The Best Horror Movies on Netflix
You might want to keep the lights on while you watch these.
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The greatest horror movies of all time get under your skin with original conceits. They sharpen your paranoia to burrow down into your brain. They grab hold of your heart with iconic imagery—you'll never forget Freddy's claws, no matter how hard you try.
Most of the major streaming services take spooky, scary dramas quite seriously, including Netflix. So switch off the lights, grab a blanket, and hold your nearest loved one—these stream-ready horror movies are here to fill your head with nightmares. Have fun!
Inadvertently capturing a very specific 2020 vibe, #Alive stars Ah-in Yoo (Burning) as Joon-woo, a sweatpants-clad video game livestreamer who inadvertently becomes a witness to a zombie apocalypse happening right on his doorstep. Where most modern zombie movies use technology to draw metaphors about glassy-eyed millennials and their screens (oooh), #Alive, instead, allows phones, drones, and Internet connections to bring survivors together in a world where survival means staying indoors at all costs. Sound familiar?
Apostle (2018)For his follow-up to his two action epics, The Raid and The Raid 2, director Gareth Evans dials back the hand-to-hand combat but still keeps a few buckets of blood handy in this grisly supernatural horror tale. Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, an early 20th century opium addict traveling to a cloudy island controlled by a secretive cult that's fallen on hard times. The zealous religious group is led by a bearded scold named Father Malcolm (Michael Sheen) who may or may not be leading his people astray. Beyond a few bursts of kinetic violence and some crank-filled torture sequences, Evans plays this story relatively down-the-middle, allowing the performances, the lofty themes, and the windswept vistas to do the talking. It's a cult movie that earns your devotion slowly, then all at once.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)The paranormal flick follows three student filmmakers who travel to an eerie forest in Maryland where they’re determined to uncover the myth of the Blair Witch. It may be complete fiction, but it paved the way for modern horror, and if you allow yourself to believe in the "found footage" documentary style film, prepare to be terrified by this modern horror classic.
The Babysitter (2017) & The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)One preteen boy's (Judah Lewis) fantasy about his babysitter (Samara Weaving) turns into a nightmare when it's revealed she and her hot friends dabble in human sacrifices. Director McG's self-aware spin on the babysitter slasher is more comedy than horror, delivering a bloody fun time in a stylish manner. Archetypes get turned on their heads, laugh lines punctuate almost every scene, and reality mostly ceases to exist while our hero tries to learn some sort of lesson. It's goofy mayhem in all the right ways. When you're finished, jump to its sequel, which has Lewis's Cole running from another night of cult-y mayhem. If you hit play, please don't ruin a good thing by taking it too seriously.
Before I Wake (2016)Though debated by genre purists, this one most definitely qualifies as a horror flick; it just happens to be a "soft" horror film with an actual heart that parents could probably watch with their kids. It's about a couple, played by Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane, who adopts a kid (Jacob Tremblay) whose dreams become physically real while he sleeps. If you're looking for shocks and kills, you may want to skip this one for now, but Before I Wake is an impressive piece of work from the very consistent horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan (Gerald's Game).
The Blackcoat's Daughter (2017)Two young women are left behind at school during break... and all sorts of hell breaks loose. This cool, stylish thriller goes off in some strange directions (and even offers a seemingly unrelated subplot about a mysterious hitchhiker) but it all pays off in the end, thanks in large part to the three leads—Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, and Kiernan Shipka—and director Oz Perkins' artful approach to what could have been just another occult-based gore-fest.
The Boy (2016)
While not the best movie out there about a woman in a creepy house menaced by a possessed doll, The Boy has its stans, and we're here to add to that number. When Greta (Lauren Cohan), arrives at the Heelshire estate to start her job as a nanny for the family's young son, at first she thinks she's the victim of a practical joke: the boy, Brahms, is merely a porcelain doll that an elderly couple treats like a real child—and they expect Greta to do the same. It doesn't take long before she realizes that there's something… off… about Brahms. He's unusually active for an inanimate object.
Bullet Head (2017)Remember the badass 1992 action flick Trespass? Ice Cube, Ice-T, Bill Paxton, and Bill Sadler. It's about a bunch of crooks hiding out in a warehouse while their recent heist falls apart. How about the 1993 sci-fi/horror movie Man's Best Friend, in which a killer dog makes trouble for Ally Sheedy and Lance Henriksen? Bullet Head is virtually the offspring of those two movies. A bunch of crooks (John Malkovich, Adrian Brody, Rory Culkin) find themselves trapped in a warehouse with a killer pitbull. It's that simple. While much of the film is darkly entertaining, it does (fair warning) contain some simulated dog violence that may upset some viewers, so beware.
Calibre (2018)More than two men going on a vacation together in a horror film is never a good idea. Calibre, a horror tale that follows two childhood friends on a hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands, is a clever and tense entry in this long tradition of male bonding gone haywire. Father-to-be Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and his gruffer buddy Marcus (Martin McCann) aren't as close as they used to be, but the trip loosens them up and rekindles their friendship. After a tragic accident occurs in the woods, Marcus makes a decision that the more reserved, contemplative Vaughn regrets. Director Matt Palmer finds psychological nuance in this well-trodden material, making a familiar hike feel like a brand new journey into the unknown.
The Call (2020)Take a slice of the "people communicating across different time lines" premise from movies like Frequency and The Lake House—only this time one of the temporal communicators is a psychotic serial killer who is using the situation for very nefarious deeds. This unpredictable Korean export from Chung-Hyun Lee juggles more than a few tones and subtexts, and does it quite craftily.
Unlike the Unfriended films or the indie hit Searching, this web thriller from director Daniel Goldhaber and screenwriter Isa Mazzei isn't locked into the visual confines of a computer screen. Though there's plenty of online screen time, allowing for subtle bits of commentary and satire, the looser style allows the filmmakers to really explore the life and work conditions of their protagonist, rising cam girl Alice (Madeline Brewer). We meet her friends, her family, and her customers. That type of immersion in the granular details makes the scarier bits—like an unnerving confrontation in the finale between Alice and her evil doppelgänger—pop even more.
Creep (2014)Patrick Brice's found-footage movie is a no-budget answer to a certain brand of horror, but saying more would give away its sinister turns. Just know that the man behind the camera answered a Craigslist ad to create a "day in the life" video diary for Josef (Mark Duplass), who really loves life. Creep proves that found footage, the indie world's no-budget genre solution, still has life, as long as you have a performer like Duplass willing to go all the way.
Creep 2 (2017)The first Creep proved to be a quietly compelling and calmly creepy story about a man who unwittingly befriends a real... well, creep played by Mark Duplass. Unfortunately, for online documentary filmmaker Sarah (Desiree Akhavan), the creep is back, as she'll soon find out, in various odd and unsettling ways. But what happens when the creep's potential victim refuses to be, well, creeped out? Akhavan seems to be a perfect foil for Duplass' quietly unhinged lunatic, and together they cook up an oddly satisfying sequel to a satisfyingly odd predecessor.
The Conjuring (2013) & The Conjuring 2 (2016)
James Wan's horror duology inspired by the lives of real haunting experts Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) spawned a whole franchise full of nuns, Annabelles, and weeping ghosts, but it's the first two Conjuring movies that continue to make us shriek long after the spin-offs have worn out their welcome. The first movie focuses on the ghost of a witch that haunts a farmhouse, and the second takes the Warrens to England where they meet the famous Enfield poltergeist. Let's just say you'll never ever want to play hide-and-clap with your friend after watching these.
Gerald's Game (2017)Like another one of his low-budget Netflix-released horror movies, Hush—a captivity thriller about a deaf woman fighting off a masked intruder—Mike Flanagan's Stephen King adaptation of Gerald's Game wrings big scares from a small location. Sticking close to the grisly plot details of King's seemingly "unfilmable" novel, the movie chronicles the painstaking struggles of Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) after she finds herself handcuffed to a bed in an isolated vacation home when her husband, the titular Gerald, dies from a heart attack while enacting his kinky sexual fantasies. She's trapped—and that's it. The premise is clearly challenging to sustain for a whole movie, but Flanagan and Gugino turn the potentially one-note set-up into a forceful, thoughtful meditation on trauma, memory, and resilience in the face of near-certain doom.
A Ghost Story (2017)
Admittedly less of a "ooh scary" horror movie and more of a meditative look at life and death through the mournful eyes of a bedsheet ghost, A Ghost Story, directed by David Lowery and starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as the titular spirit, is beautiful, heartbreaking, and strange. The ghost of a man who dies in a car crash remains in the house he and his wife lived in, watching her attempt to move on and eventually move out, and befriending another ghost who lives next door. The film moves through the years and into the future, before looping back around to the past, a small-scale Odyssey of love and heartbreak. And, yes, Rooney Mara ate that entire chocolate pie in a single take.
The Guest (2014)
A family grieving the loss of their eldest son, a soldier who died at war in Afghanistan, welcomes a stranger named David (Dan Stevens) who arrives on their doorstep, claiming to have been their son's friend. Initially charming, handsome, and friendly, David begins to show a darker side, beating up a group of bullies and gifting the family's young son his butterfly knife. But David isn't who he seems to be, and when the other shoe drops, it's life or death for anyone who runs from him.
Post-Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe made a new name for himself as the kind of actor you turn to when your movie needs to get weird, and dark horror-comedy Horns, based on the book by Joe Hill, was the start of it all, casting Radcliffe as a man who gets supernatural abilities (and horns) after being falsely accused to raping and murdering his girlfriend. Using his newfound powers, he finds out who the killer really is, by forcing people around him to reveal their darkest desires.
His House (2020)Bol and Rial Majur, a married refugee couple newly fled from war-ravaged South Sudan, begin a probationary period of asylum in a London suburb, where they are given a shabby townhouse and a weekly stipend. Bol attempts to assimilate by going out into town, hanging out in pubs, using silverware to eat meals, and buying new clothes, but Rial still clings to their Dinka culture and the memory of the child they lost during their crossing. They see specters all over the house and begin to believe that a witch is haunting them. The power of His House comes not from the intermittent scares or constant building dread, but from the devastating, final-act reveal that forces its characters to reckon with the trauma they've suffered and the guilt that has consumed their lives. There is a particular flavor of horror that exists in experiencing shocking violence and then escaping into a world that makes it seem like nothing more than a dream.
Hush (2016)While films like the classic Wait Until Dark and Don't Breathe have wrung scares from blind heroes and villains, deaf characters haven't been placed at the center of many mainstream horror movies. Enter (very quietly) Hush, a low-budget home-invasion thriller about a deaf and mute woman (Kate Siegel) being terrorized by a masked home invader (The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jr.). This is the type of movie that can exhaust its premise in 20 minutes if the script doesn't deliver—how long can two characters face off in a swanky cabin for, really?—but luckily director Mike Flanagan and Siegel, who co-wrote the film together, have some well-timed twists (and many, many cross-bow arrows) up their sleeves.
I Am Legend (2007)
Immediately cementing itself a zombie movie classic upon its release nearly 15 years ago, I Am Legend, which stars Will Smith as the lonely survivor of an undead apocalypse that turned Manhattan into a ghost town, with only a loyal dog for company. Unlike other zombie movies, though, the walking dead in this one are genuinely terrifying, half zombie and half vampire, with the ability to SPRINT after their prey in a way that will make your skin crawl.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)A meditative horror flick that's more unsettling than outright frightening, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House follows the demise of Lily, a live-in nurse (Ruth Wilson) who's caring for an ailing horror author. As Lily discovers the truth about the writer's fiction and home, the lines between the physical realm and the afterlife blur. The movie's slow pacing and muted escalation might frustrate viewers craving showy jump-scares, but writer-director Oz Perkins is worth keeping tabs on. He brings a beautiful eeriness to every scene, and his story will captivate patient streamers.
In The Tall Grass (2019)This nasty, little novella from Stephen King and Joe Hill got the inevitable movie treatment; fortunately the producers thought to hire Vincenzo Natali (Splice), one of the most consistent genre directors around. Two grown siblings get lost within a sea of very tall grass, only to discover that this particular patch of land contains threats both mundane and, well, exceedingly freaky. Earns bonus points for consistently finding new ways to keep the location both visually compelling and subtly threatening.
The Invitation (2015)This slow-burn horror-thriller preys on your social anxiety. The film's first half-hour, which finds Quarry's Logan Marshall-Green arriving at his ex-wife's house to meet her new husband, plays like a Sundance dramedy about 30-something yuppies and their relationship woes. As the minutes go by, director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) burrows deeper into the awkward dinner party, finding tension in unwelcome glances, miscommunication, and the possibility that Marshall-Green's character might be misreading a bizarre situation as a dangerous one. We won't spoil what happens, but let's just say this is a party you'll be telling your friends about.
It Comes at Night (2017)In this post-apocalyptic nightmare-and-a-half, the horrors of humanity, the strain of chaotic emotions pent up in the name of survival, bleed out through wary eyes and weathered hands. The setup is blockbuster-sized—it reverts mankind to the days of the American frontier, every sole survivor fighting to protect their families and themselves—but the drama is mano-a-mano. Barricaded in a haunted-house-worthy cabin in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton) takes in Will (Christopher Abbott) and his family, knowing full well they could threaten his family's existence. All the while, Paul's son, Trevor, battles bloody visions of (or induced by?) the contagion. Trey Edward Shults directs the hell out of every slow-push frame of this psychological thriller, and the less we know, the more confusion feels like a noose around our necks, the scarier his observations become.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Hear us out: What if there were aliens from a hostile planet who wanted to take over Earth and who resembled toothy circus clowns? Look, the universe is a big place, it's entirely possible. The '80s horror-comedy classic is the only movie ever directed by special effects artists the Chiodo Brothers, and is probably the only movie in existence to feature circus clowns shooting webbing out of toy ray guns to turn people into cocoons they then drink from with crazy straws.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)After surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) takes to a teenage boy Martin (Barry Keoghan) whose father died when he was young (Barry Keoghan), it becomes evident that Martin blames Steven for his wrongful death from a botched surgery—and either his wife or one of his children must die to make up for it. Yorgos Lanthimos' psychological thriller pulls its material from the Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, drawing disturbing stages of injury, a deteriorating will to live, and a pitch black mood that permeates throughout. Rather than a gore fest or paranormal disturbance, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an art-horror movie that’s as disturbing as any slasher flick, but for its mastery over its unnerving mood more than anything else.
Little Evil (2017)
A hilarious riff on movies like The Omen, Little Evil stars Adam Scott as the new stepfather of a young boy he believes to be the Antichrist. People tend to die in mysterious, gruesome ways around him, while the kid stands around looking possessed and generally makes his new stepfather's life into a living hell, leading him to believe that the kid really is evil. Hey, we've all been there. Except, this time, he's actually right.
1922 (2017)With all the recent adaptations of Stephen King's celebrated novels, it's easy to forget that the wildly prolific horror writer also has a stockpile of untapped short stories for IP-hungry producers to choose from. 1922, a folksy riff on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" starring Thomas Jane as a farmer who kills his wife, draws its plot from a novella in the 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars, but it's just as rich and complex as the more famous films based on longer King tales. Plus, there are so many rats in this movie. Seriously, watch out, Willard.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)
This Polish slasher film takes place in a technology detox summer camp for teens, where a group of kids stumble upon a murderous supernatural force that picks them off one by one in increasingly bloody ways. An homage to movies like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, it was a runaway success at the beginning of 2020's quarantine, where it skipped theaters in favor of dropping on Netflix, becoming a word-of-mouth success with plans already in place for a sequel.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Set against the backdrop of post-civil war Francoist Spain, Pan's Labyrinth introduces Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl who moves with her mother into the home of her fascist new husband and discovers an ancient labyrinth in the woods, inhabited by a giant faun who tells her she's the fairy kingdom's long lost princess. Equal parts beautiful, grotesque, and shockingly violent, Guillermo del Toro's most beloved movie spins a magical realist fairy tale you won't soon forget.
The Perfection (2019)The Perfection, Netflix's self-consciously sleazy genre provocation starring Allison Williams as a former child cello prodigy out for revenge, is like a cinematic endurance test. Grossed out by the creepy bug effects and horrifying depictions of self-mutilation? Keep streaming. For some viewers, the act of surviving each grisly twist and body horror scare in this thriller from Richard Shepard will be its own reward, because as shocking as this derailed story of vengeance from one deranged classic musician onto another is, that’s all part of its sick fun.
The Platform (2020)It's difficult to watch The Platform, a cannibalistic prison freak-out from Spain, and not imagine a producer sitting in a conference room or a coffee shop and musing, "What if Snowpiercer but vertical?" The debut feature from Spanish filmmaker Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia boasts an appealing high-concept premise, an oddly affable leading man in actor Iván Massagué, and a series of brutal twists that should intrigue anyone currently watching the news and thinking about the possible end game of rampant inequality. Instead of a train, The Platform takes place in a prison-like structure called the "Vertical Self-Management Center" where inmates live two to a floor. Those on the top get first dibs on a giant platform of food that descends from the ceiling everyday; those on the bottom get the scraps—or nothing at all. Dismantling the system of this socioeconomic experiment unravels through David Desola and Pedro Rivero's knotty, exposition-packed script.
The Ritual (2018)Four old friends travel into a foreboding forest and... yeah, yeah, yeah. You've heard this one before. So has everyone. Only this time, it's interesting. Suffice to say that these guys stumble across a freaky shack, unwisely opt to sleep in said shack, and then find themselves hopelessly lost. Also there may or may not be a mythologically inspired monster from Norse lore on their trail. The Ritual doesn't try and reinvent any wheels, plot-wise, but it's a very well-shot, -acted, and -conceived piece of horror filmmaking from David Bruckner (V/H/S).
Shutter (2004)Shutter is one of the biggest horror movies to ever come out of Thailand. Not only was it a major hit there, it spawned four remakes abroad including a 2008 American version of the same name—and with its haunting original story and foreboding mood, you can see why. It may start off with a familiar premise, featuring a young couple who drive off after committing a hit-and-run, but it takes new turns after the incident when strange images start to appear in the photographer boyfriend's developed pictures, and the supernatural force refuses to go away without enacting some brutal vengeance. It's picture-perfect for horror fans who like to be at the edge of their seat: This one's full of jump scares and shocking twists to keep your heart racing until the final shot.
The indie horror film Sweetheart begins with a simple enough premise when a young woman survives a shipwreck and washes ashore on a deserted island. That's scary enough as is, but it turns out there's also a freakish sea monster that roams the beach at night looking for something to eat. Imagine sort of a gender-switched Robinson Crusoe story, only with the added threat of a sea monster, and you may enjoy this well-shot and gradually intensifying thriller.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Netflix's "ludicrously fun and gory art-world satire" sees director and screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) team up with Jake Gyllenhaal in a thriller that rips apart the effete Los Angeles art world. While pricey auctions and pretentious collectors are relatively low-hanging fruit, Gilroy, Gyllenhaal, and Rene Russo bring a fast-paced humor that makes the plot—an outsider artist's haunted work starts killing people—more tolerable than you might think. Oh, and names like Morf, Rhodora, and Ventril elevate the film's self-aware kitschiness, which makes the satire even more cutting.