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Whether you’re setting a macabre mood in the month of October or seeking a cinematic thrill any other time of the year, there’s nothing quite like a bone-chilling, terror-inducing horror movie. Whether watching a slasher film in a packed theater or streaming one of your favorite horror movies alone on your couch at home, the time is always right for a fright.
The horror movie has existed almost as long as the medium of film itself, with 1896’s “Le Manoir du Diable” widely considered to be the first-ever horror short film. A couple decades later, the so-called Golden Age of Horror was kicked off by silent films like “Nosferatu” (1922) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), and continued with monster movies like “Frankenstein” (1931) and “The Mummy” (1932).
As film movements have come and gone, be it the rise of post-classical/New Hollywood or the contemporary superhero-driven cinema of today, horror films have been there to push boundaries. Just as telling scary stories around a campfire will never go out of style, jumping out of your seat when seeing something horrifying on screen will forever be part of the cinematic experience.
To help you engage in the beloved pastime of scaring yourself silly, we’ve collected 25 of the best horror movies currently available on major streaming platforms.
A quick note on our methodology: If a movie is not currently streaming on one of the eight most popular U.S. streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Apple TV+, and Peacock — you won’t find it on this list.
There are plenty of horror movies streaming on increasingly popular ad-supported streaming platforms like Tubi, Pluto TV, and the Roku Channel, as well as premium services like Showtime, Mubi, and Criterion. There’s even an entire streaming platform devoted to horror movies in Shudder, which is a must for any devotees to the genre. But for this list, we’re sticking with horror movies streaming on services for which many readers already have a subscription.
Here are 25 of the best horror movies streaming right now, and how to watch them.
Arguably the crowning achievement of the Universal monster movies, “Bride of Frankenstein” far outstrips its predecessor (1931’s “Frankenstein”) by introducing new stakes for Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff). Left for dead in the original, the monster is burned but unbowed, and is searching for love and acceptance in all the wrong places — including from the new mad scientist on the block, Dr. Pretorius. If you’re looking for more of the classic Universal monster movies, Peacock also has “Dracula,” “The Invisible Man,” and the original “Frankenstein” among many others from the 1930s and ’40s.
How to watch: “Bride of Frankenstein” is streaming on Peacock.
Few directors can claim a greater impact on the medium of film than master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, whose works are oft-imitated but rarely topped almost a century after he helmed his first feature. The most enduring and influential of Hitchcock’s works is 1960’s “Psycho,” a groundbreaking film that birthed the slasher genre, introduced the world to a new kind of villain in Norman Bates, featured one of the most iconic film scores ever, and pioneered camera techniques that still inspire awe more than 60 years later. Fans of Hitchcockian horrors can also stream “The Birds” on Peacock.
How to watch: “Psycho” is streaming on Peacock.
Five years before Roe v. Wade, “Rosemary’s Baby” perfectly captured the everyday horror of a woman whose bodily autonomy is discussed and controlled by everyone but her. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is giving birth to the literal spawn of Satan, but her opinions and suffering barely seem to register to her husband, neighbors, or doctor. Horror movies tend to reflect the current social ills. And when history continues to repeat itself, a 54-year-old film like “Rosemary’s Baby” remains evergreen.
How to watch: “Rosemary’s Baby” is streaming on Paramount+.
William Friedkin’s possession movie has been honored by countless critics groups as the greatest horror film ever made. Almost 50 years after its initial release, it’s a hard argument to refute. A cultural phenomenon upon its release, “The Exorcist” was the first horror film nominated for Best Picture, the top-grossing R-rated horror movie for 45 years, and has been preserved by the Library of Congress. Even if the a few of the effects feel dated, the scares are still very real, and the possession of poor Regan (Linda Blair) deeply unsettling.
How to watch: “The Exorcist” is streaming on HBO Max.
Twenty-five years before the genius marketing campaign of “The Blair Witch Project,” Tobe Hooper’s low-budget slasher film drew audiences in by heavily pitching the movie as a “true” horror story. Though Leatherface shared a few incidental characteristics with real-life serial killer Ed Gein, “Texas Chainsaw” was an utter — and utterly gory — work of fiction. You can thank Hooper and this 1974 film for some of horror movie genre’s most beloved conventions, including the establishment of a masked/faceless killer and the use of household power tools to carve up their victims.
At its core, the goal of a horror movie is to frighten, confuse, and unsettle its audience by any means necessary. Director David Lynch, perhaps the most commercially successful surrealist filmmaker of all time, is a master of all three, with a heavy emphasis on the second. Like many of his subsequent releases, Lynch’s debut, 1977’s “Eraserhead,” is less concerned with standard plot than about the feelings it evokes. You’ll jump out of your seat the first time you see the film’s grotesque newborn child. But the real impact of “Eraserhead” comes later, when your brain is still processing what you saw for hours or days on end.
How to watch: “Eraserhead” is streaming on HBO Max.
Unlike many horror films, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” clues audiences in to its antagonist almost immediately, explaining via a nature documentary how alien spores are floating down from space to take over the world. The terror lies in watching our protagonists realize (a bit too slowly) what’s happening, and knowing that resistance is futile. Credit to author Jack Finney for creating a villain who kills you while you sleep, almost guaranteeing insomnia for anyone who watches the 1978 adaptation of his novel.
How to watch: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is streaming on HBO Max.
It’s hard, on first glance, to understand why Stephen King hates the film adaptation of his novel “The Shining.” But if you read King’s work, you can see why he might not love what Stanley Kubrick did with his haunting, psychologically taxing take on the material. King wrote protagonist Jack Torrance as a worse version of himself, an author struggling with writer’s block who heads to a remote Colorado hotel for inspiration (all of which King did, in 1974). But where the book Torrance is a complex, albeit emotionally maladjusted figure, Kubrick’s Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a sociopath from the jump, barely acknowledging the humanity of his wife and son even before he loses his mind. Basically, Kubrick took Torrance (a nightmare version of King) and made him 100 times worse, a decision that audiences have been thankful for since 1980.
How to watch: “The Shining” is streaming on HBO Max.
In the midst of an incredible run of box office success, Steven Spielberg often co-wrote or produced movies that he would flip to director pals still seeking their big break, such as Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) and Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”). Originally intended as a horror sequel to Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg was too busy directing “E.T.” to helm “Poltergeist,” but still co-wrote the suspenseful ghost story while “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” director Tobe Hooper got behind the camera. While “Poltergeist,” which celebrated its 40th anniversary this summer, is significantly creepier than most of Spielberg’s filmography, you can still sense the director’s personal touches on the script if you know where to look. (Pro tip: The one place you shouldn’t look is at the TV.)
How to watch: “Poltergeist” is streaming on HBO Max.
Following the success of his 1981 body horror “Scanners,” David Cronenberg was offered a chance to direct “Return of the Jedi.” Instead of laser sword fights and cuddly Ewoks, Cronenberg made “Videodrome,” a movie in which a Betamax tape is inserted directly into James Woods’ torso. Woods plays a UHF TV station manager who becomes obsessed with an unlicensed station broadcasting horrific violence 24 hours a day. From there, things only get weirder, as Cronenberg’s commentary on society’s simultaneous fascination and revulsion with sex and violence staggers toward its grisly conclusion.
How to watch: “Videodrome” is streaming on Peacock.
Can “Gremlins” really be considered a horror film? After all, it’s likely that some of its biggest scares came at the expense of very young kids who went to theaters expecting a cuddly family film thanks to a deceptive marketing campaign — one that was largely responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating two months later. However you classify it, “Gremlins” is a prime piece of ’80s entertainment, telling the story of a young child whose cute mogwai turns into a horde of horrible gremlins overnight. Joe Dante turns a fun-house mirror back at the audience, turning the gremlins into a grotesque but familiar version of the American id. You’ll never eat after midnight again.
How to watch: “Gremlins” is streaming on HBO Max.
Of zombie maestro George Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” trilogy, only the third, 1985’s “Land of the Dead,” is currently available on a major streaming service. Set in the aftermath of a worldwide zombie takeover, a group of surviving humans plot their futures in an underground Everglades bunker. Some scientists are attempting to domesticate the zombies, while another continues to search for the cure. All of this is complicated by the presence of soldiers who are this close to killing everyone and starting a war. As is often the case now in the zombie genre (and horror movies in general), the biggest threats to a group’s survival is human nature.
Has any author in the last 100 years had more successful film adaptations of his work than Stephen King? The horror maestro’s 1987 book “Misery” proved to be the perfect blueprint for Rob Reiner’s 1990 horror-thriller, a dark, unsparing look at celebrity and fandom gone wrong. As the “No. 1 fan” of novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan), Kathy Bates won a deserved Best Actress Oscar as nurse turned captor Annie Wilkes. In a world where it’s become en vogue for studios to cater to fans’ every whims and powerful stan culture influences societal discourse, it’s not so hard to believe that another Annie Wilkes is somewhere out there right now, posting a fan edit in the replies of your favorite pop star.
How to watch: “Misery” is streaming on HBO Max.
Not since Norman Bates in “Psycho” — or maybe Jack Torrance in “The Shining” — has America been entranced by a villain like Hannibal Lecter. In just 16 minutes of screen time, the charismatic cannibal played by Anthony Hopkins fires off one memorable quote after another, entrancing audiences and fascinating FBI investigator Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who seeks Lecter’s help in capturing another serial killer (Ted Levine). The only horror movie to win a Best Picture Oscar, and only the third film in history to sweep the Big 5 Oscar categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), “Silence of the Lambs” can be enjoyed in October with a pumpkin beer or any other month of the year with a nice Chianti.
In a perfect world, every one of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” movies would be available at the click of a remote so that viewers could witness the evolution of the horror maestro’s low-budget but hugely impactful practical effects wizardry. Instead, fans will have to settle for the third film in the series, 1992’s “Army of Darkness,” the silliest entry of the series up to that point. Chainsaw-toting, quote-slinging hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is actually sent back to the Middle Ages, where his cartoonish swagger is perceived as a threat by King Arthur’s men, and he is abruptly enslaved. One thing leads to another, and Ash once again unwittingly awakens an army of undead beasts using the Necronomicon. Being unabashedly silly while still retaining a handful of scares is no small feat, but Raimi makes it look easy. Hail to the king, baby.
How to watch: “Army of Darkness” is streaming on Peacock.
Given the arch, winking style of dialogue now pervasive in superhero films and cinema writ large, it’s hard to believe that 1996’s “Scream” was seen as transgressive for having characters point out frequent horror tropes as they slowly succumbed to them. Director Wes Craven, who helmed a foundational slasher film of his own in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” had no problem mixing laughs and scares as a masked figure terrorizes a group of teens. The film’s success inspired a several sequels and a mini-generation of self-aware slashers like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Urban Legend.” But none came close to matching the balancing act pulled off by Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who rewarded horror fans for their extensive knowledge of horror conventions while still keeping them on the edge of their seats.
How to watch: “Scream” is streaming on Paramount+.
Even if you already know the twist ending that had everyone talking back in 1999, “The Sixth Sense” is still worth revisiting when you want a scare. As a child who sees dead people, Haley Joel Osment gives one of the best child actor performances ever, and landed a fully-deserved Oscar nomination for the role. Toni Collette, playing his concerned but uncomprehending mother, is nearly as good. And don’t forget Bruce Willis, all furrowed brows and heavy sighs, as the child psychologist trying to find answers. Director M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been a rollercoaster ever since, in part because of the impossibility of living up to the standard of this film.
A highly contagious virus that turns people hyper-aggressive and causes the destruction of the world? But enough about COVID-19 — let’s talk about Danny Boyle’s 2002 post-apocalyptic zombie flick “28 Days Later.” Starring Cillian Murphy as a London man who awakes from a coma to find the world overrun by the undead, “28 Days Later” is widely credited with reviving the zombie genre years before “The Walking Dead,” “World War Z,” and the White Walkers of “Game of Thrones” showed up on our screens.
How to watch: “28 Days Later” is streaming on HBO Max.
Even at a time when movie studios are working overtime to increase representation on screen, it is rare to see a horror film starring only women. That’s just one of the reasons why 2005’s “The Descent” is so refreshing. The horror story of vacationing women stuck in a collapsed cave with ghastly troglodytes offers plenty of scares, but it also tells a complex tale of loss, and shows how quickly humanity can fly out the window thanks to a simple misunderstanding.
From the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897 to Stephenie Meyer’s contemporary “Twilight” novels, vampires have often been the most overtly romantic (and often sexual) creatures of the horror genre. In the 2008 Swedish film “Let The Right One In,” the trope is at play once more, as bullied teen Oskar forms a relationship with the cool vampire next door, Eli. Oskar is fighting to rid of himself of his tormentors, and Eli is desperate for fresh blood, with authorities closing in on her. It’s a match made in Heaven — or in the suburbs of Stockholm, anyway.
When it comes to providing scares in a horror movie, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every single time. The skeleton of “The Conjuring” is the story of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who ran the New England Society for Psychic Research and whose work inspired “The Amityville Horror,” “The Haunting of Connectictut,” and many other horror films and shows. This time around, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the couple, investigating a Rhode Island home haunted by malevolent spirits. Director James Wan’s use of practical effects and panoramic cameras gave “The Conjuring” plenty of spice, earning more than $300 million at the box office and launching a sprawling “Conjuring” universe.
How to watch: “The Conjuring” is streaming on HBO Max.
“It Follows” sounds like a story dreamed up by an overzealous nun: If you have sex with the wrong person, a demonic entity will follow you to the ends of the Earth until it kills you. In the hands of director David Robert Mitchell, however, “It Follows” is less a morality tale and more a straightforward scare-fest. No one casts judgement on the film’s characters as they pass along this sexual chain letter of death. Instead, you’ll leave thinking deeply about the nature of giving yourself to another, of sharing love with the world, and what following those natural instincts can portend.
How to watch: “It Follows” is streaming on Netflix.
The Salem Witch Trials get all the press when it comes to matters of Puritanical hysteria and the occult. In New Hampshire native Robert Eggers’ “The Witch,” set in an unnamed New England town 60 years before the 1692 Salem scare, evil forces have beset a Puritan family exiled during a religious dispute. After a witch steals their newborn baby, members of the family begin to point fingers at each other for bringing “bad spirits” to the farm, with most of the blame being heaped on teenage Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”). “The Witch” doesn’t have as many jump-scares as your average horror movie, but Eggers nevertheless conjures a terrifying, atmospheric film that sets Taylor-Joy on a path to stardom.
How to watch: “The Witch” is streaming on HBO Max.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, “Train to Busan” combines the undead terror of Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” with the propulsive action of “Speed” or “Snowpiercer.” The majority of the action takes place on a high-speed bullet train from Seoul to Busan, whose passengers slowly begin to realize that an epidemic has rapidly transformed most of the country into zombies, including some of their fellow passengers. Most of the ensemble is excellent, but the breakout star is Ma Dong-seok, who quickly became the country’s biggest action star and joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2021’s “Eternals.”
How to watch: “Train to Busan” is streaming on Peacock.
In his feature film debut, director Ari Aster hit it out of the park with “Hereditary,” a wildly inventive film that finds terror in the unseen and excavates the deep-rooted horror of a poisoned family tree. Toni Collette plays a miniature/diorama artist named Annie whose mother has passed away. Hurt by a realization that she never really knew her mother, Annie and her family are further tormented by unexplainable presence following her mother’s passing. Aster’s Scandinavian-set horror film “Midsommar” is also worth a watch, and streaming on Paramount+.
How to watch: “Hereditary” is streaming on Paramount+.
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