A good friend recently asked me what he should watch on Netflix because he and his wife wanted something scary. I realized how many people would probably just want an easy list of the scariest movies on Netflix instant. So for you horror regulars and for those of you who just want a scare once in awhile, here’s a list of the scariest films you can watch right now if you have Netflix.
Now it’s my belief that fear is one of the most personal of emotions, so ‘scariest’ is such a personal preference that opinions should vary greatly (and frankly I don’t even remember the last time a film actually scared me). I’ll also note that I’m not a fan of ‘cheap’ scares, and prefer genuinely eerie and disturbing atmosphere rather than a loud noise and mirror gag. So let me know what you think, but keep in mind this is ranked by ‘scary’ not by which ones are better films.
Netflix changes the movies that are available on instant view fairly often, so if you notice that one is no longer available please let me know so I can update the list!
Top Ten Scariest Movies on Netflix Instant – Updated May 2013
10. Audition (1999)
Takashi Miike’s Audition is not a traditionally ‘scary’ movie. But it is certainly one of the more effectively disturbing Asian horror films that you’ll run across. One scene in particular has been repeatedly referred to as one of the most frightening scenes in horror history. So if you’re looking for an unsettling viewing experience, this a great place to start. But I should probably add that this movie is not for those with weak stomachs.
9. Dead End (2003)
Dead End caught me off-guard when I first watched it because it is hardly ever mentioned and seems to be almost entirely overlooked. Instead of a standard, bland horror film (like the poster may lead you to believe), it is a psychological horror packed with frights. It’s best to go into it knowing as little about the story as possible, and let it catch you by surprise.
8. The Evil Dead (1981)
An absolute cult classic and the first in a trilogy. The Evil Dead has more horror elements to it and wasn’t saturated in dark comedy like the later two, so it certainly does have creepy elements. The atmosphere is powerful (which comes a lot from the setting), and the saturation of eerie elements adds up to quite the scary film. Personally, Linda’s laugh always gets to me.
7. Pontypool (2008)
Pontypool provides tension that is rarely seen in modern horror films. The concept is mind-blowing. If you really let the concept sink in and you spend a little time thinking about it, it can be a deeply terrifying idea. It’s a bit of surrealism, a bit of zombies, and just enough depth to keep your brain working for awhile afterwards.
6. The Omen (1976)
The Omen is well known not only among horror fans, but just about everyone. Most people with any interest in the genre have seen it. If you haven’t, this is another one of those superbly atmospheric films. There’s an incredible use of shadows and a deceivingly innocent villain. On top of that, the psychological aspects allow for the viewer’s own beliefs to compound the terror.
5. The House of the Devil (2009)
This next film continues right on with the atmosphere trend (can you tell I prefer it greatly to cheap scares?). The House of the Devil is a superb film by director Ti West that mimics the look and feel of 70’s and early 80’s horror. It’s a very slow build, but be patient, because once it gets going it doesn’t let up. The use of a steadily mounting sense of dread that comes to a fast-paced, intense finale gives The House of the Devil the ability to stick with you for a long while after it’s over.
4. Nosferatu (1922)
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. A perfect example and by far the creepiest portrayal of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is Nosferatu. This German silent film is one of the most important foundations for horror, and to this day still eerie as hell. Although it might be a difficult watch for viewers who aren’t familiar with silent films, it is an absolute essential.
3. Hellraiser (1987)
If there’s been too much atmosphere and not enough gore for you up until this point, Hellraiser will fix that. That being said, there is still enough tension built into the story that it will stick with you long after the credits roll. It wouldn’t exactly be fair to include several of the sequels on this list, but many of them are also available. Check out the first three at least.
2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby comes out high on the list in suspense, atmosphere, tension, and all of the elements that make a film scary. It’s psychological, with very little actually ‘shown’. The basic emotion and subtext of the film is that there is nothing more threatening than what is inside you (literally or figuratively). In my opinion, that applies to a horror film’s ability to scare you. When it comes down to it, your own imagination can frighten you more than anything you can be shown on screen (and if that’s not true, you need to do imagination exercises).
1. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece, The Thing, has some of the most frightening visuals ever created in film. For this and many other reasons, it often is recognized as one of the greatest horror films of all time. It’s also one of the scariest. It attacks safe zones, creates a feeling of isolation, and combines the right visual effects to create a truly horrifying movie even in this current time period of over-saturation of horror.