This article is updated monthly with our favorite picks.
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. We are not trying to be transported into the worlds of the following horror movies, thank you very much, but we'll gladly watch from the couch.
If you’re looking for the excitement of a horror movie in your life, then queue up Amazon Prime for a night in. These 19 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 scary movies will make you want to reach for all three.
Here are our picks for the best scary movies on Amazon Prime right now.
The Witch (2016)
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.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
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.
The Innkeepers (2012)
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 take this as a sign that Jaws should be on your list. 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 (1999)
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 in 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 (1974)
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 (1980)
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 bet you’ll still jump at some of the surprise twists.
Given how many scary films 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.
The Descent (2006)
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 (2017)
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 post-apocalyptic 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.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Whether you're into horror movies or not, this classic is a must-see. And don't just take our word for it: The Silence of the Lambs won five Academy Awards, one of which being for Best Picture. The film is about a brave F.B.I. trainee (played by Jodie Foster) who is sent out to investigate a psychopath murdering women throughout the Midwest. Sounds simple enough, but you won't be able to unsee the… interesting… outfit that this serial killer wears.
Get Out (2017)
Get Out was one of the most beloved movies of 2017. A black man (Daniel Kaluuya) meets his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family in their cursed home in this film that explores racism.
A Quiet Place (2018)
In A Quiet Place, a family lives in silence to avoid creatures that hunt by sound. Parents Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) must protect their children while searching for a way to fight back.
The Babadook (2014)
When a monster escapes from her son's children's book, his single mother must protect him at all costs in The Babadook. This Australian film has both a beautiful and terrifying storyline.
It doesn't have to be Halloween to enjoy the film Halloween. On Halloween of 1963, a six-year-old boy stabs his sister to death and consequently spends the next 15 years in a mental hospital. But then he escapes back into town to kill. This is the first of the eleven films in the Halloween franchise. Now that's a lot to get through.
This black-and-white Alfred Hitchcock classic is about a creepy motel run by a man and his mother where guests are turning up murdered. We suggest the original 1960 Psycho over its 1998 remake.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
In case a zombie film is on the menu, try Night of the Living Dead. Nuclear radiation raises the dead, creating flesh-eating zombies in this black-and-white film.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
A brutal military captain's 11-year-old daughter is drawn into Pan's Labyrinth, a fantasy world with mythical beings in this Academy Award-winning film. Pan's Labyrinth is a part-drama, part-horror, and part-fantasy film.
If you're scared of clowns you'll never sleep again after watching It. Children in town begin to disappear in this film that is based on a Stephen King novel. They must square off against the bloodthirsty clown Pennywise in order to save their town.
Up next: The foreign horror movies on our list.