The Best Prestige Horror Movies on Netflix Will Make Reality Look Like A Picnic (2023)

The recent boom in smart horror films has meant some of the most exciting releases in the last five years have been from a genre often ignored at award ceremonies. Works like Ari Aster's Hereditary and Midsommar, Jordan Peele's Get Out or Jennifer Kent's The Babadook have proved how effective horror is at delivering more serious messages amidst the foreboding music and bloodshed.

These prestige horror films prove that conjuring something frightening means being more inventive than relying on jump scares and spooky staircases leading to a dark basement. They prove that though horror might be the vehicle which these films arrive in, there are shades of so many other genres lurking within them too.

Best of all, you can stream some of them right now.

The Others (2001)

The Others is of those films from around the turn of the millennium which was absolutely massive for about two years and then slipped below the surface as a new breed of grimy, grisly video nasty-style horrors like Saw, Hostel and The Human Centipede courted notoriety over chill factor. But there's a lot to enjoy here, especially if you're into classic gothic horror The Innocents, which The Others' poster knowingly winks at. Nicole Kidman is Grace Stewart, a mother of two on Jersey just after the Channel Island was liberated from Nazi occupation whose spooky house starts trying to boot her out.


Midsommar (2019)

Once in a while, a horror film breaks out of the genre pool and becomes a proper cultural phenomenon. Ari Aster's Midsommar, about a grieving young woman in a failing relationship (an absolutely incredible Florence Pugh) who tries to distract herself from both miseries by following her shithead boyfriend and his mates to a Swedish midsummer festival. The jolly nature-loving community welcomes them, but then everything starts going a bit Wicker Man. No spoilers, but give the Wikipedia entry for 'blood angel' a quick read before you go in. If that's a bit much for you, probably swerve it. If not, enjoy an intricately woven, hypnotic, hallucinogenic thriller.


Halloween (1978)

While John Carpenter's opus wasn't the first slasher flick, it was the one which took the terror of a faceless killer out of the city and had it stalk the suburbs of middle America and drew first blood in the Golden Age of slashers. Michael Myers is the enfant très terrible who knifed his sister as a six-year-old and was put away in Smith's Grove Sanitorium for his crime. But now, on Halloween night, he's broken out – and he wants to cause more mayhem. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has to get the full story from Myers' old psychiatrist Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance, lending some thespy cred) before she becomes another victim.


The Witch (2015)

Robert Eggers' forays into psychological weirdness with The Lighthouse and bombastic Norse epics in The Northman have marked him out as both a singular talent and a guy who really likes a 'The' on the front of his movie titles. Both those things started with The Witch (or, as the title has it, The VVitch). Anya Taylor-Joy is Thomasin, a young woman whose family is drummed out of their tight-knit, hardscrabble community of super-duper-Christian early European settlers in America. They reckon she's a witch, and is causing all manner of mayhem. Slowly, her family start to suspect her too. The truth? All we'll say is, never trust black goats.


The Woman in Black (2012)

Daniel Radcliffe's first leap out from the shadow of Harry Potter was took him into an altogether more austere, chilling story of the supernatural. Susan Hill's novel, about a grieving lawyer Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) schlepps out to the Essex bogs to sort out some paperwork in a creepy old haunted house and gets chased around by a ghoul, was a West End sensation before it got a Hammer Horror-influenced cinematic release, and it's got a pleasingly gothic, foggy feel to it. It's an absolutely solid seven and a half out of 10, stick it on of a Sunday afternoon kind of a film, and there's absolutely no shame in that. It's nicely made! It's got some nice jumpy bits! The sequence where they yank the carriage out of the marsh is great! It won't change your life!


Cam (2018)

Isa Mazzei's work as a camgirl informed this tightly plotted, fresh-feeling story, and having toyed with putting together a documentary she realised that the experiences of having her content pirated and uploaded, and of being dismissed by police, could only be told through a horror. Camgirl Alice is edging her way toward the top of the charts when she realises there's someone calling themselves Lola pretending to be her and taking work away from her. Who is it? Why do they look just like her? And how does she make them stop?


The Conjuring (2013)

James Wan, a horrorphile who counts numerous instalments of the Insidious, Saw and Annabelle franchises under his directing credits, makes one of his very best in this supernatural horror. The story follows a family who experience a paranormal phenomenon after moving into a farmhouse in Rhode Island: their clocks all stop at the same time as the family dog is found dead in the garden. The story is made more sinister still by the fact it was inspired by a real-life couple, a pair of paranormal investigators and authors whose reporting inspired The Amityville Horror film.


Gerald's Game (2017)

This Netflix adaptation of Steven King's 1992 novel Gerald's Game is a psychological thriller which sees a good-natured sex game go very badly wrong. While there are no actual monsters in here, it's still a terrifying scenario – one pushed to extremes with acclaimed horror director Mike Flanagan at the helm.


Insidious (2010)

The team behind the Saw franchise — James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (screenwriter) — take a visit to the haunted house in the first instalment of this franchise. It stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as a couple whose son inexplicably enters a coma after discovering something in their family attic, which is never a good sign when you're spending time in somewhere this spooky. Upon awakening, they naturally discover he is possessed with a dark spirit. Cue carnage.


Annihilation (2018)

Based on the first of The Southern Reach Trilogy by author Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Garland's follow up to Ex Machina is a sci-fi horror in which biologist and ex-soldier Lena sets out to explore Area X – the sinister space expanding across the American coastline where her husband went missing. Annihilation isn't a jump-scare horror, but leaves a gnawing sense of dread in the pit of your stomach as you traverse through an extraterrestrial world. Natalie Portman gives a strong lead performance, and there's also one particularly memorable moment, featuring a screaming bear, which provides one of the most horrifying and twisted scenes of cinema in recent years.


American Psycho (2000)

Christian Bale plays the athletic, well-dressed, suave, successful serial killer Patrick Bateman in this stylish and grim adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' novel of the same name. A dive into the mind of a psychopath with jet-black humour carried perfectly by Bale's maniacal grin, American Psycho is a classic which pointed to the vanity of serial killers in a way that still feels beyond its time.


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