Having a tough week? Why not cheer yourself up by watching some bone-chilling terror? Critic Travis Johnson has combed through the Netflix archive to pick the 25 best horror movies.
This page last updated: April 1, 2021
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Australian director Zak Hilditch adapts Stephen King’s dour novella about a farmer (Thomas Jane) whose decision to murder his wife (Molly Parker) causes him to lose his son, his farm, his sanity and his life. A sustained exercise in tone, this is a relentlessly downbeat period chiller.
The tween daughter of famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (McKenna Grace) must battle not only the titular cursed doll but a whole menagerie of spirits unleashed from their collection of occult artifacts in this fun and family friendly PG-level horror romp. Between this, The Haunting of Hill House, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Grace has pretty much cemented her place as the tween scream queen du jour.
A group of women led by Natalie Portman’s steely scientist undertake a mission into a mysterious wilderness zone where the usual laws of nature no longer apply, only to confront both unspeakable physical horrors and the complete dissolution of the self. Loosely adapted by director Alex Garland from the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the result is a smart, visceral updating of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker more than anything else.
Action specialist Gareth Evans (The Raid) turns his hand to horror in this Wicker Man-inspired chiller. At the dawn of the 20th century a man (Dan Stevens) infiltrates a strange religious cult on a remote Welsh island in order to liberate his sister, only to uncover far stranger doings than the usual fire and brimstone. Michael Sheen turns up as a charismatic preacher, and Evans proves that his gory tastes in action aesthetics translate quite well to the horror genre.
Twelve-year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) discovers his smokin’ hot babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving) is the head of a high school Satanic cult and plans to sacrifice him in an occult ritual. Gifted journeyman director McG delivers a brisk and brutal horror comedy, wherein our plucky hero has to dodge Bee’s brat pack devil worshippers (Bella Thorne, Hana Mae Lee and Robbie Amell). Plenty of bloody kills are balanced by a witty script that never takes itself too seriously—a near perfect beer ‘n’ pizza Friday night flick.
Grizzled sheriff Kurt Russell leads farmer Patrick Wilson, gunfighter Matthew Fox and old coot Richard Jenkins go on a mission to rescue a kidnapped woman, only to run afoul of a lost tribe of Native American “troglodytes”—that’s cannibals to you and me. S. Craig Zahler puts The Hills Have Eyes in the old west to excellent, if frequently horrifying effect. This is a brutally efficient survival horror that is not for the faint of heart.
In the midst of a zombie apocalypse a man (Martin Freeman) desperately searches for a safe harbour for his infant daughter before his infected bite turns him undead. Australian filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke smartly expand their award-winning short and find fresh soil in the well-turned fields of zombiedom.
The third adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel can’t compete with Brian De Palma’s 1976 version, but certainly laps the little seen 2002 TV movie. This time out a committed Chloë Grace Moretz is the titular teenage outcast, horribly tortured by both school bullies and her religious nut mother (Julianne Moore) until her budding telekinetic powers are unleashed after one humiliation too many at the Prom. Director Kimberley Peirce brings a rare degree of empathy to the subject matter but can’t beat De Palma for sheer technical brio. Still, gory revenge against cruel cliques is always worth a spin.
Years after the horrifying events at the Overlook Hotel, psychic Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), now a recovering alcoholic, battles a coven of rapacious immortals led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) for the soul of psychically gifted child (Kyliegh Curran). Rising horror star Mike Flanagan manages the unenviable task of constructing both an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel and a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s superb 1980 film of The Shining with aplomb. Although he can’t dodge every pitfall, the result is worth your time.
A trio of wasted youth, including Jane Levy, set out to burgle the home of a blind man (Stephen Lang), only to find that the old guy is way more dangerous than they could ever anticipate. Director Fede Alavarez (the Evil Dead remake) milks the lurid home invasion premise for maximum tension, delivering a brisk, bloody and occasionally disturbing urban thriller.
A young immunocompromised boy (Charlie Shotwell) begins experiencing supernatural phenomena at the remote medical facility where he’s being treated by a secretive doctor (Lili Taylor). But what starts out as a typical “bad place” haunted house flick takes some unexpected twists and turns on its way to a surprising climax. The less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have.
Horror movie-obsessed teen William Ragsdale becomes convinced his new neighbour (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. Unluckily for him, he’s right, but hopefully washed-up horror host Roddy McDowell can find his mojo before our hero becomes a liquid lunch. Tom Holland’s horror-comedy classic is an astute, fun riff on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, balancing jokes and frights perfectly.
A nurse (Ruth Wilson) caring for a senile writer (Paula Prentiss) begins to suspect that the writer’s house is haunted and uncovers a murder that took place in the early 19th century. Director Oz ‘son of Anthony’ Perkins has quickly proved himself a master of the modern gothic tale, and this stands alongside his other films such as The Blackcoat’s Daughter and Gretel & Hansel as a sterling example of the subgenre.
Will (Logan Marshall-Green) attends a dinner party at a remote cabin owned by his ex (Tammy Blanchard) and her new partner (Michiel Huisman). Under the austere direction of Karyn Kusama, what begins as social awkwardness descends into paranoia and ultimately violent terror as it becomes apparent that some of the guests are members of an apocalyptic cult. Deeply unsettling, The Invitation taps into primal anxieties about grief, loss and the need to belong to construct a singular experience in social terror.
Brad Pitt’s world-weary bloodsucker narrates his life—or unlife—story to Christian Slater’s curious writer, telling the tale of seduction by—and eventual rebellion against—Tom Cruise’s amoral vampire prince, Lestat. Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s hugely influential novel is a lush gothic fever dream and one of the finest vampire films ever made.
Decades after they first defeated child-eating supernatural clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the now-adult Losers Club (Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean) return to the town of Derry, Maine, for a final confrontation with the creature. For the follow-up to the smash hit 2017 Stephen King adaptation, filmmaker Andy Muschietti jettisons nuance for a balls-out horror rollercoaster that delivers an almost punishing cavalcade of shocks, sights and frights.
Grieving over the stillbirth of their third kid, nice American couple Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard adopt an Estonian orphan (Isabelle Fuhrman), only for their newest family member to turn sinister on them. Genre maven Jaume Collet-Serra serves up a really fun take on the old “bad seed” story model, delivering lurid twists and turns that will delight horror heads.
Doughty American commandos, including Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adeppo, parachute into Nazi-occupied France for a little demolition work, only to find themselves at the sharp end of SS Captain Pilou Asbæk’s zombie experiments. Essentially Wolfenstein: The Movie, Overlord mixes shock and awe with schlock and gore, pitting dogged dogfaces against Nazi monsters to the delight of horror fans everywhere.
Following the death of their friend, four men take a hiking trip in the forests of northern Sweden to reforge their bonds, only to fall afoul of a hidden pagan cult and the…thing…they worship. This atmospheric chiller draws its influences from a wide variety of sources but gets extra points by not skimping on the final creature reveal, giving us one of the most unique horror critters in recent memory.
Frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a winter job as caretaker of the mothballed Overlook Hotel, only for the restless spirits there to batten on his psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd). C’mon, you know this one—Stephen King doesn’t much like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his breakthrough novel, but the rest of us know it’s one of the finest horror movies ever made. Make it a double feature with Doctor Sleep.
As zombie hordes overrun South Korea, civilians pile onto the titular train in the hope of reaching a place of refuge. While Gong Yoo’s single dad fights to protect his young daughter, the western world learns of the existence of Korean nation treasure Ma Dong-seok, here playing a blue collar guy who discovers he was a talent for wrecking the undead. Still, as the bodies start to pile up—and eventually get up—the odds of survival look increasingly dire. he played-out zombie subgenre gets a new lease on life here with this energetic action horror that has already spawned a sequel and an upcoming US remake.
A vacationing African American family (Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph) find themselves menaced by horrifying doppelgangers who want to replace them in their own lives. That would be awful enough, but it turns out it’s not an isolated incident. Get Out director Jordan Peele follows up his acclaimed debut feature with this high concept, hyper-violent allegorical tale that asks us to consider who suffers for the comfortable lives we lead.
A deeply religious family, outcast from their settlement in Colonial America, find themselves menaced by a ravening sorceress who lives in the forest—but are there worse issues at hand? Robert Eggers’ feature debut is an assured and disturbing period horror, steeped in historical detail and brooding menace. It also made a star of Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit).
New Orleans bartender Will (Armie Hammer) starts getting sent disturbing images on a mobile phone left in the dive he pours booze in, and things just get worse from there. It’s not so much the plot of Iranian director Babak Anvari’s English language debut that disturbs, but the tone. Wounds is an exercise in decay, with every set, shot, gore gag and even character redolent of physical and moral rot. Wounds is film that gets right under your skin and festers.
When he’s not making confronting actioners like Headshot and The Night Comes For Us, Indonesian auteur Timo Tjahjanto is doling out effectively OTT horror projects like this one, which sees a young woman Ray Sahetapy) battling demonic forces after learning her estranged father sold her soul to the devil. If you can imagine Evil Dead 2 but Indo, you’re on the right track.