It’s the scariest time of the year! If you’re a horror junkie like me, now is the perfect time to bully your nearest and dearest into watching some spooky flicks. We’ve rounded up the strangest, squirmiest and most terrifying films Netflix has to offer.
Editors’ note: This guide, and the embedded images, contain sexually explicit (or strong) language and imagery that aren’t suitable for readers under 18.
Metacritic score: 87
Have you ever heard of “Jaws?” It’s a lighthearted romp about a misunderstood sea creature looking to enrich the lives of a his land-dwelling friends. Just kidding, it’s about a gigantic murdering shark. Spielberg’s jaw-clenching terror will have you thinking twice about swimming in your own backyard pool (let alone the ocean) ever again.
‘Gerald’s Game’ (2017)
Metacritic score: 76
This Netflix original is worth your time – if you can stomach it. A couple head to a remote cabin, hoping to spice things up in the bedroom. Unfortunately for Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino), her husband (Bruce Greenwood) dies of a heart attack while she’s handcuffed to the bed. “Gerald’s Game” has often been regarded by fans as the one Stephen King story from his deep bench of work that would be nearly impossible to adapt. But Netflix didn’t shy away from the challenge, and the result is undoubtedly worth your time.
‘Children of the Corn’ (1984)
Metacritic score: 45
A couple come across a town of murdering cult indoctrinated children. “Children of the Corn” is a classic, not because it stands the test of time, but really because it stands the test of popcorn. It’s a good movie to watch while cuddling under a blanket on a cool fall evening. Maybe it’s the corn thing? Plus John Franklin’s portrayal of a child preacher will have you wondering, “Hey, is it cool for me to root for a child to die?”
Metacritic score: 78
As someone who lives in San Francisco, it’s almost difficult to recommend “Zodiac.” The Zodiac killer could still be out there; he could be my next door neighbor! But just because David Fincher’s film keeps me up at night, worried about serial killers and their cryptic undeciphered messages, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feast your eyes on this visually impactful film. Just promise you won’t try to decipher his letters yourself.
‘Train to Busan’ (2016)
Metacritic score: 72
In this Korean zombie thriller, a man and his daughter are trapped on a train during a zombie outbreak. The rules of the world are clearly established, the zombie action is packed and the film touches on some harsh socio-economic observations. Just because zombies are mindless doesn’t mean zombie films need to be as well.
‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)
Metacritic score: 64
Major spoiler: This movie has already been spoiled for you. But if you haven’t rewatched “The Sixth Sense” in years, it’s actually worth revisiting, if only to remind yourself why we all once liked M. Night Shyamalan. (And to explain why someone keeps giving him money to direct movies.) Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment rightfully earned their Oscar nominations for performances. I’m still worried that Osment may actually see ghosts.
Metacritic score: 74
If you’re looking for further proof that the Duplass brothers are actually evil, here’s an easy sell. Patrick Brice (also the director and co-writer) plays a videographer answering a Craigslist ad for Josef (Mark Duplass), who wants to make a movie for his supposed unborn child. I typically enjoy horror films that rely on performances to unnerve you, because they are incredibly difficult to pull off. And I’ve got to give it to Mark Duplass. He is, in fact, super creepy.
Metacritic score: 61
This 20-year-old sci-fi horror film is one of the precursors to the “death trap” gimmick that became so popular over the next decade. “Cube” follows a group of strangers who awake in a maze of deadly booby-trapped interconnecting cells. Considering that the indie was made for less than half a million dollars, the film’s strong visual style outweighs the generally lackluster performances and weaker script.
‘The Host’ (2006)
Metacritic score: 85
I regret how much arm twisting it took to get me to originally watch “The Host.” This Korean creature feature is spectacularly made, shifting tone from terrifying, to political, to funny, to heartfelt with ease. Once you see what this monster flick is capable of, you may begin to wonder why we don’t demand more complexity from our horror films.
‘It Follows’ (2014)
Metacritic score: 83
It’s been three years, so you may as well get your act together and finally check this one out. After Jay sleeps with her boyfriend she comes down with a deadly curse only passed on through intercourse. If you’re like me and thought “Hey, I’ll just read the Wikipedia summary,” don’t bother. The summary doesn’t do justice to how unnerving the thing “following” Jay slowly constantly moves. It’s deeply unsettling.
Metacritic score: 61
A terrific November addition to Netflix’s horror bench, “Oculus” follows two siblings who believe an evil mirror murdered their parents a decade prior. I first saw “Oculus” at a drive-in, and maybe it was the just spookiness of watching a film late night in the middle of parking lot, but I felt like my expectations were met here. “Oculus” has some solid jump scares and is one of the few “heart pumping” horror films on this list.
‘The Invitation’ (2015)
Metacritic score: 74
In “The Invitation” Will (Logan Marshall Green) attends a dinner party at his ex-wife’s house and begins to believe something about the party is amiss. Maybe it’s just me, but I always find something sinister about a dinner party. Why does anyone need that much silverware? But I digress. The Invitation delivers on suspense, with a slow build that actually pays off.
Metacritic score: 61
This Norwegian found-footage mockumentary is fantastically fun. A group of students try to capture giant trolls on film after learning of their existence from a troll hunter that works for the government. This strange and delightful flick is more than a simple creature feature and will add some much-needed variety to your next horror binge.
‘The Babadook’ (2014)
Metacritic score: 86
There are conflicting opinions surrounding “The Babadook.” Some people hated it, while many critics believed it was a near masterpiece. The few naysayers were probably looking for more literal monsters, but I tend to prefer a psychologically horrific film. Maybe I just find it easier to relate to deep internalized phobias, but let’s not read too much into that theory. Anyway, this Australian film about a single mother struggling to raise her nightmarish six-year-old son was one of my favorite films of the last decade and delivers some knockout acting performances.
‘The Wailing’ (2016)
Metacritic score: 81
For anyone skimming this list looking for a truly exceptional horror film, stop here and go put on “The Wailing.” This dark Korean film about mysterious murders in a small rural village may be on the long side, but it’s an incredibly thoughtful tale about xenophobia. If you need a harder sell, I’ll just mention the warring shaman and assume you will now check it out immediately.
Metacritic score: 55
If you never jumped on the “Saw” bandwagon, I can’t really blame you. That franchise always seemed a touch too gimmicky. But if you’re tempted to dip your toes into the torture porn pool at least Eli Roth’s “Hostel” delivers a pretty entertaining example of the genre. Two friends backpacking across Europe are lured to a remote hostel and, shockingly, it isn’t quite what they pictured.
Metacritic score: 57
Dawn, a plucky teenage girl and proud member of her high school’s chastity club, finds out the hard way that she suffers from the mythical vagina dentata. I’m not sure if “Teeth” ever fully lives up to the potential of its premise, but as a dark comedy it hits a few satisfying feminist nails on the head.
Metacritic score: 81
After viewing this film, you might just have a new favorite female director in Julia Ducournau. “Raw” follows Justine, a vegetarian in her first year of veterinary school, who caves to peer pressure, eats raw meat and winds up with a rash all over her body. The film tackles questions of identity in a viscerally powerful and symbolic way, and is a must see from Netflix’s indie bench.
Metacritic score: 67
This is probably the most under-the-radar film of on our list, but it’s absolutely worth your time. Co-writer Katie Siegel plays a deaf author living in isolation. One night a masked killer appears in her window and begins toying with her. At the very least it’s worth checking out if you appreciate the competence of director Mike Flanagan’s other horror films, which include “Oculus” and “Gerald’s Game.”
Metacritic score: 70
Netflix is really sinking its teeth into producing original films, and we’re happy to reap the rewards. Thomas Jane plays a rancher who murders his wife for financial reasons and then believes she’s returned to haunt him. Stephen King adaptations may seem like a dime a dozen this year, but both Netflix attempts, “1922” and “Gerald’s Game,” hold their own against the powerhouse that was “It.”