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The 25 Best Horror TV Series of All Time

These thrilling and chilling shows will keep you up at night.

Horror movies have terrified and delighted audiences over the years. But, don't think you're safe just because you're not near a multiplex; the small screen can deliver big scares, too. The evening news isn't always the scariest show on TV. In fact, TV shows have been spooking audiences since the days of black and white. Sometimes the scares are good-natured, like in a kids' show with some age-appropriate horror, or in a thriller (or even a comedy) with some undeniable horror aspects. Other times, the scares are as bone-chilling as anything you'd see at a midnight screening at a multiplex. Read on to learn more about 25 of the best horror TV series of all time, including iconic anthology series, spooky cartoons, and plenty of gore…

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The 25 Scariest Horror TV Shows Ever Made

30 Coins

Still from 30 Coins
HBO Europe

This Spanish series, originally made for HBO Europe and streaming over here in the States on Max, follows an exorcist who moves to a small town in Spain hoping to put his troubled past behind him. Once there, though, Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández) discovers supernatural happenings that may be linked to a silver coin—supposedly one of the 30 that Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus. The series blends Catholic horror with cosmic horror and an entertaining adventure tale.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Still from Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Every '90s kid remembers Nickelodeon's young adult horror anthology series Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Some might only remember the extremely spooky opening credits, because even that was too scary for them at the time, causing young viewers to scramble for the remote. It might not be as scary to grown-ups who've revisited it, but Are You Afraid of the Dark? is expertly made gateway horror for budding genre fans.

American Horror Story

Still from American Horror Story

Ryan Murphy's long-running series tends to lose focus as a season progresses, but American Horror Story is full of legitimate scares and plenty of fun, pulpy performances from a cast whose likes include Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts, Lady Gaga, and even Kim Kardashian. (She's pretty good in it, to be honest!) The quality varies, but Seasons 1, 2, and 7 are among the series' best.

Attack on Titan

Still from Attack on Titan
Adult Swim

The wildly popular anime Attack on Titan is an action series, but it's also deeply horrifying, as the foes the protagonists must deal with humongous, grotesque humanoids that break through the walls of humanity's last post-apocalyptic bastion and eat their victims alive. (Attack on Titan does not shy away from showing many, many deaths in all their gory glory.) And we haven't even gotten to the body horror yet!

Black Mirror

Wunmi Mosaku, Wyatt Russell, and Ken Yamamura in Black Mirror
Laurie Sparham/Netflix

Calling Black Mirror, which began on British TV and then hopped the pond to continue on Netflix, "The Twilight Zone but for technology," isn't technically inaccurate but it is limiting. The Charlie Brooker-created anthology series understands that technology is just another aspect of humanity, for better and worse (mostly worse). That might be the scariest thing of all. Some standout episodes include "Be Right Back," "The Entire History of You," San Junipero," and "USS Callister."

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Castle Rock

Still from Castle Rock

This two-season Hulu series isn't based on any one Stephen King book in particular but instead tells a new story that combines aspects of the horror master's vast bibliography, with the action taking place in the titular fictional Maine town where many of his books are set. Season 1 features a dark secret underneath Shawshank Prison. Season 2 draws heavily from Salem's Lot and Misery.

Channel Zero

Still from Channel Zero

Each of Channel Zero's four seasons is inspired by a "Creepypasta," which is a term for a scary story that originated online and spooked message board users. In adapting them for TV, creator Nick Antosca might have made the scariest show on this entire list, as Channel Zero is full of disturbing moments and imagery that feels dreamlike until it becomes a nightmare.


Still from Chucky

SYFY's ongoing series Chucky is a continuation of the Child's Play movie series, and as you might expect from that pedigree, it has that same blend of outlandish comedy and delightfully silly, gory scares. If anything, the show might actually outdo the movies; the third season features the killer doll inside the White House, which he paints a bloody red.

Courage the Cowardly Dog

Still from Courage the Cowardly Dog
Cartoon Network

One of the more deranged Cartoon Network shows from the '00s (and that's saying something), Courage the Cowardly Dog is about a little dog who lives with his elderly owners in a rural house, only for something scary to befall them each episode. Primarily a comedy with horror elements, Courage is often so weird with its scares (a mummy animated with eerie CGI moaning for the return of a slab; a visiting cousin with a slasher smile, etc) that it has undoubtedly scarred many young viewers.


Still from Evil

The CBS and later Paramount+ show Evil follows The X-Files' tried and true method of pairing a believer together with a skeptic as they investigate supernatural occurrences. Katja Herbers plays a forensic psychologist who works with Mike Colter's Catholic scholar while the pair, along with a tech expert played by Aasif Mandvi, delve deep into a world of demons, exorcisms, and ghosts. There's also plenty of dark comedy and sly, horror-tinged commentary on current events.

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Still from Hannibal

Maybe the scariest part about Hannibal is how often you'll find your mouth watering at the sight of some dish cooked by the infamous Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen, maybe at this best). A cult classic series that draws from the three Thomas Harris books before The Silence of the Lambs, this three-season feat is acclaimed for a reason. It's extremely artful horror, and it keeps finding new ways to find unsettling beauty in its gory, nightmarish imagery.

The Haunting of Hill House

Julian Hillard in The Haunting of Hill House
Steve Dietl/Netflix

Mike Flanagan has created five horror series for Netflix, and while they're all good, the first one just might be the best. Loosely based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel (which has twice been adapted into a movie), The Haunting of Hill House follows a group of siblings across two time periods; as children when they endured paranormal experiences at the mansion where they grew up, and as adults when they're still haunted, in various ways, by their pasts.

Lovecraft Country

Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors, and Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

This one-season HBO series is a singular blend of horror, sci-fi, and Black American history. An adaptation of the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country stars Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors as two young people in the '50s who must deal with all sorts of strange horrors, ranging from the cosmic, Lovecraftian variety to the all-too-real terrors of Jim Crow. Despite a willingness to get very serious and intense when dealing with somber subject matter, Lovecraft Country has an undeniable pulpy vibe running throughout its 10 episodes, making it a trippy, enjoyable watch.

The Outer Limits

Still from The Outer Limits

The Outer Limits is primarily a science-fiction series, though the '60s anthology show is certainly not without its scary moments—especially the first season of the original two-season run. Often compared to The Twilight Zone (understandably so), The Outer Limits distinguishes itself with a more straightforward storytelling approach and plenty of sci-fi costumes and special effects—like a race of aliens who look like oversized ants with humanoid faces—whose uncanniness only makes them more effective.

The Outsider

Still from The Outsider

Police procedural meets the supernatural in this Stephen King adaptation, which stars Ben Mendelsohn as a detective charged with investigating a brutal murder committed by a local Little League coach (Jason Bateman). Except, something doesn't add up, and he finds himself on the trail of a supernatural entity that has the ability to become a deadly doppelgänger.

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Over the Garden Wall

Still from Over the Garden Wall
Cartoon Network

This short-but-sweet 2014 miniseries has become mandatory fall viewing for many fans, and for good reason. Elijah Wood voices one of two brothers who have become lost in a Grimms' Fairy Tales-like forest, and their quest to find home has them happen upon wonders both charming (talking bluebirds) and terrifying (skeletons having a pagan ritual, a malevolent force known only as "The Beast," etc.) Over the Garden Wall is undeniably cozy, but it's also undeniably spooky—the perfect autumnal combination.

Paranoia Agent

Still from Paranoia Agent

The great anime director Satoshi Kon died at far too young an age, leaving only four movies and one TV show behind, but they're all masterpieces. Paranoia Agent, the show, is a psychological thriller about a mysterious child on roller skates who assaults people with a bent, golden bat, earning him the name Lil' Slugger. As is often the case with Kon, the resulting investigation into Lil' Slugger and the uncovering of his victims' secrets is a trippy, scary warping of reality.

Stranger Things

Winona Ryder and David Harbour in "Stranger Things" season 4

Netflix's blockbuster series is an homage to '80s horror, and references both thematic and overt to Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg abound. The series follows the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, as some members of the community uncover a government conspiracy theory and a terrifying alternate dimension known as the Upside Down. The fifth season, which will wrap up the story of Eleven and her friends, is expected to air next year.

Tales From the Crypt

Still from Tales From the Crypt

The Cryptkeeper serves as the wise-cracking, decomposing host to this classic '90s horror anthology series, which benefitted from being on HBO and not network television. That distinction meant that it could get away with all the gory, perverse scares that got the old '50s comic series the show was based on in serious trouble back in the day.

The Terror

Still from The Terror

The second season of AMC's The Terror, which is set in a Japanese internment camp in WWII, is unfortunately quite bad. That doesn't matter, because the first season, which adds a terrifying supernatural element to the real historical story of two British ships that were lost while trying to discover the Northwest Passage, is a horror masterpiece. If there's one show on this list to watch, it's Season 1 of The Terror.

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The Twilight Zone

Still from The Twilight Zone
CBS Television Distribution

Arguably the most influential horror TV show of all time, The Twilight Zone is more than deserving of all the accolades and importance put on the classic early-'60s anthology series. Dozens of episodes have become iconic, known for their horrifyingly ironic twist endings. There are too many great episodes to list, but if you're somehow entering the Twilight Zone for the first time, check out "Time Enough at Last," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "It's a Good Life," and "Eye of the Beholder."

Twin Peaks

Frank Silva and Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks
CBS Television Distribution

David Lynch's cult classic TV show is, ostensibly, a mystery. Who killed Laura Palmer in the Washington town of Twin Peaks? The show is anything but a simple whodunit, though, as it's full of supernatural occurrences and surreal imagery that are, fittingly, Lynchian. The first two seasons aired on ABC in the '90s, followed by the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. A third season aired on Showtime in 2017.

The Walking Dead

Still from The Walking Dead

Zombies terrorized AMC for over a decade—and they continue to do so, as The Walking Dead has spawned six spinoffs, two of which are still ongoing. Few other TV shows, horror or otherwise, can boast that level of success, and it's to The Walking Dead's credit that the series never let the innate horror of the post-apocalyptic premise feel stale even as the flesh-eating Walkers began to decay more and more themselves.

The X-Files

Still from The X-Files
20th Television

The X-Files might just have the spookiest opening theme music of any TV show, and the series, which follows FBI agents Mulder and Scully as they investigated all sorts of extraterrestrial and supernatural phenomena, has plenty of scary episodes to match. The monster-of-the-week episodes frequently feature unique, disturbing, or grotesque villains (the season four episode "Home" is one of the scarier hours of television ever made), but the series' masterstroke might have been the way it makes conspiracy theories feel powerful and scary.


Still from Yellowjackets

Though it's frequently funny and a hoot to watch, Yellowjackets gets a lot of terrifying mileage out of the innate horror of its premise. A girls team of high school soccer players are stranded in the woods when their plane crashes, forcing them to turn to ritualistic cannibalism as they contend with their own demons—and possibly a supernatural force that continues to haunt the few survivors decades later.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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