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25 scariest '00s horror movies

After our look at the scariest '80s and '90s horror movies, it's time to go post-millennial as we lift the (coffin) lid on the noughties horror films that gave us the heebie-jeebies.

In the wake of The Blair Witch Project (only just a '90s horror, being released in 1999), found footage became the biggest trend, embraced by horror filmmakers and audiences alike as an economical format that didn't scrimp on scares. It wasn't the only trend, though, with noughties fright flicks also favouring tales of home invasion and hoody horror (sometimes even in the same film) and, of course, torture porn.

Come walk with us as we take a look at the 25 scariest films released in the noughties. If you dare, that is...

Paranormal Activity (2007)

The Film: The most profitable film ever made (its budget was $15m, its box office taking was $194m), this clever found footage horror is also one of the scariest which is impressive given not a whole lot happens on-screen. It follows a couple who move to a new house, only to begin to suspect they're being haunted by something malevolent...

Hide Behind A Cushion When: Micah (Micah Sloat) discovers inhuman footprints that lead all the way up to the attic. What's hiding in there, though?

Let The Right One In (2009)

The Film: In the wake of Twilight, it took this immensely creepy and moving Swedish horror to make vampires scary again. Based on John Aivide Lindqvist's novel, it sees bullied outcast Oskar (Kre Hedebrant) befriending his new neighbour, Eli (Lina Leandersson), only to discover she's not quite what she seems. Melancholic and mesmerising, this is proper grown-up horror.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: Eli attacks a man under a bridge. She's hungry, see, and a young vamp's gotta eat.

28 Days Later (2002)

The Film: Before The Walking Dead became a TV phenomenon, Danny Boyle headed up this similar 'this shit could really happen' zombie yarn, in which bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) attempts to survive in a world overrun by people infected with a virus known as 'Rage'. Boyle refused to call it a zombie flick, but all the genre pieces are there as well as some really scary moments of real-life horror.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: Jim staggers out of St Thomas' Hospital, only to find the whole of London deserted. Creeeeepy.

The Descent (2005)

The Film: Group of friends go spelunking, end up in an unmapped warren of caves, what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, everything, as Neil Marshall's ode to shadowy monster movies pits Juno (Natalie Mendoza), Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), Beth (Alex Reid), Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) against something that's hunting them in the dark.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: Sarah spots an ominously pale creature drinking from an underground pool...

Saw (2004)

The Film: Released a year before Hostel and two years after Cabin Fever, James Wan's icky horror flick set the torture porn ball rolling. The premise is devilishly clever Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) are trapped in a room together. Lawrence must kill Adam before time's up, or his family dies. This first film in the humungo franchise is still the best.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: The pig-masked figure makes his big entrance. Time to squeal...

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

The Film: Though Sam Raimi's post-Spider-Man return to horror retains the goofy vibe common to most of his genre films, there are also moments of proper grab-that-cushion terror. Alison Lohman plays an ambitious loan officer who turns down a gypsy woman's request for money (Lorna Raver's Mrs Ganush) and then has to suffer the consequences of her actions.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: Mrs Ganush attacks Alison in her car. Includes mortifying moment in which Mrs Ganush, sans teeth, sucks on Alison's chin.

Martyrs (2008)

The Film: Easily one of the weirdest and scariest horror films of the last 20 years. Writer-director Pascal Laugier follows the plight of Lucie (Mylne Jampano), who was abused as a child and swears vengeance on her abusers. When she kills them, though, it's only the beginning as Lucie finds herself drawn into a nightmare of weird creatures and hidden rooms.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: The scarred creature makes its first appearance though things only get worse, including a final act moment that will make your skin crawl.

Wolf Creek (2005)

The Film: The breakout hit of 2005, this Aussie horror is awash in gorgeous imagery even as it tackles extreme violence. Loosely inspired by real events, it sees three backpackers making their way through the Australian outback, only to be made prey by a bloodthirsty serial killer. The film's violence proved controversial on release, but there's no denying Wolf Creek is an unsettling shocker.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: The film starts. Seriously. It's only going to get scarier as it goes along.

Switchblade Romance (2003)

The Film: Before he took on the surprisingly decent Hills Have Eyes remake, director Alexandre Aja delivered a (bloody) clever ode to slasher flicks with this French tension-cranker (also known as Haute Tension). Marie and Alex are two friends who head to Alex's parents' house for the weekend, only to be targeted by a boiler suit-wearing killer with a seriously bloody appetite.

Hide Behind A Cushion When: That shocker of a twist rolls round. It's a doozy.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.