The Scariest TV Shows Of All Time

In the era of all-day binges, freaky-deaky television is all the more important. Our senses are dulled by the incessant bludgeoning of the entertainment content cycle. When the senses grow weak, where do we turn? Even more provocative material! Watch a scary TV show every once in a while. It'll awaken the senses.

Horror TV — or just thrilling TV, we won't get quibblish — has moved to the forefront in the past ten years. The kids who loved the horror of the '80s grew up and started making really, really good shows. And, networks discovered that comic books made great television. Shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story proliferated. Stranger Things swept the airwaves (not really — hello, streaming giants) in 2016, followed closely by The Terror and Hulu's Castle Rock. Meanwhile, horror movies are having their own sort of renaissance. It, A Quiet Place, and Hereditary were all favorites in the past few years. Horror is back, baby, if only because the muted tones of late '00s TV drove us bonkers.


For your terrifying pleasure, and in light of Halloween, here are the scariest TV shows of all time.

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Black Mirror


What's scarier than guts and gore? The future — that is, a very realistic look at our potential future. Since Black Mirror first aired, the British sci-fi series (now owned by Netflix) has told suspenseful, satirical, on-the-nose, and even horrifying stories that explore the pitfalls of technology. The Twilight Zone-esque collection of standalone dramas tap into our unsettling feelings about the quickly evolving modern world.

Channel Zero: Candle Cove (2016)

The first season of SyFy's horror anthology — based on internet lore called creepypasta — tells the story of a kid's puppet show that masks a sinister agenda. What does this show have to do with the town's missing children? Everything, and if puppets still give you nightmares, you'll want to watch this one exclusively in the middle of the day.

The Haunting of Hill House


Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel — also titled The Haunting of Hill House — is the ultimate horror television show. The show, which takes exciting liberties with the book, is about the Crain family, which is still recovering from one disastrous night in Hill House, a vicious haunted house. Years after the house destroyed the family, the various Crain family members reassemble to confront Hill House one final time. Each episode unveils new horrors about Hill House, the Crain hauntings, and the truth about trauma.

Twin Peaks

(1990 - 1991)

"Who killed Laura Palmer?"

It was the question that set off a thousand stories. Laura, played by Sherilyn Fenn, was a young homecoming queen with promise, which meant that her death shook the tiny town of Twin Peaks. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) traveled to Twin Peaks to solve her murder. There, he discovered a seedy world that was actually much worse than it seemed. The second season of the original series gets real wonky, dealing with evil doppelgangers and an alternate universe called The Red Room. All of it is weird, and most of it is scary. In the 2018 reboot, Michael Cera made a brief appearance, meaning it was a little less scary. But still, there were episodes one couldn't watch alone.
Photo: Courtesy of Aidan Monaghan/AMC..

The Terror

(2018 - Present)

AMC's show about a group of sailors determined to find the NorthWest passage is based on a book, which is in turn based on a true story. The real story is gruesome, and would make a nasty movie. The sailors ended up marooned in ice. When they were discovered — all of them dead — there were definite traces of cannibalism. The TV story is much floofier: as sailors wait for the ice to thaw, a massive bear-creature begins attacking the ship. The Terror loses some of its potency when the creature becomes more of a presence, but at no point do the main characters leave the icy cold. The cold here is the real monster.

American Horror Story: Murder House


Note that only the first season of Ryan Murphy's recurring FX masterpiece is included. That's the only truly scary season, but there's a catch: It's sort of coming back for season 8. American Horror Story is an anthology, and each season has deviated from the first. For the upcoming season, though, a character from season 1 is returning. The antichrist will rise again, and so might American Horror Story's heyday.

The Walking Dead

(2010 - Present)

The Walking Dead took zombies and made them glamorous. Twilight met the grittiness of prestige TV, and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was born. The show wasn't just scary. It was fearless, ripping characters from the confines of the story with glee. RIP Glenn! RIP Carl! RIP every character you loved! (Late season Walking Dead is less lovely than early season Walking Dead, when the stakes felt higher and the premise felt fresh.)

Fear The Walking Dead

(2015 - Present)

The prequel series, also on AMC, focuses on am arguably scarier era than The Walking Dead. It takes place in the weeks and days immediately following the zombie outbreak. The zombies here are smaller in number, and loom larger in fear factor.

Scream Queens

(2015 - 2016)

Ryan Murphy's slapstick series starred Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, KeKe Palmer, and Billie Lourd as sorority sisters plagued by a mysterious killer.

The Jinx


Get this: under mysterious circumstances, three women, all of them married to the same man at some point, die. Robert Durst, their wealthy husband, looks like the murderer. He claims he didn't do it. No, he really didn't. Then, Durst gives an interview to HBO where he seemingly accidentally confesses into a hot mic.

"You're caught," he mutters.

There's nothing scarier.

Game of Thrones

(2011 - 2019)

Game of Thrones established early on that this wouldn't be stardust and pixies fantasy. This fantasy series, based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, was gritty. In the opening sequence, an ice-zombie — White Walker, fine — attacks a stray northerner. The ice zombies return, sometimes in massive packs. In the most recent season, an ice dragon zombie arrived. It's a little frivolous at times, but GoT consistently manages to serve scares, almost at the same rate that it serves great drama.
Photo: Courtesy of Hulu..

Castle Rock

(2018 - Present)

Hulu's newest creep is a mashup of everything scary: There is a tiny Maine town. There are lots of mysterious suicides. There is a very slender Bill Skarsgard who, one person in the town claims, is the devil incarnate. There is a girl who can read minds. There's a dead dog. There's a time-traveler. All of it comes courtesy of the horror king, Stephen King himself. Andre Holland stars, and Skargard does all the leering stares.
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