Launched in 2015, Shudder quickly grew into the leading streaming service for fans of the horror genre. While all of the most well-known streamers such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and even Disney Plus often have good selections of horror movies available, Shudder is dedicated to providing the best streaming value for all fans of horror and other closely related genres.
Shudder has a collection of well over 500 movies, with a steady rotation of new additions every month. The catalog is curated to include horror staples like Black Christmas (1974), lesser-known gems like Hell House LLC (2015) and its sequels, and regularly includes films from horror icons including John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Rob Zombie, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and many more.
Where Shudder really shines is in its ever-growing library of exclusive movies from around the world. Every month sees new “Shudder Originals” and “Shudder Exclusives” premiering on the service. A Shudder Original is a movie which the company has bought the streaming distribution rights to and will only be available on Shudder and AMC Plus (Shudder’s parent company), at least for a certain period of time. A Shudder Exclusive similarly won’t be available to stream as part of any service other than Shudder and AMC Plus, but it may also be made available for temporary rental on other VOD services.
The Shudder Originals and Exclusives are the focus of this list. Many of these films regularly make onto top-ten lists at the end of every year, which exemplifies just how necessary these movies are to the horror genre. From brutal revenge movies to terrifying supernatural horrors, and from found-footage to documentary to everything in-between, there’s a little something for everyone.
Best Shudder Originals
Shudder’s first-ever feature length “Shudder Original” is the action thriller Revenge (2017). This French film follows a young woman, Jen (Matilda Lutz), as she hunts down three men in a desert after she is sexually assaulted and left for dead. The film is beautifully shot and exceedingly brutal, with Jen’s revenge playing out in a fittingly gruesome way. Revenge feels a lot like a modern interpretation of an old-school exploitation movie in the best possible way.
Satan’s Slaves (2017), also known by its original Indonesian title Pengabdi Setan, is a supernatural horror movie that earns its scares through fantastic imagery and incredible tension. In Indonesia in 1981, a former singer by the name of Mawarni has become bedridden with a mysterious illness. After Mawarni passes away, apparitions are seen within the home inhabited by her mother, husband, and children. Has Mawarni returned from the grave, or is something far more sinister trying to find its way into the household?
Terrified (2017) is a fantastically spooky Argentinean haunted house movie. Or rather, it is a haunted “houses” movie taking place with multiple entities in multiple locations. When a rash of supernatural (and terrifying) incidents all occur in different houses within the same neighborhood in Bueno Aires, a group of people attempt an investigation. They get more than they expected in a series of encounters involving dead bodies, monsters under a bed, and a whole lot more. Terrified is notable for having a unique narrative format that almost makes it an anthology film, emphasizing mood and scares over a straightforward story.
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019) is a fascinating documentary that traces the history of Black actors and filmmakers in relation to horror cinema. The film looks at the evolution and impact Black characters (and stereotypes) have had on screen, and it examines the influence Black filmmakers have had on horror movies from behind the camera. Horror Noire is essential viewing for all fans of horror movies, and it features input from many highly respected figures in horror including Jordan Peele, Tony Todd, Ken Foree, Rachel True, Rusty Cundieff, Keith David, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., and many more.
With dark humor and body horror, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is a visually striking story of trauma, recovery, and BDSM. As the movie begins, a surgeon by the name of Juha (Pekka Strang) loses his wife when she drowns in a horrible accident. Years later, Juha has trouble forming relationships. Really, he has trouble feeling any kind of emotion at all. Then one day, Juha meets a dominatrix named Mona. Juha then finds that his increasingly intense (and painful) experiences with Mona may be just what he needs to feel something once again. As dark as the movie sounds, it really does have a thread of hope and heart in among the pain and torture.
Impetigore (2019) is a superb Indonesian folk horror movie from Joko Anwar, director of Satan’s Salves (2017). The film begins with an intense scene in which a tollbooth worker, Maya, is violently attacked by a man who appears to know something about Maya’s family history. After the attack, Maya learns that she may be the inheritor of her family’s estate, and she travels to the small village where she was born in hopes of selling her family home. There is something extremely odd about the village though, not the least of which being the disproportionate number of children’s graves. Maya quickly becomes the focus of a disturbing, tension-filled plot involving the supernatural and the superstitious.
Not to be confused with The Curse of La Llorona (2019) which is part of The Conjuring universe, La Llorona (2019) is a Guatemalan film that offers a more measured and thought-provoking take on the legend of The Weeping Woman. Former dictator Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) is tried for his role in the genocide of the indigenous people of Guatemala, but his conviction is overturned on a technicality. Monteverde begins to experience supernatural phenomena involving water and the sounds of a crying woman, and the experiences get even worse after the arrival of a new maid. La Llorona may not be as overtly frightening as other movies on this list, but its real-life inspirations (Monteverde is based on Efraín Ríos Montt, former de facto president of Guatemala) and unnerving imagery make it a powerful use of fact, folklore, and horror.
With enough bouts of unsettling supernatural violence to satisfy most gore fans, The Queen of Black Magic (2019) is yet another great Indonesian horror film distributed by Shudder. In the movie, Hanif (Ario Bayu) takes his family to visit the orphanage where he grew up. A couple of Hanif’s friends from the orphanage are also there with their wives, and they all quickly begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving everything from possessions, to overt violence, to body horror involving bugs. The Queen of Black Magic is an unrelenting horror film with an underlying mystery that drives the plot forward to each consecutive scare.
Host (2020) is a popular (and quite effective) horror movie made in an offshoot of the found footage style known as “screenlife.” The movie takes place completely on a Zoom video call used by a group of friends to keep in touch during lockdown. One of the friends invites a medium to hold a séance on the call. Though the séance was supposed to be a prank, it seems to open a pathway for a sinister presence to begin tormenting everyone on the call. While not the first movie of its kind, Host became a minor hit thanks in large part to its timing which capitalized on a time period in which many people were dealing with the emotional weight of prolonged isolation.
Mixing horror and comedy in the right proportions can be a difficult task, but Vicious Fun (2020) pulls it off well. The main character of the story is Joel (Evan Marsh), a film critic for a horror magazine. Through a series of unlikely events, Joel finds himself in a Chinese restaurant after hours which is hosting a self-help group for serial killers. Unless he wants to be violently murdered, Joel must use his knowledge of horror movies to pretend to be a serial killer himself. Naturally, the night does not go smoothly for Joel, and that leads to a load of fun that plays on horror cliches in a highly entertaining way.
After the non-found-footage spinoff Siren (2016) and a Snapchat series in 2018, V/H/S/94 (2021) was able to revitalize the waning V/H/S franchise by getting back to what made it so appealing in the first place. V/H/S/94 is a horror anthology movie consisting of four segments and a frame story, all presented in the found footage format. The movie provides a good time with gore, camp, and some great monsters. Contributing filmmakers include Jennifer Reeder, Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, and Ryan Prows. The movie’s 1990s aesthetic not only wisely capitalizes on 90s nostalgia, but it also helps to give V/H/S/94 a distinct personality within the franchise.
Best Shudder Exclusives
Presented in a pseudo-documentary style, Noroi: The Curse (2005) earned a solid reputation as one of the more terrifying found-footage films ever, long before it was made available on Shudder. The movie can be a bit of a slow burn, but the payoff is worth it in the end. The movie focuses on paranormal researcher Masafumi Kobayashi as he investigates a series of seemingly disconnected supernatural events. There is a connection hiding just below the surface though, and as Kobayashi gets closer to the truth, the tension and scares increase considerably.
One Cut of the Dead (2017) is a wonderfully funny and heartfelt Japanese comedy about low-budget filmmaking and zombies. The film begins with an extended shot done as a found-footage movie about a small cast and crew making a movie about the living dead. Real zombies show up on set, but the crazed director refuses to stop shooting his movie even as people start dying. One Cut of the Dead transitions to something else partway through its runtime, but anyone who hasn’t seen it should avoid any and all spoilers about the movie’s second half. One Cut of the Dead was a surprise hit, and it is 100% deserving of all the praise heaped upon it.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters is a clever and brutal Taiwanese monster movie in which the “monsters” take many forms. After trying to expose a group of bullies for stealing class money, nerdy high school student Lin Shuwei is forced to do community service with his relentless tormentors. During their service, Lin and his bullies encounter a flesh-eating monster. They end up capturing the human-like creature and holding it prisoner as they take turns torturing it, blurring the lines between monster and victim. The result is a surprisingly engaging dark comedy with some incredibly memorable scenes of violence and gore.
Starring Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, 2010-2016) and Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, 2019), Mayhem (2017) is a film filled with bloody carnage set inside an office building. A virus known as “Red Eye” which causes people to lose all social and moral inhibitions has been spreading throughout the world. On the day Derek Cho (Yeun) is fired for something he didn’t do, the virus is unleashed in the building just as he is being escorted to the door. The staff is infected, causing everyone to act on their wildest and darkest impulses. Mayhem takes the stresses and injustices of the corporate world and channels them into a fantastically fun barrage of violence.
Cold Hell (2017) is an intense thriller that has its foundations built on Giallo films, but its execution is fleshed out with brutal action sequences. The story follows Ozge Dogruol (Violetta Schurawlow), a Turkish immigrant working as a taxi driver in Austria. Ozge endures the abuses of the people around her, venting her frustrations by training as a kickboxer. Then, when Ozge becomes the target of a serial killer after stumbling upon him in the act of murder, she has no choice but to fight back. The ensuing chases and fights are littered with some surprisingly good character development, making Cold Hell easily one of the best action films on Shudder.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) blends fantasy and reality in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), though the end result feels much more grounded rather than fantastical. The movie is set in a Mexican city that is under constant fear of death and destruction from an ongoing wave of crime. A young girl named Estrella returns home after an attack on her school to discover that her mother is missing. With her mother likely murdered or kidnapped, Estrella joins a group of young boys who are on the run from a local gang of human traffickers. Estrella keeps seeing and hearing a ghostly presence that sounds like her mother as the kids do their best to survive on the streets. Tigers Are Not Afraid is quite grim, yet it’s a powerful look at a grim reality.
Nicolas Cage has become known for his over-the-top performances in movies, but it’s not often that the movie itself can match the wild energy Cage possesses. Mandy (2018) is one of those rare films. Mandy is a visually mesmerizing tale of heartbreak and revenge as a man named Red (Cage) carves a blood-soaked and hallucinatory path of vengeance through a demonic biker gang and religious cult. As bonkers as it sounds, Mandy manages to elicit true emotions thanks to it being a movie that is seemingly built to specifically highlight Nicolas Cage at his unhinged best.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019) is a moving documentary that traces the legacy of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) and the effect it had on its star Mark Patton. Freddy’s Revenge is famous for its not-so-subtle homosexual subtext, and Mark Patton has become a gay icon in the horror community. The path to acceptance for Patton has not been an easy one though, and Scream, Queen! does a great job of illustrating the struggles Patton had with the reaction to Freddy’s Revenge as well as its writer and director. Scream, Queen! is a touching story for any horror fan, and it’s an illuminating necessity for fans of Freddy’s Revenge.
Color Out of Space is a beautiful and quirky adaptation of the story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft. Nicolas Cage stars as Nathan Gardner, the patriarch of a family who has moved to Nathan’s late father’s farm house. After a meteor crashes onto their property, odd occurrences begin to happen on the farm including unusual plant and animal mutations, as well as experiences of time loss and altered personalities. The occurrences get worse quite quickly, leading to a finale filled with gorgeous colors and disturbing body horror.
The Medium (2021) begins as a pseudo-documentary, but it ends up more like a found-footage film as dictated by the movie’s sequence of events and wildly entertaining finale. Initially, the movie is presented as footage for a documentary about Nim, a Thai woman who is possessed by a minor deity. Nim’s possession is a good thing, and it allows her to act as her village’s shaman. As the documentary crew follows Nim, it becomes apparent that her niece Mink has become possessed by something sinister. Mink begins to take the central role for the documentary crew as her possession becomes more and more dangerous for herself and everyone around her. With a runtime of over two hours, The Medium can be a bit of a slow burn, but the later scenes are definitely worth the buildup.
Seance (2021) may surprise a lot of viewers (in a good way) with its clever mixing of a fairly straightforward teen slasher and a ghost movie. As the film begins, an elitist clique at an all-girls private school plays a prank on a classmate by pretending to summon the ghost which is supposed to haunt their dorm. The prank leads to tragedy, but the mean girls don’t learn their lesson. When a new student arrives and gets on the bad side of the clique, the girls, one by one, begin to wind up either missing or dead. Everyone must then work together to discover the truth behind the events before it is too late. With a light mystery, some spooky moments, and a fun finale, Seance delivers a great time for those in the mood for some light genre entertainment.
More to Watch
The list of great movies (and series) on Shudder in constantly growing. Here are a few more favorites.
- Nightmare Cinema (2018) – A horror anthology with directors including Joe Dante and Mick Garris, about a haunted movie theater run by Mickey Rourke.
- The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs (2018) – Not a movie, but a series of movies introduced by beloved horror host Joe Bob Briggs. The series was only supposed to be a single marathon, but its popularity led to multiple seasons and even more specials.
- Creepshow (2019) – The classic series of horror anthology films was resurrected on Shudder as a TV series which often manages to capture the same campy/creepy tone of the movies.
- The Mortuary Collection (2019) – This is one of the better horror anthology films released in the 2010s, about a series of stories told in a creepy old mortuary.
- Scare Package (2020) – A fun horror anthology set in a frame story about horror aficionados talking inside a video rental store.
- Jakob’s Wife (2021) – A vampire movie starring Barbara Crampton as a woman in a lifeless marriage whose fortunes change when an old flame returns.