Costumes, candy, putting Lewis in your yard—some Halloween traditions you just can’t pass up. Like, for example, parking your tush on the couch with a bag of fun-size treats and all the werewolves, vampires, and mermen you can handle. From old favorites to new classics, here are 25 of the best horror movies to put you in the Halloween spirit, all of which you can stream right now.
Is it really Halloween without Halloween? While you have plenty of sequels, reimaginings, and reimagined sequels to choose from today, there’s a reason why horror fiends still make a point to watch the original—and utterly perfect—1978 original today. John Carpenter’s tale of a babysitter (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends being stalked by an escaped killer set the bar for every slasher film that has ever followed, and very few have managed to even come close to it. If you want to keep the Michael Myers theme going, there are now 13 films in the franchise—including Rob Zombie’s gritty reboot and its sequel and David Gordon Green’s recent book-end trilogy, which concluded with last year’s (mostly maligned) Halloween Ends.
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) may be the precocious 12-year-old daughter of a well-respected Hollywood actress (Ellen Burstyn), but that means nothing to Pazuzu, the hell demon who comes to inhabit this could-be nepo baby’s tween body. You’ll never want to eat pea soup again.
Ari Aster achieved instant icon status with Hereditary, his feature directorial debut, which makes a compelling argument against rolling down the windows on your car—ever. An artist (Toni Collette) and her shrink husband (Gabriel Byrne) seem to be living the American Dream with their two teenagers, Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Until a series of tragedies turn the family’s life upside down and all hell breaks loose—seemingly literally.
“Creepy” Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a teenage pariah who is brutally mocked by her high school classmates and doesn’t find much solace at home with her totally unhinged mom (Piper Laurie). Sometimes a girl’s just gotta let loose, and sometimes that means using telekinesis to burn your bullies down to the ground, along with the high school gym in which they’re dancing. Make sure to keep watching all the way to the end!
The Blair Witch Project
Nearly a quarter-century after Jaws became a masterclass in doing more with less, Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick did much the same with this found-footage flick that had many people believing the film’s own backstory: that a group of film students got lost in the woods while attempting to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, who supposedly trolls the area near Burkittsville, Maryland, looking for youngsters to murder. That people believed the story, and that the footage they were watching was indeed only later discovered, is a testament to just how effective the found-footage format can be when employed in just the right way, as well as the filmmakers’ brilliant marketing acumen.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Jordan Peele went from being one half of the hilarious Key & Peele to a modern horror icon. And it all started with Get Out, Peele’s stunning directorial debut, in which a young couple have gotten serious enough that Rose (Allison Williams) invites new love Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to leave the city for the suburbs to spend the weekend with her family. While Chris seems more concerned that he is Black and Rose is not, she assures him it doesn’t matter … until he realizes that’s kind of the point. Peele brilliantly blends elements of horror, comedy, and psychological drama with a pulsing commentary on racism, and won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his efforts. The film also received nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Kaluuya—all massive achievements for a horror movie. Make it a twofer by pairing Get Out with Peele’s impressive follow-up, 2019’s Us, which is also streaming on Netflix.
David Cronenberg’s mind works in some truly demented ways, which is a blessing to horror movie fans. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist who is much cooler than he should be; Ronnie Quaife (Geena Davis) is a science journalist tasked with interviewing Brundle but quickly falling for him. If only he hadn’t decided to use himself as the subject in a teleportation experiment gone horribly wrong, these two kids could’ve maybe had something. Instead, Brundle slowly morphs into a housefly with some pretty putrid habits and a tendency to randomly lose body parts.
For decades, young women in horror films who dared to be sexually active—and actually enjoy it (gasp!)—could usually be counted on to be the killer’s next victim. But in this smart indie from writer/director David Robert Mitchell, doing the deed is the conduit by which the supernatural spirit that’s haunting Jay (Maika Monroe) is able to move from one host to the next. Which is bad news, as she just slept with her new beau, who just happened to be infected and has now passed it on to her. While she could just fuck some guy and pass it on, Jay’s a much more complicated heroine.
Puritanism in and of itself is pretty creepy. Add in the bizarre disappearance of a child and it gets even scarier. Robert Eggers, who went on to make The Lighthouse and The Northman, deftly balances what is essentially a period piece/supernatural horror film hybrid about a family that ends up living in the woods, secluded, after being banished by their Puritan community. This is when even creepier things start happening, all building up to an unforgettable climax (though it’s admittedly a bit of a slow burn).
Stephen King just may be the only person who didn’t love Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer looking for some quietude so that he can finally finish writing the novel he’s been working on, agrees to take a gig hotel-sitting the Overlook, an enormous resort, while it’s closed down for the winter, bringing his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son (Danny Lloyd) in tow. For Jack, the Overlook feels like home, and he quickly settles into a work routine; his wife and son aren’t as enthralled, especially when they begin to suspect that malevolent forces didn’t vacate for the winter along with the rest of the guests.
What’s more terrifying than a masked psychopath on the loose knocking off victims as revenge for a childhood trauma? How about a handful of masked sociopaths on the loose knocking off victims at random? James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) are a couple who find themselves at an unexpected crossroads while spending the night at a secluded vacation home. (Is there any other kind?) But they don’t have much time to wallow in what the future of their relationship looks like, because there are people at the door. And in the house. And on the swing set. You get the picture. Creepy imagery abounds in this vastly underrated film, which will see its storyline continue in 2024 with Renny Harlin’s The Strangers: Chapter 1.
For better or worse, The Blair Witch Project kicked off a found-footage movie flood, which has really yet to end (though they’re definitely in much shorter supply these days). For all the mediocre efforts we had to suffer through, there was also Paranormal Activity, a beyond solid effort that was made on virtually no budget. Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are a young couple in love, looking forward to spending their lives together. But when they move in together, so does the evil spirit that’s been trailing Katie for most of her life. Katie wants to rid the house of it once and for all; Micah wants to videotape it (which only seems to embolden the angry spirit).
The meta horror movie to end all other meta horror movies, the original Scream might have outgrown some of its more garish fashions (most of them worn by Courteney Cox’s Gayle Weathers), but the story is still solid. And the many nods and winks to modern horror tropes are still true. High schooler Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is a teen spiraling from the recent murder of her mom but who suddenly finds herself in the crosshairs of a new hatchet-wielding serial killer who keeps picking off her pals.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
OK, so maybe it’s not a straight-up “horror” movie. But if you’re looking for something kind of creepy that the whole family can get in on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better choice than this stop-motion classic that works equally well as a Halloween film or a Christmas movie. Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, a place where it’s Halloween—hijinks and all—24/7. But when Jack accidentally discovers Christmas and its holly, jolly traditions, he decides to co-opt both holidays with the help of the hooligans of Halloweentown. (Kidnapping Santa is all part of the plan.)
An American Werewolf in London
Horror-comedy is not an easy genre to pull off—especially when a movie like John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London has been around for comparison for more than 40 years. American pals David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) get slightly lost as they backpack their way through England and end up being attacked by a werewolf. While Jack is torn to bits, David survives but wakes up weeks later in a London hospital with little recollection of what happened. Fortunately, his old pal Jack—looking very much worse for the wear—shows up to warn David that a full moon is coming and if he doesn’t kill himself before it arrives, he too will transform into a flesh-craving canine. Landis expertly balances laugh-out-loud humor with genuinely terrifying frights—most of them courtesy of special effects makeup wizard Rick Baker, who won a much-deserved Oscar for his work on the film. (The werewolf transformation scene is iconic for a reason.) Throw in a killer soundtrack and one of cinema’s most satisfyingly efficient endings and you’ve got a horror-comedy for the ages.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
When she reviewed it for WIRED, senior writer Kate Knibbs called this horror flick a “coming-of-age creepypasta.” It’s all that and more. Director Jane Schoenbrun’s debut feature is about a young girl named Casey (Anna Cobb) who becomes increasingly obsessed with an online role-playing game that asks players to do a series of rituals that over time summon a supernatural force that ultimately overtakes them. Less jump-scare-y than mind-bend-y, We Are All Going to the World’s Fair is the kind of horror that sits in the back of your brain, just waiting to scare you again long after the credits roll.
Jaws is to horror movies what Star Wars is to sci-fi films. It’s just hard to believe there are people who haven’t seen it. Still, whether you’ve never seen it or have watched it 100 times (Steven Soderbergh claims to have seen Jaws 28 times in theaters alone!), the story of a water-phobic police chief living on an island who sets off to sea in pursuit of a ginormous great white shark that’s killing his residents and scaring off the tourists never gets old. It’s also a masterclass in less-is-more filmmaking—even if that approach was more the result of a perpetually busted machine shark than anything else. While the film’s sequels in absolutely no way live up to the original—and get worse with each successive entry—all four Jaws movie (including the charmingly cheesy Jaws 3-D) are currently streaming on Netflix).
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Bodies Bodies Bodies is, bluntly, a slasher for the TikTok generation. Beginning with a very old-school premise—a group of friends goes to a secluded house for a fun getaway—it quickly surfaces the horrors of the very online: no cell service, toxic friends. But just because it’s full of hip actors—Pete Davidson! Amandla Stenberg!—and very-now dialog doesn’t mean it won’t also freak you the hell out. And maybe even make you laugh.
Night of the Living Dead
Had George A. Romero only ever cowritten and directed this one movie, his feature directorial debut, he’d still go down in history as a horror pioneer. Because even though the word zombie is never uttered in Night of the Living Dead, it’s clear to the audience that that’s what his half-living monsters are. It all kicks off when siblings Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) pay a visit to their father’s gravesite and are subsequently attacked by a strange man. Barbra, seeing a farmhouse nearby, runs there for help—only to discover the dead body of the home’s owner—and many slow-walking creatures coming her way. That’s when the ever-resourceful Ben (Duane Jones) shows up to help. Though many critics of the time attempted to declare Night of the Living Dead DOA because of its extreme gore, its reputation as a game-changer in the genre has given it continued life, with several sequels and even a couple of remakes, including Tom Savini’s 1990s redux, with Tony Todd in the role of Ben.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Over the course of his near-60-year career, Werner Herzog has proven that there’s nothing he can’t or won’t at least try to do for the love of filmmaking (eating his own shoe included). Over the years, he has long maintained that F. W. Murnau’s original Nosferatu is the greatest film to ever come out of his native Germany. So on the very day that Bram Stoker’s Dracula entered the public domain, Herzog set about creating his own version of the film—one that, unlike the 1922 original, could legally use parts of Dracula without any legal headaches. What Herzog did, however, was create one of the most human versions of the legendary bloodsucker we’ve ever seen, as portrayed by Klaus Kinski. In Herzog’s mind, Dracula’s immortality and vampirism are burdens that make him a more sympathetic character. “He cannot choose and he cannot cease to be,” Herzog told The New York Times in 1978. If you want to expand your understanding of Dracula’s cinematic arc, pair this with a screening of Murnau’s original Nosferatu. Then take it one step further by adding to the mix with My Best Fiend, Herzog’s 1999 documentary about his tumultuous relationship with Kinski.
The Cabin in the Woods
Much like Scream before it, Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods takes a meta approach with its material, turning what could otherwise be a by-the-numbers horror movie into an immensely clever take on the “a group of attractive twentysomethings end up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere that just so happens to be surrounded by malevolent forces” sub-genre. All of the standard tropes are set up—the weird old townie who tries to warn the kids off, a creepy old basement filled with bizarre and ominous paraphernalia, etc.—though maybe they’re set up just a little too perfectly. The Cabin in the Woods is a loving wink to serious horror movie fiends and goes off in surprising directions that you’ll never see coming.
We’ve been through enough vampire crazes over the years that there are times when some moviegoers would happily agree to never see another bloodsucker in their lives. Then they remember Fright Night, Tom Holland’s iconic love letter to the golden age of horror movies and late-night television schlock jocks who entertained us with tales of blood and guts. Like Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon)—the glowing-eyed vampire in serious need of a manicure living next door to teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale)—Fright Night doesn’t really seem to age. It still stands out as a perfectly subtle horror-comedy with just the right balance of both genres to make it as seductive as Vampire Jerry on the dance floor. (Its 2011 update, starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin, is one of the few horror remakes that is worth your time.)
The House of the Devil
In 2002, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever brought the horror genre back to its 1980s heyday. Ti West managed to successfully recapture that same spirit at the end of the decade with The House of the Devil, which sees a broke college student (Jocelin Donahue) in need of cash to pay her rent reluctantly agree to “babysit” an allegedly frail old lady for a few hours. You know something’s going to happen, but you’re not quite sure what: Is the house haunted? Is there someone outside stalking the babysitter? Is it all in your head? Is it all of the above? While you wait for the other shoe to inevitably drop, West takes advantage of his very clear time frame—the satanic-panic-ravaged ’80s—to showcase a treasure trove of horrifying cultural relics of the past, including one particularly high-waisted pair of jeans.
South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho became a household name, and a force to be reckoned with, in 2020 when he stormed the Oscars with Parasite (which is streaming on Max, by the way). If that was your first introduction to his work, you should immediately seek out all of his previous films, including The Host. Like Parasite, it’s a horror movie with a social message. In this case, more of an eco-minded one where the pollution in Seoul’s Han River leads to the creation of a gigantic sea monster with a taste for humans.
Let the Right One In
Having a vampire as a BFF just might be the greatest thing a bullied kid could wish for. But the relationship that picked-on tween Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) builds with his neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson)—who does just happen to crave human blood—is much deeper than a simple revenge fantasy in this Swedish slow burn. In fact, Eli being a vampire is really secondary to the story. Like Werner Herzog with Nosferatu, Tomas Alfredson puts character-building first and paints Eli with a kind of sadness, which is what connects her with Oskar. Sure, it’s bloody, but it’s also kind of sweet.