Any time is the right time to watch a horror movie. The adrenaline rush of a well-executed jump scare never gets old. But in the run-up to Halloween particularly, Netflix has a slew of scary flicks to set the mood.
Fans of horror will be the first to admit that much of their beloved genre is really, really terrible. And anyone with a Netflix account knows the streaming platform has a similarly poor good-to-bad ratio of scary movies, so finding one worth watching is no mean feat. We’ve done the heavy lifting to compile a list of 25 of the best horror movies you can stream right now.
From the old-school classics and the guilty gory pleasures to the unsettling flicks that burrow into your brain and never find their way out, the list has it all.
1922 is one of the many recent Stephen King adaptations from the streaming giant. Thomas Jane (Boogie Nights, The Mist) stars as Wilfred James, a farmer in Nebraska who conspires with his teenage son to murder his wife for financial gain. Of course, that’s not where the story ends. Haunting memories, rotting corpses, and an unnatural number of vermin all crop up in the murder’s aftermath.
Set in early 20th century London, Apostle sees Thomas Richardson return home to find his sister is being held for ransom by a religious cult. There are notes of the Wicker Man in the earlier parts of Apostle, before the dreamy style gives way to something more overtly horrific.
A doppelgänger horror for the digital age, Cam is set within the world of webcam porn. The Handmaid’s Tale star Madeline Brewer plays Alice, a “cam girl” who discovers an exact replica of herself online. The techno-thriller is a disturbing, salacious and suspenseful romp that’ll have you thinking about the film’s end long after the credits roll.
Co-written with its star Kate Siegal, Hush is a tense home invasion film that takes place over one night. Siegal plays Maddie Young, a deaf writer living in isolation in the middle of the woods when a masked killer begins stalking her. The cat and mouse concept might be clichèd, but its execution in Hush is astounding.
There’s little about The Invitation which is explicitly horror, but the film’s creeping dread makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience on par with the scariest of movies. It’s a slow-burner but one that’s worth the wait. Logan Marshall-Green stars as Will, an uneasy guest at a dinner party held by his ex-wife and her new husband. What’s meant to be a reuniting of old friends turns sour when decades-long trauma and calcified resentment bubble over.
Toni Collette is outstanding in Ari Aster’s debut feature about a grieving family – a classic set-up which is given a disturbing and highly effective update in Hereditary. Aster’s directorial stamp is all over this film; it is beautifully shot, thoughtful and slow-cooked to perfection. The Independent called it “one of the most singularly terrifying, singularly disturbing horror films in years”.
Ethan Hawke stars as true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt who, in a desperate move to help his failing career, moves his unwitting family to a house whose previous inhabitants had been found dead in the garden. Oswalt stumbles upon a box of home videos whose grainy footage suggest something supernatural is at play. Hawke’s performance as the desperate and twitchy Oswalt moves this film along – its sequel is worth a watch too.
8) Gerald’s Game (2017)
Director Mike Flanagan triumphs in this excellent adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name. The Haunting of Hill House’s Carla Gugino gives a stand-out performance as Jessie, a docile housewife whose husband whisks her away to their country escape for a sexy weekend away. When Gerald dies from an unexpected heart attack, Jessie is left stranded in handcuffs without water, food or any possibility of rescue. Sleep-deprived and dying, Jessie is forced to reckon with her inner demons – and a looming bogeyman who may or may not be real. Gerald’s Game is an intelligent, absorbing psychological thriller.
Martin Freeman is an everyman in extraordinary circumstances in this subtle Australian zombie movie. Unlike other zombie flicks, the film’s protagonist is already bitten and he has 48 hours to find someone to look after his baby daughter before he turns. It’s a rare type of zombie film: one with soul and pathos.
10) The Perfection (2018)
If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for exactly, The Perfection covers a lot of bases: part horror, part thriller, part revenge story, part mystery. Get Out’s Alison Williams stars opposite Logan Browning (Dear White People) in this dizzying, fun romp about a troubled music prodigy who embarks down a sinister path when she seeks out her school’s new star pupil.
A small budget works to the advantage of this pared-back sci-fi horror. After receiving a cryptic video message, a pair of brothers (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead) return to the UFO death cult from which they had escaped a decade earlier in search of closure. The film takes the tired trope of cults in unexpected directions, and rather than cheap jump scares or expensive special effects, Benson and Moorehead provide the scares with clever storytelling and an unsettling creepiness you can’t quite shake.
12) Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Anthony Hopkins’ cannibalistic psychiatrist is the comfort blanket of horror films: familiar, chilling and just as good on the 20th viewing as it was the first time. Jodie Foster and Hopkins give career-defining performances in this classic thriller from Jonathan Demme.
13) Paranormal Activity 4 (2007)
This low-budget franchise has become a mainstay in the horror movie rotation and was the first to put its creator Jason Blum on the map. While the ratings of the fourth movie are nowhere near as impressive as the first, if you’re looking for a predictable but chilling watch, Paranormal Activity 4 does the job.
The third instalment of the Hannibal franchise is criminally underrated. While Jodie Foster is missed as Clarice, Edward Norton steps up to the plate – and Ralph Fiennes’s brilliant performance as Francis Dolarhyde bolsters it. No, it’s not as good as Silence of the Lambs – but what is?
Given the sheer amount of brilliant foreign horror films, there is a conspicuous shortage of them on Netflix – but Veronica is a stand-out. During a solar eclipse, Veronica and her friends try to summon the spirit of her dead boyfriend using a Ouija board – instead, they find her late father. The Spanish-language film has a 90 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
From the creators of Saw and Paranormal Activity, Insidious offers exactly what you’d expect: jump scares, creepy twins, a looming demon and other hokey contrivances. If nothing else, it’s a fun and gripping watch.
17) Land of the Dead (2005)
It’s unlikely that Land of the Dead is going to keep you up at night, but the long-awaited fourth film in George A Romero’s zombie series was worth the wait. The movie delivers on Romero’s known style of gore, wicked satire, and well-crafted suspense.
This is another guilty pleasure on the list; the film has terrible reviews (The Independent called it “the latest in a long line of films about diabolic dolls and dummies”). But there’s a reason that the Conjuring franchise is still going strong, and while clever storytelling and nuance are nowhere to be found in this forgettable flick, for 1.5 hours you’ll at least be entertained.
19) Curse of Chucky (2013)
The creepy doll trope has taken off in recent years (The Boy, Brahms: The Boy II, Servant, Annabelle) but none do it better than Chucky. While the 1989 original isn’t available on Netflix, fans of the franchise can still get their fill with Curse of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, Child’s Play 2.
Hannibal gets a bad rap; the 2001 thriller only has a 39 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While undoubtedly it’s the worst of the three films, the movie is still worth watching – in spite of its ludicrous ending.
Kathy Bates is outstanding in this psychological thriller based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel. The actor’s portrayal as Annie Wilkes, a superfan of author Paul Sheldon (played by James Caan), is far scarier than any ghost or ghoul. Plus, there’s a certain hobbling scene that puts Saw to shame.
This Highlands-set thriller won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh film festival in 2018. Matt Palmer’s feature debut takes a clichéd log line (tourists vs angry locals) in new, scarier directions. The boundaries of friendship and forgiveness are tested when a pair of mismatched friends (Jack Lowden and Martin McCann) panic after a hunting trip gone wrong.
23) I Am the Pretty Little Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
If you’re looking for a straight-up horror flick, skip this movie – but if you’re up for a more subtle approach to scary, stick around. Ruth Wilson (Luther) stars as a hospice nurse sent to care for an elderly author when she becomes convinced of a supernatural presence in the home. It’s a slow-burner but one that is patient and deliberate, executed with a sleight of hand as opposed to ham-fisted special effects.
24) I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
There has been a lot of hype around this psychological horror/drama by Charlie Kaufman – and for good reason. The story follows a young woman travelling to meet her boyfriend’s family on their secluded farm. Toni Colette gives another memorable performance as the mother. It’s a surreal thriller that is as haunting as it is clever.
Ravenous is set in a remote village in upstate Quebec, which has been left shaken by a zombie apocalypse. The French-Canadian film is surprisingly restrained for a movie about flesh-eating monsters, but it still manages to create some unbearably tense moments.