Who doesn’t love a good spooky story?
Here at Polygon, we’re frequently updating our list of the best horror movies you can watch on streaming services at home. But what about horror TV shows? You’re in luck, dear reader.
Supernatural thrillers, fictional adaptions of real spooky stories, and an under-the-radar pick for the best zombie show on TV — we’ve pulled together this list of terrific horror TV you can watch at home. We haven’t included shows that have strong horror elements but are not strictly horror all the way through, like Twin Peaks (which you can watch on Showtime) or Doom Patrol (which you can watch on HBO Max). Is Twin Peaks a horror show? That’s up to you to decide. What isn’t up for debate is that it rules, just like the shows we’ve listed below.
Got some other favorites not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!
In the late 2000s, TV power couple Robert and Michelle King made one of the best network dramas to ever grace our airwaves in The Good Wife. A decade and change later, they once again have one of the most appealing serials on television: the spiritual horror thriller Evil.
Evil follows a group of supernatural investigators who each have a very different opinion on how real the paranormal is. Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist and a skeptic, David Acosta (Mike Colter) is an aspiring priest and full believer, and Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) is a tech expert who does not believe in any of this at all. And their employer is the Catholic church, by the way.
There are many elements that make Evil so good. It’s a true serial television show in a world filled with long movies disguised as TV; it has a fantastic cast led by the delightful Herbers and a very cheeky Michael Emerson as the central antagonist; and the Kings’ sense of humor shines through silly gags (including The Pop-Up Book of Terrifying Things, which announces each episode’s title) that balance out the show’s darker subject matter.
But Evil isn’t only a breezy TV show — it’s legitimately unsettling. Rather than following the path of spiritual horror laid out by The Exorcist, where the horrors of Catholic mythology are explicitly real, Evil instead smartly leans into agonisticism, rarely ever giving you a clear answer about whether what you saw was supernatural or just weird. Uncertainty is one of the best flavors of horror. —Pete Volk
Evil is available to watch on Paramount Plus.
Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) has made several horror limited series for Netflix, and has another one coming up in The Midnight Club. I’ve heard great things about his first two, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, but Midnight Mass is the only one I’ve made time for. And let me say: it rules.
Midnight Mass takes place in an isolated New England town that is deeply Catholic with a strong conservative bent. When a young man (Zach Gilford) returns to home following a tragic incident, he struggles to re-adapt to the community he left behind. Meanwhile, the town’s longtime priest goes missing, and a mysterious young man (Hamish Linklater) arrives to take his place. The town is quickly captivated by the young man’s charisma, and I’ll just go ahead and let you find out the rest!
Flanagan allows his projects to breathe in an admirable way, giving room for meaty monologues for his actors and room for the audience to digest what they’re intaking. It helps that the cast is chock-full of excellent performances, including Flanagan’s longtime collaborator and wife Kate Siegel, and Rahul Kohli (iZombie) as the Muslim sheriff of the deeply Catholic community. —PV
Midnight Mass is available to watch on Netflix.
FX’s anthology horror series now has multiple seasons, but I’m here to recommend the first one in particular, which made our list of the best new TV shows of 2018. An adaptation of Dan Simmons’ novel, which in turn is a supernatural adaptation of the real events surrounding Captain Sir John Franklin’s disastrous Arctic expedition in the 1840s, The Terror is a tense and contained voyage to the iciest part of the world and chronicles a group of people absolutely losing it. With terrific leading performances by Jared Harris, Ciarán Hinds, and Tobias Menzies, impeccably built tension, and intricately designed sets to die for, The Terror is a Polygon staff favorite for good reason. —PV
The Terror is available to watch on Hulu.
Yeon Sang-ho (Train to Busan, Psychokinesis) absolutely delivered with this straight-to-Netflix dark fantasy show about some mysterious beefy boys who show up and pummel the crap out of random people. Hellbound is at its most interesting when it deals with the ways humans try to rationalize the irrational: The presence of these mysterious life forms leads to a cult who believes they are righteous beings sent to punish sinners. The truth, of course, is not that simple. —PV
Hellbound is available to watch on Netflix.
A spinoff of Z Nation, for my money, Black Summer is the best zombie show on television. Co-created by John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Alone), who directs many of the episodes, the immersive atmosphere of Black Summer brings you right into this zombified world with a ground-level view of people just trying to survive. My quick sell: It’s a deeply human zombie show directed by a highly capable movie director, with plenty of tense and scary moments to give you what you want from the genre. —PV
Black Summer is available to watch on Netflix.
Hannibal isn’t just one of the best horror series ever made, it’s one of the best shows ever made. Showrunner Bryan Fuller’s surprisingly violent, poetic, and thrilling reimagining of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels takes what might have been a rote brand cash-in and instead delivers a subversively humane take on its lurid subject.
What makes Hannibal so frightening — and beautiful — is the way that it centers empathy. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), the criminal profiler at the heart of the show, is so good at his job it frightens him. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is the psychiatrist he’s assigned to work with, unaware that the good doctor is also a cannibalistic murderer. The push and pull of the relationship between the two as their status quo is blown up and reset with shocking regularity is what makes Hannibal a thriller you can’t put down; the poetry of the way these men become metaphors as they see themselves reflected in violence is what makes it transcendent. —Joshua Rivera
Hannibal is available to watch on Hulu or for free with ads on Plex.
Like Hannibal, The Exorcist expands on a popular film franchise in a way that looks cheap in passing. The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films ever made, one equally famous for its many imitators and sequels, most of which can’t sniff the original. But to the few who saw it, Fox’s 2016 sequel series The Exorcist was deserving of the name.
Beautifully shot and legitimately frightening, Jeremy Slater’s sequel doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as it works to take every measure it can to give that wheel meaning. Each of The Exorcist’s two seasons largely focuses around a single family’s haunting, anchoring the spiritual horror of Fathers Tomas Ortega and Marcus Keane (Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels) as they wrestle with what evil really looks like. —JR
The Exorcist is available to watch on Hulu and Prime Video.
The French horror series Marianne is easily one of the scariest shows to grace Netflix since it premiered on the service in 2019. Created by writer-director Samuel Bodin, the series follows Emma Larsimon, a self-destructive yet successful horror writer who is plagued by her memories of Marianne, a malevolent witch that claimed the lives of her friends and terrorized her small town. When Marianne, having possessed the body of one of Emma’s friends, returns to haunt her, Emma must journey back to her hometown in order to put an end to the witch’s cursed existence once and for all. The real star of the series is Mireille Herbstmeyer, whose leering gaze and performance is both deeply unsettling and masterfully ominous. —Toussaint Egan
Marianne is available to watch on Netflix.
The Twilight Zone
When it comes to sci-fi horror TV anthologies, The Twilight Zone just can’t be beat (sorry, The Outer Limits). Rod Serling’s original series, which aired on CBS for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, is packed with iconic stories that speak to the unique zeitgeist of paranoia, uncertainty, and societal change of their era. With cultural touchstones like the William Shatner-led “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the apocalyptic tragedy of “Time Enough at Last,” the dystopian drama of “The Obsolete Man,” and the psychological terror of “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” — one of my personal favorite episodes — there’s a reason why The Twilight Zone has endured for so long: There truly is something for every type of sci-fi and horror fan in this series. —TE
The Twilight Zone is available to watch on Paramount Plus, and two seasons are available for free with ads on Pluto TV.