“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader,” Stephen King, the maestro of the horror tale, once said. “But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out.” Considering King's expertise in terrifying everyone of all ages, it's no surprise he's able to neatly surmise the key pillars of every horror story.
Not everything that scares one person will scare another, but, on the list below, you’ll find more than a couple of horror movies that are bound to terrorize, horrify, or at least gross you out. These are, of course, not necessarily the best horror movies of all time, but only the ones streaming on Netflix. And once you’re through, and are eager to schedule another evening of creepy entertainment, you’ll want to read all about the most anticipated upcoming horror movies reaching cinemas soon, and the 30 best horror movies of all time.
10. The Cured
While The Cured certainly includes its fair share of tired tropes, the movie's clever premise more than makes this a worthwhile watch. A virus turns all those infected into feral homicidal maniacs. Yet, unlike in most other zombie movies, a cure has been found.
Those who were infected are gradually allowed back into society, but those who survived without needing a cure hold a grudge. How can they forgive those people who were, just days ago, cannibals who were terrorizing the neighbourhood? As martial law takes hold of an Irish town, Abbie (Ellen Page) and her once-infected brother-in-law (Senan) try to reclaim normalcy; easier said than done when Sensan can remember everything he did as a drooling monster.
9. The Invitation
The Invitation may be a slow burn, but it’s worth waiting for the boil. Logan Marshall-Green's character Will heads to a dinner party at his ex-wife’s house. The death of their son drove a wedge in their marriage and this dinner party is supposedly a way to reconnect them after they moved on with different partners. However, it soon becomes clear that his former spouse, Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard), has joined a support group doing more harm than good.
Karyn Kusama directs this masterful thriller that tackles tragedy while also ratcheting up the tension, leading to a bloody finale. There's no supernatural horror here, just broodingly tense character development and slashers aplenty.
Horror fans who have seen Spanish director Paco Plaza found-footage masterpiece REC will knows the filmmaker is a force to be reckoned with. After making two sequels to REC, Plaza's next feature-length movie was Veronica, which slipped under many people's radars after initially landing on Netflix. That all changed when viewers started claiming on social media that the movie was so scary they had to turn it off halfway through.
Supposedly based on the true story of a 15-year-old Catholic schoolgirl, Veronica follows the eponymous character as she sneaks into a basement to do a seance with an oujia board during a solar eclipse. As you may expect, things quickly go wrong, and Veronica is possessed by a malevolent spirit. It might not be a ground-breaking plot, but Plaza’s keen eye for detail creates a compellingly creepy atmosphere punctuated by the perfect amount of jump scares.
7. Train to Busan
Take the claustrophobic train setting of Snowpiercer, but swap privileged passengers for zombies. That's pretty much the premise of Train to Busan. Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the South Korean movie is an action-packed twist on the zombie genre that features a stellar cast of characters who are well fleshed out.
Each passenger needs to work together to survive in a world where flesh-eating undead (that can run, jump, and infect in an instant) are around every turn of the track. Train to Busan is a genuinely thrilling and scary ride
The best campfire ghost stories are the ones that are short and sweet. They offer a setting, threat and final confrontation that are all neatly surmised before anyone's even taken a bite of a smore.
That’s also the beauty of anthology horror movies like XX, which packs five genuinely unsettling stories into its runtime. Each one has been written and directed by a woman and, while the quality of each varies a little, it's a bold and brave feature film that has a little bit of everything, from creepy dollhouse horror to a quasi Rosemary's Baby sequel.
5. Under The Shadow
In '80s wartorn Tehran, a mother (Narges Rashidi) and daughter are terrorized by forces both physical and supernatural inside their besieged apartment block. Over the course of Under the Shadow, this woman’s horror at encroaching sharia law, a law that strips away her freedom, is replaced by the terror of demonic forces at work in her home – all while missiles rain down above.
Iranian-born director Babak Invari’s movie is a thoughtful and terrifying glimpse into the lives of women trapped in cities on the brink of destructin, and manages to walk the difficult line between family drama and fright fest with acrobatic ease.
4. Gerald’s Game
Available: UK, US
Mike Flanagan has quickly proven himself one of the leading lights in horror. Before creating The Haunting of Hill House anthology series, the filmmaker directed an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game, which many thought would be an impossible story to bring to the screen.
Carla Gugino plays Jessie, a woman whose trip to the secluded countryside with her husband turns sour when he dies on top of her during an episode of rough sex while she’s handcuffed to the bed. Jessie’s ensuing panic and visits from a boogeyman that may or may not be in her imagination makes Gerald’s Game one of the creepiest films on Netflix.
3. The Conjuring
Clapping will never be the same again after watching The Conjuring. Carolyn and Roger Perron have just moved to a beautiful old lake house with their five daughters. However, things are not as they seem, as the once beautiful building is haunted by ghosts. Once things start going bump in the night, the Perrons call in Ed and Lorraine Watson, two paranormal investigators, to help them with their haunting issues.
Horror fans will likely recognise those names: the Watsons were real people who became famous for their work on the Amytiville Horror case. Yet it's their work on the Perron residence they claim left them truly shaken. Judging by James Wan’s movie, you can see why.
2. The Witch
The 1630s don't exactly look fun. There was no running water, bad dental hygiene, no Spotify, and – for William’s family – no good luck. After being banished from their village for their puritanical faith, the family is forced to relocate to a secluded plot of land on the edge of the woods, where they are quickly targeted by a witch.
Those who need gore and jump scares to feel fear might not get on with the creeping dread of Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, but The Witch is one of the most atmospheric and clever horror movies of recent years. This is the film that set Anya Taylor-Joy’s star on the rise, and for good reason. She shines as the eldest daughter - accused of being the witch with a blend of disarming innocence and, occasionally, quiet malevolence.
1. The Sixth Sense
Before Sixth Sense roared onto cinema screens in 1999, M. Night Shyamalan was a relative unknown. After the Sixth Sense, Hollywood was abuzz with rave reviews and people feverishly talking about that twist.
The Sixth Sense remains one of Shyamalan's best works: a horror story that never resorts to cheap scares or thrills but instead examines grief and loss through the lens of two broken families. The movie follows a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who takes up examines a young boy (Hayley Joel Osment) claiming he can talk to and see the dead. While yes, the ending has come to define The Sixth Sense’s cultural legacy – as well as the classic “I see dead people” line – the quiet moments can’t be overlooked. Osment’s wide-eyed stare out a car window, Toni Collette washing a dish with white knuckles, and Willis’s fraught anniversary dinner with his wife. The Sixth Sense was proof that supernatural stories can still be very human, and remains the best horror movie on Netflix.