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The 22 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Instant

October 26, 2012  |  10:49am
Of the more than 750 horror movies available on Netflix Instant, we’d wager that about 700 of them are pretty terrible, with titles like Zombie Women of Satan, 1313: Couger Cult, Vampegeddon and Frankenqueen. But there are some gems in there if you can find them. We’ve made that a little easier with our list of the 20 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Instant. We’ll update the list as Netflix updates its selection.

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10. The Phantom of the Opera
Year: 1925
Director: Rupert Julian
Although it owes an unmistakable debut to another patron of this list, Nosferatu, this ghastly and spectacular take on the story retains its shock value and preceded some honored horror traditions of its own. Garish and extravagant, the movie is unrivaled as a seedy, over-the-top epic of the macabre.—Sean Gandert

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9. The Thing
Year: 1982
Director: John Carpenter
Starring a never-more-grizzled Kurt Russell and his epic beard, John Carpenter’s remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World is a different beast altogether. An horrific, slimy, pissed-off beast at that. Perfectly evoking Reagen-era Cold War paranoia, Carpenter’s Thing also boasts creature effects that remain as grotesquely terrifying 30 years later. And hey—how many other films do you get to see with the Quaker Oates guy going berserk with an axe?—Scott Wold

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8. Little Shop of Horrors
Year: 1925
Director: Frank Oz
Yes, the man who brought Cookie Monster, Miss Piggy and Yoda to life also gave us Audrey II, a blood-thirsty, man-eating plant from outer space. Adapted from an off-Broadway musical, the sci-fi/comedy/horror stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia and, of course, Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist. The words “Feed me, Seymour” get creepier and creepier as the movie progresses.—Josh Jackson

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7. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Year: 1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Tim Burton, David Lynch and Dario Argento all owe a great debt to director Robert Wiene and cinematographer Willy Hameister for this surreal, disorienting contribution to German Expressionist cinema. Dr. Caligari stands out for its fully painted sets devoid of any right angles, creating a skewed dream world that would be imitated in the feverish works of animators and horror auteurs for decades. The sleep-walking zombie and mind-fuck ending are just an added bonus to one the most visually arrestinghorror fantasies ever made.—Sean Edgar

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6. Hour of the Wolf
Year: 1968
Director: Ingmar Bergman
While all of his films addressed certain inevitable horrors of the human condition, Hour of the Wolf was Ingmar Bergman’s only true horror film, with Max Van Sydow as a haunted artist and Liv Ullmann his young wife. The story is loose and vague, with a fever dream logic that mixes the banal (a dinner party, household routines, insomnia) with the chilling (a terrifying dinner party, an abrupt act of violence upon a child). Thanks to its unsettling imagery and disquieting sound design, the film’s horrors remain potent long after the credits have rolled.—Stephen M. Deusner

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5. Children of the Corn
Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Neb., lead by redheaded terror Malachai who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the ax. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on us as a society. And like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks towards our kids to point out the oddities of our culture, including an obsession with religion.—Tyler Kane

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4. An American Werewolf in London
Year: 1981
Director: John Landis
There’s gallows humor, then there’s the more direct approach of a-wolf-tearing-out-one’s-esophagus humor. John Landis’ other werewolf (non-King of Pop) entry is practically an overachiever in balancing its genuinely scary-as-hell moments with scenes of absurd levity. Rick Baker’s wolfen SFX also serves as evidence that David Cronenberg didn’t hold the monopoly on bodily horror during the ’80s, nor Industrial Light and Magic the monopoly on putting the fantastic on film. —Scott Wold

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3. Nosferatu
Year: 1922
Director: F. W. Marnau
F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind.—Sean Gandert

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2. Let the Right One In
Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampire stories are plastered all over American pop culture these days (True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries), but leave it to the Swedes to produce a vampire film that manages to be both sweet and frightening. The friendship between Oskar, a scrawny, 12-year-old outcast, and Eli, a centuries-old vampire frozen in the body of a child, is a chilling but beautiful story to behold.—Jeremy Medina

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1. The Omen
Year: 1976
Director: Richard Donner
If you’re considering bringing a child into this world, we’d recommend staying away from the 1976’s horror classic The Omen. The film follows an American ambassador Robert Thorn whose adopted son, Damien, slowly unravels himself to be the antichrist, inspiring disturbing scene after scene. Director Richard Donner brings us memorable, creepy imagery, including a nanny who kills herself in front of a birthday party (“I did it for you, Damien. Look at me!” is by far the most stirring line in the movie), vicious rottweilers, and ultimately, the big unveiling of the number of the beast under Damien’s hair. And although it lacks in the physical horror this list is full of, The Omen delivers the fear in gallons.—Tyler Kane

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