Although Halloween is the best time to binge on some horror films, it is a genre that appeals to our senses all throughout the year. We simply love watching horror films that are scary enough to make us look under the bed twice to make sure a demon is not waiting to greet us at night.
The master of horror, Stephen King, said, “The three types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out, and something with claws grabs you by the arm.
He continued, “And the last and worst one: Terror when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out, and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”
While Netflix has an epic collection of horror films, we decided to pick out the 20 best horror films, in no particular order currently streaming on Netflix.
If you cannot sleep at night, do not blame us!
20 of the best horror films streaming now on Netflix
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Annie Graham lives with her husband, teenage son Pete and 13-year-old daughter Charlie. Following her mother’s demise, strange occurrences begin to plague the family. From Charlie dying a gruesome death to sinister entities haunting them, the film is an interesting and harrowing take on grief, trauma and demonic possession.
The film actually took Aster years to come up with, and he admitted that he does not feel very comfortable talking about the origin of such ideas: “I don’t feel comfortable being explicit about it,” he says. “It’s easier for me not to go into detail. I was more pulling from feelings than experiences.”
Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990)
When a best-selling novelist gets into a car accident that leaves him injured, he is taken in and treated by former nurse Anne Wilkes who is his greatest fan. Soon, Paul realises that things go awry quickly as Anne is not as sweet as she seems, and can be quite violent and controlling.
Engaging and frightening, the film sees James Caan and Kathy Bates put up their best performances. Bates even won her first-ever Academy Award for her brilliant shwoing and was the first-ever woman to achieve this feat in a horror thriller, impressing Stephen King who went on to write two roles exclusively for her.
The Old Ways (Christopher Alender, Marcos Gabriel, 2020)
A Mexican-American journalist, Christine, travels to her hometown in Veracruz and, despite the warnings from her cousins, ventures into the ruinous caves of La Broca. There, she is held captive by an ancient bruja and her son who believe that she has been possessed by a deadly demon and must be exorcised.
“I like exorcism movies but I thought what if we could do a movie from a different cultural standpoint and how much would that change everything,” said Gabriel. About the film, he added, “as a horror fan, you get kind of used to everything. So, I thought let’s remove all of it. No pentagrams, no upside-down crosses. For Chris, it becomes more of an archaeological experiment.”
Sinister (Scott Derrickson, 2012)
Ethan Hawke plays a crime writer who moves into the victim of a snuff film’s home to gain creative motivation for his next book. There, he stumbles upon unsettling tapes and footage regarding the house, leading him to discover various other supernatural forces that begin haunting him and his family.
The film is not only an exploration of spatial horror but also the kind of psychological horrors that plague our daily lives and aspirations. Derrickson dished out: “I think that’s pretty atypical for horror films, to take the family drama as seriously as I did. For me, I relate a lot to Ethan’s character and to his flaws. I was trying to create a character who had a lot of the same flaws as I have, but they are really getting in the way of his life.”
He added: “The core of that character is fear. And my favourite thing about the movie, my very favourite thing, is not just the logic of why he doesn’t leave the house earlier, but what that reason for that is.”
Oculus (Mike Flanagan, 2013)
A ghastly and ancient mirror holds malevolent spirits that tear a family apart and results in a gruesome tragedy. It is indestructible due to its occult nature and soon a pair of siblings must destroy it to stop the mirror from unleashing further damage.
An eerie background score and a general aura of spine-chilling terror haunts the film. Mirrors are creepy in general and Flanagan’s film makes it appear even more sinister. “Well, as a kid I did all the Bloody Mary games and using a mirror to scare myself. But as I got older, the thing that’s awesome about mirrors is that they’re completely ubiquitous,” said the director.
“The imperfections of the glass presents us with what we assume is reality, but it isn’t,” he continued. “So we took that idea that we take for granted that this is an objective reality but it’s not. And then I learned about the tradition in the Jewish faith where they’ll cover a mirror at a funeral to prevent souls from coming back through and I thought that was terrifying.”
I Am The Pretty Thing that Lives In The House (Oz Perkins, 2016)
A nurse is hired to care for the reclusive and terrifying author and soon believes that the house is haunted by sinister forces. This is exacerbated when the distinct lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur and she is caught in a limbo between life, death and truth.
Perkins had complete creative control over the project and managed to bring out the elements of classic gothic horror. Perkins even called the screenplay a “poem” given how lucid and scary it is at the same time.
The Ritual (David Bruckner, 2017)
A group of friends decide to go on an adventurous hike in the Scandinavian hills in memory of their deceased friend when they enter an unmanned forest trail. The winding path leads them to a strange place where they are plagued by the bizarre, occult phenomena that shakes them to the very core.
Amidst the abundance of unsettling and gloomy wilderness, the indie background score evokes fear and misery while portraying grief and friendship in such trying times. Bruckner revealed, “I always find that horror works best when it’s tethered to real-world anxieties and this felt especially relevant to me, both personally and as a broader exploration of masculinity in crisis.”
Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
An FBI agent, Clarice Starling, is assigned the simple yet daunting task of understanding the mind of a scary serial killer, the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter. Her investigations are conducted in a bid to track and catch another notorious killer by the name of Buffalo Bill who seems to share an affinity with Lecter for a particular kind of female victims.
This film helped Demme win his first-ever best Director Award as he carefully curated the characters and dexterously wove them into the narrative. Anthony Hopkins as the scheming cannibal Hannibal Lecter delivered an exemplary performance. The perfect background score appointed by Demme helped the viewers feel a plethora of emotions ranging from fear, hatred and paranoia to anxiety and frenzy.
Insidious (James Wan, 2011)
A couple moves house for a fresh start when their son Dalton falls prey to paranormal events that start plaguing the house. He needs the intervention of an astral projection expert who can save Dalton from being led too far away from his reality.
“We had created this world that gives us the freedom to try things that we haven’t tried before. Here’s the thing that I’m always coming up against. With the first Insidious movie, people loved the first two thirds and then they’ll kind of go “Oh… yeah…” with the end where it kind of goes in a different direction and becomes this other thing,” said Wan while explaining what prompted him to expand the Insidious verse and basically dabble in time travel and more.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Based on Stephen King’s eponymous novella, the film is perhaps the author’s least favourite adaptation but we love it. Jack Torrance goes to the Overlook Hotel with his wife Wendy and son Danny to oversee the hotel during the winter. Strange events start plaguing the family and the patriarch soon finds himself slowly and gradually descending into madness, frenzy and chaos, driven by the supernatural elements in the hotel.
The sets of Kubrick’s film had pretty bizarre stories. From the filmmaker feeding Jack Nicholson cheese sandwiches that he oh-so-loathed to frustrate him to the auteur being extra harsh on Shelley Duvall to help her deliver her best performance, the film is one of the greatest horror classics that deserve all the hype and accolades in the world due to Kubrick’s exemplary vision, camera shots and filmmaking.
Veronica (Paco Plaza, 2017)
An ouija board game rendezvous goes wrong and a demonic entity latches itself onto 15-year-old veronica, terrorizing her and her family, threatening to harm anyone and everyone the girl loves. The internal conflict and family complexities add more terror to the heightened tension in the film.
In an interview, actress Sandra Escacena revealed that, according to her, “the most terrifying aspect of the film is not the fear of the paranormal – it is the fear of growing up, adolescence, loneliness, not being able to control the changes in your body or not recognizing yourself in the mirror.”
Annabelle (John R. Leonetti, 2014)
A pregnant woman is gifted a vintage porcelain doll to adorn the nursery by her husband before the doll gets possessed by a malevolent demonic identity that manifests fear and claustrophobia in the household. It’s one of the most bizarre tales you’ll come across.
The film plays on our general fear and repulsion towards creepy looking dolls. The titular doll is eerie and scary and one might be left wondering what on earth prompted John to gift his pregnant wife such a terrifying toy instead of something that looks a lot less horrifying.
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
A poignant and grotesque take on survival, trauma and paranoia, the film sees a family trying to escape masked intruders who are actually their doppelgangers that compel them to fight for their survival amidst murky grounds. It reeks of both spatial and psychological horror.
“One of the central themes in Us is that we can do a good job collectively of ignoring the ramifications of privilege”, said Peele while talking about the film. It is a terrifying and scathing commentary on the human condition as well as American privilege in terms of class, race and more and the constant fear of the Other.
Orphan (Jauma Collet-Serra, 2009)
Based on a true event where a 34-year-od woman impersonated a 13-year-old to infiltrate a household, Esther is a nine-year-old Russian girl, adopted by a family where the tension between the couple is still high due to a recent stillbirth. Amidst a dark premise and Isabella Fuhrman’s stellar performance as the creepy Esther, the film is unsettling and riveting, to say the least.
In an interview, Fuhrman revealed, “If America hates me, then I’ve done my job”. She said, “That’s the point of the movie—I’m supposed to make everyone hate me, and then at the same time, go, like, ‘Wow, I feel sorry for her,’ but ‘Whoa! She’s so mean!'” Although the film was criticised for reinstating stereotypes and stigma that predominates the concept of abortion, the film is terrifying to watch.
Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016)
A deaf and mute author, played by Kate Siegel, is trying to spend time in a solitary cabin amidst the woods when she is stalked and haunted by a masked killer. She becomes an unfortunate victim of a home invasion where the killer, high on bloodlust, wants to kill her.
Unsettling and dangerous, the film is riddled with jump scares and creepy filmography with a spine-chilling premise. “One of the things I had always wanted to try, which would be so challenging to me as a director, was to try something without dialogue,” revealed Flanagan in an interview. He added, “We thought that if we made the lead character deaf-mute then we would create the potential for really, really fascinating version of these movies.
Shutter (Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2004)
A Thai couple starts experiencing mysterious shadows pervading their photographs after they narrowly escape an accident. Soon, the couple starts experiencing worse paranormal events that seem to have past connections.
Although the film got an English remake, it was not as creepy and scary as the original. A slow-burn, creepy flick with horrifying revelations and deep-seated psychological scares, the film, according to Masyuaki Ochiai, who directed the English remake “is not just about ghosts. The story has a plot with great twists and suspense. And that is what attracted me to the film in the first place.”
The Swarm (Just Phillipot, 2020)
The newest Netflix eco-horror drama has terrified viewers due to its harrowing premise. Set in rural France, where a woman desperately tries to battle poverty by engaging in locust farming. She soon understands that they thrive well on human blood that leads her to spiral.
A scathing tale on the economic crisis and subsequent moral depravity and obsession, the film stars Suliane Brahim, Sofian Khammesas, Marie Narbonne and more. Downright creepy and terrifying, the film is, according to the filmmaker, embedded in reality. “To create a bridge between realism and fantasy, I decided to start from a true story”
Aftermath (Peter Winther, 2021)
Disturbing and creepy, the film focuses on a new couple who are trying to grasp on to the remnants of their rocky marriage when they move into a new house to salvage their relationship. With strange new occurrences haunting their lives, they soon begin to connect dots with the house’s troubled past.
Based on a true story, the film will make viewers spiral owing to the harrowing premise. It is derived from the story of Jerry Rice and Janice Ruther and stars Ashley Greene, Sharif Atkins, Shawn Ashmore and more. From spooky events to incessant stalking and random sale notices, the predicament of the couple is horrifying.
The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013)
Esteemed demonologist couple Ed and Lorraine Warren are called in to investigate one of the scariest and most sensational cases of their career. It sees a family who recently moved into a dilapidated farmhouse finding themselves attacked and haunted by sinister forces that have connections to the extremely unsettling past of the house.
One of the greatest hits of the Conjuring verse, the film is allegedly based on true events. “I didn’t just want to make another ghost story or another supernatural film”, said the filmmaker. “One thing I had never explored was the chance to tell a story that’s based on real-life characters, real-life people. So those were the things that led me to The Conjuring.”
Gerald’s Game(Mike Flanagan, 2017)
Adapted from Stephen King’s eponymous novel, the film sees a couple engaging in kinky foreplay when the husband collapses, leaving the wife tied to the bed in handcuffs. Amidst dehydration, raging hallucinations, past trauma and hunger pangs begin the woman’s, played by Carla Gugino, harrowing and claustrophobic tale of survival embedded in a morbid exploration of withering sanity, vulnerability and terror.
A lucid exploration of trauma and abuse, Gugino had a difficult time shooting the film. “I have to say, very rarely do I feel like I can’t watch someone acting anything, but this did seem so real,” said she. “I remember in rehearsal I was like, ‘I can’t do it, it’s just too upsetting.’ It was just so alarming.”