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.
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.
Best scary movies on Netflix
- Final Destination
- The Witch
- Under The Shadow
- The Conjuring
- The Ritual
1. Final Destination
This 2000 horror film has one of the most interesting takes on the teen slasher genre. It starts when a student, onboard an airplane with his fellow teens that’s about to leave on a school trip, has a vision of the plane exploding just after take off. He tries to warn everyone else but gets thrown off the plane, along with several other students and a teacher. However, his vision turns out to be accurate as the plane does indeed blow up. In this case, the potential victims in the rest of this film are not being stalked by a person or any kind of physical creature, but by the invisible thread of death itself which is trying to take out the people that should have been on board that plane. The challenge to trick death is the key to this movie, which features some of the most inventive death scenes in movie history.
2. The Witch
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.
3. 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 after producing a bunch of superb shows alongside his brother (watch Wild Wild Country, thank me later), and Creep and it’s not-as-great, but still enjoyable sequel (also on Netflix) are examples of horror-comedy done so, so right.
5. The Conjuring
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.
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.
You can’t have a list of the best scary movies without a Stephen King adaptation, and what could be better than the acclaimed horror writer’s first page-to-screen project. Despite having been remade twice, 1974’s Carrie is still the ultimate coming-of-age-with-a-dark-twist movie. Sissy Spacek is perfect as the titular teenage lead, as is Piper Laurie as Carrie’s terrifyingly devout mother. The crimson-soaked prom scene still stands among the best sequences in all of cinema.
What’s your favorite scary movie? If you like your horror with a heavy dose of clever satire, your answer could well be Scream. Wes Craven’s black comedy/slasher flick throws ludicrous amounts of shade at all the tired genre tropes from horror’s past — including some of Craven’s own classics — while also weaving a “whodunit” mystery with a sharp twist. Scream’s sequels would eventually fall prey to the same clichés the series initially poured scorn on, but the 1996 original is still postmodern perfection.
A beloved horror classic, the Spielberg co-written Poltergeist became the archetype for family-home-by-ghosts chillers in the 1980s and has gone on to inspire countless scary movies. Some of the special effects are a bit ropey in hindsight, but it’s packed with iconic movie moments — the TV static, “they’re here”, the rescue between dimensions — that have been aped countless times but never bettered.
10. The Ritual
This fun Andy Serkis-produced British film sees a retinue of old university friends embark on a doomed hiking trip in Scandinavia. Director David Bruckner’s full-length debut revels in exposing barely-hidden tensions within the guilt-wracked group which soon finds itself hunted by a superbly designed mythological beast. It doesn’t all hang together perfectly and there are a few plot contrivances, but The Ritual is a monster movie that truly understands how to deliver on the monstrous front.
Those are our picks for the best scary movies on Netflix. Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!