Few things are better than making some popcorn, turning off the lights, and letting a movie scare the heck out of you. But with so many streaming services out there, it’s hard to know where to best get your horror fix. Luckily HBO Max has a steep selection of horror titles for you to peruse. From classics to new entries, they have you covered. And the variety included offers choices whether you like your scares to come with a dose of humor, action, surrealism or none of the above. Here are just some of the great horror titles HBO Max currently has on offer…
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Dan O’Bannon
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
HBO Max has pretty much the entire Alien series, but even James Cameron’s classic action sequel cannot hold a candle to Ridley Scott’s original when it comes to dread, atmosphere and sheer terror. Alien is not only one of the best horror films ever made, it’s low-key one of the best slashers you can find. The film utilizes a slow burn at first, taking its time setting everything up. But once that iconic chest-burster scene hits, you’re in for a ride that doesn’t let up until the credits roll and Ripley is safe (or so she thinks). Put it on if only to remind yourself that outer space is horrible and no one should ever, ever go there.
The Invisible Man
Director/Writer: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman
In 2020, Saw’s Leigh Whannell updated this Universal Monster to the modern era. No longer beholden to the questionable science of a magic potion, this film’s invisible man dons a technologically advanced suit that keeps him hidden from sight. The terrifying part is that he uses it to torture and frame his ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss) as punishment for leaving him, something a lot of people can, unfortunately, relate to. The Invisible Man has violence to spare (one scene in particular will shock you), but its main focus is soaking you in dread for an attack you’ll never see coming.
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Cast: Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard, Drew Barrymore
Once upon a time, Scream was fresh and new and responsible for bringing slasher films back to theaters in a big way. Now it’s a classic with four sequels (so far). Funny how time works. Nevertheless, all these years have done nothing to dull Scream’s edge. The characters have so much charm and chemistry, no one’s been brave enough to kill most of them yet. But that doesn’t mean people don’t die. Scream’s slasher bonafides remain secure, from its first, famous kill to its big showdown finale. On top of being an excellent slasher, it also offers a top-notch whodunnit that you should not spoil ahead of time if you don’t already know.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleg, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott
How do you take your IT? The updated 2017 two-parter, or the 1990 mini-series? HBO Max offers all the IT, so you’re free to choose which version of Derry, Maine you want to spend your time in. They both have their strengths, but the 2017 version pulls ahead just a bit thanks to its amazing cast of child actors and R-rated thrills. Tim Curry’s original take on Pennywise can’t be beaten, but the new version benefits from top-notch creature work to drum up more explicit scares. In any case, this is definitely one of the most horrifying coming-of-age stories out there. Whichever version you go with, you can’t really choose wrong.
An American Werewolf in London
Director/Writer: John Landis
Cast: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine
Everyone remembers this film for its famous (and still yet to be topped) werewolf transformation, but there is so much more to this story about two idiot Americans who run afoul of a werewolf in the English countryside. One bites the dust, the other gets turned. The film doesn’t utilize traditional horror structure, focusing on character more than you might expect, to the extent that it surprises you when it does actually turn into a bloodbath. This is just one of those films every horror fan needs to see. And if you’ve already seen it, time for a rewatch. It hits a little bit different with every viewing.
Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Writers: George A. Romero and John Russo
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, Keith Wayne
You can’t get more classic than Night of the Living Dead. George A Romero’s 1968 epic not only kicked off the entire zombie genre, but did so with a sharp eye for social commentary that still hits home. Romero would later expand his vision with Dawn and Day of the Dead (the latter of which is also on HBO Max), but there is something special about the claustrophobic terror of this first entry. Night of the Living Dead throws viewers into a situation that must be dealt with long before it gets understood. It’s a bleak film, too. The various survival schemes its characters concoct feel hopeless before they even begin, but there’s not much you’d be able to do differently in their situation, which is what makes it all so terrifying.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director/Writer: Wes Craven
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakley
HBO Max offers every Nightmare on Elm Street movie save for Dream Warriors. Yes, even the remake. You’re not going to find a more imaginative slasher series, and that originality hits right away in its first entry. Freddy Krueger doesn’t start off as a quip-slinging goofball. Though he does speak in A Nightmare on Elm Street, he’s not here to make jokes. There is a sincerely grotesque and lecherous nature to him, making him as scary as he is captivating. On top of the iconic villain, you also have the added horror of his surreal dreamworld, where no one who succumbs to sleep is safe.
Director: Stephen Norrington
Writer: David S. Goyer
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Sanaa Lathan, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier
In a lot of ways, Blade is more of an action film than horror. But it’s about vampires, so technically horror is where you’d put it in the video store. All three Blade films are on HBO Max, but the first one is the best by a long shot (sorry, Guillermo del Toro). Wesley Snipes is simply too cool for school as the Daywalker, a vampire-human hybrid who hunts vampires with his crusty old sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). An R-rated comic book movie made long before such things were in fashion, Blade still manages to feel both modern and cool. And also it begins with the vampires having a literal blood rave.
Director: William Eubank
Writers: Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher, Jr.
This under-seen gem from 2020 stars Kristen Stewart as a crew-member of a scientific team at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the ocean, where every little thing can kill you. It turns out, something down there wants to do just that. Made in the Alien mold, Underwater is a quick and vibrant bit of survival horror with a Lovecraftian antagonist that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you have. Turn off the lights and get ready to have a blast.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
If you like your nautical horror above water, it’s hard to imagine a better film for it than Jaws, which is also on HBO Max (along with all its sequels). Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece only gets better with age, and though he rarely gives us a good look at the shark, he still manages to give us plenty of reasons to fear it. Jaws offers a little bit of everything. It’s funny, the characters are all perfect, and the setting feels real and lived in. Halfway through, it becomes a gloriously claustrophobic men-on-a-mission movie. But that whole time, he keeps the dread coming. The fact is, we don’t know what’s underneath us when we swim. And fun as the film can be, Jaws kept people out of the water for a long, long time.
Snakes on a Plane
Director: David R. Ellis
Writers: John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale, Flex Alexander, Todd Louiso, Sunny Mabrey, Kenan Thompson, Elsa Pataky, David Koechner
Is it scary? Not really. But it does feature monstrous creatures that kill people, so it counts. Plus, for a goofball b-movie in an enclosed space, you could do worse. Snakes on a Plane is really just about one thing: Samuel Jackson and his inability to tolerate snakes on his plane. And there are quite a few snakes on his plane. How does he get the snakes off his plane? Well, that’s the fun of it, right? It’s not Shakespeare… heck, it’s not even Anaconda. Nevertheless, there was a moment where the world had Snakes on a Plane fever, and maybe that’s not such a bad time to revisit.
The Girl With All the Gifts
Director: Colm McCarthy
Screenwriter: Mike Carey
Cast: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Dominique Tipper, Paddy Considine
With so many zombie movies out there, it can be refreshing when one takes the formula new places. That’s exactly what you get with 2016’s The Girl with All the Gifts. The film has an interesting premise: years after the world has been taken out by a zombie-like plague, survivors try to gleam hope by studying a new generation of children who are essentially zombies that also think and speak and learn. In other words, they look like regular people but will eat your guts when they get a hankering for it. With a surprising all-star cast including Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, and Gemma Arterton, The Girl with All the Gifts takes a different approach to zombie horror, but certainly does not hold back when it comes to displaying that horror. Fans of the genre should definitely check it out.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Director: David Lynch
Writers: David Lynch and Robert Engels
Cast: Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan
Many define Twin Peaks by its central mystery. Or perhaps it’s the memory of Dale Cooper, praising a perfect cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s the surreal imagery of the Black Lodge that stays with you. The horror of it often gets overlooked. Fire Walk With Me fans beg to differ. Freed from the confines of television, David Lynch goes all-out here, telling the horrific story of Laura Palmer’s murder. It is surreal, yes. It never bothers to hold your hand, and even if you study it intensely, you won’t find an answer for everything. But the darkness of the imagery and the nightmarish details of Lynch’s world will definitely haunt you long after the movie ends.
Friday the 13th
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears, Ryan Hanson, Willa Ford
One of HBO Max’s few Friday the 13th entries happens to be the surprisingly excellent 2009 remake, which means you’re in pretty good shape if you have Jason Voorhees on the mind. The film manages to actually remake the first three Friday the 13th films all in one go and does so with some truly interesting victim characters as well as new wrinkles to the Jason mythos. If all remakes could just be this good, there’d be a whole lot less complaining each time a new one is announced. The only sad part is they didn’t make any more.
Director: William Friedkin
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow
Oh, I don’t know. It’s just The Exorcist. Only one of the most terrifying films ever made. You know the story already. William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel focuses on the possession of an innocent little girl by the demon Pazuzu. The spinning head and pea soup vomit is iconic but the film’s horror changes over time. Do you identify with poor Regan, who has her body hijacked and mangled? Or do you feel more for Regan’s mother, who has to watch her daughter suffer through the ordeal? Or is it the priests and their struggle with faith that moves you? It’s a different movie not only depending on who watches but when in their life they hit play, indicating deep substance beyond just the scary imagery.
Director/Writer: David Cronenberg
Cast: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Nuala Fitzgerald
What’s a horror library without any David Cronenberg? Luckily, HBO Max currently offers The Brood. If you haven’t seen it, get ready for some of the creepiest kids ever put to film. Starring the masculine Adonis known as Oliver Reed, The Brood is about… well, it’s hard to explain. It’s Cronenberg, so you’re going to get some interesting body horror imagery, but at the end of the day it’s all about the titular Brood, a group of murderous kids you do not want trick-or-treating in your neighborhood. The rest is for you to discover, if you have the guts.