Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page to see what the best horror movies on Netflix are at your convenience.
Updated for March 2020.
Is it Halloween when you’re reading this? If not, don’t worry: every day can be Halloween when you try hard enough.
There is nothing quite as fun as embracing the spooky, the creepy, the scary, and all that goes bump in the night. Thankfully we have horror movies to help us down these crepuscular paths. If you ever find yourself in need of a thrill or a chill, check out some of the best horror movies on Netflix, we’ve gathered here.
Every streaming service takes its sacred duty to scare seriously but Netflix in particular means business. These are some of the best horror movies the streaming world has to offer. Enjoy!
Apostle comes from acclaimed The Raid director Gareth Evans and is his take on the horror genre. Spoiler alert: it’s a good one.
Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, a British man in the early 1900s who must rescue his sister, Jennifer, from the clutches of a murderous cult. Thomas successfully infiltrates the cult led by the charismatic Malcom Howe (Michael Sheen) and begins to ingratiate himself with the strange folks obsessed with bloodletting. Thomas soon comes to find that the object of the cult’s religious fervor may be more real than he’d prefer.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Some kids dream about being left overnight or even a week at certain locations to play, like say a mall or a Chuck E. Cheese. One place that no one wants to be left alone in, however, is a Catholic boarding school.
That’s the situation that Rose (Lucy Boynton) and Kat (Kiernan Shipka) find themselves in in the atmospheric and creepy The Blackcoat’s Daughter. When Rose and Kat’s parents are unable to pick them up for winter break, the two are forced to spend the week at their dingy Catholic boarding school. If that weren’t bad enough, Rose fears that she may be pregnant…oh, and the nuns might all be Satanists.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter is an excellent debut directorial outing from Oz Perkins and another step on the right horror path for scream queens Shipka and Emma Roberts.
These days, everything is coming up J.J. J.J. Abrams resurrected the most important film franchise of all time with Star Wars and has all the “eff-you” money and creative points he could ever want. Hopefully, he cashes all that in to keep expanding the Cloverfield universe. The original 2008 Cloverfield, produced by Abrams and directed by Matt Reeves, is an ingenious twist on the monster movie concept.
A monster destroys New York, as monsters are wont to do but all the action is captured on the handheld cameras of our protagonists. “Found footage” movies have certainly had their day and Cloverfield can be counted among the best. Here’s to Abrams producing many more sci-fi thrillers with “Cloverfield” somewhere in the name.
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.
The Evil Dead
1981’s The Evil Dead is nothing less than one of the biggest success stories in horror movie history.
Written and directed on a shoestring budget by Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead uses traditional horror tropes to its great advantage, creating a scary, funny, and almost inconceivably bloody story about five college students who encounter a spot of bother in a cabin in the middle of the woods. That spot of bother includes the unwitting release of a legion of demons upon the world.
The Evil Dead rightfully made stars of its creator and lead Bruce Campbell. It was also the jumping off point for a successful franchise that includes two sequels, a remake, a TV show, and more.
Final Destination is the end result of what happens when a studio stumbles upon a pun so dank they have no choice but to make a movie. You may know the term “final destination” as what flight attendants say when they ask you if you’ve reached the end of your aviation journey or if you’re on a layover. “Final destination” could also conceivably mean “the grave.”
You marry those two concepts and you get a movie about a group of teenagers who cheat death by receiving a premonition that a plane will crash before take off and exiting. Not to be cheated, death then does whatever it can to finally kill those meddling teens. Final Destination is a creative horror movie that lives up to its awesome pun title. Fun fact: it was originally written as a script for The X-Files.
Friday the 13th
I know you see that screenshot of Jason in all his masked and machete’d glory above, and are feeling a white-hot burning horror movie nerd triggering like never before. “BUT JASON DIDN’T APPEAR IN THE FLESH IN THE ORIGINAL FRIDAY THE 13TH
I know, I know. He didn’t. And it’s all the better movie for it. The original Friday the 13th is a must watch for horror fans and non-horror fans alike. It features so many hallmarks of the slasher drama that we’ve grown to love. And yes, there is no actual Jason. The screengrab just looks cool.
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.
The Golem is such an awesome monster from Jewish mythology that it’s hard to believe they don’t make more movies about him. Well now they have. The Golem isn’t a straight-up remake of the 1915 movie of the same name so much as it is the next step in the evolution of this grim mythological beast.
During the outbreak of a plague, Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) will do whatever it takes to defend her community from outside invaders. Unfortunately, and in ture fairy tale fashion, the creature she conjures up to defend her community quickly develops a murderous mind of its own.
Green Room is a shockingly conventional horror movie despite not having all of the elements we traditionally associate with them. There are no monsters or the supernatural in Green Room.
Instead all monsters are replaced by vengeful neo-Nazis and the haunted house is replaced by a skinhead punk music club in the middle of nowhere in the Oregon woods. The band The Aint Rights, led by bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) are locked in the green room of club after witnessing a murder and must fight their way out.
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.
Insidious is the start of a multi-film horror franchise and a pretty good one at that. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as a married couple Josh and Renai Lambert who move into a new home with their three kids. Shortly after they move in, their son Dalton is drawn to a shadow in the attic and then falls into a mysterious coma from which they can’t wake him.
It’s at this point that the Lamberts do what horror fans always yell at characters to do: they move out of the damn house! Little do they know, however, that some hauntings go beyond mere domiciles.
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.
It Comes at Night
Surviving the apocalypse comes with a certain amount of questions. For starters, what do you do after you survive a global pandemic thanks to your secluded cabin in the woods…and then someone comes knocking? That’s the situation that the family consisting of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) find themselves in in It Comes at Night.
When Paul and his family come across another family in the woods seeking shelter and water, they hesitantly welcome them in. But this soon proves to be a dangerous decision. Having guests in the real world is annoying enough to deal with and it only becomes harder when you suspect that any one of them could be sick with a highly-contagious, utterly fatal illness.
The Last Exorcism
What could possibly make an exorcism movie scarier? Well, what about an exorcism movie, found footage style? The success of The Blair Witch Project ushered in the era of found footage horror films, and while many of them were misses, The Last Exorcism falls firmly into the “hit category.
The Last Exorcism follows evangelical minister Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) who decides to allow a film crew perform his last ever exorcism, as he no longer believes in the rite. Unfortunately for Cotton, this last exorcism turns out to be less of a fraud than he anticipated.
How is this movie PG-13? I mean, I know how. There are no genitals or F-words in it. There isn’t even really any gratuitous violence or gore. But when classifying what movies are appropriate for the youths, shouldn’t the MPAA factor in “pants-shitting terror that will scar your teenage mind for life?” The Ring is a wonderfully terrifying movie.
It’s the story of a video tape (lol remember those?) that after you watch it, you receive a phone call from a mysterious, scratchy voice informing you that you will die in seven days. The video tape and the phone caller have a 100% success rate in this whole dying in seven days thing. Naomi Watts stars as Rachel Keller, a journalist who wants to get to the bottom of this story. Little does she know it’s at the literal bottom of a well.
If you don’t know the ending yet for Rosemary’s Baby, let me promise you that it will scare the Hell out of you. Even if you do know it, this movie will not be any less than petrifying, lingering long after credits roll for any couple. Made before “jump scares” became ubiquitous with American horror in 1968, Roman Polanski presents a mystery film suffocating with dread and unspoken tension. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is the happy homebody for her self-centered thespian husband (John Cassavetes) when they move into an Upper West Side apartment with the nicest neighbors.
Plus, their building has history too, like a Devil worshipping warlock who was beaten to death by a mob at the turn of the century. It also has a lovely basement perfect for summoning demons for a little midnight rape. This movie is meant to be savored and slowly unpacked, and when you find the newborn sleeping underneath all those blankets—you’ll wish you never laid eyes on it or this movie. Isn’t that the point of horror?
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.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Yes, this is a musical. A bloody good one at that! It is also the last truly great Tim Burton movie and it plays just as much to his obsession with classic 1930s and ‘40s horror as it does to Stephen Sondheim melodies. Indeed, the film is intentionally evocative of the misty London soundstages from classic Universal horror movies like Dracula and the more psychologically hellish Val Lewton efforts of the ‘40s, such as The Body Snatcher. The movie has an almost black and white appearance until the bright red blood starts pouring by the bucket load.
More a tragedy in Burton’s hands than a comedy, this is the grimmest musical ever put to screen and its ending haunts the mind with as much intensity as the melancholic ballads.
Don’t let the name fool you, Sweetheart is very much a horror movie. What kind of horror movie, you ask? Well, after a boat sinks during a storm, young Jennifer Remming (Kiersey Clemons) is the only survivor. She washes ashore a small island and gets to work burying her friends, creating shelter, and foraging for food. You know: deserted island stuff.
Soon, however, Jenn will come to find that the island is not as deserted as she previously thought. There’s something out there – something big, dangerous, and hungry. Sweetheart is like Castaway meets Predator and it’s another indie horror hit for Blumhouse.
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 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.
What Lies Beneath
When director Bob Zemeckis isn’t out there changing cinema forever with charming, family-friendly films like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, he’s apparently looking for the darkest, most terrifying scripts he can find to direct. He succeeds in doing so with the Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer-starring What Lies Beneath
Ford and Pfeiffer star as married couple Norman and Claire Spencer. Norman and Claire live in a quiet Vermont house where everything is hunky-dory until Claire notices some suspicious activity from their neighbors across the street. The path that Claire’s suspicions set her on lead her to terrifying revelations about her own, idyllic life.
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.