Loved Beau is Afraid? Stream these 7 existential horror movies (if you dare)

A frame from the trailer of Beau Is Afraid of Joaquin Phoenix
(Image credit: A24)

Director Ari Aster is back on his A-game, this time with his new film Beau Is Afraid. Described in a nutshell, the movie is being described as "a surrealist tragi-comedy horror film". That cover enough genres for you?

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the eponymous Beau, who is forced to confront his lifelong anxieties and fears when he has to attend his mother’s funeral. It’s a three-hour long opus that’s already been released in the US, and is due out in UK cinemas on May 19 – we're still waiting to hear when it'll come to the best streaming services.

Even just the trailer has stressed people something fierce:

For those who couldn't get enough of this unnerving and uncomfortable tale, here are seven other films that you can watch that explore the more existential side of the horror world. You'll find them on the likes of Netflix, HBO Max and more.

The Wicker Man 

This 1973 film is perhaps one of the most iconic films to bring together horror and paganism – the May Day dance around the maypole was never seen in the same way afterwards. Robin Hardy’s film stars Edward Woodward as Sergeant Neil Howie, who’s sent to the remote rural Scottish island of Summerisle when a little girl goes missing. 

Police procedural drama this very much isn’t, and instead he finds an increasingly bizarre goings-on on the island, and the villagers seem more than a little bit creepy. Of course, it’s all gearing up to the local tradition of the ritual of setting a man made of wood on fire, which is just a jolly, light-hearted event for all, right?

Available to stream on AMC+ in the US and Australia, as well as Shudder in the US and UK. UK viewers can see it for free on ITVX.   


Borrowing from themes in the The Wicker Man, director Ari Aster also set his second feature film in a remote community who are obsessed with traditional customs and shocking rituals. Florence Pugh shines as Dani Ardor, who joins her obnoxious boyfriend and his pals on a trip of a lifetime to check out a midsummer festival in remote Sweden.

But while the friends are hoping for some cool stories to tell their friends back in America, they’ve very much underestimated the desires of the cult-like members of the group. Shocking, gory and creepy in equal measure, stills from the film’s famous ending launched a thousand memes.

Available to stream on Showtime in the US, and on Netflix in the UK and Australia.

The Road

If your hope for humanity is low, then you might want to give this post-apocalyptic horror a miss. Otherwise, come prepared with stoicism. Based on the hugely successful Cormac McCarthy book of the same name, this film brings to life the terrible state of affairs the human race has found itself in following an unspecified occurrence. 

We join Viggo Mortensen, who plays the father of a young Kodi Smit-McPhee. After the disappearance of they boy's mother, the duo are forced to fend for themselves among gangs of rapist, murderers and cannibals with just two bullets left in their gun. This 2009 film is best saved for those 'well, things could be worse' moments in life. 

Available to stream on Vudu and Freevee in the US. It's also available on Rakuten TV and Freevee in the UK, and Binge and Stan in Australia.

Don’t Look Now

The death of a child is probably as close to living in a horror movie as a parent could imagine, and this cult Nicolas Roeg film from 1973 has managed to stay in the public consciousness because of this theme, with ideas of the occult alongside it. 

Based in Venice, our couple – played by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland – attempt to restore a church, but are spooked when clairvoyants claim they can see the couple’s dead daughter. But who is the strange figure in the little red coat chasing them around, and what impact do they have on the characters’ fate?

Available to stream on Kanopy in the US, ITVX in the UK, as well as AMC+ and Shudder in Australia.  


Alongside Ari Aster, Lars Von Trier is a filmmaker who is known for pushing the boundaries of horror films and taking them on a sharp turn through gory psychodramas. One of his most famous and most controversial films, this 2009 movie features William Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg – and is also his most extreme. 

A married couple who, similar to Don’t Look Now, are grieving the loss of their young son and spend time out in a cabin in the woods. In between violent sex sessions and nature appearing to warn them about their condition, they slowly begin to breakdown, resulting in a horrifying sadomasochistic scene and a descent into a place of other-worldly beings.

Available to stream on AMC+, Criterion Channel and Kanopy in the US, and Stan in Australia. For viewers in the UK, the film is only available to rent. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos is another director who lives to fuse slightly surrealist ideas with dark themes, and he drew on an old Greek tragedy for this film, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival. Colin Farrell plays Stephen, a heart surgeon, who is surprised when a former patient’s son, Martin (Barry Keoghan) comes to visit. 

This 2017 film isn’t a polite cup of tea and slice of cake visit, as it eventually transpires that Martin wants revenge. This is eked out in the most hideous manner, leaving the viewer feeling emotionally ambushed by the end.

Available to stream on Showtime, Kanopy and Fubo in the US, Netflix in the UK and Stan in Australia. 

Under The Skin 

What is the creature Scarlett Johansson is portraying in this 2013 film? An alien? A monster? The jury’s out, but this gripping tale of a being who travels around, dead-eyed, luring men to kill in some sort of a black supernatural pond is as out there as it comes.

With a skin-crawling soundtrack by Mica Levi, and real-life street footage used, it all works together to create a deeply haunting experience, even with little horror actually depicted on screen. We still don’t fully understand it a decade later, but the fact we’re still thinking about it proves it hit all the right notes for an intense, esoteric horror story.

Available to stream on HBO Max and Kanopy in the US, ITVX in the UK and SBS On Demand in Australia. 

Laura Martin
Freelance Writer

Laura Martin is an entertainment journalist who covers TV, film, and music. She's written for numerous big publications, including TechRadar, Esquire, BBC Culture, The Guardian, and The i newspaper. Her favourite stories usually involve prestige TV drama, reality TV, or true-life documentaries. Basically, the more obscure, the better!