This article is updated frequently as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
As the horror genre continues through one of its most creatively robust periods, you might be asking yourself what you need to see and what you can skip. Let’s be honest, horror fans: A lot of the genre we love is garbage. But we patiently weed through the trash to find the hidden gems. What if you don’t have time for the trash? What if you just want the best horror movies on Netflix? As we have with comedies and movies in general, let us guide the way.
This Stephen King adaptation is one of those that seeps into your blood and poisons it. Thomas Jane stars as Wilfred James, a provincial man who manipulates his teenage son (Dylan Schmid) into helping kill his mother (Molly Parker) so she can’t take her share of the family’s money and ship off to the big city — effectively leaving their farm to die. Wilfred and his boy struggle to cope with what they’ve done, and must try to survive their now-cursed life as killers.
Released at the height of the pandemic, this Korean zombie flick became a surprise hit on Netflix, but the truth is that it could have worked even without the “timeliness” of the tale of a man stuck in his apartment during the apocalypse. Smart and fast-paced, this is an excellent modern zombie movie that alternates building tension with clever action scenes.
Look, another Netflix Original! The Raid director Gareth Edwards moves from action to horror in this slow-burn period piece about a man who goes to rescue his sister from a remote cult. It starts as something dreamy and scary à la The Wicker Man but ends up being something much grosser and darker as it reaches its unforgettable climax.
Army of the Dead (2021)
The divisive Zack Snyder returns to the world of zombie action years after his breakthrough with a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and the result is a bit of mindless undead fun. Dave Bautista stars as the leader of a ragtag group of former soldiers who are tasked with breaking into the zombie-overrun city of Las Vegas to retrieve millions in a safe under the city.
The Babysitter (2017)
McG’s surprise horror-comedy hit was so popular for Netflix that it produced a sequel in 2020’s The Babysitter: Killer Queen. Stay far away from that garbage, but do check out the original, a film that instantly made clear how much Samara Weaving was going to be a star. Weaving plays a babysitter who just happens to be a sociopathic cult member. Good times.
The Bad Batch (2017)
Ana Lily Amirpour wrote and directed this controversial 2017 film starring Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, and Jim Carrey. It’s more post-apocalyptic drama than direct horror, but there’s enough grim, gruesome material here for it to qualify. Waterhouse plays a young lady exiled into a group of cannibals, whom she flees only to arguably be in more trouble under the sway of a cult leader, played by Reeves. It’s a tough, brutal movie.
Berlin Syndrome (2017)
Teresa Palmer is great in this tense thriller about an Australian photographer who goes to Germany and meets an attractive young man. They have a night of passion and she wakes up to discover that she’s unable to leave his apartment, kidnapped by her one-night stand. Tense and unforgettable, it’s the kind of hidden gem that Netflix is great at bringing to a bigger audience.
*Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 epic retelling of the classic novel is one of the most lavish and ambitious Hollywood productions of its era. Gary Oldman gives one of his best performances as the title character, but it’s Coppola’s incredible craftsmanship and unforgettable design that make this movie an underrated horror classic.
Looking for a little foreign flavor in your horror? Check out a unique Norwegian film take on the post-apocalyptic genre as it envisions a future in which resources are so scarce that people will do anything for them, bringing a family of three to an event at a hotel that has truly sinister undertones.
This may be more of a thriller than a horror film, but we have to get this list to 50 somehow and it ends in a brutal enough way to qualify. And we swear they won’t all be Netflix Originals (there just happens to be a lot at the top of the alphabet). Two Scotsmen go hunting and a horrible accident ensues that results in the shooting of a young boy. Instead of owning the horror, they try to cover things up. If movies have taught us anything it’s that covering up a child’s death never works.
Did you like Us? Check out this other variation on the concept of the doppelgänger, which stars Madeline Brewer as a cam girl who wakes up one day to find out that she’s still online. Well, someone who looks exactly like her is still online. How is this possible? Watch the movie and find out. It’s a fantastic horror movie with one of the best performances you’ll find on this entire list from Brewer.
Cargo is the best of what we’re calling the emo zombie wave in horror. It stars Martin Freeman as a man who has just lost his wife to infection, and who is also staring down his own rabid turn. He’s got just 48 hours until he becomes one of the walking dead roaming the Australian landscape, and in that time he must find a suitable safe haven for his baby daughter. It’s well-acted, and adds a few wrinkles to the standard zombie mythology.
The Conjuring (2013)
Is this the biggest horror movie of the 2010s? Not only did it make James Wan into a major director, but it spawned its own multiple title franchise with spin-offs like The Nun and Annabelle. Go back to the beginning and watch the first and arguably still best film in the series, a fantastic haunted house movie that revitalized the genre.
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
James Wan followed up his hit franchise-launcher with a sequel that was arguably even more confident and accomplished. Critics of The Conjuring 2 point to its overcrowding when compared to the tighter original but miss the incredible sound design and use of space in this smash hit, a movie that made over $320 million worldwide on positive reviews. A third film was released in Summer 2021 to mixed reviews.
Creep is as simple as it is effective. Mark Duplass co-stars in and produced this lean horror movie from writer, director, and fellow star Patrick Brice. Duplass plays Josef, and man with terminal cancer who recruits a videographer (Brice) to film him at a remote cabin so that he may leave behind a video diary for his young son. Well, that’s who Josef says he is, but of course Josef is lying, and over the course of a day and night, Brice becomes the unwilling plaything of a devious killer who likes to toy with his victims before he kills them. Filmed on a hand cam, Creep is tense and claustrophobic, with Duplass embodying a terrifyingly believable maniac whom you could meet in line at a coffee shop.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic horror film seemed to start building a cult following the instant it was released. Sure, mainstream audiences who came to the multiplex in October looking for a scary movie didn’t quite respond to it, but a reappreciation started quickly. After all, this is a gorgeous, unforgettable piece of craft, a reminder that Del Toro’s vision is unlike anyone else working together.
Fear Street (2021)
Leigh Janiak co-wrote and directed a trilogy of adaptations loosely based on the books by R.L. Stine. These great horror films tell the story of Shadyside, a small town cursed by a witch generations ago in a way that has led to waves of murders ever since. Smart, funny, and truly bloody, they first seem like mere homages to classic horror (and there are a ton of fun references for genre fans) but they also stand firmly on their own two feet.
The Forest of Love (2019)
It’s impossible to describe the work of Sion Sono in a capsule format. He’s one of our craziest filmmakers, and his 2019 effort is one of his craziest films. Seriously, there’s no plot description that can explain what one would find in this alternately gory and darkly humorous experience. Sono is a truly singular voice and this is one of his most unforgettable efforts.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Send up that Mike Flanagan signal, because we’ve got another one — and perhaps his best. Gerald’s Game stars Carla Gugino giving a career-best performance as Jessie, the docile housewife of handsome, successful Gerald, who whisks her away for a weekend to their country home so the couple can put the spice back in their marriage with a little kink. Gerald proves himself to be a total bastard, however, when he springs a surprise rape fantasy on his wife and then dies of a heart attack on top of her — before he can unlock her handcuffs. Jessie must then confront both her inner demons and a looming bogeyman, that may or may not be real, as she struggles to get free before wasting away on the bed. The scene with the hand was one of the most shocking screen moments of 2017.
Girl on the Third Floor (2019)
Travis Stevens co-wrote and directed this grisly, clever 2019 horror film about a man, played by wrestler C.M. Punk, who remodels an old home in the suburbs of Chicago, where he finds, well, bad things. With great practical effects and a pitch-black sense of humor, it’s a movie that recalls great horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s in ways we don’t see from the genre that often nowadays. It’s crunchy and brutal. Don’t miss it.
The Guest (2014)
Dan Stevens is phenomenal in Adam Wingard’s ode to ‘80s thrillers, in which the star of Downton Abbey plays a vet who returns to the family of a fellow fallen soldier and works his way into their lives. Smart and vicious, it’s the kind of indie hit that will surely now find a bigger, appreciative audience on Netflix.
He Never Died (2015)
Henry Rollins should act more. The iconic lead singer of Black Flag is great here as an immortal loner who has completely become a hermit to protect himself and others. He makes the classic mistake of getting close to someone, and the rest is better left unspoiled. Suffice to say that Rollins is a captivating lead. There were rumors a few years ago that this was to be spun off into a mini-series continuation. We’re in.
His House (2020)
One of the best horror movies on Netflix, this Sundance darling is the tale of a pair of Sudanese refugees who flee to London only to discover ghosts have fled with them. It’s a harrowing, terrifying piece of work, elevated even further by its impressive commentary about how much people bring with them when they leave. Houses aren’t haunted; people are.
Hold the Dark (2018)
Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room are more widely beloved, but appreciation for his 2018 Netflix original has really started to grow over the last couple years. It’s a tense film that’s really more of a thriller than a horror movie, but Saulnier imbues this tale of a writer (Jeffrey Wright) who is asked to hunt wolves in the Alaskan tundra, an intense atmosphere that will linger in viewers’ minds.
Mike Flanagan strikes again! Before A Quiet Place turned silence into a blockbuster monster movie plot device, Flanagan was using sensory deprivation to make Hush one of the best horror movies of 2016. Co-written with star Kate Siegel, the movie takes place over one night when a deaf woman has to evade dying at the hands of a killer who’s stalking her around her house and trying to break in. Siegel gives an outstanding lead performance in this tight, distressing came of cat and mouse.
Hopefully, this list contains an array of horror styles from the more direct impact of a slasher pic to something more akin to a thriller to everyone’s favorite subgenre, the ghost story. That’s what Oz Perkins (son of Norman Bates himself, Anthony) delivers with this divisive Netflix Original. Ruth Wilson stars as a caretaker named Lily, who is tending to an old horror writer who suffers from dementia. It turns out the old lady’s house may be haunted. Moodier and more deliberate than probably any other film on this list, Perkins plays with atmosphere in a way that’s creepy and unforgettable.
It Comes at Night (2017)
Trey Edward Shults is quickly becoming one of the most important directors of his generation with his personal debut Krisha and one of the darlings of the 2019 festival season, Waves. In between is this daring film that A24 kind of sold too much as a horror film, turning off viewers expecting something more traditional. It’s a mood piece about trust and survival starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, and a kid who’s about to blow up into a huge star, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce).
*It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell took the horror world by storm with this brilliant 2014 film about a force that simply follows victims until they pass along their curse. Maika Monroe is fantastic as a young woman whose boyfriend curses her with the follow haunting, but this is Mitchell’s film, and it contains some of the most unforgettable and haunting imagery the genre produced in the last decade.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
A man who likes to play God meets a boy who likes to play Satan in this twisted horror film from Yorgos Lanthimos, the daring director of The Lobster and The Favourite. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman head the cast of a film that owes more to ‘70s psychological horror than slasher pics.
The Machinist (2004)
Even people who have never seen the movie know the story of how Christian Bale nearly killed himself with weight loss to make it all the more harrowing. Bale stars as Trevor Reznik, an insomniac who spirals into complete madness. Brad Anderson is the best director you probably don’t know by name, and The Machinist is one of his best films, anchored by the complete commitment of its leading man.
Alexandre Aja returns to the art of the confined space with his follow-up to Crawl in this French-language thriller about a woman (Melanie Laurent) who wakes up in a cryogenic chamber with no memory of how she got there or really even who she is. As she runs out of oxygen, she has to piece together the fragments of her memory. Laurent is fantastic in one of the best recent Netflix originals.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Arguably more fantasy than horror, Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece has just enough nightmare fuel to qualify, and that’s not even including the incredibly dark “real-world” themes with which GDT is playing here. Del Toro’s first Oscar winner blends the fantasy world of a girl named Ofelia and the abject cruelty of her stepfather, a Captain during the Spanish Civil War. Even in a movie that features a child-eating creature called the Pale Man, the real monster may be human.
Nicolas Pesce followed up his twisted debut in Eyes of My Mother with this 2018 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ryu Murakami. Christopher Abbott is phenomenal as a serial killer who gets more than he bargained for with an expected victim, played by Mia Wasikowska.
The Platform (2020)
This Spanish hit has been one of the most watched new films on Netflix for all of March 2020. As the world deals with a pandemic, there’s something about watching a futuristic society that falls apart because of greed and selfishness. The concept is a great hook — a futuristic prison sends a platform of food down floor by floor, and there’s not much left by the time it gets to the bottom. Grisly and smart, this is a movie people will be talking about long after the pandemic.
Ravenous (Les Affamés, 2018)
More from the emo zombie movement. This Canadian import (original title: Les Affamés) is another exploration of who we are and what we do after the fall. It’s an undead thriller for the discerning drama fan.
Julia Ducournau made headlines this summer when she became only the second woman to win the Palme d’Or for the upcoming, unforgettable Titane. To prep for that, go back and watch her breakthrough debut in this story of a young vegetarian who tastes meat for the first time and, well, changes. Ducournau is clearly going to be a vital voice in the horror genre, and this was just the beginning.
The Ritual (2017)
David Bruckner directed this story of a man (Rafe Spall) dealing with trauma after the death of a friend in a robbery. To heal himself and his other friends, he has the plans a hiking trip in northern Sweden in memory of their lost ally. Things do not go as planned.
Shutter Island (2010)
In 2010, Martin Scorsese released his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s best novel, the story of a U.S. Marshal who investigates a missing patient at a legendary mental hospital. Scorsese is in full command of his skill as a craftsman in this riveting thriller that also co-stars Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams. It’s one of the most underrated films of the last decade.
Sinister 2 (2015)
It’s odd how often Netflix has sequels on their service but not the original. Take, for instance, this 2015 follow-up to 2012 Blumhouse hit starring Ethan Hawke. It hits a few of the same beats as the original, but it’s still worth a watch; James Ransone is strong in the lead role, directed this time by Ciaran Foy, who would go on to helm the Netflix Original horror film Eli.
The Strangers (2008)
Loosely based on a true story, The Strangers is one of the best home invasion flicks of the modern era. It’s the terrifyingly relatable story of a couple, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, who are attacked in their vacation home in the middle of the night. Made for almost nothing, The Strangers was a huge smash, tapping into something we all fear could happen when we hear a strange sound outside in the middle of the night.
J.D. Dillard directs this Sundance Blumhouse flick that sadly never got a theatrical release but should find loyal viewers on Netflix. The great Kiersey Clemons plays a survivor of a boat crash who washes up on a deserted island. At night, she learns they’re not alone. That’s really all you need to know about a visually striking and thematically fascinating piece of survival horror.
Under the Shadow (2016)
If you want a break from your typical American ghost story, go for Under the Shadow, an Iranian horror film about a woman whose apartment is being haunted by a djinni. Set against the backdrop of the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, the tension is heightened by the fact that the world outside the home is as dangerous as the one within. Ratcheting up the anxiety even further is the fact that our protagonist, Shideh (Narges Rashidi), is dealing with the fear of losing her husband in the war, the resentment of being a stay-at-home mom who is forbidden by the state from working, and a demon infestation all at once. An excellent movie by director-to-watch Babak Anvari.
The first three films in Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale’s goofy action series about vampires and werewolves have returned to Netflix, including the 2003 original, 2006 Evolution, and 2009 Rise of the Lycans. If you watch them enough then maybe they’ll add part four and five next month.
Films that take place entirely on a laptop or through social media are more common than they were in 2014 when this film felt entirely new. It’s a smart horror film told through the screen of a MacBook, and it tells the story of high school students who discover that their Skype conversation is quite haunted.
Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)
Oz Rodriguez co-wrote and directed this fun family/comedy/horror hybrid that’s reminiscent of genre films from the ‘80s in its blend of the spooky and the playful. Three kids in the Bronx discover that the gentrification in their neighborhood includes some literal bloodsuckers. The kids steal the show, but Shea Whigham, Method Man, and Sarah Gadon are great in the supporting cast too. Everyone nails the tone here.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
As much satire as horror, Dan Gilroy’s Sundance hit stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an art critic who gets involved in the sale of terrifying paintings from an unknown artist that may have some sort of horrific curse associated with them. How far will the art world go to embrace a new talent, especially one that sells? The film a bit inconsistent, but contains some fantastic imagery, and a great ensemble cast.
Paco Plaza (REC) directed this Spanish film that premiered at TIFF and is loosely based on the story of a woman who died mysteriously after using a Ouija board in 1991. The story goes that the teenager tried to contact her friend’s deceased boyfriend and, well, things went weird. It’s an effective horror flick with some memorable imagery.
We Summon the Darkness (2020)
Another indie horror movie making a quick turnaround to Netflix, this 2020 genre flick stars Alexandra Daddario as one of three women who meet a bunch of guys at a metal show and end up taking them back to the house they’re sharing. Against a backdrop of Satanic murders, Marc Meyers flips the expected script in this tight, clever little thriller.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Colin Minihan’s indie thriller is a stylish reminder that everyone has secrets, even the person you love. Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) are taking a trip to an old family home of Jackie’s to celebrate their anniversary when things go very very wrong. With a shocking mid-movie twist that best remains unspoiled, this is a tense, clever movie with a pair of strong performances and tight screenplay.