Best horror movies: scary films to stream or buy in 2017

When compiling our best horror movies list, the same question kept coming up: what constitutes a good horror movie? 

For us, a good horror movie is one that latches onto your deepest, primal fears, pokes and prods at your psyche, strangles you with fear and raises your heart rate to palpitation levels. 

These types of horror movies are rare, and that is what makes them so special.

The following is a hand-picked list of the best horror movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video you should - no, need to - watch right now. 

They are the titles on Netflix and Amazon that will induce fear but as you will see, fear takes different forms. Sometimes it's foreboding, sometimes it's mixed with comedy, other times it's bloody and brutal.

And then there's that other fear: the fear that you have missed off some damn good movies from a list. If that's the case, then let us know.

Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension

Every secret will be revealed.

Date: 2015 | Director: Gregory Plotkin | Stars: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 88 min

Great addition to the series
Some brilliant scares
CGI is a touch ropey
3D is a gimmick

The final part of the Paranormal Activity series may not have quite the effect the initial movies had but it's still packed with scares. The plot is slight, a couple find a camera in their new house that allows them to see paranormal activity around them and use this to protect their daughter. With more of an onus on the ghosts rather than the unseen, the scares aren't as plentiful but it's still a fun watch. And if you find yourself wanting more, the rest of the series is also available on Netflix.

Watch on netflix now

Scream

Don't Answer The Phone. Don't Open The Door. Don't Try To Escape.

Date: 1996 | Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 111 min

Brilliant postmodern plot
Redefined horror movies
Started many a copycat
Dated slightly

Perhaps the most influential horror film of the last 20 years, Scream is a delight for horror fans. It manages to subvert the genre by playing on the stereotypes seen in a horror movie and at the same time make new rules for horror films. And the best thing about it is that We Craven is at the helm - one of the original horror masters proving at the time he was still the best in the game.

Watch Scream on Amazon Prime Video now

Poltergeist

Mommy, Daddy, where are you?

Date: 1982 | Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 114 min

Genuine cares
One of the genre's classics
The plot is messy

The argument over who directed Poltergeist was pretty much put to rest recently when Tobe Hooper passed away and an assistant on the movie revealed that Stephen Spielberg was mainly at the helm. To be honest, it doesn't matter as the result is a film full of classic scares and chills and essential viewing if you have yet to see it.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video now

The Exorcist

Now... Open your eyes to...

Date: 1973 | Director: William Friedkin | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 122 min

One of the best horror movies ever
Utterly terrifying
It puts other horror movies to shame

The greatest horror movie ever made deserves all of the accolades it gets. It's a superb chiller based around the exorcism of a little girl. Its world building, shocking scenes and fantastic acting makes everything about The Exorcist horrifically believable. You will go to bed with the lights on after watching this.  

Watch The Exorcist on Amazon Prime Video now

Drag Me To Hell

Even nice people can go to hell.

Date: 2009 | Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Ruth Livier | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 99 min

Frenetic and fun horror movie
Doesn't let up
Sometimes too silly
A bit predictable

Drag Me To Hell sees director Sam Raimi on fine form, taking everything he learned from making the Evil Dead movies and distilling them into this horror farce, about a woman who is unwittingly put under a supernatural curse. Raimi has always been the boss of frenetic horror movies and Drag Me To Hell is of no exception. Once it starts, it simply does not let up.

Watch Drag Me To Hell on Amazon Prime Video

An American Werewolf in London

Date: 1981 | Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 97 min

Great mix of horror and comedy
Super 'of their time' effects
Horror/comedy mix too much for some

A cult classic and for good reason, American Werewolf in London is everything you want in a horror film. It has - for its time - amazing special effects, a great big dollop of gore and some brilliant humour. The plot is as simple as it gets, two American backpackers traveling the shires of England get attacked by a werewolf and, well, the title gives the rest away. 

Watch An American Werewolf in London on Amazon Prime Video

Gerald's Game

Some games you play. Some you survive

Date: 2017 | Director: Mike Flanagan | Stars: Carla Gugino, Carel Struycken, Bruce Greenwood | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 103 min

Fantastic, unique storytelling
Superb central performance
Ending feels rushed
Quite melodramatic

Gerald's Game is a lean Stephen King novel. Most of the action takes place in one room, with one  poor woman (Jessie Burlingame) alone, handcuffed to a bed, after a night of passion goes awry, with just her thoughts, her dead husband, and a number of things that go bump in the night for company. It's superb then that director Mike Flannigan has managed to pull off an adaptation that could have been very one note, by creatively bringing Burlingame's - a fantastic Carla Gugino - thoughts to life. It's a bit too melodramatic at times and does suffer from the King curse of never knowing how to properly end his stories, but there's a lot to like about this Netflix exclusive.

The Babadook

Don't let it in

Date: 2014 | Director: Jennifer Kent | Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 93 min

Harrowing and thought provoking
Not just about jump shocks
Not enough 'horror' for some
Too heavy handed in places

The Babadook's horror, a brilliant debut by director Jennifer Kent, lies in its subtlety. The plot revolving around a creepy bedtime book is secondary to the fraught relationship between widowed Amelia (Essie Davis) and her six-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). It plays on the usual fear-inducing tropes but the real horror of the movie is seeing a family in grief and the devastating sadness that accompanies this.

Insidious

What's in that picture?

Date: 2014 | Director: Jennifer Kent | Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 93 min

Some genuine scares
Great cast
The ending gets a little silly
Not the most original of horrors

Director James Wan cut his teeth - and many other limbs - with Saw, which is fun but forgettable. Insidious feels like a much more grown up horror movie, that eschews blood for Poltergeist-style japes. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are husband and wife who are looking after their coma-induced son. Some great cinematography makes up for a plot that does annoyingly veer into supernatural territory near the end. Despite this, there's a lot of fun to be had.

Let's Scare Jessica To Death

Something is after Jessica. Something very dead

Date: 1971 | Director: John Hancock | Stars: Zohra Lampert, Barton Heyman, Kevin O'Connor | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 89 min

Superb dream-like feel
Great build up of dread
Might be too slow for some
Not much actually happens

One of the most overlooked horror movies of all time, this is a wonderful hidden slice of '70s horror. Shot through a dream-like lens, the movie follows a group of mates looking to find solace for their friend Jessica, who has just been released from a clinic. After a road trip they end up shacking up in an empty house that comes complete with a stranger called Emily. Full of subtle scares, marvellous missteps and lingering shots, Let's Scare Jessica To Death is a must watch.

Would You Rather

Tell yourself it's just a game.

Date: 2013 | Director: David Guy Levy | Stars: Brittany Snow, June Squibb, Jeffrey Combs | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 93 min

Great setup
Brilliant ensemble cast
Gets too silly for its own good
Veers into torture porn 

Yet another movie that is made 1,000 per cent better because Jeffrey Combs stars in it. Would You Rather has an interesting concept - the ultimate life or death game of 'would you rather' hosted by a sadistic aristocrat - that doesn't quite reach the heights it should but you will have a lot of fun watching it try. Definitely not one for the squeamish!

February

Abandoned as a child. Raised by the dark.

Date: 2015 | Director: Oz Perkins | Stars: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 93 min

Full of atmosphere
Original scare
Not an all-out fright-fest
Too slow a slow burner

Forget the frankly terrible title, February is a sparse and suspenseful chiller that sees two school girls spend their winter break in a boarding school after their parents fail to pick them up. The soundtrack soars with synths, the visuals are gorgeous and the acting from Mad Men alumni Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts is sublime. It takes its time and is something of an odd watch but February is one of the best new horrors around.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Netflix and chills

Date: 2016 | Director: Oz Perkins | Stars: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 89 min

Great gothic undertones
Superb cast
Lots of atmosphere, not much action
Artistic, bordering on pretentious

This Netflix exclusive landed on the site a few days before Halloween and is a slow-burning delight. Made by director Osgood Perkins, who created the brilliant February and incidentally is the son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins so has horror in his veins, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House is a tough watch as its pace is glacial. But it fizzes with so much unease that it will leave you mesmerised.

Hush

Silence can be killer.

Date: 2016 | Director: Mike Flanagan | Stars: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 81 min

Lots of unexpected twists
A great, original idea
Becomes a little too formulaic
Lots of cliches ticked off

How do you make a home invasion movie original? By making the protagonist deaf and unaware of what’s going until it’s nearly too late. That’s the premise of Hush and it breathes new life into the cat-and-mouse psychopath genre. Hush is another great movie from the Blumhouse lot - those who created Paranormal Activity - and is directed by Oculus’ helmer Mike Flanagan.

Let Me In

Innocence dies. Abby doesn't.

Date: 2010 | Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 77 min

Superb remake
Really nice '80s vibe
Bit too dark and sullen
Doesn't have the original's power

As remakes go, Let Me In is a rare beast that matches the original movie for tension and suspense. Director Matt Reeves ports this vampire story from the cold of Stockholm to New Mexico, telling the tale of a 12-year-old kid who gets one-up on the bullies by befriending a vampire. The 1980s setting adds to the unease, as does Reeves’ assured direction.

30 Days of Night

They're Coming!

Date: 2007 | Director: David Slade | Stars: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 113 min

Decent comic-book adaptation
Great, fresh look at vampires
Turns into an all-out gorefest
Loses its plot thread after a while

Director David Slade may have lost a bit of kudos by making a Twilight movie but his first proper stab at horror was a decent one. 30 Days of Night is a simple premise: vampires descend on an Alaskan town that suffers from total darkness for one month of the year and cause total carnage. Josh Hartnett is great as the grizzled resident who has to fight for his life.

Paranormal Activity

Don't See It Alone.

Date: 2007 | Director: Oren Peli | Stars: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 84 min

Fantastic low-budget horror fare
Great use of scares throughout
The style of the film won't be for all
Too much suggestion over action

An antidote to the Blair Witch style shaky cam found footage movies, Paranormal Activity managed to make CCTV footage scary, offering up a low-budget horror film that is genuinely unnerving. Although the franchise suffers, as many horror series do, from diminishing returns, the sequels are also worth a watch.

Creep (2014)

A videographer answers Craigslist advert but not all is as it seems

Date: 2014 | Director: Patrick Brice | Stars: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 77 min

Full of dread
Unexpected storyline
Bit too low budget
Not strictly a pure horror

The Duplass brothers are usually associated with comedy - their TV show Togetherness is well worth a watch - which makes their first foray into horror so surprising. Creep is a, well, creepy look at someone who answers an online ad to make a movie for a stranger’s unborn child. What ensues is, as you’d expect, not a movie for the child but something altogether more sinister. 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

What happened to Emily?

Date: 2014 | Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Shohreh Aghdashloo | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 119 min

Original take on an unoriginal idea
Great performances throughout
Not an all-out horror movie
Relies too heavily on cheap shocks

Before he was chosen to helm the rather brilliant Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson directed this very effective horror. Based loosely on a true story, the film is set around a court case where a reverend is being charged for wrongful death after an exorcism goes wrong. The scares may be gore free, but they are no less chilling.

It Follows

It doesn't think. It doesn't feel. It doesn't give up.

Date: 2014 | Director: David Robert Mitchell | Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 100 min

Superb soundtrack
Great, original idea
Story is thin and stretched
Tries too hard to be a satire

Making a horror movie about an STI isn’t a new thing - pretty much all of David Cronenberg’s early back catalogue is sexual-disease ridden - but It Follows manages to bottle that fear and anxiety and create a highly original movie with the premise. It Follows follows Jay Height ( a brilliant Maika Monroe) who after a sexual encounter is chased by a strange force that will not leave her alone until she has sex again. Shot as an 80s movie, complete with 80s soundtrack this is a great modern horror wrapped in a net of nostalgia.

Blair Witch

There's something evil hiding in the woods.

Date: 2016 | Director: Adam Wingard | Stars: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 89 min

Some really good scares
Effective as a sequel
Stretches the Blair Witch idea too far
Some performances could be better

Originally billed as The Woods, this pseudo sequel to The Blair Witch Project was made in secret and unleashed on to the world by surprise announcement at Comic-Con. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best marketing trick as a lack of hype meant that the movie appeared and disappeared without much fanfare but catch it now on Netflix and you are in for a treat. Director Adam Wingard is one of the best indie horror auteurs around and he manages to update the Blair Witch myth - even including drones in the mix - without forgetting just what made the original scary in the first place.

Under The Shadow

Fear will find you.

Date: 2016 | Director: Babak Anvari | Stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 84 min

A creepy, foreboding movie
Fantastic central performances
Not all-out horror
Scares are great but sparse

This is a terrifying movie that doesn’t exactly show anything terrifying. All of the horror within it is built up through suspense and the backdrop of war-torn Tehran. It’s a tale of a mother and daughter living in Tehran in the 80s that are seemingly haunted by a spirit in their apartment. British director Babak Anvari is a director to watch. With Under The Shadow, he’s created an understated slow-burning masterpiece.

The Cabin in the Woods

You think you know the story.

Date: 2012 | Director: Drew Goddard | Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 95 min

Brilliant sardonic, meta script
Superb performances
Too clever for its own good
A film of two uneven halves

A horror movie that plays on the tropes of other horror movies. Yup, we’ve seen it all before with Scream but Cabin In The Woods takes it to a whole new, and rather surprising, level. Those going into this movie hoping to see a standard horror will be thoroughly disappointed but if you are happy with a movie that twists so away so wildly from its original plot into almost sci-fi territory, while also exploring how horror movies are designed to make you jump the Cabin In The Woods is for you!

Bone Tomahawk

May the Lord have mercy and grant you a swift death.

Date: 2015 | Director: S. Craig Zahler | Stars: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 132 min

Superb cast
Instant cult classic status
Sometimes gore for gore's sake
The story is a little uneven

This is a little heard of, underrated gem. Bone Tomahawk is a brilliant, bloody and horrific look at what happens when you marry a cowboy movie with a cannibal exploitation flick. Kurt Russell is superb as Sheriff Hunt, the leader of a group that goes out in search of a ruthless gang that have ravaged a town and taken a number of people hostage. In that gang is the earnest Patrick Wilson and an unhinged Matthew Fox. Rarely has such a movie come along and managed to bully itself into cult status so quickly but that’s exactly what Bone Tomahawk has done.

The Descent

Face Your Deepest Fear.

Date: 2005 | Director: Neil Marshall | Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 100 min

Some terrifying scenes
Great premise
Acting is a bit hit and miss
Too many cheap scares

British director Neil Marshall may now be the ultimate go-to director for Game of Thrones and other TV fare but before he moved to television - he will soon be moving back to movies with a Hellboy remake - he made some fantastic horror films. The Descent is the best of them. It’s a claustrophobic chiller that sees a caving expedition go horribly wrong when they are trapped and something comes for them from the deep darkness of the caves.

Sinister

Once you see him, nothing can save you.

Date: 2012 | Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 110 min

Genuinely sinister
Brilliant performance by Hawke
The soundtrack is a bit much
Some predictable scares

Scott Derrickson may well be a Marvel maestro now but he cut his tooth on horror movies - and great ones at that. Sinister is his best, a creepy heart-wrenching movie centred on a true-crime writer who moves into a new home and finds a box of Super 8 snuff movies. The film takes its time to tell its tale but when it does, it’s pretty horrifying. Ethan Hawke plays the author who discovers the chilling secret, raising this above your average horror yarn. 

Wolf Creek

The Thrill Is In The Hunt.

Date: 2005 | Director: Greg McLean | Stars: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 104 min

Some real shocks
Brutal and terrifying
Bit too sadistic
The script is lacking something

Mick Taylor should be up there with Freddy and Jason in the pantheon of horror monsters. He may well look like a regular Ozzy guy who likes a Tooheys New or two, but underneath all that he’s a serial killer who likes to kill tourists in some of the most inventive ways possible. Interestingly, John Jarratt - unknown outside Australia - was an inspired choice for Mick.  The reason: he was the good guy in hit show McLeod’s Daughters, so it completely flipped his good guy image. 

I Saw The Devil

To Catch A Monster He Must Become One.

Date: 2010 | Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Joon-hyeok Lee | Certificate: 18 | Runtime: 141 min

Brutal and brilliant
Superb story
Too extreme for many
Sometimes too dark

This is not a film for the faint hearted. It’s about revenge, it features some of the most horrific acts of violence ever put to film but it’s also a compelling, if flinching watch. Directed by genius Korean director  Jee-woon Kim, who also did the amazing The Quiet Family, the film is a masterpiece in shock and awe, focusing on a serial killer who is hunted by a retired cop who has vengeance on his mind. 

Train To Busan

Zombie movie with Seoul.

Date: 2016 | Director: Sang-ho Yeon | Stars: Yoo Gong, Su-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 118 min

Brilliant plot
Great set pieces
Occasionally flits into cliche
Doesn't quite keep momentum

South Korea is on a roll when it comes to its horror movies, with Train To Busan being one of its recent best. The plot is ingenious: unbeknownst to the public a zombie outbreak is happening in Seoul. We see the effect on this on a fast train to Busan where the outbreak takes over the speeding train and threatens all the passengers on board. This is one of the most frenetic zombie films ever, filled with some fantastic set pieces and a helluva lot of tension.

Hell House LLC

New York's Scariest Haunted House Tour.

Date: 2015 | Director: Stephen Cognetti | Stars: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 93 min

Creepy spin on the genre
Great rise in tension
Handheld footage a bit much
Slow to get going

Hell House LLC is an under appreciated gem. It’s a found footage horror movie that really does shock and scare you throughout. The premise is simple: a group of entrepreneurs have created a horror house for frat boys and others to scare themselves silly in. The problem is, the house actually seems to be haunted. Regardless of it being a little known movie, this is one of the best horror movies to be released in years.