The 14 Best Scary Movies on Netflix Right Now
The psychology behind our love of horror films is pretty simple: We love the adrenaline rush, and we feel comparatively safe knowing that a hatchet-wielding clown isn’t lurking outside our window. (Probably. Feel free to go investigate.)
If you’re ever in the mood for those particular thrills without leaving the comfort of your couch, there’s an easy solution. Kill the lights and check out any one of the best scary movies on Netflix right now.
1. THE SHINING (1980)
The most celebrated adaptation of Stephen King's works next to 1994's The Shawshank Redemption remains a study in contemplative terror. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, as unhinged as a rickety screen door) slips into insanity while snowbound at the Overlook Hotel; director Stanley Kubrick captures an unflinching look at the creeping despair of his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd), both trapped in the unraveling psyche of their patriarch. King himself isn't a fan, but he's in the minority.
2. EMELIE (2015)
A couple celebrates their wedding anniversary by inviting a babysitter named Anna to look after their three kids while they go out to dinner. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Anna isn't really Anna, and her motivations go far beyond picking up a few dollars. Emelie commits to one of the largest taboos in the horror genre: It's not afraid to pick on little kids.
3. SE7EN (1995)
A high-concept (serial killer stages his crime scenes with a Seven Deadly Sins theme) thriller, Se7en could have wallowed in the bargain bins of Blockbusters if not for the talent attracted to Andrew Kevin Walker's script. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are ostensibly the leads, but it's David Fincher's vision of a bleak, rain-soaked metropolis that elevates this from the downpour of clever-murderer movies in the 1990s. If you've somehow avoided details of the climax, know that this is not a movie that plays nice with its audience. Or with Pitt.
4. THE STRANGERS (2008)
Home invasion thrillers might be clogging up the streaming queues, but few do it better than The Strangers, a potently cruel and concentrated dose of domestic horror. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as a couple terrorized by a trio of killers who seem to have that most frightening of motivations: None at all.
5. IT FOLLOWS (2014)
Don’t look for costumed maniacs in writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s low-budget cult hit. The terror is an unseen entity that trails teenagers like a post-coital disease. The STI metaphor might seem a little on the nose, but the creeping dread is unsettling to the core.
6. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
The pinnacle of M. Night Shyamalan's career is also one of the last times Bruce Willis seemed interested in carrying a movie. As a child psychologist treating a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see ghosts, Willis offers a compellingly subdued performance. If you haven't seen The Sixth Sense in a while, watching it with the knowledge of the Rod Serling-esque third-act twist is to appreciate Shyamalan's sleight-of-hand.
7. THE WITCH (2015)
This tale of a 1630s outcast Puritan family troubled by paranormal activity tends to be divisive. You'll either enjoy the methodically slow burn, or you won't. Give in to the movie's deliberate pacing and you'll likely find that it excels in delivering an unbearable sense of dread. And you'll never look at goats the same way again.
8. HELLRAISER (1987)
Horror icon Clive Barker made his feature directorial debut with this adaptation of his short story, “The Hellbound Heart,” and it is weirdness personified: An undead, skin-stripped man begs his onetime mistress for refuge while he tries to avoid the torturing hands of Pinhead, a Cenobite from the depths of hell who is summoned by a puzzle box. The skin-splitting practical effects are spectacularly disgusting.
9. THE CONJURING (2013)
While the real-life exploits of paranormal ghost hunters the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) may be in some question, there's no doubting this retelling of one of their famous haunted house cases is a chilling roller coaster ride.
10. GERALD'S GAME (2017)
A romantic weekend retreat with her husband turns into a claustrophobic struggle for survival for Carla Gugino after he drops dead and she's left handcuffed to their bed. This adaptation of a Stephen King novel is one of the rare films to do right by the author, preserving his psychological (and visceral) scares.
11. THE INVITATION (2015)
Fans of the slow burn should enjoy this potboiler about a man (Logan Marshall-Green) invited to his ex’s dinner party, which takes a turn for the weird. The last scene is a killer.
12. OCULUS (2013)
The haunted object subgenre of horror is a dependable source of scares. Oculus—about a mirror that threatens to undo the sanity of those who peer into it—is one of the better entries. Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) stars as Kaylie, a young woman looking to prove the mirror's paranormal abilities via a surveillance room. If things went as planned, we wouldn't be recommending the movie.
13. TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)
A workaholic father and his daughter board a train bound for one of the few territories in South Korea not occupied by zombies. To get there, they’ll have to survive the infected passengers, who totally ignore their seat assignments and sanctioned dinner options.
14. THE NIGHTMARE (2015)
A documentary about sleep disorders doesn't sound all that unsettling, particularly when Freddy Krueger has the market cornered on the horrors of insomnia. But this examination of sleep paralysis (where sufferers are awake but can't move their bodies) chills thanks to dramatizations of the people, creatures, and things they sometimes see when immobilized.
Reminder: Netflix rotates their library of titles often, so our selection of the best scary movies on Netflix is subject to change.