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Updated for September 2018
Our list of the best horror movies on Netflix contains a very important element: horror.
Horror is awesome. Contrary to popular opinion, there are very few things in life more valuable than being horrified. Nothing will get your imagination churning and your adrenaline pumping better than a horror movie.
So here we’ve compiled the best horror movies on Netflix right now so you can tap into your inner child and look inside your closet every night before you get in bed. Surely there is nothing in that clos….BOOOO! Did we get you? Probably not, you’ll have to watch the best horror movies on Netflix.
When Stephen King once discussed his inspiration for writing The Shining, he recalled the time he discovered his young son had destroyed story notes in his office. “I could kill him,” King mused of his mindset in that moment. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook likewise finds the darker side of parenting with the scariest film of 2014.
A horror movie that is ostensibly about what happens when a single, low-income mother discovers that her child’s nightmare boogeyman is real, there is genuinely realterror here that comes beating from the darker side of her “Babadook” heart. While a loving son, there is no denying that the film’s young Samuel is a “problem child,” and through supernatural possession his mama has found a grim solution of sorts. When William Friedkin calls it the most terrifying horror movie he’s seen, you’re doing something right. The Babadook can’t be fond on any other streaming service so it’s one of the best horror movies on Netflix indeed.
Beyond the Gates
Board games can be creepy. VHS tapes can be creepy. Combine the creepiest versions of both and you’ve got yourself a really creepy movie. Beyond the Gates debuted just last year at the L.A. Film Festival and has ridden its way to Netflix on tremendous word of mouth.
The indie horror movie involves two brothers who got to their father’s estate to settle his affairs after his death. While at his house, they discover a mysterious VHS board game that eventually leads them to clues regarding their father’s death…and pure abject horror.
Eli Roth’s debut film Cabin Fever combines two of our biggest fears: being sick and being isolated. The combination of those two feelings amounts to what has to be the most terrifying experience possible.
Despite now being 15 (!) years old, Cabin Fever holds up pretty well. It’s like a teenaged Dreamcatcher only it’s not awful. Plus Sean from Boy Meets World spends a shocking amount of screentime covered in blood.
Children of the Corn
Stephen King would have probably never guessed that what started as a short story about a teenage death cult’s horrific sacrifices to a shadowy figure (referred to only as He Who Walks Behind the Rows) would harvest its own cult of horror fans. When an unsuspecting couple driving through town is sidetracked by something gruesome on the edge of a cornfield, they get entangled with a group of brainwashed adolescents whose temple for all things unholy is the local church. There is blood, and corn leaves, and more blood. Then someone gets crucified.
Children of the Corn has that element of primal fear—like your heart beating so loud you can hear the blood roaring in your ears among the ominous rustle of the corn stalks as you run frantically through the never-ending fields. Whoever’s foreboding voice called it “an adult nightmare” in the original 1984 trailer was dead on.
2013’s The Conjuring is the first entry into an unexpected horror film franchise that ended up far more successful than it had any right to be. That’s what happens when you get talented people involved like horror maestro James Wan and superb actors Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Wilson and Farmiga star as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who are called to deal with a small paranormal spot of bother in Rhode Island.
The Conjuring is based on a real case of paranormal activity and terrifyingly and effectively sets up the continued film adventures of the Warrens.
Cult of Chucky
Who could have imagined that a horror franchise about a demonic child’s doll would last seven movies? Actually that sounds pretty rad. There really is no upper limit on this thing. Yes, Chucky and friends return in this seventh installment of the Child’s Play franchise.
Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) remains in a mental institution following the events of Curse of Chucky. While there she is assigned a Good Guy doll as a form of therapy. I mean…come on, man. Trained medical professionals should just know better than that. Sure enough blood hits the fan shortly thereafter.
Babysitting is a strange job. Parents need some time away from the kids for date nights and other events, of course. So they trust whatever local teen who needs $15 an hour to somehow keep their kids alive for a few hours. More often than not things go perfectly smoothly. But what if you pick the wrong babysitter? Even more terrifyingly, what if you pick the right babysitter but unbeknownst to you that’s not the person who shows up to your house that night?
Emelie is a 2015 horror film that exploits these fears perfectly. Sarah Bolger stars as the titular babysitting monsters and does such a good job I don’t know how she can be let around children ever again. Emelie is like an old urban legend writ terrifyingly large – just like all the best horror films are.
Some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most terror-inducing tales creep and crawl off the page in this animated horrorshow that isn’t just for kids. The aesthetic of each tale illustrates its particular terror. His Victorian nightmares materialize onscreen in different forms of animation ranging from eerie silhouettes to comic-book graphics to a 3-D effect that makes phantoms pop like digital origami. Poe himself (as—what else—a raven) converses with Death between tales, giving you enough time to catch your breath and calm the beating of your hideous heart before the next freakout.
The Tell-Tale Heart pounds beneath the floorboards in a series of black and white silhouettes, a stark visual of innocence and murder, set to a vintage narration by Bela Lugosi. The torture chamber in the Pit and the Pendulum is so lifelike you think you’re the one about to be razored open. Poe must be grinning from beyond the grave.
Who knew Joel Edgerton had it in him?
The Gift is the Australian actor’s writing and directing debut and it doesn’t disappoint. Edgerton stars as Gordon “Gordo” Mosely. He’s a nice enough middle-aged man if a little “off.” One day while shopping he runs into an old high school classmate Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall). After their brief encounter, Gordo takes it upon himself to start dropping off little gifts to Simon and Robyn’s home. Robyn sees no problem with it at first. But Simon becomes disturbed, perhaps because of the unique past Simon and Gordo share.
Many horror movies understand there must be a twist of some sort or at the very least an unexpected third act. Even still The Gift‘s third act switch up is particularly devastated because it is so mundane and logical. The Gift ends up being an emotional drama disguised as horror.
Of the first of three theatrical films that Clive Barker would direct himself, Hellraiser would go on to warrant eight sequels and create one of the most notorious horror franchises of all time. That said, this isn’t about the sequels. Part of the beauty of Hellraiser is how little we actually know about what is going on. While later tales would explain the origins of Pinhead and his Cenobites, the first film leaves this up to interpretation.
Hellraiser focuses on the relationship between Julia and Frank, not on the Cenobites’ interference (well, not until the end anyway). The first film is not the broad battle against evil the later installments would be, but an incredibly unique haunted house story. A corrupt romance growing ever more so. Sex and violence mixed with blood and guts. With a budget of roughly $1 million, Barker is able to craft a tale far more interesting and disturbing than better funded projects, the sequels included. Pain and pleasure, indivisible.
In his follow-up to the cult classic Oculus, Mike Flanagan makes one of the cleverer horror movies on this list. Hush is a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse with the typical nightmare of a home invasion occurring, yet it also turns conventions of that familiar terror on its head. For instance, the savvy angle about this movie is Kate Siegel (who co-wrote the movie with Flanagan) plays Maddie, a deaf and mute woman living in the woods alone. Like Audrey Hepburn’s blind woman from the progenitor of home invasion stories, Wait Until Dark (1967), Maddie is completely isolated when she is marked for death by a menacing monster in human flesh.
Further, like the masked villains of so many more generic home invasion movies (I’m looking square at you, Strangers), John Gallagher Jr.’s “Man” wears a mask as he sneaks into her house. However, the functions of this story are laid bare since we actually keep an eye on what the “Man” is doing at all times, and how he is getting or not getting into the house in any given scene. He is not aided by filmmakers who’ve given him faux-supernatural and omnipotent abilities like other versions of these stories, and he’s not an “Other;” he is a man who does take his mask off, and his lust for murder is not so much fetishized as shown for the repulsive behavior that it is. And still, Maddie proves to be both resourceful and painfully ill-equipped to take him on in this tense battle of wills.
All of this inversion and shrewdness makes Hush one of several excellent horror movies to come out of 2016.
Seeing your ex is always uncomfortable, but imagine if your ex-wife invited you to a dinner party with her new husband? That is just about the least creepy thing in this new, taut thriller nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Indeed, in The Invitation Logan Marshall-Green’s Will is invited by his estranged wife (Tammy Blanchard) for dinner with her new hubby David (Michael Huisman of Game of Thrones). David apparently wanted to extend the bread-breaking offer personally since he has something he wants to invite both Will and all his other guests into joining. And it isn’t a game of Scrabble…
Intense, strange, and not what you expect, this is one of the more inventive thrillers of 2016.
Independent horror has been enjoying a wonderful renaissance over the last three years, and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has been right at the forefront of this, hypnotically swaying away in its perverse delirium. Here is a movie that most forcefully makes the connection between death and sex, sin and punishment, which has haunted the genre for decades. And by setting its deconstructionist fairytale in a dreamlike amalgamation of the 1980s and the 21st century, it proves that Reagan era suburbia is our generation’s windswept European castles.
But above all else, it’s just an unnerving viewing experience that makes the relentless sensation of dread and death as inescapable for youth as the ticking crocodile is for a middle-aged Captain Hook. Maika Monroe’s Jay is a young woman who finds peace in illicit rendezvouses, but is then cruelly punished when her new boyfriend spreads a kind of supernatural STD: it’s a curse where once you have it, a ghost will slowly but eternally chase you until it can rape you to death… lest you pass the curse to someone else, who in turn must spread it farther afield. Cynical feminism or regressive exploitation? It’s an ongoing argument, but either way this movie is scary.
So you think you know the term “survival horror?” Not until you’ve seen Killing Ground, you don’t. Killing Ground is like Deliverance on speed. Australian couple Sam and Ian decide to take a nice, relaxing camping trip out in nature. Things don’t go quite as well as planned when the couple discover a bloodied infant wandering through the brush.
That sets them on a path to uncover and incredibly grisly crime and then struggle to escape. Never go camping. Never ever ever ever go camping.
Let Me In
Let Me In is an adaptation of the 2008 Swedish romantic horror film Let the Right One In. Both films deal with a young, bullied boy meeting and falling in love with a vampire girl. Let Me In seemed like an awful idea at the time. It came just two years after the original, which was considered to be a modern romance and horror classic. But this version, as directed by Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves is surprisingly good.
Let Me In is a faithful adaptation of the original without being derivitive and boring. The secret is in the direciton and cinematography. So much of what made Let the Right One In great was its quiet, snowy Scandanavian scenery. Let Me In finds equal levels of creepy serenity in the New Mexican desert.
The end result of Reeves’ scenery change and careful direction is great adaptation buoyed by superb performances from child actors (and members of the three name club) Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Another scary movie from 2014, Oculus also holds the title of being one of the most tragic in recent memory. Starring geek favorite Karen Gillan with a convincing American accent, this horror film plays like a particularly grim opera when two estranged siblings are reunited as adults after a decade’s distance.
Apparently on an ugly night 10 years ago, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) killed his father to defend himself and his sister. However, Tim insisted that an evil mirror forced his father’s hand. For his honesty, Tim was locked up in a psychiatric ward while older sister Kaylie (Gillan) waited on the outside. As an adult, Tim knows that he was simply coping with a traumatic situation… but Kaylie suspects that some things are evil simply on their own. Including a mirror that can distort your perception of reality.
On the day Tim gets out, Kaylie reveals she has acquired the mirror that they once both believed took their parents’ souls. And now she wants to prove her theory right by destroying it. But the mirror has other plans for the wayward children. And they’re deliriously cruel.
Raw is bloody and violent and weird and French and brilliant. It’s a French-Belgian movie from director Julia Ducournau about one young vegetarian woman and her sudden onset of…well, cannibalism. Justine attends a veterinarian school to continue her family’s tradition of animal care and vegetarianism.
One day she is forced to participate in a hazing ritual in which she is forced to eat raw rabbit kidney. That triggers something deep within her that leads her on an all-consuming pursuit of human flesh. Raw is nowhere near as corny as that description makes it sound. It’s actually quite artful and interesting, being French and all. It’s also a deceptively complete feminist fairy tale.
Cannibals get a bad rap. It’s nothing personal; they just need your energy to come closer to realizing their potential as mystic gods. That’s certainly the operating logic in Ravenous, a delicious slice of juicy horror-comedy.
In one of the most unlikely of genre mash-ups, Ravenous starts out as a period piece not that far removed from Dances with Wolves when Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is assigned to a desolate outpost by the U.S. cavalry in the 19th century. And there, he will meet a drifter (Robert Carlyle) who brings tales of cannibalism and survival in the wilderness. But as they approach where the incident occurred, it turns out there was no survival at all.
As horror derived from a comedy of manners, this is the sweetest tasting movie about consuming human flesh you’re likely to ever come across.
While hardly the masterpiece of self-congratulatory ‘90s meta-humor that Scream tended to be, there is still much going for the first follow-up in this Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson series. Made one year later in time for Christmas of 1997, Scream 2 logically follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) to the next stage: college.
There fellow survivors from the first film end up back in her orbit, like the encyclopedic Tarantino-esque movie fan, Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the abrasive tabloid journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and of course Deputy Dewey (David Arquette). But there is also another killer or two and a whole cast of suspects. The body count is increased, and the motive is deliciously post-modern and oh, so ‘90s. This is a great time capsule of an era where even our horror movies were happy right up until the bloody end.
The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense is much more than a twist ending. The nearly 20-year-old movie has been meme’d to within an inch of its life even back before we had a term for internet memes. “I see dead people,” the twist ending, etc. On some level that’s a shame because M. Night Shyamalan’s first big budget film effort remains a surprisingly excellent horror movie to this day.
Haley Joel Osment stars as the young Cole Sears, a boy plagued by visions of dead people wandering around his day-to-day life. Bruce Willis steps in as therapist Malcolm Crowe to help Cole. Seeing dead people in the condition in which they died every day is a pretty horrifying concept. And no amount of twist ending surprises can rob the images of the dead that populate The Sixth Sense of some power. This is a movie that is certainly overdue for a rewatch.
Here’s one that really cuts to the heart of the matter for both body horror and plenty of the vampire/demon lover mythology. In Teeth, Jes Weixler plays Dawn, a young woman who has not lost her virginity and is scared to do so. Dealing with heavy pressure from society to be both the virgin and the whore (she is in high school), she is in constant fear of her own body and sexuality. Soon, young men are likewise terrified since she suffers from the condition “vagina dentata.” No longer just a term to describe men’s fascination and fear of female genitalia, the term in this film means actual dental teeth lying in wait for any man who takes advantage of her without her consent.
Unfortunately for Dawn, she lives in a world where that is all too common (much like our own). Almost every man she meets is willing to use violence to get what he wants, and Dawn has her violent defense system to make sure that he never gets anything again after the teeth bite down. Both cathartic justice for a woman wronged, as well as the most nightmarish scenario imaginable for any male viewer, Teeth has to be seen to be believed.
Trollhunter is a found footage movie a la Cloverfield or Chronicle with one meaningful twist. It’s also a mockumentary with its chief characters being documentarians. This means that a lot of the “footage” they find a.k.a. the movie itself has a much cleaner, steadier look.
And that’s hugely important for this Norwegian dark fantasy film about, what else, a trollhunter. It isn’t outright horror per se but there is something quietly terrifying about the footage of this hulking monstrosities towering over snowy Scandinavian landscapes.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a fantastic little satire on the horror genre that, in a similar fashion to Scream, is packed with laughs, gore, and a bit of a message. When a group of preppy college students head out to the backwoods for a camping trip, they stumble upon two good-natured good ol’ boys that they mistake for homicidal hillbillies.
Their quick, off-the-mark judgment of Tucker and Dale lead to these snobs getting themselves into sticky, often bloody, and hilariously over-the-top situations. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil rides a one-joke premise to successful heights and teaches audiences to not judge a book by its cover.
Under the Shadow
This recent 2016 effort could not possibly be more timely as it sympathizes, and terrorizes, an Iranian single mother and child in 1980s Tehran. Like a draconian travel ban, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her son Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) are malevolently targeted by a force of supreme evil.
This occurs after Dorsa’s father, a doctor, is called away to serve the Iranian army in post-revolution and war-torn Iran. In his absence evil seeps in… as does a quality horror movie with heightened emotional weight.
We tried to keep found footage off this list as much as possible. However, Netflix continues rotating out the greatest horror, and sometimes a few bits of found footage are more than worth suffering through the gimmickry of an overall presentation. That is why we are not really recommending all of V/H/S/2, but simply two terrific sequences in it.
The first is Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale’s pretty nifty reinvention of the zombie genre, “A Ride in the Park.” The perfect amount of screentime for the film to feel clever without overstaying its welcome, the short features a cyclist named Mike who is trying to make a Go Pro video with a camera mounted on his helmet. Yet, when he finds a hiker that appears to have bitten off more than he can chew, Mike tries to be a good guy and stops to help. Things get wickedly fun from there.
Yet, the real standout is “Safe Haven,” a bizarre and exhilarating nightmare from Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans (of The Raid films!). When a news crew infiltrates an Indonesian cult that babbles about prophecy and the end of the world, they are shocked to discover that there is something even more sinister going on here than is imaginable. Relying on long, seemingly sustained handheld camera shots, “Safe Haven” goes completely into the realm of madness and Lovecraftian levels of freakiness as the short film rushes through a pulsating third act that will not let up.
What is Stranger Things-esque ’80s throwback The Void about? Allow Den of Geek critic Kirsten Howard to explain: “The film’s plot is simple enough, with an Assault On Precinct 13-esque set-up.
A fairly small gaggle of unfortunate souls find themselves trapped in a run-down hospital one evening, as a large cult of robe-wearing knife-wielders bear down on them from the outside and a plethora of endlessly-transforming gooey monsters try to consume them from the inside.”
If you let The Witch lure you into its cruel and malevolent headspace, you will immediately realize that you are watching something genuinely depraved and entirely forbidden due to its 17th century unholiness. After all, it didn’t get a thumb’s up from Satanists because it was a generic thriller stuffed with jump scares!
This art house chiller that drops you in the middle of early-1600s New England for the kind of witching campfire tale that would give Puritans nightmares. And it is there that Robert Eggers’ first film uses actual historic accounts from the local Calvinists about their real superstitions to give them life and heinous flesh (and an authentic Elizabethan accent).
There is a witch in the woods in this story, to appreciate it, that must be clear. And her evil reach toward brief salvation or eternal damnation—depending on how you look at it—makes this a movie that will stick with you for days after the lights go up. It’s also made Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the young Thomasin, an instant star within the genre.