When you spend as much time as we do assessing and ranking the content available on all the major streaming services, it’s inevitable that you eventually come to know all of their libraries like the back of your hand. Even with the monthly influx of new content, and the loss of departing titles, the culture writers at Paste have developed a deep and abiding familiarity with exactly what is available on every major streamer—enough to tell at a glance what each one does well, and where each is weakest.
As we indulge in our annual celebration of the Halloween season, complete with another year of the ABCs of Horror, it occurred to me that I should use what has become an almost encyclopedic knowledge of streaming horror catalogs to conduct a ranking of the services themselves, in order to answer a question that many fans are surely asking right now: Which streamer is best for horror? Who has the biggest overall horror library? Which library has the most classic films? Who has the best originals? And if you’re only going to use a couple of streaming services this October, which should they be?
So join us as we dive into the relative merits of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and beyond when it comes to the horror genre. We’ll begin with the worst services for horror movies, and work our way back up to the top.
Pros: Small collection of family friendly Halloween classics.
Cons: It’s Disney’s streaming service. This was always going to be last.
There should be no surprise here—Disney+ is the only one of the major streaming services where the theme of the service more or less precludes graphic horror content in the first place. Suffice to say, you’re never going to see anything really chilling on this particular streamer, as the genre just doesn’t really fit with mission statement.
With that said, there is a small array of classic, family friendly Halloween content to which Disney holds the rights, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus. Beyond those flagship titles, which form the crux of Disney’s Halloween marketing, you have an odd array of Disney Channel original movies such as Halloweentown, Mr. Boogedy and Don’t Look Under the Bed. And don’t sleep on the possibly unintentional frights of the famously weird Return to Oz, either.
Pros: Strange, eclectic horror selection.
Cons: Very heavy on public domain and unwanted B-movies.
When you look at the horror library on Paramount+, what you primarily see is a service using cheap films to project the appearance of a robust lineup, in order to cover up the fact that they don’t have a lot of high-profile horror fare. Even in comparison with some of the other streaming services that have a lot of trash on them, a notably high percentage of the horror movies on Paramount+ are titles that fall into the public domain, or they’re 60-year-old B-movies that have since become episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, such as Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Incredible Melting Man or Track of the Moon Beast. No one is watching these movies in their original forms, rather than with amusing commentary.
On the positive side, there’s a (quite small) smattering of quality titles, which include films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a few random Friday the 13th sequels. One of the best things about Paramount+ right now is that they have a few classic Vincent Price horror films as well, including some Roger Corman collaborations (The Haunted Palace) and the classic Theater of Blood. But in general, this horror library is defined by its “filler” selections.
Pros: Some solid original films, big selection of Indian horror.
Cons: Very static lineup, extremely dependent upon originals.
As recently as a couple years ago, Netflix wouldn’t have been near the bottom of this particular list. Once upon a time, Netflix was among the better streaming services for horror movies, with a fairly robust lineup of eclectic horror films in a variety of subgenres. Over time, however, those titles have slowly melted away, to be replaced with a steady stream of Netflix originals. And although many of those originals are quality horror films, the extreme reliance upon them has become a double-edged sword for Netflix, who has been edged out by their competitors in terms of being able to offer a novel experience as their lineup has stagnated.
I really don’t mean to slag the collection of original horror films that Netflix has assembled in recent years, because there’s some really good stuff there, from Apostle and His House to The Ritual, Hush and even the Fear Street trilogy. The problem is that once you’ve seen Netflix’s original horror films, the pickings become very slim, and there are seemingly fewer quality titles on a monthly basis. This has the effect of making the Netflix horror library seem very stagnant indeed.
One notable exception is actually horror cinema from India, where Netflix has a truly sprawling collection that absolutely dwarfs any other streamer. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s one niche that Netflix has served very well. To check out our full list of the best horror streaming on Netflix, click here.
Pros: Small but surprisingly high quality library, Universal Monsters content
Cons: Small library, very unwieldy UI.
The main knock on the Peacock film library is typically that it’s still pretty small in terms of size and scope. That holds true here, but the service manages to one-up Netflix this October by the fact that they’ve shelled out for some marquee content. Peacock is notably the only one of the major streamers this year that has access to some Universal Monsters content, including films like the original Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. They can also now boast some quality indie horror like It Follows, along with most of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, which are always a big get. Granted, most of those films are only available to Peacock Premium or Premium Plus subscribers, but that’s to be expected.
The downside, unfortunately, is that it’s difficult to ultimately tell exactly how robust the Peacock horror library is because there doesn’t seem to be an option to browse the entire genre from A-Z on the service. The streamer’s UI is deeply confusing, obsessed with the concept of grouping its films together in themed collections rather than simply allowing the user to browse through all of them to gauge its depth. This ultimately holds it back from perhaps ranking even higher.
Pros: Surprisingly eclectic library of films that continues to grow, with solid originals
Cons: Still less robust than others.
I’m not certain if the Hulu horror library is actually larger than the Peacock one, but what I can tell you is that they don’t make it difficult to browse in its entirety, which reveals that they have a pretty decent slate of quality films. The top in particular is anchored by some all-time great films such as Let the Right One In, Take Shelter and Beetlejuice, supported by great Korean flicks like Memories of Murder and The Host. Then you can add in some solid original titles such as Little Monsters, Bad Hair and Run, along with indie films such as Possessor and Southbound, and overall you’re doing pretty well!
The Hulu horror library also benefits from the fact that it’s seemingly been pretty steady in the last few years—unlike the Netflix library, which has contracted and become so dependent upon originals, the Hulu one has actually grown a bit, which has allowed them to finally surpass Netflix in this regard. They’re not trouncing their competition, but they’re on a good trajectory. To check out our full list of the best horror on Hulu, click here.
Pros: Quite a large library, some obscure selections.
Cons: Library is smaller than before, consistent issues of UI and organization.
As recently as last year, there’s a strong chance that Prime Video actually would have been right at the top of this list, but they’ve lost a few steps recently when it comes to the depth of this horror library. Rest assured, it’s still quite a large library, but it’s been pared down greatly from the behemoth it was before, with titles shuttled over to other streaming services, or Amazon’s own ad-supported IMDb TV. A few months ago, we saw a purge of the Amazon library in which many titles overnight went from “free with Prime” to available to rent, and the service is also hindered to some degree by its difficult UI, something we’ve written about in great detail.
With all that said, there’s still a good amount of quality horror content here, covering a number of bases from modern indie hits to historic classics. Highlights include films such as The Descent, The Wicker Man, The Wailing, Hellraiser and The Lighthouse, along with a good amount of weird ‘80s cinema like House, Lair of the White Worm and Chopping Mall. Even in a somewhat reduced state, Amazon is one of the better streamers for horror, provided you can get past the UI. To check out our full list of Amazon Prime Video horror, click here.
Pros: Incomparably vast library stuffed to the gills with obscure horror films of all description.
Cons: Ad supported; an almost complete lack of organization of any kind.
Until very recently, I simply wasn’t aware of just how ridiculously vast the library at Tubi had become. This is the new Amazon Prime, folks, in terms of a library so big that it’s essentially an ocean without end—I tried to scroll to the bottom of the horror genre on Tubi, and it simply kept reloading ad infinitum. The sheer size of it seems to dwarf any other streamer’s horror library, with thousands of titles at least.
The good news is that there’s lots of great movies buried among those thousands of titles: Everything from classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Fog, The Changeling and Candyman to modern greats like The Invitation, Train to Busan and The Descent.
The bad news is that these movies are surrounded by so much straight-to-VOD garbage that it’s very, very difficult to find them, and Tubi suffers from a complete lack of organization when it comes to genres. There’s no way to reorder the list, in fact—no subgenres, no categories, no ability to reorder by year or by A-Z. It’s simply a few thousand films arranged in no particular order, which means you’ll have to search for what you want to find individually. And of course, the free (but ad supported) nature of the service is both a plus and minus as well. All in all, Tubi is great for the fact that it offers a lot of obscure horror that no other streamer has access to, but using it is a somewhat chaotic experience.
Pros: Highly curated horror library with particular eye for iconic classics of the genre.
Cons: Smaller overall than some of its competitors.
With so many of the major streamers focusing on volume, direct-to-VOD films, and public domain stuff in their horror libraries, it’s easy to appreciate HBO Max’s relative focus on curation and higher quality titles—they simply don’t stuff their library with as much low-rent garbage as other services, and it makes HBO Max one of the easiest horror selections to find quality titles while browsing. Their horror library makes room for classics of the genre (The Shining, Poltergeist, Eraserhead) and historic films (King Kong, Godzilla) more than any of the other major streamers, while also being full of foreign language classics such as Japan’s Kwaidan and Onibaba. To that, you can add some gnarly ‘80s classics like Return of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Evil Dead, and you’ve got a really nicely balanced lineup. In fact, I’d say there are no particular weaknesses to the HBO Max horror lineup—the only knock would be that it’s not quite as large as a few of the others, but the focus on quality definitely counts for a lot. To check out our full list of the best horror movies on HBO Max, click here.
Pros: Vast, well-curated library with a good mix of genres and titles, solid originals.
Cons: Size of the library varies occasionally.
It’s really only a sense of proportion that keeps our list of the best horror movies on Shudder at 50 entries—it could easily be a 100-item list, given the overall strength of the library here. It’s perhaps unsurprising if you’re familiar with Shudder; after all, shouldn’t a horror-focused streamer probably have the best overall horror library? But indeed they do, when all is said and done—it’s actually probably significantly smaller than the monstrous Tubi library, but the films here are much better organized and curated, and it likewise has an ever-expanding selection of original programming that is just getting better and better. As a service, Shudder delivers more or less what you would want it to deliver.
As for the content, access to John Carpenter’s Halloween (and a few of the sequels) is a nice feather in their cap, along with classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Carrie and The Changeling. There’s a wealth of modern indie horror, a la Daniel Isn’t Real or After Midnight, and I have to give Shudder props for its wonderful lineup of giallo films as well, including the likes of Deep Red and Stagefright. It’s also particularly rich in 1980s standouts, like Re-Animator, Day of the Dead and Sleepaway Camp.
Moreover, Shudder’s originals are often highly touted films from up-and-coming horror directors, such as this year’s well-reviewed The Boy Behind the Door, or others like Revenge, Scare Me or Impetigore. And over on the TV side, you’ve got the Creepshow revival, and the return of Joe Bob Briggs adding commentary to films in the Shudder library via The Last Drive-In. All in all, it’s a very hard collection of assets to top. Perhaps the only knock on Shudder is that the library is always in flux like all streaming services, and it has grown substantially larger and smaller at different points in the last few years. But at this point, that’s a fairly minor nitpick—at the end of the day, it remains the premier streamer on the scene today when it comes to horror. To check out our full list of the best horror on Shudder, click here.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.