The winter months are perfect for mixing up a batch of cocoa and sitting on the couch under your blanket that serves as both a conduit of warmth and an eye shield for some of the scarier moments you’ll see in the films below. All 25 of these movies can be found under the “horror” portion of Netflix‘s streaming menu, so read on and make room in your queue for these creepy classics.
25. Night Breed: The Director’s Cut
Writer-Director-Novelist Clive Barker has one of the darkest and twisted minds in the history of the horror genre (it’s currently not on Netflix, but you should go out of your way to see Midnight Meat Train, based on one of his Books of Blood). This follow-up directorial effort to Hellraiser — which is a bit more slanted to fantasy-horror — was originally a bit of a mess due to rampant studio edits. Netflix has The Director’s Cut now, and it’s drastically better than the theatrical version due to an enhanced character arc that doesn’t bend its will to the slew of creature effects.
24. VHS/VHS 2
Found footage can be hit-or-miss, but in this pop-culture journalist’s opinion, the genre has a place in film. VHS and VHS 2 combines the archetype with an anthology premise that packs several short films around one primary narrative thread, and in both films, they’re forgettable. What’s fun here is the POV-like pleasure you get from entering the shoe’s of the antagonist or protagonist in these ghoulish tales. They’re not all great — with some of the limitations of a minimized budget evident in the weaker entries — but just like a book of short stories, even if it’s bad, it doesn’t last very long.
Guillermo del Toro’s first foray into the Hollywood machine is his least favorite film, but even so, Mimic still manages to provide some monster movie fun. del Toro’s knack for creating suspenseful set pieces looms largely, even if the payoffs feel contrived. It’s not intellectually pleasing in any manner, as his first American effort after Cronos should have been, but the traces of magic that the Mexican auteur would later wrangle for Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy are evident.
22. Friday the 13th
Jason Voorhees’ mother does the damage in the first chapter of this long-running and oft-remade horror series. None of the Friday the 13th films really deliver any kind of visceral chills other than perhaps a few jump-scares, but as far as campy slasher films go, this one at least tries in some fashion to take itself seriously, and its effect on pop-culture cannot be ignored.
21. Dead Snow
This Norwegian horror-comedy makes no effort to provide anything but an entertaining roller coaster ride set on a track of bones and blood. There’s plenty of gore for those who enjoy their scares spiced with entrails, but what makes this film enjoyable is its ability to stay self-aware while still keeping enough distance to draw you into its Nazi-zombie narrative.
20. Jeepers Creepers
There’s nothing novel about Victor Salva’s part-slasher, part-monster movie, and yet it still manages to entertain. Salva somehow injects the winged, slimy fleshed monster — that enjoys plucking the eyeballs from his victims — with a bit of humor and personality just through its expressions, and the gamble works well. Not a lot of brain power is needed to enjoy Jeepers Creepers, but not everything has to be a Stanley Kubrick film.
Barker makes this list a second time, but it’s this film that almost fully embodies the nightmarish qualities of his literary works. Based on The Hellbound Heart (a frightening novella that is so genuinely disturbing that no film could do it justice), Hellraiser is saturated with enough sexual undertones and creative demonic delicacies to make it a one-of-a-kind morbidity, even if it has some limitations.
18. The Sacrament
Ti West started his fairly young career in the horror genre, but it’s evident that his skills as a filmmaker could thrust him — like the Peter Jacksons and Sam Raimis of this world — into a more mainstream role which might begin to take form with his Ethan Hawke western due the end of this year. To get a taste of the talent of Ti, The Sacrament provides a boiling pot premise — in a David Koresh-like camp — that explodes during the film’s final act.
17. You’re Next
It seems like one of the ingredients to the home-invasion genre these days (whose exciting entries include the original Straw Dogs, Funny Games, and High Tension, even if it falls apart in its final moments) is to mask the perpetrators of the violence in some sort of silly veil. You’re Next continues that tradition, but in the same vein as I Spit on Your Grave and The Hill Have Eyes, the tragedy and unnerving horror of the attack turns the victims into heroes, and this film ends up being more fun than it should have been.
16. World War Z: Unrated
This apocalyptic zombie film, based on Max Brooks’ novel, was reportedly plagued by problems including star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster butting heads over a script that endured continual rewrites. How World War Z came out coherent and exciting on this large of a scale is bewildering, but it’s best to leave the secrets of magic to the magicians (or editors) — just enjoy it.
Much like the fantastically terrifying The Conjuring, Oculus takes a familiar haunted house premise and wrings the cloth in novel ways to squeeze out just enough droplets of fresh blood. Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of films that rely on the presence of horror than there are movies that enjoy throwing deformed creatures in our faces. Oculus stays in the former group, and it does so to our contentment.
14. Stake Land
Jim Mickle’s vampire road movie doesn’t rely on premise, dilapidated sets, or make-up to achieve its thrilling narrative, instead leaning against age-old principles like concrete character development and smart turning points to drive this story of a grizzled vampire killer who takes some young birds under his wing.
13. Day of the Dead
It’s not as groundbreaking as Night of the Living Dead, or as mordant as Dawn of the Dead, but George Romero’s final installment in his original zombie series still stands the test of time. While Dawn of the Dead stabbed at the flesh of the American dream, Day of the Dead charred it by roasting the egocentric qualities of humankind. Land of the Dead built on this idea further, but that entry was forgettable at best, with the height of Romero’s powers long gone before its creation.
12. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the king of vampires features a hungry Gary Oldman absolutely chewing up the scenery — more than usual — in this gorgeous ode to excess, revenge, and palpable passions. Even if the narrative plods at times, the film still remains one of the most beautiful renditions of the Dracula tale.
Even if it’s a re-invigoration of the slasher theme that cheekily subverts the genre, it remains one of the best slasher films of all-time. Witty, charming, and courageous, Kevin Williamson’s script is the best example of post-modern horror, while Wes Craven — even after almost 25 years behind the camera — somehow pushed his skills as a director to perhaps its greatest heights.
Film history buffs will say it’s a crime to rank this film out of the top five, but it’s 2015 — what once was great is still great, but how many times can you have Citizen Kane at the top of every list without it at some point becoming a motorized function for posterity’s sake? Nosferatu remains one of the creepiest movies in history, and the black and white, grainy and eery tonality of the classic lends to it an almost snuff film-like quality that pitches deep into a horrifying realm whenever Max Schreck appears on-screen.
9. The Fly (1958)
Had Cronenberg’s version of this classic been available streaming at the time of this piece, it too would likely crack the top ten. The original version of this fable was ahead of its time, first opening on the final scene, then backtracking to tell the story of a scientist who experiments — to ghastly effect — with teleportation. While The Fly is just as horrific and heartbreaking as its remake, the one thing left out of Cronenberg’s version is the fate of the fly that melded with the scientist, and it’s worth watching the original simply for this wrinkle in the story.
8. The Host
In 2006, Joon-ho Bong showcased to the world the strength of his filmmaking abilities with this marvelous monster movie that contains elements of horror, sci-fi, and action spliced together with genuine moments of hilarity. The opening sequence itself is worth the price of admission, and I was lucky enough to see this as a slack-jawed moviegoer in a theater. Bong’s other fantastic films — Mother and Snowpiercer — are also streaming on Netflix, so why not just have a marathon of all three films back-to-back this weekend?
7. From Dusk Till Dawn
It’s campy, ridiculous, and essentially two films in one, but how many movies pack as much machismo and madness in one vessel as well as this Tarantino-written vehicle? What starts off as a crime caper turns into a straightforward gore fest as the Gecko brothers and their hostages have to fight their way out of a Mexican strip club. Robert Rodriguez’s film made George Clooney one of the coolest actors on the planet, and even after almost 20 years, it’s still one of the most enjoyable cinematic journeys ever.
6. Night of the Living Dead
George Romero’s quintessential zombie masterpiece created an entire film and TV subgenre of horror that is still going strong today. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but the film still serves as a reminder of the allegoric power of cinema even in a package proposed as a survival horror piece. Shocking for its time, Reader’s Digest even went so far as to claim it could inspire cannibalism, which might have packed more attendees into theaters.
5. The Omen
Richard Donner broke free of his TV series restraints after he made this 1976 classic about a child who may be the Anti-Christ. The film came out when Satanic tropes in cinema were at high tide, but the atmospheric quality of Donner’s direction, a tight script that delivers thrilling turns, and a creepy performance by Harvey Stephens as the evil incarnate makes for a fantastic film.
4. Evil Dead 2
Sam Raimi became a low-budget wunderkind with Evil Dead, and the sequel to that hit furthered that notion even more. Building off the predecessor’s premise, Evil Dead 2 incorporated more of Raimi’s experimental camera work and effects while including elements of comedy and action into a seamless blend that many say is even better than Raimi’s first effort. This film also made it clear that Bruce Campbell was a force to behold.
3. Rosemary’s Baby
Nominated for two Oscars, Rosemary’s Baby is a claustrophobic masterpiece of physiological horror that sees Mia Farrow begin to question those around her as strange occurrences surrounding her pregnancy force her to believe her neighbors are planning something nefarious. Roman Polanski’s first American film is also one of his most potent.
2. The Blair Witch Project
Say what you will about the godfather of found-footage, but in a genre in which creativity is in short supply, The Blair Witch Project is a monumental achievement. Although it seemingly eschewed traditional elements of filmmaking — like a proper three-act structure — the foreshadowing at the beginning of the movie pays off in spades in the final sequence which is one of the most frightening in the history of cinema. In the realm of horror, there is nary a film that is as effective with so few bells and whistles.
1. Let the Right One In
John Ajvide Lindqvist’s screenplay adaptation of his own novel glimmers with the childlike innocence of coming-of-age dramas, but casts dark red clouds over the subjects resulting in a film that is both beautiful and terrifying. By using the dichotomy of childhood love and the struggles of a centuries-old, bloodthirsty creature, director Tomas Alfredson created a warped allegory of the horrors of growing up outside of the influence of one’s peers. Not only is this the best horror film on Netflix, it’s one of the best films on the streaming service, period.