The best horror TV shows on Netflix, Prime Video and more
Updated: the best horror TV series - prepare to be scared...
The best horror TV shows have scares down to an art. And episodic terror is a little different to its cinematic counterpart.
It needs to be scary enough to keep each individual segment compelling, but also work as a whole narrative over a season. Monster of the week episodes are so much simpler than extended scares as they wheel out one nasty at a time for heroes to tackle.
But it then takes another familiar turn, as a masked man jumps up from the lake to stab a woman minding her own business in a canoe. It’s less supernatural, more slasher.
UPDATE:We've added two more fantastic shows to the list. Don't sleep on The Fall of the House of Usher, spiritual successor to shows The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. And from last year we have Korean zombie show All of Us Are Dead, which breathes new life into the stale zombie genre.
This list, which has the best horror TV series from Netflix, Amazon Prime, NOW and more, has a variety of brands of terror.
Cannibalism, self-referential slashers, zombies, monsters made of teeth, and demonic possession in the heart of a grisly Victorian London… it’s all here and ready to creep into your mind just as you start to fall asleep. Prepare yourself for the best horror TV shows you can watch right now.
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Additional reporting: Marc Chacksfield
The best horror TV shows
1. The Haunting of Hill HouseStream now (Netflix)
Quite frankly a TV horror masterpiece, Mike Flanagan's Netflix adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel is a tour de force of scares. Like the best genre pieces, The Haunting of Hill House creeps into your thoughts, not just because of its terrifyingly well-positioned hidden ghosts and twisted imagery, but its depiction of a family haunted by far more than just spectres. It may have one of the best jump scares of the 21st century thus far, but this series is no mere ghost train.
2. Stranger ThingsStream Now (Netflix)
Just because it’s wrapped up in the gentle fuzzy 80s friendships of now stratospherically famous teenagers doesn’t mean Netflix’s Stranger Things isn’t scary. While Eleven’s powers definitely sneak into sci-fi territory, it’s the Demogorgon and the Upside Down that will haunt your nightmares. Monsters aside, though, the first season is still in distinctly creepy territory as a child vanishes without a trace - and it gets creepier from there. The fifth and final season will finally show us the concluding part of Hawkins' bizarre world.
3. HannibalStream Now (Netflix)
Cannibalism has never looked this delicious. Hannibal is a three-season tasting menu of disturbingly delectable sweetbreads. You’ll only have to spend a matter of minutes with the almost painfully stylish Mads Mikkelsen to start wondering who that Anthony Hopkins guy thought he was. The eternal game of cat and mouse between the murderous hungry psychiatrist and haunted serial killer hunter Will Graham is true catnip for horror fans. Crime scenes that make the Jigsaw killer look uninventive turn Hannibal into unmissable TV.
4. The X FilesStream Now (Prime Video)
This is probably the oldest entry here by a long shot but that doesn’t mean Mulder and Scully’s investigations into the paranormal have lost any of their bite. Ignore the absurd conspiracy theory arcs of later seasons and bravely venture into the monster of the week stories to find horrors such as the bile-covered, slithering murderer, Eugene Tooms, and the infamously disturbing season 4 episode ‘Home.’ Helpfully, every season is found on Amazon Prime Video. Sweet dreams.
5. MarianneStream Now (Netflix)
This French TV horror series is about a novelist who, on returning to her home town, discovers that an evil spirit she thinks about and writes about now exists in the real world. Unfortunately this one was cancelled after just one season but what a glorious, nasty season it was. We're still hoping that another streaming service will revive Marianne as there is so much scope beyond this first season.
6. The Haunting of Bly ManorWatch now on Netflix
The Haunting of Bly Manor once again proves what a master of suspense Mike Flanagan is. After creeping us out wholeheartedly with The Haunting of Hill House, his second stab of adapting an American horror writer for Netflix is sublime. This (s)equal takes the work of Henry James (namely the Turn of the Screw) and turns these themes into the ultimate ghost story. Through nine episodes the scares are lighter that Hill House but when they do come, they are terrifying.
7. Ash vs. Evil DeadStream Now (Netflix)
Set in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead universe, it's some 30 years after the first Evil Dead movies and acts as a kind of sequel to the trilogy. It's about Ash Williams, who must step up to the Evil Dead after returning to a boring normal life. Developed by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy for Starz, the show has all the hallmarks of Evil Dead and while it stopped in 2018, there's rumors of an animated sequel in the works.
8. Penny DreadfulStream on Now
Grim Victorian London? Check. Eva Green chewing up the scenery as a medium taking on the forces of darkness? Also check. A mash-up of gothic literature adaptations all in one place? It’s fair to say that the gory decadence of Penny Dreadful ticks all manner of horror TV boxes. And, if you feel you can’t get enough once the darkness has consumed you/the credits have rolled. There's three glorious seasons of this one to devour.
9. Channel Zero
Sadly axed after four seasons before it could cause any more nightmares, Channel Zero is a worthy addition to this list and not just because it features a Creepy Pasta-inspired monster made entirely of teeth. This Syfy anthology series is based around online urban legends. Its second season is a particularly terrifying highlight. A group of teenagers hunt down a mythical haunted house that will allegedly scare them out of their minds. Spoiler: they find it.
10. The WitcherStream Now (Netflix)
Based on the series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski - which also spawned a highly-successful series of games - The Witcher is one of the biggest budget TV shows ever to land on Netflix. Henry Cavill plays Geralt, the Witcher, someone who travels the Continent hunting monsters that threaten the world. This show is a lot of fun and perfect for those looking for a Game of Thrones replacement. Right now the show is going through a big change, with Henry Cavill passing the gauntlet to Liam Hemsworth for what is the fourth and thought to be final series of the show.
11. Archive 81Watch now on Netflix
This unmissable found footage chiller centres on a museum curator and film restorer who is given some badly burned footage from a history graduate in the '90s. There are secrets galore throughout, as well as plenty of jump scares - so keep that pillow close. As with many Netflix shows, this is just one season and done, which is frustrating but still worth a watch.
12. American Horror StoryStream Now (Netflix)
With 12 seasons under their belts (probably made of human skin), Glee creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have definitely found at least one thing that will send chills hurtling down most spines. This gore-drenched anthology series has its ups and downs but Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters et al consistently deliver ludicrously watchable horror. The latest, Delicate, stars Emma Roberts and Kim Kardashian and is about a former child actor trying to conceive a baby.
13. Midnight MassWatch on Netflix
Mike Flanagan had the idea for Midnight Mass for a while so we are glad he finally put pen to paper and created his chilling world based in a small American fishing town that's brow beaten by religion and has to fight something else far scarier. Fans of Stephen King will get a real kick out of this one as it has a lot of the same themes from his books.
14. Bates MotelStream now on Channel 4 (UK)
It took a few seasons of Bates Motel for it to hit its stride but this is a great prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic. Freddie Highmore has just enough boyish charm to get away with playing Norman Bates who is on a horrific path to becoming a psychopath. Vera Farmiga is standout as his hideously controlling mother, Norma. In all there are 5 seasons and a rather chilling ending, which is obviously just the beginning of Bates' legacy.
15. Lovecraft CountryWatch now on NOW TV
What a revelation Lovecraft Country is. You go in thinking that it will be a clever race-reversal of HP Lovecraft stories and it turns out to be an epic, episodic clash of monster fighting, body horror and a good dollop of sci-fi. The most original TV show in years has scares aplenty and with its jaw-dropping special effects demands to be savoured.
16. Brand New Cherry FlavorWatch now on Netflix
If you are looking for a sugar hit of Lynchian madness, then this is the show for you. Centred around an upcoming filmmaker who heads to Hollywood to find fame and what ensues is a nightmare satirical revenge thriller, all set to a backdrop of the '90s. This is lovely, cruel stuff - it's just a shame that Netflix has yet to officially announce a second season.
17. The ExorcistWatch on Prime Video
Nope we weren't expecting this one to be decent, either. But The Exorcist is a great adaptation of the classic movie, swaying away (to a point) from the action in the first film and finding other possessed people to latch on to. There are plenty of callbacks to the movies, but this one is best when it tells its own scary stories. In short: forget the recent and rather dreadful movie and stick to this, a true sequel to the goings-on of the first movie.
18. The Walking DeadStream Now on Disney Plus
Like its titular shamblers, AMC's zombie phenomenon staggered on for longer than it should have, gnawing on every piece of flesh in sight, and consistently proving that humans are the real problem. The Walking Dead wasn't always had an easy ride, but some bold story choices over the years have made it constantly hurt to become attached to anyone. If the human drama sometimes makes you forget you’re watching a horror series, don’t worry, The Walking Dead will always take a few moments to remind you. With a baseball bat. Covered in barbed wire.
19. ScreamStream Now (Netflix)
Treading softly into guilty pleasure territory while wearing a post-modern mask we come to Scream. It just shouldn’t be this much fun to watch genre-savvy teenagers get picked off one by one, but here we are. What’s especially remarkable about these two slashery seasons is just how deftly they weave a splattery double whodunnit tale without becoming predictable. A machete-sharp script and some great characters mean this is far more than just watching some girl running up the stairs when she should be heading out the door. This is a great companion piece to the new series of movies.
20. The Fall of the House of UsherStream now (Netflix)
The fourth and final of Mike Flanagan's Netflix TV shows, at least per their original agreement, is The Fall of the House of Usher. Cast favourites like Henry Thomas, Katie Siegel and Rahul Kohli return, but this time the source material is an Edgar Allen Poe short story. The family members of a pharmaceutical CEO start dying, one by one, as the mystery unravels. This is Flanagan's nastiest work yet and we are all for it.
21. All of Us are DeadStream now (Netflix)
It's not easy to make zombie content feel fresh, but All of Us Are Dead does so effortlessly. There's a zombie outbreak in the fictional Korean city of Hyosan, and the students and remaining teachers have to find a way to survive. Barricading doors while dealing with the social dynamics of the classroom? It's a rich brew, and a thrilling watch. This is a Korean show, but give it a go even if you don't usually get on with subtitles. A second season is in the works.
22. WednesdayStream on Netflix
On a par with Sabrina for its scares, Wednesday is for those who like a subtle jolt rather than all-out terror. Jenna Ortega is fantastic as Wednesday Addams, the creepy and cooky school girl who is sent to the same school her mother went to, only to find out there are some strange goings-on happening. Tim Burton directed the first few episodes and it's a real treat for horror fans.
23. The Chilling Adventures of SabrinaStream Now (Netflix)
Without a single stuffed black cat in sight, Netflix’s bewitching horror series has started out strong with its first season. Kiernan Shipka makes a perfect Sabrina as she attempts to balance a normal teenage life with constantly battling the forces of evil in order to keep the Dark Lord from consuming her soul. While there’s brilliant comedy at work here, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are just that. Satisfyingly, when you’re at home with the Spellmans, true horror is never far away.