How’s this for irony: My birthday is close to Halloween, and I am the worst at watching scary movies. Sometimes I cover my ears, sometimes I close my eyes, and sometimes I do both while my brother mutters something along the lines of, “You can’t be serious.” But, try as I might to shield myself from the villains, victims, and gore of a good horror flick, I also can’t resist them. There’s a particular thrill that comes from watching scary movies, a comfortable rush of adrenaline that dissipates when the credits roll.
When what’s happening on screen feels almost real and conveniently distant, then it’s all in good fun.
If you’re looking for the excitement of a horror movie in your life, then queue up Amazon Prime for a night in. These 10 options have everything audiences love about the genre—menacing ghosts and haunted houses, hopeful victims and deadbeat sidekicks, unexplained occurrences and dark woods—while also delivering the jumps and shrieks we love to hate. Get settled with a blanket, a pillow, and perhaps a willing partner because these 10 scary movies will make you want to reach for all three.
If you’re expecting to jump out of your seat during The Witch, just know it probably won’t happen. But regardless of that missing element, there are plenty of unsettling aspects throughout this story to make you squirm. When William and his family are banished from a Puritan settlement in 1620 and forced to build their lives on its outskirts, there’s nothing ahead of them but the confidence that they can tame the wild forest together. Suspense and tension grow as they start over on a secluded farm, not knowing that witchcraft surrounds their every move.
There have been enough sequels and copycats in this “recovered footage” genre to make you think that the one at the start of it all isn’t worth your time. But if you focus on Paranormal Activity’s original story for its creepy concept—a young couple haunted by a presence in their home—we’re sure that you’ll appreciate its uniquely scary moments.
This indie film starts out innocently enough, focusing on two friends operating a rundown inn and doing “paranormal investigations” in their downtime. You’ll feel relaxed by their small talk and might even think that their conversations result in a slow story. But that’s part of The Innkeepers’ magic—because when things start going wrong, you’ll feel like you’re watching friends try to escape.
If you have yet to see this beloved scary movie, then the fact that Jaws is included in your Prime membership should be enough. There’s a shark in the waters surrounding Amity Island, a popular summer destination for tourists, and it’s attacking unassuming swimmers as the film’s famous two-note score plays over their final breaths. The local sheriff has to decide whether to close the beach—which will hurt the town’s economy in the process—as poachers looking to cash in on a reward descend on its shore.
Even if some of the special effects make you smile, you’ll still be freaked out by a few scenes.
The Blair Witch Project
The beauty of The Blair Witch Project’s classic found footage isn’t in what you see—it’s in what you can imagine. Three friends decide to go into the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, home to a persisting urban legend about a woman who lures children by pairs into her secluded home, never to be seen again. The friends bring their cameras along with them and keep recording as they get lost. Tension stirs from their arguments and persistence that they’ll find their way back to their car, as long as the witch doesn’t find them first.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn’t easy to watch—in fact, it’s often thought of as one of the most gruesome scary movies to ever earn a wide release. Still, if you’re looking to get scared, a story loosely based on Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein will do it. A villain named Leatherface, who wears a mask made of human skin and carries the movie’s namesake chainsaw as a weapon, preys upon a group of friends to feed his cannibalistic family. Don’t watch it right before going on a road trip, please.
Friday the 13th
A group of summer camp counselors arrives at Camp Crystal Lake—including a young Kevin Bacon—years after it’s been closed because of a series of unsolved murders. Nevertheless, the counselors work to hopefully reopen the camp, but the killer returns and starts stalking his victims one by one. Friday the 13th may not have aged well in some ways, but it was part of the original popularity of slasher flicks, and we’d bet you’ll still jump at some of the surprise twists, including a quick appearance from Jason.
Given how many scary flicks there are, it seems as though there’s a similar formula to follow: girl gets scared, girl runs upstairs, girl meets an untimely fate. That knowing sarcasm is at the heart of this ’90s film, where all of the characters seem to be one step ahead of the typical slasher tropes they’ve learned from watching scary movies. And yet, the masked killer in Scream knows all the familiar storylines too, making for a script that brings wit and originality to the genre.
Keep your wits about you during The Descent—even the opening sequence will get you to jump. But after you calm down a bit and watch a close-knit group of women gather to hike deep inside a cave in the Appalachians, you’ll feel your nerves rise again at the sight of pitch-black pathways and extremely tight quarters. The really scary part of this movie is that you won’t see the twist coming. And while we’re not going to ruin it for you here, just know that it’s the reason this movie is often called one of the scariest ever made.
It Comes at Night
An outbreak has infected humanity, and only a few survivors are left in It Comes at Night. In order to stay alive and shield themselves from a contagion that’s still very much a possibility, the survivors of two families in a home deep in the woods instate rules about what they can and cannot do, to stay safe. As far as postapocalyptic stories go, this one is scary because of its close focus on humanity: who to trust when nothing seems certain, how to be sure that your next step is the right one, and when and how to look out for yourself.