We’ve culled a list of essential horror movies on Netflix to satisfy your seasonal (or year-round) fright cravings. Pick one or binge them all. Just be sure to leave a light on.
The best horror movies on Netflix
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
2) A Dark Song
No one can say how they’ll respond to the death of a child until it happens to them. In A Dark Song, a mourning mother enlists an occultist to help her perform a powerful piece of black magic to allow her one more moment with her son. Most horror films in this vein play their hand early and loudly, but A Dark Song is thoughtfully paced, slowly building up dread until it’s almost unbearable, and then making you wait longer for release. By showing the evolution of a black magic spell, the film takes you out of your comfort zone. —John-Michael Bond
3) The Babadook
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.
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.
Clowns have a bad reputation thanks to the fact that they’re a visually terrifying nightmare of makeup and goofs. Sorry clowns, don’t @ me. If you’ve ever feared these denizens of the circus, or you’re an old-fashioned gore hound, Terrifier is the slasher of your dreams. Following a psychotic murderous clown on an evening rampage, Terrifier is packed to guts with brutal practical effects and gallons of blood. Occasional doses of black humor lighten the mood, but if you get squeamish, pack a barf bag.
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.
It’s hard to come back from the murder of your parents, especially if you were convicted of the crime. Upon being released from jail for killing his folks as a teen, Tim Russell just wants to start over and forget about the horrors of his youth. His sister Kaylie, however, is still haunted, positive the killings were caused by an evil being that haunted the antique mirror that also lived in their childhood home. As Kaylie’s investigation deepens, dark forces begin to invade their lives, restarting the nightmares of their childhood all over again. Reeling in the gore in favor of dread, Oculus uses its moments of violence to kick you when you’re down, jumping off your growing sense of unease for maximum effect. If you’re sick of jump scares and want a good old-fashioned haunting to trouble your dreams Oculus is a treat. —John-Michael Bond
Six people wake up in a square room wearing identical jumpsuits unaware of how they got there. The only thing they know is each side of the room has a door, leading them deep into a maze full of traps. Fans of the Saw series will appreciate the mix of unfolding mystery and clever kill scenes that punctuate this thoughtful cult classic. —John-Michael Bond
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 Ritual
This indie flick stars Rafe Spall (Life of Pi, Hot Fuzz), Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey), Arsher Ali, and Sam Troughton as four friends on a lads’ holiday hiking in Sweden after a recent tragedy. As you might’ve already guessed given that this is a horror movie, the trip does not go as planned. One of the men hurts his foot, sending them off the main trail and onto a shortcut through the woods. The third feature from director David Bruckner, the film is essentially a mythological riff on Deliverance. —Chris Osterndorf
Ravenous (Les Affamés) is a French-Canadian zombie thriller with an intriguing twist: the zombies react to sound. The survivors must stay as quiet as possible to survive, leading to a terrifyingly tense atmosphere. While it’s a rather obscure low-budget indie, it’s surely the most interesting zombie movie of 2017. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
12) The Nightmare
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
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
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.
15) The Void
The ‘80s might be remembered for the slasher boom, but the era of Reagan was also a golden era of creature features. Fright Night, The Thing, Society, Re-Animator: No decade took low-budget prosthetic special effects further than the ‘80s. The Void is a tribute to those days of tentacles and blood, but don’t write it off as just a love letter to the past—this beast can stand on its own. A police officer finds a blood-soaked man limping down the road and takes him to the hospital, unaware that the people and things that caused the man’s predicament have not had their lust for blood sated. Dripping with gore, The Void is destined to become a cult horror classic. —J.M.B.
16) The Conjuring
Who would have expected James Wan, creator of Saw, to birth one of the most well-constructed ghost stories ever to grace cinemas? Based on a supposedly real haunting experienced by famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring became a worldwide phenomenon, grossing over $319 million on a $20 million budget. Dealing with witchcraft and cruel spirits, The Conjuring is the only R-rated film on this list to have earned its rating purely for being terrifying. Setting the film in 1971 makes it feel like a piece of lost history and removes all of the comforts we’ve become accustomed to in modern life from our protagonist’s options. Sometimes you forgot how terrifying life must have been before you could carry a flashlight everywhere you go. While it’s subsequent sequels and spin-offs haven’t had the same quality, the original is a rare modern classic in the haunted house genre. —J.M.B.
17) The Wailing
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) The Collection
It’s hard to recommend a sequel when the original isn’t available, but The Collection is so much fun we’ll make an exception. The Collector, last seen in the film of the same name, is a serial killer who specializes in boobytraps and brutalization. This sequel centers around a group of partygoers trapped in his latest game, a deadly rave turned fight for survival. Watch the first 10 minutes. If the absurd and outrageous opening mass murder doesn’t have you screaming with glee, check your pulse. —J.M.B.
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.
20) Curse of Chucky
After spending almost two decades mired in camp with Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, the Child’s Play series finally returned to its horror roots in Curse of Chucky. Chucky is scariest when he’s kept in the shadows, and here he lurks like the outline of a shark underwater. Still, on the hunt for a body to possess, Chucky mails himself to the home of a young wheelchair-bound woman dealing with a recent death. It’s remarkable how little screentime Chucky gets in the first half of the film while remaining a terrifying presence. When the gore finally ramps up in the second act, it’s a welcome rest from the sheer tension of what came before it. Who’d have thought the sixth movie in a horror series would be one of its best?
21) Dig Two Graves
Viewers sick of gore reigning supreme in horror will cherish this slowly unfolding tale of folk terror. Following the accidental death of her brother, a little girl makes a pagan pact with some moonshiners who promise to bring him back. Dig Two Graves surprising star isn’t a person, but the camera, with brooding cinematography that turns the woods into a dark character of its own. Gothic and mournful, Dig Two Graves is a hidden masterpiece.
Puberty isn’t kind to anyone, but Dawn is experiencing a particularly traumatic awakening. She has a second set of teeth, one that makes sexual contact a life-threatening possibility. This nuclear-powered tale of mutant genitalia and teenage angst was a cult hit upon its release in 2007, but this feminist horror treat is due for rediscovery. Teeth takes a B-movie premise and delivers a body horror masterpiece. —J.M.B.
23) V/H/S 2
Found-footage films often suffer from needing to be feature length, but some ideas don’t need an hour to be realized. V/H/S 2 exemplifies this philosophy, dealing up four original tales of ghastly horror in bite-sized mini-movies. With moments of dark comedy sprinkled in-between genuinely nightmare-inducing stories like the black magic cult segment “Safe Haven,” V/H/S 2 offers a little bit of something for every kind of horror fan. Just take a Dramamine if you get queasy during shaky cam. —J.M.B.
24) Trash Fire
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.
25) Let Me In
Remakes rarely live up to the original but this American reimagining of the Swedish classic Let The Right One In is a ghoulish exception. Owen is a lonely, bullied outcast at his school whose family is falling apart. Abby is the girl next door with a thirst for blood. For some children that might be a problem, but Owen needs a friend, and, more importantly, a protector. Let Me In tells a beautiful tale of evil and corruption, right from the mouths of children.
Raw is so scary it reportedly had people fainting during film festival screenings, but it’s earned both its accolades and its reputation. Justine has just entered veterinary school, following in her family’s tradition of animal care. A vegetarian all of her life, Justine is forced to eat meat as part of a hazing ritual at school, but she soon discovers she’s acquired an expanding taste for flesh. Part college drama, part pitch-black comedy, this horrific entry uses cannibalism as a metaphor for destructive self-discovery, but it’s easy to enjoy as a gory treat on its own. —J.M.B.
27) Murder Party
Director Jeremy Saulnier has built a worldwide reputation with his brutal thrillers Green Room and Blue Ruin. But before he was known for gruesome thrillers he made Murder Party, a gore-soaked horror comedy that still fits in plenty of chills. A lonely guy named Chris gets invited to a Halloween party, only to find himself the captive of a group of art students, hoping to make a snuff film. You’ll see the hints of future brilliance, but this one is a blast even if you’ve never seen Saulnier’s other films. —J.M.B.
28) Scream 2
This is the last great horror movie the late Wes Craven made. (Red Eye is a blast, but that’s a thriller.) A year removed from the bloodbath in Woodsboro, Sidney (Neve Campbell) is off to college. Like most college freshman, she has some lingering baggage. Unlike most freshman, that baggage literally cannot stop trying to kill her. But her loss is the audience’s gain. Campbell does legitimately great work, and her ability to make Sidney a sympathetic figure is a major reason why this film ranks high in the horror sequel pantheon. The series would lose much of its luster in subsequent sequels (and a TV show), but Scream 2 matches its predecessor laugh for laugh and kill. —Eddie Strait
Verónica, from Spanish horror director Paco Plaza, made a splash on Netflix in March for being horrifying, and because it’s based on a (reportedly) true story. Verónica (Sandra Escacena) holds a seance with her friends in the basement of their Catholic school while everyone else is outside watching a solar eclipse. If this confluence of events sounds like a bad idea, you’re right, because instead of reaching her deceased father, she channels a demon. It’s a stylized haunt with emotional weight and solid performances. It also speaks to a woman coming of age (in the most horrific way possible). —Audra Schroeder
30) Gerald’s Game
It’s the year of the Stephen King adaptation, and Gerald’s Game might be the best one. Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus) takes a novel that has long been considered unfilmable and imbues it with tension and emotion. Carla Gugino gives a standout performance as Jessie, a woman who is left handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin after her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) dies unexpectedly. The bulk of the film concerns her survival and how deep into the past she can go, and it actually improves upon the novel. —Audra Schroeder
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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