Whether it’s something gory and macabre, silly and irreverent, or eerie and unsettling, the genre of horror is as rich and varied as the multitude of ghosts, ghoulies, and homicidal maniacs that go bump in the night.
Looking for the best horror films available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Paramount Plus? No worries, we’ve got the goods. We’ve combed through the libraries of each of the major streaming platforms to bring you a list of our most recommended horror movies. Here are the 20 of the best horror movies you can stream right now, from old classics to new hits.
A high school horror movie about a nerd who falls in love with a haunted car, Christine is an extraordinary Stephen King adaptation and a standout in John Carpenter’s consistently excellent filmography.
Arnie (Keith Gordon) is an unpopular high schooler in California who has just one friend, a popular football player named Dennis (John Stockwell, who in many ways is the emotional core of the movie, as someone who cares deeply about Arnie). When the two come across a broken-down old Plymouth Fury (a vehicle that we’ve already seen commit murder and mayhem in an opening sequence set in a 1950s car assembly plant), Arnie decides he must have it. He quickly becomes obsessed with the car, named “Christine,” and human and vehicle both become jealous of anybody who might interrupt their time together. He also starts to dress and act more like a greaser dirtbag from the 1950s. It’s a great time for everybody, except Arnie’s human loved ones.
The practical effects in Christine deserve special recognition here. The car can heal itself, an effect that is shown on camera in full, glorious display. The special effects team made rubber molds of Christine and then imploded it, running the shot in reverse in the film to evoke the effect of a self-healing vehicle. It’s astounding to behold decades later.
Filled with great high school archetypes that are subverted just enough to keep things interesting, a haunting score by Carpenter, and a brief appearance by Harry Dean Stanton, Christine is popcorn 1980s horror at its best. —Pete Volk
Christine is available to stream on Netflix.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 1997 horror masterpiece Cure follows Kenichi Takabe (Kōji Yakusho), a Japanese detective frustrated by an inexplicable rash of seemingly unconnected murders that nevertheless all appear to be connected, despite none of the perpetrators knowing each other nor having any recollection as to what they have done. When Takabe’s investigation leads him to a suspect, a student of psychology and mesmerism known as Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara), he finds himself plunged into a conspiracy that threatens to engulf anyone who gets too close. In Cure, violence is less an act of premeditation or passion as it is a virus, coursing its way through the bloodstream of society, corrupting innocent bystanders not like aberrant cancer cells attacking from within without ever understanding why they did so in the first place. How do you confront a horror like that, much less stop it? The answer is as simple as it is terrifying: You can’t. —Toussaint Egan
Cure is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
Among the best and most well known of Italy’s giallo genre, this beautifully shot slasher is full of mystery, terror, and lots and lots murder. The movie’s purposefully complicated story more or less follows a jazz musician who witnesses a murder, but also mixes in some psychic powers for good measure. Giallo movies are, by design, strange, lurid, and full of gross and grimy things — both their plots and their murders. But the incredible filmmaking and gorgeous colors make Deep Red enchanting to watch, no matter how brutally most of its cast dies. —Austen Goslin
The Empty Man
Director David Prior’s feature debut is the scariest movie of 2020 and one of its best. The movie’s main story follows a man named James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) as he searches for a missing girl. While on the case, he hears about a legend of a shadowy figure called the Empty Man, who stalks anyone who’s seen him for three days before he strikes. While this premise alone might be good for a creepy-enough movie, Prior blows the concept up into something truly special, spanning the globe — in an outstanding 15-minute prologue — and finally bringing in a cult whose leader might actually have supernatural powers. Despite the fact that none of these make sense together on paper, Prior makes all three feel like part of one cohesive, terrifying story. —AG
The Empty Man is available to watch on HBO Max.
The Exorcist is just as terrifying now as when it caused a mild national panic on release in 1973. When a young girl (Linda Blair) starts behaving very strangely, her mother tries anything and everything to get her help, leading to ... well, you know the title of the film. The realism of a mother’s desire to keep her daughter safe in an uncontrollable world set against a supernatural conflict pulls you right in from the very beginning and keeps its hold on you far beyond the end of its two-hour run time. —PV
The Exorcist is available to watch on Netflix.
Halloween is not the first slasher movie — Psycho and Black Christmas preceded and heavily inspired it — but it may be the most influential. After Michael Myers breaks out of the mental hospital he has been held in for 15 years, he pursues a babysitter (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends, all the while being pursued himself by his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence).
Eleven films have followed in the franchise, and while there have been high points and low, none can match the raw terror of the original. Like others on this list, it was made on a small budget (around $300,000) and was a huge hit at the box office (an estimated $60-70 million). With masterful direction by John Carpenter, a tight screenplay by Carpenter and frequent collaborator Debra Hill, and a typically excellent and memorable Carpenter score, the original Halloween is one of the all-time greats. —PV
Halloween is available to watch on Netflix.
Hellbender tells the story of Izzy, a teenager who lives isolated in the woods with only her mother, who says Izzy has a debilitating disease and can’t be around other people. That isn’t quite true. The movie delicately balances Izzy’s perspective and her mother’s, working as a movie both about the struggles of adolescence and about the inherent terror of trying to raise a child well. But for all the virtues of its story, Hellbender’s greatest feat is how gorgeous it looks.
Created by a filmmaking family who produce, direct, and star in the movie, Hellbender is an early contender for 2022’s most visually striking horror film. Directors John and Zelda Adams and Toby Poser use forests, and the movie’s many mystic visions, for both serene beauty and creeping terror, swapping effortlessly between the two to match their characters’ fears and discoveries. —AG
Clive Barker’s 1987 directorial debut adapts his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart to tell the story of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins). The Cottons are a married couple who move into the home of Larry’s recently deceased brother, Frank (Sean Chapman), with whom Julia had a previous affair. After inadvertently being resurrected by a drop of blood spilled by Larry on the floor of the house’s attic, Frank seduces Julia into luring new men to the house so that he can drain their life force and fully regain his mortal form. Surrounding this core narrative is the the story of the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box Frank acquired before his untimely death. When solved, it conjures hellish beings known as Cenobites to the mortal plane of existence, which indulge in hellish exercises of sadomasochistic mutilation. Easily the best and most enduring of the Hellraiser movie series, Barker’s 1987 original is a must-watch for horror fans. —TE
The Host was Bong Joon-ho’s follow-up to the smash success serial killer drama Memories of Murder. A critical and commercial success, it was the highest-grossing South Korean film ever after its release and won Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and the Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Years after chemicals are dumped into the Han River, a huge mutated fish monster emerges and kidnaps a young girl. Her father (Song Kang-ho) sets out to find and rescue her, before being kidnapped by the American scientists responsible for its existence. A fun monster thriller that doubles as insightful commentary on U.S. intervention, ecological disasters, and much more, The Host is a high mark in Bong’s impressive filmography. —PV
Let the Right One In
A 12-year-old Swedish boy finds a friend in a vampire who looks roughly his age, but is actually an old vampire permanently trapped in the body of a young child. The film is kaleidoscopic, each viewing revealing something different than the last. The first time I saw the film, I was a pessimistic college student, and I read the central relationship as a warning about the parasitic nature of love. After college, the children’s bond reminded me of the impermanence of youth, and why growing up is a mixed blessing. This past year, I was far more focused on the girl’s relationship with her caretaker, an older man who sacrifices everything for her existence.
The film was adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel of the same name, which inspired not just this Swedish film, but a 2010 American adaptation, a comic-book prequel, and two stage plays. The latter has its own legacy — it was adapted by the magnificent National Theater of Scotland, and it eventually had a run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2015. Few books inspire so much additional great art. So I suppose I’m recommending the book just as much as the film. —Chris Plante
There was just no way to see it coming. After the Conjuring and Insidious franchises, plus blockbuster turns with Furious 7 and Aquaman, James Wan could have cashed in chips to make another moody franchise-starter to stretch his jump-scare muscles. Instead, he made Malignant, a high-emotion giallo stuffed into dingy ’90s direct-to-video pastiche like some kind of horror-movie turducken. Wan pulls back the layers in an almost tedious fashion: The pregnant Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is first the victim of domestic abuse, then she encounters another killer, and then she starts dealing with psychotic episodes tied to her childhood imaginary friend Gabriel, and theeeeen it’s revealed … Well, please, go behold it.
Strung together with a melodramatic cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” reveling in horror tropes to the point of parody, the final twists of Malignant are some of the most gratifying lunacy of the year, and the acrobatic actor Marina Mazepa brings it all home in a display of gruesome ballet. I won’t explain anything more out of fear of spoilers — just get on the Malignant train. Wan put his dream (nightmare?) on screen for us all to enjoy. —Matt Patches
Malignant is available to watch on HBO Max.
Night of the Living Dead
The movie that launched the modern zombie film in the United States, George A. Romero’s debut feature was written, directed, photographed, and edited by the nascent zombie film master on a shoestring budget, which only adds to the eerie atmosphere and grounded terror. In this film, a group of survivors hide out in an abandoned house in western Pennsylvania at the start of a zombie apocalypse. Led by the level-headed Ben (Duane Jones), the group not only has to deal with the conflict of zombies trying to break in, but internal conflicts stemming from disagreements on how to handle their precarious predicament.
Night of the Living Dead is the first example of Romero’s typical blend of jaw-dropping (and stomach-churning) practical effects and astute social commentary. Fun fact: This movie came out a month before the MPAA film rating system, which meant a heaping amount of controversy when children were able to see the quite graphic movie in theaters. And another fun fact: Night of the Living Dead was never copyrighted and is in the public domain because of an error by the original theatrical distributor. —PV
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 Japanese horror classic Pulse is one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever watched. Set near the turn of the century, the film follows a group of Japanese teenagers who, in the wake of their friend’s inexplicable suicide, begin to experience strange visions and unsettling encounters linked to a mysterious floppy disk their friend was investigating prior to his death. Pulse is widely championed as one of the definitive works in the canon of Japanese horror, with several critics and fans citing it as the definitive internet horror film of the 21st century. Be sure to have all the lights off for this one ... and something to cover your eyes when you get too freaked out (trust me — you will). —TE
This Hong Kong movie falls somewhere between action and horror and is one of the coolest, strangest movies on this list. Rigor Mortis follows a down-on-his-luck actor who moves into a run-down hotel and immediately tries to kill himself. Before he can actually die two spirits attempt to possess him, and a vampire hunter breaks down the door and performs an exorcism. And from there things only get weirder and the monsters in the hotel get even more deadly. —AG
The early 2000s were a fascinating time when studios were spending tens of millions of dollars on horror blockbusters. Among the best of these is the American remake of Ringu, a Japanese movie about a haunted videotape that kills the viewer seven days after they watch its strange montage of images. While the remake lacks the empathy and scares of the original, The Ring is a wholly unique and worthwhile experience on its own and feels completely different from the horror movies of any other era. With the blockbuster budget and gorgeous direction from Gore Verbinski, this remake is somewhere between a ghost story and a mystery-thriller and relies more on its world’s excellent sense of haunting dread than direct scares. —AG
Saint Maud is kind of a reverse possession story. It follows a young nurse who, after her patient dies, becomes a devout Roman Catholic and gets a new job as an in-home nurse for the elderly and infirm. After meeting her new charge, Amanda, Maud finds herself transfixed and seeks to save the woman’s soul. Maud is unmistakably the villain of this story, but it seems destined for you to sympathize with her as she makes every wrong decision imaginable. While most of the movie is a tremendous slow burn about the dangers of zealous faith, the movie’s ending is an explosion of emotions and one of the best horror endings of the last decade. —AG
One of the most genuinely unsettling horror movies of the last 20 years, Sinister follows a true-crime author, Ellison Oswalt, and his family as they move into a new house that may or may not be haunted by the presence of a demon. Sinister takes cues from decades of haunted house movies, carefully playing into some expectations and wildly subverting others for some very satisfying twists. Perhaps the best part of Sinister, though, is how it uses its main character. Rather than the well-meaning man of the house that’s normally at the center of this genre, Oswalt spends the entire movie chasing its monster down and is always a little too smart for his own good. It’s a delightful flip from director and co-writer Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), and is only outdone by his excellently nightmarish depictions of the murders that surround the movie’s monster. —AG
Sinister is available to watch on Peacock.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Another shoestring production gone huge, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece made over $30 million at the box office on a budget of around $140,000. The movie follows a group of friends who find themselves hunted by a family of cannibals in the middle of Texas, and is a chilling, violent fever dream that permanently lodges itself in the minds of those who watch it.
Eight films have followed, including a Netflix version in 2022, but the original stands out as an unhinged encapsulation of pure chaos and terror. At a tight 83 minutes, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is well worth the small time investment to catch up on one of the most influential horror movies ever made. —PV
Train to Busan
Imagine if, instead of eating cockroaches and warding off ax-wielding thugs on their way to the one-percenter front carriage, the passengers aboard the Snowpiercer train warded off zombies. OK, OK, stop imagining: Train to Busan is better than anything you’ll come up with. Propulsive, bloody, and glimmering with the dark whimsy particular to Korean cinema, animator-turned-live-action-director Yeon Sang-ho’s take on the zombie apocalypse wears its heart on its sleeve ... until the flesh-eating undead tear the heart to shreds. It’s a father-daughter story. It’s a husband-wife story. It’s a who-deserves-to-live-and-die survivor narrative. It’s a people story trapped in a high-speed rail train, where the only hope of escape is a well-timed leap into the baggage shelf. It’s a hell of a movie. —MP
A home invasion slasher, You’re Next was a smash hit for director Adam Wingard (Netflix’s Death Note, Godzilla vs. Kong) and writer Simon Barrett, who later teamed up once again for The Guest. When members of a wealthy family are invited to celebrate a wedding anniversary at a remote estate, things turn in a bloody direction when violent attackers wearing animal masks and using crossbows start killing them off one by one.
A slasher movie with a tinge of Agatha Christie mystery and an added flavor of family drama, the film also features acclaimed horror directors Ti West, Amy Seimetz, and Larry Fessenden in acting roles. —PV
You’re Next is available to watch on Starz.