Get ready for a terrifying binge. These are the very best horror movies now on HBO Max.
HBO Max has one of the most impressive film and TV catalogs in all of streaming. The relatively new service boasts, among other things, a remarkable selection of some of the best horror films ever made, modern and vintage classics. We've rounded up the best scary films on HBO Max to help you make your next terrifying streaming selection.
Here are the best horror movies on HBO Max right now. Don't watch these alone!
Related: Best Horror Movies on Netflix
Best Scary Horror Movies on HBO Max Right Now
1. The Exorcist (1973)
William Friedkin's Georgetown-set supernatural thriller, centered on a teen girl in the grips of demonic possession, adapted from William Peter Blatty's novel, traumatized an entire generation. Amidst numerous accounts of theatergoers fainting, vomiting and walking out (even miscarriages and heart attacks are on record), The Exorcist possessed the box office, still one of the highest-grossing pictures ever when adjusting for inflation.
The message of The Exorcist is simple and deep: God exists. The Devil exists. Deal with it. This is broad strokes and heady themes; it's also a small-scale story about an ordinary mother fighting for her daughter's life, stunningly performed by Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. Evil nearly wins in The Exorcist, only undone by a selfless act. This is the first horror film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
2. Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster‘s slow-burn freakout—about a family disintegrating in the wake of an unspeakable loss—was the most savagely, mercilessly terrifying (not to mention utterly hopeless and pitch-black) English-language supernatural thriller in ages. Toni Collette deserved an Oscar nod for a layered, mighty and sometimes shockingly funny performance that ranks among the best ever in the genre.
3. Barbarian (2022)
One of the cleverest and best films of 2022, The Whitest Kids U'Know's Zach Cregger's chiller stars Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård as strangers who've apparently booked the same Airbnb on a dark and stormy night. That's also the same cold open of Netflix's lightweight rom-com Love in the Villa. It's safe to say the two films go in different directions.
To spoil any of it would be a disservice. Barbarian is a striking, frightening horror debut with a strangely satisfying emotional kick. The mysteries, internal and external, all come together with graceful precision. It's also the Justin Long comeback the talented actor deserves.
4. Cronos (1993)
This stylish, well-acted and gory independent thriller about an antique dealer and a quest for immortality put Guillermo del Toro on the map.
It's easy to see why, too. The small-scale vampire story is visually arresting, gritty and touching, with about a million percent more personality than other genre films of its time. Cronos was the winner of the Ariel Award (the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Picture. Years later, the filmmaker found success in the Hollywood studio system with Blade II. In 2018, he swept the Oscars with The Shape of Water.
5. Malignant (2021)
James Wan's 2021 triumph is something of a return to form—and, despite the marketing and the first two-thirds of the movie—it is not a return to formula. Malignant is a gory comedy. An admirably committed Annabelle Wallis stars as Madison, a woman tormented by grisly visions. To say any more of the plot would spoil the fun; and goodness, this is fun. There's a delicious atmosphere for days and great effects—all in service of what feels like an extended punchline.
6. Diabolique/Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri Georges-Clouzot's French-language suspense film about a murder scheme gone wrong ends with one of the greatest “gotcha” stingers ever. It’s the all-time favorite horror film of Robert Bloch, author of Psycho.
7. The Blob (1958)
Irvin Yeaworth‘s independently-made sci-fi monster mash was the first starring vehicle of Steve McQueen. Paramount released the thriller about an extraterrestrial life-eating mass as a double feature alongside far lesser-known I Married a Monster From Outer Space. The Blob was remade, splendidly, 30 years later by Chuck Russell.
8. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Directed, photographed, edited and co-written by George A. Romero, then a kid in his mid-20s, this minimalist fright fest about a siege of zombies in Western Pennsylvania pushed the limits of explicit gore for its time. Renowned today for its social commentary as well as its ability to scare the living daylights out of people, this was the top-grossing film in Europe in 1969, and it earned nearly 300 times its budget during its initial release.
Related: The Best Zombie Movies of All Time
9. Gremlins (1984)
Quick: is Joe Dante‘s handcrafted masterpiece of mayhem a horror movie for Halloween, or is it a Christmas movie? Gremlins is so deliciously inventive, so funny, and yes, so frightening, who could blame you for watching it at least twice a year? The PG-rated Gremlins was aimed at a wide audience and raked in a hefty $153 million against an $11 million budget. The unexpectedly high gore quotient (that microwave scene, anyone?) angered some parents, as did the bloodletting in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that same summer. By the release of Red Dawn in August, the MPAA instated the PG-13 rating we still have today.
10. House (1977)
Overwhelming nightmarish imagery is played like its fluff in Japan’s infamous early supernatural slasher, about a house that eats schoolgirls. Best of luck getting these kills out of your long-term memory.
Related: The Best Slasher Movies of All Time
11. Scanners (1981)
The most famous exploding head in film history is only one of the many merits of a David Cronenberg classic. The admirably performed sci-fi thriller about people with telepathic and telekinetic abilities was a major win for Canadian film and an international box office success.
12. Child's Play (1988)
Tom Holland's Child’s Play is easily one of the best slashers ever and also one of the most popular, a commercial horror movie that balances its scary-to-fun ratio just right. A gleefully unhinged Brad Dourif voices a serial killer who uses black magic to pass his murderous soul into a baby doll. The toy sets its sights on a young boy and his mother.
The bottom line: Do not dismiss Child's Play on the basis of seemingly goofy subject matter. It's a darn effectively crafted entertainment; from the patient, Hitchcock-inspired first kill to the awesome, no-holds-barred climax, this is a ghoulishly good time at the movies. Film critic Roger Ebert gave Child's Play a positive review, saying it’s “well made, contains effective performances, and has succeeded in creating a truly malevolent doll. Chucky is one mean SOB.”
13. Jennifers Body (2009)
Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried star in Juno Oscar winner Diablo Cody and The Invitation helmer Karyn Kusama‘s teen horror comedy about a high school hottie possessed by a demon, and the girl who vows to stop her reign of carnage. Critical and commercial disappointment upon release, now a widely admired cult classic.
14. House of Wax (2005)
Jaume Collet-Serra's loose remake (the one where Paris Hilton strips down to red lace underwear and gets killed with a pole to the forehead) of a Vincent Price 3D touchstone is an underrated pleasure, surprisingly artistic and just plain entertaining.
15. Carnival of Souls (1962)
Herk Harvey's black-and-white independent avant-garde mood piece centers on a young woman drawn to a strange carnival after surviving a car crash. Carnival of Souls was mostly looked over upon release, later re-assessed as a powerful work with strange expressionist power. An influence on directors like Lynch, Wan and Romero.
16. Under the Skin (2014)
Under the Skin got a lot of attention for featuring Scarlett Johansson's first nude scenes. It also happens to be one of the best movies of this century so far. A masterwork of mad genius and originality, Jonathan Glazer’s loose adaptation of Michael Faber’s science fiction novel gave the Black Widow star and recent double Oscar nominee her best role to date. More screen-commanding than expressive, she’s unforgettable as an alien in the form of a beautiful woman who preys on men in Scotland.
Under the Skin has a grotesquely gorgeous, mega-unnerving texture to it that’s entirely its own thanks to inventive visuals (you’ll quickly notice that some were copied by Stranger Things) and Mica Levi’s ingenious, shrieking score.
Many critics acknowledged the genius of Under the Skin upon release, and the picture’s reputation will only grow over time. It raises impossible, far-reaching questions about humanity. What's most shocking is how close it comes to answering them.
Looking for more big scares? Check out our list of the best horror movies of all time.