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.
Paramount notoriously had no idea what to do with Alex Garland’s film and barely promoted it in American theaters, dropping it on Netflix in the rest of the world. In this country, it’s on Amazon. And it’s amazing. One of the best films of 2018 stars Natalie Portman as a woman who enters an alien occurrence to find out what happened to her husband there — although that barely scratches the surface of this complex, already beloved film.
*Better Watch Out
This 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.
When it comes to psychological horror, this is one of the best of that subgenre of all time. David Lynch’s cinematic masterpiece pulls back the curtain on the sadism and malevolence hiding behind the picket fences of middle America. One of the best films of the ‘80s, Blue Velvet has lost absolutely none of its power, revealing just how far ahead of its time it was when it was released.
S. Craig Zahler has become one of the most divisive filmmakers working today after three vicious, brutal movies — Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Dragged Across Concrete. The first two are both on Amazon. This one is slightly better, a slow-burn Western that stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins as a posse of men who hunt a group of indigenous savages. The final act is terrifying and intense. (If you like it, check out Brawl too.)
The Cabin in the Woods
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.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
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 mindf**k 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.
*Come to Daddy
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.
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. One of the best living filmmakers delivered one of his best films in 1988 in this twisted thriller starring 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’s best performance.
*The Dead Zone
David Cronenberg directed one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date, starring Christopher Walken as a man with psychic powers who can see things when he touches other people. This unusually episodic film culminates in one of the most famous plots in horror history when Walken’s character shakes a politician’s hand and sees the end of the world. What would you do?
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.
Friday the 13th
One of the most essential horror films of all time, this 1980 film changed the slasher market forever. Of course, everyone looking at a list of horror films knows that it only vaguely introduced the world to Jason Voorhees – no hockey mask in this one – but it did create the template not just for these sequels but countless imitators. It may not be a great movie, but it’s a part of horror history. And a lot of the sequels are on Prime too. Marathon!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Yes, this is 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.
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. Lock the doors first.
Make sure you’re in the right mental place before watching Ari Aster’s 2018 debut film, a movie that will rattle you to your core. Toni Collette gives one of the best performances of 2018 as a mother who faces tragic loss before she faces something much scarier. It’s unforgettable.
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.
The House of the Devil
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.
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.
The Neon Demon
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 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 well it holds up today, tackling issues and reshaping horror-movie language in a way that will never grow old.
Clive Barker wrote and directed this adaptation of his Cabal and released it to a much more muted response than greeted his hit Hellraiser. Over the years, Nightbreed has developed a loyal following, in part due to the various versions of it now available. The one on Amazon is the theatrical release, in which Craig Sheffer plays a man who becomes convinced his therapist is a serial killer, and his own investigation leads him to a tribe of monsters. Good times.
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.
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.
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 second film adaptation of the Stephen King classic may not hold up when compared to the Mary Lambert original or the source, but it’s one of the few very recent genre films on Amazon, landing on the streaming service less than a year after its release. It’s also got some powerful character work from Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz, even if the changes to the ending are head-scratching.
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.
A Quiet Place
Who could have possibly guessed that Jim from The Office would be behind one of the most successful horror films of the 2010s? Or that it would be on streaming services only a year after its release? You’ve probably already seen this story of a world in which silence is the only way to survive, but it’s worth another look to marvel at its taut filmmaking and a stellar performance from Emily Blunt. This one is going to age well.
*Ready or Not
The future star Samara Weaving stars in this recent hit about a woman whose life is turned upside down on her wedding night after she learns that she just married into a family that happens to play deadly games with its new members. A clever riff on the Most Dangerous Game concept, this works mostly because of Weaving’s fearless, physical performance.
The centerpiece of the wave of remakes of Asian horror films, this 2002 hit is easily the best of that subgenre. Naomi Watts stars in Gore Verbinski’s take on the phenomenal Ringu, a film about a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it seven days later. Tense and visually striking, it’s the rare horror remake that justifies its existence, and then some.
In the wake of the coronavirus, expect more horror about how we can’t trust the person right next to us on the couch. Many of them will reference Roman Polanski’s masterpiece, the story of a woman who discovers she’s been used as a tool for a Satanist cult to make a demon baby. And you thought the virus was bad?
*The Silence of the Lambs
One of the best horror films of all time is this Jonathan Demme classic, a winner of Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress Oscars. Demme’s adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels created a legend in Hannibal Lecter, a character instantly put on the Mount Rushmore of movie villains. It’s a rare early ‘90s masterpiece that plays just as well three decades later.
Luca Guadagnino directed this 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.
Sion Sono is one of the craziest filmmakers alive, completely fearless in a way that recalls the ‘80s work of Takashi Miike – in other words, a lot of surreal, unforgettable gore. This 2015 effort is one of his best, a cuckoo bananas story of multiple realities that basically rupture and lead to a whole lot of body parts. And that doesn’t really even remotely capture what this movie is “about.” You can’t really put Sono into words.
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.
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.
A legitimate cult classic, Vampire’s Kiss gained a following on VHS and DVD in the years after its release thanks to the increased fame of Nicolas Cage and his fearlessness in this movie. It’s the story of an ordinary guy who believes he’s becoming a vampire, but most people remember it as “the movie where Cage really ate a cockroach.” The modern image of “Crazy Cage” really started here.
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.