While the movies might have nailed cinematic scares, the best horror series prove that even the smallest screens can handle the grisliest of tales.
The best TV series aren’t limited to mystical fantasies and atmospheric sci-fi. In fact, some of the best drama series are horrors, and there’s plenty of animation, comedy, and thrillers in the mix, too. And when there’s a litany of networks and streaming services trying their hand at horror, there’s plenty to chose from.
15. Bates Motel (2013- 2017)
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho is one of the best horror movies of all time. It introduced us to the serial killer Norman Bates, whose obsession with his mother led to multiple deaths of unlucky souls who happened across his motel. The story is iconic, and it turns out that the series detailing the early life of the famous fictional killer is just as captivating.
Bates Motel tells the story of a young Norman Bates long before he was the cold-blooded killer on the silver screen. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as the leading mother and son duo, the show is not only packed with tension as we wait for Norman to change into a killer, but its eerie dialog and talented performances have granted it universal acclaim and top horror series status.
14. Yellowjackets (2021 – present)
Definitely a series you want to avoid watching until after you’ve eaten. Yellowjackets is a fun but harrowing story of survival against the odds that involves an awful lot of cannibalism. It’s probably best described as Alive meets Riverdale, with a dash of Lost thrown in for good measure, all of which make it a superb if slightly eccentric TV show.
When a plane carrying a soccer team comprised of teenage girls crashes in the northern wilderness, the friends must learn to survive in the harsh environment until help comes. If it comes. Of course, things unravel into chaos as the girls begin to break apart, and as we flick back and forth between the past and the future, it’s clear that they were driven to their deepest, darkest tenancies out of desperation.
13. Supernatural (2005 – 2020)
If you prefer your horror with a dash of teenage fun, then Supernatural will most definitely be your bag. Two brothers, Sam and Dean, were raised by their monster-hunting father after their mother was mysteriously killed. The family drifts apart, but the duo must unite and return to the family business (saving people, hunting things) when their dad goes missing years later.
This is probably one of the longest-running horror series of all time, and what started as a simple monster-of-the-week premise on The CW turned into one of the biggest fandoms of all time. Seriously. This show dominated Tumblr. But don’t let that put you off, because Supernatural works through the cheap-looking CGI to bring about some genuinely jumpy scares, some addictive family drama, and a mediation on what is and isn’t real.
12. Marianne (2019)
Marianne is a French horror series that is downright bone-chilling and doesn’t get half the recognition that it deserves. Telling the story of the famous horror novelist Emma Larsimon, the drama series details her issues in distinguishing reality from the memories of a malevolent witch named Marianne.
We’re talking some good old-fashioned mind games and supernatural possession. After Marianne possesses her friend’s body, Emma must return to her home town and try to dispel the witch’s curse once and for all. The series is punchy, moody, and well worth your time. However, be warned: Netflix cancelled the series after one season (I know…we’re upset too), but still, it’s a must-watch and a show that will make you squirm.
11. The Last of Us (2023-present)
It’s tense, thrilling and full of zombies (well, they’re technically called the infected, but you know what we mean) — what more could you want? Hyperbole aside, what’s most impressive about this adaptation is how it captures the indescribable magic of the video game. A lot of that comes down to The Last of Us cast, who are all incredible, especially Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie.
For the longest time, we thought the zombie genre was dead and gone (no pun intended), but The Last of Us proved that not only were zombies still terrifying (and even more so in a post-pandemic world), but that they could still be creative, unpredictable, and highly-human centered. In fact, it’s the humans that make this show tick, with every episode making us more emotional than the last amid the horrific scares.
10. Hannibal (2013-2015)
From the mind that brought us the comedy series Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller’s psychological horror-thriller Hannibal has rightfully earned a cult following since its 2013 release and is still considered one of the best horror shows you can watch.
An adaptation of Thomas Harris’s series of serial killer novels, the show follows the gruesome relationship between the cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter and the FBI profiler Will Graham.
The drama is juicy, the murder borders on gruesomely artistic, and the writing feels at times like a perfectly crafted fever dream. With awards behind its name, a killer cast including the likes of Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, and stunning visuals, Hannibal is a must-watch for any horror fans with access to a TV.
9. Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories (2013 – present)
There are plenty of fantastic horror anime; however, the short anthology show Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories holds a special place in our hearts, thanks to all of its unique visual styles and terrifying folktales. With each episode mimicking the kamishibai method of story-telling (narrated street theater with revolving pictures), the show feels as if you are watching a scary bedtime story play out in front of your eyes.
The stories tell unsettling urban legends, myths and folktales with Japanese origins and prove to be captivating no matter what mood you are in. With the old-timey art and pacy runtime of around five minutes for each episode, Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories is perfect for horror fans looking for a quick but quality anime series fix.
8. Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999-2002)
If you’re looking for an animated series that will scar you and your kids for life, well, look no further because Courage the Cowardly Dog is as horrific as it comes. Telling the story of all the creepy encounters Courage the dog and his owners face in the middle of nowhere, it’s a series that plays on our fears. Yes, you may be rolling your eyes right now, saying, “but this is just a kid’s cartoon!”…but you’d be wrong.
Courage the Cowardly Dog is filled with disturbing imagery, sharp and unsettling saturated colors, and plenty of body horror with shots of Courage’s eyes popping out of his head as he screams. Over the years, there have been episodes of monsters, witches trying to sew souls into quilts, killers, ghosts, and of course, some aliens too. In short, its nightmare-inducing and showcases every horror monster and trope in the book.
7. American Horror Story (2011 – present)
I mean…it’s in the name. Yes, over the years American Horror story has become something of a parody of itself, but you can’t deny that the early years were a small screen horror masterpiece. When the first season hit screens in 2011, there was nothing else like it. Intensely dark, oozing with sex, and just the right amount of pretentiousness, it quickly became one of the most-talked about shows on TV.
The first two seasons are the best: Murder House, and Asylum. The former is a twisted, winding trip through time to push the boundaries of the ‘haunted house’ trope, and the latter is a body horror nightmare, as sadistic and uncomfortable as they come. We’re starting to think AHS may never end at this rate.
6. The Walking Dead (2010 – 2023)
We couldn’t write about the best horror series without mentioning the go-to zombie show now, could we? Based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead is one of the most acclaimed and beloved horror series around and has managed to spawn a massive franchise in its wake.
Telling the story of a group of humans trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, the show is full of adrenaline, day-walkers, tears, and suspense. It’s a series that has everything fans of classic zombie movies would want — be it spicy drama, questionable morals, or high-stakes action. It’s safe to say that you’ll never feel bored with this playing on your small screen.
5. Chucky (2021- present)
Like all long-running horror movie franchises, the Child’s Play series about the killer doll Chucky has its ups and its downs. Luckily the 2021 TV series by Don Mancini proves to be a strong contender as one of the best entries in the IP yet.
A 14-year-old finds a doll in a yard sale and gets more than he bargained for once murders and shocking events start happening around his small town. It turns out that dear old Chucky is being possessed by the soul of a serial killer, and some grade-A slasher antics ensue. Besides having a high kill count, Chucky tackles themes of trauma, and bullying and manages to meld a coming-of-age story with the gory slasher sub-genre.
4. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Okay, we weren’t not going to talk about The Haunting of Hill House. Very loosely based on the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, this Netflix series surprised everyone.
On paper, it’s a story of a family who lived in a haunted house, and how it impacted their adult lives and relationships. In reality, it’s one of the most harrowing and highly-emotional depictions of grief and loss you’ll ever see.
Plus, it doesn’t let down when it comes to the scares. In fact, it’s got one of the best jumpscares in the business (we won’t tell you when), but it also manages to be one of the highest-quality and most creative shows on the platform. Frankly, we can’t get through it without crying, thanks to the adorable child performers and the haunted, exhausted adult counterparts. The Haunting of Hill House proves that horror, above all, is sad.
3. Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)
Tales from the Crypt is a bona fide spooky classic, and if you haven’t noticed already, The Digital Fix is fond of the odd anthology series, so you know that this ‘80s spookfest had to make our list. Based on the 1950s EC Comics series of the same name, Tales from the Crypt sees a wisecracking corpse puppet host a delightfully creepy show.
Each episode is full of tongue-in-cheek humor, is self-contained, and isn’t afraid to kick up the gore and violence to a ten. With a series of awards, recognition and a never-ending list of impressive guest stars such Ewan McGregor and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tales from the Crypt is always a good time.
2. Midnight Mass (2021)
When it comes to horror series, Mike Flanagan has established himself as a modern institution, giving us creepy banger after banger. And although we love his work on the Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, and the rest of the budding ‘Flanaverse‘, his 2021 outing, Midnight Mass, stands as his best yet.
Telling the story of a small town with a small vampire problem, Midnight Mass is full of mystery, atmosphere, and stomach-curdling scenes. It’s a horror series that feels as if it could have been an award-winning vampire movie in its own right because, yes, the story is just that gripping.
Midnight Mass is a show you’ll want to binge, and when it’s over, you’ll also realize that it’s a show that will haunt your nightmares and make you reconsider isolated towns and handsome priests for years to come.
1. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
The Twilight Zone is one of (if not the) best TV series ever to hit the small screen, period. Rod Serling’s genre-defining anthology is packed full of weird, unsettling short stories that are expertly written, acted, and produced. In short, this sci-fi series is pretty much faultless.
From snapshots of nuclear war, murderous doppelgangers, monsters, and deals with the devil, every episode is a nightmare come to life, and it is easy to see why many consider the ’50s series to be the OG spooky show.
Not many pieces of art can stand the test of time, but even after decades since its first release, The Twilight Zone still terrifies us and continues to inspire horror creators (such as Jordan Peele and his thriller movie Us) to take a swing at the medium.
If you’re after more spooky tales, have a look at our lists of the best monster movies and ghost movies of all time. (Don’t forget to check out all the new movies coming out this year, too, as well as the best movies of all time!)