[Ghostface voice] Do you like scary movies? [Slightly less Ghostface voice] Do you, like 203 million other human beings on the planet Earth, have a Netflix account? Then, logically, you’ve probably found yourself scrolling around, looking to find the best horror movies on the service. Unlike Jamie Kennedy in Scream, we have answers.
But rather than wade through that ever-shifting glut of films pouring in and out of the service every month trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve got you covered with a list of our own written and curated by Polygon’s own resident horror aficionados. (And if you’re looking for a list of the best horror movies to watch across multiple streaming platforms, we’ve got you covered there too.) Our latest update added Crimson Peak and The Mist.
We’ve slashed our way through the horror offerings on Netflix to find you a heap of movies worth an evening… alone… with the lights off… and surely… no one watching you… through the window… right now…
Fans of the classic 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man (let us not speak of the 2006 Nicolas Cage version and its beeeeeees) should be warned: The Raid director Gareth Evans’ 2018 movie Apostle deliberately starts in the exact same place, and then takes the same scenario to much bloodier and more graphic ends. Set in 1905, it opens with addled addict Thomas (Legion and The Guest star Dan Stevens) getting a letter that says his sister is being held prisoner by a cult on a distant island. So he fakes his way into what looks like a quaint religious community, but is actually the kind of place where people routinely leave bowls of their own blood in front of their doors at night and something is audibly crawling around under the floorboards. Tense, gory, and in places almost ludicrously over-the-top, Apostle has a lot to say about the nature of religious fanaticism, both for the obedient flocks doing whatever their leader says God wants, and for the manipulators that weaponize whoever they can find who’s willing to be led. But this isn’t just Wicker Man redux — it’s a creative, relentless spin on the same idea, leading to its own unique horrors. —Tasha Robinson
Madeline Brewer stars in Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam as Alice, an ambitious camgirl trying desperately to reach the coveted number one spot of the site she streams for. After a particularly intense show, she wakes to find that her account has been taken over by a mysterious doppelganger, one who will seemingly go to any and all lengths to achieve what Alice herself could not. As Alice fights to regain control of her show and expose the identity of her impersonator, she’ll have to deal with the consequences of her offline and online identities blurring into one. Cam is a chilling psychological horror that leaves the audience wondering at every turn how, if at all, its heroine will manage to overcome and survive the horrors that assail her life. —Toussaint Egan
The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s follow-up to 2013’s The Conjuring takes place six years after the original, following paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) as they travel to London to aid Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), a mother of four children who believes that she and her family are being haunted by preternatural forces that have taken hold of their home. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan wrote in his 2016 review, “[The Conjuring 2] manifests a canny understanding of what modern audiences expect from a ghost story, delivering slowly mounting dread, punctuated by alternating bursts of terror and laughter.” —TE
Creep & Creep 2
Leave it to indie darling Mark Duplass and his regular collaborator Patrick Brice (The Overnight) to keep the found-footage horror movie kickin’ 15 years after The Blair Witch Project. In Creep, Josef (Duplass) recruits Aaron (Brice), a videographer, off Craigslist with the intention of filming a goodbye letter to his unborn son. Josef is dying… at least, that’s how he convinces his new buddy Aaron to spend the night in the woods drinking whiskey with him. The batshit revelations are best left unsaid, and just how Creep 2 picks up the story, with Girls actress Desiree Akhavan front and center as a hopeful YouTube star, is even more of a hoot. Creep is the deranged, internet-friendly horror franchise we deserve. —Matt Patches
“Ghosts are real. This much I know.”
So says Mia Wasikowska in the opening scene of Guillermo del Toro’s 2015 Gothic horror romance about the spirits of the dead and the ties that bind them. Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing, an aspiring writer à la Mary Shelley and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who is haunted by a premonition of her late mother’s ghost to beware of a place known as Crimson Peak. Edith meets and falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a baronet seeking investors to revive his family’s clay mines.
After her father is brutally murdered, Edith weds Thomas and retreats to his ancestral mansion in the eponymous clay hills of northern England. Upon arriving, however, she realizes only too late that her mother’s warnings were true, and that a mystery at the heart of the home threatens to take her own life in addition to her father’s. With an exquisitely designed set, beautiful costumes, ghoulish practical effects, and a memorable score, Crimson Peak is a terrific ode to del Toro’s love of Gothic literature and an excellent ghost story to boot. —TE
His House turns the trials of immigration into a shock-filled ghost story. Gangs of London’s Sope Dirisu and Lovecraft Country’s Wunmi Mosaku play a Sudanese couple seeking asylum in Britain, where they encounter supportive but not exactly friendly social workers (including House of the Dragon star Matt Smith) who can’t accept that the home they’ve been given is haunted. Caught between the ghosts at home and an inflexible system ready to send them back to a war-torn country, the couple struggle with their past and their highly questionable future. —TR
The home invasion movie gets a fresh spin from The Haunting of Bly Manor creator and Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan in Hush, a lean, mean feature that centers on a deaf-mute woman’s fight against a would-be killer. Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the film) lives on her own in the woods, and becomes the focus of a man (John Gallagher Jr.) after he chases and kills one of her friends, discovering through Maddie’s failure to notice that she cannot hear anything. It’s a terrific modern slasher, and it even got the seal of approval from Stephen King. —MP
David Robert Mitchell’s breakout supernatural horror film It Follows centers on a young teenager, Jay (Maika Monroe), who, after a strange sexual encounter, finds herself stalked by a nightmarish entity that no one else but her can see that intends to kill her. In order to stave off death, Jay and her friends must stay a step ahead of the creature while attempting to find a means of defeating it, or else resort to passing the curse on to another hapless unassuming victim herself. With a terrific score provided by Hyper Light Drifter composer Richard Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace), It Follows is a memorable, unique, and entertaining teen horror drama that flips the script on the genre’s traditionally puritanical framing of sexuality with terrific results. —TE
Frank Darabont’s third Stephen King adaptation easily stands as one of the finest ever produced. Set in a small town in Maine, the film follows the story of artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), his wife, Stephanie (Kelly Collins Lintz), and their son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), who are stranded in their local grocery store — along with most of their small community — when a strange, otherworldly mist descends upon them. As hysteria sets in and the nightmarish creatures who inhabit the mist begin to close in, mob rule and fanaticism begin to take hold in the form of a local zealot named Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), whose ruthlessness proves more of a threat than the monsters outside.
With a run time of over two hours, The Mist takes its time to ramp up the tension before letting loose a barrage of horrors worthy of King’s name. The ending remains one of the bleakest of any mainstream horror film in recent memory and was so affecting when it was first released that even King himself expressed envy and admiration for Darabont’s interpretation. —TE
The Resident Evil movies
Paul W.S. Anderson’s franchise adaptation of the video game series gets better as it goes along, but the most pure horror of the franchise is probably the first entry. In Resident Evil, the amnesiac Alice (Milla Jovovich) and a group of soldiers who work for the Umbrella Corporation (including Michelle Rodriguez) are stuck in an underground facility as a zombie virus breaks out. It’s a fun time filled with classic monster movie thrills, but also the stunning visuals (the laser grid!!!) that Anderson is known for.
When I say the rest of the series gets even better, I mean it. There’s a zombie Western (Resident Evil: Extinction, directed by Highlander’s Russell Mulcahy), a zombie Assault on Precinct 13 (Resident Evil: Afterlife, which brings Wentworth Miller into the party), and two final installments that lean heavily on the action part of action horror. Only three are on Netflix: the first one, the follow-up Resident Evil: Apocalypse (the lone directorial output of Infinity War second unit director Alexander Witt), and the excellent Resident Evil: Retribution, but you should definitely seek out the others elsewhere, too. —PV
Even in our post-Cabin in the Woods world, there are still opportunities for clever filmmakers to spook us with creepy-shack-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-why-the-hell-would-you-go-in-there-what-was-that-in-the-shadows-no-no-no-no-no stories. The Ritual follows four friends who trek along northern Sweden’s Kungsleden trail as a tribute to a fifth friend, who was recently murdered in a convenience store. The death especially weighs on Luke (Prometheus’ Rafe Spall), whose drunken belligerence put his buddy in harm’s way in the first place. Luke is also the member of the group who realizes that, after discovering a wooden deer altar in an abandoned house along their unadvised detour, the group is being haunted by more than memories. Like a unique mix of Euro-horror and The Hills Have Eyes, The Ritual twists a familiar journey with creature-feature instincts to keep the genre fresh. —MP
Under the Shadow
During a string of Iraqi airstrikes in late-1980s Tehran, the Iranian government bars medical student and political activist Shideh (Narges Rashidi) from continuing her studies. She retreats to her family’s apartment, and despite her husband’s wishes, remains with her young daughter in the war-torn capital — this is her home, and she’s not leaving. But when a missile blasts directly through her building, the normal life Shideh and her daughter knew becomes marked by an invisible, nefarious presence. Is it a djinn? Much like in The Babadook, first-time director Babak Anvari allows the question of the supernatural to orbit the action of Under the Shadow as he captures the erosion of his plain main set and Shideh’s very existence. —MP
Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended pulls the audiences through the screen — almost literally. Viewed entirely from the perspective of a computer desktop, 2014 supernatural horror film centers around a Skype call between a group of high school students who are joined by an unknown presence known only as “billie227.” What at first appears to be a prank swiftly morphs into something much more horrific, as the mysterious stranger begins to reveal terrifying secrets about each of the friends before killing them off one by one. Unfriended is thoroughly gripping extrapolation of our always-online world, a world where vengeful poltergeists and doxxing exist side by side and no secret or offense goes undiscovered or unpunished. —TE
What Lies Below
Braden R. Duemmler’s What Lies Below stars Ema Horvath as Libby, a 16-year-old girl who returns home to her mother’s lake house after summer camp to discover that she’s taken on a new boyfriend, John (Trey Tucker). While initially accepting of her mom’s new beau, Libby gradually begins to suspect that something is… off about John that he’s trying to conceal. With no one but her friend Marley (Haskiri Velasquez) to turn to for help, Libby must expose the truth of John’s sinister nature before it’s too late to save her mother… and herself. Filled with mounting tension, creepy ethereal visuals, and a mind-bogglingly bizarre ending, What Lies Below has more appeal to it than what might at first appear on its surface. —TE