If I had to rank the percentages of things I’ve watched in my life scary to non-scary, it would fall somewhere around 90/10. Anyone who knows me knows this is a part of my personality at this point; if a scary movie comes out, I’ve seen it—and the lord knows I have opinions on it.
Throughout my past 24 years, I’ve seen just about every horror and thriller movie that a single person could. All this to say: if I’m an authority on anything, it’s scary movies. And when’s the best time to watch a scary movie? Right now, baby.
We’re all stuck inside for this spooky season, so there’s no time like now to check off the boxes on a scary movie bucket list. From decades-old classics to lesser-known Netflix gems, curl up on your couch and work through these this spooky season—I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve ranked all movies on a scariness level, being the least scary, being the scariest I’ve seen (a ranking only four movies in history have earned from me!).
1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Hulu
The book this is adapted from, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, is half of the reason I am who I am. Growing up, every year I had a Halloween party with all of my friends. We’d carve pumpkins, watch a movie, and before we went to bed, my dad would read one of these stories to us. The lights would be off, and he’d have a flashlight and would bellow “Whereeeeeeeee issssssss myyyyyyyy toeeeeeeee” (if you know, you know), and then my mom would jump out from somewhere else and all of us would scream and then nobody but me would be able to sleep.
This is very much a movie intended for younger people, but it’s a perfect, scare-free movie to get a spooky ambiance with no risk of anyone not being able to sleep at night.
2. Practical Magic, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
A classic spooky movie that isn’t scary whatsoever, this is calling your name for a girl’s-night-in filled with red wine and all the pumpkin-flavored foods Trader Joe’s has in stock.
3. Hocus Pocus, $3.99 on Amazon Prime or free on Disney+
If you go through a spooky season without watching this—the best nostalgic scary movie of all time—you’re no friend of mine.
4. Halloweentown, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
One of the most sentimental Halloween movies there is, it’s impossible to go through an October without queuing this up at least once.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney+
I know some of you might read this and want to say, “But it’s a Christmas movie!” and to that I would say you’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s wrong. This is absolutely a Halloween one, and a phenomenal one at that.
6. Friday the 13th, $2.99 on Amazon Prime
You could opt for either the 1980 version or this 2009 remake and get similar experiences (give or take one particularly steamy sex scene). It’s the story we all know: masked Jason torments a group of hot people at Crystal Lake. This is in the same vein as Halloween: a teen horror movie that’s not something that’s going to leave you too scared to sleep, but is just a good movie to watch on an October night when you need something scary.
7. Get Out, $1.99 on Amazon Prime
Get Out was one of the most talked-about movies of recent years, and for good reason: Jordan Peele completely changed the horror movie game with this. I would argue that it’s more suspenseful than scary, and the social commentary it provides far overrides any horror elements. If its Oscar win somehow didn’t convince you to watch it, now is the time.
8. Scream, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
There are about a million Scream movies, but nothing beats the original. Courtney Cox’s bangs might be the scariest part of this movie.
9. Seven, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
Another oldie, but can anyone really argue against watching some young Brad Pitt? Seven follows two detective—Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, a real dream team—investigating a series of murders that each represents one of the seven deadly sins. It’s dark, captivating, and saves the best twist for the end.
10. The Silence of the Lambs, Netflix
I will include this in every scary movie roundup I do in my life for a simple reason: it’s the best movie of all time. It is unparalleled in its storyline and acting and even the genre it hits. If you’ve never seen it, it should absolutely be #1 on your to-be-watched list.
I gave this 3/5 ghosts because, while there’s not much gore, the principal is quite scary, but should be watched by everyone on this planet because of how good the story is.
11. The Perfection, Netflix
Beth Gillette and I watched this together one Saturday night last year, and I would do anything to have footage of our faces as we were reacting to what we were seeing. This movie is, in short, absolutely bizarre. I made my roommates watch it the next day just so I had more people to talk to it about and so they’d stop calling me “dramatic” when I kept saying “It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen.”
12. The Invitation, Netflix
My friends and I all had very different opinions of this movie, but I personally enjoyed it, and luckily, that’s all that matters here—what can I say, I’m a sucker for a cult. It has both a genuinely interesting story and a lot of suspense, and I would argue that it is impossible to guess the ending.
13. The Blair Witch Project, Hulu
This is under the “Scary as Hell” category on Hulu, and I would enthusiastically agree with that. I’ve only seen this once in my life, but it has haunted me since. Three filmmakers go into the woods and are haunted by an entity, and it’ll give you that agoraphobic-lost-in-the-woods kind of terror.
14. 13 Cameras, Netflix
I absolutely adore a scary movie where the antagonist (or shall I say murderer) is a real person and not a ghost or a “Bughuul” (@Sinister), but they are shockingly difficult to find. This is a classic landlord-gone-bad film, and it will leave you wanting nothing more. (They did, however, make a sequel entitled—you guessed it—14 Cameras if this wasn’t enough for you).
15. Creep, Netflix
If you, like me, are a fan of movies where a real person (not a paranormal entity) is the villain, you’ll love this. I didn’t watch it until recently and couldn’t believe it took me so long to check it out. There’s also a sequel you can follow it up with that’s equally as bizarre.
16. 1BR, Netflix
This is a brand new addition to Netflix, and after our editor Beth texted me that it was her favorite scary movie she saw this year, I stopped everything to watch. Sarah moves to LA and after living in her apartment complex for a few days, realizes her neighbors are not what they originally seemed. I second Beth’s statement: this is one of the best scary movies of 2020.
17. Misery, $13.99 on Amazon Prime
A Stephen King classic, Misery takes a twist on a hostage movie with Kathy Bates playing a woman holding her favorite author captive in her house in the woods. It’s more thriller than horror and will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
18. Us, $14.99 on Amazon Prime
After Jordan Peele’s debut movie Get Out, I didn’t know how he could possibly come up with another story that twisted—but he did, and he did not disappoint. This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, period, and managed to chill me to my core while also keeping me fully invested in a unique, out-of-the-box story line (Lupita Nyong’o not getting an Oscar for her performance in this was a crime I’ll never get over, but that’s a rant for another day).
19. Carrie, Netflix
If you haven’t seen this movie, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article, but I absolutely needed to include this (plus, acknowledge that the right choice was made by Netflix by adding the 1976 version instead of the absolute train wreck that is the 2013 remake). If you’re having a girls’ night and are trying to force everyone to watch a horror movie, you can probably swing this one because A. non-scary movie lovers have most likely already seen it, and B. it was made in 1976 so you can tell everyone that it can’t be that scary.
20. American Psycho, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
This movie is truly disturbing and is a classic for a reason: it’s hard to watch, and an extremely hot man is murdering people left and right. It’s an interesting story about what you do (and don’t) know about people.
21. Halloween, Netflix
You’ve seen it a 100 times, and ’tis the season to watch it for 101th. Perhaps the most classic horror movie of all time, Halloween just doesn’t get old.
22. The Shining, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
Redrum, redrum, redrum. This is a “top five of all time” scary movie, and although it’s pretty scary, it was also made in 1980, so it isn’t petrifying. It’s a classic that everyone needs to see at least once.
23. The Babadook, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
Generally, I don’t love any supernaturally-related movie, but this is one of my favorites of all time because it is just that good. It’s scary with a purpose; it doesn’t just have a million jump scares or gory things, but is just telling a scary story. This is perfect for if you want a horror movie but don’t want to deal with blood.
24. The VVitch, Netflix
Listen, one of the few rules I follow is usually that I want nothing to do with a period piece, but The VVitch (witch? vitch?) is the exception to that rule. Anything where a town from long ago fears a girl becoming a witch is superb entertainment, and this is quite scary. The ambiance combined with Anya Taylor-Joy’s acting is *chef’s kiss.*
25. Hush, Netflix
The concept of this movie is unique and horrifying: a masked lunatic intrudes on a deaf woman’s home. Without her being able to hear him (and with him knowing she can’t hear him), things escalate quickly and will keep you guessing throughout.
26. Goodnight Mommy, Hulu
I distinctly remember this movie trailer coming out and the internet going absolutely wild about it for weeks after… but I didn’t feel like many people actually ended up seeing it. This movie is, in a word, petrifying. It is completely bizarre, and the aesthetics are enough to haunt you for weeks after, but after you see the ending, it turns it into a sleep-with-the-lights-on kind of experience.
27. IT, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
This is—by far—one of the scariest recent movie releases. The child actors in this movie are amazing, and you can follow it up with IT Chapter Two, which stars Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain. This is a keep-you-up-at-night, bone-chilling one to check off your list.
28. The Strangers, $3.99 on Amazon Prime
I’ve mentioned this movie in every horror movie roundup I’ve ever done, and I will continue to until the day I die. This could just be a personal thing where this movie hit me harder than the rest of the general population, but it is one of the few movies I’ve seen that genuinely terrifies me to my very core. Every single time I’m at a cottage in Michigan, I literally can’t sleep because I think about this movie. If you aren’t scared of potato sack masks, you’re about to be.
29. Midsommar, free Amazon Prime
Made by the same studio as Hereditary, this will leave you feeling less petrified, more disturbed. It’s completely unique in its concept and has some of the wildest scenes of any horror movie I’ve ever seen in my life. This movie is a full-blown experience and stands in a league of its own in terms of storyline and acting (Florence Pugh is incredible in it). Another selling point? The entire film takes place in full daylight.
30. Sinister, Netflix
There was a period of time around 2012 where a group of new-age horror movies came out that all were exactly “meh” (Insidious, The Conjuring, etc.), but this one stood out from the crowd. This movie scared the bajeezus out of me. It scared me more than anything I had seen at the time. To this day I’ve only watched it one additional time, but I think about it approximately once a week. A certain element they included (some spooky tapes that are found in the attic) are one of the most bone-chilling things my eyes have ever seen—this is a good one to watch in a group.
31. Hereditary, free on Amazon Prime
This is, hands-down, one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen in my life. It has so many realistic scenes of things you probably never want to see, but if you want to watch something super scary, this is the one for you. This solidified that Toni Collette is one of the best actresses of our time and you can quote me on that.
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