Best horror movies: fantastic films to stream or buy in 2017 in the US

Greetings! Welcome to TechRadar’s guide to the macabre, where you will find all of the best horror movies you can stream on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu in the US.

Nobody knows why, but people just love scaring themselves silly with horror movies. There’s not really any other genre that can arouse the same raw emotional reactions that a well-crafted horror movie can, and the best horror films are likely to stay in your head for weeks (or even months) on end.

After navigating our nightmares from years of horror film binging, we’ve constructed a list of the best horror movies you can stream from the comfort and deceitful safety of your own home.

Now, sit down and steady yourself while you still can; we’re delving deep down into the best horror movies available to stream today.

Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s horror classic

Date: June 1968 | Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 137 min

Classic film from a legendary director
Isn’t afraid to go dark
Long for a horror film

With the exception of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby is likely one of the most iconic horror movies of its time. Roman Polanski’s unrelentingly dark story of an expecting mother and the evil that befalls her is a classic by any measure, even earning a prestigious spot in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. If you’ve never seen Polanski’s terrifying film, it sinks into deep and dark territory that is still unsettling even 50 years after its initial release.

Alien

(Chest)bursting with fun

Date: June 1979 | Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 117 min

One of the all time greats
Practical effects don’t look outdated
Superb casting
The franchise hasn’t been as scary since this one

Directed by the peerless Ridley Scott, Alien remains a landmark of both horror and science fiction. The story of the hapless crew of the spaceship known as the Nostromo, led by Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley, and their run-in with a vicious alien stowaway is still a ruthlessly exhilarating thrill ride from start to finish. While the later films in the Alien franchise took a different route and flip-flopped on their genres, the original from 1979 still stands as a perfectly executed monument in horror cinema with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

The Babadook

Don’t let it in

Date: November 2014 | Director: Jennifer Kent | Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall | MPAA rating: N/A | Runtime: 93 min

Unique story and horror
Psychologically unnerving
Doesn’t have a wide audience appeal

The Babadook takes the cheap jump scares and loud violins of horror’s past and replaces them with a subtle and chilling story of a troubled mother and her relationship with her son. Revolving around a creepy children’s book, the plot weaves together a traditional horror story with a down-to-Earth look at grief, loss and other psychological issues with great expertise. The final product is a film unlike any other on this list and is absolutely essential viewing for anyone who cares about horror movies.

Scream

Sharp knife, sharper satire

Date: December 1996 | Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 111 min

Perfectly plays on expected horror tropes
Wes Craven in the director’s chair
The mystery is lost on the replay

Much like Joss Whedon’s recent film Cabin in the Woods, Scream is a razor sharp satire of the norms we have come to expect in the horror (more specifically slasher) movies. Even beyond the commentary however is an intriguing “whodunit” mystery that quickly turns into genuine horror. The late legendary director Wes Craven helms this instant classic and helps make it the intelligent and downright horrifying Halloween night benchmark that it is.

Jaws

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

Date: June 1975 | Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss | MPAA rating: PG | Runtime: 124 min

Undeniable classic
Suspense done perfectly
Once revealed, the fake shark doesn’t hold up
Studio felt compelled to make godawful sequels

Steven Spielberg’s breakout opus created an infamous nationwide fear of swimming in the ocean in the summer of 1975 and still sticks in our mind every time we go for a dip. While technical limitations of the time kept the shark itself from being a realistic horror to behold, Spielberg wisely kept the beast hidden for most of the film, slowly building up the suspense to an almost oppressive level. While we wouldn’t necessarily classify this movie as a horror film, it’s undeniable that Jaws has terrified viewers for over 40 years.  

The Blair Witch Project

Scared to close my eyes, scared to open them

Date: July 1999 | Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez | Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 81 min

Found footage done right
Restricted budget made it better
Nauseating at times
Inspired one of the worst sequels ever made

The mother of modern found footage horror films is still arguably the one that did it best. The Blair Witch Project is a low budget film that follow three film students who are looking to investigate an urban legend known as the Blair Witch. They then disappeared into the woods and never came back. The following year, the footage is found (hence the name “found footage”) and the horror that was inflicted upon them is shown for all to see.

The Blair Witch Project works so well because of its unique shooting style. The found footage style gave it a sense of realism that is often missing from horror movies. This is a renowned cult horror film and should be seen by anybody who cares about the genre. 

The Witch

Evil takes many forms

Date: February 2016 | Director: Robert Eggers | Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 92 min

Keeps you guessing
No cheap tricks
Slow at times
Not for everyone

The Witch is...quite unlike any other horror movie you’ve seen. Robert Eggers’ tale of a family in 1630 New England is a subtle yet deeply disturbing spiritual thriller that features all sorts of unexpected turns.

The story is of a devout Protestant family who is burdened with all sorts of evil, which causes them to turn on each other and reveal a  different sort of evil altogether. While it isn’t a historically accurate reflection of America’s Puritan past, it’s a dark and disturbing art film that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. 

10 Cloverfield Lane

If you go outside you’re entering a world of pain

Date: March 2016 | Director: Dan Trachtenberg | Stars: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 104 min

Superbly written and acted
Refreshingly small-scale 
Ending doesn’t quite fit
Goodman doesn’t talk about “Nam”

Although the Cloverfield title is attached, don’t be fooled – it’s only superficially connected to the first monster flick. Rather, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a dark and malicious thriller that keeps you trying to figure out which side you’re on for much of its runtime. Anchored by sublime performances from its small cast, 10 Cloverfield Lane is deeply unnerving and will rattle around in your brain for hours on end long after the credits have rolled, even if it doesn’t fit perfectly into the generic horror movie mold. 

Insidious

Tiptoe through the tulips...

Date: April 2011 | Director: James Wan | Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 103 min

Good premise, better execution 
Jump scares are sparse and effective
“The Further” doesn’t live up to potential 
Ruined Tiny Tim’s music

James Wan is quickly becoming one of the best horror directors around, repeatedly delivering terrifying and unique films in a genre that’s become plagued with cliches and copycats. (Spoiler alert: this isn’t the last time you’ll see Wan on this list.) Insidious easily could have been a throwaway film in lesser hands, being yet another film about a family who moves into a mysterious house only to have things things begin to go awry. With a great cast and an even better director however, the tried and true horror tropes feel fresh, at least for the first two acts. While this isn’t Wan’s best film, it’s a brilliantly made horror film that does all the old tricks right. 

The Descent

Going down

Date: August 2006 | Director: Neil Marshall | Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 99 min

Genuinely horrifying
Jump scares are annoying but effective
Acting isn’t stellar

If you’re afraid of tight spaces and the walls closing in around you, this is the horror film for you. Director Neil Marshall, helmer of the upcoming Hellboy reboot, delivers a horror film that’s stuffed with jump scares and cliches, but remains a terrifying experience that literally takes your breath away. If the premise of trapped cave divers and horrible creatures in the dark is scary to you, just wait until you’ve sat through it.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

“We’ve had a doozy of a day”

Date: December 2010 | Director: Eli Craig | Stars: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 89 min

Fun and hilarious premise
Completely quotable
Gorey for the sake of gore

The most fun film on this list by a country mile has to be Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. The film begins on solid ground by casting two of the funniest, and sadly underrated actors working today: Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk. Pepper in an insane premise where these innocent and lovable hillbillies are mistaken for chain-saw wielding maniacs and you’ve got a blood-ridden good time. If blood and guts aren’t a dealbreaker for you, throw this one on with some friends and get ready for a great time. 

Bone Tomahawk

Kurt Russell at his best

Date: February 2016 | Director: S. Craig Zahler | Stars: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox | MPAA rating: N/A | Runtime: 132 min

Kurt Russell leads an amazing cast
Western horror feels fresh
Story doesn’t always add up
Never got the attention it deserved

Sadly, Bone Tomahawk was almost wholly overlooked by the general moviegoing audience. For those who missed out, Kurt Russell leads a stellar cast in a film about the collision of a classic cowboy sheriff and a gang of vicious cannibals. The end result is a brilliant marriage of the western and horror genre’s that plays to the strengths of both. While it’s not a perfect film, Kurt Russell and his supporting cast are all perfect in it. Although it’s a bit longer than your standard horror flick, Bone Tomahawk is well worth the investment.  

The Shining

“Heeere’s Johnny!”

Date: June 1980 | Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 146 min

The most iconic horror films ever 
Arguably Jack’s best performance
Long runtime

When Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick are both in a film’s credits, you know you’re in for a treat. And while King hasn’t been shy about his disdain for this “unfaithful adaptation,” there’s no one that knows film like Kubrick. Although its immortalized by the infamous axe scene in the image above, the entire film is comprised of a tight script, suspenseful direction, and a brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson as the increasingly terrifying Jack Torrence. Stephen King may not have liked this one, but we sure love it. 

The Silence of the Lambs

Best enjoyed with fava beans and a nice chianti

Date: February 1991 | Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 118 min

Hannibal Lecter
Tight script with perfect execution
Isn’t strictly a horror film

Silence of the Lambs virtually wrote the playbook on psychological thrillers. This Academy Award-winning adaptation of the novel of the same name is propelled by characters as timeless as film itself. Jodie Foster’s Clarice must turn to the incarcerated cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter to try and get inside the mind of a despicable serial killer who’s still at large. The end product is a chilling and suspenseful drama with notes of horror that won’t leave you anytime soon. If you’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs, strap in and treat yourself to a true suspense classic.

An American Werewolf in London

Bad moon rising

Date: August 1981 | Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 97 min

Cult classic status
Well written comedy
Gory to the point of being cheesy
Effects don’t hold up

An American Werewolf in London is a brilliant piece of comedy horror that earns its rightful spot as a cult classic. The film follows two American students on a tour of Britain who are mauled by a werewolf, killing one of them. The survivor has nightmares of being a werewolf and suddenly has visions of his friend and others convincing him to break the werewolf curse. Sounds weird, right? It’s weird and all the better for it. Pop some popcorn and throw this one on for a slightly lighter time in the horror realm.

Maggie

Don’t get bitten

Date: May 2015 | Director: Henry Hobson | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 95 min

Unexpected heart
Subtle acting choices that pay off
Slow moving
Arnold stars in a zombie flick and never says “I’ll be back”

After a career like the Arnold has had, the last thing you’d expect is for him to churn out a brilliant dramatic performance in an indie-horror-drama flick. But alas, the Governator does just that as Wade Vogel in Maggie. 

The film falls in a post-apocalyptic world in which Wade’s daughter has been infected with the virus that turns humans into zombies. Although she still has her wits and her personality, the clock is ticking to the moment that Wade must make the ultimate decision. It’s a surprisingly heart wrenching story with top-notch performances all around. Chalk this one up as an unexpected joy to watch – or at least as joyful as zombie stories can be. 

The Conjuring

Wait, this is based on a true story?!

Date: July 2013 | Director: James Wan | Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 112 min

Expertly directed and acted
Is believable enough to be haunting
Even Wan can’t resist jump scares 

James Wan’s second entry on this list is his best film to date. It’s also one of the best horror movies of the last 20 years. The Conjuring is taken from the real life case files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and details a family in Rhode Island that is plagued with satanic spirits. The Warrens must face this evil and prevent it from consuming everyone involved. 

The fact that this film, although dramatized, is drawn from real life case files that can be read to this day makes it that much more horrifying and intriguing. Although James Wan is undoubtedly poised to do many more fantastic films, The Conjuring currently stands as his most impressive feat in this difficult to master genre. 

Sinister

Once you see him, nothing can save you.

Date: 2012 | Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone | MPAA rating: R | 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 | MPAA rating: R | 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 | MPAA rating: R | 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 | MPAA rating: N/A | 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 | MPAA rating: N/A | 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.