Yes, there are plenty of good horror movies on Netflix (including a sturdy selection of originals). Amazon and Hulu certainly have some great titles as well. But the real horror heads know the truth: Shudder is the best streaming service for them.
With Halloween quickly approaching, we thought it was the right time to dig into Shudder’s increasingly impressive catalogue and recommend the best films to watch this season and beyond. It’s also worth noting that Shudder has an increasingly strong television section as well, including the run of the underrated Channel Zero and original programming like Creepshow. But the bulk of its catalogue is horror movies, so why not start watching with the best ones they’ve got?
It wouldn’t be a horror streaming service worth watching if it didn’t have some Takashi Miike, one of the most important genre filmmakers in history. Given the fact that the man has now made over 100 films (the recent First Love being No. 103), we may one day see a streaming service devoted to only Miike movies. Until then, revisit one of his most acclaimed and internationally successful works, this 2010 remake that really highlights Miike’s craftsmanship. It’s about 12 samurai and a hunter who work together to take down a vicious clan leader. It’s brutal poetry.
45 years after the release of the original, a remake of Black Christmas is about to hit theaters, so it’s a great time to catch up with the influential 1974 film. Something to keep in mind is that this slasher classic about a group of sorority sisters hunted on Christmas (including Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey) predates Halloween and Friday the 13th. In other words, it’s really one of the first slasher pics, a movie that shaped dozens of films to come.
Peter Medak’s 1980 ghost story was promoted largely for its scares, but it’s a bit tame now in that department; now it’s more valuable as an example of how great George C. Scott was every single time he got in front of a camera. Scott plays a man grieving the loss of his wife and daughter who moves to Seattle and discovers his new house is haunted. It’s interesting to watch this movie now and consider how much it visually influenced the world of films like The Conjuring and Annabelle. It’s a clear inspiration.
E.L. Katz’s indie darling is really more pitch-black comedy than straight horror, anchored by a quartet of great performances from Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, Ethan Embry, and David Koechner. Healy plays an ordinary guy who runs into an old friend, played by Embry, at a bar after a really bad day. As the two reminisce and drink, they run into a rich couple looking for a bit of entertainment in their lives. They keep challenging their new friends to greater and greater risks for money. How far would you go?
Hideo Nakata’s Ringu is widely recognized as an essential modern horror film, but this 2002 ghost story feels a bit more underrated. Sure, it plays with some of the same visuals and ideas, but there’s an emotional resonance to the story of a single mother who moves into a haunted apartment that adds to the haunting nature of the flick. The 2005 remake starring Jennifer Connelly was underrated too.
There’s a reason that so many horror directors bow at the altar of Dario Argento, the king of the giallo film. Also known as The Hatchet Murders, this is one of his masterpieces, a great starting point if you’re just getting into Argento’s career. The story of a pianist (David Hemmings) who gets caught up in the investigation into a serial killer contains some of Argento’s most unforgettable set pieces. The superb score by Goblin doesn’t hurt.
Long before he directed Olivia Colman to an Oscar with The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos helmed this 2009 drama that doesn’t exactly qualify as horror but is just creepy and strange enough that someone at Shudder thinks it counts. It’s kind of a riff on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village in that it’s the story of a couple who keep their children away from the rest of society, developing their own bizarre rules. Of course, that’s bound to fall apart, but it does so here in ways you could never imagine.
Maybe you’ve heard of it? It seems unlikely that anyone subscribing to a service called Shudder hasn’t seen John Carpenter’s game-changing masterpiece, but maybe it’s been a few years for you and you’re considering a revisit. You really should go back to Haddonfield and see where the saga of Michael Myers began. It’s the rare horror movie that can send chills up your spine every time you see it.
More comedy than horror, this 1989 cult hit with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater now looks to be ahead of its time in so many ways. Consider the way Michael Lehmann captures the clique culture of youth in a manner that feels like it’s still relevant today. On top of that, it’s a film that predicted the tragic way in which violence would become a hazard for people just trying to get an education. A box-office flop when it was released, this is a movie that seems to grow in popularity every year for a reason.
Clive Barker’s debut directorial effort, working from his own screenplay, may be the best cinematic example of a writer translating his vision from the page to the screen. Shakespearean in its examination of family betrayals and unchecked evil, this is a movie that works just as well today as it did 30 years ago. Note: You can also check out the underrated Hellbound: Hellraiser II on Shudder and make it a double feature. Lock the doors first.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Horror films typically have an exaggerated style that makes them easier to watch. Whether they’re the slasher pics of the 1980s or the “elevated horror” of today, we can feel comfortable that these films don’t reflect real life. What was (and is) so startling about this drama is how genuine it feels, capturing the grimy, dirty life of a pair of sociopaths who feed each other’s penchant for violence.
Ichi the Killer
One of Takashi Miike’s breakthrough films internationally, this 2001 action flick is still banned in several countries around the world. There is naturally a lot of violence on Shudder, but Ichi is its own special category of crazy. When it was released, it was the kind of film that one had to special order from online companies, and now it can be streamed directly to your phone while you’re on the bus. Isn’t technology wonderful?
The midsection of what is sometimes referred to as Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, this 1980 giallo often gets ignored when people discuss the career of one of Italy’s best directors. It may not be Suspiria, the first film in the trilogy, but there’s still so much flair and craftsmanship on display here that you owe it to yourself to take a look, especially if you like Argento’s more popular films.
Panos Cosmatos gave Nicolas Cage one of the best roles of his career in this 2018 film that already feels like a cult classic. For about an hour, Mandy is a slow burn about a man who goes through a living hell when a cult kidnaps and murders his wife (Andrea Riseborough). And then for the second hour, it’s a crazy movie that’s just washed in blood and features a chainsaw fight. You can’t adequately describe it in words, so you just need to see it.
In just the short time since this Joe Lynch film premiered at South by Southwest in 2017, its stars have become significantly more popular, which should spark interest in this dark comedy–horror flick. Those stars are Steven Yeun (Burning) and Samara Weaving (Ready or Not), who play two people in an office — he works there and she’s a client — when an inhibition-destroying virus unleashes total havoc. It’s like Office Space meets Fury Road.
Night of the Living Dead
When a young man named George A. Romero got some buddies together to make a movie in Pittsburgh that had almost no budget, they couldn’t have possibly known that they were about to change movie history. Watching this classic a half-century after its release, one is struck by how much it holds up today, tackling issues and reshaping horror-movie language in a way that will never grow old.
One Cut of the Dead
This Japanese indie is a great example of a true word-of-mouth phenomenon, a movie made for almost nothing (reportedly as little as $25,000) that has made over $30 million worldwide, largely through recommendations. The less you know the better, so try and avoid spoilers. All we’ll say is that what you think this movie is for the first half-hour is not exactly right, and it takes a turn that results in one of the smartest, most heartfelt zombie flicks in years.
Another low-budget flick that produced an empire, Don Coscarelli’s totally bonkers 1979 film isn’t as much an influential genre classic as it an unforgettable horror experience. Who can forget the first time they saw Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man, one of the best horror characters of his era? The crazy plot here is secondary to the incredible imagery and style. There’s a reason it spawned four sequels and has a very loyal cult following 40 years later. (Note: Phantasm III, IV, and V are all on Shudder too. Tall Man Marathon!)
A lot of filmmakers have tried to incorporate H.P. Lovecraft into their work either as an influence or direct adaptation, but Stuart Gordon’s 1985 cult hit arguably remains the best. Adapting Lovecraft’s Herbert West — Reanimator into a feature film, Gordon is fearless, making a movie that contains some of the most memorably twisted images and ideas of its era. Originally X-rated for its overall insanity, this is a riff on the classic tale of medical science gone malevolent as a doctor starts reanimating dead bodies. Never a good idea.
Horror has too long been a man’s game, so we should celebrate when a great film by a female director lands on Shudder. The people behind the company enjoy this movie so much that they’ve been using a blood-soaked image of its star, Matilda Lutz, in a lot of their marketing. Lutz plays a woman who is raped and nearly murdered by a trio of monsters. You will cheer her bloody, vicious vengeance.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are carving a unique niche in which they make genre films that are borne out of a very human dynamic. Last year’s The Endless and the upcoming Synchronic are about people more than the bizarre circumstances in which they find themselves. Same goes for this phenomenal 2015 film about a young man who travels to Europe after the death of his mother. There, he meets a beautiful young woman, who … well, she has a secret. Imagine Before Sunrise written by H.P. Lovecraft and you have some idea where this is going.
It’s interesting that Shudder considers this Jeff Nichols drama to be enough of a horror film to qualify for their service. It certainly captures a horrific state as Michael Shannon plays a mentally ill man who starts to have visions of the end of the world. Is he going crazy or does he know something we all need to know? Co-starring Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham, this is an excellent character piece, anchored by arguably Shannon’s best acting work to date. And it’s got a killer, controversial ending that will get you talking.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Few films made the same cultural impact as Tobe Hooper’s 1974 splatter classic, a movie he shot with his friends and unknown actors in central Texas for almost no money and that would change film history forever. A lot of horror movies, even great ones, come and go, but people are constantly returning to the world of Leatherface and his cannibal family. It’s one of the few horror films of its era that feels nearly as terrifying today as it did the day it came out.
Tigers Are Not Afraid
There aren’t enough films on Shudder that aren’t from the United States or Asia. This Mexican offering from Issa Lopez is an exception, and it’s a good one — a tender, empathetic tale of the orphans of the Mexican Drug War with stylistic echoes of one of its biggest fans, Guillermo del Toro.
Train to Busan
A legitimate phenomenon that has grossed almost $100 million worldwide, this 2016 South Korean movie is one of the best zombie flicks of its era. It’s simple — zombies on a train — but that’s one of the reasons it works so well. It has a propulsive, nonstop energy, and it feels like its legacy is just getting started. There’s a reason that James Wan is working on a remake and director Yeon Sang-ho is prepping a sequel to his own hit.
The Vengeance Trilogy
A lot of people know and love Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, but you should really take the opportunity to watch it in the context of what he considers a trilogy of films. The beloved middle chapter is even richer when you see how it reflects themes of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance. All three films are so different in terms of style, but they all play with many of the same ideas about responsibility and, of course, vengeance.
Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s 2016 Canadian film may be the least known on this list, but just trust us: You’re going to dig it. So low budget that a lot of its effects were crowdfunded on Indiegogo, The Void is the story of a small group of people at a hospital at which a portal to the other side just happens to open. It has echoes of Lovecraft with a style that’s reminiscent of John Carpenter’s wonderful single-setting work. And the creature effects are just aces.
Na Hong-jin’s 2016 film is not one you should pick to watch casually a date night. It takes a commitment of over 150 minutes, but it’s worth every one of them. There’s a cumulative power to this story of a policeman who investigates a strange series of events in a small town and basically discovers ancient evil. The Wailing is epic, and it rewards your commitment to it with a final act that’s devastating and unforgettable.
Wake in Fright
What’s scarier than total isolation? That’s what’s at the heart of Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 film, an Australian outback drama that was largely unheralded and buried for decades before being reclaimed and recognized as a cult classic with a 2009 rerelease. Based on the 1961 novel of the same name, it tells the story of a schoolteacher who basically descends into madness after being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the Australian outback. Donald Pleasance gives one of his best performances in the leading role.
We Are Still Here
Ted Geoghegan directs a wonderful cast, including icons Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden, in this 2015 film about how grief can open a door to the other side. Crampton and Andrew Sensenig play couple dealing with the loss of their son as they move into an old home in New England in 1979. Clearly influenced by haunting and occult films from the era in which it’s set, this is an indie gem, one of the best horror flicks of the 2010s.