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HBO Max may have rebranded earlier this year, dropping the “HBO” for simply “Max,” but its reputation as a go-to for movie nights is largely unchanged. This is especially true for horror movies.
Max’s collection of films spans seven decades and meets every scary movie mood. Looking for an upfront haunted house story? A slasher to watch from in between your fingers? Or an old black-and-white classic? You’ll find it on the platform. Many of these titles aren’t just the best horror films, but they’re some of the best movies on Max, period.
So grab a bowl of popcorn (unless you’re watching Cronenberg, which is best done on an empty stomach) and tune into these Max horror highlights.
A slow burn of crawl-out-of-your-skin dread, Ari Aster’s Hereditary has quickly gained recognition as one of the best scary movies of all time. Toni Collette stars as Annie, a woman dealing with the loss of her mentally ill mother. But when tragedy strikes again, the family—and Annie’s mental state—begins to deteriorate. No matter how much you want to look away, Collette makes it impossible to take your eyes off her.
Barbarian begins with Tess (Georgina Campbell) arriving on a dark and stormy night to a booked rental house, only to find someone else (Bill Skarsgård) inside. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you know where this story is going. This film is filled with twists, and the true barbarian isn’t so obvious.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Amanda Seyfriend stars as Needy, who’s longtime bestie Jennifer (Megan Fox) is the most popular girl in the small town of Devil’s Kettle. But after a girls night turns into a nightmare, Jennifer starts acting less like herself...and more like a flesh-eating demon. In the decade-plus since Jennifer’s Body premiered, this Diablo Cody film has become a feminist cult classic.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) knows something is amiss in San Francisco. There are mysterious flowers she has never seen before that seem to be sprouting everywhere, and the people—including her husband—are acting strange. This sci-fi-horror classic also stars Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum, who team up with Elizabeth to figure out what’s happening.
The Witch (2015)
The Witch helped launch not only the careers of Anya Taylor-Joy and writer-director Robert Eggers, but also an entire roster of independent horror films in following years. Set in 1600s New England, it’s the story of a Puritan family that, after being cast out from their settlement, is preyed upon by a dark force lurking in the wilderness.
The Lodge (2019)
After their mother dies by suicide, kids Aiden and Mia are less than thrilled about spending Christmas in a remote lodge with their dad’s new fiancee, Grace (Riley Keough). Things only get worse when a blizzard hits, the power goes out, and Grace’s traumatic past begins scratching its way to the present day.
The Blob (1958)
When what appears to be a falling star turns out to be a gelatinous and malicious blob that absorbs human bodies, a group of teenagers must warn their small town. But there’s a problem: Nobody believes them. This classic monster movie features Steve McQueen in his first leading role.
Evil Dead Rise (2023)
Since the release of The Evil Dead in 1981, there have been two sequels, a video game, a show on Starz, a 2013 reboot, and—finally—Evil Dead Rise. This latest chapter in the cult franchise calls back to many of the familiar staples of the series while pursuing a totally original plot of a family infiltrated by demons. But OG fans shouldn’t worry—Evil Dead Rise is still ripe with gore and grisly possessions.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Five twentysomethings go to an isolated cabin for a getaway. The premise might sound familiar, but it isn’t long before the plot takes a turn. And then another. And another. The Cabin in the Woods isn’t the slasher film you go in expecting—instead, it’s a sci-fi-infused puzzle to be pieced together. And it’s just as funny as it is frightening.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
When real-life couple George and Kathy Lutz moved their family into a house in Amityville, New York, they left within a month. A book was written about their allegedly true (though widely debunked) experience, and in 1975 their haunting tale came to the big screen. The Amityville Horror is one of the few horror films that have been nominated for an Academy Award, and it spurred nine sequels (plus a 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds).
After moving into a new house with his parents and younger siblings, Dalton has an unexplainable encounter with a mysterious presence. The next day, he slips into a coma. As his parents Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) search for answers, they uncover a forgotten darkness that plagued Josh during childhood—and learn it’s now attached itself to Dalton.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
The classic Washington Irving story gets Tim Burton-ified in Sleepy Hollow. Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, a squeamish constable sent to the small village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a string of murders. Also starring Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken, it’s a spooky season must-watch not only for the scares, but for the delightfully creepy, Oscar-winning set design.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Without this masterpiece by George A. Romero, there would be no The Last of Us. No The Walking Dead. No World War Z. This 1968 classic provided the foundation for modern-day zombies as undead flesh-eaters—despite the word “zombie” never being uttered in the 96-minute runtime.
Malignant is the first collaboration between James Wan (director of big-name frights like Saw and The Conjuring) and Akela Cooper, who would go on to write M3GAN together. And while Malignant didn’t have quite the pop culture impact as the duo’s follow-up, this story of a woman plagued by visions of real-life murders is just as fun—and chilling.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This ’80s slasher introduced the world to one of the most iconic franchise villains (and Halloween costumes): Freddy Krueger. It all starts when a group of teenagers begin having nightmares. When one girl ends up killed by the monster stalking her dreams, it’s up to the others to figure out what’s going on without getting flayed themselves.
Following the success of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan released an ambitious alien invasion story. Signs follows a widowed former pastor (Mel Gibson), his two young children, and his little brother (Joaquin Phoenix) who live and work on a rural Pennsylvanian farm. When they discover odd phenomenon—crop circles in their cornfield, mysterious lights at night—they must protect themselves against the creatures lurking around them.
Ethan Hawke stars as a true crime writer who relocates his family to research a new book. But it isn’t long until he makes a gruesome discovery: a box of snuff films, seemingly left behind by the house’s previous residents. As he watches the home movie murders unfold, he begins linking the crimes together...and discovers they lead close to home. The movie isn’t particularly bloody or gory, but the terror-filled Sinister was still rated R because it’s just. so. scary.
Based on the Stephen King novel, Cujo is a Saint Bernard that’s bitten by a rabid bat and becomes a 150-pound monster. As bodies pile up, an unsuspecting mother (Dee Wallace) and son drive right into his furry clutches and become trapped.
Sisters doesn’t have the widespread recognition that many other horror titles do, but this indie homage to Alfred Hitchcock shouldn’t be overlooked. Directed by Brian de Palma (who later went on to big-name projects including Carrie, Scarface, and Mission: Impossible), the film follows a reporter who witnesses a murder from her apartment window.
This surrealist horror film is filled with fantastical—and unsettling—imagery and music. Written, directed, edited, and produced by David Lynch, Eraserhead stars Lynch’s longtime collaborator Jack Nance as Henry Spencer, whose girlfriend births a sperm-like being. The two move in together to care for the baby, whose haunting wails fill the tiny and decrepit apartment.
The Fly (1986)
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist on the cusp of a world-changing invention. But when an experiment goes awry, he begins turning into a pileous, vomiting, oozing monster. Fair warning: Don’t watch The Fly—or any other David Cronenberg film—if you have a queasy stomach.
Rubber asks the big questions: In E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, why is the alien brown? In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, why don’t we ever see the characters wash their hands? And, finally, what if a sentient tire rolls into a desert town and begins blowing up the residents with its psychic power?
The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring begins as many horror movies do, with an unsuspecting family moving into a new (haunted) home. But what makes this James Wan film different is that it expertly uses old-school techniques and well-crafted storytelling instead of relying on CGI to bring the scares. It’s also the first film to introduce Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, who reprise their roles in subsequent movies including The Nun and Annabelle Comes Home.
The Lure (2015)
Part musical and part horror flick, The Lure is a sparkly Polish tale about female friendship between two man-eating mermaids. But when one of the sirens falls hard for a pretty blonde boy, tensions rise as the other is more focused on satisfying her appetite.
Child’s Play (1988)
The premise of Child’s Play is a bit ridiculous: What if the soul of a serial killer possessed a children’s toy? But it’s this offbeat blend of horror and comedy that makes the movie—and its antagonist, the redheaded, overall-clad, foul-mouthed Chucky doll—such a success.
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