The 20 best horror films on Netflix

Looking for something creepy to watch? You'll find plenty of scare-tertainment right here. Updated for January 2019

What better way to indulge your taste for the pants-fillingly frightening than to dim the lights, curl up on the couch and watch a horror film?

Thankfully, the days of having to venture out to the video shop or cross your fingers that something suitable is on the box are over - there's a horrifying wealth of scary movies available on streaming services like Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Video. 

Here, you'll find the Stuff team's pick of Netflix's selection. Whether you like your horror movies bloody, creepy, arty or with a twist of comedy, there's sure to be something in here that'll put the willies up you.

Searching for scares on a different streaming service? We've got you covered:

The best horror films on Amazon Prime Video

The best horror films on Now TV and Sky

Ghost Stories

Very little suits the long, cold, quiet nights of winter better than well-told tales of restless spirits, and this Brit flick, directed by Andy Nyman (who also stars) and The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson, offers a triple whammy of them.

Yes, this anthology of creepy tales, all framed as investigations by Nyman’s sceptical paranormal investigator, might not be particularly gory or shocking by modern horror standards, but it succeeds in delivering the old-fashioned feeling of discomfort and impending dread you expect of a British ghost story – and even manages to squeeze in an unforeseen twist here and there. Paul Whitehouse and Martin Freeman are among the supporting cast.

Watch Ghost Stories on Netflix

The Silence of the Lambs

The only horror film in history to bag Best Picture at the Oscars, The Silence of the Lambs introduced the wider world to Dr Hannibal Lecter, a renowned psychiatrist who also happens to be a cannibalistic murderer. And here’s the thing: Lecter – played here with delicious creepiness by Anthony Hopkins – isn’t even the film’s antagonist, but a young FBI agent’s main chance at stopping another serial killer.

While the horror here is more often psychological than visceral, there are more than enough shocking moments to keep slasher aficionados sated. And even those who normally dismiss horror movies as mere genre pictures will enjoy the craft on show, with fantastic performances from Hopkins and Jodie Foster, and a brilliant script full of memorable lines. You’ll never think of fava beans and a nice Chianti in the same way again.

It’s also worth noting that (at the time of writing) the other two movies in which Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, Red Dragon and Hannibal, are also available to stream on Netflix. So why not have a cannibal binge this weekend?

Watch The Silence of the Lambs on Netflix

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

A brilliantly comic twist on classic horror tropes, particularly the one about bloodthirsty backwoods hillbillies preying on horny teenaged campers.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as two kind, well-meaning good ol’ boys who make an unfortunate first impression on a group of kids vacationing in the West Virginia woods. Cue hapless horror as, one by one, Tucker and Dale’s good intentions lead to the teens’ untimely and gory demises. It’s clever, entertaining stuff – an American answer to Shaun of the Dead.

Watch Tucker and Dale vs. Evil on Netflix

Malevolent

A Brit-made Netflix original film, Malevolent stars future superstar Florence Pugh as American student Angela who, along with her feckless older brother, scams bereaved families by pretending to be a psychic medium, putting their deceased relatives at peace for a fee.

The pair’s lucrative grift goes awry when they’re called to a remote Scottish house with a dark history and Angela discovers that her hitherto fake talent for clairvoyance turns out to be very real. It’s far from a classic, devolving into a rather ho-hum gore-fest after a promising first act – but it still makes for an unsettling watch on a dark night.

Watch Malevolent on Netflix

The Invitation

A lesson in tension-building, you might spend most of The Invitation wondering if it’s actually a horror movie, or simply wants you to believe it’s one. If it keeps its cards close to its chest, that’s because this drama, which concerns a group of old friends reunited for an unusual and uncomfortable dinner party in the canyons of Hollywood, relies on far more than sudden jumps and gore for its chills – it’s far more interested in keeping you on edge, and it does so masterfully until all is revealed in the final reel.

Watch The Invitation on Netflix

Paranormal Activity 3

There are seemingly dozens of Paranormal Activity movies out there and, given the hype (and, let’s face it, money) generated by the tiny-budgeted first movie, it’s not hard to see why. Most of them are, it has to be said, pretty forgettable, suggesting that the pressure to do more and go further than the first instalment proved too much for the filmmakers, even with more money and fancier CGI effects to play with, but Paranormal Activity 3 is actually the most enjoyably creepy of the later entries in the series.

Made by the team behind the viral “documentary” (and later MTV reality series spin-off) Catfish, it rewinds back to 1988 for a found footage bonanza concerning the childhood of the sisters who starred in the first two movies. You know the drill by now – malevolent entities, possessions and creepy obsessions with abducting babies abound – but on a quiet night, it can still deliver plenty of jumps.

Watch Paranormal Activity 3 on Netflix

Lake Placid

Channelling the spirit of Jaws and sprinkling in more than a little bit of comedy, Lake Placid is a creature feature with charm aplenty – something we don’t seem to get much of with today’s po-faced chillers.

Set in a small Maine town and on the titular body of water nearby, it features a quirky cast of flawed characters (played with knowing wit by Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt) being stalked by a giant crocodile. Its success has spawned a bunch of inferior sequels, spin-offs and a video game, but we’d advise you to stick with the loveable original.

Watch Lake Placid on Netflix

Mama

When two feral children are discovered in a woodland cabin, after apparently living alone and fending for themselves for five years, their uncle and aunt take them in – but the girls may not have been entirely alone that whole time…

It might be of those movies where the trailer hints at a scarier thrill-ride than you actually get, but Mama is still a riveting, creepy and suspenseful ghost story with, in Jessica Chastain, a far better lead actor than most movies of its type.

Watch Mama on Netflix

Cargo

This Netflix-made, Australia-set zombie horror stars Martin Freeman as a new father whose outback holiday goes horrifically awry courtesy of a massive viral outbreak. Get bitten by a carrier and you’ve got 48 hours before you become a shambling, mindless, meat-seeking husk yourself – and the wide open landscape means there are few places to hide from either the zombies or the live folks mercilessly hunting down anyone infected.

So far, so familiar, right? Well, Cargo subverts expectations by focussing on the characters rather than on finding different ways to make you jump, and the viral menace is used as a device to drive the narrative rather than define it. It’s more thought-provoking drama than many gore-hounds would like, no doubt, but we’d rather watch it than yet another Dawn of the Dead rip-off.

Watch Cargo on Netflix

Misery

If you prefer your horror movies grounded in reality, this adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name fits the bill as snugly a knife in a sheath.

When James Caan’s romance novelist crashes his car in the frozen American wilds, he’s lucky enough to be pulled out of the wreck by a trained nurse – one who happens to be a huge admirer of his books, no less. But the line between fandom and outright obsession can be a fine one, and as the nurse – masterfully played by an Oscar-winning Kathy Bates – helps him recover from his injuries, her increasingly disturbing behaviour suggests he may have been better off carking it in the crash.

Watch Misery on Netflix

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