10 Horror Films from 2004 to Watch in 2024

saw horror 2004

The scary movies of 2004 reverberate in 2024. Full of remakes, prequels, reimaginings, and the first entry in the most successful scary movie franchise, you can feel right at home with a horror film from two decades past. Here are ten of them that can be seen, literally, and felt, metaphorically, today. 

Dawn of the Dead

I love the original Dawn of the Dead. I think it’s the pinnacle of the series. But I also quite enjoy Zack Snyder’s take on the classic mall film. The director’s first film (the real beginning of the Snyderverse?) literally speeds up George A. Romero’s zombies and also features some stylistic choices that echo throughout modern-day superhero films. It’s a very enjoyable zombie flick starring an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker who, unfortunately, appears to have retired from acting (don’t sleep on Sarah Polley in Go!). 

Exorcist: The Beginning

Hilarious. “The Beginning.” If you’ve been alive since 1973, The Exorcist has always been around. It will always be around. 2004 was a year of looking back and mining for source material. This may be the best example. Is it good? No. Is it unwatchable? No. It sure does exist. 

The Grudge

The Grudge, a remake of 2002’s Ju-On: The Grudge, does more than exist. Both a remake like Dawn of the Dead and a chance to cash in on a proven property like Exorcist: The Beginning, the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle divided critics and made quite a bit of dough. A sequel in 2006 and another reimagining in 2020 didn’t do as well as this version. If you need a haunted house film with some good jump scares, it’s hard to beat anything with Buffy. Related, couldn’t any of these films shell out the cash to use Tool’s “The Grudge” from 2001?

The Machinist

One of the least successful, in financial terms, and overshadowed by the lead’s massive weight loss, The Machinist is one of the best scary films from 2004. A psychological drama, the story centers around Trevor Reznik (TREVOR REZNIK, NOT TRENT REZNOR!), an emaciated machinist suffering from insomnia. If you or anyone in your life has suffered from a lack of sleep, The Machinist is quite possibly the scariest film on this list. Christian Bale lost 62 pounds for the role and followed it up with getting absurdly jacked for Batman Begins. That’s what people who have not seen the film focus on. But The Machinist is a similar film to Memento and deserves that level of cult status. 

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

This is the best documentary of 2004. This is the best mockumentary of 2004. Director Joe Berlinger does not agree that the premise of this film is both hilarious and terrifying. The man who made this wonderful peek into the world’s most important metal band also made two of the best, and not at all funny, true crime documentaries (Paradise Lost 1 and 2). What helped those films is the music made by the subjects of this film. But this film, made in the early 00s, features Metallica at their worst. They’re auditioning new bassists, their frontman is steeped in alcoholism, there’s a hanger-on therapist pitching lyrics, and a former band member that can just not get over what could have been. Full of pain and unintentional laughter, Some Kind of Monster may be the reason most artists no longer allow real filmmakers to capture them on celluloid.


Have we really been living in Jigsaw’s world for 20 years? Absolutely. Definitely. How has Saw become more realistic in the last two decades? That’s bad, right? Anyway, the first entry in the extremely successful series was almost a direct-to-video release. It’s difficult to imagine 10+ films (and shorts and video games and theme park rides, etc.) if James Wan’s film doesn’t grace the silver screen. It is a must-watch for any horror or Home Alone/Rube Goldberg machine aficionados. Based on just how much this film and franchise has inspired, it’s the most important horror film from 2004.

Seed of Chucky

They would never make this film today. Audiences would not be cool with a murderous doll running Britney Spears off the road. 

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead may not have enjoyed the financial success of Saw, but it cemented itself in more hearts and minds of horror nerds who fancy themselves clever. The Edgar Wright ode to the legacy of George A. Romero and friendship did for zombie films what 1996’s Scream did for horror films at large. Just think of how many Halloween costumes over the last 19 years are just someone in black slacks, white button-up, red tie, and cricket bat? 

Man, 2004 was a good year for Romero. 

Taking Lives

Remember when Angelina Jolie was kinda goth? This horror film features her lying down in a grave and it’s not even in her top 10 goth moments. 

The Village

If M. Night Shyamalan has a film eligible for a roundup, you have to include that film. One of the filmmaker’s most despised works made so, so much money, and even the people who saw the film didn’t like the film. But if you’re a Shyamalan completist, it’s a must. The twist is barely a twist. The real unknown? Why hasn’t Joaquin Phoenix’s mustard yellow riding hood reached iconic status?



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