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The 30 Best Horror Movies on HBO Max to Stream Right Now

Halloween never ends! Despite America’s penchant for spooky stuff during October, some people aren’t satisfied with reserving their demonic delights for just one month of the year. Netflix was once a home to the greatest horror films ever made, but recently their curatation has been slacking. Shudder, a newer site populated exclusively with horror content, has picked up the slack by making rare indie and foreign films available — but it’s missing a lot of classics. 

Luckily, HBO Max has filled in the gaps by showcasing some of the greatest scary movies ever made. From sci-fi-inspired stories to barf-inducing torture-porn, we’re counting down the best horror films currently available on this amazing streaming service.

30. ‘Alien’

Ridley Scott demonstrated his mastery over both sci-fi and horror with Alien, a slow-paced, tightly-wound, suspense-filled, space-nightmare. Sigourney Weaver plays Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, the perfect Final Girl, whose tenacity is pitted against a mysterious xenomorph’s unending viciousness. Disgustingly erotic art design from H.R. Geiger lifts this movie from the typical into the avant-garde. (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection are all currently available on HBO Max — and they’re all excellent in their own ways — but if you only have the patience for one, just stick with the original.)

29. ‘Amityville Horror’ (1979)

Loosely based on a true story about a Long Island family driven from their newly purchased home by malicious phantoms, the original Amityville Horror is surprisingly unsettling. There’s been endless debate about the reality of the claims made by the original supernaturally-plagued clan, but the movie’s impactful either way. Despite bad reviews upon its release, Amityville is widely considered a classic these days. (A 2005 remake of Amityville is also available on HBO Max, but it’s absolutely not worth watching.)

28. ‘Alien vs Predator’

For die-hard Alien fans, AvP is an absolute abomination: this non-canonical fantasy totally obliterates the carefully crafted mythos of Ridley Scott. But if you take the xenomorph fables a little less seriously, Alien Vs Predator is a fun, bloody romp with cute easter eggs throughout and lots of silly ultra-violence. (By the way: the film’s tagline — “Whoever wins, we lose” — is absolute genius.)

27. ‘The Brood’

Cronenberg’s bizarre brand of body horror is taken to a logical conclusion with this psychedelic, psychological, and apocalyptic thriller. We won’t spoil the film’s nauseating final scenes but we’ll warn you that they’re unlike anything you’ve ever seen — unless you’ve been perusing the darkest depths of the horror genre for a while.

26. ‘Day of the Dead’

The third of George Romero’s zombie-filled, anti-capitalist excoriations — Day of the Dead was described by its director as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society.” Taking place after cannibalistic somnambulists have destroyed civilization, Romero continues his socially critical thesis by using zombies as a metaphor for the darkest parts of the human condition.

25. ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

The zombie sub-genre of horror films has been beaten to death (no pun intended) in the past decade, but Jim Jarmusch puts a postmodern twist on all the obvious tropes in his fourth-wall-breaking adventure starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, and Tilda Swinton. Swinton is especially enjoyable as an impeccably styled mortician with a special interest in samurai swords.

24. ‘Death Becomes Her’

The category is…undead opulence! Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Isabella Rossellini play a trio of rich women blessed with eternal life after drinking a magical potion. Streep and Hawn then battle for Bruce Willis’s love (and money) while tearing each other apart — literally. Death Becomes Her is one of the few horror films that have ever snatched a much-deserved Oscar; the movie’s beautiful costuming has since gone on to inspire countless drag looks and tributes from fashionistas.

23. ‘Eraserhead’

Arthouse horror fans have likely studied every allegorical frame of David Lynch’s earliest masterpiece, Eraserhead. It’s not a conventional movie by any means, but Lynch’s thorough understanding of the cinematic structure of nightmares is fully realized in this surrealist classic about a father that’s terrified of his deformed child.

22. ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’

New Nightmare is technically the seventh film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. One might assume there’s no new territory to cover, but Craven inserts himself into the film as a protagonist, turning the series into a metacommentary on horror cinema rather than a conventional slasher.

21. ‘Freddy vs Jason’

Much like Alien vs Predator, if you’re a horror die-hard who cares about canonicity, Freddy vs Jason isn’t for you. Campy pleasures abound in this unapologetically stupid crossover. Kelly Rowland (yes, from Destiny’s Child) serves a series of classic early 2000’s looks while watching her friends get butchered by these beloved villains. 

20. ‘Godzilla’ (1954)

After endless spinoffs, reboots, adaptations, and sequels, it’s hard to imagine how impactful the original Godzilla truly is. Yes, it comes off as campy nowadays — but as a reflection of post-WWII nuclear anxieties, it’s a lot more cerebral than it’s usually given credit for. Besides, considering the technical limitations of that time, it’s a gorgeously crafted Kaiju creation.

19. ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch’

What can be said about Gremlins 2 that Key and Peele didn’t already cover in their infamously zany sketch about this unimaginably goofy film? Electricity gremlin: it’s in the movie! Spider gremlin: it’s in the movie! Hulk Hogan: he’s in the movie! Gremlins 2 is a hat on top of a hat on top of a hat: the movie is an exercise in over-abundance and has even become the subject of academic analysis for its strangely incisive dystopian setting — despite it having almost nothing to do with the original movie that spawned it. 

18. ‘Haxan’

Haxan is a 1922 Swedish/Danish silent film that documents the cultural understanding of witchcraft throughout history. It sounds pretty dry, but the makeup, styling, and special effects are absolutely stunning and — occasionally — extremely funny. Haxan has become a cult classic amongst occultists for its shocking depictions of demonic dealings.

17. ‘House (AKA Hausu)’

Director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s hyper-color horror masterpiece is an oddly touching and deeply sincere story about cartoonishly characterized Japanese teenagers being overtaken by phantoms and ghouls during summer vacation. The scenery and set design are charmingly cheap, yet stunningly beautiful: hand-painted backgrounds and clever psychedelic special effects make this a unique entry into the horror genre — totally incomparable with anything that comes from the West.

16. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

As an ostensibly middle-brow horror film with high-brow aspirations, Jacob’s Ladder hits a perfect sweet spot between intellectual complexity and accessibility. In fewer words: it’s genuinely extremely scary, but also actually has something to say. Cinematography techniques pioneered in this movie have been endlessly borrowed by lesser filmmakers — but the film has also gone on to inspire horror media like Silent Hill and American Horror Story.

15. ‘Jaws’

In retrospect, Jaws is definitely a little bit boring — but its influence as an undeniable cultural phenomenon makes it unmissable for true horror fans. The pacing is slow, the story is threadbare, and the characters are all kind of annoying — but the suspense built by Spielberg is masterfully gut-wrenching. It turns out that by showing the eponymous shark as little as possible, audiences build up the terror of the sea monster in their own minds.

14. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Horror musicals aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but lovingly detailed puppetry from the Jim Henson Company and an absolutely enthralling performance by Ellen Greene elevate this adorable musical out of the realm of kitsch. The music is certainly a bit schmaltzy but it’s impossible to finish the film without getting at least one stuck in your head.

13. ‘Ma’

Octavia Spencer plays the eponymous anti-hero in this racially complex social thriller. It’s obvious in certain spots throughout this film where studio meddling forced the violence to be toned down — but Spencer’s unhinged, Oscar-worthy performance easily saves the film from an otherwise dreary and forgettable fate. 

12. ‘Mothra Vs Godzilla’

With the exception of Hideaki Anno’s politically dense Shin Godzilla, Mothra Vs. Godzilla is the standout spinoff of the original kaiju film. The mythos surrounding the eponymous winged monster is endearingly complex — and there’s something ineffably glamorous about the insectoid titan and her colorfully-dressed adherents. 

11. ‘Multiple Maniacs’

For a time, John Waters’s Multiple Maniacs was absolutely impossible to find. Luckily, Criterion snatched up a rare print of this perverted classic, and their gorgeously rendered restoration is a filthy treat. The ludicrously glamorous drag queen Divine embarks on a series of stomach-churning misadventures in this midnight movie — until a lesbian experience in a church transforms her from a raunchy madame into a pious worshipper of a deranged god. Waters’ unabashed queerness and putrid charm shine through every shot of this psychotic ode to lewdity.

10. ‘Night of the Living Dead’

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is considered the first zombie movie ever made and is one of the rare horror films from that time period to feature a Black male protagonist. That casting choice smartly changes the entire context of the movie — especially its depressing conclusion. Both historically important and hauntingly shot, Night of the Living Dead is a groundbreaking horror movie that deserves the veneration it’s received since its release in 1968.

9. ‘Poltergeist’

Tobe Hooper and Steven Speilberg’s unexpected team-up in 1982 wound up producing one of the most iconic American films ever made. Big budget special effects bring this ghost story to life, but amazing performances from the entire cast give the movie a real emotional core. Besides, who can resist a horror film with a reputation for being actually cursed?

8. ‘Red Dragon’

Thomas Harris’s Hannibal tetralogy, detailing the unthinkable crimes of the fictional cannibal Dr. Lecter, has been spun off into an extremely profitable franchise of films and TV shows. Red Dragon, a prequel to Silence of the Lambs, explores the psychological turmoil of Detective Will Graham as he attempts to solve a serial killing with the aid of the series’ nefarious maneater. Edward Norton and Anthony Hopkins create a gripping air of suspense throughout, but the sickening love story at the center of the film is really where Harris’s excellent plotting and emotional sophistication shine through. 

7. ‘Saw’

Seven Saw films are all currently available on HBO Max, but the first one’s the only entry in the series that’s truly essential (although Saw VI definitely deserves critical reappraisal). The truly shocking twist that ends the movie turned this low-budget torture-porn into a novelty amongst college kids and more casual horror fans, but the whole film reveals itself to be shockingly clever upon second and third viewings. It’s easy — and not wrong — to accuse directors James Wan and Leigh Whannel of ripping off David Fincher’s Se7en, but Saw has its own distinct charm.

6. ‘Scanners’

At this point, Scanners is better known as the source of the infamously graphic exploding head gif than for its actual artistic merit. Cronenberg’s twisted sci-fi horror movie, about telekinetically gifted humans being hunted by a shadowy mega-corporation, was given middling reviews upon its release in 1981, but the movie’s use of extremely gruesome special effects and its oddly prescient dystopian setting has garnered the movie a cult following in the ensuing decades. 

5. ‘Scream’

Wes Craven established himself as a master of postmodern horror with Scream, a movie that broke all the rules of slasher cinema by saying them out loud. A star-studded cast and extremely smart scripting that is supremely intelligent without being totally boring made this movie a 90’s classic. (Needless to say, the fashion of this film is also undeniably iconic.)  By deconstructing the Final Girl trope, Scream catalyzed a newfound critical interest in horror while endearing teenage fans looking for something fresher and less formulaic than what had come before it.

4. ‘Shaun of the Dead’

It’s truly unfortunate that this movie wound up inspiring an unending series of insipid and inferior zomcom movies, because Shaun of the Dead is actually extremely funny. British comedians Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are obviously venerating the pioneering work of George Romero in this loving sendup about an undead invasion — but their reverence for the genre doesn’t stop them from spoofing the style’s stupidest tropes. 

3. ‘The Shining’

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made — regardless of genre. Stephen King continues to loathe the auteur’s hyper-stylish interpretation of his novel, but let’s face it — this is one of the rare instances where the movie’s a lot better than the book. Shelly Duval and Jack Nicholson are a match made in hell, playing a married couple driven mad by isolation and resentment while caretaking an abandoned hotel during a snowstorm. But is the Overlook haunted — or are they both going insane?

2. ‘Corpse Bride’

In Corpse Bride, an effete aristocrat finds himself unwittingly betrothed to an undead beauty. The amount of work that went into creating every second of this lushly animated stop-motion film is hard to fathom: every shot is so densely detailed and beautifully composed that the movie’s somewhat corny, kid-friendly plot is easy to ignore in favor of the astonishing artistry. Burton’s idiosyncratic vision of the afterlife remains both adorable and strikingly original. 

1. ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’

When Twin Peaks ended in 1991, fans were left on a total cliffhanger. A few years later, David Lynch returned to his mysterious fictional town with a movie that ostensibly serves as a prequel for the show — although absolutely nothing is clarified or explained in this deeply terrifying film. Meditating on protagonist Laura Palmer’s immense suffering, Fire Walk With Me explores the psychological impact of sexual trauma through an indecipherably surreal lens. 

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