In honor of the Halloween at the end of the month, I’ve combed through Amazon and Netflix to come up with a list of horror movies available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix. This list is in chronological order and has a little bit of everything, though there is a significant gap of streaming options from the late mid-1920s to nearly 1960. Also, just eyeballing the options, Amazon Prime has the better library of horror available right now compared to Netflix. This is Part 1, taking us through sixteen movies from 1920 to 2001. Part 2 will take us through sixteen more that came out more recently.
Caligari is considered to be the first true horror movie. Made in 1920, it is a highly influential film in the genre. It features striking German Expressionist visuals. Though White Zombie is generally considered the original zombie movie, this one is definitely a precursor with the “somnabulist” which is similar to the voodoo zombies in Haitian culture.
2. Nosferatu (1922) (Amazon)
Another “foundational text” of the horror genre, Nosferatu is the Dracula movie that was made that did not have the rights to Dracula. This forced them to change aspects of the story, though the basic structure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula remains. Max Schreck to this day is one of the most haunting figures in the history of film. It’s also directed by F.W. Murnau, one of the great early directors.
3. Phantom of the Opera (1925) (Amazon)
A famous story of a disfigured man who loves the opera and lives in the bowels of the Opera and the beautiful singer he falls for. If for no other reason, this movie needs to be seen for the unforgettable shot of Mary Philbin removing the mask from Lon Chaney’s Phantom. It’s an iconic movie moment.
4. House on Haunted Hill (1959) (Amazon)
A classic of the 50s that sets the standard for haunted house horror flicks. It implements many different types of scares, from sounds to visuals. A little bit of camp and a breaking of the fourth wall at the end too. It is also one of the best vehicles for an icon of the genre, Vincent Price.
5. Night of the Living Dead (1968) (Amazon)
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” While there were previous films that had zombies in them, this film effectively launched what has become the modern-day zombie sub-genre. George A. Romero’s classic black and white film of the undead rising from their graves became that standard for zombies, slow or fast, going forward. And the ending is truly subversive.
6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (Amazon)
Roman Polanski made an unforgettable classic of psychological horror. The film is steeped in paranoia, except the paranoia is warranted. I have not seen this movie in a number of years, but so many moments in this moments in this movie still linger, from the ritual rape scene to the ending. Chilling stuff. It also garnered a best supporting actress win for Ruth Gordon, something you don’t normally see for horror movies.
7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (Amazon)
This horror film feels as gritty and dirty as it looks on screen. It introduced us to Leatherface and his disturbed, twisted family. There are few things more unsettling than a hulking man wielding a chainsaw and wearing a mask made out of skin. It also established many horror slasher tropes that would follow.
8. Jaws (1975) (Netflix)
Some people may argue that this movie is not horror, but I would certainly argue that it falls into the category of a monster horror movie. Just because the monster is a shark and not some imaginary creature does not change that. To this day, even if I’m in swimming in a lake or, heck, even a pool, Jaws comes to mind. Spielberg’s less-is-more approach may have been something he lucked into with a malfunctioning robot shark, but it paid off big time.
9. Carrie (1976) (Amazon)
It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Picked on in school and tortured at home by a religiously crazed mother, Carrie eventually snaps and channels her inner telekinesis to exact revenge. The film is also significant to film history for several reasons. It was the first of many Stephen King adaptations and it helped launch the career of Brian De Palma, Sissy Spacek and John Travolta.
10. An American Werewolf in London (1981) (Amazon)
Renowned for its special effects make-up, An American Werewolf in London has achieved a cult following since its release in 1981. It’s got equal parts horror and comedy in parts, and not only are the werewolf make-up effects amazing, so are the decaying victims that haunt the main character. It’s directed by John Landis, right in the middle of when he was doing his best work as a director.
11. Gremlins (1984) (Gremlins)
After a few low-budget cult hits, director Joe Dante hit it big in the mainstream with this family-friendly, commercial-friendly comedy horror about a boy gets a pet with three important rules: don’t let it get wet, don’t expose it to bright light, and don’t feed it after midnight. Love the juxtaposition of the cute and cuddly Gizmo and the terrorizing gremlins.
12. Re-Animator (1985) (Netflix)
Pure 80s horror camp, Re-Animator is another cult classic from a very campy period of horror films. Loosely based on a Lovecraft story, it’s a story of medical students bringing the dead back to life through a serum they inject into them. There is some great, campy stuff done with a disembodied head here.
13. Hellraiser (1987) (Netflix)
Pinhead is a unique figure in horror. Coming about in the same general period as Freddy, Jason, and Michael, he is supernatural and tied to the mysterious puzzlebox. The disfigured Cenobites are truly disturbing as well as the films blending of pain, pleasure, hedonism, and torture.
14. Misery (1990) (Amazon)
Another rare horror film that produced an Oscar winner, here for Kathy Bates are her terrifying portrayal of a fangirl who is a little too obsessed with her favorite author. Bates’ Annie Wilkes starts off as a good Samaritan, but turns out to be anything but. Poor James Caan. Poor James Caan’s ankles.
A campy, schlocky, and sleazy vampire flick with Robert Rodriguez directing a Quentin Tarantino script. George Clooney and Tarantino are two criminal outlaws who hijack a family on a camping trip to sneak into Mexico only to stumble across a strip club/brothel run by vampires, led by Selma Hayek. An all-night brawl follows between the vampires and the humans. Also has Harvey Keitel, Danny Trejo, horror legend Tom Savini, and Fred Williamson in the mix.
16. The Others (Amazon)
This ghost movie draws unmistakable influences from the Henry James story The Turn of the Screw and the 1961 adaptation of that, The Innocents. Kidman is very good as the mother caring for her two photosentive children in a haunted house. Director Alejandro Amenebar does a great job establishing an ethereal atmosphere to the surroundings and the ending is a great twist on the haunted house story.
Coming Monday, Part 2!