Even if you watch horror movies year ’round, there’s something extra special about watching them during Halloween. The weather is just right for cuddling up under a blanket with a mug of cider, the days are growing shorter and the nights darker, and there’s an electricity in the air that makes it seem like anything is possible—maybe even some unholy beast crawling out of its eldritch lair to terrorize unsuspecting citizens having innocent Halloween fun. The last thing you need is to ruin your evening by picking the wrong horror movie to watch.
This is our third year compiling a selection of Halloween streaming recommendations, and this year we’ve organized our picks around monsters, so you can choose the creature that speaks to you on a psychological level. A variety of tastes and subgenres are represented, from cheesy B-movies to arthouse horror, and the really intense ones are described as such. The streaming landscape changes so much from year to year that we’ve managed to avoid overlap with previous streaming guides, although if you go back into the archives, fair warning: You might end up disappointed. (Both The Craft and The Exorcist are no longer available on subscription streaming services, for example.)
Amazon Prime, with its large and unruly back catalog, was the subscription streaming service we cited the most this year, along with the horror-specific Shudder, whose selection is smaller, but much better curated. Netflix has been actively culling its non-Netflix-original selection in the past couple of years, so it shows up less here than in previous installments, while Hulu’s Huluween sidebar is actually pretty good this year. (Same for the Halloween content on the relaunched Criterion Channel.) HBO Go/Now is represented solely by the film from which this guide cribbed its name, and while the streaming arms of pay-cable networks like Showtime and Cinemax have a smattering of horror movies, they’re not enough to justify the subscription on their own.
As always, if you’re willing to pay a few bucks for a digital rental, most of the classics of the horror genre are at your fingertips—except for Near Dark, which isn’t on streaming at all. (It’s tragic, we agree.) And if you don’t already subscribe to the services cited in this guide, all six offer at least a week-long free trial; as of today, we have six days until Halloween night. Would you look at that. Happy Halloween, streamers!
All of them witches are on Hulu, playing matchmaker between Mia Farrow and the Devil himself in this atmospheric 1968 classic.
Fair warning: Hagazussa is even more polarizing than The Witch, the film from which it draws clear inspiration. But if you’re into disturbing folk horror and have the intense concentration of the really stoned, do we have the slow burn for you.
The Love Witch isn’t really a horror movie, but its impeccably curated, impossibly groovy 1960's occult aesthetics do have a costume quality that makes it a great fit for the season of masked revelry.
Dog Soldiers (Amazon Prime)
Long before “The Watchers On The Wall,” director Neil Marshall made his debut with Dog Soldiers, an adrenaline-fueled 2002 horror-comedy about a group of British soldiers hunting werewolves in the Scottish highlands.
Lone Wolf (Amazon Prime)
We wouldn’t describe this obscure 1988 regional oddity as good, but it is a hoot. Lone Wolf has everything you could want in a cheesy ’80s horror movie: Rubber werewolf masks! “High school students” who are easily in their mid-30s! An awful metal band! A subplot about computer programming!
Ginger Snaps (Amazon Prime)
They don’t call it a “moon cycle” for nothing. After years of only being available on DVD, this 2001 Canadian feminist werewolf classic quietly appeared on Amazon Prime in December 2018. A must-see for members of the cult of Jennifer’s Body.
You’ll probably have time to get up and get a snack before one of Lucio Fulci’s slow-moving zombies catches up to its prey. But if you walk away, you’ll miss the worms crawling around in the zombies’ eye sockets, and that’d be a shame.
One Cut Of The Dead (Shudder)
Freshly dug up on Shudder, One Cut Of The Dead is one of the most charming low-budget zombie movies we’ve seen in a long time. Part of that is the film’s earnest sweetness, and part of that is its clever structure—which is given away in the trailer above, so fair warning.
Dead And Buried (Shudder)
Zombie movies tend to err on the “more is more” side, but Gary Sherman’s supremely creepy Dead And Buried takes a more subdued, Ray Bradbury-inspired approach to the concept of the walking dead.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature is one of the most audacious of the 21st century, a slow-burn supernatural western whose mysterious bloodsucking Girl is as cool as she is dangerous. Plus, it’s got a cute cat in it.
On the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum, there’s the pulpy comic-book adaptation Blade, a movie that opens with a nightclub scene where human blood sprays all over the dancers as they writhe to ’90s techno.
Shadow Of The Vampire (Amazon Prime)
Or you could split the difference with Shadow Of The Vampire, a fictionalized retelling of the making of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu that stars Willem Dafoe in one of the finest performances of his career. (Nosferatu itself is also streaming on Prime; just be sure to pick the silent version and not the “A Symphony Of Horror” version with dialogue added.)
Appropriate for a movie about aliens who hunt with sound, the sound design is especially effective in A Quiet Place, a film that also marked John Krasinski’s unlikely transition from sitcom star to horror director.
One of the rare remakes that surpasses the original, the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is an excellent sci-fi horror movie. It also features a scene where Donald Sutherland bugs his eyes out while making an unholy noise. A win-win, in other words.
The common cold brought down an invading horde in War Of The Worlds, but in the 2012 Irish creature feature Grabbers, the key to surviving an alien invasion turns out to be something a lot more fun: Booze. Bottoms up!
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (Netflix)
Before he partnered with Guillermo del Toro for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, André Øvredal made his English-language debut with this nail biter, set in the most ghost-ridden place this side of an abandoned mental hospital: A morgue.
Like the haunted-house attraction where it takes place, the found-footage horror film Hell House LLC is held together with duct tape and creepy masks. But as scrappy as the film is, it’s also effectively scary, in a giggly, jump-in-your-seat kind of way.
The Devil’s Backbone (Criterion Channel)
Guillermo del Toro’s 2001 film The Devil’s Backbone lands on the Criterion Channel on Halloween night, and this mournful, absolutely bone-chilling ghost story is perfect for the night where the veil between the worlds is thinnest.
You know them. You love them. If you haven’t seen them, you should watch them right now.
Even if the first two Exorcist movies were streaming on any of our services (they aren’t), The Exorcist III would still be a solid recommendation. Come for the famous nurse scene, stay for the wildly over-the-top ending.
Directed by Paco Plaza of Rec fame, 2017's Veronica is better than its ignominious debut on Netflix would suggest. Based on a creepy true story, the film crosses a solar eclipse with good old-fashioned Catholicism for a possession film that reaches breathless heights of tension.
For once, it’s a toss-up as to which version of the cannibal family drama We Are What We Are is better: Stake Land’s Jim Mickle directed the well-regarded English-language remake, but the Mexican original is also worth seeing. Both are on streaming, so you can be the judge.
Blood Feast is a landmark film in cinema history. But Bergman this ain’t. It was the world’s first splatter film, about a Miami housewife who hires a cannibalistic caterer to create an “authentic Egyptian feast.” And although the gore is crude by today’s standards, it’s still pretty nauseating.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (Amazon Prime)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is brutal, which is why many fans were upset when its sequel turned out to be silly as hell. But, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now appreciate TCM2 for all its ’80s excess. Did we mention Dennis Hopper fights Leatherface?
Bloody Birthday (Shudder)
On the fence about having children? Careful, the psychotic little monsters in Bloody Birthday might put you off of kids forever. If you’re already averse to ankle-biters, though, this nasty 1981 slasher will only reinforce your life decisions.
Cathy’s Curse (Shudder)
Cathy’s Curse is a deeply weird movie, the kind that seems like its screenplay was poorly translated from another language, or written by aliens with strange ideas about how human beings talk and act. That makes it catnip to a certain type of movie lover, and ragweed to everyone else.
Goodnight Mommy (Amazon Prime)
The less said about this Austrian shocker the better, really, but fair warning—it’s got some grisly scenes of the type commonly referred to in the 2000s as “torture porn.”
Opera (Amazon Prime)
Post-’70s Dario Argento can be a seriously mixed bag, but this bombastic, sadistic slasher set in the world of Argento’s beloved opera is one of his best. Not recommended for the squeamish, especially if you’re sensitive to eyeball trauma.
Splitting the difference between a true-crime documentary and a slasher movie is the 2014 documentary Killer Legends, which sees the filmmakers behind the similarly creepy Cropsey digging in to the real-life cases that inspired such horror tropes as killers with hooks for hands and babysitters in peril.
The first three Scream movies hit Netflix this month, just in time to give you the creeps when you see one of those ever-popular Ghostface costumes walking down the street. The first Scream remains one of the best slashers ever made, and the next two? They’re not so bad, either.
WTF was that?!
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (HBO Go/Now)
The comeback kid of ’80s horror sequels is in this category for its bonkers ending. But no creepy season is complete without “Six more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, six more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock!”
The Void (Shudder)
Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6 specializes in nostalgic genre pastiche, and The Void combines a handful of out-there ’80s favorites for the completely WTF tale of a sinister cult trying to open a portal to hell underneath a hospital.
Technically, Pumpkinhead is a demon, but he’s not like any demon we’ve ever seen. If you’re a fan of creature features—and if you’ve read this far, you probably are—the puppetry in effects legend Stan Winston’s 1988 directorial debut is worth the recommendation alone. It’s also oozing with Halloween atmosphere, as you might have guessed from the title.