Horror films are films of the horror genre that are designed to elicit fright, fear, terror, or horror from viewers. In horror film plots, evil forces, events, or characters, sometimes of supernatural origin, intrude into the everyday world. Common horror film figures include vampires, zombies, monsters, serial killers, demons, ghosts and a range of other fear-inspiring characters. Early horror films often drew inspiration from characters and stories from classic literature..
Later horror films, in contrast, often drew inspiration from the insecurities of life after World War II, giving rise to the three distinct, but related, sub-genres: the horror-of-personality film, the horror-of-Armageddon film, and the horror-of-the-demonic film. The last sub-genre may be seen as a modernized transition from the earliest horror films, expanding on their emphasis on supernatural agents that bring horror to the world.
It was in the early 1930s that American film producers, particularly Universal PicturesCo. Inc., popularized the horror film, bringing to the screen a series of successful Gothic features including Dracula (1931), and The Mummy (1932), some of which blended science fiction films with Gothic horror, such as James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933). These films, while designed to thrill, also incorporated more serious elements, and were influenced by the German expressionist films of the 1920s. Some actors began to build entire careers in such films, most notably Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.
Other studios of the day had less spectacular success, but Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(Paramount, 1931) and Michael Curtiz's Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Brothers, 1933) were both important horror films.
Universal's horror films continued into the 1940s with The Wolf Man 1941, not the first werewolf film, but certainly the most influential. Throughout the decade Universal also continued to produce more sequels in the Frankensteinseries, as well as a number of films teaming up several of their monsters. Also in that decade, Val Lewton would produce atmospheric B-pictures for RKO Pictures, including Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1945).
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1. Frankenstein (1931) - Boris Karloff: [The movie is in 5 parts] [Movie was removed from this site]
The classic and definitive monster/horror film of all time, director James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) is the screen version of Mary Shelley's Gothic 1818 nightmarish novel of the same name (Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus). The film, with Victorian undertones, was produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. for Universal Pictures, the same year that Dracula (1931), another classic horror film, was produced within the same studio - both films helped to save the beleaguered studio. [The sequel to this Monster story is found in director James Whale's even greater film, Bride of Frankenstein (1935).]
The film's name was derived from the mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), who experimentally creates an artificial life - an Unnamed Monster (Boris Karloff), that ultimately terrorizes the Bavarian countryside after being mistreated by his maker's assistant Fritz and society as a whole. The film's most famous scene is the one in which Frankenstein befriends a young girl named Maria at a lake's edge, and mistakenly throws her into the water (and drowns her) along with other flowers.
Frankenstein (1910) - Silent movie made by Thomas Edison
2. The Vampire Bat (1933) – Lionel Atwill:
The city of Kleinschloss is infected with a dark scourge from the past. A Legion of bloodsucking creatures who can assume human form have returned to prey upon the unsuspecting citizens. Detective Karl Brettschneider begins investigating numerous gory deaths at the request of the burgomaster. Despite the obvious evidence, he refuses to accept the existence of vampiric human bats, but soon their existence proves all too real.
3. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933 - Color) – Fay Wray:
In London, sculptor Ivan Igor (Lionel Atwill) struggles in vain to prevent his partner Worth (Edwin Maxwell) from burning his wax museum...and his 'children.' Years later, Igor starts a new museum in New York, but his maimed hands confine him to directing lesser artists. People begin disappearing (including a corpse from the morgue); Igor takes a sinister interest in Charlotte Duncan (Fay Wray), fiancée of his assistant Ralph (Allen Vincent), but arouses the suspicions of Charlotte's roommate, wisecracking reporter Florence (Glenda Farrell).
4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) – Tod Slaughter:
A Fleet Street barber recounts the story of Sweeney Todd, a notorious barber who in the last century murdered many customers for their money.
5. Cat People (1942) – Kent Smith, Simone Simon
Cat People is a classic. It was the first film from producer Val Lewton at RKO Radio Pictures. With Cat People, Lewton essentially created a new type of horror film – the psychological horror film. And in so doing Lewton ended completely changing approaches to the horror film. This is a horror film for thinking people.
When naval construction designer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) sees Serbian born beauty Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) at a zoo, he flirts with her, and soon they fall in love and marry. Complications arise because Irena believes she is the victim of an ancient Serbian curse that causes her to turn into a panther if a man tries to make love to her, and the marriage is not consummated. Oliver sends Irena for treatment with psychiatrist Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway), and Oliver seeks "consolation" with his colleague Alice Moore (Jane Randolph). Irena becomes jealous when she learns that she may be losing Oliver to Alice.
6. The Mad Monster (1942) – George Zucco:
Dr. Cameron (George Zucco) has succeeded in his expierments with a serum which will turn a man into a wolf-like monster and is ready to avenge himself on the men who caused his professional failure. He uses it on his gardener Petro (Glenn Strange) and one after the other is killed by his creation. His daughter, Lenora (Anne Nagel), grows suspicious and confides with newspaper reporter Tom Gregory (Johnny Downs).
7. Bride of the Gorilla (1951) – Lon Chaney Jr:
The owner of a plantation in the jungle marries a beautiful woman. Shortly afterward, he is plagued by a strange voodoo curse which transforms him into a gorilla.
8. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Duane Jones:
In this classic yet still creepy horror film, strangers hold up in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse and battle constant attacks from dead locals who have been brought back to life by mysterious radiation. George Romero produced the film on an $114,000 budget, and after a decade of cinematic re-releases, it grossed some $12 million domestically and $30 million internationally.
9 Lady Frankenstein (1971 - Color) – Joseph Cotton:
When Dr. Frankenstein is killed by a monster he created, his daughter and his lab assistant Marshall continue his experiments. The two fall in love and attempt to transplant Marshall's brain in to the muscular body of a retarded servant Stephen, in order to prolong the aging Marshall's life. Meanwhile, the first monster seeks revenge on the grave robbers who sold the body parts used in its creation to Dr. Frankenstein. Soon it comes after Marshall and the doctor's daughter.
10. Werewolf of Washington (1973 - Color) – Dean Stockwell:
A reporter who has had an affair with the daughter of the U.S. President is sent to Hungary. There he is bitten by a werewolf, and then gets transferred back to Washington, where he gets a job as press assistant to the President. Then bodies start turning up in D.C
11. The Bat (1959) - Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead:
Based on the gothic novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart, this haunted house mystery casts Moorehead as the owner of a house with a million dollars hidden in it. Bodies pile up as the mysterious "Bat" tries to find the money first. Filmed before in 1915 (silent), 1926 (silent) and 1930 (talkie).
And don't forget - when the bat flies, someone dies!
12. The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1962) – Herb Evers
The unethical surgeon Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) is developing a technique of transplantation of organs and members using a serum against rejection. When he has a car accident with his girlfriend Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), he saves her head only, and tries to find a woman with a beautiful body to transplant Jan's head.As if this weren't enough, an evil beast pounds and screams from a locked room adjacent to the lab. The film was re-made as the Steve Martin comedy “The Man with Two Brains”.
13. THE FLYING SERPENT (1945) - GEORGE ZUCCO - Insane archaeologist Professor Andrew Forbes (George Zucco) uses a beast he unearthed to kill his enemies. The creature is the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Slowly those who know this try to stop the maniac and his monster. [Added]