I don’t watch a lot of TV or Netflix year-round… But in the fall, straight through to the holidays, I do tend to find a few favorite shows to binge while I get cozy with some cocoa.
Last year I fell in love with the aesthetics—and, let’s be honest, mostly the side characters—of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and it helped me to realize how much I enjoy watching casually spooky things. Teenage ghouls, anime vampires, stylish witches? I’m all about it.
I can’t handle truly scary movies, but I can binge a delightfully creepy, autumnal adventure or two. I also really like shows with academic vibes, which are perfect for the season. So I put together this list of 20 shows: some spooky, some academia-inspired.
This list is by no means limited to new shows. I was sure to include a few that have been out for a while and are worth a second or third watch. Whether you like aesthetic anime or classic teen vampire dramas, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something worth binging here.
So grab some cozy socks, pour some wine (or any beverage of your choice), and settle in for some storytelling.
Who will love it: Anyone who loved teen vampire movies as a teen—or missed the boat entirely but is recently realizing they’re kind of amazing. *cough* Me *cough* I’ve always loved vampires, mostly of the Interview with the Vampire kind, but I can’t deny the intrigue of navigating a classic high school coming-of-age tale while your crush is actually a supernatural murderer.
The details: Based on L. J. Smith’s book series, this CW classic is everything you expect from a CW show about vampires. The camp, the snark, the fog machines. It’s all here. It’s basically Gossip Girl with a supernatural element—and a lot more brooding.
The story takes place in fictional Mystic Falls, Virginia. A tragic teen falls for a 100+-year-old vampire who’s also a PYT and has a brooding brother who isn’t as chipper about being a vampire. A love triangle ensues, doppelgangers appear, and there are plenty of other characters and storylines to follow as things unfold.
Who will love it: Apparently not fans of the original 90s show. There was some negative buzz around the reboot and most claim it didn’t do the original any justice. Even Alyssa Milano and other cast members complained rather publically. But if you have never seen the original or you’re not obsessed with reboots being carbon copies of original shows, this might be worth watching.
The details: Two sisters in a college town discover they have supernatural powers after their mother is killed. They discover that they have a secret half-sister who moves to town to work at the local college, shaking things up by unveiling all three sisters’ witchy abilities. Witchiness ensues. Most characters are one-dimensional cookie cutters that exist to set up the main cast and even the main cast can feel like stereotypes of their own characters at times.
But there are redeeming qualities! This series has elements of dark academia, dramatic speaking of Latin (spell casting, obvs), and spooky CG to keep you entertained. If nothing else, watch it for the gloomy autumnal small-town vibes, which it haves in droves.
Who will love it: If you liked either the original or the reboot of Charmed, you’ll probably like Good Witch. If you don’t mind a bit of lighthearted cheesy TV, you might even love it.
The details: Because we can’t get enough of that small town spooky stuff, this is yet another tale of a small-town gal (who’s a witch, naturally) and the romance she develops with her “big city” neighbor. The series premiered in 2015 and it begins with a father and son from the big city clumsily moving into their new home. They’re approached by their friendly—if intrusive—neighbor who magically helps them open their front door. She does this while dropping about 100 hints that she’s a witch.
I find this show incredibly charming despite the cringey cheese-fest that is the writing, because the set is gorgeous (her house!), the storylines are cute, and there’s just enough witchiness to keep me interested. Give it a shot if you’re looking for something light that’s not actually spooky. This is probably a good palette cleanser for after you watch something truly terrifying, in fact.
Who will love it: I want to say “everyone will love it!”, but I suppose you need to enjoy fantasy storytelling—and feeling like you’re going on an adventure while you watch something—to get into The Witcher. This is one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen with fascinating characters and creative storylines.
The details: This is not a new show (everyone was freaking out about it in December 2019). But if you missed the boat, here’s a nudge to check it out. The Witcher follows three main characters and their timelines leading up to the invasion of a kingdom named Cintra: Geralt of Rivia, Crown Princess Ciri, and Yennefer of Vengerberg. The episodes hop around to different timelines showing events unfold, and it all eventually weaves together.
Geralt of Rivia is the “Witcher”, a (sexy as hell) mystical hunter who kills monsters but refuses to swear allegiance to any party. He only knows that his destiny is tied to princess Ciri and spends the earlier episodes trying to find her.
Yennefer of Vengerberg is a part-elf sorceress who is born with physical defects that result in her being bullied and tortured, even by those closest to her. She trades her fertility to be rendered in the ideal physical vision of herself and becomes a ruthless killer with a lot of complex issues to work out. (She’s my favorite character.) Actually, I could write about this show all day, but you should just go watch it.
Who will love it: If you liked The Originals, this is a spin-off (and The Originals is a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries). You might think that would make this a terrible show, but it’s actually kind of great. Even if you’ve never seen the aforementioned prequels, give this a chance. I found it highly entertaining fewer eye-rolling moments than I expected. And you should know that I roll my eyes through most shows involving magical high school kids.
The details: The show is centered around an angsty and self-reliant girl named Hope Mikaelson who goes to a prep school for magic kids. For some reason, she’s more powerful and mysterious than all of the others. She’s also fighting with some internal darkness. In a needy, yet stubborn way, she clings to the headmaster as a father figure, making his two daughters very jealous.
The show follows the stories of a variety of students with different powers and abilities. Some of them are werewolves, some are vampires, some are destined to kill one another before they turn 22! They have high school parties and high school drama, but the cast is very likable and the episodes are entertaining. There are about a billion crossover characters and plots relating to the original two shows, but you don’t need to know what those are to enjoy this one.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Who will love it: Fans of horror, cinematic beauty, and complex storytelling will most certainly dig this emotional masterpiece.
The details: An au pair interviews for a position at an old, spooky manor in England and, within the first few minutes of the show, exhibits an uneasy temperament that suggests something devastating is bubbling beneath her exterior. She looks after two orphaned children who exhibit a curious mix of endearing and creepy behavior. Things get creepy fast with apparitions, ghouls, and disturbing talismans that will keep you on the edge of your couch.
Meanwhile, you’ll meet characters who are warm, curious, heartbreaking, and multi-dimensional. They’ll pull you into their stories one episode after the next. This much-anticipated follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House contains plenty of “true fans will get this” references—even some familiar faces. The stories, however, are independent of one another. I also feel it’s only fair to give a warning that it’s probably one of the “scarier” shows on this list (though still tame for true horror fans). Overall, just a beautiful series that’s not to be missed!
Who will love it: All of the true-crime fans out there who just can’t get enough of other folks’ misfortune. 😉 I jest. There is something fascinating about hearing stories that were never resolved. But also, something tragic.
The details: This classic series has sent shivers down our spines since it first debuted in 1987. Now it’s on Netflix for you to revisit. The series includes disappearances, murders, and even paranormal encounters that’ll have you locking your doors. You might fancy yourself a detective and try to pick up on some of the clues in the episodes or pose theories about some of these unresolved stories as you watch.
The new series includes newer cases and more sophisticated production, which might make the updated series might be even more unsettling than the original. In some cases, this show isn’t as spooky as it is heartbreaking. But in terms of storytelling and skin-crawling potential… it has to be on this list.
The Twilight Zone
Who will love it: Who doesn’t love The Twilight Zone? If you’re into vintage vibes and creepy themes, you’ll definitely be into it.
The details: One of the most famous shows of all time, The Twilight Zone features stories designed to send a chill down your spine. Episodes are unique in storyline and feature themes like horror and suspense, supernatural encounters, dystopian life, sci-fi, and other mind-benders.
Apart from being creepy enough to be fitting for the season, The Twilight Zone‘s tales usually have some kind of moral story or social commentary theme bubbling beneath the surface. It’s often said this show is responsible for making the sci-fi and supernatural genres popular amongst the general public after it was first broadcast in 1959.
American Horror Story
Who will love it: Fans of horror, suspense, ultra-modern CG, and …well, lots of gore and potentially upsetting images. There aren’t many on my list with those qualities, but American Horror Story is absolutely amazing.
The details: American Horror Story is an anthology collection of different series broken up by seasons. Each season focuses on a different scenario, with some overlapping in later seasons. If you’re just getting started with this show, you won’t find a more Halloweeny premise than a family moving into a house that’s haunted by all of the murder victims that are haunting its rooms.
I’m not sure what it is, but this show is macabre enough to make you cringe and enthralling enough to keep you hooked. It might be the camp and the exaggeration of character and scenarios—but rest assured, this title delivers on horror.
Who will love it: This extremely popular series is perfect for anyone who likes to be challenged while they binge-watch, and perhaps even to go to deep, dark places within the mind. This one will definitely push your emotional and mental boundaries and leave you contemplating the scenarios for days after.
The details: Black Mirror is The Twighlight Zone for the modern era: an anthology of twisted tales that paint various pictures of the future (and the present). Highly unexpected plot twists and shocking outcomes are the norm. By no means a new show—it came out officially in 2011 and landed on Netflix in 2015—Black Mirror has been shocking and amazing us all for a few years now as new seasons emerge.
Episodes focus on psychological twists and turns as well as moral dilemmas and dystopian possibilities, but they’re made all the more disturbing by being set in the near future, where life often looks (almost) exactly like it does now. The show has a way of making you feel relieved when it’s over… until the screen shuts off and you realize what the show’s name means, of course.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Who will love it: Sabrina is a pretty enjoyable show because it blends ultra-cinematic storytelling with the satisfying structure of a series. And you don’t have to like Sabrina herself to be into it, because the cast is full of incredible characters to love.
The details: Based on the Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic book series by Archie Comics, this series created a lot of buzz when appeared on Netflix (just in time for spooky season in 2018). It follows the trials and tribulations of a half-witch teenager named Sabrina who must navigate her path as a human and witch. Deciding not to fully forsake her human existence, she embraces both worlds, nearly destroying the lives of everyone she knows in the process on a weekly basis. But, yanno, she’s magic.
There are things I love and don’t love about this show, but one thing’s for sure: the storytelling is entertaining, the supporting cast is amazing (Ambrose Spellman’s tea-drinking and porch-lounging is a seasonal self-care vibe, even if it is because he’s condemned to the house for being a bad warlock), and the aesthetics are about as perfect as it gets for cozy autumnal viewing.
Who will love it: Anyone who loves slapstick, slightly crude comedy with a noir twist. This isn’t a spooky series by any means, but it falls under my “back to school” favorites list.
The details: Derry Girls follows a group of friends through their daily lives as Catholic school students during the Northern Ireland conflict, offering a different perspective of what life was like for those who grew up amidst “The Troubles”. As far as Erin and her friends are concerned, field trips to Paris, crushes on boys, and family are the most pressing topics, all while armed police march around them and explosions sound off in the distance. (They make plenty of chaos on their own in the foreground to balance things out.)
This show is hysterically funny and whimsical against a backdrop of grim reality. For example, eruptions of conflict raise eyebrows as an opportunity for school to be canceled. It’s precisely the kind of stuff you might have imagined as a kid, when priorities exist inside a small bubble you create for yourself and your friends.
Who will love it: People who love solving mysteries, lots of deep thinking in dusty, dark rooms covered in vintage wallpaper, and the classic Holmes-Watson dynamic.
The details: Sherlock is set in present-day, so you may not get the Victorian Holmes fix you were looking for, but it’s a British show. That means there are no shortage of beautiful old interiors and antiquities to enjoy while you watch Benedict Cumberbatch untangle modern folks’ deepest, darkest problems.
Holmes becomes something of a celebrity for being an eccentric crime-busting dandy and his cases (and personal life) are discussed in the press, causing all kinds of troubled souls to seek out his help. There are four seasons to binge on, even though they only have a few episodes each—so settle in with some spiced apple cider for this one!
Who will love it: Anyone who can sit through Legacies without cringing will probably be into The Magicians.
The details: This mystically scholastic show is about a guy named Quentin Coldwater, an immediately relatable character who feels depressed and out of place in the real world. He’s notably unable to shake his attachment to a fantasy world he adored in childhood. Quentin enrolls in a magician’s university (flunk out and it’ll be erased from your mind!) and meets other magical friends, most of who seem like laughable stereotypes until you get to know them.
But all isn’t well in magic land, as you can imagine. Where there’s magic, there are dark forces that must be fought. Expect a lot of clever CG and entertaining scenarios as a bunch of college kids take on their mystical majors and attempt to save the world. I was particularly won over by the aesthetics, which sprinkles in a bit of academia, steampunk, and vintage charm, from wardrobe to interiors.
Who will love it: I can’t be sure who will like Gossip Girl. Through the modern lens, it’s a problematic disaster. For me, it’s about nostalgia. I watched it every week with my college roommates, usually while screeching hysterically at our own inside jokes about the characters. I was a fashion design intern at Milly while it aired—a brand that supplied a lot of wardrobe for the show. I even bumped into some of the cast at fashion week parties. (Ah, fashion school… what a bizarre time.) So I guess it holds a special place in my heart. Watch it if you like drama or want to reminisce about high fashion circa 2008.
The details: Gossip Girl is on this list because it’s aesthetically bananas, cheeky, ridiculous, and it has an even balance of preppy school uniform and glittering ballgown moments. You probably know this already, but the show follows a group of privileged Upper East Side assholes (let’s call it like it is) as they navigate family, friend, and relationship drama on a backdrop of unthinkable luxury. There are plenty of characters with overlapping storylines to follow. The name-dropping and celebrity guest appearances are completely unchecked and the awkward, laugh-out-loud scenes just keep on coming.
Is it spooky? Not unless the thought of a flip phone haunts you! But you can bet I’ll be watching it all fall for the back-to-school vibes. I’m also including it here because it’s scheduled to leave Netflix, in 2021 since HBO Max will be showing it in the future.
Who will love it: Fans of a classic ensemble cast (anime style) will adore this completely over-the-top series.
The details: Adequately dark and gothic with steampunk vibes, Black Butler tells the story of Ciel Phantomhive, a young boy with an eye patch who runs an aristocratic estate in Victorian London. He serves as the royal family’s eccentric crime-solver and seems to have it out for just about everyone he crosses paths with.
Ciel lives with the manor staff, which includes an enigmatic butler who is clearly up to some shady business. Just how shady? You’ll have to find out! What I like about this anime is that it constantly teeters back and forth between being spooky, funny, and sometimes downright sinister. Even people who don’t normally watch anime will be extremely entertained.
Who will love it: This one’s for fans of vampires, vampire hunters, epic gothic storylines, and defending kingdoms from hellish demons.
The details: Castlevania was a wild video game by Konami that I used to watch my brothers play. The anime is based on the 1989 release of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Dracula summons demons to kill everyone in the kingdom of Wallachia after his human wife is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Monster-hunter Trevor Belmont sets out to defend the people, along with Alucard (Dracula’s son, who’s half-human) and a witch named Sypha.
The anime is understandably epic. You’ll get a lot of bloody battles in and around castles, winged demons, ominous soundtracks, curses, and the likes. In other words, this is flawless Halloween viewing. I should note that, in case you’re new to anime, it’s not for kids.
Who will love it: This sci-fi horror anime is definitely not for the faint of heart, which is exactly why it’s on my spooky season list!
The details: Okay, buckle up. This one’s weird… but there’s a reason it’s so well-known. One fateful night, little creepy aliens descend on Tokyo and enter the bodies of humans through their ears and noses as they sleep. These aliens then control the human hosts.
But Shinichi, an unsuspecting teenager, wakes when his parasite is thwarted by his headphones. It drills into his arm instead, taking up residence in his hand. Shinichi doesn’t lose control of his mind, so he co-exists with this parasite in order to fight other parasites. Yeah, it’s as bizarre as it sounds.
Who will love it: This series is recommended for fans of anime who love gothic mystery and romance paired with amusing circumstances. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
The details: Vampire Knight is about a school that has a very unique student population. And by unique, I mean some of them are vampries. The human students attend class during the day, but they must leave the grounds by the time night falls and the vampire students arrive.
The vampire students are physically and mentally superior, causing the human students to become irrationally obsessed with them. Thus, a human student must be tasked with patrolling the school at night, so that the daytime classes don’t harass the vampire classes (when they are determined to give them chocolates, for example). The resulting episodes are highly entertaining, with all of the spooky gothic vibes you’re craving this time of the year.
Who will love it: If you’re into decidedly dark themes, moody settings, and watching psychologically thrilling storylines unfold, you’ll love Death Note.
The details: A genius student who is disenchanted with his life in Tokyo stumbles across an ominous black notebook in his schoolyard. He will soon learn that it was dropped from the realm of the Shinigami, or death gods, because one of those gods was also feeling bored. The notebook states that any name written inside the notebook, paired with the inscriber thinking of the person they’re writing down, will result in that person’s death.
The book has a lot of complex rules and ways to manipulate the end of someone’s life, but the whole thing sounds too wild to be true. Once the student tests it out and discovers its validity, he goes down a dark path of attempting to rid the world of its worst human beings. Things spiral out of control pretty quickly, as you can imagine. To add to the chaos, the detective investigating this mysterious force of death happens to be our protagonist’s father.
This is one of the few animes I’ve watched that have stayed with me ever since. The mental journey it takes you on is wild. Hint: Skip the live-action and just watch the anime.
I hope these recommendations give you plenty of spooky, cozy viewing for the rest of fall. Want a holiday breakdown of movies to watch? Let me know in the comments or on IG! Ping me at @heymishka.
What are you watching right now?