The best horror shows to watch on Netflix and other streaming services
Who doesn’t love a good scary story?
We at Polygon frequently update our list of the best horror movies you can watch on streaming services at home. But what about horror TV shows? You are in luck, dear reader.
Supernatural thrillers, fictionalized adaptations of real scary stories, and an under-the-radar pick for the best zombie show on TV – we’ve rounded up this list of terrific horror shows you can watch at home. We haven’t included shows that have strong horror elements but aren’t strictly horror throughout, like twin peaks (which you can watch on Showtime) or Doom Patrol (which you can watch on HBO Max). East twin peaks a horror show? It’s up to you to decide. What’s not up for debate is that it rules, just like the shows we’ve listed below.
Got any other favorites not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!
In the late 2000s, TV power couple Robert and Michelle King made one of the best network dramas to ever grace our airwaves in The good wife. A decade and changes later, they once again have one of television’s most appealing series: the witty horror thriller. Bad.
Bad follows a group of supernatural investigators who each have a very different take on the reality of the paranormal. Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist and skeptic, David Acosta (Mike Colter) is an aspiring priest and full believer, and Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) is a tech expert who doesn’t believes in none of that at all. And their employer is the Catholic Church, by the way.
There are many elements that make Bad so good. It’s a true serial television show in a world filled with long films disguised as television; it has a fantastic cast led by the charming Herbers and a very cheeky Michael Emerson as the central antagonist; and the Kings’ sense of humor shines through silly gags (including The Pop-Up Book of Terrifying Things, which announces each episode’s title) that balance out the show’s darker subject matter.
But Bad isn’t just an airy TV show – it’s legitimately unsettling. Rather than following the path of spiritual horror traced by The Exorcistwhere the horrors of Catholic mythology are explicitly real, Bad instead smartly leans into agonistism, rarely giving you a straight answer as to whether what you saw was supernatural or just weird. Uncertainty is one of the best flavors of horror. —Pete Volk
Bad is available to watch on Paramount Plus.
Mike Flaganan (Doctor Sleep) has made several horror limited series for Netflix, and has another one coming in The Midnight Club. I heard a lot of good about his first two, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manorbut Midnight Mass is the only one for which I took time. And let me say: he reigns.
Midnight Mass is set in a remote New England town that is deeply Catholic with a strong conservative bent. When a young man (Zach Gilford) returns home after a tragic incident, he struggles to readjust to the community he left behind. Meanwhile, the town’s longtime priest disappears and a mysterious young man (Hamish Linklater) arrives to replace him. The city is quickly captivated by the charisma of the young man, and I let you discover the rest!
Flanagan allows his projects to breathe admirably, leaving room for meaty monologues for his actors and for the audience to digest what they absorb. It helps that the cast is packed with great performances, including Flanagan’s longtime collaborator and wife, Kate Siegel, and Rahul Kohli (iZombielisten)) as a Muslim sheriff of the deeply Catholic community. —PV
Midnight Mass is available to watch on Netflix.
FX’s anthology horror series has multiple seasons now, but I’m here to recommend the first one in particular, which made our list of the best new TV shows of 2018. An adaptation of Dan Simmons’ novel, which at his turn is a supernatural adaptation of the real events surrounding Captain Sir John Franklin’s disastrous arctic expedition in the 1840s, Terror is a tense, contained journey into the most icy part of the world and the chronicle of a group of people who completely lose it. With terrific top-notch performances from Jared Harris, Ciarán Hinds and Tobias Menzies, impeccably constructed tension and intricate sets to die for, Terror is a Polygon staff favorite for good reason. —PV
Terror is available to watch on Hulu.
Yeon Sang Ho (Train to Busan, Psychokinesis) absolutely delivered with this dark fantasy show straight to Netflix about mysterious beefy boys showing up and banging random people. Hell is at its most interesting when it deals with the ways humans attempt to rationalize the irrational: the presence of these mysterious life forms leads to a cult that believes they are righteous beings sent to punish sinners. The truth, of course, is not so simple. —PV
Hell is available to watch on Netflix.
A spin-off from Nation-Zfor my money, black summer is the best zombie show on TV. Co-created by John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Reckoning Day, Only), which directs many episodes, the immersive atmosphere of black summer takes you straight into this zombified world with a ground level view of people just trying to survive. My Quick Sale: It’s a deeply human zombie spectacle from a very capable director, with plenty of tense and scary moments to give you what you’ve come to expect from the genre. —PV
black summer is available to watch on Netflix.
Hannibal isn’t just one of the best horror series ever made, it’s one of the best shows never done. Showrunner Bryan Fuller’s startlingly violent, poetic, and thrilling reimagining of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels takes what could have been rote brand cashing and instead offers a subversively human take on its sinister subject matter.
Which makes Hannibal so chilling – and beautiful – is the way it centers empathy. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), the criminal profiler at the heart of the series, is so good at his job it scares him. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is the psychiatrist he is assigned to work with, unaware that the good doctor is also a cannibalistic murderer. The push and pull of the two’s relationship as their status quo is shattered and reset with shocking regularity is what makes Hannibal a thriller you can’t put down; the poetry of how these men become metaphors when they see themselves reflected in violence is what makes it transcendent. —Joshua Rivera
Hannibal is available to watch on Hulu or for free with ads on Plex.
As Hannibal, the exorcist expands on a popular movie franchise in a way that seems cheap by the way. The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films ever made, also famous for its many imitators and sequels, most of which cannot sniff out the original. But for the few who have seen it, Fox’s 2016 sequel series The Exorcist deserved that name.
Beautifully shot and legitimately spooky, Jeremy Slater’s sequel doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much as it strives to take every step it can to make sense of that wheel. Each of the The ExorcistBoth seasons of focus largely on the haunting of one family, anchoring the spiritual horror of fathers Tomas Ortega and Marcus Keane (Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels) as they struggle with what evil really looks like. . —JR
The Exorcist is available to watch on Hulu and Prime Video.
The French horror series Marianne is easily one of Netflix’s scariest shows since premiering on the service in 2019. Created by writer-director Samuel Bodin, the series follows Emma Larsimon, a self-destructive but successful horror writer who is tormented by her memories of Marianne, a malevolent witch who claimed the lives of her friends and terrorized her small town. When Marianne, having possessed the body of one of Emma’s friends, comes back to haunt her, Emma must return to her hometown in order to end the witch’s cursed existence once and for all. The real star of the series is Mireille Herbstmeyer, whose gaze and performance are both deeply disturbing and masterfully disturbing. —Toussaint Egan
Marianne is available to watch on Netflix.
The twilight zone
When it comes to sci-fi horror TV anthologies, The twilight zone just unbeatable (sorry, The outer limits). Rod Serling’s original series, which aired on CBS for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, is full of iconic stories that reflect the unique spirit of paranoia, uncertainty and societal change of their time. With cultural touchstones like the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” directed by William Shatner, the apocalyptic tragedy of “Time Enough at Last”, the dystopian drama of “The Obsolete Man” and the psychological terror of “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”. ” – one of my personal favorite episodes – there is a reason why The twilight zone has been going on for so long: there really is something for every type of sci-fi and horror fan in this series. -YOU
The twilight zone is available to watch on Paramount Plus, and two seasons are available for free with ads on Pluto TV.