Horror movies have chilled cinema screens since the very dawn of filmmaking. What’s fascinating about the genre as a whole is the many shades of horror that exist. Maestros like William Friedkin, Tobe Hooper, and John Carpenter have given us cultural gems like The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Halloween — complex films that would go on to influence masterful modern visionaries like Ari Aster (Midsommar) and Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse). Then there’s the campier fare, like The Evil Dead and Sleepaway Camp, inspiring big-swinging modern flicks like Anna and the Apocalypse. The best part? If you’ve got an Amazon Prime subscription, you can experience horror cinema in all its many forms. If you’re looking to enjoy an intense fright night, check out our list of the best horror movies that you can stream on Amazon Prime now, featuring films with everything from aliens to zombies, all with troubling twists and turns, from as early as the 1920s to the present day.
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
It’s hard to imagine a mashup of Christmas, zombies, and singing and dancing working together in any coherent way, yet somehow director John McPhail and scribe Ryan McHenry pull it off in Anna and the Apocalypse. Based on McHenry’s BAFTA-winning short Zombie Musical, Anna follows the fight for survival of titular high school hero, Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends as a swarm of the undead descends on their peaceful Wales hamlet of Little Haven. Combining typical public-school drama, musical numbers, and plenty of gore, Anna is a lot to absorb. But if you’re willing to unplug your brain to experience the full manic mayhem, there’s simply no way you’ll be disappointed.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire
Directors: John McPhail
Runtime: 98 minutes
The Reef (2010)
When four friends hit the high seas to deliver a yacht to a client in Indonesia, their voyage is quickly uprooted when their vessel capsizes in a coral reef. As the disparate foursome decides to swim to a nearby island with whatever supplies they can hang on to, a great white shark emerges from the depths and begins stalking them. While we’ve all seen our fair share of cheap shark-genre chillers, writer-director Andrew Traucki delivers his story through horrific slow burns, buttressed by the magnificent talents of the main ensemble. This is one of the better 90-minute oceanic horror films out there and a testament to the power of a good script and a director with a strong vision. Australian waters have never felt so foreboding.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering
Directors: Andrew Traucki
Runtime: 98 minutes
When the four survivors of a paratrooper squad land behind enemy lines, their pre-D-Day mission to destroy a German radio jammer devolves into a nightmare like no other. The men are Cpl. Ford, Pfc. Boyce, Pfc. Tibbet, and Pvt. Chase. Taking refuge in a Nazi-occupied village, the troopers soon discover an underground compound where horrific experiments are taking place. Chief among these macabre concoctions is a mysterious serum that turns human test subjects into rabid mutant beings. It’s up to the paratroopers, with the help of some displaced villagers, to escape the clutches of the Nazis and their mad science. Produced in part by sci-fi savant J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Star Wars), Overlord is a no-holds-barred genre thrill ride that packs plenty of action and effects. While not Oscar bait by any means, the film is a hell of a good time.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, John Magaro
Directors: Julius Avery
Runtime: 110 minutes
Pet Sematary (2019)
When your next-door neighbor tells you “sometimes, dead is better,” you should probably listen. In this 2019 reimagining of the Stephen King classic, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family relocate to upstate Maine for a new job in the country. The new family home is charming and spacious, but nestled deep in the woods behind the domicile is a sprawling pet cemetery — one with the mythic power to raise the dead. When tragedy strikes the Creeds, Louis and his neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) turn to the cemetery for its revival soil. Not such a good idea, for those brought back from the other side are not the same. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer deliver a solid, character-driven horror remake, with enough backbone for its new ideas, but plenty of nods to the iconic 1989 film adaptation that came before it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Stars: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Runtime: 101 minutes
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead is a two-hour adrenaline thrill ride with no restraints. Nicolas Cage is Frank Pierce, a dispossessed New York City ambulance paramedic. Frank always gets third shift, and it’s brutal. Overdoses, shootings, you name it. Haunted by visions of patients he failed to save on these night runs, Frank attempts to quit his job again and again, but he just can’t bring himself to walk off. One night, Frank and his partner Marcus (Ving Rhames) respond to a 911 call for a man named Mr. Burke (Cullen O. Johnson) entering cardiac arrest. Burke’s distraught daughter Mary (Patricia Arquette) is on-site, and through conversation, Frank finds out they have a mutual acquaintance. While Frank attempts to keep in contact with Mary, his psychosis deepens, and his nights keep getting longer. On-again/off-again Scorsese scribe, Paul Schrader, wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of the Joe Connelly novel of the same name.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Ving Rhames
Director: Martin Scorsese
Runtime: 121 minutes
The House of the Devil (2009)
Hailed as a throwback to ’70s and ’80s horror cinema, Ti West’s The House of the Devil follows Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue), a down-on-her-luck college student who could use a bit of cash. So she decides to take a babysitting job. What’s the harm, right? Well, it turns out there’s no actual “child” at the residence. Instead, Samantha is tasked with caring for the ailing mother of the property owner’s wife, a mysterious man named Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan). As the night wears on, the $400 gig turns into an all-out nightmare as one bizarre event leads to the next. Those in need of slap-you-in-the-face gore and thrills may not be satisfied by the atmospheric slow burn of The House of the Devil, and that’s OK. But those willing to lean into the gradual tension-fest will not be disappointed by Ti West’s brilliant homage to horror’s heyday.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov
Director: Ti West
Runtime: 93 minutes
Mausoleum doesn’t pretend to be an Oscar contender in any way. That being said, if you’re looking for a ridiculous piece of genre cinema that you can unplug your brain and laugh with, this is a sure bet for you and anyone else you drag to the TV room (except the kids, that is). Mausoleum opens with teenager Susan Farrell (Julie Christy Murray) mourning the death of her mother. Lured to the cemetery’s mausoleum, Susan succumbs to an ancient curse. Years later, adult Susan (Bobbie Bresee) is married and living in a looming regal home with her successful husband, Oliver (Marjoe Gortner). Turns out the curse wasn’t finished with Susan though, as the woman begins transforming into a hellish creature with a penchant for blood. This is camp cinema at its finest — cheap, low stakes, but a ton of fun.
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Stars: Bobbie Bresee, Marjoe Gortner, William Vail
Director: Michael Dugan
Runtime: 96 minutes
Train to Busan (2016)
It’s the zombie apocalypse, and passengers on a train to Busan are trapped as the walking dead seek out human flesh to feast on. Set in South Korea, the plot centers around Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), a workaholic divorced father traveling with his young daughter. The small family unit meets a host of idiosyncratic players on their train-ride, including a selfish COO, cheerleader, and homeless stowaway. When a woman who is infected boards the train, it becomes a do-or-die fight to survive. Lovers of the undead genre will feel quite at home with this thriller movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Runtime: 118 minutes
A pagan cult is at the center of this horrifying film about a group of friends who travel to Sweden to attend a festival that only comes around every 90 years… but get more than they bargained for upon arrival. The tone is immediately set when they discover the tortuous and disturbing commune is involved in human sacrifice and purging evil. It’s unsettling, but if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s the perfect flick to watch. A co-production between the U.S. and Sweden, it’s offered in English language. A hypnotic, dread-laden score by Bobby Krlic, set against Pawel Pogorzelski’s bright, ethereal visuals will be a treat for cinephiles; but anyone with a preference for disturbing-over-scary should feel a connection with Midsommar almost instantly.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Stars: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Director: Ari Aster
Runtime: 148 minutes
The Lighthouse (2019)
One of the more recent films on this list, The Lighthouse is filmed in black and white and uniquely in an almost square 1.19:1 aspect ratio to set the historical scene. The setting is the late 19th century and a storm strands two lighthouse keepers on a remote island. As they try and survive without going insane and killing one another, they experience vivid and frightening visions and reveal purported secrets. Writer Robert Eggers has said that his brother, who co-wrote the film with him, originally wanted to make the movie a contemporary take on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Light-House, but it then evolved into something completely different and utterly terrifying.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe
Director: Robert Eggers
Runtime: 109 minutes
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Mandatory viewing for any classic horror movie fan, and widely considered the zombie film of all zombie films, Night of the Living Dead follows seven people stuck in a rural farmhouse, swarmed by herds of the undead that are desperate to feed on their flesh. Despite a small budget, it performed incredibly well at the box office. The film has since become a cult classic and has been analyzed for not only its cinematic quality but also interpreted as a piece of exquisite (albeit visually gruesome) social commentary.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, Keith Wayne
Director: George A. Romero
Runtime: 96 minutes
Dubbed an unauthorized production of Bram Stoker’s work and originally called Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens), the silent German Expressionist film was about a vampire named Count Orlok who takes a special interest in his estate agent and, more importantly, his wife. Despite Stoker’s heirs having filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the film given its striking similarities to Dracula, and a court ordering all copies to be destroyed, some pressings managed to survive. It is now described as being “based on Dracula by Bram Stoker.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Max Schrek, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder
Director: F.W. Murnau
Runtime: 94 minutes
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
A silent film, it’s one of many that tells the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all based on the 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the 1887 stage play by Thomas Russell Sullivan. As the well-known story goes, a doctor conducts experiments trying to separate what he believes to be dual personalities found in every human. But things go awry, resulting in him flipping back and forth between his own good and evil sides.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Charles W. Lane, Nita Naldi
Director: John S. Robertson
Runtime: 79 minutes
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
When a group of college students set out to a cabin in the woods for some R&R, they get more than they bargained for. It seems there are evil technicians in an underground lab watching them, feeding them drugs to monitor their reactions, and looking on as monsters and zombies attack them. While the plot sounds like something out of a low-budget B-list indie horror flick, the film, which was produced and written by Joss Whedon, was well received by critics and audiences, alike.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison
Director: Drew Goddard
Runtime: 95 minutes
A revered cult classic, Phantasm follows the terror-plagued odyssey of teenaged Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) through a haunted but picturesque suburbia. The film opens with Mike’s brother, Tommy, being brutally murdered in a local cemetery, and from there, the horrors only grow. Turns out the killer could be a ghoul known only as the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). As Mike and a family friend, Reggie (Reggie Bannister), begin unpacking the mysteries surrounding Tommy’s death, the Tall Man mythos becomes painfully real as a bevy of chromium murder-drones and other paranormal menaces descend on the duo. Written and directed by Don Coscarelli — who was inspired by classics such as Dario Argento’s Suspiria — the look and feel of Phantasm can be found in recent genre films like It Follows, where dreamy visuals and lush, eerie soundtracks set the stage for horrors both campy and poignant.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Stars: A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm
Director: Don Coscarelli
Runtime: 88 minutes
Hot off the success of his 2017 film, Call Me by Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino dove headfirst into the production of Suspiria, a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Technicolor nightmare about a prestigious German dance academy with a mysterious and sordid past. In Guadagnino’s rendition, Dakota Johnson plays Susie Bannion, the American newcomer to the foreign school, and what a wicked first day of classes she has. An expelled student, Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz), is murdered, and not long after the ex-matriculate confessed to her therapist that the dance academy is run by evil witches.
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Runtime: 133 minutes
Grave Encounters (2011)
Critics remain divided on Grave Encounters, but for those with an open mind and a willingness to giggle, it’s the perfect midnight creeper. The setup is pretty familiar, thanks to our planet’s long and animated history of ghost-hunter shows like Ghost Adventures and Netflix’s recent docu-horror entry, Haunted. The film follows a paranormal research team investigating an abandoned asylum that is purportedly haunted — what could possibly go wrong? As ghouls emerge, exits vanish, and time starts to fold in on itself, the crew members start dropping like flies. It’s not elegant Oscar cinema, but for diehard found-footage fans, Grave Encounters is a steady genre romp that once you start, you won’t want to stop.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Stars: Ben Wilkinson, Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger
Director: The Vicious Brothers
Runtime: 92 minutes
Ah yes, the joys of buying your first home. As if closing costs, inspections, and the pains of moving day weren’t hell enough, imagine being trapped in a neighborhood where all the houses are exactly the same — and there’s no escape. That’s where director/co-writer Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium gets started. After Tom and Gemma (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) travel to the mysterious development of Yonder with their oddball realtor, Martin (Jonathan Aris), the agent seemingly disappears.
A labyrinthine nightmare, Eisenberg and Poots flourish as Tom and Gemma, an innocent young couple that slowly begins losing their minds and overall grip on reality, especially once a newborn baby arrives — appearing out of the clear blue. Is this maze of suburbia all in their head, or are their sinister forces at play? You’ll just have to watch to find out.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Jonathan Aris
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Runtime: 97 minutes
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