With the news that Jordan Peele‘s two horror movie masterpieces, Get Out and Us, are now on Netflix ahead of the spooky season, there is no better time than to revisit the director’s favourite horror movies of the 21st century.
Recognised for his unique and groundbreaking horror films, Jordan Peele has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the genre – and the industry at large. Peele’s critically acclaimed debut Get Out, along with its successor, Us, have both brought novel narratives to the horror genre, embodying an uncanny amalgamation of social commentary, humour and spine-chilling horror.
2022’s Nope, meanwhile, saw Peele step into much more epic, expansive territory, giving us a western-horror-science fiction hybrid that was reminiscent of 1970s Steven Spielberg, in all the best ways. More than a director, he’s known as an ardent student of the genre, citing various films as profound influences on his own work. Recently, Peele has given us an exclusive glimpse into his favourite 21st-century spooky films, a list that encapsulates the very essence of his vision for modern horror.
The first on Peele’s list is David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 film It Follows. The film, with its novel premise about an entity that pursues young people after they engage in sexual activity, is an unsettling blend of horror and commentary on societal norms. Peele shared his appreciation for It Follows with Lupita Nyong’o, the lead actress in Us, instructing her to watch the film to understand better the way a social and politically charged feature can veil itself in the horror genre.
Compiling his ultimate titles in the genre on an episode of March Madness for the Home of Horror YouTube channel, Peele’s list also includes A Tale of Two Sisters – which is, if you discount Parasite as a horror, the highest-grossing Korean horror film of all time. The story revolves around a girl returning home after a stint at a mental institution, only to be tormented by her stepmother and mysterious spirits. Directed by Kim Jee-woon, this 2003 Korean folktale adaptation was one of the select few that made it onto Peele’s nine-film horror shortlist during the production of Us. It actually yielded a US remake called The Uninvited in 2009, which was widely regarded (surprise, surprise!) as much inferior to the original.
Jennifer Kent’s influential horror film, The Babadook, is another that Peele holds in high regard. A catalyst for the ‘elevated horror’ trend, this Australian film hauntingly portrays a widowed mother and her son’s terror at the hands of a malevolent figure from a children’s book. Peele included The Babadook in his list for Nyong’o, remarking in his March Madness video that it “scared the pants off me.”
Similarly, despite its controversial graphic content, the French film Martyrs finds a place on Peele’s list. This brutal tale of revenge resonated with Peele enough to merit its inclusion in his horror film shortlist for Us.
Among Peele’s favourites is the utterly mesmerising Under the Skin by director Jonathan Glazer. A visually compelling and thematically bold film that made a deep impression on Peele, it explores the eerie tale of a predatory alien in human form. The film’s aesthetic brilliance prompted Peele to laud it “a special film” and praise its “perfect score” and photography.
Lastly, we have the romantic vampire film Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson. Lauded for its unique blend of horror and a human coming-of-age story, Peele hailed it as “one of the most beautiful horror movies of all time,” particularly enamoured by its iconic pool shot. Those who’ve seen it will know exactly what he’s talking about.
Jordan Peele’s favourite 21st century horror movies:
- It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014)
- A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim Jee-woon, 2003)
- The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2013)
- Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
- Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
- Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)