Whether it’s something gory and macabre, silly and irreverent, or 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 the goods. We’ve combed through the libraries of each of the major streaming platforms to bring you a list of our most recommended horror movies. Here are the best horror movies you can stream right now, from old classics to new hits. Our latest update added Crimes of the Future as an editor’s pick.
Crimes of the Future
Run time: 1h 47m
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Microplastics: They’re everywhere!
They’re in our lungs, our blood, our food and drinking water; even the air we breathe. What the fuck is it doing to our bodies? We don’t really know, but David Cronenberg’s 2023 body horror drama sure has an idea of what it might mean for our children. Crimes of the Future imagines a world where humans have lost the ability to feel pain. In addition to that, several people have developed a disturbing disorder which causes their bodies to spontaneously spawn new organs.
This new reality has spawned a trend: Live surgery, wherein performance artists plagued with this condition tear into their own bodies in an effort to shape meaning out of this strange new biological fact. Viggo Mortensen stars as Saul Tenser, a world-renowned performance artist who, alongside his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), stands on the cutting edge — both literally and figuratively — of this cultural phenomenon. When Saul’s activities catch the attention of a mysterious group of evolutionary activists, as well as the lascivious eye of a government employee named Timlin (Kristen Stewart), he’s forced to confront what he — and everyone else around him — is changing into, and whether what that is can even be considered “human” anymore.
As macabre as it is moving, grotesque as it is sensuous; Crimes of the Future is an exquisite work of science fiction horror where surgery is the new sex and our very bodies have rebelled against us for the incalculable destruction we have inflicted on the planet. It’s a film that exists in intimate conversation with the anxieties of our present, as well as one that represents a stunning return to form for one of cinema’s most forward-thinking directors. Howard Shore’s growling, guttural score is engrossing, while the leading trio of performances by Mortensen, Seydoux, and Stewart are a virtual match made in heaven in bringing to life this speculative slice of post-human hell on Earth. In short: It’s a great film and highly recommended, but whatever you do, don’t see it on a full stomach. Trust me. —Toussaint Egan
Crimes of the Future is available to stream on Hulu.
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: John Hyams
Cast: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald
A taut spine-chiller from John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), Alone is your classic woman-on-the-run thriller. Jessica (Jules Willcox), a recent widow, is in the midst of moving. If that wasn’t enough stress, a creepy man (Marc Menchaca) appears to be following her on the road. After he slashes her tires, she crashes and wakes up in his basement. What follows is a tightly crafted thriller with great performances, outstanding direction, and enough tension to keep your heart pounding throughout the 98-minute running time. —Otto Tap
Run time: 1h 53m
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina
Best known for its brutally violent finale, Takashi Miike’s 1999 horror film as a whole is a taut and gripping drama that unravels its characters’ psychological hang-ups and neuroses before plunging headfirst into a heart of darkness and unsettling imagery.
As we wrote in the inaugural entry of this year’s Halloween Countdown,
Miike’s film holds its cards relatively close to its chest for most of its run time, unspooling its tightly wound mystery like garrote wire before peeling back its skin of meet-cute artifice to reveal a pulsing mass of horrors roiling beneath. The film descends into a macabre fugue state of assumptions, misdirections, and cinematic sleights of hand, with dreams that feel almost real set against a reality too terrifying to be anything but. In the end, though, these are just words. Only pain can be trusted.
Audition is available to stream on Arrow Video and Hi-Yah!, for free with ads on Tubi, and for free on Kanopy with a library card. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Apple TV and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long
This is one of those movies you should watch without knowing anything else. It’s tense, it’s funny (writer-director Zach Cregger is best known as a member of the comedy group The Whitest Kids U’Know) and features great performances by Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. The rest I will leave to you to find out. You’re welcome. —PV
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul
A high school horror movie about a nerd who falls in love with a haunted car, Christine is an extraordinary Stephen King adaptation and a standout in John Carpenter’s consistently excellent filmography.
Arnie (Keith Gordon) is an unpopular high schooler in California who has just one friend, a popular football player named Dennis (John Stockwell, who in many ways is the emotional core of the movie, as someone who cares deeply about Arnie). When the two come across a broken-down old Plymouth Fury (a vehicle that we’ve already seen commit murder and mayhem in an opening sequence set in a 1950s car assembly plant), Arnie decides he must have it. He quickly becomes obsessed with the car, named “Christine,” and human and vehicle both become jealous of anybody who might interrupt their time together. He also starts to dress and act more like a greaser dirtbag from the 1950s. It’s a great time for everybody, except Arnie’s human loved ones.
The practical effects in Christine deserve special recognition here. The car can heal itself, an effect that is shown on camera in full, glorious display. The special effects team made rubber molds of Christine and then imploded it, running the shot in reverse in the film to evoke the effect of a self-healing vehicle. It’s astounding to behold decades later.
Filled with great high school archetypes that are subverted just enough to keep things interesting, a haunting score by Carpenter, and a brief appearance by Harry Dean Stanton, Christine is popcorn 1980s horror at its best. —PV
Christine is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon and Apple TV.
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Kōji Yakusho, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Anna Nakagawa
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 1997 horror masterpiece Cure follows Kenichi Takabe (Kōji Yakusho), a Japanese detective frustrated by an inexplicable rash of seemingly unconnected murders that nevertheless all appear to be connected, despite none of the perpetrators having known each other or having any recollection as to what possessed them to do it. When Takabe’s investigation leads him to a suspect, a student of psychology and mesmerism known as Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara), he finds himself plunged into a conspiracy that threatens to engulf anyone who gets too close.
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 unlike 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. —Toussaint Egan
Cure is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
Run time: 2h 6m
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia
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 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. —Austen Goslin
Deep Red is available to stream on Shudder, AMC Plus, and Mubi, for free with ads on Pluto TV and Vudu, or for free with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
Eyes Without a Face
Run time: 1h 24m
Director: Georges Franju
Cast: Pierre Brasseur, Édith Scob, Alida Valli
Georges Franju’s influential 1960 film is a master class in supernatural fantasy horror. An unsettling tale about a plastic surgeon (played by Pierre Brasseur) who kidnaps young women and performs surgery on them to try and find a face replacement for his daughter (Édith Scob), Eyes Without a Face is equal parts haunting and beautiful. Scob’s iconic face mask in the movie was later referenced in her role in the also-excellent Holy Motors many decades later. —PV
Run time: 1h 26m
Director: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
Cast: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
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.
Created by a filmmaking family who produce, direct, and star in the movie, Hellbender is an early contender for 2023’s most visually striking horror film. Directors John and Zelda Adams and Toby Poser use forests, and the movie’s many mystic visions, for both serene beauty and creeping terror, swapping effortlessly between the two to match their characters’ fears and discoveries. —AG
Run time: 1h 33m
Director: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
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). The Cottons are 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 the story of the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box Frank acquired before his untimely death. When solved, it conjures hellish beings known as Cenobites to the mortal plane of existence, which 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. —TE
Hellraiser is available to watch on Prime Video, AMC+, Shudder, for free with ads on Tubi and Pluto TV, or for free with a library card on Hoopla. It is also available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 59m
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il
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 U.S. 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 HBO Max, for free with ads on The Roku Channel, and for free with a library card on Hoopla or Kanopy. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 53m
Director: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello
Adrian Lyne’s 1990 psychological horror film Jacob’s Ladder stars Tim Robbins as Jacob, a former American infantryman who is plagued by recurring nightmares of his time fighting in Vietnam. As his visions begin to intensify, seeping into his waking reality and seemingly claiming the lives of all those close to him, Jacob will have to descend into world of horrors beyond his wildest imagination where the only way out is through.
As I mentioned on our list of the best movies on Paramount Plus:
Inspired by the works of Francis Bacon and H. R. Giger and utilizing jarring fast motion in-camera special effects, Jacob’s Ladder is a hallucinatory body-horror thriller that’ll have you gripped to your seat.
Keep your head on a swivel when watching this one. —TE
Let the Right One In
Run time: 1h 54m
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
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, and I read the central relationship as a warning about the parasitic nature of love. After college, the children’s bond reminded me of the impermanence of youth, and why growing up is a mixed blessing. This past year, I was far more focused on the girl’s relationship with her caretaker, an older man who sacrifices everything for her existence.
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 two stage plays. 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 and Prime Video, for free with ads on The Roku Channel and Crackle, or for free with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 23m
Director: Phil Tippet
If Mad God could be summed up in a single word, it is gross. A feature-length descent into a Boschian hellscape of scatalogical (and eschatological) horrors stacked on top of one another like the strata of an impossible tower of Babel, each layer oozing with pus, bile, blood, ichor, and excrement. Another word to describe it would be phenomenal, an apocalyptic stop-motion horror epic over three decades in the making through the meticulous, unfettered craftsmanship of Phil Tippett, the legendary visual effects director and artist behind such films as the original Star Wars trilogy, RoboCop, and Jurassic Park.
I could tell you about the story of the film, but in truth, the story is little more than a matter of personal interpretation. What matters in Mad God, first and foremost, is the animation. Tippett’s masterpiece is a resounding testament to the power of unrestrained creativity and the intrinsic cathartic capacity of the genre of horror itself. —TE
Run time: 1h 51m
Director: James Wan
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young
There was just no way to see it coming. After the Conjuring and Insidious franchises, plus blockbuster turns 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 Malignant, 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 theeeeen it’s revealed… Well, please go behold it.
Strung together with a melodramatic cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” reveling in horror tropes to the point of parody, the final twists of Malignant are some of the most gratifying lunacy of the year, and the acrobatic actor Marina Mazepa brings it all home in a display of gruesome ballet. I won’t explain anything more out of fear of spoilers — just get on the Malignant train. Wan put his dream (nightmare?) on screen for us all to enjoy. —Matt Patches
Run time: 2h 5m
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Any fan of Stephen King worth their salt knows that the so-called king of horror has a lot of movie adaptations of his work. Few films have managed to eclipse, let alone successfully adapt, King’s capacity for horror storytelling, with the exception of (a) Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and (b) Frank Darabont’s The Mist.
Darabont’s third adaptation of a Stephen King story, the film stars Thomas Jane (The Expanse) as a Hollywood poster artist living in Maine who, along with his wife and son and the rest of his neighbors, takes shelter in a supermarket in the wake of a mysterious storm that covers the town in a deadly mist.
Supernatural, otherworldly horrors abound throughout The Mist, but the greatest horror of all is — you guessed it — humanity itself, as seen in the way the townspeople succumb to the temptation to scapegoat those among themselves under the influence of a local religious fanatic. The ending is a gut-punch and sincerely one of the most chilling in any mainstream horror film of its time. If you’ve managed to go unspoiled until now, I won’t ruin the surprise, but needless to say, it’s worth it. —TE
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen
Finally, Near Dark is available to stream at home.
Kathryn Bigelow’s sexy vampire Western is among the coolest movies ever made, and it was an absolute travesty that it was impossible to watch it at home so long (unless you have a physical copy, of course). Luckily, that situation has been rectified, and you can watch this kick-ass movie to your heart’s content.
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) plays a country boy who falls for a vampire girl and ends up hanging with the wrong crowd (the kind that hangs upside down, that is). The other vampires in the girl’s clique are suspicious of him and not sure if there’s room for one more in their crew, and what follows is an explosive genre-mashing adventure with plenty of excellent thrills and terrific makeup and costume design. —PV
Near Dark is available to watch on AMC+ and Shudder.
Night of the Living Dead
Run time: 1h 36m
Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman
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 hide 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, MGM+, and Paramount Plus, or for free with ads on the Roku Channel. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk
Director Julius Avery (of the Sylvester Stallone superhero movie Samaritan) delivered a genre mashup for the ages here. “World War II, but with zombies” is not exactly new ground — Dead Snow, among many others, have delved into the “Nazi zombie” sub-subgenre of horror. But Overlord works so well because it succeeds on both levels — as a war thriller following soldiers trapped behind enemy lines, and also as a zombie horror movie.
It helps to have such a gifted ensemble cast. In addition to lead Jovan Adepo, who shines as the brave paratrooper Edward Boyce, Overlord boasts Wyatt Russell (Lodge 49), Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), John Magaro (First Cow), Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo), and Iain De Caestecker (Agents of SHIELD). Hard to go wrong with a group like that. —PV
Run time: 2h 4m
Director: Andrzej Żuławski
Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennent
Outside of the most ardent of cinephile circles, Andrzej Żuławski isn’t a name that inspires enthusiastic recognition in the United States. Known for his transgressive brand of arthouse cinema, Żuławski’s career was stymied by Communist authorities in his homeland of Poland, with many of his early films being either heavily censored, banned, or, in one instance, nearly destroyed upon release. It also doesn’t help that the few films of his that have been released in the States have since gone out of print — though that appears to be changing soon.
If you do know Żuławski’s name, it’s likely for his 1981 psychological horror film Possession, a film whose cult status among horror connoisseurs has only been amplified in the decades since its release by its difficulty to obtain on physical media or to view online. Fortunately for everyone, that’s no longer the case.
Set in Cold War-era West Berlin, Żuławski’s film stars Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill as Mark, a Russian spy who returns home to find that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani), has left him and wants a divorce. When Anna refuses to divulge why, only saying that she has not left him for someone else, Mark grows suspicious and has her tailed. What he eventually discovers is a horrifying secret beyond his comprehension, one which awakens a long-dormant wellspring of anxiety, resentment, and despair between the two that threatens to tear apart not only their small family, but their very sanity as well.
Inspired by Żuławski’s own tumultuous divorce in 1976 and his subsequent struggles with suicidal ideation, Possession blurs the line between the autobiographical and the phantasmagorical, with hysterical performances by Neill and Adjani that vacillate between disturbing, comical, and disquietingly sympathetic. An inspiration for everything from Ari Aster’s Midsommar to the 2016 music video for Massive Attack’s “Voodoo in My Blood,” Possession is an essential watch for any serious horror fan. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 1h 59m
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Kumiko Asō, Haruhiko Kato, Koyuki
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, the film 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). —TE
Pulse is available to watch on Prime Video, Mubi, and AMC+, for free with a library card on Kanopy and Hoopla, for free with ads on Plex, Crackle, and Vudu, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.
Run time: 2h 9m
Director: Kim Sung-hoon
Cast: Hyun Bin, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Eui-sung
A classic genre mashup for the ages, Rampant combines a 17th-century Korean period piece (with all the political intrigue those stories tend to include) with a fast-paced, bloody zombie apocalypse. When the arrogant young prince to the throne of the Joseon dynasty is called to return home after his older brother’s death, he uncovers an impending zombie apocalypse and attempts to convince his father (and his father’s advisors) to do something about it. —PV
Rampant is available to watch on Prime Video and Hi-Yah!, or for free with ads on Plex, Tubi, PlutoTV, and FreeVee. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Juno Mak
Cast: Anthony Chan Yau, Chin Siu Ho, Kara Wai
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 run-down 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
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman
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 its 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 completely 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. —AG
Run time: 1h 34m
Director: David Bruckner
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier
David Bruckner’s 2017 folk horror thriller stars Rafe Spall (The Big Short, Hot Fuzz) as Luke, an underachieving layabout who reunites with old college friend for a hiking trip through the Scandinavian wilderness in memory of a mutual friend murdered in a robbery. Straying off the beaten path, they soon find themselves stalked by a ravenous, malevolent force with cruel plans in store for the group, though especially for Luke.
The Ritual has a lot of things going for it — beautiful cinematography, brilliantly conceived dream sequences, a monster that manages to be both majestic and terrifying; like an eldritch version of the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke. But one trait about the film that doesn’t get nearly as much praise as it deserves is how subversively funny it is at times. The bickering among the core cast, though especially on part of Sam Troughton’s whining hypochondriac character Dom, alternates between a necessary diffusion of tension and a emotionally fraught accelerant to the otherworldly horrors in which they find themselves ensnared. —TE
The Ritual is available to stream on Netflix.
Run time: 1h 24m
Director: Rose Glass
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Fraser
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 infirm. After meeting her new charge, Amanda, Maud finds herself transfixed and seeks to save the woman’s soul. Maud is unmistakably the villain of this story, but it seems destined for you to sympathize with her as she makes every wrong decision imaginable. While most of the movie is a tremendous slow burn about the dangers of zealous faith, the movie’s ending is an explosion of emotions and one of the best horror endings of the last decade. —AG
Run time: 1h 24m
Director: Jean Luc Herbulot
Cast: Yahn Gael, Evelyne Ily Juhen, Roger Sallah
One of the most memorable new movies of the year is this genre-bending mashup of influences and styles, all combining into an unforgettable 80-minute thriller with stark characterization, remarkable set-pieces, and a whirlwind ending.
From my plea for you to watch Saloum:
From the beginning, Saloum’s evocative costuming choices clue you in to each of the three principal characters: When you first meet them, the three leads are wearing identical ponchos, but the camera focuses on their footwear (one wears Versace, one wears sneakers, one goes barefoot) to instantly tell you what you need to know about this eclectic group of friends and colleagues. [...] I will leave the rest for you to discover for yourself, but I will say there’s a reason this movie is on a horror-centric streaming service.
Guess what — there’s a reason this movie is on this list, too. —PV
Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, James Ransone
One of the most genuinely unsettling horror movies of the last 20 years, Sinister follows a true-crime author, 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 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
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Parker Finn
Cast: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner
When is a smile not a smile? When it’s a show of teeth.
Parker Finn’s 2023 feature debut taps directly into this raw evolutionary fact, transforming one of the most elemental gestures of human expression into a yawning portal of violence and madness. Sosie Bacon (Mare of Easttown) stars as Rose, a clinical therapist who suffers a traumatic experience when one of her patients, who had recently witnessed one of her professors die by suicide, inexplicably kills herself in front of Rose. While recovering, Rose finds herself menaced by hallucinations of her loved ones and associates, all of them silently leering at her with palpable malice. Fearing for her own life and sanity, Rose sets out in search of the origins of this strange epidemic, ultimately coming face-to-face with a terror beyond anything she could have previously imagined.
To be honest, the film is a lot like It Follows, but instead of playing off of the horror movie trope of premarital sex as a precursor to disaster, it’s focused on the psychological, emotional, and physical toll of trauma as manifested as a literal supernatural force. While that may sound derivative or obvious on its face, Smile is one of the best original horror movies in recent memory, as well as the rare kind of horror film whose jump scares still manage to land effectively even when you know they’re coming. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 1h 53m
Director: Egor Abramenko
Cast: Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov
If you’re hungry for a great piece of contemporary Russian sci-fi horror (i.e., something not directed by either Andrei Tarkovsky or Yakov Protazanov), then Egor Abramenko’s 2023 directorial debut is just the film you’re looking for.
Set during 1983 at the height of Cold War tensions, Sputnik (which for your information is Russian for “fellow traveler”) centers on Tatyana (Oskana Akinshina), an uncompromising young psychiatrist with a staunch attitude with regard to the ends justifying the means. Tatyana is recruited by the Soviet military to treat Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), a wounded cosmonaut and the lone survivor of a mysterious satellite crash. Only upon arriving at the remote hospital facility housing the patient and interacting with him does Tatyana come to realize the horrifying truth: Konstantin did not in fact return from space alone; rather, his body has now become the unwitting host to an organism unlike anything seen on Earth. Caught between her duty to study the creature and her desire to save Konstantin from further harm, Tatyana must make a hard decision upon which the very survival of all humanity may rest.
What makes Abramenko’s debut so compelling is how it takes the basic premise of the “trolley problem” thought experiment and twists it repeatedly (and successfully) to dramatic emotional effect. Akinshina (The Bourne Supremacy) delivers a convincing and compelling performance as Tatyana, a woman forced to confront and overcome the uncompromising attitude that had once assured her success but now threatens to endanger not only another man’s life, but potentially the lives of everyone on the planet along with her own soul. Fyodorov, for his own part, delivers a sympathetically complex (and on occasion, implicitly sinister) performance as Konstantin, a Russian “hero” torn between his perceived duty to his country and his emotional obligation to a loved one he all but abandoned before embarking on his most recent mission. The creature design in this movie is terrific, as is the cinematography and the film’s score.
Having previously been slated for a world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival and subsequently dumped on video-on-demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sputnik is exactly the kind of horror movie this list was intended to spotlight: a kind of rare gem of intellectually and viscerally stimulating horror that otherwise goes unappreciated if not given the opportunity to shine. —Toussaint Egan
Sputnik is available to stream on Hulu.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Run time: 1h 23m
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Allen Danziger
Another shoestring production gone 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 a 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 2023, but the original stands out as an unhinged encapsulation of pure chaos and terror. At a tight 83 minutes, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is well worth the small time investment to catch up on one of the most influential horror movies ever made. —PV
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available to watch on Peacock, Shudder, AMC+, and for free with ads on Tubi and Freevee. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
Train to Busan
Run time: 1h 58m
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dang-seok
Imagine if, instead of eating cockroaches and warding off ax-wielding thugs on their way to the one-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 tear the heart to shreds. It’s a father-daughter story. It’s a husband-wife story. It’s a who-deserves-to-live-and-die survivor narrative. It’s a people story trapped in a high-speed rail train, where the only hope of escape is a well-timed leap into the baggage shelf. It’s a hell of a movie. —MP
Train to Busan is available to watch on Prime Video, AMC+, Peacock, Shudder, for free with ads on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel, and for free with a library card on Kanopy and Hoopla. It is also available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
The Unfriended movies
Year: 2014 (Unfriended); 2018 (Unfriended: Dark Web)
Run time: 1h 23m (Unfriended); 1h 28m (Unfriended: Dark Web)
Director: Levan “Leo” Gabriadze (Unfriended); Stephen Susco (Unfriended: Dark Web)
Cast: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead (Unfriended); Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel (Unfriended: Dark Web)
As many people have learned over the past few years, there aren’t that many things scarier than a video call you can’t leave.
A masterfully contained horror movie that makes full use of its (at the time) groundbreaking gimmick, Unfriended is a tense teen horror movie that takes place entirely on a character’s laptop screen. Definitely watch it on a laptop if you can, and check out the very good sequel Unfriended: Dark Web if you dug this one. —PV
From our list of the best horror movies on Netflix:
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
Unfriended is available to watch on Netflix or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu. Unfriended: Dark Web is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.