Halloween is fast approaching, and you know what that means? Time to watch some horror movies and shows! While I rarely need much of an excuse to revisit a good (or even bad) horror flick to relive the scares all over again, I have an annual tradition around this time of year of binge-watching some of my favorites.
The list spans from critically lauded classics such as The Silence of the Lambs to cheesy popcorn fodder like Freddy vs. Jason — and everything in between. Best of all, you can stream them all from the comfort of your couch on Netflix, Max, and more of the best streaming services.
So whether you're gearing up for a spine-chilling movie night at home or are just looking for some recommendations to celebrate the spooky season, I've rounded up some of my favorite picks below. Legally I cannot be held responsible for any nightmares they may inspire. But I can guarantee these will help set the Halloween mood.
The Silence of the Lambs (Hulu)
A few years back when I was brainstorming what to get for my first tattoo, the answer came to me during my annual rewatch of Silence of the Lambs: a death's-head hawk moth. I first watched Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning horror classic at what was, in retrospect, probably too young an age, but it inspired my love for the genre nonetheless. Not to mention a lot of the movie takes place in my home state of Virginia, which no doubt helped spark my obsession.
Anthony Hopkins' iconic performance as Hannibal Lecter never fails to make my skin crawl, and his spell-binding monologues are just as unsettling whether it's your first or hundredth watch. Jodie Foster is equally mesmerizing as the tenacious FBI-agent-in-training Clarice Starling, who's given the impossible task of consulting with the convicted cannibal to flush out a new serial killer on the loose known as Buffalo Bill. Demme uses some ingenious camera tricks to foster a general sense of unease and replicate the othering Clarice struggles with as one of the few women in her line of work.
Streaming now on Hulu
Freddy vs. Jason (Max)
Is Freddy vs. Jason a good movie? Debatable. Do I still find myself returning to this cheesy crossover every Halloween regardless? Absolutely.
The 2003 slasher pits the dream-hopping Freddy Krueger against the machete-wielding Jason Voorhees in an epic showdown that leans more toward silly than scary. To orchestrate his latest killing spree, Freddy enlists the help of fellow violent murderer Jason. But when the hockey-mask-wearing psychopath won't stop chopping up Freddy's intended victims, the two face off in a battle that takes them to both the dream world and Camp Crystal Lake. It's a fun one for either A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th series. And if you're looking for more horror classics, Max just added a sizable collection, making it our go-to streaming service this Halloween.
Streaming now on Max
The Conjuring 2 (Max)
Say what you will about The Conjuring universe and its many, many spin-offs, but The Conjuring 2 is easily the series at its best. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are back at it again, this time hopping across the pond to help a single mother and her four children living in a house plagued by malevolent spirits.
Madison Wolfe steals the show as Janet, a young girl seemingly possessed by an angry elderly man who appears in the family's armchair, insisting the house is his. While the reoccurring paranormal events terrify the family enough to flee their home, their story is called into question as the Warrens dig deeper, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the haunted house trope. The Conjuring 2 also saw the introduction of several recurring characters and elements the series would revisit in later installments.
Honestly, my biggest gripe with this movie is what came after it: The fact that the Nun inspired two mediocre prequels while the zoetrope-haunting Crooked Man hasn't gotten so much as a spin-off is nothing short of a tragedy.
Streaming now on Max
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
I recommend Midnight Mass to just about anyone I meet who has even an inkling of interest in horror. Director Mike Flanagan is behind some of my favorite horror movies, and while The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor are both fantastic, Midnight Mass is the de facto must-watch show from him in my opinion. (Though his latest Edgar Allen Poe-inspired The Fall of the House of Usher is a close second.)
The horrors unfold on Crockett Island, an isolated fishing community that's seen better days, after the return of the disgraced Riley Finn (Zach Gilford) becomes the talk of the town. His arrival coincides with that of Father Paul (Hamish Linklater), an enigmatic priest whose charisma and unexplained miracles revitalize the town's flagging faith. Swept up in religious fervor, some townsfolk opt to ignore the mysterious and disturbing events also befalling their small town. Meanwhile, Riley teams up with other skeptics to uncover the truth behind Father Paul, revealing a sinister plot that threatens the entire island.
Just like its forebears, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass takes place over a single season and features several reoccurring cast members like Henry Thomas, Rahul Kohli and Kate Siegel (also Flanagan’s wife). Linklater's performance as Father Paul is nothing short of mesmerizing, and some of the show's most haunting moments stem from his portrayal of a deeply tortured man.
Streaming now on Netflix
Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix)
I wish I could say I immediately knew Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities would become the latest entry on my annual Halloween watchlist after it dropped last year. But I agree with a lot of critics that the first episode "Lot 36" is the weakest of the bunch. Stick with this anthology, though, and you'll be reminded why Del Toro is considered a modern master of horror.
Each masterfully told tale will captivate you in its own unique way, much in the same way Black Mirror does. This collection of original, macabre stories draws inspiration from Toro's own works to explore nightmarish scenarios where monsters, otherworldly creatures, and the supernatural lurk just out of sight, waiting to strike. A star-studded cast with the likes of Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), F. Murray Abraham (The White Lotus) and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter films) help sweeten the pot, too.
Streaming now on Netflix