film follows Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) as they contend with the constant threat of missiles attacking their apartment and find themselves also besieged by a Djinn.

The film was received very highly by critics due to its salient political themes and its portrayal of the central mother-daughter relationship. Through its use of supernatural horror, the film explores the lack of control Shideh feels over her daughter’s safety due to the stress of the ongoing war, as well as her disempowerment due to the repression of women in post-revolutionary Iran. Under the Shadow is a remarkable directorial debut from Anvari and a great international horror film.

Under the Shadow

Release Date
October 7, 2016

Babak Anvari

Narges Rashidi , Avin Manshadi , Bobby Naderi , Arash Marandi

84 minutes

Rent on Apple TV

9 ‘[REC]’ (2007) – Spain

Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Angela (Manuela Velasco) stands in the dark, looking frightened in REC (2007).
Image via Filmax International.

Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, who also co-wrote the film with Luis A. Berdejo, Rec is a Spanish found footage horror film. The film follows Ángela (Manuela Velasco), a late night television presenter who follows a crew of firefighters to answer a call at an apartment building. However, when they arrive, the crew is blindsided by the building being forced into a complete quarantine due to the spread of a zombie-like virus among the building’s tenants.

Rec is an absolutely terrifying film, playing on its audience’s most primal fears such as claustrophobia, fear of the dark and fear of infection. The first-person perspective afforded by the film’s found footage style greatly enhances the scares, placing the viewer directly into the shoes of Ángela and her camera operator Pablo (Pablo Rosso) as they face unimaginable horrors. Fast-paced, intense and even more impactful in a post-COVID lockdown world, Rec is one of the very best international horror films in recent memory.


Release Date
November 23, 2007

Jaume Balagueró , Paco Plaza

Manuela Velasco , Ferran Terraza , Jorge-Yamam Serrano , Pablo Rosso , David Vert , Vicente Gil


Watch on Prime

8 ‘Suspiria’ (1977) – Italy

Directed by Dario Argento

Suzy (Jessica Harper) holding a knife while standing in front of curtains in 'Suspiria'
Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

Directed by Dario Argento, Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror film. The film follows Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), a dancer who begins attending a German ballet academy that is plagued by sinister events. As Suzy begins to notice signs of an occult conspiracy, it is revealed that the academy is deeply entwined with a coven of evil witches who maintain their control through human sacrifice.

The film is one of horror master Argento’s greatest works, featuring stunning cinematography with bold, colorful lighting and bright red blood. Suspiria is also very well known for its menacing score, created by progressive rock band Goblin, which adds perfectly to the film’s atmosphere. The film remains an essential part of horror history, with its 2018 American remake also earning a warm reception.


Release Date
February 1, 1977

Dario Argento

Jessica Harper , Stefania Casini , Flavio Bucci , Miguel Bosé , Barbara Magnolfi , Susanna Javicoli


Watch on Kanopy

7 ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ (2017) – Mexico

Directed by Issa López

The tiger symbolism in dark fantasy, Tigers Are Not Afraid.
Image via Shudder

Written and directed by Issa López, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a 2017 Mexican horror film that utilizes both crime drama and magical realism elements. The film follows Estrella (Paola Lara), a young girl living in a city ravaged by poverty, drug cartel violence and military intervention, who is forced to join a gang of orphaned children after the disappearance of her mother at the hands of human traffickers.

Through its use of dark fantasy, the film explores the Mexican drug wars from a child’s perspective, portraying the depths of devastation caused by the violence. The film established López as an essential rising talent, showcasing her strong directing and empathetic storytelling while also providing spooky thrills for horror fans. Original, dark and strangely tender, Tigers Are Not Afraid is one of Mexico’s best horror films.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Release Date
November 2, 2017

Issa López

Tenoch Huerta


Watch on AMC+

6 ‘Angst’ (1983) – Austria

Directed by Gerald Kargl

Co-written by Zbigniew Rybczyńsk and Gerald Kargl and directed by Kargl, Angst is a 1983 home invasion horror film based on true events. The film is told from the villain’s perspective, following a serial killer (Erwin Leder) as he is released from prison and searches for his next victims. Making use of frantic and impressive camerawork as well as narration from the killer, the film places you in its protagonist’s twisted psyche as he stalks and attacks an unsuspecting family.

Receiving universal acclaim due to its inventive cinematography and terrifying lead performance from Leder, Angst is a cult classic among horror fans. The film’s horror is relentless and horribly realistic, drawing equal amounts of fear from its bloody violence and the psychological terror created by the instability of its protagonist. Certainly not for the faint of heart, Angst is an excellent horror film that is considered by many to be the greatest produced in Austria.

Watch on Mubi

5 A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – South Korea

Directed by Kim Jee-woon

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Image via Palisades Tartan.

Written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, A Tale of Two Sisters is a 2003 South Korean psychological horror film. The film follows teenage sisters Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) and Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young) as Su-mi returns home from a psychiatric hospital and the girls find themselves at odds with their stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah). As unexplained and seemingly supernatural events begin to occur, Su-mi and Eun-joo – both blaming the other – are forced to unravel the mystery.

Korean cinema is famous for its boundary-pushing and often disturbing horror and thriller films from iconic filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook. Continuing in this tradition, A Tale of Two Sisters is intense, twisty and shocking, featuring some truly frightening scares. Well-acted, visually striking and extremely compelling, A Tale of Two Sisters is an unmissable international horror film.

A Tale of Two Sisters

Release Date
June 13, 2003

Jee-woon Kim

Kap-su Kim , Jung-ah Yum , Su-jeong Lim , Geun-Young Moon , Woo Ki-Hong , Dae-yeon Lee


Watch on Kanopy

4 Eyes Without a Face (1960) – France

Directed by Georges Franju

A woman wears an expressionless white mask in Eyes Without A Face (1960)
Image via Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France.

Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 horror film directed by Georges Franju and based on the book by Jean Redon. The film features sequences of shockingly detailed and gruesome surgeries, following a young disfigured woman named Christiane (Édith Scob) whose plastic surgeon father (Pierre Brasseur) attempts to reconstruct her face by kidnapping beautiful women and performing forced face transplants with them.

The film is a horror classic that was unfairly overlooked at its time of release, but by the mid-1980s, it finally began to receive the acclaim it deserved. Christiane’s blank expressionless mask is creepy and uncanny, generating great audience discomfort even while Christiane herself is a sympathetic character victimized by her controlling father. France has produced many great horror films over the years, with the New French Extremity movement being particularly notable, but Eyes Without a Face remains one of the very best international horror has to offer.

Eyes Without a Face

Release Date
March 2, 1960

Georges Franju

Pierre Brasseur , Alida Valli , Juliette Mayniel , Alexandre Rignault , Edith Scob


Watch on Max

3 Audition (1999) – Japan

Directed by Takashi Miike

A girl sits hunched on the ground in a room with a phone and a bag on the ground in front of her.
Image via Omega Project

Audition is a 1999 Japanese horror film directed by Takashi Miike and adapted from Ryū Murakami‘s 1997 novel. The film follows a lonely widower named Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) who auditions women in the hopes of finding the perfect new wife, eventually falling for a shy and enigmatic young woman named Asami (Eihi Shiina). However, as their relationship progresses it becomes clear that Asami is not as innocent as she appears, and is instead hiding a dark secret life.

Audition is one of Takashi Miike’s most iconic films, featuring numerous memorable and frightening scenes of violence and psychological horror. Although the film begins as a romantic drama, it becomes incredibly disturbing once the true darkness of Asami’s psyche is revealed. The film is artfully directed, immaculately acted, and paced to perfection with its slow burn horror and creeping dread, making it one of Japan’s most essential horror films.


Release Date
October 6, 1999

Ryo Ishibashi , Eihi Shiina , Tetsu Sawaki , Jun Kunimura , Renji Ishibashi , Miyuki Matsuda


Rent on Apple TV

2 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Spain

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

The faun talking to ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth is a 2006 dark fantasy horror film set in 1944 Spain. The film follows Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl who discovers a secret fantasy realm when she is sent to live with her fascist stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López). While Vidal and his fascist troops fight against a rebel group, Ofelia is tasked with performing several magical trials to prove herself as a mythical princess – contrasting her innocence with his cruelty.

The film masterfully blends gruesome realism with mystical fantasy sequences to tell the story of Ofelia’s coming of age and her struggle to maintain childlike wonder in a harsh world. The film’s most iconic element – the scene with the terrifying monster known as the Pale Man (Doug Jones) – is what elevates the film from disturbing drama to outright horror, creating truly nightmarish imagery with excellent practical effects. Spain has produced many fantastic horror films and Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the very best.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Release Date
August 25, 2006


Rent on Apple TV

1 Let the Right One In (2008) – Sweden

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Lina Leandersson as Eli, a girl covered in blood in 'Let the Right One In'
Image via Magnolia Pictures

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In is a 2008 Swedish romantic vampire horror film adapted for the screen by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his 2004 novel. The film follows a young boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) who is ostracized by his peers until he meets and falls in love with Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young vampire. Through their relationship, the film explores themes of queerness, loneliness and adolescence.

Let the Right One In is a tender yet still appropriately gory vampire film, beloved by horror fans and critics alike. Eli and Oskar are both portrayed wonderfully by their young actors, perfectly capturing the nuances of their complicated adolescent experiences. The film is both one of the best Nordic horror films ever made and one of the best international horror films generally.

Let the Right One In

Release Date
January 26, 2008

Kåre Hedebrant , Lina Leandersson , Per Ragnar , Henrik Dahl , Karin Bergquist , Peter Carlberg


Watch on Prime

NEXT: 10 Most Rewatchable Horror Movies of the 2020s, Ranked


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *