Netflix is home to many horror movies — big-budget triumphs (and failures), as well as low-budget splatter spectacles that haphazardly throw together half-baked premises and lazy jump scares. Yet, a few horror gems worthy of your attention hide among the ranks of Ryan Murphy’s disappointing Dahmer drama, the eye-roll-worthy Secret Obsession, and the tonal mess that is Spiderhead.
This list highlights the top ten underrated horror movies on Netflix (from newest to oldest), drawing attention to those with unique narratives, relevant social commentary, and strong performances.
Brilliantly blending comedy and horror, Vampires vs. The Bronx asks if a group of teens can save their community from gentrifying blood-suckers. It’s a socially conscious and centralized movie offering several laughs and frights in its tightly wound 86-minute run. It’s a chortle-inducing charmer–bringing a fresh and fanged perspective to a slew of save-the-community films. Though the message is by no means subtle, the film’s comedic delivery and utter self-awareness make for a punchy joyride.
His House, using supernatural elements to expose the horrors of the refugee experience, reworks the haunted house subgenre to render commentary on grief and assimilation. A couple escapes war-torn South Sudan and arrives in a small English town to start anew, but the past refuses to relinquish its grip.
The film examines the psychology of survivor’s guilt–a mysterious figure whispers, “Your life is not yours. You stole it.”–while maintaining a ceaselessly eerie atmosphere and foreboding score. The well-executed jump scares, creative cinematic representations of decay and destruction, and superb performances from Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku make this a must-watch small-scale masterpiece.
Equal parts social commentary and weird thriller, The Platform is a captivating dystopian tale that puts humanity’s selfish impulses under a microscope. The setting is simple: a vertical prison with one cell per floor and two people per cell. A platform descends from the top to the bottom to deliver food for two minutes each day. Will everyone take what they need or leave those below scrummaging through scraps? Can one man change the pattern? Can he get the others to change their self-serving ways? With each frame–boasting chaotic camera shifts and sparse yet savvy special effects–new information emerges, keeping this thriller unpredictable and stomach-churning. It begs to ask: Just how disgusting is the human race?
A young boy struggling with his parent’s imminent divorce comes up against a thousand-year-old witch living beneath the skin of the woman next door. The film bites off a bit more than it could chew and suffers from a few plot holes. However, retro jump scares and spine-chilling visuals–wilting flowers, creepy crawly fingers that dance out of tree hollows, twisting necks, and blood-stained gowns–make this run-of-the-mill horror flick a low-stakes but crafty ride. It even nestles in a little commentary on the need for community in the face of the fading nuclear family.
Cam is a techno-thriller that brings to life one of the most contemporary nightmares–what if your online identities were stolen? In this seductive film, a pornographic webcam actress awakes one morning to discover that she has been replaced by a doppelgänger. It’s a sex-positive take on Hitchcockian’s signature theme of mistaken identity. And in an age when OnlyFans has colonized social discourse, it couldn’t feel more relevant and tangible. Yet, in subverting the bible-thumping horror trope that too often punishes women who own their sexuality and agency, it makes for a cheeky and powerful take on identity–manufactured and otherwise.
In The Perfection, troubled musical prodigy Charlotte returns to her former prestigious school to find her replacement, Lizzie. The two embark on a dangerous journey seeking truth and revenge. The narrative is not without its faults, but the blood-splattering mayhem, tantalizing twists and turns, and compelling characterizations make up for a messy timeline. It’s a bold film with nightmare-inducing imagery that will linger in your mind long after the credits roll.
Carla Gugino gives a career-best performance as the trapped and tortured Jessie Burlingame in Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel. A little sexual experimentation goes awry when Jessie’s husband has a heart attack mid-foreplay, leaving her handcuffed to the bed in an isolated cabin. Gugino shifts seamlessly between a woman committed to survival and a woman on the verge of surrender. And when a monster appears in her doorway, viewers are left to wonder whether he is a dehydration-induced delusion or a genuine physical threat.
The Ritual is a contemporary twist on the Blair Witch approach. A group of college pals–reunited after the death of their friend–embark on a hike through the Scandinavian wilderness…but soon wind up in a mythical forest where an ancient evil stalks their every move. Though at times it can feel a bit derivative, the haunting score and atmospheric tension build slowly and surreptitiously to a satisfying creature-feature denouement. It’s a slow burn that examines male dynamics (i.e. the fatal consequences of toxic masculinity) and the gripping effects of psychological trauma.
Hush is a home invasion thriller that benefits from a contemporary twist — one that flips the entire system for curating fear on its head. The movie centers on a deaf author who retreats to an isolated cabin to live a solitary life, but her peaceful intentions are never fulfilled, for a masked stranger soon appears at her door.
Maddie is impervious to frights she cannot see; thus, the audience tenses with each audible huff and creaking of the floorboard, but she does not. Her attacker will have to face her head-on, and this YA thriller writer isn’t going down without a fight. Can she outsmart her invader? Her internal narration keeps viewers hooked, as she concocts plans to survive. The film jumps between screeching volumes and utter silence, as the two complement each other as terror-inducing mechanisms. Silence breeds anticipation, while noise signals an impending attack. It’s a genius strategy that Director Mike Flanagan implements seamlessly.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House divided critics and everyday viewers, for it boasts a poetic nature that, though unique, strips the film of many expected horror elements. The slow-burning ghost story follows a live-in nurse who cares for a reclusive horror novelist. It is a stylish film that subverts the haunted house milieu, opting for a moody and metaphorical analysis of the relationship between those who have passed, those who live, and those on the brink of death.