This post is updated frequently to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Amazon Prime. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.
Amazon Prime is one of the better streaming services for horror fans (and that’s even before you add on the essential Shudder service for a little extra blood and guts). Someone over at Amazon HQ is clearly a fan of the genre, because there are an unusually abundant number of quality films on the service that will make you double check that the doors are locked at night when you’re done watching. Here are the 40 best of them. Sleep tight.
Mary Harron’s adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel was instantly controversial — and instantly iconic. Christian Bale stepped into the role of the serial killer that had caused an uproar in the literary world and redefined the way we see psychopaths in cinema.
The Australian thriller premiered at Fantastic Fest in 2016 and earned instant buzz, and not just for its clever title. It’s Christmas and Ashley is babysitting for a kid named Luke when it appears there may be a home invasion being planned. What first seems like it may just be a harmless variation on Adventures in Babysitting gets darker — way darker.
Drew Goddard’s dissection of the entire horror genre is so great because it’s also a wonderful scary movie on its own terms. With a great cast that includes a pre-huge Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods is endlessly rewatchable thanks in large part to a razor-sharp script from Goddard and Joss Whedon, bringing some of the wit that we saw in their collaborations together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the big screen.
Yes, silent films can still be creepy. Don’t believe us? Check out this Robert Wiene classic, which turned 100 years old earlier this year. A German production – most of the creepy early silent were German – it’s the story of a hypnotist who uses his powers to make someone commit murder. The visuals in this are so powerful that they’re still influencing filmmakers a century later.
Who doesn’t love Chucky? The homicidal doll burst his way back into pop culture with a reboot last year, but the original franchise is still going strong too, believe it or not. Go back to where it all began with this classic horror-comedy, a movie that scared a generation into throwing away their toys.
No one makes movies like Gaspar Noé. The director of Enter the Void and Irreversible delivered one of his most unforgettable experiences in this mindfuck that starts out like a joyous dance party and becomes a waking nightmare. Largely improvised and containing visual flourishes like a single 42-minute take, this is the kind of movie you can’t really explain. You just need to experience it.
James Ward Byrkit wrote and directed this 2013 gem that has developed quite a cult following over the years since its Fantastic Fest premiere. The idea is one that Rod Serling would have loved. A group of people get together for a dinner party when the whole neighborhood goes into a blackout except for the house at the other end of the street, in which the same dinner party appears to be taking place. Strap in.
Sometimes you’re looking horror a bit off the beaten path. Take the trip to this Ant Timpson film that premiered at Tribeca in April of 2019. Elijah Wood stars as a young man who seeks out his estranged father (the great Stephen McHattie), and the two attempt to bond, but, well, something isn’t quite right with daddy. With some clever twists and turns, this could become a cult hit on services like Amazon Prime.
Alexandre Aja directed this razor-sharp 2019 film about a father and daughter trapped in a basement as flood waters rise during a hurricane. Oh, and they just happen to be being hunted by alligators. A combination of disaster flick and monster flick tropes, Aja’s film is a delight from start to finish. There’s not an ounce of fat on this one.
Horror remakes are almost always awful, but this 2010 remake of the masterful George A. Romero original is an exception. It’s deadly simple — a virus turns people in a small Iowa town into violent maniacs. Given the state of the world in 2020, this might be the kind of cautionary horror tale that’s even better now than when it came out a decade ago.
We don’t deserve David Cronenberg. His twisted 1988 thriller stars Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists who share flings with their clients without them knowing. Well, they do until one of them develops an attachment to the latest patient. Creepy and masterful, this contains arguably Irons’ best performance.
There’s an apocryphal story that goes that Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho because he wanted to make a movie as scary as Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique. You’ve probably seen the story of Norman Bates. Shouldn’t you see the brilliant French thriller that inspired it into existence?
Remember the wave of horror comedies than came in the wake of Shaun of the Dead in the ‘00s? This is one of the better ones, a spoof of ‘50s nuclear panic about living with zombies, including a pet one named Fido. Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, and Dylan Baker star in a film that’s equally goofy and gory.
The late Bill Paxton directed and co-stars in this stunning psychological thriller that didn’t get a lot of attention in 2001 but has developed a following over the years. Matthew McConaughey stars as a young man who tells the FBI that his brother is the man behind a string of serial killings, inspired by their upbringing at the hands of a man (Paxton) who told them he had been visited by God and told to destroy demons in human form on Earth.
Yes, it’s more thriller than horror, but you get a pretty dark, vicious, horrific view of the world — especially if you watch the entire Millennium trilogy (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest are on Prime too). This film was famously remade by David Fincher, but this is the powerful, foreign original, the film that made Noomi Rapace a star.
It’s always nice when recent horror flicks find their way to streaming services quickly; this was in theaters less than a year ago. The great Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter) directs this stylish take on the classic fairy tale, starring Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, and Alice Krige. It’s surreal and intense.
Claire Denis’ 2018 sci-fi/horror film is one of the most WTF movies you could watch on any streaming service and contains just enough terrifying sequences to qualify it for a list like this one. Robert Pattinson stars as a passenger aboard what is essentially a prison ship to the edge of the universe. Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and Andre Benjamin join him on this unforgettable journey.
House of 1,000 Corpses
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut rocked the horror world when it dropped in 2003. Clearly inspired by gore masters like Lewis and Argento, but with his own hillbilly horror style, Zombie was a filmmaker who felt like he had a loyal following from his very first shoot. It’s fun to watch this one almost two decades later and see how it’s influenced the genre already.
Ti West makes the kind of the slow-burn horror movies that simmer their way to explosive final acts. His best to date remains this 2009 genre flick starring Jocelin Donahue as a college student hired to babysit by a creepy couple. Clearly, there’s something wrong, but West delays the payoff until the very end, allowing tension to build with each passing scene. Greta Gerwig appears in a small role, if that helps.
Ju-On: The Grudge
It’s hard to overstate what a juggernaut the Ju-On franchise has become over the last two decades. There are over a dozen films in this franchise and three American versions, including one earlier this year. There’s also a Netflix prequel series (which is actually pretty good). But this is still the tentpole of them all, the 2002 flick that really defined the style of these vicious ghost movies. It still works as well today as when it came out.
Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) shifted gears for this divisive 1985 horror/sci-fi flick that has developed something of a cult following over the last 35 years. It’s nuts. Based on a book called The Space Vampires, Lifeforce follows what happens when three humanoid creatures are discovered in an alien spaceship and brought to Earth. Bad idea.
One of controversial director Rob Zombie’s best films, The Lords of Salem centers a small town that gets sucked into coven of Satan-worshipping women. Sheri Moon Zombie stars in the central role, but this is a piece all about Zombie’s skill with atmosphere and dread.
Amazon’s horror selection is even better if you have the Shudder add-on, but they do have exclusive streaming rights to Ari Aster and A24’s excellent Midsommar, the story of a vacation gone horribly awry. Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor play a couple who go to Sweden for a festival. A comedy of cultures gives way to something much darker when the true purpose of the festival is revealed in a series of final scenes that you’ll never forget.
Somewhat ignored on its release, the ‘80s nostalgia craze of the 2010s brought this Fred Dekker horror-comedy back to the mainstream, firmly positioning it as a cult classic. It’s a fun flick that blends ‘80s comedy culture like that of John Hughes with the Universal monsters like Count Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Invisible Man.
We’re digging deep for this film, which originally premiered as a part of a DTV series from After Dark Films called 8 Films to Die For. This was the best of the eight, helmed by a young Jim Mickle, who would go on to direct We Are What We Are and Stake Land. It’s the story of an outbreak of a deadly infection in downtown Manhattan but it works more with mood and tension than action. An indie gem.
Before he directed critical darlings like Blue Ruin and Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier helmed this clever little horror comedy that won the 2007 Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival. An average dude finds an invitation to something called a Murder Party on Halloween and decides to join in the fun. Big mistake.
No one makes movies quite like Nicolas Winding Refn. The director of Drive delivered one of his most unforgettable flicks in this horror film about the fashion industry, featuring a fearless performance by Elle Fanning. And Keanu Reeves is in it too!
Night of the Demons
A cult classic from the minute it came out, the 1988 horror flick follows a group of high school students who decide to throw a party in an isolated funeral parlor. And then they compound that bad idea … with a séance! A demon that’s been locked in the crematorium escapes and possesses the dumb teens, one by one.
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 well it holds up today, tackling issues and reshaping horror-movie language in a way that will never grow old.
Where would horror be without F.W. Murnau? We’ll never know because the German director changed the entire genre with this masterpiece, a 1922 silent film version of the classic story of Dracula featuring an iconic performance from Max Schreck. Bram Stoker reportedly hated the film, even getting a court to order most prints destroyed, but you can’t kill a movie this good.
J.J. Abrams produced this 2018 hit that blends the war movie genre with something much more sinister. A platoon of soldiers are dropped behind enemy lines in World War II who stumble upon a series of very wrong Nazi experiments that have unleashed something that’s not quite human. Great action and unexpected gore.
The movies in this franchise seem to bounce around the streaming services like the murderous silver ball within them but the Don Coscarelli original (and still best) is on Amazon Prime now. The 1979 horror classic that introduced the world to the Tall Man was reportedly made for around $300k and spawned a multi-million dollar franchise that’s still going.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
The rare Christmas movie that could also be called a horror film, this Finnish flick from 2010 has also become a cult classic. What if the legend of Santa Claus had much darker origins? That’s’ the premise for the story of the discovery of a Joulupukki, a figure in Finnish folklore that led to the jolly fat man. It’s a truly twisted and odd kind of holiday classic that’s kind of like The Santa Clause crossed with The Thing.
Luca Guadagnino directed the 2018 remake of the Dario Argento classic, one of the best horror movies ever made. This one may not hold up to the original, but it has an intense, gory power of its own thanks to Guadagnino’s visual gifts and fearless performances from Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, and more.
One of the better anthology horror movies, this 2004 triptych features segments directed by Fruit Chan (Made in Hong Kong), Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden), and Takashi Miike (Audition). Three masters given creative freedom results in one of the most unforgettable horror experiences on Amazon Prime, especially Miike’s segment.
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.
Claire Foy is phenomenal in this 2018 psychological thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh. She plays a woman who is convinced that she’s being stalked but the rest of the world seems to be gaslighting her into thinking she’s crazy. Shot entirely on an iPhone 7, it has some questionable visual choices but Foy holds it all together in a riveting way.
The twist at the end of this 2004 thriller dominated the conversation around it, but don’t lose sight of how effective and well-made it is before M. Night Shyamalan upends it in the final act. It’s a gorgeous film about a village of people who believe there are creatures in the woods around them. Fear of others and the lies we tell our children thematically dominate a film that’s still resonant today.
Na Hong-jin’s 2016 film is not one you should pick to watch on a casual 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.