Among the many remarkable things about Supernatural is the fact that it remained so reliably entertaining for so long. The show, which ran for an astounding 15 seasons, was the perfect combination of scary and hilarious — and its creators recognized that such a unique mixture didn’t have to be a contradiction.
The demon-hunting Winchester brothers at the show’s center became deeply important to fans, and the show produced a number of truly great episodes over the course of its run. These are the very best of the bunch, at least when it comes to scares.
Killer dolls have been haunting the nightmares of grown adults for generations, and Supernatural‘s addition to that canon only made the nightmares worse. In this season 2 episode, the Winchesters stay at an inn where they quickly discover that the innkeeper and her daughter are up to some spooky nonsense.
As is the case with any great Supernatural episode, the reveals are half the fun, and the other half comes from the sheer amount of damage that these living dolls are able to inflict on our heroes over the course of 44 minutes.
One of the more confident pilots in the history of television, Supernatural‘s first episode sees the boys going up against the “Woman in White,” who kills anyone who picks her up. She may not be the most gruesome killer in the show’s history, but she’s the perfect entryway to the world of the show.
Everything you need to know about Supernatural can be learned in this first episode, including the show’s throwback approach to horror.
Things get horrific fast when the Winchesters go up against history’s very first serial killer. In the episode, H.H. Holmes returns and begins preying on young girls, and we get to see every detail of how he tortures his victims.
This episode may be too intense even for fans of horror, as every gory kill feels pushes the limits of what TV typically allows and gives us Supernatural in full-on horror mode. There may not be any possessions in this episode, but serial killers can be plenty terrifying without any magic behind them.
That title may make this episode seem like a walk in the park, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When the Winchesters find themselves in a town inhabited by mimics who impersonate children, things get creepy almost immediately.
Creepy kids are an effective horror trope, but Supernatural uses them so effectively that you may find yourself terrified of children for the rest of your life. Sure, they may seem innocent, but who knows what they’re actually planning in their malevolent little brains?
Not exactly terrifying, but hard to watch nonetheless, Skin features one of the more gruesome transformations to ever be featured on the show. As the brothers chase a shape-shifting serial killer, we see it burrow into its underground lair and undergo a transformation.
We see the flesh split as the teeth slowly form, and get to hear the wonderful sounds of bones and muscles snapping into place. It’s even worse than it sounds, which is part of what makes it such an effective and scary moment.
The idea of a haunted insane asylum may not be revolutionary, but trapping the Winchesters in one for an episode proves to be a fruitful endeavor. Thanks to some clever possessions and some pretty consistent tension, Asylum manages to be deeply compelling from moment one.
What makes things even better is that, at least in this episode, the outcome doesn’t feel at all like a foregone conclusion. Sam and Dean don’t seem at all in control of the situation, so part of the joy is just watching along in utter terror, hoping that they make it out alive.
A standard monster of the week episode that comes with plenty of bite, Roadkill tells the story of a stretch of road that is haunted by a man who was run over 15 years earlier and left for dead.
The episode is both scary and haunting, and that’s part of what makes it one of show’s best installments. Every twist is both surprising and moving, and the final revelation will leave you both terrified and a little weepy, which is what Supernatural was capable of at its very best.
Abandon All Hope … is one of the darkest hours in the history of Supernatural, but it’s also one of the tensest. The episode follows the Winchesters and their crew as they enter an abandoned town out west and find themselves chased by invisible hellhounds.
Ultimately, two members of the Winchester’s team have to sacrifice themselves to save everyone else, and the deaths of both Jo and Ellen prove to be both bloody and tear-inducing. Abandon All Hope.. is pretty bleak, but that tone is part of what makes it so effective.
One of the best things about early seasons of Supernatural is how willing the show was to play with the foundational myths and folktales of horror as a genre. The ghost in this episode is inspired by Samara from The Ring, and Bloody Mary proves to be almost as effective as that film in wrenching scares out of its audience.
What makes the episode extra effective is the way the ghost story ties into Sam’s feelings of guilt about his girlfriend’s murder at the hand of a demon. That only makes his ultimate confrontation with Bloody Mary feel all the more potent.
Some people like clowns, some people find them terrifying. Whatever side of the line you fall on, you’re almost guaranteed to find Everybody Loves a Clown terrifying. Inspired by Stephen King’s It, the episode sees the Winchesters go up against a clown who is preying on the parents of small children.
It’s a pretty dark episode, but one that also features a number of genuine scares. Plenty of Supernatural episodes have terrifying ideas, but Everybody Loves a Clown is terrifying in execution, and its villains is one of the scariest creatures in the entire Supernatural oeuvre.
You can stream these episodes and the rest of the 15-season run of Supernatural on Netflix.
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