From beloved classics to Netflix originals, from haunted houses to evil creatures, Netflix has something for every kind of horror fan. Here’s a look at the best scary movies streaming on Netflix.
Update, 5/22/23: Hush, Piranha, and Sweetheart all left Netflix, so we’ve replaced them with three new picks.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Under the Shadow
Alfred Hitchcock made seemingly innocuous, inactive winged creatures terrifying with his horror classic The Birds. The sudden and inexplicable way that birds start to attack humans is what makes the movie so scary, as inhabitants of the tranquil seaside town of Bodega Bay are forced to flee for their lives from swooping, pecking animals.
Hitchcock connects the revolt of nature to the psychological turmoil of socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) as she pursues handsome lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor). With no musical score, it’s an eerie immersion into an external and internal nightmare.
Guillermo del Toro offers a masterful take on vintage gothic horror with Crimson Peak. Del Toro channels the Brontë sisters and Hammer horror productions in equal measure with this ghostly romance set in the late 19th century. Mia Wasikowska plays a young heiress swept off her feet by an English baronet (Tom Hiddleston). He marries her and brings her to his crumbling mansion, which is full of dangerous secrets, most held by his cruel sister (Jessica Chastain).
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A pair of refugees from South Sudan are haunted by traumatic memories as well as an evil spirit from their homeland when they settle into government housing in London. His House blends traditional haunted house spookiness with a meditation on trauma and displacement, putting an engaging (and disturbing) new spin on a familiar kind of story.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Starting with its eerie title, writer-director Oz Perkins’ I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House creates a sustained mood of discomfort. Ruth Wilson plays a live-in nurse caring for an elderly writer in a house that may be the site for actual tragic events depicted in the author’s most famous novel.
Both the nurse and the ghost of a woman who died in the house drift through the mostly empty rooms, their fates become intertwined as Perkins immerses the audience in an atmosphere of languid dread.
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One of the scariest things in horror movies is a danger that is unrelenting and inexplicable, and that’s what the characters face in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. Young people pass along a curse via sexual contact, and whoever is the current recipient is stalked by a silent, slow-moving presence that takes the form of strangers or sometimes familiar faces. Mitchell creates an unsettling, off-kilter atmosphere, with the constant specter of death over his protagonists.
The found-footage horror subgenre had already gotten a bit stale by the time Paranormal Activity was released, but filmmaker Oren Peli revitalized the format with his innovative approach to the haunted house movie.
Peli’s film is as much about the breakdown of a relationship as it is about the possible demon infestation of the new house that protagonists Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) move into. Using just the basic video camera that Micah constantly carries around, Peli creates an immersive, terrifying experience that puts the audience right alongside the tormented main characters.
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Allison Williams and Logan Browning play dueling cellists in Richard Shepard’s twisty, over-the-top psychological horror movie The Perfection. Both Charlotte (Williams) and Lizzie (Browning) are students of the same strict and demanding teacher (Steven Weber), who provokes their increasingly violent rivalry. Shepard plays with expectations via multiple plot twists, keeping the audience guessing about the characters’ true relationships even as they torment each other mercilessly.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a sci-fi horror masterpiece, which means that any sequel or remake is bound to be judged harshly in comparison. The 2011 version of The Thing is part remake, part prequel, and while it lives in the shadow of Carpenter’s version, it’s remarkably successful on its own, finding some different ways to explore the same premise.
It’s once again set on a remote Antarctic base, where an unearthed ancient killer alien wreaks havoc. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent as the steely scientist who makes a survival plan, bringing a welcome new angle to a familiar story.
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Under the Shadow
Set in the Iranian capital of Tehran during the 1980s, Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow combines the terror of living in a warzone with the terror of a supernatural menace. Navari creates a harrowing drama about warfare that’s also an eerie horror movie drawing on Middle Eastern folklore.
While her doctor husband is away serving in the military, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) stays in the city with her young daughter. They endure missile attacks as well as the possible presence of a djinn, an evil spirit that attaches itself to people via personal objects.
Depicting an entire story solely via the images on a computer screen may sound like a ridiculous gimmick, but the clever, intricately designed horror movie Unfriended pulls it off with its basic but effective story about a group of teenagers targeted for revenge from beyond the grave. The movie perfectly captures the online lives of its characters while also delivering a satisfying and scary ghost story.
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