Halloween: A time for scrounging up items, taping them to different appendages and watching partying strangers clumsily dance to “The Monster Mash” when you’d rather be watching movies with a bowl full of candy sitting comfortably in your lap.
It's a holiday built on embracing the supernatural, creepy, macabre and gloriously weird. Sitting down with a group of friends and marathoning films that fit that description has been a cherished tradition. Whether you're watching Hellraiser or Monsters Inc, there's nothing better than vegging out with a few movies and slowly sinking into a sugar-induced coma.
Now, doing that is even easier with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu available. No longer do you have to venture out into the frosty October air and stand behind some guy in Blockbuster who inevitably steals the last bag of Sour Patch Kids after choosing one of the last C-list titles on the shelf.
But, as anyone with Netflix knows, sometimes choosing a movie among all the possibilities leads to streaming fatigue. Unable to make a decision, you just end up watching that one episode of Arrested Development for the hundredth time.
So this Halloween, Polygon has scoured Netflix to pick some of the best movies to watch. While some of these are your typical fright night worthy picks for the horror aficionado, others are cult comedies with a creepy twist, terrifying documentaries and tension packed foreign films that demand your attention.
Tear open that pack of M&M's, pour some chips into a bowl and queue up a few of these titles.
For those looking to let out a delightful scream at an amputated foot or gorily grim scene, these are not to be missed.
The movie that turned Jeffrey Combs into the horror icon that he is, the 1985 film gained notoriety within the genre for using some of the best CGI effects of the era. Visually comparable to Hellraiser and Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, Stuart Gordon's film added an extra element of grotesqueness that helped pave the way for future horror.
Combs' nuanced take on the "mad scientist" role refreshed an antiquated narrative and reestablished the Jekyll and Hyde angle for an entirely new audience.
When most people think of The Fly, they immediately conjure up the image of grossly disfigured Jeff Goldblum spewing green liquid from his mouth. While David Cronenberg's 1986 version may be the more popular installment, the original 1958 film was equally as horrifying. Starring the godfather of horror Vincent Price, The Fly is one of the best introductions to classic horror films for the '50s.
A bit of a bittersweet mention, They is one of the late Wes Craven's later works. Although it's not his best, it just doesn't feel right to have a Halloween movie night marathon without including a Craven title. It also doesn't feel right for Netflix not to have Craven's original Nightmare on Elm Street available to watch, but it "is what it is," as the kids say.
As a series, the entire Saw franchise left most people with a bitter aftertaste. Story was replaced with excessive gore that did nothing to move the series forward after director Darren Lynn Bousman was done with it. The first installment, however, directed by James Wan, was one of the best horror films of the past fifteen years. While the film was key to the rise in popularity of "torture porn" subgenre of horror that "Splat Pack" directors like Eli Roth and the aforementioned Bousman helped make famous, Saw found its tension in the conversation between the two main actors on screen, Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannel.
If you're looking for a movie that's perhaps a little less gruesome but will still induce some heart palpitations, here are a few of the best thrillers you can stream.
One of the most underappreciated films of last year, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, an ambitious journalist who begins to intertwine himself with the crimes he’s covering to get ahead. The film does an excellent job of making you uneasy as you watch Bloom’s descent into depravity, and Gyllenhaal excels at turning Bloom into a real, if deranged, person instead of a caricature.
The Guest stars Dan Stevens as a solider who ventures to the home of his supposed friend that died in action. While he’s at first welcomed with open arms by his friend’s family, they start asking questions following a series of unfortunate events There’s never a dull moment in The Guest, and both Stevens’ disturbing performance and the high-octane action will keep your hair standing on end the entire time.
One of Christian Bale's most daring roles, The Machinist seamlessly combines an eerie narrative and occasional gore. It’s one of the least-comfortable movie-going experiences — in the best way possible. Bale plays Trevor Reznik, an industrial worker who hasn’t slept in over a year. He begins to doubt his own sanity as he finds himself stuck in a constant state of sleep-deprived paranoia. This one will leave an imprint on your psyche, so it's best not to watch alone.
Starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone, Paul Verhoeven’s iconic Basic Instinct features one of cinema’s most notable scenes. It’s so much more than that, however, as Sharon Stone delivers an absolutely stunning performance as Catherine Tramell, a manipulative maybe killer who wraps Douglas' Detective Nick Curran in her dangerous web of lies and deceit.
Both horror movies and thrillers tend to use women for one of two things: bait or damsels in distress. In Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, stars Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman are neither of the above. Instead, the story follows Thurman's "The Bride" as she wakes up from a four year coma and seeks out the assassin team that betrayed her in the first place. Certainly the goriest films on this particular list, the Kill Bill series isn’t so much terrifying as it is exhilarating.
These smaller horror and thriller titles may have flown under your radar upon release, but they are worth your time and attention.
Easily the scariest film to be released this year, The Babadook follows the recently widowed Amelia and her son Samuel as they begin to realize there's an unnatural, evil presence lurking around their house.
A brilliant take on the sometimes stale haunted house subgenre, it's genuinely difficult to get through this movie without covering your eyes or grasping onto the arm of the person next to you.
Byzantium, more than anything else, plays with the aesthetics of color better than most horror movies. On top of Victorian-era costumes and a surprisingly engaging story, Byzantium came out of nowhere and made its mark on the modern horror scene. Most interestingly, it brought the strong, sensual female vampire back to the forefront of horror cinema, instead of presenting them as visually appealing but otherwise inessential seductresses.
The Dirties follows two high school friends as they navigate the world of being unpopular teenagers in a Toronto suburb, dealing with bullies, and planning out their fantasy of killing anyone that's ever bothered them. The film uses a constant stream of pop-culture referenced dialogue, and makes the two main characters feel as authentic as possible. More disturbing than scream out loud scary, The Dirties will stay with you long after it's done.
Four Rooms is an episodic film consisting of four segments, each helmed by a different director. The episodes share a setting and follow the lives of four groups of people taking up residence in a hotel. The one character that ties the episodes together, The Bellboy, is played by Tim Roth and it's his performance that stands out above the rest. Four Rooms is undoubtedly one of the weirdest films to come from co-directors … but it’s that strangeness that makes it perfect for Halloween.
Any fan of film — especially horror — will tell you that limiting yourself to English-speaking movies means you'll miss some of the best titles in cinematic history. Don't count out these movies this Halloween season.
This Norwegian movie made waves in the horror community when it was first released in 2009. The Nazi-zombie movie wasn't the first of its kind, but it was the first to treat that genre with both respect and self-aware silliness. The characters are both lovable and spiffs of classic genre tropes, showcasing the stupidity of horror films that have become a staple in the genre. People looking for a film chockfull of gore and fake blood should definitely put this at the top of their list.
Based on Koushun Takami's novel of the same name, Battle Royale is one of the most iconic horror movies to come out of Japan. The story is set on an island where a class of high school students are taken after being drugged. In order to get off the island and return home, they are forced to kill each other off until only one student is left standing.
The movie’s perfect combination of psychological terror and gore created a formula which so many other films have since followed to varying success.
Director Chan-wook Park's most notable film, Oldboy, was recently remade for an English-speaking audience by Spike Lee and starred Josh Brolin. Unfortunately, like most remakes, it simply didn't pack the same punch as Park's. One of the most beautifully shot films in horror, the twist this South Korean film threw at audiences back in 2003 still holds up today.
Like Oldboy, Let The Right One In was the subject of an English-speaking remake, Let Me In, back in 2010. And like Oldboy, the remake simply didn't live up to its predecessor.
The movie follows Oskar, a 12-year-old boy who fantasizes about getting revenge on the bullies he goes to school with. When he meets Eli, a child-like vampire, he falls in love and partners with her to exact his vengeful plans.
Unlike other movies on this list, I Saw The Devil hasn’t been remade — not yet, anyway. The director of the aforementioned The Guest is currently working on bringing this film to Western audiences. Sickeningly gory, the lead assassin’s lack of empathy or restraint can seem downright degrading, but it works to the South Korean film’s advantage. This is a truly disturbing experience that serves its audience perfectly.
Just because it's a cult classic doesn't mean it has to be scary. Some of these are comedies, some are thrilling, and one's a musical!
Remembered as the film where actor Brandon Lee died on set during a terrible mishap, The Crow is an iconic cult film. In the film, Lee plays a murdered man brought back from the dead to avenge his and his fiancee's death. While the events surrounding the film may be unfortunate, The Crow is undeniably a Halloween must-watch.
One of Winona Rider's finest roles and a staple in the teen film genre, Heathers is a black comedy that revolves around the murders of various "cool kids," committed by two outsiders. Not only is the dialogue incredibly sharp, but Rider and Christian Slater's on-screen chemistry is charismatic. Despite their horrible selves, it's impossible not to root for them the entire time.
One of Tom Hanks' most underrated films, The Burbs follows overworked Suburban man who joins his neighbor in proving that the new family down the street belongs to a cannibalistic cult. Downright ridiculous, it's the perfect lighthearted movie for the Halloween celebrator who doesn't want to be terrified walking home afterward, which is a totally legitimate concern.
Robert Rodriguez's vampire movie never quite received the box office love he was hoping for, but it’s developed a devoted cult following over the years, thanks to the advent of DVDs and, appropriately, streaming. From Dusk Till Dawn stars George Clooney and Harvey Keitel as two criminals who join their hostages in seeking refuge in a town populated with vampires, unbeknownst to them It's not the scariest vampire movie — not by a long shot — but it's a bloody good time.
Escape From Tomorrow gained notoriety even before it was released. The film’s director exiled himself to South Korea in order to complete the film, after Disney executives threatened to take action against him for filming the entire project in Disney World without permission.
The black-and-white film follows a father on vacation at America's favorite theme park as he slowly descends into madness. The film isn't spectacular from a narrative perspective, but the story of how it was shot is absolutely fascinating.
If you want to learn more about a particular movie or something that will scare the heebie-jeebies out of you, these documentaries will serve your educational needs this Halloween.
Th quintessential horror documentary, Room 237 is a foray into fan theories surrounding one of the best horror movies of all-time, The Shining. This documentary made a lot of noise when it made its way around the festival circuit and for good reason. Not only is it full of interesting interviews and bizarre theories, but director Rodney Ascher's adoration for the film comes through loud and clear. This is a movie by a Shining fan for Shining fans — and about them, too.
As mentioned previously, this Halloween, our first without horror master Wes Craven, is a bittersweet one. His legacy lives on, however, and his film A Nightmare on Elm Street happens to be the subject of one of the best documentaries on the genre. It has a lengthy run time, so make sure to plan for bathroom breaks, but but it’s well-worth it; the film is incredibly engaging from the moment you hit "play." Never Sleep Again is definitely for the horror aficionado who’s looking to ace the obscure title category at trivia nights.
These are just 31 movies that you have the option to stream this Halloween, and there are certainly dozens more that are worthy of your attention. This is a holiday that's inspired so many of the movies we’ve come to cherish over the years. So whether or not you want to laugh or hide your face in your pillow surrounded by some close friends, there's simply no reason to go out this Halloween. Instead, just toss a packet of popcorn in the microwave and text someone these magical three words:
"Netflix and thrill?"
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