Rather than an attempt to include as many diverse and memorable choices as possible from what’s currently available to stream, we lean towards those horror movies that scored well on aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. In some cases, we may pick more critically divisive movies that we still feel are worth checking out. The ultimate goal, however, is to ensure there’s something for horror fans of all tastes.
Oh, and when you’re done here, be sure to also read our list of what’s new to Netflix this month.
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The Best Horror Movies on Netflix
While the series eventually overextended itself through a series of increasingly gimmicky and mythology-heavy sequels, there’s a reason the original Paranormal Activity made such a huge impact. It’s one of the scariest horror films of the past several decades because it feels so authentic. Its reliance on found footage techniques thrusts viewers right into a terrifying conflict between a couple and their demonic, unwanted houseguest. You’ll never want to sleep with your feet outside the blanket again.
Skip the remake and the unnecessary sequels and go straight to the original. Poltergeist remains one of the greatest haunted house movies of all time, with a filmmaking dream team that includes director Tobe Hooper and writer/producer (and reportedly co-director) Steven Spielberg. The film benefits from the same whimsical flair as so many great Spielberg movies, but it’s also a genuinely terrifying look at what happens when an ordinary family moves into the wrong neighborhood.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning film wasn’t the first time Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter made it to the big screen, but it was surely the best. The 1991 picture landed Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), and Best Screenplay (Ted Tally), while also launching a franchise about the oh-so-suave cannibalistic genius. Of course, if you somehow haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet, you must do that immediately on Netflix… with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
Before venturing into the MCU, director Scott Derrickson tackled one of the better haunted house movies of the past decade. Sinister casts the always enjoyable Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a writer who moves his family into a new home and becomes obsessed with the mystery of the home’s previous occupants. Spoiler alert – the dead don’t stay silent.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Perhaps no movie on Netflix more blatantly skirts the line between horror and camp humor, and that’s why we love Killer Klowns From Outer Space. This kooky, low-budget cult classic chronicles an invasion by man-eating clowns from outer space. It’s a fun homage to the B-movies of yesteryear, but the creature effects and music are genuinely good, enough that Killer Klowns will still scratch that horror itch even as it makes you chuckle.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
If it’s a horror film distributed by A24, it’s probably worth watching. The Blackcoat’s Daughter may not have garnered as much attention as other A24 releases like The Witch, but it’s a great example of a psychological thriller that avoids the usual cliches and jump scares of most modern horror movies. Emma Roberts and Lucy Boynton star as two boarding school students who stay behind over the holiday break and discover their teachers may actually be Satanists, though the plot takes quite a few turns from there.
It Comes at Night (2017)
One of the great truths of horror is that what you can’t see is infinitely more terrifying than what you can see. Too few horror movies seem to understand that, but at least there’s It Comes at Night. This is a post-apocalyptic horror movie that does a whole lot with very little. It’s set in the middle of a global pandemic, but focuses solely on a single family struggling to stay alive in a remote cabin. The oppressive darkness and uncertainty surrounding the plague and its victims make for a frighteningly good ride.
This Netflix Original tackles a familiar horror sub-genre (the home invasion thriller) with a fun new wrinkle. Kate Siegel stars as a reclusive writer who also happens to be deaf-mute. That disability proves life-threatening when a murderous stalker begins hunting her. Hush is incredibly suspenseful and uses its premises to maximum effect. It was one of the earliest signs that Netflix is a true force to be reckoned with when it comes to original horror films.
In the Tall Grass (2019)
One of the newer additions to the Netflix horror library, In the Tall Grass has quite a strong pedigree. It’s based on a novella written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, is directed by Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali and stars The Conjuring’s Patrick Wilson. It also boasts a simple and effective premise. Innocent people are lured into a cornfield when they hear screams, only to find escape very difficult indeed. The movie sometimes struggles to pad out that premise into a feature-length plot, but this one is still well worth checking out.
Not only is Netflix home to The Conjuring, it also has the horror film without which that blockbuster franchise wouldn’t exist. Insidious is another case of a familiar sub-genre (in this case the haunted house movie) being reinvigorated through tight plotting and clever execution. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as a hapless couple who move into their new home and suddenly find their son becoming a vessel for the spirits trapped there.
Under the Shadow (2016)
This universally acclaimed, Persian-language horror film is a must-watch for horror fans with a Netflix subscription. Set in the 1980s in post-revolutionary Tehran, Under the Shadow stars Narges Rashidi as a woman grappling with both the ordinary pressures of living under an oppressive regime and some decidedly supernatural shenanigans in her apartment building. Like so many great horror films, Under the Shadow manages to provide both insightful social commentary and spine-tingling horror.
Would You Rather (2012)
If Hostel isn’t enough, Would You Rather is another worthwhile addition to the divisive “torture porn” genre. This one boasts an especially strong premise, with Brittney Snow starring as a struggling woman trying to care for her terminally ill brother. She’s approached by a wealthy philanthropist (Jeffrey Combs) with an intriguing offer – participate in a friendly game of “Would You Rather?” and her brother’s treatment will be paid in full. Naturally, that game involves far more than its participants could have imagined.
Similar to 2018’s Bird Box, Fractured is a Netflix-exclusive horror movie that managed to make a major splash on social media. The film’s twist ending has certainly created a major stir. Fractured stars Sam Worthington as a man whose wife and daughter disappear in a hospital, sending him on a desperate quest to prove they ever actually existed in the first place. Is he just crazy, or is there something more sinister at play?
Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror flick (adapted from a Clive Barker short story) is basically the thinking man’s slasher movie. Candyman packs in all the gore and scares fans of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street could ask for. But at the same time, it takes a more cerebral approach to the genre, one heavily rooted in the racially charged history of its Chicago setting. Tony Todd’s titular character may well be the most sympathetic slasher villain ever.
Like Gerald’s Game, 1922 strongly suggests that Netflix may be the best home for Stephen King adaptations. King veteran Thomas Jane stars as a tortured farmer confessing to an unspeakable crime. He convinced his own son to murder his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to save the family farm. James delivers a career-best performance in a film that’s less about overt scares than it is wallowing in pure human misery.
It may not be the follow-up to The Raid 2 fans were expecting, but Apostle proves that Gareth Evans has a flair for more than just martial arts movies. This period drama carries strong echoes of The Wicker Man (the good version), casting Dan Stevens as a man posing as a new recruit to a dangerous cult in the hope of rescuing his captive sister. Needless to say, the film goes to some pretty strange and terrible places by the time that journey wraps up.
Green Room (2015)
We’re used to Patrick Stewart playing some of the noblest heroes in pop culture, including Professor X and Captain Picard. That makes his unexpected turn as a Neo-Nazi gang leader here all the more memorable. Green Room is basically a survival horror movie, with the members of a traveling punk band finding themselves fighting for freedom after witnessing a bit too much at their latest gig. As director Jeremy Saulnier’s followup to Blue Ruin, it’s a very different but no less compelling indie horror film.
Cult of Chucky (2017)
There’s a bit of Child’s Play/Chucky renaissance going on right now, with a reboot (featuring the voice of Mark Hamill as Chucky!) recently hitting theaters, a TV series from franchise creator Don Mancini, and then the ongoing series of sequels to the original 1988 film about the killer doll. As we said in our Cult of Chucky review, “Too many horror sequels feel like cheap and soulless cash-ins. Cult of Chucky has big ideas, strong performances and some moments that rank among the best in the series. The other classic slasher franchises may be failing, but lately, Chucky is making entertaining horror sequels look like child’s play.”
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
One of the creepiest and most original horror movies in years, The Autopsy of Jane Doe stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as a father-son team of morticians who are tasked with performing an autopsy on a mysterious corpse that turned up at an inexplicable crime scene. As they dissect the body they discover one impossible medical mystery after another, until they find too late that the horrors haven’t stopped now that “Jane Doe” is dead. it’s suspenseful, fascinating, and scary as heck.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning dark fairy tale tells the story of a young girl in early Francoist Spain, as she retreats into a world of horrifying magic to escape her fascist, violent new stepfather. Her world is so grim that even her imagination is tainted, and her childhood fantasy life more closely resembles a waking nightmare, filled with gruesome monsters and cruel temptations. Pan’s Labyrinth is haunting, earnest, and beautifully eerie.
The Witch (2015)
A family that’s too Puritan for 1630s colonial America, which was spectacularly Puritan, is forced to live on their own, on the outskirts of the world. Grief, deception, hypocrisy and religious paranoia take hold, and the family starts tearing each other apart. Robert Eggers’ instant, modern classic The Witch is a masterpiece of mood, and captures the historical era with immersive specificity. You’ll feel like you’re trapped on this farm with these people, and going mad right alongside them.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Carla Gugino travels to an isolated cabin with her husband to spice up their marriage, but he dies while she’s handcuffed to the bed, and now she’s trapped, starving, and staring down a feral dog that’s found its way into the house. Mike Flanagan’s impeccably constructed adaptation of the Stephen King novel Gerald’s Game is a suspenseful film, but also a bravura showcase for Gugino’s incredible acting talents.
The Invitation (2015)
Logan Marshall-Green is invited to his ex-wife’s house for a dinner party, but there’s something… off. He can’t quite put his finger on it but there are suspicious little details everywhere, and director Karyn Kusama skillfully keeps us on a knife edge the whole movie, wondering what the heck is really going on. The Invitation is a subtle horror thriller, but if you like a movie with a slow burn, and impressive psychological insight, it’s a must-see.
Train to Busan (2016)
The zombie apocalypse has been unleashed in South Korea, and a group of total strangers are stuck on a speeding train when the outbreak starts. Sang-ho Yeon’s breathless horror-thriller figures out every possible way to make “zombies on a train” seem new and exciting, and builds a whole cast of characters you won’t want to watch get eaten, even though you know most of them will. Train to Busan is one of the most pulse-pounding zombie movies ever.
The Ritual (2017)
A group of friends are backpacking through the woods, but after spending the night in an abandoned cabin with a bizarre religious icon inside, they start to experience inexplicable phenomena. There are some familiar elements in David Bruckner’s The Ritual, but the film’s got a great cast and eventually leads to unusual, horrifying conclusions.