6.66 Best Horror TV Shows
Making a list of the best horror TV shows ever is impossible, but we did it anyway. Prepare to argue over our 6.66 picks of heavy hitters and obscurities.
Narrowing the list of “best” horror TV series down to a single digestible read is a task almost scarier than the shows themselves—how do you exclude The Twilight Zone? What about The Walking Dead? Why was Teen Wolf even considered? To keep it short, I focused on genuine fright factor, production quality, and, most importantly, streaming availability. (Glaring example: Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone follow-up Night Gallery isn’t on any platform—boo!)
6.66 best horror TV shows
Kicking off with the king! Eleven seasons on a cable network is no small feat, and Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story is perennially the talk of Halloween. We all have our favorite seasons of the FX series (my top 3 are Murder House, Coven, and 1984), and even the shakier AHS installments (2018’s Apocalypse … huh?) are still must-see TV. Check out the anthology spinoff American Horror Stories too.
It’s a mystery how Hannibal was ever greenlit to become an NBC broadcast series in the first place, much less that it survived for three acclaimed seasons. Well, not universally acclaimed: Salt Lake City’s NBC affiliate station pulled the psychological thriller from its schedule after four episodes, so you know it’s good. Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal is easily the best show about a dapper cannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) ever.
3. Penny Dreadful (2014–2016; SHOWTIME)
The creepy and atmospheric Penny Dreadful brought 19th-century public-domain characters like Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), Vanessa Ives (a perfectly cast Eva Green), and others together for a gothic feast of a series. Walking the line between slow-burn thriller and dark-as-night horror, Penny Dreadful is utterly unique. Spinoff City of Angels is also worth a look.
Thanks to the successes of The X-Files and Tales From the Crypt in the ’90s, MGM revived the 1963–1965 anthology series The Outer Limits for SHOWTIME and broadcast syndication in 1995. The series’ 157 episodes mostly avoid the supernatural, centering on science-based scares and manmade threats (biochemical warfare, time travel, eugenics, etc.). Also, many episodes tie together, TV detectives.
5. The Strain (2014–2017; Hulu)
FX original The Strain was far from the first vampire TV series, but it’s definitely one of the most terrifying. In the four-season show, New York City is ground zero for what threatens to be a worldwide takeover of an ancient vampirism strain, and it’s up to Dr. Ephram Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his mercenary team to stop it. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan outdid themselves with The Strain.
6. Castle Rock (2018–2019; Hulu)
Stephen King’s fictional town of Castle Rock is the setting for a series that cleverly combines characters and stories from his vast catalog of novels. Season 1 (starring Yellowjackets’ Melanie Lynskey and It’s Bill Skarsgård) mashes up elements of The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining), and season 2 takes on the origin story of Misery’s Annie Wilkes (masterfully played by Lizzie Caplan). King-heads unite!
There are plenty of horror comedies that could have made this list, like Ash vs. Evil Dead and What We Do In the Shadows, but British series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace deserves more eyeballs. Pompous horror author Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) introduces his never-aired ’80s series Darkplace, a hilariously low-budget production about a hospital atop a Hellmouth. Darkplace also features the first credited role of What We Do In the Shadows’ Matt Berry and his “impossibly coiffured hair.”