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Best horror tv shows 3

20 Best Horror TV Shows of All Time

From the dawn of its golden age, television and horror have been intrinsically linked. The original masters of fright honed their craft on the small screen first, with classic horror TV shows like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents pushing the boundaries of popular culture. In fact, the very act of being sucked into your television is rooted in the horror genre (thanks Poltergeist) and the experience may have changed with the advent of streaming services, some things remain the same.

The history of television is littered with horror series, from the ’60s anthology shows to today’s jump-scare fright-fests, many of which have changed the way we consume media. What started out as spooky tales shrouded in mystery has become a ratings juggernaut, with a number of scary shows on Netflix, such as Stranger Things and The Haunted TV series raking in massive viewerships on the daily. But it must be said, not all supernatural TV shows are created equal, in fact, some are intentionally bad. Here, we’re unlocking the top of the top, throughout the ages. From vampire shows to ghost shows and everything in between, here are the best horror series of all time.

1. Stranger Things

Stranger Things has become a global phenomenon and for good reason. The Duffer brothers’ eclectic ensemble of influences was thrown together with consummate ease, taking viewers back to the heyday of over-the-top horror. From the eerie synth score to the dark world of the Upside Down, this tale of Dungeons and Dragons is a flawless take on the genre. It follows the Byers family, torn apart when the youngest member, Will is thrown into a chaotic alternate universe. Monsters, both human and otherwise emerge in this ’80s-inspired horror TV show. Littered with great references from the past, including E.T. The Extra-Terrestial, Stand By Me and Red Dawn, the series is just about as good as it gets. With season four on its way, there is no better time to binge this incredibly scary series.

Director: The Duffer Brothers
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo and Noah Schnapp
Run Time: Episodes range from 45 to 55 min

2. American Horror Story

Whether you call it American Horror Story or AHS, this much-loved horror-drama anthology is sure to be on everyone’s horror binge list. The show that redefine horror TV series for the modern era, each season takes place in a new horrifying setting like a haunted house, a Hotel and even an 80s summer camp to name a few. Each season also centres around different horror themes and troops along with some incredible characters. Season ten just ended and in true AHS fashion theories have already begun for the eleventh season.

Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Sarah Paulson, Cody Fern, Leslie Grossman, Angela Bassett and more
Run time: Episodes range from 50 to 60 mins

3. Twin Peaks

A masterpiece of modern television, Twin Peaks paved the way for shows like True Detective to fire. Helmed by screen legend David Lynch in arguably his magnum opus, the popular crime drama is known for its oddball characters and often eerie visuals. Twin Peaks follows FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who travels to the small logging town to solve the murder of seemingly innocent high schooler Laura Palmer. But nothing is as it seems. Not just one of the greatest supernatural TV shows, one of the best shows of all time, period.

Director: David Lynch
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

4. The Walking Dead

Based on Robert Kirkman’s iconic graphic novel, The Walking Dead had a lot to live up to. It did just that. With Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont on hand, the masterful horror TV took the prestige of a drama and tossed some zombies into the mix. The series follows various survivors who struggle to stay alive in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, however, as they try to survive, they are forced to grapple with rival groups and difficult choices. With captivating performances from the entire, most notably Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln, coupled with some truly incredible writing, the post-apocalyptic horror television series eclipsed all expectations.

Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Norman Reedus, Seth Gilliam, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira
Run time: Episodes range from an hour to an hour and a half

5. The Twilight Zone

The horror TV show that started it all. Known as the original American anthology television series, The Twilight Zone was a runaway hit from day dot and still one of the most pivotal series ever produced. Rod Serling’s genre-defining program paired the finest horror and sci-fi writers together for a seaminglyendless stream of stand-alone episodes. Spine-tingling and thought-provoking, episodes like The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet played out our innermost fears and held a mirror to our concerns. Even 60 years on, these episodes are still some of the best pieces of artistry the genre has produced.

Director: Rod Serling
Starring: William Shatner, Inger Stevens, Burt Reynolds
Run time: Episodes range from 25 to 51 mins

6. Black Mirror

When it comes to scary shows on Netflix, they don’t come any bigger than Black Mirror. Charlie Brooker’s internationally acclaimed anthology series explores the complexities of modern-day life in its most chilling form. A blend of horror and science fiction, each episode focuses on technology and its alienating, dehumanizing potential. Most are centred around the near-future dystopias utilising technology to comment on contemporary social issues, some more heavy-handed than others. Right from the opening scene in season one’s The National Anthem, things are unsettling. The best instalments include USS Callister, San Junipero and Nosedive.

Director: Charlie Brooker
Starring: Michaela Coel, Bryce Dallas Howard, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright
Run time: Episodes range between 41 min to an hour and 29 minutes

7. Midnight Mass

A newer horror TV series to make the list, Midnight Mass follows the arrival of a charismatic yet mysterious priest who brings miracles, mysteries, renewed religious fervour and supernatural events to a dying isolated island community. Beautifully shot and eery from the start, this religious-theme production is one of the best scary shows on Netflix.

Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Hamish Linklater, Kate Siegel, Rahul Kohli
Run time: Episodes range between an hour and an hour and 15 mins

8. Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Perhaps the most important series ever produced, Alfred Hitchcock Presents spurred a new generation of horror filmmakers. From the moment the slyly delivered “Good eve-eee-ning” hit, audiences knew they were in for a treat. The American television anthology series was created, hosted, and produced by the legendary filmmaker, taking viewers through the dramas, thrillers and mysteries of Alfred Hitchcock. It also featured a number of famous film and television actors and actresses appearing in most episodes, but its greatest legacy? The fact that many of Hitchcock’s crew pulled double-duty in order to get a little film called Psycho.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Alfred Hitchcock, Pat Hitchcock, Alan Napier
Run time: Episodes are 25 minutes each

9. The X-Files

The truth is definitely out there, at least that’s what we think. Chris Carter’s expansive science-fiction conspiracy thriller marked a new era for television production, one that kickstarted the episodic and overarching format. Best known for its iconic music and lovable characters, The X-Files chronicle conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder and realist Dana Scully as they pull out all the stops as FBI special agents to investigate and get to the bottom of inexplicable paranormal cases. While you could argue it may have lost some of its scare-power, we challenge you to watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre–inspired inbreeding episode Home without panicking.

Director: Chris Carter
Starring: Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

10. I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer was an iconic 90s horror movie. More than two decades since then a brand new 2021 version of the film has been released as a television series. The plot follows a group of teenagers who share a dark secret following a fatal car accident. When a killer begins mercilessly stalking them, the narrative takes a creepy turn and each character is left questioning each other—and themselves.

Director: Neal H. Moritz and James Wan
Starring: Madison Iseman, Brianne Tju and Bill Heck
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

11. The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House gets a lot of credit and rightfully so. The American supernatural horror drama and is the first entry in The Haunting TV series is a fitting adaptation of scream legend Shirley Jackson’s ice-cold novella. With creator/director Mike Flanagan leading an all-star that includes Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser and Timothy Hutton, the dual timeline series is a beautiful shot and utterly terrifying. The haunted TV series follows a family terrorised by paranormal strikes, flashing between past and present events that occurred in their creepy old home.

Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Victoria Pedretti, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas and Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Run time: Episodes range from 50 to 60 mins

12. True Detective

The show that cemented the McConaissance, True Detective is Matthew McConaughey at his very best. This chilling series follows Police officers and detectives around the USA who are forced to face dark secrets about themselves and the people around them while investigating homicides. While seasons two to five are solid viewing, the first instalment is truly fantastic television. Following a series of sadistic and ritualistic killings across the American south, two mismatched cops are forced to come together in a harrowing fight for the truth.

Director: Nic Pizzolatto
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, Woody Harrelson and Rachel McAdams
Run time: Episodes range from between 54 and 87 minutes

13. Hannibal

Devilishly delcious, this fresh take on the Hannibal Lector story more than lived up to the hype. A prequel of sorts, Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s series of serial-killer novels detailed the strange relationships between cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter and FBI profiler Will Graham. A masterclass in great horror TV, Hannibal used murder as a catalyst for emotion, played out with expert poise. Intricately written and painfully tense, this horror series is unmissable.

Director: Bryan Fuller
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy and Caroline Dhavernas
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

14. Mindhunter

The series is adapted from John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit. This crime drama follows FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench as they begin pioneering the art of serial-killer profiling. Perhaps what is most unsettling about “Mindhunter” is its accurate depictions of some of this century’s most prolific, real-life serial killers. As well as the shows unique look into the mind of serial killers and its real-life and unsettling accounts.

Director: Joe Penhall
Starring: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and Anna Torv
Run time: An hour an episode

15. Chucky

Chucky is the new Television series based on the iconic demon doll. The show takes place in an idyllic American town that is thrown into chaos after a vintage Chucky doll turns up at a suburban yard sale. A series of horrifying murders begins to expose the town’s hypocrisies and secrets.

Director: Don Mancini
Starring: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly and Zackary Arthur
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

16. Tales from the Crypt

A horror TV series loaded with puns? What could be better? 1980’s special effect aside, Tales from the Crypt is a seriously fun romp that surprisingly holds up. Based on the EC Comics series of the same name, this campy and stylized anthology series recounts a string of horrific yarns introduced by the show’s mouldering host, the Crypt Keeper. While it might look old and decrepit, it managed to reel in the big names from Demi Moore to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Director: William Gaines and Steven Dodd
Starring: Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins and Peter Cushing
Run time: Episodes are approximately 30 minutes

17. Ghost Hunters

Is it real? Is it fake? Is it just three people running around in dark lighting? Whatever the case,  Ghost Hunters is utterly enthralling. It follows Stephen Bain, Grant Wilson and a handpicked group of professionals who uses their decades of field experience to help everyday people across the country who are struggling with supernatural phenomena. The team utilizes forensic experts, historical records and the most innovative technology available to follow the evidence wherever it may lead and discover the truth behind the unexplained hauntings. Imagine if Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity had their budgets cut,

Director: Craig Piligian
Starring: Stephen Bain, Grant Wilson and Steve Gonsalves
Run time: Episodes are approximately 45 minutes

18. True Blood

When it comes to vampire shows, you can’t go past True Blood. The American fantasy horror phenomenon based on Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries revolves around Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in the fictional rural town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Set two years after the invention of synthetic blood, vampires have now “come out of the coffin” and let their presence be known to mankind. Insert a lot of making out. Sure, it’s not the scariest show ever made, but this blood-thirsty romp more than fills in the time.

Director: Alan Ball
Starring: Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Kwanten and Stephen Moyer
Run time: Episodes are approximately 55 minutes

19. Masters of Horror

A proverbial who’s who of the horror genre joined forces for this criminally underrated series. The American anthology television series showcased hourlong horror films from famous horror movie directors, with works by Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante and Takashi Miike to name a few. In a similar vein to the old Twilight Zone, this series might not have lived up to the hype, but it still fits the bill for a perfect Halloween show.

Director: Mick Garris
Starring: Steven Weber, Norman Reedus and Fairuza Balk
Run time: Episodes are an hour-long

20. Supernatural

What started out as a spooky show with a few laughs wound up beiong so much more. Eric Kripke’s Supernatural TV series follows demon hunter brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester in their crosscountry slaying adventures. After losing their mother to a mysterious and demonic supernatural force, the pair have dedicated their lives to battling every kind of supernatural threat they encounter along the way. And with 15 seasons, there’s plenty to stream.

Director: Eric Kripke
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins
Run time: 45 minutes an episode

Still have questions? We’ve got you covered.

General FAQs

What is the creepiest TV show?

The creepiest tv show on our list would have to be American Horror story, with Mindhunter coming in a close second.

Is Black Mirror horror?

Black Mirror covers a large range of genres, but most of them have a sci-fi horror element to them.

What was the first horror TV show?

The first horror TV show was Alfred Hitchcock Presents as it aired on October 2, 1955.

About the author

About the author
CONTRIBUTOR

Gabriel Jorge Gouveia

Gabriel Jorge Gouveia is a Sydney-based journalist who specialises in fashion, lifestyle and food reporting. He completed Bachelor of Communication Journalism Major at Western Sydney University and has had work published in the Fashion Industry Broadcast, Aussie Gossip and Beauty News Australia.