The psychology behind the popularity of horror films is simple: We love the adrenaline rush, and we feel comparatively safe knowing that a hatchet-wielding clown isn’t lurking outside our window. (Probably. Feel free to go check.)
If you’re ever in the mood for those particular thrills without leaving the comfort of your couch, there’s an easy solution: Kill the lights and check out 10 of the scariest movies on Netflix right now.
1. The Rental (2020)
A weekend getaway turns nasty for a group of friends (Jeremy Allen White, Alison Brie) in this irreverent and surprising thriller directed by Dave Franco. Producer Chris Storer went on to create the surprise FX hit The Bear starring White as a Chicago chef on the ropes.
2. The Boy (2016)
When a babysitter is dispatched to sit for a couple's beloved boy, she's surprised to discover he's a porcelain doll named Brahms with murder on his mind. Co-star Rupert Evans described the doll as "like another castmate."
3. Blood Red Sky (2021)
This creepy and inventive German-language chiller has become a standout hit for Netflix. When a group of terrorists hijacks a transatlantic flight, they're surprised to discover that one woman on board will go to any lengths to protect her son—up to and including unleashing her vampire side. Director Peter Thorwarth said he got the idea during a transatlantic flight, wondering what he would do if he were a vampire flying toward the rising sun.
4. The Perfection (2019)
The dark side of musical genius is explored in this gory thriller about a cello prodigy (Allison Williams) who returns to her old private school to find her teacher (Steven Weber) taken with a new student (Logan Browning). It's a triangle of jealousy that only gets twistier—and more twisted—from the first frame to the last. Williams and Browning did most of their own cello playing.
5. The Ritual (2018)
Four friends on a hiking trip in the Swedish wilderness find forces both natural and unnatural could interfere with their return home. Director David Bruckner has said he was influenced by The Wicker Man, The Descent, and even Deliverance, so if those titles appeal, this might be the movie for you.
6. Gerald's Game (2017)
A romantic weekend retreat turns into a claustrophobic struggle for survival for Carla Gugino after her husband drops dead and she's left handcuffed to their bed. This adaptation of Stephen King's novel is one of the rare films to do right by the author, preserving his psychological (and visceral) scares. For Gugino, however, it came at a cost: The handcuffs she wore for weeks were so uncomfortable that director Mike Flanagan, who wanted to show solidarity with his actors, could only wear them for five minutes before quitting.
7. Hush (2016)
At a remote retreat, a Deaf writer (Kate Siegel) finds her solitude disrupted by a masked intruder who has no apparent motive other than to terrorize her. The film was praised by Stephen King, and director Mike Flanagan would go on to make two King adaptations, including 2019's Doctor Sleep and the aforementioned Gerald's Game.
8. Creep (2014)
Mark Duplass stars in this low-budget found-footage chiller about a very strange man named Josef who solicits the help of a videographer. As the bizarre behavior mounts, Josef seems to be looking at his new hire more like a victim than an employee. Director Patrick Brice and Duplass originally envisioned it as a "dark comedy about two sad people forming a connection" under the title Peachfuzz, but feedback from friends convinced them to shoot more footage and go in a darker direction.
9. The Mist (2007)
Thomas Jane stars in this effective Stephen King adaptation about a group of people trapped in a supermarket after a strange mist envelops their town. Why not just speed through checkout? Because outside lurks monsters. The shocking climax was the invention of director and writer Frank Darabont; it got King's stamp of approval.
10. It Follows (2015)
A lethal evil is stalking a group of friends, passing from one to the next. It will take a lot of ingenuity—and a bit of luck—to break the cycle. Director David Robert Mitchell based the movie on dreams he had as a child of being followed.
A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.