Top Classic Horror Movies of All Time

Posted on 30 Aug 00:00

 

 

 1)  Nosferatu (1922)

This is a 1922 German expressionist horror movie. The movie is adapted from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula although various names and other details are changed from the novel, for example, Count Dracula is renamed as Count Orlok to avoid copyrights issues.

Plot

It is in the year 1938, Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) who lives in a fictional town Wisborg, German is employed by an estate agent Herr Knock (Alexander Granach). Knock sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client, Count Orlok (Max Schreck) who intends to buy a house in Wisborg. Hutter leaves his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder) with his friend Harding (George H. Schnell) and his sister Annie (Ruth Landshoff). Towards his destination in the Carpathian Mountains, Hutter stops at an inn for dinner. The locals fear Orlok and they discourage Hutter from traveling to his castle at night due to a werewolf on the prowl.

The following day, Hutter takes a coach to a high mountain pass, but the coachman declines to take him past the bridge as nightfall is approaching. He boards another coach to the castle where he is welcomed by Count Orlok. Hutter cuts his thumb while having dinner, Orlok tries to suck the blood out but Hutter pulled his hand away.

That night Orlok signed the documents to purchase the house in Wisborg. Hutter suspects that Orlok is a vampire and when he is reading a book, he cowers in his room as midnight approaches. Later, the door opens by itself and Orlok enters, Hutter hides under the bed covers and falls unconscious. Back in Wisborg, Ellen awakens from her sleep and walks towards the balcony and onto the railing. Harding is alarmed and shouts Ellen’s name, she faints while he asks for a doctor. The doctor arrives and Ellen shouts Hutter’s name and she is able to see Orlok in his castle threatening her unconscious husband.

Hutter explores the castle the next morning. He finds a coffin in which Orlok is resting dormant in its crypt. Hutter is horrified, he rushes back to his room. Later, he sees Orlok piling coffins on a coach climbing into the last one as the coach departs. Hutter escapes from the castle through the window, however, he falls and gets knocked unconscious and awakens in the hospital.

After recovering, Hutter hurries home. The coffins are shipped down the river on a raft and transferred to a schooner, however, one is opened by the crew revealing lots of rats. Meanwhile, sailors on the ship fall ill and only the captain (Max Nemetz) and the first mate (Wolfgang Heinz) remain, all the others die. The first mate tries to destroy the coffins but Orlok awakens and he jumps into the sea. Finally the ship arrives in Wisborg, Orlok leaves without anyone seeing him. He carries one of his coffins into the house he purchased. The captain is found dead in the ship the next day and the doctors say it is as a result of the plaque. All the people in the town are warned to stay indoors.

Later, there are so many deaths in the town. Ellen reads the book Hutter was reading and she discovered that a vampire can be defeated by the beauty of a pure-hearted woman. She opens the window to invite Orlok in, but she faints, nevertheless, Hutter revives her and he sends her to fetch Professor Bulwer (John Gottowt), a physician. When the physician leaves, Orlok enters and drinks Ellen’s blood as the sun begins to rise. Knock who was jailed for murdering a warden senses the threat to Orlok, but cannot escape his cell to warn him. When the rooster crows, Orlok vanishes in a puff of smoke. Ellen only lives to be embraced by her grief-stricken husband. Count Orlok castle is then seen as ruined.

Director:  W. Murnau

Trivia:

The movie was unauthorized since even after the details were altered. Stoker’s heirs sued over the adaption of the movie from the novel and the court ruled in favor of the heirs. The court ordered that all copies of the movie be destroyed, however, a few copies of the movie Nosferatu survived and it became an influential masterpiece.


2)  Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein is an American pre-code science fiction horror movie cast in 1931. The movie is adapted from a play by Peggy Webling that was based on Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel 'Frankenstein' or 'The Modern Prometheus'.

Plot

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is a young scientist and his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), a hunchback, seeks to create a human body using freshly buried body parts from the cemetery. The laboratory is built in an abandoned watchtower, Frankenstein desires to build a human body using electric devices he has perfected to give the body life. The only thing missing is a brain for his creation. Dr Waldam (Edward Van Sloan) still teaches at Henry’s former school. He is showing his class the brain of an average human being and the corrupted brain of a criminal for them to compare the two. Therefore, Frankenstein sends Fritz to steal the healthy brain from the class. However, Fritz drops and damages the brain and they use the corrupt brain instead.

Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), Henry’s fiancée, speaks to Victor Moritz (John Boles), their friend about Henry’s peculiar behavior. They ask Dr. Waldman to help them understand Henry’s new behavior including secluding himself. Waldman reveals that he is aware that Frankenstein wants to create life. They arrive at the lab only to find Frankenstein in his final preparations, where the lifeless body is laying on the operating table. Frankenstein and Fritz raise the operating table high in the room, moving it towards an opening at the top of the tower. As the storm rages outside, the lightning strikes the equipment and the creatures’s hand begins to move. Frankenstein shouts “It’s alive!”

The Monster (Boris Karloff) seems to be innocent and Frankenstein welcomes it into his laboratory. Fritz enters with a torch that frightens the Monster and Frankenstein and Waldman think it wants to attack them. They chain it in the dungeon for they think it is not fit for the society as it can wreak havoc. Meanwhile, they lock the Monster, Frankenstein and Waldman run down only to find the Monster has strangled Fritz, they escape. They realize the Monster must be destroyed, Henry prepares an injection of a powerful drug to inject the Monster as it attacks. They unlock the door and the Monster lunges at Frankenstein, Waldman injects the drug into the Monster’s back and it falls unconscious.

Henry also collapses of exhaustion. Henry’s father and Elizabeth arrive and they take him home. Later, Henry recovers, he is preparing for his wedding while Waldman examines the Monster as he prepares to vivisect it. Immediately, the Monster awakens and strangles him and it escapes from the tower wandering through the landscape. It encounters Maria (Marilyn Harris), a farmer’s young daughter and they play a game together by tossing flowers into the lake and watch them float. The Monster thinks Maria will float too, therefore, it throws her into the lake where she disappears beneath the surface, upset by the outcome, it runs away.

Victor arrives and tells Henry and Elizabeth that Dr. Waldman has been found strangled, meanwhile, the Monster enters Elizabeth’s room causing her to scream. She is later found unconscious on the bed. The Monster has escaped.

Following the death of Maria the villagers vow to capture the Monster to bring it to justice. During the search, Henry is discovered by the Monster that attacks him and knocks him unconscious, it carries him off to an old mill. The rest of the group hear his cries and they regroup to follow. They find the Monster has climbed to the top dragging Henry with it. The Monster hurls Henry to the ground and he is saved by the vanes of the windmill and the Monster is trapped inside. At the Castle, Frankenstein’s father (Frederick Kerr) celebrates the wedding of his recovered son with a toast to a future grandchild.

Director: James Whale

Trivia:

The movie was a success upon release and was well received. The movie was also selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as they termed it culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.


3)  Bride of Frankstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein is an American science fiction horror movie cast in 1935. It is considered to be an improvement of the original Frankenstein movie.

Plot

It is a stormy night and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) praise Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) for her story of Frankenstein and his Monster

Villagers gather around the burning windmill to cheer the death of the Monster (Boris Karloff). However, their joy is tempered by the realization that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is dead. Hans (Reginald Barlow), Maria’s father, the girl that was drowned by the Monster, wants to see the Monster’s bones. Hans falls into a pit under the mill where the Monster, having survived the fire, strangles him. Hans’s wife (Mary Gordon) is also killed. The Monster encounters Minnie (Una O’Connor) who flees.

Henry’s body is returned to Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) his fiancée at his ancestral castle home. Elizabeth sees Henry move and she realizes he is still alive.  Elizabeth nurses him back to health and he renounces his creation, but still believes he will unlock the secret of life and immortality.

Henry goes to Pretorius’s lab where he has created Homunculi including a miniature queen, king, archbishop, devil, ballerina, and mermaid. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), Henry’s former mentor, wants to work with Henry to create a mate for the Monster. Pretorius will grow an artificial brain while Henry will gather the parts for the mate.

The Monster tries to burn the hand of a gypsy family in their campfire. Later the Monster encounters an old blind Hermit (O.P. Heggie) who thanks God for sending him a friend. The Hermit teaches the Monster words like “friend” and “good” and they share a meal. Two hunters are passing by, the Monster attacks them and accidentally burns down the cottage as the hunters lead the Hermit away.

Henry and Elizabeth are now married. Pretorius visits them and he is ready for collaboration but Henry refuses. Pretorius calls in the Monster who demands Henry’s help, still, Henry refuses and Pretorius orders the Monster out but signals him to kidnap Elizabeth. Pretorius guarantees Elizabeth’s safe return if Henry participates, Henry returns to his tower laboratory, he grows excited over his work and being assured of Elizabeth’s safety, he completes the Brides body.

Amid a storm, the final preparations are made to bring the Bride back to life. Her body is raised through the roof and lightning strikes sending waves through the bride. Henry and Pretorius lower the Bride and Henry cries “She is alive”. They help her to stand and Dr. Pretorius declares “The Bride of Frankenstein!”

The Monster is excited to see his mate (Elsa Lanchester) but the Bride rejects him. The Monster becomes dejected. Elizabeth races to Henry’s side, the Monster rampages through the laboratory and does not destroy Henry and Elizabeth. However, to Pretorius and the Bride, he says they will die together, he pulls a lever to trigger the destruction of the laboratory and tower. 

Director: James Whale


4)  Dracula (1931)

Dracula is an American pre-code supernatural horror movie cast in 1931. The movie is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. The stage play was also adapted from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Plot

Renfield (Dwight Frye), a solicitor travels to Count Dracula’s (Bela Lugosi) castle in Transylvania for business. The people in town warn Renfield not to go to the castle due to vampires. However, Renfield asks his carriage driver to take him to the Borgo Pass. A Dracula coach driver drives Renfield to the castle. Renfield sticks his head out en route to ask the driver to slow down but sees the driver has disappeared and a bat leads the horses.

The charming and eccentric Count welcomes Renfield into the castle. Renfield does not know that he is a vampire, they discuss Dracula’s intention to lease Carfax Abbey in London. Dracula hypnotizes Renfield into opening a window, a bat appears and Renfield faints, Dracula’s three wives close in on him. Dracula waves them away and he attacks Renfield himself.

Renfield becomes a raving slave to Dracula. Dracula hides in a coffin and feeds on the ship’s crew. When the ship reaches England, Renfield is the only person surviving. Dracula sends Renfield to Dr. Seward’s (Herbert Bunston) sanatorium adjoining Carfax Abbey. Later, Dracula meets Seward who introduces him to his daughter Mina (Helen Chandler) and her fiancé John Harker (David Manners) and a family friend Lucy Weston (Frances Dade). Lucy is fascinated to meet Count Dracula. However, that night Dracula enters her room and feasts on her blood while she sleeps. She dies the following day.

Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) analyzes Renfield’s blood and discovers his obsession with eating flies and spiders. Dr. Helsing shows Renfield his wolfsbane which he uses for protection from vampires. Dracula bites Mina in her sleep when he visits the next morning Van Helsing reveals to him that he does not have a reflection, Dracula smashes the mirror and leaves. Van Helsing deduces that Dracula is the vampire behind the recent tragedies.

Dracula attacks Mina, she is found by the, maid. The newspaper report that a woman is luring children from the park and biting them. Mina recognizes the lady as Lucy who has risen as a vampire. Van Helsing orders Nurse Briggs to take care of Mina when she sleeps and to let her remain with the wolfsbane on her neck

Renfield escapes from his cell and listen to the men as they discuss vampires, but his attendants take him back to the cell. Dracula visits Seward parlor and talks with Van Helsing, he states that Mina belongs to him and Helsing should return to his home country. Helsing swears to excavate Carfax Abbey and destroy Dracula. Dracula tries to hypnotize Helsing but Helsing’s resolve proves stronger. Dracula continues to pursue Helsing who removes a crucifix from his coat causing Dracula to retreat.

Dracula hypnotizes Briggs and he removes the wolfsbane from Mina’s neck and opens the windows. Helsing and Harker see Renfield heading for Carfax Abbey, they see Mina and Dracula in the Abbey. Harker shouts to Mina, Dracula thinks Renfield led them there. Dracula kills him. Helsing and Harker hunt down Dracula who now sleeps in his coffin during the daytime. Helsing prepares a wooden stake that he impales Dracula through the heart killing him, Harker finds Mina and she returns to normal

Director: Tod Browning

Trivia:

Dracula was a success upon release. It had a notable influence on culture and the movie was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.


5)  Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls is an American independent horror movie cast in 1962. The movie revolves around a young woman whose life is disturbed after a car accident.

Plot      

Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is riding in care in Kansas with two young women when some men challenge them to a drag race. As they speed across the bridge, their car plunges into a river. The police try to rescue them from the murky and fast running water without success but Mary miraculously surfaces though she cannot remember how she survived.

Mary is hired as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Utah. As she is driving through the desert, her radio picks up strange organ music and she begins to have visions of a ghoulish, pasty-faced figure called “The Man” (Herk Harvey) in dialogue. Suddenly she sees an abandoned pavilion on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, which seems to beckon to her in the twilight. The gas station attendant tells her that the pavilion was first a bathhouse, then a dance hall, and later a carnival before it closed.  

Mary rents a room in town and the proprietor informs her that there is another lodger staying there. She unpacks her bags and goes to the church where she will be playing the organ. She meets the Church minister (Art Ellison) and plays the organ for the first time. They later take a ride with the Minister to the pavilion at the lake but they do not enter.

Later, Mary returns to the lodging and meets a man, John (Sidney Berger), the other lodger and he wants to become better acquainted. In the night, she becomes upset to see The Man downstairs, therefore, she retreats to her room. She begins to experience terrifying interludes when she becomes invisible and inaudible to the rest of the world. The Man appears in front of her in the park, she flees, right into the arms of a Dr. Samuels (Stan Levitt) who tries to help her acknowledging he is not a psychiatrist.

The Minister (Art Ellison) is upset because Mary has declined a reception to meet the congregation. She practices for the first time and she finds herself shifting from a hymn to eerie music. In a haze, she sees The Man and other ghouls dancing in the pavilion. The Minister hears the strange music and denounces it as sacrilege and insists upon her resignation. Mary is terrified of being alone, therefore, she agrees to go out with John. When they return, he smooth-talks her way into her room. She sees The Man in the mirror and she tells John what has been happening to her. John leaves believing that she is losing her mind.

Mary goes back to Samuel’s office and she believes she has to go to the pavilion. However, she is confronted by The Man and his ghouls. She frantically tries to escape boarding a bus to leave town, only to find that the fellow passengers are ghouls. Fortunately, it is a nightmare, she awakes in her car. In the end, she is drawn back to the pavilion where she finds her tormentors dancing. She collapses as she tries to run away. The following day, the Minister, Samuels, and police go to the pavilion to look for Mary. They find her footprints in the sand and they end abruptly. Her car is pulled from the river back in Kansas. Mary’s body is in the front seat alongside the other two women.

Director: Herk Harvey

Trivia:

The movie has cinematography and a foreboding atmosphere. In addition, it has a large cult following and is mostly screened at film and Halloween festivals. It is also cited in wide range influence on numerous filmmakers.


6)  Psycho (1960)

Psycho is an American psychological horror movie cast in 1960. The movie is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The movie is about a secretary who ends up at a secluded motel after stealing money from her employer.

Plot

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a real estate secretary together with her husband Sam Loomis (John Gavin), discuss how they cannot afford to get married because of Sam’s debts. Marion returns to work after lunch and a client leaves a $40,000 cash payment on a property. Her boss asks her to deposit the money in the bank. That day, she leaves work early after she complains of a headache. At home, she decides to steal the money and drive to Fairvale, California, where Sam lives.

On her way to Fairvale, Marion falls asleep in her car. The next morning, she is awoken by the California Highway Patrol Officer (Mort Mills) who grows suspicious about her skittish behavior after questioning her. Marion arrives at California automobile dealership and trades, Bakersfield in her Ford Mainline that has Arizona license plates. The officer spots Marion at the car dealership and she abruptly drives away.

At night, it becomes stormy, she stops at the Bates Motel. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the proprietor invites her to share a light dinner. She accepts but overhears Norman and his mother argue about bringing a woman into their Gothic home that sits perched above the motel. However, they eat at the motel parlor and Norman tells her about his life with his mother who is mentally ill.

Marion is moved by Norman’s story and she decides to travel back to Phoenix the next morning to return the stolen money. As she takes a shower, she is stabbed to death. When Norman sees blood, he panics and runs to Marion’s room where he discovers her body. He cleans up the room and puts Marion’s corpse and her possessions including unbeknown to him the stolen money which she had hidden in a folded newspaper into the trunk of her car and sinks it into the swamps near the motel.

After a week, Lila (Vera Miles), Marion’s sister arrives in Fairvale to confront Sam about Marion’s whereabouts. A private investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) approaches them and informs them that Marion is wanted for stealing the $40000. After investigation Arbogast discovers that Marion spent the night at the Bates Motel. He questions Norman whose stammering, skittishness, and inconsistent answers raise suspicion. Norman prevents Arbogast from speaking to his mother. However, he goes to Bate’s home and seeks to speak with Norman’s mother but as he reaches for the stairs, a mysterious figure stabs him to death.

Sam and Lila do not hear from Arbogast, Sam visits the motel. He sees a figure in the house and he assumes it is Mrs. Bates who is ignoring his knocks. Lila and Sam visit the local deputy sheriff (JohnMclntire) who informs them that Mrs. Bates died ten years ago. The Sheriff also concludes that Arbogast lied to them so he can pursue Marion and the money. Lila and Sam drive back to the motel. Norman carries his mother and hides her in the fruit cellar.

At the motel, Sam distracts Norman by engaging him in a conversation. Lila sneaks inside the house, however, Norman becomes agitated and knocks Sam out and rushes into the house. Lila hides in the cellar where she finds Mrs. Bates in a chair turning her around, she discovers that she is a mummified corpse. Lila screams, Norman runs into the cellar, holding a knife and wearing his mother’s clothes and wig. Before he attacks Lila, Sam regains consciousness and subdues him.

A psychiatrist explains that Norman murdered Mrs. Bates and her lover ten years ago out of jealousy, at the courthouse. He then stole her corpse and began to treat it as alive since he was not able to bear the guilt. In addition, he recreated his mother in his brain a personality of jealousy and possessiveness that Mrs. Bates had when she was alive. Norman also killed two missing girls before stabbing Marion and Arbogast to death. While in a holding cell, “Mothers” voice-over protests that the murders were Norman’s doing. Marion’s car is retrieved from the swamp.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Trivia:

The movie was ranked among the greatest that gives a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior, and sexuality in American movies.


7)  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s baby is an American psychological horror movie cast in 1968. The story is about a pregnant woman who suspects that an evil cult wants to take her baby to use in their rituals.

Plot

Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary (Mia Farrow) Woodhouse rent a vacated apartment in the Bramford, a large building in New York City, in 1965. The previous tenant who was an elderly woman fell into a coma and died. Hutch (Maurice Evans) warns Guy and Rosemary about Bramford’s dark past involving witchcraft and murder but they ignore it.

Rosemary meets Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian), a young woman, who is recovering from a drug addiction. Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), the Woodhouses’s elderly neighbors, has taken her from the streets. Rosemary admires a necklace the Castevetes gave Terry but dislikes its pungent odor. Terry jumps to her death from the Castevets seventh-floor apartment one night. Later, the Castevets befriend the Woodhouse’s and they become fond of one another though Rosemary finds the Castevets annoying and meddlesome. Minnie gives Rosemary the pendant of the necklace that belonged to Terry insinuating that it is a good luck charm containing “tannis root”.

Guy lands a role as an actor after the original actor unexpectedly goes blind. On the other hand, Guy wants to have a baby with Rosemary. Minnie brings them cups of chocolate mousse on the night they plan to conceive. Rosemary complains that it has a chalky under-taste and she eats only a small portion and secretly discards the rest. She later passes out and experiences a dream-like vision in which a demonic presence rapes her as Guy, the Castevets, and the other tenants, who are all nude, watch. When they wake up in the morning, Rosemary’s body is covered in scratches. Guy tells her that they had sex while she was unconscious as he did not want to miss the “baby night”.

Later, Rosemary becomes pregnant and the Castevets insists she goes to their close friend Dr. Abraham Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy), an obstetrician, rather than her own physician, Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin). Rosemary suffers severe abdominal pains during her first trimester and loses weight. Dr. Sapirstein attributes it to temporary stiff pelvic joints. However, Hutch is alarmed by her gaunt appearance and he researches Bramford’s history and Roman Castevet. Later, Hutch meets Rosemary to share his findings, he falls into a mysterious coma. Rosemary is having much pain and she says she must see Dr. Hill; Guy thinks Dr. Sapirstein will be offended, as they argue, the pains suddenly stop and Rosemary feels the baby move for the first time.

Three months later, Grace Cardiff (Hanna Landy), Hutch’s friend informs Rosemary that Hutch is dead. Grace says that before dying, he briefly regained consciousness and told Grace to give Rosemary a book on witchcraft with a message on it “The name is an anagram”. Rosemary studies the book. She concludes that Roman Castevet is an anagram for Steven Marcato (Sidney Blackmer) who is the son of the former Bramford resident and a reputed Satanist. Rosemary suspects the Castevets and Dr. Sapirstein belong to the satanic coven, therefore, they have sinister plans for her baby. Guy does not believe, he throws the book away. Rosemary thinks he is conspiring with them.

Rosemary gets terrified. She visits Dr. Hill for help. However, he calls Dr. Sapirstein who arrives with Guy to take Rosemary home. Rosemary locks herself in the apartment, Dr. Sapirstein sedates her as she becomes hysterical. Rosemary later goes into labor and gives birth but when she wakes up she is told the baby was stillborn. Soon Rosemary recovers, she hears an infant crying but Guy claims it belongs to the new tenants.

Nevertheless, Rosemary believes her baby is alive. One day, Rosemary discovers a hidden door leading to the Castevets apartment. She sees the Castevets, Guy, Dr. Sapirstein, and other coven members gathered around a bassinet. She peers inside and demands to know what happened to her baby. Roman says satan’s son has his father’s eyes and urges Rosemary to mother her child. Guy calms Rosemary and tells her they will be rewarded generously and can conceive their own child but Rosemary spits in his face.

Director: Roman Polanski

Awards and Nominations

The movie won numerous awards including an Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon) and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Roman Polanski)

Conclusion          

These movies create a sense of fear and normally scare the audience. Although horror movies contain violence and mythical creatures such as ghosts and vampires, they are very interesting to watch. 

Movie Buffs Forever stocks classic DVD’s from the 1940's to the early 2000's. Browse our full collection of DVDs and classic movies.