Monsters come in all different shapes and sizes.
There are big ones, little ones, scary ones, cuddly ones, and more than a fair few gory ones — all of which come into play at some point on this list.
From the invisible demons of Bird Box to the gentle giants found in Okja, we’ve tracked down some of the best monster movies on Netflix.
1. A Monster Calls
Connor (Lewis MacDougall) finds solace from threats in “A Monster Calls.”
Credit: focus features
Channelling the dark fantasy vibes of Pan’s Labyrinth (also on this list), J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls tells the story of a bullied teenage boy, Conor, who’s struggling to process his mother’s terminal illness. One night the yew tree behind his house comes to life and visits him, explaining that it will tell him three stories if Conor tells it a fourth in return. Like all the best fantasies, this beautiful movie is packed with symbolism, seamlessly weaving the fantasy elements with a poignant coming-of-age story about grief. Fair warning: you’re probably not going to finish this one with dry eyes.
2. Before I Wake
Kate Bosworth leads the cast in “Before I Wake.”
If you’re in the mood for a good scare you could do a lot worse than Before I Wake, a chilly nightmare-made-real from The Haunting of Hill House creator Mike Flanagan. At the centre of the story are Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane), recently bereaved parents who welcome a young orphan named Cody (Jacob Tremblay) into their home. But something odd happens when Cody goes to sleep, and soon the pair find themselves in a nightmarish cat-and-mouse with a creature called the Canker Man. The jumps come thick and fast in this one, so make sure you have a suitably large cushion to cower behind.
3. Bird Box
Don’t take off your blindfold in “Bird Box.”
OK, so the monsters in Bird Box aren’t technically visible, but that doesn’t make them any less real/terrifying. Directed by Susanne Bier and based on Josh Malerman’s novel of the same name, Bird Box is a post-apocalyptic thriller set in a world in which everyone has to cover their eyes when they go outside — anyone who sees the monsters dies by suicide. It’s a premise that makes for some truly nerve-jangling scenes, with Sandra Bullock playing Malorie Hayes, a woman who’s forced to take two children on a nightmarish blindfolded journey in an attempt to get to safety. It’s one of those films that’s over two hours long, but still leaves you wanting more, although it’s not without warranted criticism. Importantly, Netflix currently streams the edited version.
Where to watch: Birdbox is currently streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)
“Bleach” is worth it for the fight sequences alone.
Credit: warner bros
If you like your monsters gigantic and your fight scenes packed with hectic sword-play, Shinsuke Sato’s Bleach — which is based on Tite Kubo’s manga series — may be the one for you. The story pulls back the curtain on an invisible war being played out between “reapers” (spirits responsible for guiding departed souls to the afterlife) and “hollows” (monstrous creatures hell-bent on consuming the souls of the innocent). At the centre of all this is high school student Ichigo Kurosaki (Sôta Fukushi), who gets caught up in the middle of the battle after a chance meeting with the mysterious Rukia (Hana Sugisaki). This one’s worth checking out for the sword-fighting sequences alone — the one at the film’s conclusion is awesome — and the creepy mask-wearing hollows, which really are the stuff of nightmares.
Where to watch: Bleach is currently streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)
Credit: YouTube / Blumhouse
Survival-thriller meets horror in J.D. Dillard’s story about Jenn (Kiersey Clemons), a woman who washes ashore on a mysterious island that appears to be uninhabited. As Jenn struggles to keep herself alive, though, she soon realises that being stranded isn’t the only threat — at night, something emerges from the sea and tries to hunt her down. Dillard’s story splices several genres together, but the introduction of other castaways in the second act shines a clear spotlight on the discussion of class divide and white privilege that lies at the heart of the story.
Where to watch: Sweetheart is currently streaming on Netflix(opens in a new tab).
6. Vampires vs. the Bronx
Something bad’s come to the neighborhood.
Want a movie that’s got excitement, comedy, a scorching message about the evils of gentrification, and is a kid-friendly romp? Then take a bite out of Vampires vs. the Bronx. Oz Perkins’s PG-13 horror-comedy centers on Afro-Latino teens, who recognize that a flurry of missing person posters and influx of rich white folks with tote bags means bad news for the neighborhood. Together, they team up Monster Squad-style to take down the bloodsuckers and save their community. With a sharp wit, a warm heart, a rich sense of atmosphere, and an equal appreciation for the Blade movies and ’80s Amblin, Vampires vs. the Bronx is an easy watch full of rewards.* —Kristy Puchko, Film Editor
7. I Am Legend
Will Smith with his trusty canine companion in “I Am Legend.”
Credit: Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock
Will Smith faces off against a horde of nocturnal mutants in this tense adaptation of Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic novel of the same name. With only his trusty German Shepherd, Samantha, for company, Robert Neville (Smith) walks the abandoned husk of New York City by himself, going door-to-door for food while constantly working on a possible cure for the genetically-engineered virus that’s ravaged the planet. This one’s brilliantly shot and packed full of suspense, but be warned: there are some *difficult* scenes.
8. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
It’s behind you!
Credit: George Kraychyk/Cbs Films/Lionsgate
After haunting the nightmares of a whole generation of kids, Alvin Schwartz’ classic short horror stories are brought to life in André Øvredal’s feature-length 2019 movie — one that’s prompted people to look back to the source material.
“After reminiscing with my dad and checking my dark apartment for unwelcome strangers, I sought out an online copy of the original stories — an action I would not have taken without the cinematic prompting,” wrote Alison Foreman in her Mashable review.
“Late into the night, I relived each of the torments and reveled in the regularly forgotten joke sections of each book. After all these years, those Scary Stories are still being told, now on and off screen.
“And haunted or not, it feels good to be home.”
Mija (Seo-hyun Ahn) and her genetically-modified super pig, Okja.
Blending drama with fantasy/adventure and weaving in a very real message about the horrors of the meat industry, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is a beautifully unique creature feature. The film follows Mina (Ahn Seo-hyun), the granddaughter of a farmer in South Korea who has spent the last 10 years rearing a genetically-modified super-pig called Okja as part of a breeding project spearheaded by a grim U.S. corporation. The film is dark in places, magical in others, and poignant overall, asking us to stop and reflect on the dark side of an industry the majority of us are complicit in. Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal make for an entertaining pair of villains, too.
Where to watch: Okja is currently streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)
10. The Mist
What’s lurking in the mist?
Credit: Dimension Films/Kobal/Shutterstock
Following a father and son who get trapped in a gas station store with a group of strangers as a weird fog envelops their town, Frank Darabont’s The Mist takes an intriguing premise and spins out a tense popcorn-muncher of a film that’s equal parts fun, jumpy and harrowing. Based on Stephen King’s 1980 novella, it’s not a perfect movie — some of the special effects look a little dated here and there – but it’s still leagues ahead of most monster movies, and comes complete with a chilling human antagonist and a convincing analogy of the dangers of fundamental religion.*
Where to watch: The Mist is currently streaming on Netflix(opens in a new tab).
11. The Ritual
Don’t venture too deep into the woods.
In director David Bruckner’s scenic tour of a hellscape, four pals hike through northern Sweden to honor a departed friend. Of course, their trip soon morphs into a torturous and never-ending nightmare — with a killer lead performance by Rafe Spall. Slippery and divisive, this movie begs to be picked apart. More likely than not, you’ll love the world it creates but hate the way it ends. Or, like me, you’ll love the world it creates and how it ends. Have fun with it! And pack bug spray!* — Alison Foreman, former Entertainment Reporter
Where to watch: The Ritual is now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)
*This show writeup also appeared on a previous Mashable list.