In the mood for something scary?
You could look to see how many Oreos constitute a single serving, or maybe open up that credit card bill. Or, you could fire up Netflix and check out some of the best horror movies they have to offer.
Horror movies have never reached the same sort of acclaim and popularity as other genres — in part because they tend to be lower-budget affairs aimed at smaller audiences, and in part because fear is much more subjective than action or even comedy.
But there’s no denying the appeal of a good horror movie: the pulse-pounding tension, the spike of excitement, the movie’s careful manipulation of your emotions from start to finish.
To satisfy your craving for the creepy, we put together a selection of some of the best horror movies on Netflix.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix – Night of the Living Dead
If you’re looking for horror movies on Netflix, why not start with a classic? The original Night of the Living Dead is the movie that took zombies and catapulted their rotting, reanimated corpses into the middle of pop culture.
With the rise of series like The Walking Dead and Resident Evil — both of which span multiple forms of media — it’s tough to imagine a time when zombies weren’t the default horror antagonist. But just look at horror movies before 1968; shockingly few are about zombies.
What happened? Night of the Living Dead does what all great genre movies do: It tells a story with multiple layers of meaning. The mindless, shambling monsters aren’t just creepy antagonists — they also represent issues about mortality and social justice in clever ways.
It just happens that growing waves of the undead marching steadily on your house also makes for good horror.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix – Scream
Of course, if horror movies can be a scary commentary on mortality, what’s stopping them from being a commentary on other horror movies?
That’s where Scream comes in. By all appearances, it’s a horror movie — a slasher classic in the vein of Halloween and Friday the 13th. It has a murderous villain and a whole group of expendable young adults ready to be sacrificed for the audience’s enjoyment.
But something’s a little different. Because in between all the killing and chasing and screaming, there’s a lot of talk about … well, horror movies. And the more you pay attention, the more you realize that the whole thing is a running commentary on horror movies. It’s a horror movie that’s also a satire of horror movies. It takes all the rules, states them explicitly, then manipulates them as it sees fit.
But the reason that Scream is one of the best horror movies on Netflix is that it never lets the commentary get in the way of being a great horror movie. It offers the same scares and thrills as any good slasher flick — just with a side of intelligent conversation.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix – The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods — co-scripted by Joss Whedon of Avengers and Buffy fame — is similar to Scream in that it’s a twist on the horror movie formula. Except, this time, the twist is that it’s a horror … comedy.
It’s kind of tough to explain, and the marketing never really found a way to communicate that tone. But here’s why it’s brilliant, and why Cabin in the Woods is one of the best horror movies on Netflix: The comedy and the horror play off each other wonderfully, making the funny moments funnier and the scary moments much, much scarier.
The best horror movies keep you on edge, never certain of what’s about to happen. Cabin in the Woods manages that in a very unconventional way. You’re never sure if you’re about to be hit with a joke, or a scene of violent dismemberment. The film keeps you constantly on edge, using the transitions to knowingly nudge at tropes and clichés of the genre.
So if you’re looking for a side of funny with your horror movies, you can’t do better than Cabin in the Woods.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix – Let the Right One In
Not all horror movies are jump-at-loud-noises affairs. Some of them depend on slow turns throughout the film that gradually add to your understanding of the situation. Instead of violently throwing the horror at you, they patiently feed it to you, bit by bit, in a way that Hannibal Lecter would much admire.
Let the Right One In is one of those movies. It’s a Swedish film about a seemingly young vampire girl, and the little boy she befriends next door. But, as you can imagine, being “friends” with humans isn’t exactly an easy or advisable thing for vampires, and the relationship is bent and twisted and tortured throughout the film.
Unlike slasher films or torture-based films like Saw and its imitators, Let the Right One In isn’t an immediately scary movie. But it’s one of the best horror movies on Netflix because it starts with an idea, and it explores that idea relentlessly.
It’s what vampire movies should be: smart, character-based horror movies that prey upon mental dread more than sensory shocks.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix – Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is the creepiest movie ever made.
Sure, there are plenty of great horror movies out there, and some of them might even be scarier than this one. But none of them will manage to dig under your skin and leave you unshakably unsettled the way that Rosesmary’s Baby does.
Most horror movies move their protagonists from the realm of safety and the known into a realm of danger and the unknown. Every time a character goes to explore a strange sound in another room, that’s exactly what’s happening. The characters, sooner or later, leave what’s familiar and are haunted by some new horror.
Rosemary’s Baby is the complete opposite of that formula. It’s a movie about the unknown steadily and unstoppably breaking into our safe, familiar world. Every time you think you’re getting away, every time you think you’re getting a reprieve … well, see for yourself.
A masterfully told story, matched with great performances from Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon, make this one of the best horror movies to watch on Netflix, and one of the best, full-stop.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.