The 10 Scariest Movies on Netflix


It's October. Let's get freaked out.

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1. Hellraiser

It seems like in the 1980s, Hollywood directors were obsessed with weird bodily afflictions: there were diseases, there was parasitism, there was body snatching. Hellraiser, with its horrific monsters whose bodies had been deformed, was right on trend. The original film's iconic Pinhead is, even today, unsettling and downright spooky.

2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Critical favorite A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is endlessly stylish and strange. Shot in black and white, this vampire love story is set in Iran but borrows heavily from old Westerns. Our vampire anti-heroine becomes an avenging vigilante and seductress, all while wearing a full-length chador and armed with a skateboard. The movie subverts cinematic tropes and challenges gender politics while still managing to send good old-fashioned horror-film chill up the spine.

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3. Jaws

Jaws is its own kind of horror classic, its theme song now a universal musical warning that something terrible is about to happen. If you haven't seen Jaws by now, stop what you're doing immediately and see this tremendous film, which is so scary even though (or maybe because) the shark is conspicuously absent. If you have seen it before, watch it for a second time (or a third or a fourth) and have your understanding of what makes for good suspense challenged over and over.

4. The Legend of Hell House

The "paranormal investigators who stay the night in a haunted house" trope is overplayed, but this is the gold standard, the granddaddy of all haunted house films. This isn't just a pure fright fest of poltergeist activity and deranged unseen entities, but also a solid film in its own right, with great dramatic tension that escalates into a showdown between psychics.

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5. Event Horizon

All Paul W. S. Anderson movies (Resident Evil, Death Race, Alien vs. Predator) are gorgeous, existing in fully realized worlds that are darker versions of our own. Event Horizon is perhaps the most beautiful and most brutal of his films. Set in space, the premise is similar to Alien: a ship sends out a mysterious distress signal, and another ship comes to its aid. But instead of finding a carnivorous alien waiting for them, the ship's crew encounter something far more demonic.

 

6. The Babadook

Most lists of the best indie horror flicks of the last decade include The Babadook. Aussie director Jennifer Kent tells a uniquely feminine horror story: Essie Davis plays a recently widowed mother with a troubled son. Essie's despair is so real, her stress so palpable that her struggle to maintain a stable mental state is almost as scary as the monster that seems to be stalking her. The film asks what's more terrifying: an unseen supernatural horror or the terror of uncontrollable grief.

 

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7. Hellions

Finally, a Halloween film that actually takes place on Halloween! A rebellious but sweet teen named Dora is looking forward to her town's Halloween festivities—until she finds out she is pregnant. Stunned, she waits for her boyfriend to come over, when she is visited by a slew of terrifying trick-or-treaters. What follows is a horror narrative that feels more like a fever dream than a typical scary movie, and it becomes clear that the nightmarish demon children are stand-ins for Dora's own maternal anxiety—suggesting that the real horror here is growing up.

8. The Awakening

Our second-favorite thing about The Awakening is the film's cold, bluish, post-Edwardian aesthetic. Our favorite thing is the strong, commanding performance by Rebecca Hall, who plays a Sherlock Holmes-ian hoax investigator with a passion for debunking the paranormal. Summoned by a rural school for boys, she arrives to find children claiming they are plagued by a ghost. She quickly solves the mystery, which is what makes the twist that follows—the awakening—so great.

 

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9. Monsters

Monsters is a moody film that demonstrates how science fiction can provide powerful commentary on real-world issues—in this case, immigration. A couple of American tourists (played by real-life married duo Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) try to navigate their way through Mexico, which is ground zero to a manageable—but still frightening—alien invasion.

 

10. The Nightmare

The only documentary on this list, The Nightmare is a truly terrifying film—if you can get past the hokey special effects and reenactments. Director Rodney Ascher interviews eight people (found via the internet) about sleep paralysis and finds eerie similarities among all of their accounts. The physical experience of sleep paralysis is scary enough, but the liminal space between consciousness and dreaming is still entirely incomprehensible. Ascher skips doctors and scientists and focuses more on the horror and confusion of his subjects. After all, nothing is scarier than real life.

 

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