TRICK OR BEAT: Over 40 spooky and fun Halloween movies to stream now

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What better way to spend a homebound Halloween than with some spooky movies? Whether you want a good scare, some laughs, or even something to watch with the kids, whatever Halloween vibes you’re looking for, I’ve got you covered.

I’ve scoured the most popular streaming services–Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney Plus–for the best frightful flicks, but this list is by no means exhaustive. That said, I strongly encourage you to check out the Shut In Theater piece I wrote back in March for some of the scariest movies available to stream.

This time around, I’m being more inclusive. There are plenty of real terrors on this list, but not everyone wants to be scared for spooky fun. I’ll note how scary I think each movie is, although your mileage may very.

With that in mind, a general content warning: horror is inherently provocative. Media that isn’t strictly horror still touches on morbid themes when employing Halloweeny aesthetics like ghosts and skeletons. Many of these movies are violent and bloody, and even the family-friendly films on this list may frighten some kids depending on how sensitive they are to what. When in doubt, you can always use Common Sense Media to learn what specific risque content you’re dealing with.

Now, on to the spooks!

The Addams Family (1991, dir. Barry Sonnenfeld) 

Streaming on: Netflix / Amazon Prime Video

Not Scary

Kids/Family

The classic 60s sitcom is also available on Prime Video, but for a relatively-modern take on the creepy, kooky, altogether ooky icons (more time has passed between the film’s release and today than the original tv series and the film!), you can’t go wrong here. The star-studded cast includes Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Christina Ricci, all of whom return for 1993’s Addams Family Values (currently streaming on Prime Video). Some suggestive humor, but otherwise good-natured family fun. Da na na snap snap.

Alien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Very Scary

Roger Ebert described Alien as “basically just an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship.” From Ridley Scott’s taut direction, to H.R. Giger’s timelessly unsettling xenomorph design, to Sigourney Weaver’s badass performance, Alien remains unmatched for extraterrestrial horror.

Blade (1998, dir. Stephen Norrington) / Blade II (2002, dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Moderately Scary

Whether or not you consider Blade a superhero film (it arguably kicked off the 2000s Marvel boom as X-Men and Spider-Man followed), spooky action heroes don’t get much more fun than the half-vampire title character. Before the film, Blade was an obscure creation from Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula comics, but Wesley Snipes owned the role so thoroughly that it’s hard to imagine the Daywalker any other way–no offense, Mahershala Ali. Guillermo del Toro’s stylish and scary Blade II is even better, so definitely check that out if you enjoy the first one.

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir. Mario Bava)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Moderately Scary

A classic of the Italian giallo subgenre, Blood and Black Lace is a case of style over substance, but how stylish it is. Fittingly, it’s set in the world of Italian fashion, as a masked killer with a spiked glove picks off beautiful models one by one. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this movie is actually “about” but if you go in for the unforgettable aesthetics rather than plot, you’ll have a good time.

Bone Tomahawk (2015, dir. S. Craig Zahler)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Moderately Scary

Cowboys vs cannibals, basically. Or as I like to call it, “yeehawror.” More a western than a horror film, as there aren’t any real scares until the final half hour, but watch out for one of the most brutal death scenes I’ve ever seen. The cast includes Kurt Russell in the sort of grizzled old tough guy role he’s aged into gracefully, as well as a heartbreaking performance by Richard Jenkins.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011, dir. Drew Goddard)

Streaming on: Hulu

Somewhat Scary

Without being a full-fledged spoof, this deceptively smart horror-comedy starts with a seemingly predictable setup but gets much funnier and much, much weirder from there. Refreshingly, every major character is smarter than the stock horror roles they occupy would have you assume, including Chris Hemsworth as the not-so-dumb jock.

Creep (2014, dir. Patrick Brice) / Creep 2 (2017, dir. Patrick Brice)

Streaming on: Netflix

Very Scary

I was tempted to put the original Paranormal Activity on this list, and while that’s worth a watch on Netflix, Creep and its can’t-miss sequel are better found-footage micro-budget horror flicks in virtually every way. Both films follow struggling filmmakers hired to film the life of a strange man who doesn’t immediately seem threatening but is, well, creepy. The horror is derived mostly from Mark Duplass’s performance, brilliantly toeing the line between unassuming and threatening. Duplass co-wrote both films with director Patrick Brice, who co-starred in the original, and apparently they’re working on a third installment. Creep 2 is arguably even better than the original, so I can’t wait.

Crimson Peak (2015, dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Moderately Scary

Much has been made of the poor marketing behind this ghost story, as audiences led to believe they paid for a horror film and were instead treated to a gothic romance. Maybe I’m just a weenie, but I still thought it was scary? Either way, this Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain-led Victorian visual feast deserved more love than it got, and as can be expected from any Guillermo Del Toro film, it’s visually stunning.

Cronos (1993, dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Moderately Scary

Guillermo Del Toro’s first film, an unconventional Mexican vampire story, is surprisingly tender for a horror film. Centered around an aging antique shop owner and his doting relationship with his wife and grandson, everything that makes Del Toro a recognizable filmmaker arrived fully formed here: strange creatures, “man is the real monster” themes, and even a Ron Perlman performance.

Doctor Sleep (2019, dir. Mike Flanagan)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Moderately Scary

Sure, this sequel to The Shining can’t beat the original (either Stephen King’s novel or Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation), but it’s an underrated meditation on childhood trauma. Ewan McGregor shines as 40-something Dan Torrance, a recovering alcoholic trying to get his life back together as the events of The Shining quite understandably scarred him. If you’re on this site, you may appreciate how comic-booky this film is; the psychic battles between villain Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran–playing a young girl with The Shining mentored by McGregor–play like a gruesome take on Emma Frost vs Jean Grey.

The Endless (2017, dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)

Streaming on: Netflix

Moderately Scary

There’s not much in the way of Halloween aesthetics here, but if you’re looking for something different in your horror diet, you absolutely have to watch this. Starring directors Justin Benson (who wrote the film) and Aaron Moorhead as brothers returning to the cult they escaped from as children, you’ll hardly believe this mind bending sci-fi thriller didn’t even cost a million dollars to produce.

The Evil Dead (1981, dir. Sam Raimi)

Streaming on: Netflix

Somewhat Scary

CONTENT WARNING: sexual assault

 

This style of tongue-in-cheek bloodbath may be an acquired taste, but it’s easy to see why horror-comedy fans still can’t get enough of Bruce Campbell gleefully fighting demons. However, viewers who are sensitive to scenes depicting sexual assualt will want to proceed carefully, considering a particular graphic scene with a possessed tree.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Streaming on: Netflix

Moderately Scary

Based on the novel by Mike Carey (better known around these parts as the acclaimed writer of comics like Lucifer and The Unwritten), who also wrote the screenplay, this is the perfect zombie movie for people who are sick of zombies. Great performance by Glenn Close, as well as young Sennia Nanua starring as a sweet, brilliant young girl who happens to have a taste for human flesh.

Halloween (1978, dir. John Carpenter)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Very Scary

 

Part of what makes Halloween such a perfect watch on, well, Halloween, is its singular focus on spooks and scares. At a tight 90 minutes, there are no frills in John Carpenter’s groundbreaking slasher. From Carpenter’s own iconic score to young Jamie Lee Curtis’ anxious performance, everything in Halloween exists to create the ultimate thrill ride.

Halloweentown (1998, dir. Duwayne Dunham)

Streaming on: Disney Plus

Not Scary

Kids/Family

My friend and fellow critic Michelle Jaworski told me on no uncertain terms that if I don’t include Halloweentown on this list, “people will yell at you.” As a nearly-30-year-old man, I’m not the target audience for this Disney Channel Original (and I didn’t see it as a child), but it’s easy to see why no fewer than five women in their 20s and 30s insisted I include it. Please don’t yell at me.

Hellraiser (1987, dir. Clive Barker)

Streaming on: Hulu

Very Scary

This isn’t really my style, but if it’s yours, “WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU.” For bizarrely gory horror with a little grotesque eroticism, Clive Barker’s directorial debut was certainly a pioneer, spawning 9 sequels and turning “Pinhead” into a horror icon.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986, dir. John McNaughton)

Prime Video

Extremely Scary

CONTENT WARNING: sexual assault; incest

As I explained at the time, I watched horror movies almost every night the first month or so of lockdown. After getting nightmares from this one, I had to take a break. Starring Michael Rooker as the title character based loosely on Henry Lee Lucas, the psychological horror here is presented in such a grounded, grimy fashion that it feels as if you’re following a real killing spree, rather than an actor who’d 30 years later go on to play a blue alien named Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy. The violence isn’t stylized or glorified, but there is sexual violence, so please don’t watch if that’s triggering. Seriously, this is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. Proceed with caution.

Hocus Pocus (1993, dir. Kenny Ortega)

Streaming on: Disney Plus

Not Scary

Kids/Family

If you’re a millennial like me, chances are you’ve already seen this and love it, but I just found out that it placed fourth at the box office upon its original release? What?! How?! Anyway, it’s still as fun as ever to watch Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi chew up scenery as a trio of evil witches. Pretty much the ultimate Halloween movie for kids, but maybe not young kids; don’t blame me if your 7-year-old asks what a “virgin” is.

The House of the Devil (2009, dir. Ti West)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Very Scary

This homage to 70s and 80s horror films is such a faithful homage that it’s filmed in 16mm for that authentic grainy quality. A tense, tightly plotted haunted house film on its own merits, this is delightfully quintessential Halloween horror. Greta Gerwig fans will get a kick out of her supporting role, but needless to say, it’s much spookier than Little Women.

House on Haunted Hill (1959, dir. William Castle)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Not Scary

I was tempted to mark this as “kids/family” because this campy Vincent Price classic is so incredibly tame by today’s standards. My decision not to do so has less to do with risque content than the question of whether kids would even enjoy this kind of thing. Either way, tons of fun for anyone with a taste for camp.

Interview with the Vampire (1994, dir. Neil Jordan)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Very Scary

Ever since the Twilight craze of the late aughts, there’s been some division between fans of sexy, swooning vampires and those who prefer spooky scary blood suckers. Based on the Anne Rice novel, this moody gothic horror starring the extremely handsome Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt satisfies both camps. Young Kirsten Dunst also shines as an eternally 10-year-old vampire. It doesn’t get much scarier than a chaotic little girl who could tear your flesh off.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990, dir. Adrian Lyne)

Streaming on: Hulu

Very Scary

It may be best remembered for its unnervingly surreal brand of psychological horror, but what struck me about this story of a traumatized Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) was its emotional core. As frightening as it is heartbreaking and politically incendiary, it’s the rare horror film that will leave you with the warm and fuzzies by the end. Look out for an uncredited performance by a very young Macaulay Culkin.

Let the Right One In (2008, dir. Tomas Alfredson)

Streaming on: Hulu

Very Scary

Equal parts a disturbing vampire story and a tender coming-of-age film, this Swedish modern classic is such a beautifully-crafted drama that I’d encourage those who refuse to watch scary movies to try it anyway. I wouldn’t lie and say you won’t be frightened, but it’s so moving that I think you’d agree it was worth it.

The Lighthouse (2019, dir. Robert Eggers)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Very Scary

This psychological period thriller is weirder and even more challenging than writer/director Robert Eggers’ first effort, The Witch, but just as rewarding for patient viewers. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star as two very different lighthouse keepers with mysterious pasts, succumbing to madness as a storm forces them to stay on an island for an unspecified period of time. It might hit close to home in the midst of the current pandemic, but whatever you’re going through right now, I can almost guarantee it’s nowhere near as bizarre as what happens in this movie.

Macbeth (2015, dir. Justin Kurzel)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Somewhat Scary

Who says you can’t have a highbrow Halloween? With witches, murders, and a protagonist who gradually loses his mind, The Scottish Play has always been plenty spooky. William Shakespeare purists will be happy to know this is a faithful adaptation, while satisfying horror fans with its ominous atmosphere and no-holds-barred violence. Michael Fassbender is magnetic as The Scottish King.

Monster House (2006, dir. Gil Kenan)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Somewhat Scary

Kids/Family

Here’s something you don’t see a lot: an honest-to-goodness horror movie for children. Don’t let Monster House’s young cast and goofy animation style fool you: this is a horror film, just minus the gore or other risque content that characterizes most horror films. There’s a lot here that horror-savvy adults will have seen before, but if your kids crave a good scare and aren’t ready for PG-13 or R-rated spooks, this is a perfect film to bridge the gap.

Monster’s, Inc. (2001, dir. Pete Doctor)

Streaming On: Disney Plus

Not Scary

Kids/Family

Monster’s, Inc. is so colorful and good-natured that it may be difficult to think of as a Halloween movie, but it’s still about a secret world of monsters that’s powered by scaring children. Nonetheless, unless your kids are very young and sensitive, there’s not much here that would scare them. Like most Pixar films, it’s funny, visually rich, and just as entertaining for adults as kids.

Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir. George A. Romero)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Somewhat Scary

You can thank this film for almost single-handedly inventing the modern American zombie, and it’s aged just as well as any of the best Twilight Zone episodes. Like Rod Serling did with that show, George A. Romero uses supernatural storytelling as a vehicle for sharp social commentary that remains relevant today.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, dir. Henry Sellick)

Streaming on: Disney Plus

Somewhat Scary

Kids/Family

For decades, fans of this stop-motion classic have argued over whether it’s “a Christmas movie” or “a Halloween movie.” The answer, of course, is that it’s both, but the spookiness of Halloweentown (no relation to the 1998 live action Disney Channel movie) permeates throughout. It’s hard to imagine an animated musical for kids coming out today that’s this aggressively grotesque and strange, but for spooky little weirdos of all ages, it’s hardly aged a day.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. Wes Craven)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Very Scary

Don’t get me wrong, this one’s a classic for a reason, but I don’t have much to say about it that hasn’t already been said. Did you know this was Johnny Depp’s first film role? What a way to kick off a career: getting murdered by Freddy Krueger mid-sex. That’s literally the first thing that happens, so don’t yell at me for spoiling a 36-year-old movie.

Poltergeist (1982, dir. Tobe Hooper)

Streaming on: Netflix

Very Scary

This is rated PG, so I guess some people might consider Poltergeist family friendly, but PG in 1982 meant you could get away with a guy tearing his own face off as his bloody flesh drops into the sink. While terrifying, what fascinates me most about Poltergeist is its damning commentary on suburban white America in the Reagan era. Even for a bona fide classic, I’m not sure it gets enough credit as a horror film with something to say.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991, dir. Jonathan Demme)

Streaming on: Netflix

Very Scary

You know it, you love it, you probably don’t need me to tell you that the only horror movie to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture is goddamn great.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, dir. Tim Burton)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Moderately Scary

Not to downplay the iconic musical upon which this adaptation is based, nor Stephen Sondheim’s enormous influence, but this is quintessential Tim Burton. Gothy aesthetics! Johnny Depp! Helena Bonham Carter! Weird hair! While faithful to its Broadway roots, Burton doesn’t skimp on the buckets of blood in this tale of a serial killing Victorian barber.

Train to Busan (2016, dir. Yeon Sang-ho)

Streaming on: Netflix

Very Scary

An utter adrenaline rush of a zombie movie.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010, dir. Eli Craig)

Streaming on: Netflix

Somewhat Scary

Despite–or perhaps because of–Tucker & Dale’s gore, once you realize it’s more slapstick comedy than horror, or even your average horror-comedy, the sense of anxiety one normally gets from scary movies melts away. After all, with a plot revolving around two “hillbillies” (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) mistaken for backwoods killers through a series of hilarious mishaps, the film’s “don’t judge a book by its cover” message is surprisingly wholesome.

Under the Shadow (2016, dir. Babak Anvari)

Netflix

Very Scary

This Persian-language slow-burner builds to a terrifying and emotional crescendo, blending the all-too-real horrors of theocratic fascism and war with the supernatural threat of the djinn. More scary movies about non-Christian/European folklore, please!

The Wailing (2016, dir. Na Hong-jin)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Very Scary

Being relatively long for a horror film (156 minutes) and subtitled (unless you speak Korean, of course) may be a barrier for some, but if you give this your time and attention I promise you’re in for something special. Just press play and strap in.

The Wicker Man (1973, dir. Robin Hardy)

Streaming on: Netflix

Somewhat Scary

Let’s get this out of the way: The Wicker Man (not to be confused with the memed-into-oblivion American remake starring Nicolas Cage) is not a scary movie. And since there’s no glimpse or mention of a wicker man until the last five minutes, it’s not even a particularly suspenseful movie. That doesn’t make it any less brilliant. As ominous as the aesthetics are, it’s also strangely serene–fitting for a film that explores what happens when modern Christian hegemony clashes with a culture that refuses to be forced out of their… unconventional way of life.

The Witches (1990, dir. Nicolas Roeg)

Streaming on: Netflix

Somewhat Scary

Kids/Family

In terms of tone, this is one of the weirdest family movies I’ve ever seen. Plenty of movies for kids have had scary moments, but I was unprepared for director Nicolas Roeg to carry the surreal spookiness he gave 1973’s Don’t Look Now (Stream that on Prime Video) to a Roald Dahl adaptation. But hey, who among us hasn’t been traumatized by a movie based on a Dahl book? It’s basically a rite of passage. If your kids can handle Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Mathilda, this is only slightly more intense.

The post TRICK OR BEAT: Over 40 spooky and fun Halloween movies to stream now appeared first on The Beat.

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