Scary films are perfect for scary times: if that’s a sentiment you believe then Netflix has you covered.
From slasher flicks and Stephen King adaptations, to genre-defining classics, cult thrillers and psychological whodunits – there’s something for every fright enthusiast on the platform.
While you’re most likely to find relatively recent hits such as A Quiet Place and It on the platform, there are also a few older gems – such as David Cronenberg’s iconic body horror film Videodrome.
To get your fright fix, we’ve picked out some of the best horror movies on Netflix right now. And beware: you’re in for a scare
American Psycho (2000)
A lean and mean modern horror must-watch, American Psycho perfectly dissects American yuppie culture of the 1990s. But that’s not the reason to watch this 101-minute cult classic. The movie is carried by lead Christian Bale, who serves up a horrifying and hilarious performance as New York investment Patrick Bateman, a man obsessed with status and style. Oh, and violent murder too.
Based on the 1992 novel of the same name, the movie follows Bateman as he dives deeper into his hedonistic fantasies – all the while hiding his psychopathic alter-ego from his co-workers.
Gradually becoming more surreal, this darkly hilarious satire of Manhattan business culture unfolds into a bloody crescendo you won’t forget in a hurry. Already seen it? We promise a re-watch will be worth it: American Psycho carries so many hidden details you’ll spot something new with every viewing.
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The Perfection (2019)
If you like your horror films with plenty of twists, The Perfection is for you. It follows troubled cello prodigy Charlotte (Get out’s Allison Williams), who is forced to leave a prestigious music school after her mother falls terminally ill. She then decides to meet Elizabeth (Dear White People’s Logan Browning), the new star pupil of her former school. However, the meeting takes each musical star down an unexpected – and downright sinister – route.
Sure, it’s an emotionally draining watch, but one that expertly explores the limits of human kindness and evil (albeit with a few heavy-handed metaphors along the way). In short, The Perfection will leave you screaming, then wondering what on earth THAT twist meant.
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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of the highest-grossing films of 1991, The Silence of the Lambs is a chilling psychological thriller based on Ted Tally’s novel of the same name. Directed by the late Jonathan Demme, the film follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) who is tasked with interviewing an incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, played by a terrifying Anthony Hopkins, in the hope of finding at-large murderer Buffalo Bill.
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s performances are golden, hence why both A-listers won Oscars after the film’s release, while the film as a whole does not disappoint viewers expecting to be sat permanently on the edge of their seats. Tense, exciting and gory at points, The Silence of the Lambs contains everything you want from a thrilling horror movie.
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Dan Stevens is Thomas Richardson. Set in 1905, Richardson embarks on a journey to an idyllic Welsh island to rescue his sister, who has been taken hostage by a religious cult led by Malcolm Howe (Michael Sheen). She is to be ransomed to provide money for “running costs” of the cult, so Richardson poses as a convert in order to find and save her. However, once Malcolm begins to catch the scent of a traitor in his ranks, the pressure ramps up and islanders’ corruption boils over.
Director Gareth Evans, creator of the remarkable Raid films, opts for slow-burning, agonising horror, tension-popping horror, as opposed to reliance on jumps and cheap tricks. It all adds up to a two-hour slog, a brutal watch at times, but one that steadily morphs from one film into a very different one by the end. One of Netflix’s best efforts at producing an original horror movie.
Watch Apostle on Netflix
David Cronenberg is one of the masters of the genre – with the veteran Canadian director well known as one of the originators of the “body horror” sub-genre. Videodrome, which was released in 1983, is a particularly well-known example – starring James Woods as the CEO of a television station who begins to lose his grip on reality shortly after discovering an unusual broadcast signal that shows horrifically violent scenes including gratuitous torture.
What follows is a surreal, uneasy and above all terrifying experience as the central character is sucked deep into a conspiracy – with disastrous results. The film established Cronenberg in the relative mainstream for the first time, and is now considered one of the finest examples of body horror – with the special effects and musical score often singled out for praise. Its legacy remains strong, and it was named the 89th-most-essential film in history by the Toronto International Film Festival.
Watch Videodrome on Netflix
Stephen King books have long been a common source of horror films – and have spawned some of the most enduring hits in the genre. This 2017 film by Andy Muschietti, which was followed by a sequel last year, was particularly well-received, becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time, surpassing a long-standing record that had been held by The Exorcist since the 1970s.
The film boasted an exceptional young cast – with Stranger Things alumni Finn Wolfhard putting in an especially memorable performance and Sophia Lillis also impressing in the role of Beverley – and pulled off the tricky accomplishment of managing to be both funny and scary in equal measure. It also played into the 80s nostalgia that has been immensely popular in recent years, resulting in a very faithful adaptation of King’s work – although one notably controversial scene towards the end of the book is sensibly left out.
Watch It on Netflix
Slasher flick Hush follows Maddie Young (Kate Siegel), a deaf woman who lost the ability to hear and speak after contracting bacterial meningitis as a child. She is soon targeted by a masked serial killer (John Gallagher Jr), who chases her around her home while she attempts to evade him.
A terrifying cat-and-mouse scare from thriller aficionado Mike Flanagan, Hush is an intimate 80 minutes of home invasion horror that’ll have you double-checking your locks.
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Shia LaBeou, Carrie-Anne Moss and David Morse star in this engaging teen flick that plays like Rear Window for the Facebook generation. A troubled teenager is sentenced to three months under house arrest for attacking a teacher and, thoroughly bored, passes the time by spying on his neighbours. However, one day he notices something suspicious and becomes convinced one of them is a serial killer. Full of tension and scary moments to make you jump, best not watch this one alone…
Watch Disturbia on Netflix
Under the Shadow (2016)
This 2016 Persian-language release from British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari is a classic example of the way horror films can often act as allegories for serious and relevant themes and issues. The film follows a mother, Shideh and daughter living in war-torn 1980s Iran, whose apartment building is hit by a missile. A superstitious neighbour claims that the missile was cursed, carrying malevolent Middle-Eastern spirits – and this suspicion leads Shideh to believe that her daughter is being possessed.
What follows is a chilling, powerful films works both as a piece of horror fiction and an update on the haunted house genre, but also as a prescient social commentary on conflict in the Middle East. It includes some genuinely brilliant performances from its cast and was selected as the UK’s submission for the foreign language film award at the 2017 Oscars – although it did not get nominated by the Academy.
Watch Under the Shadow on Netflix
This prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic creature feature does justice to the first film’s enduring legacy, as another group of scientists are terrorised by a shapeshifting alien entity. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Birds of Prey) channels Ellen Ripley in the main role, leading the fight against The Thing in one of the roles that made her a genre favourite.
Joel Edgerton (Bright) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) co-star in this thriller which leads directly into the events of the first film. It follows the beats of the original a little too slavishly and it would have been nice to see practical effects used instead of CGI, but this should still be a fun ride for fans of Carpenter’s nightmarish monster.
Watch The Thing on Netflix
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
This instalment in The Conjuring film series explores the origin of Annabelle, a haunted doll from the collection of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Set in the 1950s, the film opens with Samuel and Esther Mullins devastated by the loss of their young daughter, who is killed when she is hit by a car. Years later, they welcome six orphaned girls and a nun into their home, who discover the mysterious doll that appears to have a life of its own.
While not revolutionary in its execution, Annabelle: Creation was recognised as a significant improvement on the film that preceded it, as well as another solid addition to the expanding Conjuring universe. Talitha Bateman (Love, Simon), Stephanie Sigman (Spectre) and Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings) lead the cast.
Watch Annabelle: Creation on Netflix
Blue Velvet (1986)
It’s probably fair to say that the work of surrealist master David Lynch more or less defies conventional genre categorisation – with the word “Lynchian” almost having become a genre descriptor in its own right. And while his 1986 masterpiece Blue Velvet might not be a horror film in the conventional sense of the word, its weird, nightmarish mood certainly qualifies it as a piece of psychological horror – and not one for the faint-hearted.
The films explores the dark, seedy underbelly of suburban America by focusing on the story a young student, Jeffrey, played by Kyle MacLachlan (who would later star in perhaps the most iconic Lynch role of all, Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks). One day Jeffrey discovers a severed human ear while he is wandering through his neighbourhood, and, determined to find the source of the ear, he joins forces with the daughter of a detective (Laura Dern) to investigate. Advanced warning – after watching you’ll never hear the music of Roy Orbison the same way again.
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Simply the fact that Beetle Juice was poured out from the mind of Tim Burton should give you some idea as to what you should expect. This classic 80s film is peak Burton, full of imaginative new ways to prevent you from sleeping.
The premise revolves around a recently deceased couple (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who are stuck haunting the next tenants of their former home. They unsuccessfully try to get rid of the new family – including Winona Ryder among the cast list – but require the assistance of the titular poltergeist Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). Keaton produces some of his most manic work in this twisted comedy romp, filled with all the bizarreness you would expect a Burton production to be laced with. The dated practical effects and CGI make the whole production even more unnerving with some grotesquely weird images sure to be seared into your mind no matter what age you are.
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Another Stephen King brainchild was brought to life in 1990 by Rob Reiner. Misery strikes an uncomfortable nerve even now in this day and age of online TV and film fandoms gaining increasing power. Social media provides a prime platform for millions to vent their views at authors covertly, hiding behind usernames and display pictures if content creators dare to venture in unpopular directions.
Kathy Bates brings out the full range, from perky to deranged, in Misery as her character Annie Wilkes rescues revered author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) from a car crash. She soon discovers Paul has killed off a beloved character in her favourite Misery novel series and embarks on a tyrannical reign of captivity and torture against the author in a bid to force a new story, to change the events of his intended book. It’s a tense, gripping watch with both Caan and Bates excelling in their roles. Bates picked up a best actress Oscar for her unhinged display – one of just a few top honours afforded to antagonists over the years.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
A horror film directed and starred in by The Office’s Jim Halpert – aka the Least Scary or Intimidating Man in the World – was enough to capture the attention of a whole new audience, even if it didn’t fill many of us with confidence the end result would be such a solid film. John Krasinski has made a concerted effort in recent years to shake off the “Jim” niceness with roles in 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Jack Ryan, and in A Quiet Place he cuts his directorial teeth in style.
He stars as the father of the Abbott family, joined by real-world wife Emily Blunt, as they are forced to live in total silence while hiding from monsters with super sensitive hearing. The lack of sound throughout most of the film doesn’t become any less tense. There’s a particularly strong performance by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf teen actress, who plays the daughter Regan in powerful style throughout. This film is to everyday chit-chat what Jaws is to summer beach holidays…
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Bird Box (2018)
Directed by The Night Manager’s Susanne Bier and starring Sandra Bullock, Bird Box has been described as “A Quiet Place – but with blindfolds” and was a global smash hit when it first arrived on Netflix in December 2018. Bullock plays a mother who must protect her children from mysterious creatures who, once glimpsed, drive people to suicide or turn them into homicidal psychopaths, and covering their eyes is their only protection…
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Read our full Bird Box review
Martin Freeman in a zombie apocalypse. Need more convincing to watch this movie? If so, we should tell this Netflix original sees The Hobbit star play Andy, a father stranded in rural Australia after the globe is struck by a pandemic. Fortunately, it’s nothing COVID-related. Unfortunately, this disease spawns an army of the undead within 48 hours, one Andy must keep from attacking a new-born infant.
Although it sounds a by-the-numbers zombie flick, this well-crafted and critically-acclaimed movie packs an emotional depth unseen in many horrors, primarily due to Freeman’s mesmerising performance. And sure, it’s light on jump scares, but we still challenge you to trek in the Aussie outback after watching Cargo.
Quarantine stands out as one of the better found-footage horrors on streaming, produced before the format became entirely worn out. The film is a remake of a creepy Spanish-language offering called [Rec] and isn’t quite as strong as what inspired it – as is often the case with remakes. Still, it’s a very solid choice for a spooky night in with enough scares to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and Steve Harris (The Practice) star as a news reporter and camera man tasked with following a firefighting crew on their night shift. An emergency call takes them to an apartment block where they are quickly attacked by a rabid woman, prompting the CDC to quarantine the building – with no-one allowed to leave…
Watch Quarantine on Netflix
The Cabin in the Woods (2010)
Our strongest advice for this one? Go in as dark as possible. Avoid trailers, avoid any form of plot synopsis, just check straight in to The Cabin in the Woods.
Have you gone now? No? OK then, we’ll try to keep this vague. Five token friends journey to a remote, dark cabin in the woods and it doesn’t go well. Your first impressions of this one are not going to be positive ones, you’ve seen this before in every. single. B-movie. ever. Expect eye rolling and face-palm moments as Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard drag out every horror cliche imaginable before ripping the rug straight out from under your feet in this subverting horror flick.
Chris Hemsworth – fresh from big breaks in Star Trek and Thor – is joined by Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison for The Cabin in the Woods. Prepare yourself. Whatever you think is going to happen, probably won’t.
Watch The Cabin in the Woods on Netflix
Madeline Brewer steals the show in this gritty psychological thriller set in the salacious world of online webcam pornography. Her character, Alice, becomes increasingly obsessed with being Number 1, and resorts to increasingly daring and extreme measures to climb the ranking system, culminating with a fake suicide broadcast that proves enough to nudge her into the top 50. Soon after, her identity is copied by a mysterious doppelgänger, leading to an intense hunt for the culprit.
Screenwriter Isa Mazzei – a former cam girl herself – drew on her own experiences of exploitation in the industry as she crafted the story. Originally imagined as a documentary, Mazzei felt a horror movie was the only way to portray the underbelly of the industry, with numerous cries for help to the police and other authorities going unheeded and written off due to the nature of her career. A modern horror for modern audiences.
Watch Cam on Netflix
James Wan’s work creating the Saw franchise put him on the map in the slasher genre, but Insidious saw the Malaysian director successfully tread deeper down true horror lines than previously. He took on the Insidious project in a bid to prove his capabilities outside of blood and guts horror, and managed to produce a blockbuster with some genuinely chilling moments.
Insidious is a haunted house ride. It stays on a steady track, but the film is packed with a variety of demonic forces that always have you scanning the screen for the next scare. There’s little reliance on gore, but less is more here. The film does a fantastic job of ramping up the paranoia with constant suggestions that you might have seen something in your peripheral vision, and occasionally you will. This sustains the threat throughout the movie, coupled with an atmospheric score and cast led by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne.
Watch Insidious on Netflix
Spanish film Veronica was released to much fanfare in 2017 with some critics and many on social media branding it “the scariest movie of all time”. Director Paco Plaza had already built a cult following after his successful creation of the [Rec] trilogy, but Veronica caused a storm once it landed on Netflix.
The story follows Veronica (Sandra Escacena) who uses a ouija board during a total eclipse of the sun, a time when dark prevails over light, and events on Earth are believed to reflect that mantra. The glass smashes, she passes out, and seemingly recovers, but the girls’ experience changes Veronica. The rest of the films consists of relentless psychological warfare. How much is reality? How much is in Veronica’s head? The whole things gets crazy.
Oh, and it is loosely based on true events from a tragic case of Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro in 1991. A girl died in Vallecas under mysterious circumstances after using a ouija board. Sleep well.
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This Stephen King adaptation set in the titular year follows the story of a farming family in Nebraska with the father Wilf James (Thomas Jane) citing the mantra “a man’s pride is his land” as a rule to live by. His wife Arlette (Molly Parker) wants out, however. She intends to move to the city, upgrade, leave the tough slog of farm life behind. In response, Wilf conspires to kill Arlette with the help of son Henry (Dylan Schmid).
1922 is a bleak tale, certainly not one for the rat-haters in your life, but it is transferred very well from page to screen by Zak Hilditch with many critics hailing it as one of the best efforts at replicating King’s work on screen. Much of the trauma throughout stems from the guilt ebbing away at Wilf’s consciousness, a slow chipping away of his resolve, and while there’s little cheer to go around, it’s a worthy Netflix production.
Watch 1922 on Netflix
The Purge (2013)
As with many of the best horror films, simple premises often bear the most effective end products. The Purge sets out a very basic one indeed: for one night of the year, all crime is legalised. That’s an instantly compelling line which should have you scrambling throughout the film, racking your brains as to what you’d do in any given circumstance. Would you camp out and hope for the best? Or do you have a score to settle?
The dystopian world of The Purge is created by James DeMonaco and boasts the weighty names of Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke among its cast. The success of The Purge spawned a whole range of sequels and spin-offs, but one is enough to whet your whistle as it forces you to answer uncomfortable questions about yourself. You can’t help but feel dragged into situations as they escalate in a world that certainly bears a resemblance to the one we live in now.
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The premise couldn’t be more corny, you’d be forgiven for thinking horror had completely ran out of ideas in the early 80s when Christine found its way into cinemas, but once again Stephen King comes up trumps with a gripping storyline plucked straight out of a fast and furious nightmare. How could a garish red-and-white 1958 Plymouth Fury possibly be scary? Well, mission accomplished.
Christine is a car, that much we have deduced, possessed by an evil spirits deep within the chassis. The car seduces a 17-year-old boy Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) who becomes deeply obsessed with the car, obeys the car, worships the car, with deadly consequences. We told you it’s corny on paper, but the result is surprisingly effective, making Christine a cult classic horror flick that everyone need to experience once. Like many horror films, it won’t be for everyone, but maybe a haunted car is right up your street.
Watch Christine on Netflix
Arguably the most trippy film on the list, Climax is a deranged technicolour depiction of a dance party gone horribly off the rails. A troupe of young dancers start out innocently enough, nailing a rehearsal that leads to celebratory drinks and an afterparty. However, upon downing sangria that has been laced with LSD, the group rapidly descends into all-out anarchy. This is a psychological drama where secrets are revealed, paranoia boils over, mania assumes command, a lawless explosion.
It’s a graphic watch, with strong violence, graphic nudity, drug use, the full works, as director Gaspar Noe seeks to unsettle his audience at every opportunity. It’s intentionally a trial to watch as the somersaulting camerawork sends your own head spinning at times. Visceral images and vibrant colours add to the sensory overload, but somehow it all falls into place to provide a spectacle as opposed to a disorganised mess. There’s method in the madness.
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The Invitation (2018)
Distressing, unnerving, deeply unsettling. Events of The Invitation are the result of failing to cull your Facebook friend list. Occasionally you’re going to get invited along to something that you’ll actually attend, and you’ll wish you simply clicked ignore. Game of Thrones’s Daario Naharis finally washes up in the Hollywood Hills as Michiel Huisman plays the role of David who invites a bunch of “lost contacts” to his house along with wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard). Guests include Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy E Corinealdi). Will had previously been married to Eden, but the pair split up following the accidental death of their son. A return to his former home sees Will become increasingly paranoid about his ex-wife’s motives for the invitation.
This is a paranoia-driven experience that leaves you as befuddled as the party guests as to what is real and what is psychological. It’s a steady-build, but the pay-off is worthy of a place in your viewing schedule.
Watch The Invitation on Netflix
Alex Garland follows up his stellar directorial debut Ex Machina with this sci-fi horror oddity. Lena (Natalie Portman) is a US army soldier who joins a squad tasked with the terrifying mission of entering a strange alien zone (known as the Shimmer), from which a number of exploratory teams have never returned. Upon entering the surreal place, she and her squadmates encounter some truly macabre and nightmarish beasts, but push on to the lighthouse where they hope to find answers.
Portman gives a brilliant performance in the lead role, with Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) all giving memorable supporting turns. Its ending proved a little divisive when the film was first released, but the journey Annihilation takes you on is more than worth your time, boasting gripping tension and striking visuals throughout.
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Ethan Hawke heads up this violent, supernatural horror thriller centred around the discovery of a box of disturbing home movies. Hawke – who plays the role of true crime writer Ellison Oswalt – moves his unwitting wife and kids to a house which previously belonged to a family murdered by hanging in the garden, because that is a completely normal thing to do when eyeing up a property investment.
Upon arrival, he discovers a box of Super 8 reels contains innocuously labelled home movies of a BBQ, family party, even mowing the lawn. What a laugh. Of course, none of the footage is pleasant, and all of it features the grainy demonic figure of Bughuul, a pagan deity who appears responsible for the murders.
He doesn’t actually receive a great deal of screen time, but his frightening appearances always dangle the threat of him showing up at any moment. Once again, it’s your imagination that provides a heavy dose of the horror in this one.
Watch Sinister on Netflix
The Babysitter (2017)
Those looking for a dose of horror that isn’t to be taken too seriously, look no further than The Babysitter. Judah Lewis (The Christmas Chronicles) stars as 12-year-old Cole Johnson, who develops a crush on his beautiful babysitter Bee, after she defends him from a neighbourhood bully. Unfortunately, after sneaking out of his room late at night, he discovers that she and her friends belong to a murderous demonic cult.
The film is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but succeeds largely due to the performance from Samara Weaving (Ready or Not), who displays natural charisma and comic timing. Perhaps not for everyone, The Babysitter should win over anyone nostalgic for the slasher movies of the 1980s – and a sequel is on the way later this year…
Watch The Babysitter on Netflix