October is made for movies that send chills down the spine—from classics like Halloween and Psycho to newer fare, including The Conjuring and Us. Whether you’re looking to be spooked by axe murderers or alien invasions, here are some of the most critically acclaimed horror titles that you can stream at home—under a blanket to shield your eyes, as needed.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
A deranged hypnotist uses his skills to manipulate a sleepwalker into committing murders on his behalf in this silent film, a classic of German expressionist cinema that is widely recognized as the first horror movie ever.
Everyone knows the iconic moments from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980s psychological thriller. There’s Jack Nicholson’s deranged delivery of “Heeeeere’s Johnny.” There’s Shelley Duvall’s agonizing look on the other side of his taunting. And who could forget those haunted twins roaming the halls of the Overlook Hotel? Each subsequent watch of this Stephen King adaptation uncovers new scares within the tormented psyche of Jack Torrance.
Florence Pugh’s body ensconced in florals would be a soothing image in another film. But not in Midsommar, Ari Aster’s slowly horrifying account of a group of Americans trapped at Sweden’s most deceiving festival. When Ariana Grande themes her birthday party around a movie, one knows it’s cemented a permanent place in pop culture.
The Bride of Frankenstein
Pioneering horror director James Whale helmed both Frankenstein and its sequel—loosely adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel. After watching this, you can see Ian McKellen in his Oscar-nominated performance as Whale in Gods and Monsters, about the director’s final days.
No one does horror quite like Wes Craven. What began as a premature death scene involving a landline-clasping Drew Barrymore has turned into a five-film franchise. The upcoming sequel (out in February 2022), titled Scream (again), reunites OG stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette with newcomers including Jack Quaid and In the Heights’ Melissa Barrera.
When it came time for Jamie Lee Curtis to launch her own horror career, following her mother’s famous turn in Psycho, 1978’s Halloween is what welcomed her into the fray. John Carpenter’s groundbreaking film, complete with notorious killer Michael Myers, has inspired more than 10 film follow-ups. 43 years after originating the role of Laurie, Curtis is playing the role once again in the upcoming Halloween Kills.
Willem Dafoe was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for Shadow of the Vampire, in which he played Max Schreck—the actor playing the titular role in the original Nosferatu, who is maybe an actual vampire. Watch the actual Nosferatu if you want to compare Schreck’s performance to Dafoe’s.
This is the one that warned children everywhere about sitting too closely to the TV set. Credited to director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), but heavily rumored to be helmed by producer Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist remains one of the scariest ghost stories of all time.
Tod Browning’s Freaks is set in a circus sideshow, where a trapeze artist conspires to bilk another performer out of his inheritance by tricking him into marrying her. Freaks features performers with actual physical disabilities and has, for that reason, aged poorly in terms of the way it exploits that community. Still, it remains a boundary-pushing cult classic—and signifier of this era in film horror.