The best horror and sci-fi films to stream on Paramount+

·12 min read

For genre fans, it's spooky season all year long, and Paramount+ offers a smorgasbord of beloved horror franchises primed for a rewatch. From Ghostface killers and invisible monsters to audiophobic aliens, these complete collections will have you binging the nights away.

Also on the menu are a handful of must-watch gems featuring an intergalactic whale, a serial killer unlike any other, and some terrifying classics from the '90s and beyond that still put the fear in us decades later. So, grab your Jiffy Pop and settle in for the best sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films to stream on Paramount+.

The <i>Scream</i> franchise (1996-2022)

In 1996, genre king Wes Craven broke the mold of the slasher movie with his self-reflexive and metatextual Scream — and horror hasn't been the same since. The five-film franchise follows our intrepid final trio of resilient teen (and eventual hardened grown-up) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), well-intentioned cop Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and overly-sensational reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) battling the ever-changing Ghostface killers as they find new reasons to dig into Sidney's past and brutally torment her. This year's Scream 5 was the most recent addition to the franchise's line-up, setting the stage for a new cast of characters, as well as returning fan favorites like Scream 4's Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), to challenge Ghostface (with New York City as the setting) in Scream 6 in 2023.   

At this point, Scream's fictional town of Woodsboro is like due north for horror fans. So, while Scream 5 might not have been everything audiences hoped for, the film is jam-packed with homages to the previous four films and loaded with easter eggs that you might have missed the first time around. And the initial films are always worth a rewatch, especially during Halloween season.

When you're done with Woodsboro, hop on over to Haddonfield to catch up with Michael Myers and Laurie Strode in: Halloween H20 (1998), also streaming on Paramount+.

Film and Television
Film and Television

<i>A Quiet Place</i> (2018)

The Office alum John Krasinski's blockbuster directorial and writing debut follows the Abbott family as they navigate a post-apocalyptic world where sound-motivated and bloodthirsty aliens rule. While they might be ready for a nonvocal existence since oldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is hearing-impaired and the entire family knows sign language, nothing prepares them for the terrible accident that leads to toddler Beau being snatched by the monsters just moments after we meet him. From there, the tension of A Quiet Place only ramps up, leading to an eventual showdown with the creatures as mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant, and delivering a baby isn't exactly a silent act…

While A Quiet Place and its sequel may be grueling sci-fi horror, it also embeds a touching family drama into the mix, bringing a uniquely human element to what might have otherwise been a straightforward creature feature.

If you liked A Quiet Place, you might also enjoy, found footage sci-fi horror flick Cloverfield (2008), available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

A QUIET PLACE
A QUIET PLACE

<i>The Poughkeepsie Tapes</i> (2007)

Found footage horror and mockumentary The Poughkeepsie Tapes opens in 2001 with police finding a stash of 800 videotapes in an abandoned house, evidence of the world's most prolific serial killer Edward Carver's (Ben Messmer) most dastardly of deeds within the crumbling walls. The morbid intrigue snowballs as the investigation progresses as this killer has no consistent pattern, constantly changes up his MO, and doesn't fit any kind of criminalist profile.

Written and directed by John Erick Dowdle, The Poughkeepsie Tapes was stealth-banned for years after it first came out at Tribeca Film Festival in 2007 due to the grotesque nature of the story, in spite of the fact most of its violence happens off screen. Considered by horror fans and critics alike to be one of the most disturbing films of all time, Poughkeepsie is finally available for streaming exclusively on Paramount+ (if you dare).

If horror mockumentaries are your thing, check out The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) on Shudder and Tubi.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes
The Poughkeepsie Tapes

<i>Paranormal Activity</i> (2007)

Among Paramount+'s smorgasbord of horror franchise favorites is the entire eight-film Paranormal Activity series, including the spin-off films The Marked Ones, The Ghost Dimension, and Next of Kin, as well as the documentary Unknown Dimension that unravels the behind-the-scenes of the blockbuster series. Directed by Oren Peli on a shoestring budget, Paranormal Activity kicks off with Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) who begin to experience strange phenomena at night in their suburban home. As the story unfolds over the sequels, we find out a demon named Asmodeus has latched itself onto different families, tormenting them mercilessly before moving onto the next.

With its heart-stopping jump scares and eerie realism, Paranormal Activity has become a modern classic that continues to terrify. Even though some of the later installments don't quite match the power of the original trilogy, the franchise as a whole is still absolutely worth a back-to-back rewatch. Bonus: there are Easter eggs abound for the eagle-eyed viewer, adding to the richness of the ghoulish backstory.

If unseen hauntings are your thing, go back to the original film that mainstreamed the paranormal craze in Poltergeist (1982), streaming on HBO Max.

Paranormal Activity 1st movie
Paranormal Activity 1st movie

<i>Love and Monsters</i> (2020)

It's been seven years since a cataclysmic meteor hit the Earth in Michael Matthews' Love and Monsters, mutating our planet's animals and insects into ferocious monsters, forcing humans underground into bunkers fighting for survival. After all those years, Joel (Dylan O'Brien) has never forgotten about his high school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), and when one of his bunkermates is killed in a monster attack, Joel decides he will no longer wait to be with the woman he loves. But his path to her is filled with treacherous creatures and near-death scenarios, and when he finally sees Aimee again, it's not quite the homecoming he expected.

The 2020 release of Love and Monsters may have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn't hinder its critical success, including an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.

For some post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror road-trip mashups, check out genre favorite Zombieland (2009) on Vudu and its bonkers sequel Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) on Hulu.

LOVE AND MONSTERS
LOVE AND MONSTERS

<i>Carnival of Souls</i> (1962)

After a car accident sends them off the road and into a river, Mary (Candace Hilligoss) wakes on the waterbank with no memory of how she got there or of what happened to her friends. Puzzled and shaken, Mary proceeds with her plans to move to Salt Lake City, where she's been invited to be the new organist at a local church. But upon her arrival, increasingly sinister events seem to follow her, including a demented man (played by the film's director Herk Harvey) and a group of spirits at an abandoned carnival site — none of which hints at terrible truths about herself Mary cannot begin to accept.

Regarding his classic horror film, EW's Owen Gleiberman writes, "More than just scary, it's arrestingly odd, with a bats-in-the-belfry 3-a.m. loneliness that you plug into like a private dream." Watching Carnival of Souls now is like witnessing a slew of easter eggs before they've even happened, as more horror filmmakers than you might be aware of were inspired by the haunting imagery, gothic music, and twist ending that continues to baffle decades later.

Aficionados of the unexpected might also enjoy James Wan's Insidious, which was openly inspired by Carnival of Souls, currently streaming on Netflix.  

CARNIVAL OF SOULS, Candace Hilligoss
CARNIVAL OF SOULS, Candace Hilligoss

<i>Arrival</i> (2016)

Part alien invasion horror, part linguistic fantasy, and part family drama, Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is genre-bending in the best ways. After mysterious extraterrestrial ships appear in locations around the globe, language expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) joins a team of various scientists to determine why these visitors have come to Earth and what they want from us. As Louise is caught between the militaristic response of the U.S. government and the benign designs of the heptapod creatures, the secrets of their language hold the keys to both the past and future of the human race.

Based on Ted Chiang's novella The Story of Your Life and beautifully adapted for the screen by Eric Heisserer, part of Arrival's authenticity comes from the filmmakers enlisting the support of actual linguists and phoneticists in creating not just the heptapods' inkblot script but also their vocalizations. Arrival might be a hybrid genre narrative, but these behind-the-scenes touches make the film feel all too real, especially in its compassionate handling of themes of grief, loss, and life after trauma — and through Adams' poignant performance.

Fans of Arrival should also check out Alex Garland's Annihilation (2018), available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

ArrivalAmy Adams
ArrivalAmy Adams

<i>Candyman</i> (2021)

Say his name — if you dare. It's been decades since a series of horrific murders attributed to a vengeful spirit called Candyman, with a hook for a hand and a coterie of bees, took place in Chicago's now-demolished Cabrini-Green projects. And when artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is looking for some fresh inspiration for his new exhibit, he turns his gaze to Chicago's most disturbing legend. Like many before him, Anthony has no idea of the terrors (or the secrets of his own history) he will unleash as he says Candyman's name five times in the mirror.

Nia DaCosta's follow-up to Bernard Rose's 1992 film Candyman (based on Clive Barker's short story "The Forbidden") is the very definition of a legacy sequel. Building on the macabre tapestry of the original film, and including a gorgeous reenactment of important events through shadow puppetry, DaCosta's Candyman extends the social justice narrative of the urban legend, turning her film into an exploration of race-based violence and the media spin that turns innocent Black men into monstrous figureheads.

Jordan Peele serves as a writer and producer of 2021's Candyman, and his entire catalog of horror makes for an excellent movie night along with DaCosta's creepy vision. Peele's Get Out (2017) is streaming on Hulu, while Us (2019) and Nope (2022) are available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

Candyman
Candyman

<i>Robocop</i> (1987)

Set in a dystopic future Detroit that could easily be taking place today, Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi action/social satire classic Robocop follows officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) after he's killed in the line of duty and put through an experimental procedure that transforms him into a cyborg policeman. He now has no memories of his previous existence — at least at first — and only cursory knowledge of his prime directives of protecting and serving with an arsenal built into his armored body. Robocop soon finds himself mired in complicated layers of political intrigue as local crime lord Clarence Boddicker's (Kurtwood Smith) role in his death leads him closer to home.

While some of the special effects and dialogue might tend toward the hokey today, Robocop still remains ahead of its time in exploring the complexities of robotics and its intersection with law enforcement, exposing police corruption driven by corporate greed in the same swoop. Meanwhile, Peter Weller brings both strength and vulnerability to this role, which adds to the surprising emotional layers of the story.

Fans of this genre classic should check out (or rewatch) its campy sequels Robocop 2 and Robocop 3, both streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

ROBOCOP, Peter Weller, 1987, (c) Orion/courtesy Everett Collection
ROBOCOP, Peter Weller, 1987, (c) Orion/courtesy Everett Collection

<i>Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home</i> (1986)

As an outlier in the original six-film series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home offers a unique opportunity to see an immersive narrative with the iconic denizens on Earth as we know it. In 2286, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) hears the distress call of an extinct Earthen whale now being used by an alien lifeform to wreak havoc on the extended universe until the call is answered. The officer then proposes using the sun's power to time travel back to 1986 in order to bring an actual whale into the future, halting the alien's signal and returning the galaxy to rights.

Helmed by Leonard Nimoy himself in his directorial debut, The Voyage Home is part environmental social commentary and part zany fish-out-of-water story (pun intended), as the Starfleet officers find themselves wandering around the Bay Area in search of whales to save the future. Nimoy's vision for the film was "No dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy," creating one of the kookiest, campiest installments of the Star Trek franchise.

For more wildly comedic time travel adventures, the classic Back to the Future franchise is available through Amazon Prime Video.

STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME

<i>Hereditary</i> (2018)

In the wake of her overbearing mother's death, Annie Graham (Toni Collette) messily navigates the muddy waters of grief as the matriarch's many secrets begin quietly affecting everyone in the family. Annie's daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) finds herself in a strange psychic limbo she can't articulate, that (literally) comes to a head in an additional family tragedy. From there, the quiet burn of Ari Aster's feature film debut Hereditary steadily ramps up to reveal the Grahams' horrifying family connections to an ancient evil and the lengths its coven will go to keep it satiated.

Hereditary features a tour-de-force performance from Collette, who bares all the ugliness of post-traumatic stress in this emotionally wrought role. The film also offers unique set pieces, as Annie's work as a miniaturist allows Aster to play with size, space, and liminality, as the camera moves from model homes to the once-model Graham family before their total dissolution.

Explore more family secret horrors with The Invitation (2015), streaming on Tubi and Shudder.

HereditaryToni Collette
HereditaryToni Collette

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