This post 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.
American Psycho (2000)
Before Christian Bale became Batman or won an Oscar, he was Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of the controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. People often meme and gif American Psycho without really digging into why this movie is so good. It’s not just another serial-killer story, but also a dark vision of privilege and ‘80s narcissism. It’s funny and scary in equal measure, with a totally fearless performance from one of the best actors of his generation.
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.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
There are very few horror movies with as perfect a setup as this one. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch star as a coroner and his son in a small town. They get a late-night delivery of a body that doesn’t make sense. Her exterior looks pristine but everything on the inside is a mess. As they’re trying to solve the mystery, things get very, very creepy.
Before I Wake
Mike Flanagan’s name is going to come up a few times on this list (and would once more if we could include his incredible The Haunting of Hill House too). This is his weakest Netflix Original (watch Hush and Gerald’s Game first), but it’s better than its reputation might have you believe. Shelved for years, it tells the story of a boy, played expertly by a pre-Room Jacob Tremblay, whose dreams seem to have special powers. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s interesting to see Flanagan exploring themes here that he would again in things like Hill House.
Yes, the final scenes get incredibly goofy, but the opening chaos of this smash-hit Netflix Original is pretty effective and Sandra Bullock is excellent throughout. The Oscar winner plays a woman who survives the apocalypse, which starts when people begin to see, well, something and go insane. Compared unfairly to A Quiet Place, given how much of it hinges on sensory deprivation, Bird Box is one of Netflix’s most streamed films for a reason. It may not be great, but it’s worth a look on a lazy weekend.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter
The son of Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, directs this fantastic, creepy film starring Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton. Shipka and Boynton play two girls at a boarding school during a long break, where things seem to be going awry on a possibly supernatural level. Meanwhile, Roberts is in another plotline, working her way to the school. The two arcs converge in an unforgettable final act.
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.
Yes, that Candyman. Before the remake comes out, revisit the 1992 horror classic, a movie that’s probably a lot better than you remember. Sure, you remember the bees and the urban legend riff on a boogeyman who appears if you saw his name, but did you realize how smart this movie is about social and racial issues? Or how well it uses Chicago as a backdrop? It’s an incredibly effective movie that hasn’t just held up over the last nearly-30 years but actually gotten better with age.
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.
*Child’s Play (1988)
Who doesn’t love Chucky? The homicidal doll came back to multiplexes in the summer of 2019, and the original franchise is still going strong with another sequel in production. Long after Freddy and Jason hung it up, Chucky is still kicking ass. Go back to where it all began with this classic horror-comedy, a movie that scared a generation into throwing away their toys.
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.
The Crow (1994)
Yes, fine, whatever, this is not exactly a horror movie but it’s not exactly a superhero movie either. One of the reasons it was so popular was the way it straddled multiple genres, willing to go dark with the story of a rock musician returned from the dead in search of vengeance. Stylish, dark, and tragic due to the death of its star, this is a movie that everyone had to see when it came out a quarter-century ago. You may not have seen it since. You’re due for a revisit.
Cult of Chucky (2017)
Here’s a hot take: Child’s Play is the best 1980s slasher franchise. It’s had its ups and downs over the course of 30 years, but writer and director Don Mancini’s toy of terror has maintained more self-awareness and character consistency than any of his super-killer brethren. Cult is the seventh movie in the Chucky series, and here’s to a few more go-rounds with Brad Dourif as the voice of America’s favorite Devil doll.
The Endless (2017)
You should know the names of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. These two talented young filmmakers wrote, directed, and star in this supernatural thriller about a pair of brothers who return to the cult from which they escaped years earlier only to find that it’s not quite as they remembered. This is a smart, complex indie horror film that has already developed a loyal following. Get on the bandwagon before someone tells you to do so.
*Event Horizon (1997)
Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 sci-fi/horror movie didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released – it didn’t even make back half its budget – but it’s become a cult hit over the years with some very loyal defenders. Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill star in the story of a crew of astronauts sent to figure what happened on a missing spaceship. It’s there that they discover, well, truly awful things. Merging the grandeur of space movies with something that’s more like a haunted house tale, this is Anderson’s best film, one that has influenced many imitators in the last two decades.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Make sure the kids and grandparents are sound asleep before you watch one of the most disturbing movies on Netflix. Nicolas Pesce’s black-and-white indie film is a brutal look at the dark side of humanity. If you’re at all squeamish about sharp objects and soft body parts, you might want to go back to the comedy list right about now.
*Final Destination (2000)
There was a time when the Final Destination series felt like more of a joke, largely because it came on the heels of a wave of garbage horror movies that mimicked the self-awareness of the Scream franchise without remotely understanding why they were popular. This is all to say that the FD movies are much better than you remember, especially the second volume. The opening scene of that one alone is worth popping up just for a grisly laugh. The first four films in the series are all on Netflix. Marathon!
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.
Green Room (2015)
Jeremy Saulnier directed Netflix’s Hold the Dark, so the company dropped some of his earlier films on the service, including two that technically qualify as horror and so made this list. The late Anton Yelchin stars as a member of a band that ends up at an event populated by violent Nazis. Things go very wrong from there. It’s a perfectly paced movie with unexpected twists and brutal violence. See this one.
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.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
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.
Before he started an entire horror universe with The Conjuring, James Wan directed this very popular 2011 ghost story about a couple — Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne — that has to rescue their son when he’s lost in a supernatural realm called the Further. Consider this a bridge between Poltergeist and Stranger Things — two other properties about kids caught on another plane. Why not watch all three?
The Invitation (2015)
Karyn Kusama gifted us with Jennifer’s Body in 2009, and then didn’t return to feature film directing for six years. But boy did she come roaring back with The Invitation, an exercise in creeping dread that stars Logan Marshall-Green as a man attending a dinner party at his ex-wife’s home, and she’s got a very surprising update for him and their shared friends. As Marshall-Green’s Will wonders if he’s going crazy, so will you, and the movie reinforces what you should already know by heart at this point: Always be suspicious of John Carroll Lynch!
*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).
The Last Exorcism (2010)
The found footage genre made so popular by films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity became so overcrowded that even some of its best entries never got quite enough attention. Take this intense 2010 film from Daniel Stamm about a minister who learns the hard way that some possessions can be very real.
This horror indie branded with the Netflix Original label makes this list for one reason: Florence Pugh. The star of Lady Macbeth and Fighting With My Family is fantastic as the reticent member of a group of scam artists who have been taking advantage of the grieving by faking hauntings in order to get paid to stop. Of course, they run into an actual haunting and learn a lesson or two about F-ing with the dark side. Great movie? No, maybe not even good, but Pugh is proving herself more and more with each outing. She makes it worth seeing.
Ted Geoghegan continues to carve out a career as an unpredictable genre filmmaker by taking a sharp turn from his excellent to We Are Still Here to this period action-horror film set early in the 19th century. So few filmmakers are willing to reckon with this country’s relationship to its indigenous people, much less turn that into genre storytelling. Kaniehtiio Horn stars as a Mohawk woman named Oak who is caught between her people and the British soldiers who are killing them. It’s essentially a chase movie, anchored by a physical performance from Horn and a captivating one from the villainous Ezra Buzzington.
The Monster (2016)
Zoe Kazan stars in a timely story of a woman and her daughter caught in a nightmare on an isolated stretch of road. They hit what they think is a wolf, but when a tow-truck driver arrives to take care of the damage to the car, they learn that something much scarier is going down. It’s an old-fashioned monster movie with a committed, emotional performance from Kazan.
*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.
*Paranormal Activity (2007)
Everyone knows Jason Blum now as one of the most important producers in the industry, but this is the movie that really put his model of low-budget horror on the map. Reportedly made for only $15k, it grossed almost $200 million worldwide and launched a franchise. A found footage modern classic, Paranormal Activity doesn’t get enough credit for helping launch the current comeback of horror. Heck, it paid for dozens of Blumhouse films to follow.
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.
*The Ring (2002)
Remakes of foreign horror films are almost always a waste of time, but this Gore Verbinski take on J-horror hit Ringu in an exception to the rule. The visionary director’s take on the video tape that kills you in 7 days is not only visually striking but anchored by a great, believable performance from Naomi Watts. This one started a wave of remakes of Asian horror films and none of them were nearly as good.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Everyone talking about the arrival of elevated horror on the scene as if Midsommar and The Lighthouse were the first of the genre to be taken seriously must not remember the ‘70s when movies as dark and vicious as Rosemary’s Baby won Oscars and made millions. Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel has lost none of its terrifying power, thanks in large part to the phenomenal work by Mia Farrow, who makes Rosemary’s predicament palpable.
Scream 2 (1997)
Releasing a sequel less than a year after the original wasn’t that common in the ‘90s and it helped this follow-up to become one of the highest-grossing films of that year. The saga of Sidney Prescott was still fresh in viewers’ minds when Wes Craven returned to this world in a film that didn’t just recreate what happened the first time but built on it. There’s a reason some people think it’s the best in the series.
There’s not nearly enough good foreign horror on Netflix — oh, there’s a lot of it, but most of it is awful — so you should seek out the cream of the crop, like this excellent 2004 Thai film about a magical camera. (Ignore the 2008 American remake.) It’s a film that deftly blends multiple genres, redefining the ghost story in a new way that incorporates elements of the vengeance or regret narrative. A couple hits a woman with their car after a night of partying and they drive away. Then weird things start happening with their photographs.
Sinister 2 (2015)
It’s odd how often Netflix has sequels on their service but not the original. Take this 2015 follow-up to 2012 Blumhouse hit starring Ethan Hawke. It hits a few of the same beats as the original but 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.
Super Dark Times (2017)
Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan star in this little-seen 2017 thriller about a horrible accident and what it does to two of the kids involved. Four teen boys are just being dumb teen boys when they find a katana in the belongings of one of the kids’ brother. They do what dumb kids do, taking it to the park and slicing up milk cartons, but things turn tragic when a fight erupts. A hidden body and intense guilt turn what starts as a coming-of-age piece into something much darker. This is smart, engaging storytelling.
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.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
When Tobe Hooper got his buddies together in the middle of Texas in the ‘70s, he couldn’t possibly have known how many people would still be talking about Leatherface almost a half-century later. The legacy of this film seems to deepen with each generation of horror directors that directly or indirectly pay homage to it with their own work. It has lost none of its power to shock and entertain.
Train to Busan (2016)
This South Korean zombie story is truly one of the best movies available to watch on Netflix, regardless of genre. It’s thrilling from start to finish, and the excellent, efficient character development means you feel like you have a stake in everyone involved. Imagine the self-contained maelstrom of Snowpiercer, but with raging undead.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
If there is a model for a truly ideal horror comedy, it is Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the titular characters, and these hillbilly best friends are spending some time at the vacation home they just purchased somewhere in the backwoods West Virginia. But their getaway is interrupted when a group of teenagers mistakes them for creepy killers, and suddenly everyone is trying to prove they aren’t murderers while an actual homicidal maniac starts picking them off. It’s sweet. It’s funny. It’s got a body going through a woodchipper.
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.
Under the Skin (2013)
Director Jonathan Glazer makes movies that dig deep into your brain, like Birth and Sexy Beast, and his 2013 horror film starring Scarlett Johansson has become a benchmark in the art-house horror scene. The premise is simple: A strange woman wanders around Scotland luring men to their deaths, but it’s the haunting, beautifully stylized execution that elevates what is essentially a walk-and-stalk horror movie to something special.
*What Lies Beneath (2000)
Before he disappeared into his own wormhole of 3D animated filmmaking, Robert Zemeckis made an underrated thriller starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple who may be living in a haunted house. It’s not a perfect movie, but Ford and Pfeiffer sell it and Zemeckis brings some character depth to a horror movie that could have been little more than a series of jump scares.
The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers’s Sundance hit is a master class in sound design and limited perspective. Using testimony from the Salem witch trials, the concept of Eggers’s script is beautifully simple — what if one of those trials was about a legitimate witch? The sound of branches hitting each other from the wind, the sound of footsteps on the leafy ground — this is a movie that understands that horror is often sensory more than purely conveyed through storytelling. It’s a modern genre masterpiece.
Ten years after the first movie, the stars finally aligned for this Fall’s Zombieland 2: Double Tap. Before they were household names, Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg rocked this story of a group of misfits united by the zombie apocalypse. If you’re wondering why people have been clamoring for a sequel for the entirety of the ‘10s, do yourself a favor and catch up with this very clever movie before you catch up with the sequel.