There’s no disputing that Netflix is one of the best and most successful streaming services for modern and classic movies, blockbuster TV series’, and a wildly diverse selection of Netflix original programming.
When it comes to films, Netflix has something for almost every type of movie fan, but its ever-changing library always seems catered for certain genres better than others.
One genre that tends to lean more heavily towards quantity over quality is the horror movie genre. Subscribers looking for a scare have no shortage of options for a lazy spook or jump scare, but too few scary movies on Netflix are truly terrifying or even worth watching to begin with.
Related: The 10 best movies on Netflix
There are some outliers, however, ranging from bonafide genre classics, to blood-curdling modern masterpieces, to inventive, terror-inducing indie productions from around the world.
Turn the lights off, grab your partner/pet/pillow tight, and prepare yourself for, in no particular order, the 10 best scary movies on Netflix!
Editor’s note – We will update this post as more great Netflix horror movies are added to the service’s catalog and others are removed.
Silence of the Lambs
Easily one of the best scary movies on Netflix, if not one of the best period. One of the very few horror movies to ever win big on the awards circuit, Silence of the Lambs is a true classic Hollywood chiller and thoroughly deserved Oscar Best Picture-winner. Starring Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Darling and Sir Anthony Hopkins as the iconic, cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Silence of the Lambs is a part-detective drama, part-psychological thriller that’s stacked with all-time great horror quotes, scenes, and setpieces. As long as you ignore the mediocre sequels and prequels that followed, which are mercifully not available on Netflix, this seminal adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel finds its way onto almost every top scary movie list for a reason. I wish I could talk about this superb movie for a while longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.
If you can stomach the ye olde English-style dialogue (and you absolutely should), The Witch — or The VVitch, to give it it’s official, stylised title — is a devilishly smart, slow-burn horror of Biblical proportions. Set in 17th Century New England and coming from the mind of debutant director Robert Eggers, The Witch follows a devoutly religious, separatist family. After being banished to a secluded shack in the middle of the woods, the family are plagued by strange, vaguely supernatural happenings prompting fears that the satanic art of witchcraft has infiltrated their holy commune. What follows is a meticulously crafted 93 minutes of raw tension, a deliciously eerie tone that trades in cheap jump scares for creeping terror, and one of the best endings of any horror movie, period. A modern masterpiece.
Under the Shadow
Another directorial debut, this time by British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow delivers chilling horror moments and imagery that will scar your subconsciousness, while also throwing political commentary and family drama into the mix. Set in war-torn Tehran during The War of the Cities, the movie centers on Shideh and her young daughter, Dorsa. Accused of radicalism and bound by the restraints of sharia law, Shideh finds herself in a battle against socio-political oppression, falling bombs, and a mythological demonic presence that’s trying to corrupt and possess her daughter. Under the Shadow succeeds in constantly making the characters and the audience question what is and isn’t real with nightmarish results.
Not to be confused with the equally brilliant 2004 horror-slasher of the same name, Creep (2014) is a profoundly creepy (as you might expect from the title) indie movie with a darkly comic streak. It also just so happens to be one of the best examples of the “found footage” horror sub-genre to date. Creep was co-written and produced by Mark Duplass who also stars with a career defining performance as both reclusive oddball Josef and the world’s freakiest furry, Peachfuzz. Duplass has become something of a Netflix darling with the duo producing a bunch of superb shows alongside his brother (watch Wild Wild Country, thank me later), but Creep and it’s not-as-great, but still enjoyable sequel (also on Netflix) are examples of horror-comedy done so, so right.
For some inexcusable reason The Exorcist (a.k.a. the greatest horror movie in existence) isn’t available on Netflix at the moment. While we wait for that crime to be corrected, we can at least make do with The Conjuring — a 2013 supernatural scary movie from Saw, Insidious, and now Aquaman director James Wan. The first and only truly great entry in the misjudged Conjuring Universe series, The Conjuring follows closely in the thematic and stylistic footsteps of some of horror cinema’s greatest hits, delivering freaky demonic shenanigans and a suitably haunted house-style setting. While there’s nothing all that original here, The Conjuring is a clinically produced horror spectacle with stellar performances and packed-full of visceral scares.
No one makes watching bad things happen to bad people quite as satisfying or as gory as horror genre buff and Splat Pack champion, Eli Roth. Boosted by an executive producer credit (and a hilariously grisly cameo) from Pulp Fiction director and beloved enfant terrible Quentin Tarantino, Hostel delights in plunging its obnoxious, xenophobic retinue of manchild college students into a cinematic torture chamber oozing with gross-out violence and untold depravity. Certainly not a scary movie to watch on a full stomach, but this deceptively subversive “torture porn” rollercoaster is unmissable for any scary movie fan who likes their frights with a (quite literally) eye-popping helping of guts and gore.
If you’ve only ever seen the dreadful 2008 U.S. remake you owe it to yourself to see how truly terrifying photography can be in the original Thai production. Shutter (2004) is an unsettling thriller-chiller that draws heavy influence from classic J-horror flicks like Ringu and The Grudge. While it arguably doesn’t quite hit the same level of quality as its Japanese peers, Shutter has earned a deserved cult following thanks to its gorgeous cinematography, sharp sound design, and clever visual trickery. If you dare it look through the viewfinder, it’ll leave you scratching at your eyes (and shoulders) for weeks.
The movie that defined the term blockbuster following its release in 1975, Jaws is an undisputed staple of the horror/thriller genre and one of legendary director Steven Spielberg’s greatest achievements.. While pedants might argue it’s really an action movie, just try and watch that bone-chilling (not to mention majestically constructed) opening scene without looking on in pure terror. With a razor-sharp script, uniformly brilliant performances, and (for the time) cutting-edge visual effects that manage to convey the ferocity of a real great white shark, Jaws isn’t just an all-time great horror film, it’s one of the best movies ever made.
If you thought Dr. Hannibal Lecter had questionable culinary tastes, just wait until you see Raw — a hormonally-charged 2016 coming-of-age movie set in a veterinary school where some its students have developed a taste for people, not pizza. Featuring a breakout performance from young French actress Garance Marillier as a lifelong vegetarian with increasingly disturbing dietary issues, Raw is a stunningly shot horror-drama about social and sexual awakening with a pitch black comedic streak. Not the most outwardly scary movie on this list, but definitely one of the most gleefully unsettling indie productions in recent memory.
A secluded village, stranger danger panic, whispers of supernatural possession — The Wailing is stacked with worn tropes. However, thanks to a killer screenplay, an incredible central performance, and a level of symbolic depth that’ll leave you scratching your head for weeks, The Wailing injects the often-derivative horror genre with a fresh and infectious flavor. This South Korean scary movie tracks an inept policeman investigating unexplained deaths and a mysterious plague-like disease. Released to near universal critical acclaim, The Wailing is a blisteringly intelligent film that straddles horror’s sillier side but is first and foremost an unnerving portrait of humanity’s capacity for wickedness.
Best scary movies on Netflix – honorable mentions
- The Ritual — This fun Andy Serkis-produced British film sees a group of old university friends hunted by a wonderfully designed mythological terror on a hiking trip in Scandinavia.
- The Monster — A mother and daughter are hunted by an unseen beast in the depths of night after their car collides with and kills a wolf. A simple premise bolstered by a bravura performance from Zoe Kazan as a neglectful, off-the-rails parent.
- The Autopsy of Jane Doe — The English-language debut for the director of the utterly fantastic Troll Hunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe takes a tired, derivative premise and shakes up the formula with some macabre scares and anatomically-unfriendly horror beats.
- The Eyes Of My Mother — Yet another debut horror, this time from Nicolas Pesce. The grotesque here (and there is much of it) is bizarrely beautiful in this story of childhood trauma presented with stark black and white visuals.
- Poltergeist — Another beloved horror classic that just missed the cut, the Spielberg co-written Poltergeist became the archetype for family-home-by-ghosts chillers in the 80s and it’s still worth a watch today.
Those are our picks for the best scary movies on Netflix. Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!
February 13, 2019 at 01:36PM