The 16 Best Horror Movies On HBO Max Right Now

HBO Max is still one of the younger players in the streaming game, but they've already made a big splash thanks to their pandemic-fueled decision to premiere new Warner Bros. releases simultaneously in theaters and on the service. The experiment will end at the end of 2021, at which point the ultimate merits of the decision will be debated back and forth — but I'm here to say that high profile move isn't even HBO Max's greatest asset.

Shiny new releases get all the ink, but it's the deep and dense back catalog of titles that sees HBO Max standing out in a crowded field. Their selection of past movies and television shows is impressive, and this being the spooky season we decided to dig into their horror offerings to highlight films worth seeing. While streamers like Netflix are focused on recent titles, HBO Max features a wide selection of older films too. 

With that in mind, I've rounded up the best horror movies currently available on HBO Max — two from each decade over the past seventy years — and all of them are worth your time. Whether you're planning a marathon or just looking for a spooky gem before bed, this list is for you.


While its dark twists and devious turns have been remade and ripped off many times over the years, Henri-Georges Clouzot's "Diabolique" (1955) remains his definitive masterpiece. The film is set at a boarding school outside Paris, run by a cruelly indifferent headmaster who only wants to sell the place and move back to the city. Unfortunately for him, it's his wife who owns the property. He mistreats both her and his mistress until the two women collaborate to murder their tormenter, but both god and the devil laugh at human plans.

Clouzot transforms the school into a hauntingly atmospheric locale, complete with evil intentions and ghostly visages, and both female leads demand viewer attention and empathy with strong performances. Alfred Hitchcock wanted to adapt the source novel, "She Who Was No More" by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac, but Clouzot snapped up the rights, forcing the famed British director to wait for their next book instead. (Don't cry for Hitchcock, though, as that next book became "Vertigo.") If you're looking for a nerve-wracking double-feature, you can hardly do better than "Diabolique" and Clouzot's previous film, "The Wages of Fear." Just make sure you keep your heart medication in close reach.

The Blob

I'm an unapologetic fan of the late-80s remake, but it's hard to deny the appeal of 1958's just silly enough creature-feature, "The Blob." It's been riffed on numerous times since with films like "Creepshow" and "Killer Klowns from Outer Space," but just try not to enjoy Steve McQueen — in his feature debut! — as a "teenager" going toe to toe with some murderous Jell-O from outer space. This being the 50s, the film lets the gelatinous terror grow slowly as it absorbs one individual after the next even as teens drag race, have dust ups with authorities, and find true love. They're rebels, Dottie!

Little was expected from the film, as evidenced by it being released on a double feature with "I Married a Monster from Outer Space," but it became a success for obvious reasons — and by obvious reasons I of course mean this chart-topping title song. One curiously prophetic note on the film: it ends with the realization that the blob doesn't like cold temperatures which make it literally freeze in place. The Air Force ships it off to the North Pole where it will remain imprisoned "as long as the Arctic stays cold." A question mark literally appears on screen, and now sixty-two-years later we get stories about rising arctic air temperatures. Beware the blob, indeed.

Carnival of Souls

Organ music is already inherently creepy for anyone who grew up attending church on a regular basis, but this gem of a horror thriller takes the instrument's nightmare-inducing qualities to the next level. A young woman riding in a car with friends careens off a bridge into a fast-moving river, and she's the sole survivor. Her memory's hazy, but she moves on with her life. She heads to Salt Lake City, and becomes an organist for a small church. So far so good, but soon pasty-faced strangers are haunting both her days and nights.

Director Herk Harvey's feature debut, his only feature as it turns out, is a low-budget masterclass in atmosphere and dreamlike uncertainty. Young Mary's efforts to put the past behind her haunt her every move, and visions of grinning ghouls slowly rising from the water just might haunt you too. The ending is pretty well-known by now, but as with films like "The Others" or "The Usual Suspects," advance knowledge of the twist can't damper the movie's overall effect.


The first of two horror anthologies to make this list of chillers, Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 classic delivers three-hours of gorgeously shot and beautifully executed terror. The running time may seem excessive, but "Kwaidan" features four stories adapted from turn-of-the-century folk tales in Japan, and each is given their due. Narrative and character entwine to gift viewers with horror stories fueled by love, regret, and supernatural visitations.

All four tales have their strengths starting with "The Black Hair" which plays with elements that would later become tropes in Japanese horror. The most popular segment is probably "The Woman of the Snow" which offers stunning production design with a tale of love and betrayal and was repurposed for one of the segments in "Tales from the Darkside: the Movie." "Hoichi the Earless" sees a blind musician lured by the undead, and the effort to save him leads to the film's most iconic image — the man covered nearly head to toe in writings. "In a Cup of Tea" rounds out the film with its simplest tale, but it's guaranteed to leave you hesitant the next time you bring a drink to your lips.


I obviously love all of the film's on this list, but if I could insist that you watch just one of them, it would be Nobuhiko Obayashi's "House." This 1977 gem is as unique an experience as any movie could hope to be, even if it does start with a familiar premise. A group of teenage girls head to a remote estate for summer vacation only to find their fates sealed by a house with malicious intentions. I know, it sounds generic, but trust me ... it is anything but.

The girls — named Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Fantasy, Prof, Mac, Melody, and Sweet — are soon struggling with all manner of supernatural threats from hungry pianos, possessed mirrors, and decapitated heads with a taste for buttocks. Obayashi fills the screen with color, magic, and dark whimsy, and while there's a real body count here the deaths come with so many bonkers, jaw-dropping beats that you're too busy being flabbergasted to actually feel fear. "House" was a clear inspiration for directors like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and Takashi Miike, and it just might inspire you too.

The Brood

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more tonally contrasted pairing for "House" than David Cronenberg's "The Brood." Like the bulk of his filmography, particularly his 70s films, it's something of a cold, dialogue-heavy exploration of issues both psychological and emotional. Oliver Reed stars as a man engaged in a bitter separation with his wife over custody of their young daughter, and as their fight intensifies so does a series of vicious murders in the area.

Cronenberg made the film in the shadow of his own acrimonious divorce, and it shows in the anger hanging between the ex-couple. As dour and depressing as some aspects are, "The Brood" is one of his most effective horror films due in large part to both 1) a certain visual at the end and 2) the presence of killer kids in colorful pajamas and parkas. Trust me, they're creepy as hell, and one sequence showing Reed try to quietly move among them is both suspenseful and terrifying.


Different moods call for different kinds of horror films. Sometimes you want to be entertained by a high energy thrill ride. Other times you want to have the bejesus scared out of you through truly terrifying sequences. Lots of films check off one or the other of those boxes, but few manage both. 1982's "Poltergeist" is one of those few, and it doesn't stop there. It's also funny, sweet, and emotionally affecting with its tale of a suburban family rallying to save their little girl.

The film is perfect from start to finish with an incredibly appealing family, a terrifically eccentric group of supernatural investigators, and some scares that still hold up forty years later. The guy clawing his own face off? The pool filled with corpses? The clown?! "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" may be the film most people associate Tobe Hooper with, but "Poltergeist" is every bit the all-timer.

The Return of the Living Dead

The 80s were great for horror in general, but 1985 was a banner year for the specific subgenre of horror/comedies about the undead. Exactly two months before the still-terrific "Re-Animator" opened, Dan O'Bannon's brilliant riff on "Night of the Living Dead" came screaming to life with a punk aesthetic, massive laughs, and some incredible practical effects. It's utterly silly, but with a cast including James Karen and Clu Gulager playing it all straight, the laughs come with a healthy dose of sharp wit fleshy thrills.

It's plenty gory and includes the expected scenes of zombies eating people, but the effects also deliver some truly creative beats — from the "split dog" to the reanimated torso complete with spinal cord whipping about and clacking against the metal gurney. And the laughs, my god, the laughs. "You mean the movie lied?!" "Send more cops!" Brains are all the undead want, and happily for viewers, "The Return of the Living Dead" has plenty to spare. Fans may want to double feature it with "Return of the Living Dead 3" which is also currently streaming.

Event Horizon

Paul W.S. Anderson's horror bonafides are limited to the "Resident Evil" films for most people, but 1997's "Event Horizon" is actually his crowning achievement in the genre. It was drastically cut from his original vision, but even in neutered form it remains a film that delivers bloody gore, philosophical wonders, and some highly memorable visuals.

Essentially a haunted house movie set on a spaceship, the film sees a crew respond to a distress call and discover the Event Horizon — a ship that went missing years prior and has now appeared to have opened a portal to hell itself. Madness and murder follow as the rescuers themselves find themselves in dire need of saving. Eyes are gouged, flesh is teared, and sacrifices must be made.


Action/horror is an under-represented subgenre, and while 2021 year saw a great one with James Wan's "Malignant," it's not currently available on HBO Max. Happily, for fans of both wickedly cool action set-pieces and bloody horror beats, Stephen Norrington's "Blade" is. Wesley Snipes stars as a half vampire/half human ass-kicker who finds purpose in hunting down and destroying bloodsuckers, and from its epic opening sequence on it delivers across the board.

Martial arts, swordplay, showers of blood, m*********** always trying to ice skate uphill ... "Blade" has it all, and Snipes owns the role. Stephen Dorff may whine about comic book movies these days, but back in 1998 he both starred in this Marvel film and clearly had a blast in the process as his villain is delightfully over the top. They drop in quality, but if you wanna keep this ride going all night, both "Blade II" and "Blade: Trinity" are also available.

Trick 'r Treat

Michael Dougherty's cult hit may lack the literary influences and cachet of "Kwaidan," but it's still an unforgettable horror anthology. Warner Bros. kept it on the shelf for two years before quietly releasing it in 2009, and it's continued to grow in popularity since. For good reason, too, as it's an absolute blast with gory beats, fun scares, and a new horror icon in little sackhead Max.

While most anthology films tell separate tales with minimal connection (if any), "Trick 'r Treat" sees the characters cross over between stories as they all unfold on one Halloween night. A child-killing principal, bullies who meet a grisly fate, party girls with a secret, and a late-night visit from Sam make for a Halloween treat that should be on your watchlist every October. Hell, it should probably be on a monthly rotation.

Friday the 13th

The 2000s were a busy decade for horror remakes. While some are outright turkeys and others various levels of good, Marcus Nispel's "Friday the 13th" stands tall and bloody at the head of the pack. Derek Mears delivers the series' best Jason, as he turns the lumbering killer into a muscular, fast-moving threat. The film sees him cycle through classic appearances too as he dons both a sack and a hockey mask. Add in an abundance of style, gore, and slasher shenanigans make it a terrifically entertaining reboot.

It's arguably the best entry in the franchise — yeah, I said it — and it continues to be a crime that legal wrangling has meant this 2009 film is still the final "Friday the 13th." Those interested in keeping the horror nostalgia train rolling should also add both "House of Wax" (2005) and "My Bloody Valentine" (2009) to their HBO Max watchlist.

The Conjuring

Haunted house movies can often feel a bit "samesie" as unseen presences open doors, blow out candles, and spook homeowners. James Wan, by contrast, has become quite comfortable delivering a breath of fresh air to those stale tropes. His ghosts make themselves visible at times, but even invisible they deliver legitimate chills and thrills as they scare the wits out of characters and audiences alike. Wan's editing and camerawork tease jumps that don't come, and then when you've finally let your guard down a horrifying face jolts you off your seat.

"The Conjuring" makes fictional heroes out of real-life scam artists, but it's a credit to Wan and his lead actors (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) that we come to care about these characters and the families they're trying to help. That makes the scares so much more effective too. Fans can keep the scares coming with "The Conjuring 2" (2016), "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" (2021), and "Annabelle: Creation" (2017) which revisits the infamous doll from the first film.


Stephen King's massive bestseller previously hit the screen as an early 90s miniseries, but it's Andy Muschetti's 2017 big-screen feature that nails the absolute childhood horrors of "It." The cast of young newcomers is fantastic, and each brings enormous personality and charm to help balance out the pure terror that envelopes them all. Sophia Lillis is the standout and singlehandedly injects the film with the emotional weight that was missing from the miniseries.

Pennywise is a frightening presence whether he's in clown form or not — although we can all agree that the clown form is the most terrifying for obvious reasons — and Bill Skarsgård absolutely makes the role his own (sorry Tim Curry). "It: Chapter Two" (2019) takes a pretty hefty tumble as it can't nail the adult half of the story nearly as well, but it's also streaming if you're up for the double feature.

The Empty Man

Sometimes a great movie comes along and no one sees it. Such was the case with the late 2020 release of David Prior's "The Empty Man," which was unceremoniously dumped into theaters and quickly disappeared. That changed for the better once the film hit VOD in 2021, though, as those of us with great taste began singing its praises. You can join the chorus too, as it's now streaming on HBO Max.

If that sounds like you'll be joining a cult, well, cults are the name of the game with "The Empty Man." An ex-detective digs into a missing person case and finds a lot more than he bargained for. James Badge Dale gets a rare leading role and proves himself worthy, and the film's epic running time packs in plenty of mystery, wonder, terror, and weirdness leading to a creepily satisfying ending. Give it a spin and join us. You'll be glad you did.


Speaking of movies that bombed in theaters, this Kristen Stewart-led underwater thriller failed to make a dent on release, but "Underwater" absolutely deserves your time. A research rig on the ocean floor suffers a catastrophic disaster — it hits within moments of the movie's start, meaning this film doesn't waste any time at all — and the survivors soon discover they're far from the only intelligent life down there.

Creatures and the natural dangers of the environment battle for the highest kill count as a handful of remaining people fight to reach the surface. Stewart is aces and is joined by equally strong performances by Jessica Henwick, Vincent Cassel, and Mamoudou Athie. The production design is strong and inventive, and the set-pieces deliver plenty of suspense and excitement. It concludes on a Lovecraftian note too delivering big thrills and striking visuals. Add this one to the shortlist of underwater horrors worth revisiting.