The last year might have been scary enough, but sometimes you're just in the mood for a fright – so look no further than our roundup of the best Netflix horror movies. There's just nothing like something genuinely spine-chilling to get lost in for an hour or two.
Since we're all still stuck on Zoom, Unfriended is an excellent choice for a timely terror, with some friends discovering to their horror that their Skype call has been infiltrated by an apparently-dead classmate. Then for the classic "trip to the woods goes wrong" experience, try Calibre, The Ritual, or What Keeps You Alive, and for a unique murder mystery, check out the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Velvet Buzzsaw. There's also the dystopian The Platform to try if you fancy something to get you thinking, and Hush for a tense home invasion slasher. Whatever you're after, you're bound to find something to scare you silly on our guide to the best Netflix horror movies, so get scrolling and find your perfect movie marathon lineup.
The Babysitter (2017)
Babysitters in horror tend to get the short shrift. Whether they’re being stalked, stabbed, or taunted over the phone, it’s seldom what you’d dub a “fun gig” for them. McG’s The Babysitter twists this expectation, in perhaps its sole subversion that we shan’t spoil here, to elevate this Netflix Original from what could easily have been a so-so slasher. From the neon-drenched palette of its marketing, it’s clear that this isn’t your typical blood-soaked trip to suburbia.
Nope, this horror works at being hip. That’s in part to the breezy cool exuded by Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving. In the lead as the world’s best babysitter, it’s her turn that cements the pic as a playful riff on horrors past; whether she’s debating the merits of horror icons with tween scamp Cole or figuring out how to achieve the life she truly desires. While its overly-stylized screen pop-ups might appear needy, they’re not enough to detract from the popcorn frivolousness.
Little Evil (2017)
Films like The Omen and Orphan have taught us that having a kid in a horror movie typically doesn't end well. The nightmarish concept of raising a hell-spawn receives a much-needed shakeup in Eli Craig’s horror-comedy Little Evil. Parenthood gets utterly skewered as Adam Scott’s everyman Gary meets and marries the woman of his dreams, Samantha (Evangeline Lilly), only to discover he’s stepdad to the antichrist.
A great riff on the exhausted supernatural child subgenre, that mixes up the typical "devil incarnate" trope with some fresher, less tired ideas (queer representation that’s not derivative). With a slew of recognisable horror moments nabbed and skewered (Dr. Farrow being a brazen nod to Rosemary’s Baby for one) on the meta altar, there’s plenty of genre winks to score Little Evil points with fans. Need further convincing? Craig also directed the stellar slasher comedy Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.
The Perfection (2019)
Good at guessing twists? The Perfection acknowledges your arrogance and ceremoniously barfs all over it. This body horror supreme rages and twists, a schlock-filled delight that barely lets up until you’ve regurgitated your lunch, that is. There’s a reason everyone couldn’t stop talking about this campy Netflix Original at time of release: it’s a dizzying trip into the terrifying world of… classical musicianship.
You heard. Get Out’s Allison Williams channels that same energy to play cellist Charlotte whose rivalry with Logan Browning’s similarly-talented string plucker Lizzie spirals out of control. While that might sound like a ‘90s thriller, this is pure modern horror. It admittedly ventures into some rather over-the-top scenarios, but that’s where most of its deliciously deranged entertainment lies. This is a bizarre yarn of revenge that unspools through a number of interesting themes.
His House (2020)
His House arrives is an excellent horror that's best watched on Halloween, though can be enjoyed any time of the year. The story revolves around two immigrants who flee their war-torn country for a better life in England. However, they are given a new home that's invaded by a certain... presence.
This one's a timely tale that's anchored by two superb central performances by Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu. We'll leave the rest for you to discover, but this is one haunted house horror you won't want to miss.
Await Further Instructions (2018)
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
The holidays can be a trying time without the added stress of meeting the in-laws. For Annji (Neerja Naik) that’s exactly her predicament, as she and her boyfriend Nick (Sam Gittins) head to his childhood home for Christmas. Right from the off, something feels wrong, yet there’s no otherworldly horror at hand for the first act; its deep-set xenophobia flung across the table along with the pigs-in-blankets that strikes terror into your heart.
Watching this movie in 2020 is an altogether different experience than its director Johnny Kevorkian likely intended when the pic was lensed back in 2018. A rampantly horrible housebound horror, this deft pic burrows under your skin due to its frankly awful characters. That’s not the worst part though. The Milgram family’s terrible natures worsen a shade or two when an unknown entity threatens them through an ominous warning message on the TV: “Stay indoors. Await further instructions.” Hysteria ensues and the household is gripped by paranoia, in one of the grimmest sci-fi horrors to emerge in recent years.
Gareth Evans might seem an unusual choice to lens a slow-burn period horror, but somehow? Apostle works. Fans of The Witch will get a kick out of this Netflix Original horror that stars Dan Stevens as Thomas Richardson, a man who returns home to learn his sister has fallen afoul of a cult. Desperate to rescue her, he ventures to the secluded isle, willingly embracing (Michael Sheen) and his flock under the guise of a recent convert in order to locate his missing sibling.
Evans puts a pause to kinetic flourishes brought to life in his signature efforts, The Raid and The Raid 2. Here, he opts for a slower pace to the hidden horrors of the hazy, misty Welsh town. A slew of subplots steer Stevens’ wanderer all over the map in his dogged pursuit, showcasing Evans’ eye for making the bleak beautiful, and the horrific truly mesmerising.
Is there such a thing as the perfect murder? While 1922 doesn’t strictly dabble with that query, it does dive into the next best thing: what guilt does to a man after committing one. Another King adaptation, this Netflix Original hails from director Zak Hilditch, who opts for the long, steady-paced tale. Things open on farmer Wilf James (Thomas Jane) as he struggles to deal with his wife Arlette’s (Molly Parker) aspirations. After inheriting a large plot of land, her plan is to sell it so they can move to the city with their son.
Wilf, a rancher at heart, is reviled by her plans, so opts for the only remaining choice: he plots to kill her. Unlike other King adaptations, that boast flashy villains and shocking twists, this is old-school horror. If you like your scares with a hint of the gothic to them and are more intrigued by the darkness that lingers inside of people rather than the boogeyman, this is for you.
Creep 2 (2017)
Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass’ Creep (see below) blasted onto the horror scene leading the mumblegore pack with its quiet, simple aspirations that proved utterly terrifying. How do you follow up a trendsetter like that? Easy. Push the concept further. For the sequel, Duplass returns as the titular creep, emboldened by his past murderous exploits to embrace his ego even moreso. This time around he hires a videographer to chronicle a day in his life, wherein he unveils his true villainous self, with the promise that he won’t kill her over the next 24 hours.
Following Duplass into a facsimile spate of killings would have been the swiftest route to a second chapter in the Creep franchise. Yet Creep 2 steers deeper into its psychopath’s neuroses, to explore topics such as: what happens when serial murderers feel disillusioned with their “work”? What’s the cure for a melancholic killer? Found footage horror receives a genuine facelift in this thoroughly unnerving and jump scare-ridden sequel. Bring on Creep 3.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
How well can you really know your partner? This Canadian indie rifles through the ramifications of that quandary, revealing an answer that’d have anyone running for the hills, car keys in hand, shrieking. The movie unearths a seismic secret wedged between married couple Jules and Jackie, who we meet during a romantic getaway to celebrate their one-year anniversary. The woods are idyllic and isolated, perfect for sapphic shenanigans, yet what happens when you go from happy to hunted in a single moment?
Writer-director Colin Minihan brings to that harrowing ultimatum a dose of much-needed humour. Not surprisingly, he is one half of The Vicious Brothers who gave us the superb found-footage franchise Grave Encounters, that also drips jet-black humour into its story. Where that film closed in on the scares in a single location, What Keeps You Alive somehow manipulates the great outdoors to make them feel just as claustrophobic.
Picture the scene. You’re having a great time with an old friend, and then all of a sudden, you’re struck by that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when the absolute worst thing imaginable happens. The moodscape of Calibre preys on that very sensation for its entire runtime, venturing down some decidedly murky ethical holes to tell the tale of two lifelong friends who journey to the Scottish highlands for a hunting weekend. While Vaughn and Marcus’ getaway is a boozy fun time at the start, the real thrills kick in when they hit the outdoors to bag themselves a deer.
Well, we say watch, but you’ll likely experience most of the film from behind a cushion while you clutch the armrest, sweat pouring down your back. Writer-director Matt Palmer’s debut doesn’t adhere to traditional horror tropes per se, more an experience in sheer pulse-pounding what-the-fuckery. While most of its punchiest moments are snagged from elsewhere, that doesn’t matter: you’ll be holding your breath the whole time.
Both funny and scary, this low-key French horror taps into an area of the zombie genre previously unexplored. The rural, foreign area, that is. Ravenous plays out in the surrounding areas of Quebec, as residents slowly succumb to a zombie-like illness, leaving their loved ones to fend them off and seek shelter.
Bored of the usual undead flesh-eaters cluttering up your screen? Not only does this effective little horror boast a unique element in that it's not performed in the English language, it also packs in some neat amendments to zombie lore. Similarly to more recent zombie fare like Maggie, Ravenous pares things down and keeps it simple. You're gonna get no flashy CGI, big-budgeted action here, folks. But what it does offer, rather bleakly, is a sense of real, confounding sadness at the loss of life, that's typically overlooked in favour of blood and guts.
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
One of the first screencast screamers that plays out exclusively via MacBook screen capture, Unfriended has lost none of its menace. It maintains its core scares despite the breakneck speed at which tech moves on. You can overlook the small touches that date it in favour of its truly bone-jangling premise. A bunch of high-schoolers hang out on Skype, only to discover their conversation is hijacked by an unknown user.
It’s shortly revealed that the account belongs to a former classmate who committed suicide the previous year, and is now on the prowl for sweet payback. Terror ensues as the gang are mercilessly taunted, isolated in their individual homes, by the vengeful spirit. While it’d be easy to dismiss the terror inflicted on these teens, as surely they can just log off, that’s the point the film urges you to chew over: how can you run for your life when you’re utterly addicted to your digital presence?
The Platform (2019)
The notion that horror isn’t political is a poor argument, with each era in the genre’s history ripe with titles seeking to dismantle particular rhetorics. The Platform is one of Netflix’s first world language original horrors, and wields its opinion boldly from the offset. The premise interrogates the concept of communism through a brutal futuristic prison system, which is where we first meet our protagonist Goreng, who awakens one day on Floor 48 of a Virtual Self-Management Center. Essentially, an installation where a mouthwatering feast is placed on a platform and lowered down through the tower, stopping for a moment at each floor so the inmates may eat.
The point made rather explicitly involves the equal distribution of wealth. But when you’ve suffered as a result of others’ greed, what do you do when gluttony presents itself? The movie chronicles Goreng’s experiences as he’s switched every 30 days to a new floor, with the lowest levels demonstrating the savagery humans resort to when their fellow man won’t even throw ‘em a bone.
The Ritual (2017)
Hiking trips never seem to end well in films, and for the four friends in The Ritual that tradition unfortunately continues. Following the death of another friend, whose tragic demise flashes back constantly throughout, the quartet decide that a hike into the Scandinavian woods is the best way to honour his memory. As we know, long treks into dark, scary forests rarely make for fun times, unless you quite like encountering centuries-old evil that wants to murder you horribly.
We’ve had twenty years of Blair Witch knock-offs, but this pic proves that there’s still plenty to be afraid of in the woods. The stale ‘lost in nature’ trope gets a much-needed shake up here, blitzing its characters with hallucinogenic trips and mind-boggling visual effects which add to their unease with the steadily unraveling situation. This is a genuinely scary entry into the horror canon, piecing parts of folk horror together with creature feature tropes.
In a similar fashion to Ravenous, Cargo upends the racy, blistering zombie traditions of recent years to tell a quieter, character-driven story. Opening on an infectious pandemic well underway, Martin Freeman leads the pic as Andy, a man keen to figure his way through the apocalypse with his wife and baby girl by his side. Almost immediately Andy’s circumstance spirals out of control, forcing him to confront his worst nightmares while ensuring his family’s ultimate survival.
This isn’t your typical undead yarn, however. First off, it’s situated not in a bustling cityscape but instead the Australian outback, lovingly photographed as both a sight to behold and fear. Elsewhere, the movie pilfers new themes from the end of days predicament, such as the scramble over rations as commentary on the wasteful nature of modern day living. It examines a parent’s love for their child, and how that takes precedence when time winds down. Freeman’s dedicated performance is what sells the core message; the deep reserve of unconditional love we each possess is the only true tool we need for survival.
A secluded house in the middle of nowhere. A family terrorised by an outsider trying to drive them slowly mad before off-ing them one-by-one. You've probably seen this premise unravel a thousand times before, but you probably haven't seen it delivered through such a unique twist. For Mike Flanagan's follow-up to the superb Oculus, he and his wife Kate Siegel (who also stars) decided to pen a screenplay using the bare bones of that idea with a deaf woman as the lone character singled out by a masked madman.
Without access to that one sense, which most horror films rely on to convey fear, things have to get inventive. Watching events unfold via her point-of-view, a soundless space, somehow makes the film more terrifying. And even though the killer has multiple opportunities to finish her off, the fact that he chooses to draw things out even more so just adds to the whole bloody affair.
Mark Duplass normally plays nice guys. If the title didn't give it away, his turn in Creep isn't remotely nice. Both he and the hideous wolf mask he dons are the new face of horror. Duplass co-stars opposite writer-director Patrick Brice, for the latest in a long line of mumblegore movies that’s inventive, bold and unnerving as hell. Albeit, scant on actual guts.
Except the story of a freelance videographer who accepts work from Duplass' loon isn't really a bloody affair but an intense study in how little privacy we're afforded in the modern digital age. Everything shuffles along without too much cause for concern until the midway point, when you'll be shouting at the screen from behind your cushion. But make sure you don't miss the final encounter between the two. Haunting stuff that leads nicely into the sequel.
Before I Wake (2016)
Stuck in distribution hell for years after completion, Mike Flanagan’s atmospheric horror is nevertheless worth seeking out. On the surface, and judging by its premise, it appears to be your standard creepy kid pic. But this is Flanagan we’re talking about. The mastery in which he muddles the line between good and evil, to rebrand both as something entirely essential to the human experience is outstanding. That’s the core tenet of Before I Wake, which follows the story of young orphan Cody (Jacob Tremblay, several years before Flanagan tore him apart in Doctor Sleep) who secures a new adoptive home with grieving parents Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane).
Their situation is equally as complex as Cody’s, and their tragic backstories become entwined. Scares abound as Cody’s unique skills come to the fore with some genuinely unnerving resultant visuals serving as nightmare fodder. Those familiar with Flanagan’s work will recognise his trademark flourishes, but it’s unlikely you’ll guess the film’s final suckerpunch tear-jerk that doesn’t undermine the earlier scares, instead drilling that creeping sorrow deeper into your bones.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Sadly, the velvet buzzsaw of the title isn’t a dastardly device wielded by a maniac hellbent on mowing down teens. Alas, this Netflix Original is no slasher but a flat-out bonkers satirical horror. Jake Gyllenhaal reunites with his Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy for an art world expose. Velvet Buzzsaw carries none of the precision or bite as that earlier pic, instead preferring to tell a more frivolous story about the art vs. commerce debate.
Bitter, icy, and replete with backstabbing – and that’s just Gyllenhaal’s gonzo critic Mort Vandewalf – the movie oozes camp from the start. Mort’s friend Josephina discovers a repository of phenomenal art in the apartment of her deceased neighbour. The pieces take the Miami art world by storm, only increasing in value when a series of murders become bizarrely connected to them. Come for the wacky premise and stay for the terrific ensemble cast (Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Daveed Diggs, and John Malkovich) who appear to be having a bloody good time.
The horror of having your digital presence stolen strikes at the heart of this truly creepy 2019 pic. Orange is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer stars as Lola, a camgirl who works as a webcam model on a popular live girls website. She earns tokens and likes from her followers in the hopes of leaping up to the site’s top ten where true stardom awaits. That dream falls apart when Lola awakes one morning to discover her profile has been taken over... by an exact copy of herself.
What’s most unsettling, guaranteed to send shivers up your spine, is the uncanny valley conundrum at the centre of CAM. Having your identity hijacked is one thing, sure. But being confronted by a sinister simulacra, a dangerous doppelganger, a cunning cop- alright, that's enough, you get the point. That concept is most chilling. Penned by a former real-life cam girl, the story dives into the dark past of the website, revealing the true horror of Lola’s predicament.
The Endless (2017)
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
Ever feel as if there is nothing new under the cinematic sun? I'm almost certain that's what led filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to craft each of their films, including their latest, The Endless. A seemingly "normal" tale of two brothers who, as teenagers, escaped the clutches of a cult, is flipped into a realm David Lynch would feel right at home in. This is not your normal genre outing, folks, as the siblings decide to return to their former homestead and discover that the cult is the least of their worries.
First of all, so you can say you saw one of Benson and Moorhead's earliest movies before the rest of the world caught on. Their horror sci-fi genre mash-up is a glorious headfuck of a movie, a deep dive into the human condition and how we respond to the monstrous – whether it’s a towering beast, or something inside of us.
The Invitation (2015)
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
Hell is other people, so the saying goes. That doubles as a concise summary of this domestic hellscape headscratcher from Jennifer's Body director Karyn Kusama. Depending on your preference, dinner parties rock or suck. For poor Will (Logan Marshall-Green, not Tom Hardy) his culinary evening begins on a sour note and proceeds to get worse. Will, his new girlfriend and a group of old pals spend the night at his former abode with his ex-wife, her new partner (Game of Thrones' Michiel Huisman), and a heaping side order of WTF?
This dinner party movie edges into weirdness early on, and continues to make you feel like something fucked up is happening... you're just not entirely sure what. The Invitation is unlike any other horror of recent years. It's a slow-burning, beautifully-shot affair and one we strongly recommend going into knowing very little.
Directed by Cho Il-hyung, Alive is a Netflix movie from South Korea that follows a live-streamer as his attempts to survive a zombie apocalypse. Oddly enough, a guy who spends most of his time playing video-games is actually fairly suited to live in a zombie apocalypse... Yoo Ah-in plays the gamer, Oh Joon-woo, and is joined by Park Shin-hye, who plays the mysterious Kim. The pair make a great central duo in this intense, bloody undead flick.
Under the Shadow (2016)
Non-Netflix original available in UK and US
A film with a PG rating can't be really scary... can it? Under the Shadow, dubbed Iran's version of The Babadook, aims to dismantle that theory in the most terrifying way possible. Taking place during the Iran-Iraq war, tensions are already high for the residents of Tehran, and especially for one unlucky family. Married couple Iraj and Shideh, find themselves split up over the course of an evening, when Iraj is called away, leaving his wife and their daughter Dorsa to wait out the night in their apartment. Thing is, there might be something worse than a missile attack awaiting them...
A genuinely scary horror, with a ripe, tense atmosphere that's largely absent of violence and gore, Under the Shadow channels some deep-rooted fears about Iran's cultural climate, twisting them into a living, breathing terror. Shideh is also a much welcome addition to the horror canon, refusing to idly sit by while evil is at work, and instead taking action to protect her child.
Gerald's Game (2017)
Stephen King's hot streak brings with it an adaptation many said was unfilmable. This recent stab, another Mike Flanagan film, proves those naysayers wrong. This is perhaps the most loyal King adaptation, bringing a tome shuddering to life that consists mostly of a woman chained to a bed, alone, in the middle of nowhere. That woman is Jesse (Carla Gugino), whose husband, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), drives her to a peaceful retreat for a weekend of nookie and $200 steak.
His ticker gives up and she's left handcuffed to the bedposts with a strange dog for company... oh, and a creeping demon with red eyes that lurks in the shadows when night falls. Carla Gugino's stunning performance piles on the layers of horror from throughout Jesse's past, until the sting in the tail you won't see coming.