19 best horror movies to watch on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Hulu
Whether it’s something gory and macabre, silly and irreverent, 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 good. We’ve combed through the libraries of each of the major streaming platform. To bring you a list of our most recommended horror movies. Here are the 19 of the best horror movies you can stream right now.
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. —Pete Volk
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 another babysitter (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. All the while being pursued himself by his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence).
Ten films have followed in the franchise, and while there have been high points and lows. None can match the raw terror of the original. Like others in this part of the 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 Shudder, for free with ads on The Roku Channel and Redbox, or for free with a library card on Hoopla.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Another shoestring production went 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 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 Chainsaw Massacre is well worth the small time investment. To catch up on one of the most influential horror movies ever made. —PV
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is available to watch on Shudder, Showtime, and for free with ads on Tubi.
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 hides 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
Night of the Living Dead is available to watch on HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus, Shudder, for free with a library card on Kanopy and Hoopla, and for free with ads on Tubi, The Roku Channel, and Pluto TV.
Ghosts, Demons, and Monsters
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, Kurosawa 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). —Toussaint Egan
Pulse is available to watch on HBO Max or for free with a library card on Hoopla.
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 it’s a 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 complete. 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. —Austen Goslin
The Ring is available to watch on Paramount Plus or for free with ads on Pluto TV.
One of the most genuinely unsettling horror movies of the last 20 years. Sinister follows a true-crime author, named 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 the 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.
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). 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 story of the Lament configuration,
A puzzle box Frank acquired before his untimely death that when solved conjures hellish beings known as Cenobites to the mortal plane of existence and 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 — especially if you’re at all curious about the upcoming remake penned by The Night House writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and starring Jamie Clayton of Sense8 fame. —TE
Hellraiser is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, Shudder, for free with ads on Tubi, or for free with a library card on Hoopla.
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 US intervention, ecological disasters, and much more. The Host is a high mark in Bong’s impressive filmography. —PV
The Host is available to watch on Hulu or for free with a library card on Hoopla or Kanopy.
Zombies and Vampires
Train to Busan
Imagine if, instead of eating cockroaches and warding off ax-wielding thugs on their way to the 1-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 tears the heart to shreds. Train to Busan is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, Shudder, for free with ads on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel, and for free with a library card on Hoopla.
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.
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 a two-stage play. 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
Let the Right One In is available to watch on Hulu, Showtime, for free with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy, or for free with ads on Redbox.
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 rundown 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
Rigor Mortis is available to watch on Peacock, for free with ads on Tubi, or for free with a library card on Hoopla.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 1997 horror masterpiece Cure follows Kenichi Takabe, 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.
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. —TE
The cure is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
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.
You’re Next is available to watch on Hulu.
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 of 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. —AG
Deep Red is available to watch on Shudder, for free with ads on Pluto TV, or for free with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy.
Best of 2020s, so far
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.
The Empty Man is available to watch on HBO Max.
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.
Hellbender is available to watch on Shudder.
There was just no way to see it coming. After the Conjuring and Insidious franchises, plus blockbuster turn 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 Malignantly, 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 therein it’s revealed… well, please, go behold it.
Malignant is available to watch on HBO Max.
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 infermed After meeting her new charge Amanda, Maud finds herself transfixed and seeks to save the woman’s soul.