With Halloween fast approaching, there’s never been a better time to revisit some of our favorite horror anime of all time. Although most people probably think of live-action gore-fests when the spooky season arrives, anime has a smorgasbord of horrors for you to feast upon. Japanese animators have been enchanting viewers with haunting myths since the 1960s. Often creating original stories or adapting terrifying manga tales, horror anime has become a powerhouse for some of the craziest, most thoughtful, and unique storytelling in the genre.
While there are literally thousands of great horror anime series and movies, we’ve curated and ranked 10 of the best ever. From paranormal thrillers to supernatural serial killers to psychological nightmares and vampiric epics, there’s something here for every fear. Check out our guide to the best anime of all time for more top picks.
Top 10 Horror Anime
10. Theater of Darkness: Yamishibai (2013)
Although each of these episodes lasts around five minutes, that doesn’t take away from how much they’ll get under your skin. If you loved telling spooky campfire stories as a kid and loved shows like Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark, then you’ll love Yamishibai. But these tales of the supernatural are way crazier than those classic kid’s coolers. The distinctively animated shorts take on multiple horror tropes, from strange phone calls to the dangers of rural villages, but all in unique and surprising ways. And the best thing is that there are already nine seasons of these insanely animated urban legends that will keep you up at night.
9. Tokyo Ghoul (2014)
Tokyo Ghoul is a futuristic sci-fi horror based on the manga by Sui Ishida that is every bit as scary as its source material. Kaneki is just a normal college student living in a high-tech alt-reality where humans are increasingly threatened by flesh-eating “ghouls”. As society desperately comes to terms with their new apex predator, a chance encounter changes Kaneki’s life forever. Suddenly caught between two worlds, he must come to terms with his new life and protect his human friends from what he has become. Beautifully animated, darkly depressing and packed with violent action, this is a terrifying jaunt through cannibal creatures and supernatural menaces.
8. Devilman Crybaby (2018)
One of the craziest horror shows of all time, Devilman Crybaby is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Adapting Go Nagai’s famous Devilman manga, this gory horror tale is darkly humorous but never lets you escape the wrenching fear at its core. Best friends Ryo and Akira are swept into a blood-soaked world infested with demons when the latter becomes the titular Devilman. Soon they will face off against all sorts of chaotic creatures, but something is fishy at the core of their friendship and this incredible journey will bring them to their breaking point. This wacky friendship tale, which split upon publication but is now considered a contemporary classic, has one of the most shocking endings in a long time and it will be a while before you shake it off.
7. Paranoia Agent (2004)
The first of two Satoshi Kon entries on our list, this Rashomon-style series was inspired by narrative beats and ideas Kon couldn’t incorporate into his filmmaking, leading to the creation of Paranoia Agent. It’s an origin that makes a lot of sense, as it revisits some of the late author’s favorite themes: paranoia, the thin veil between reality and fantasy, and the crushing weight of societal expectations. It all starts when a woman is attacked by a young man with a golden bat. Soon the city is on fire with similar attacks and theories as to why they are taking place. As two detectives try to solve the case, they are drawn deeper into the strange world of attacker “Bat Boy” and learn what may be fueling his inexplicable crime spree.
6. Parasite (2014)
Fusing body horror with sci-fi, Parasyte is one of the most addictive horror anime on our list. Created by mangaka Hitoshi Iwaaki, the story follows 17-year-old Shinichi Izumi. His everyday life in Fukuyama, Hiroshima is turned upside down after an invasion of parasitic aliens targets Japan. When one of the monstrous aliens accidentally implants itself in Shinichi’s hand instead of his brain, he must learn to share his body with his new physical neighbor. This twist of fate eventually becomes a tool for survival as Shinichi must survive other parasites in this high school horror story that mixes coming of age with body horror and big questions about the nature of being human.
5. Hellsing (2001)
We recently highlighted the 2005 OVA Hellsing Ultimate in our Best Vampire Anime List. But when it comes to pure horror, we have to stick with this classic. Set in an old-history version of England where vampires roam, the only line of defense against the bloodsuckers is the mysterious Hellsing Organization and a dangerous new substance that wants to blur the line between vampire and human once and for all. Fortunately, the Hellsing organization and its leader – the daughter of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing – have a secret weapon, the vampire Alucard. Unforgettable and wild Nightwalker action make this a horror anime for the books. And if you grew up in the ’90s or ’00s, it’ll probably instill a hefty dose of spooky nostalgia, too.
4. Perfect Blue (1997)
Satoshi Kon is one of the masters of anime storytelling. And while he’s made several classics, his haunting psychological thriller is Perfect Blue is one of his most influential and impressive films. After leaving her J-Idol group to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, singer Mima Kirigoe’s life begins to spiral out of control. The lines between real life and fantasy begin to blur as she is pursued by a superfan and struggles to separate her idol self from her new career. Brutally brilliant, this is a true horror of the mind that will keep you guessing until the very last moment. But beware, this is arguably the most terrifying and violent entry on our list, so don’t go into it expecting anything other than a deeply disturbing watch you’ll never forget.
3. Boogiepop Phantom (2000)
After a strange light appears in the sky, unexplained events begin to plague a group of high school students in this evocative and totally unique entry on our list. A sprawling ensemble story, the characters are linked by a folkloric figure known as Boogiepop. Rumored to be the personification of death, urban legend creeps into these dark tales as a spate of brutal murders sparks a renewed interest in the mythical boogie-pop. Though there is an overarching mystery attached to the episodes, you can enjoy them as an anthology of sorts, with each vignette imbued with chilling vibes and flawless storytelling.
2. Higurashi When They Cry (2006)
This twisty time warp version of folk horror follows a young boy, Keiichi Maebara, who lives in the seemingly idyllic rural village of Hinamizawa. But there are dark secrets lurking that seem to be connected to a strange government project. As Keiichi becomes more and more enmeshed in the mystery, things get darker and darker in this absolutely brutal story. If you’re a fan of puzzle-box storytelling and slasher-style kills with a conspiracy twist, then you’re probably already a fan of this infamous anime series. While the original 2006 rerun of the show is pretty hard to find now, there is an easily accessible 2020 remake currently available on Hulu. And if you really like that, you can also check out the prequel remake that came out in 2021.
Death Note is a classic for a reason. This wish-granting horror introduces viewers to the world of Light Yagami, a hyper-intelligent teenager who makes a strange and life-changing discovery. Finding the Death Note, a supernatural notebook that allows Light to kill anyone whose name he writes on its pages, Light embarks on a fascist quest to rid the world of crime. As judge, jury, and executioner, Light becomes one of the most terrifying anime antagonists of all time. But the enigmatic and intelligent detective known only as L is determined to solve the unnatural wave of global deaths that are all being traced to the Light. Death Note is a darkly delightful mystery that asks big questions while remaining entertaining throughout. Death Note is a truly iconic horror anime.
Looking for more horror? Check out our guide to the best horror movies of all time as well as the best horror movies on Netflix.