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The 30 best scary movies you can stream for free this Halloween

You don’t need to spend a dime to watch these fright-flicks.

A scene from 'The Witch'
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Whether you’re venturing out this Halloween or sheltering in place as the pandemic continues, there is no better way to celebrate the holiday than with some popcorn, a rubber skeleton, perhaps some cotton cobwebs, and a great scary movie or two.

For those watching their pennies, we’ve selected a wide range of slashers and moody, spooky chillers, all available to stream for free, either on ad-based services like Tubi, Vudu, Roku, Redbox, Pluto TV, and others, or the public library-based services Hoopla and Kanopy. Stay safe this Halloween, but also: be afraid… be very afraid.

Updated October 26 2021 with 15 additional movie recommendations now available on free streaming services. Our previous 15 picks—starting with Alice, Sweet Alice—follow immediately after.

The Beyond

Stream it on Roku, Hoopla, Tubi, or Kanopy

A scene from ‘The Beyond’ Shudder

Catriona MacColl inherits a haunted hotel that hides one of the doors to hell in The Beyond.

After Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci is the third Italian horror master, and likely the goriest of the three. His movie The Beyond (1981) received a theatrical re-release in 1998 when Quentin Tarantino singled it out for his Rolling Thunder distribution wing, and it still packs a great, gory, nightmarish punch. It captures a strong sense of the unreal, helped in large part by the crazy score by Fabio Frizzi. The story concerns an old New Orleans hotel. Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits it and decides to fix it up, but weird things keep happening, and people keep dying.

Without giving away too much, it turns out that the hotel sits atop one of the doors to hell itself! There are gouged eyeballs and zombies, but also mysterious rooms and secret books; Fulci combines a kind of arty, creepy tone with his shocking, bloody, garish gore effects. Look for the director in two cameos; walking by, reflected in a large mirror, and in a library talking about labor issues and lunch breaks.

The Blair Witch Project

Stream it on Roku 

A scene from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ Artisan Entertainment

Filmmaker Heather (Heather Donahue) is lost and terrified in a haunted woods in The Blair Witch Project.

In its day, it was a huge hit, much written-about, and has inspired a legion of hand-held, “found-footage” horror films that persist to this day. But Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999) is still a scary and inventive story about spooky stuff lurking in the dark. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams play “themselves,” a trio of filmmakers heading out to the backwoods of Maryland to make a documentary about the infamous “Blair Witch.” The movie includes their black-and-white film from their “official” documentary, and color video of their quest. Unfortunately they get lost in the woods and can’t seem to find any landmarks. Sticks are mysteriously moved around, and other sinister signs of a malevolent presence turn up.

Part of the movie’s legend is that many people believed that what they were watching was real, though it’s certainly not. Truthfully, the movie is made more in the tradition of Val Lewton’s 1940s “B”-movie classics, wherein the horror is more suggested than actually seen, and our imaginations provide chills far more powerful than any camera lens could.

Candyman (1992)

Stream it on Tubi

A scene from ‘Candyman’ TriStar Pictures

Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) faces an urban legend-turned-real monster in Candyman.

Horror writer Clive Barker made huge waves in the 1980s with the release of his seminal three-volume collection of short stories, The Books of Blood, and it wasn’t long before movies based on his work followed. While the Hellraiser movies are the most notable, Candyman (1992) has also held up quite well, thanks to its sophisticated filmmaking and thoughtful casting, and especially its high-class music score by Philip Glass.

Virginia Madsen plays Helen Lyle, a sociology student researching urban legends. She goes to a graffiti-ridden housing project to investigate the legend of the Candyman; it is whispered that if you say his name five times while looking in a mirror, he will appear and kill you. Of course, someone tries it. Kasi Lemmons, who went on to become a director, plays Helen’s skeptical friend Bernadette, and Tony Todd has become something of a horror icon for his suave performance as the title character. (The 2021 remake is surprisingly good too!)

Curse of the Demon

Stream it on Fandor

A scene from ‘Curse of the Demon’ Columbia Pictures

A mysterious parchment causes victims to be visited by the title monster in Jacques Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon.

Many years after making his masterful horror films at RKO with producer Val Lewton, director Jacques Tourneur returned to monster movies with Curse of the Demon (1957); its original title was Night of the Demon, changed for the U.S. release, and it’s still listed under both titles. Based on a short story by M.R. James, the movie tells the story of American professor John Holden (Dana Andrews), who crosses paths with one Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis); the latter is able to predict the date of a person’s death by passing a special parchment.

According to legend, Tourneur didn’t want to show the title demon—who comes for anyone that has touched the parchment—but the creature in the movie is actually scary fun. Even better are Tourneur’s creepily atmosphere scenes (a children’s Halloween party) and images (the parchment blowing away and seeking the nearest fireplace). The wonderful Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy) co-stars as Joanna, who becomes tangled up in the terror.

Day of the Dead

Stream it on Tubi, Kanopy, Pluto TV, or Peacock

Day of the Dead Shout! Factory

Bub the zombie (Sherman Howard) tries to learn to be human again in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead.

George A. Romero was, of course, the father of the modern zombie film, but he was also a great talent; even his non-zombie films are worth seeking out. Here, however, is his third official “Dead” film, following Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). Viciously underrated in its day, Day of the Dead (1985) takes place largely in a heavily armored underground military bunker, where trained soldiers uneasily share space with civilians and scientists. There is much arguing over staying safe or rushing into danger, and over studying the zombies or killing them.

Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) experiments on a zombie called “Bub” (Sherman Howard), attempting to get him to recognize repeated behavior patterns. Romero always has a little something to say about the world in his zombie films, and this time the failings of the humans lead to a full-scale zombie invasion. John Harrison’s synthesizer score is a thing of true beauty and dread.

The Dead Zone

Stream it on Pluto TV

A scene from ‘The Dead Zone’ Paramount

After emerging from a coma, Johnny (Christopher Walken) finds he can predict the future in David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone.

Like Brian De Palma, Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, and Stanley Kubrick, the great director David Cronenberg once took a crack at filming a Stephen King novel. Christopher Walken stars, in one his best leading performances, as schoolteacher Johnny Smith, who is happily in love with Sarah (Brooke Adams). After a nasty car crash, Johnny falls into a coma and wakes up five years later. Not only is Sarah married to another man, but Johnny finds he has a new kind of psychic ability; he can see the future of anyone he touches. He tries to retreat into a life of quiet, but terrifying visions of an up-and-coming politician (Martin Sheen) begin to haunt him, and he decides to take action.

The Dead Zone (1983) is a solid piece of genre work, entertaining and highly effective, and perhaps even relevant in its political commentary. Even though it was a “job-for-hire” for Cronenberg, it was one of his most successful and acclaimed films.

Ginger Snaps

Stream it on Roku, Vudu, Tubi, Redbox, Crackle, Pluto TV, or Plex

A scene from ‘Ginger Snaps’ Lionsgate

Sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) find life complicated when Ginger becomes a werewolf in Ginger Snaps.

John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps (2001) attempted to modernize the idea of the teenage werewolf, making it more nuanced and carnal. The Fitzgerald sisters are teen outcasts who love to stage bloody tableaus of carnage and photograph them. Older sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) gets her first period and is then bitten by a werewolf. So, paired with the changes already happening in her body, she must contend with new changes that include extra body hair (and a tail!).

Ginger also becomes more and more alienated from her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins); Brigitte begins hanging around with a drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche), who may have an idea for a cure. The movie’s climax takes place on Halloween night—and Fawcett perfectly captures a crisp, autumn feeling—making it perfect seasonal viewing.

Halloween

Stream it on Roku or Redbox

A scene from the original ‘Halloween’ Anchor Bay Entertainment

The Shape (Nick Castle) stalks the neighborhood in John Carpenter’s Halloween.

It’s just not Halloween without John Carpenter’s innovative and startling masterpiece Halloween (1978), or at least without a blast from the legendary synthesizer score he composed himself (in, apparently, three days). Carpenter’s sinister widescreen cinematography takes advantage of the straight-cut suburban landscape, using tall shrubbery or clotheslines as deceptions, and its concept of a killer of pure, simple evil—known as “The Shape” as well as Michael Myers—still strikes a dark chord.

Jamie Lee Curtis is the iconic “final girl” Laurie Strode; Donald Pleasence is Dr. Loomis, full of foreboding; and P.J. Soles is the flirty Lynda. The film is essential viewing, and while its many sequels are not quite as essential, they do still offer a measure of fun. The twelfth movie in the series, Halloween Kills, is in theaters now. (Also recommended: Carpenter’s Christine, on Pluto TV, and Prince of Darkness, on Peacock.)

Hereditary

Stream it on Kanopy

A scene from ‘Hereditary’ A24

Strange and horrible things begin to happen to the Graham family (L to R, Milly Shapiro, Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, & Alex Wolff) after a funeral in Hereditary.

Perhaps the best horror movie of 2018 was this debut feature by Ari Aster (whose 2019 Midsommar is also pretty great). Hereditary (2018) focuses on the Graham family, Annie (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), after the death of Annie’s mother. Annie begins seeing strange things and sleepwalking, and, after a tragic accident, Peter does too. A mysterious woman (Ann Dowd) suggests a séance and things get even weirder.

Aster directs this clammy, creeping movie with suggestions of classics like Poltergeist and Rosemary’s Baby, but goes in fresh directions, especially with the alarming sound design; you’ll never hear a simple tongue-click in the same way again. Annie’s elaborate miniature sculptures add to the sense of disorientation, and in the role, Collette gives a great, volcanic, panic-slicked performance. (She deserved, but was not nominated for, an Oscar.)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Stream it on Hoopla, Kanopy, or Pluto TV

A scene from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ MGM/UA

Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) tries to stop a takeover by malevolent “pod people” in Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Even though this was a remake of a much-loved 1956 film, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is still considered a classic of its time, and one of the director’s best films. It’s also one of the very best films to be entirely shot in San Francisco. The movie is seen as a kind of farewell to the “peace-n-love” generation, and all the characters, as they try to avoid being turned into alien “pod people,” are slightly disreputable. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams are health inspectors who find rat droppings in restaurant kitchens. Jeff Goldblum is a paranoid writer, and his wife (Veronica Cartwright) runs a mud bath health spa. None other than Leonard Nimoy plays a quack psychologist who tries to tell everyone that they’re imagining things.

Kaufman’s city is made of cold, inhuman plastic and metal, juxtaposed with the hideous living green of the pods. And screenwriter W.D. “Rick” Richter brilliantly explains the logic of the pod transformations without revealing the film’s underlying agendas. Look for Don Siegel and Kevin McCarthy, director and actor from the 1956 version, in cameos, as well as Robert Duvall as a priest.

The Mummy (1932)

Stream it on Peacock or Tubi

A scene from ‘The Mummy’ Universal

Ardeth Bay (Boris Karloff) is really a 3700-year-old mummy trying to possess the soul of Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann) in The Mummy.

Its title and poster might conjure up images of a terrifying zombie-like monster, clad in bandages, shambling toward its victims and rending them to pieces. But the classic Universal monster movie The Mummy (1932) is instead a quiet, moody film, more of a romance. Boris Karloff, fresh from Frankenstein, stars as Imhotep, a disgraced 3,700-year-old thief who is brought back to life, and seeks to do the same with his true love, currently reincarnated as Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann).

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