Get your popcorn ready.
We’ve culled together a list of essential horror movies, and we’ve made sure that each film passes the Rotten Tomatoes test. Pick one or binge them all. Just be sure to leave on.
The best horror movies on Netflix
100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
When a deaf writer decides to live alone in the woods, you can bet something terrifying is bound to happen. A psychological horror flick that made its debut at South by Southwest in 2016, Hush has garnered accolades from critics and horror fans alike, including ones we may consider an expert on the genre. —Jam Kotenko
79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Wes Craven’s 1996 murder mystery is a subversive riff on the well-worn trope of slasher movies, but for all the inside jokes, at its heart Scream remains a classic chiller. Pitting a group of teens raised on the horror classics of the ‘80s against a bloodthirsty killer in a Ghostface mask, Scream plays its cards close to its chest. Even eagle-eyed viewers will have a hard time guessing who the killer is, but the mystery is half the fun. Sadly, Netflix doesn’t offer the uncut version of the film, but even in its theatrical form, Scream remains one of the finest slasher movies of all time. —John-Michael Bond
3) The Babadook
98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Be careful about the books that you read to your kids—you never know when you might unintentionally set a malevolent spirit free from them. In case you were wondering what it feels like to be a parent whose hyperactive child is constantly disturbed by an evil spirit, The Babadook will certainly give you a taste of the helplessness as well as the fear that’s expected from a really good supernatural story. —J.K.
96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
If you’re a fan of found-footage horror, Creep does it exceptionally well. Featuring a cash-desperate man who answers a vague Craigslist ad, this movie shows you exactly why you should be a little bit more discerning when it comes to responding to opportunities online. —J.K.
94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
For over three decades, A Nightmare on Elm Street has been a staple of slumber parties thanks to its clever examination of teenagers’ fears of not being taken seriously by their parents. While the Nightmare series quickly turned Freddy Krueger into a comic book character, the original Krueger is a cruel killer with no time for jokes. The nightmares he traps his victims in aren’t special effects extravaganzas but subtly chaotic bastardizations of reality itself. Director Wes Craven, in his third movie on this list, weaves likable and believable characters throughout the story, giving each death genuine stakes. Couple this with New Nightmare to see both sides of the cinema’s most iconic supernatural killer. —J.M.B.
89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
First off, don’t watch the trailer for this movie. Just go to Netflix and watch the film. The plot follows a man as he and his girlfriend go to dinner at his ex-wife’s house for the first time since they split due to a sudden tragedy. This exercise in slow-building dread leaves you constantly questioning the motives of everyone involved up to the last jarring frame. There’s nothing else quite like The Invitation on Netflix. Take our word for it and go in blind. —J.M.B.
- The scariest movies of all time
- The sexiest movies that somehow passed Netflix’s porn censors
- The best horror movies on Netflix
95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
This horror movie—which premiered at South by Southwest in 2015—centers on a grieving couple trying to get over the tragic death of their son by moving to rural New England. There, they find an old house that seemed like the perfect place to forget… until they discover that it houses evil spirits. While the premise may seem like a common horror plot, watch for several unexpected twists. —J.K.
63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
This 1987 classic of British horror introduced the world to Pinhead, the sadomasochistic demon who wants to tear your soul apart. Built on a foundation of black magic, Hellraiser is a tale of human sacrifice and demonic sex with a dark sense of humor at its kinky heart. As much a fairy tale as a horror story, Hellraiser has inspired a generation of dark fantasy filmmakers. Thanks to Netflix, you get to see why. —J.M.B.
98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
In 1980s Tehran, during the War of the Cities, a mother and daughter stay huddled up in their apartment as their city is bombarded by missiles. The historical horror and PTSD-inducing sights of rockets cracking roofs should be terrifying enough, but then an evil spirit takes interest in the little girl and things go from bad to worse. Directed by Iranian-born Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow deals with the social issues of a woman’s place in a fundamentalist Muslim society as much as it does demonic forces. —J.M.B.
10) The Host
93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
In the mood for a monster movie? The Host provides an equal amount of scare and laughs that make another great cult horror project to add to your Netflix list. This South Korean flick was so successful the year it came out (2006) that plans for a Hollywood remake were made but little progress has been made —J.K.
11) Starry Eyes
75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
In Starry Eyes, you see just how much a young starlet is willing to let go of to see her name in lights. Blending Cronenbergian body horror with the surrealistic nihilism of David Lynch, Starry Eyes is a classic Hollywood tale of innocence destroyed by greed. The buckets of blood are just an added bonus. —J.M.B.
12) The Nightmare
71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Eight percent of the population suffers from sleep paralysis, defined as “a discrete period of time during which voluntary muscle movement is inhibited, yet ocular and respiratory movements are intact.” Basically, your body is completely asleep but you can’t move. For the people who suffer from this disorder, it can be a terrifying nightmare, being trapped in a body that can’t move. The Nightmare is a documentary about these people and the night terrors that follow them. While not everyone with sleep paralysis sees the dark figures that haunt the subjects of this documentary, we promise they’ll haunt your dreams long after your viewing. —J.M.B.
13) Cheap Thrills
88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
This gleefully evil black comedy is notable for being part of the career resurgence of former teen heartthrob Ethan Embry, but don’t let the “comedy” description fool you. Cheap Thrills is a brutal yet hysterical thriller about what happens when everyday life has already pushed you to your limits, and someone asks you to go farther. Comedian Dave Koechner anchors the whole affair, adding sparks of laughter when the darkness feels too oppressive. —J.M.B.
14) It Follows
97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Sex will kill you. If you went to public school in a red state or have particularly overzealous parents, you’ve probably heard that idea once or twice. In It Follows, the warning is literal. Sex will kill you or, more specifically, will cause an evil spirit to follow you around, hunting you down until you have sex with someone else—like if the tape from The Ring was an STD. It Follows has brilliantly subtle direction that focuses on the characters while saving jump scares for when they’re absolutely needed. —J.M.B.
- The best documentaries on Netflix
- How much data does Netflix use?
- 6 heart-pounding kidnapping movies now streaming on Netflix
15) The Sacrament
62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
When I saw the Sacrament at a festival in 2013, the friend who sat next to me wept during the final 10 minutes of the film. This deeply disturbing faux-documentary follows a group of Vice reporters who are investigating a remote religious commune called Eden Parish. Inspired by the Jonestown tragedy, The Sacrament is a slow-burning tale of corrupted faith and the horrific consequences that follow in its wake. Largely free from the gore that often drowns the third act of horror films, The Sacrament still manages to bare its teeth in vicious fashion. We highly recommend skipping the trailer as it has plenty of spoilers. Go in blind, and let The Sacrament’s dark gospel wash over you. —J.M.B.
73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Starring and directed by the late Bill Paxton, 2001’s Frailty is an oddity in beloved actor’s career. The actor seldom dipped into the horror world, though when he did with films like Near Dark or Aliens, the results were magical. Frailty follows a family of ax murderers who kill based on the supposedly divine visions of the patriarch. Swinging back and forth between the confessions of the family’s oldest son to the FBI in the present and the killings in his childhood, the horrors on screen are coupled with a legitimately compelling family drama about the impact fathers can have on their children. Matthew McConaughey anchors the future segments with a cold sorrow that reminds you what an underrated actor he is. Paxton’s performance as Meiks is terrifying because of how mournful it is. Meiks isn’t a man who wants to kill—but one whose god is telling him to. Thankfully, by the end of the film, you’ll know if he’s actually crazy or not. The answer isn’t comforting. —J.M.B.
17) The Wailing
99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
When officer Jong-Goo begins to investigate a series of murders caused by oddly sick people, he’s drawn into a war between reason and folklore. As the sickness hits his home, Jong-Goo has no choice but to reach out to a mysterious force to save the ones he loves. Blending police procedurals with black magic is an odd mix, but this Korean nightmare serves up deeply upsetting horrors for our beloved hero to experience. Its gradual build lulls you into a sense of false security, but rest assured, you will never guess the path The Wailing takes. —J.M.B.
18) White God (2014)
89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
White God is not conventionally a horror film. It reads like the plot of a fairy tale: A teenage girl is searching for the dog her dad threw out of the house while the dog works to escape from the clutches of an evil dog catcher. The problem is White God takes place is a world where the dogs bite and people get seriously hurt because of it. The film is made all the more remarkable by the low-budget production’s use of 250 real dogs for the stunts. The animal performances have a humanity to them that’s hard to explain without watching it. If you want to be chilled something out of the ordinary, White God is a hidden treat on Netflix. —J.M.B.
86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Horror rarely gets respect from movie snobs, but this vampire tale was picked as an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, an impressive feat made all the more remarkable due to it being director Michael O’Shea’s debut picture. Milo is a 14-year-old African-American boy living in a gang-infested neighborhood and being raised by his older brother, a war vet suffering from PTSD. At night Milo pours through vampire movies, not looking for an escape but for tips on his own evening hunts for blood. The Transfiguration rises above the basic question of “is Milo actually a vampire,” however, and becomes something that will stick with you like a bite mark on the neck. —J.M.B.
73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
It’s impossible to describe Honeymoon in too much detail without giving away the wonderfully dark secrets of the film. Lets just say this: Honeymoon is a film about a couple that goes on their honeymoon, some weird things happen, and it’s not what you think it is. The heart of Honeymoon is a love story, an oddly romantic counterbalance to AntiChrist’s nihilism, at least until it isn’t. While not a gore fest, when things get unpleasant they get really unpleasant, so consider yourself warned. —J.M.B.
78 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Freddy Krueger may have started as a horrific figure, but by the late ‘80s, he became a caricature of himself, more comical than scary. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is an attempt by Freddy’s creator to reclaim his creature, bringing the nightmare into the real world to stalk the actors who originally made the world fear him. Starring Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp as themselves, New Nightmare shouldn’t work. But Wes Craven delivers one of the most terrifying films in his catalog, one with a shockingly low body count. Each death comes as a surprise, something Freddy hadn’t really delivered since 1987’s Dream Warriors. If you grew up thinkings Freddy Krueger was a joke, New Nightmare is a cruel little film that will set you straight. —J.M.B.
80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
There are a few films on this list that are technically not horror films. While more traditionally a suspense film, Oldboy is a deeply upsetting movie, leaving you far more shaken than most ghost stories could ever accomplish. A man is kidnapped, locked in a room for 15 years, and then one day released. He immediately sets out to discover why he was kidnapped, leading down the path to one of the darkest revenge thrillers of all time. Oldboy will haunt you, both thanks to its staggering physical and psychological violence. Stay away from the American remake. Accept only the original. And for god’s sake don’t read any spoilers. —J.M.B.
76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
We Need To Talk About Kevin may not immediately seem like a horror film, but in an era of regular mass murder, it’s a sadly pertinent one. Tilda Swinton stars as Eva Khatchadourian, mother of Kevin Khatchadourian, who is in jail for committing a school shooting. Via a series of flashbacks, we learn exactly what happened, watching in slowly unveiling horror as Eva helplessly tries to warn the world about her son. Equally a psychological thriller, We Need To Talk About Kevin takes a hard look at the idea that some people are just born evil. Easily the least violent film on this list, you’d be remiss to think that means it lacks bite. —J.M.B.
24) Uncle John
83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Uncle John is the last of our nontraditional horror recommendations, but that doesn’t mean it lacks punch. Horror master David Lynch said of the film, “Uncle John caught me up and held me for days after seeing it.” Given Lynch’s avant-garde pedigree, you won’t be surprised to learn that Uncle John is far from your standard murder picture. A subtle story about the way small towns sometimes implode, Uncle John is a terrific time bomb of dread for people who like their horror without a bucket of blood. —J.M.B.
25) Trash Fire
70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
How you feel about Trash Fire will depend on how dark you like your movies. Entourage’s Adrian Grenier stars as Owen, an epileptic alcoholic who is barely hanging on to his relationship with his girlfriend Isabel, played with grace by Angela Trimbur. When Isabel learns she’s pregnant, she tells Owen she’s going to leave him if he doesn’t introduce her to his family. Of course, sometimes there’s a reason you haven’t met your lover’s family. Beginning as a pitch-black comedy, Trash Fire slowly evolves into a horror film dealing with family guilt and the lasting impact of abuse. If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if Chuck Palahniuk took a crack at a Faulkner novel, Trash Fire is your horrific answer. —J.M.B.
- The 101 best movies on Netflix
- What’s new on Netflix
- 20 classic movies on Netflix everyone should see
- The 15 best movies based on true stories on Netflix
48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
There are two series with multiple entries on this list, and each earns their place through fantastical imagery that brings nightmares to life. Hellbound picks up immediately after the end of the first Hellraiser, with Kristy now residing in a mental hospital after trying to explain the events of the first film. Unfortunately for Kristy, her doctor believes her stories and plans on using them to open a portal to hell. Upping the ante from the original by taking the viewer into hell itself, Hellbound is fairy tell bound in skin. Just make sure to look under the bed after you’re done watching. —J.M.B.
27) The Shining
87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
A recovering alcoholic takes his family to an isolated hotel to work on a book and fight off his demons. Little did anyone expect the hotel to have demons of its own. Masterfully directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining leads the viewer through Jack Torrance’s mental disintegration through the eyes of his son Danny and a series of horrific visions. Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall deserve Oscars for their portrayal of marriage on the verge of collapse, and Danny Lloyd’s Danny Torrance is one of the greatest child performances in cinema history. Stephen King may not like this adaptation of his book, but it’s been giving audiences nightmares for almost 30 years. —J.M.B.
28) They Look Like People (2015)
89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
If you’ve ever let someone you haven’t seen in awhile sleep on your sofa, They Look Like People will make you think twice about it. When Christian invites his old friend Wyatt to stay with him during a trip, he doesn’t realize that Wyatt has developed some new ideas since they last spoke—ideas about the end of the world, the monsters who are slowly possessing his friends and family. Normally in a horror movie, the monsters would be real, but the film makes it very clear Wyatt is just suffering from a psychological delusion. They Look Like People examines what happens when the human mind breaks. The way director Perry Blackshear stages Wyatt’s delusions makes it clear why these visions are so terrifying, but by the end of the film, your empathy will be tested. —J.M.B.
29) The Road
75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
Cormac McCarthy isn’t known for joyful storytelling, but The Road might be one of his bleakest works. In post-apocalyptic America, a father and son walk through the burnt-out husk of the country, avoiding the dangers of a fallen world and the cruel depths humanity will stoop to in its quest for survival. Armed with just a pistol and the clothes on their back, the two head towards the coast in hopes that they might discover a trace of humanity. The people they encounter along the way will show them that maybe humanity wasn’t worth saving in the first place. Endlessly bleak and punctuated by heartbreaking violence, The Road is horror wrapped in humanity’s worst characteristics, anchored by brilliant performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee. —J.M.B.
38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes
In many of these films, children end up the victim of strange evils. In Children of the Corn, it’s the children who embrace evil. Based on a Stephen King short story, Children of the Corn offers an odd intersection of religious horror and slasher films, and it’s only become scarier with time. Burt and Vicky go on a road trip to save their struggling marriage. While passing through a small town in rural Nebraska, they run over a young boy, only to discover the child had already had his throat cut. Driving into town to get help the couple finds a community led by children, all worshiping a dark god. Deeply pessimistic and cruel, Children of the Corn is a rare supernatural treat that chills your blood long before evil from the beyond begins to rear its head. —J.M.B.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Pure, uncut internet. Straight to your inbox.