13 Classic Horror Films in the History of Cinema

13 Classic Horror Films in the History of Cinema

When it comes to cinema history, “dramatic” classics such as Citizen Kane, The Godfather, 12 Angry Men, Casablanca come to mind. However, it cannot be ignored that the “horror” genre also contains many “classics” within itself. Especially in the 1920s and 1930s, the basis of many stereotypes in horror cinema, which developed under the influence of gothic literature and expressionism, was laid in the period between the First and Second World War.

Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (1922)

history of cinema, horror film,

A gothic horror film shot in Germany in 1922. It was influenced by German expressionism. The film is based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. However, the names of the characters and the ending of the movie were changed due to copyright.

Nosferatu was banned in Sweden until 1972 for containing extreme horror.

The film was directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Max Schreck played the role of Count Orlok.

Starring: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder…

Dracula (1931)

history of cinema, horror film,

A gothic horror film shot in the USA in 1931. It was based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, which was published in 1897. It differs from Nosferatu by handling the vampire concept on a more romantic and charismatic plane.

The first film adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a 1920 Russian film. But this movie has not survived.

The movie was directed by Tod Browning. The role of Dracula was played by Bela Lugosi.

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye…

Frankenstein (1931)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A gothic horror and sci-fi film shot in the USA in 1931. It was adapted from the novel “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus”, published in 1818 by the English writer Mary Shelley. Contrary to popular belief, Frankenstein is not the name of the beast. It is the surname of the doctor who created the monster.

In the movie Frankenstein, Doctor Frankenstein creates a monster from dead bodies, and this monster spirals out of control.

Colin Clive played the role of Doctor Frankenstein and Boris Karloff played the monster.

Starring: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Slogan…

Freaks (1932)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror movie shot in the USA in 1932. Based on the story Spurs, published in 1923 by Tod Robbins. 26 minutes of the movie, which was planned to last 90 minutes, was cut due to provocative scenes. These scenes are thought to have disappeared.

The film, which is also the subject of the 4th season of American Horror Story, was banned in some states of the USA in the first years of its release.

The movie was directed by Tod Browning. Many actors and actresses are real circus performers.

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova…

The Wolf Man (1941)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror movie shot in the USA in 1941. Curt Siodmak wrote the screenplay. It is one of the first movies that comes to mind when it comes to werewolf. Many of the werewolf cliches in today’s movies are based on this movie.

The movie was directed by George Waggner. The role of the werewolf was played by Claude Rains.

Starring: Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi…

Häxan (1922)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A Swedish-Danish co-production horror film shot in 1922. It is also known as a documentary. The theme of the movie is witchcraft. The director tried to bring rational explanations to the phenomena defined as witchcraft.

The film was directed and written by Benjamin Christensen. Benjamin Christensen’s descriptions in the film are based on his work on the Malleus Maleficarum. (Malleus Maleficarum is an anti-witch book written for inquisitors in the 15th century.)

Starring: Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt, Tora Teke, Clara Pontoppidan…

The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

Gothic horror film shot in the USA in 1925. It was adapted from the novel Le Fantôme de l’Opera, published in 1909 by the French writer Gaston Leroux. It was influenced by German Expressionism.

The movie was directed by Rupert Julian. The role of the phantom was played by Lon Chaney. Lon Chaney also designed the ghost makeup in the movie himself.

Starring: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe…

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1931)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror movie shot in the USA in 1931. It was adapted from the short novel “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde” published in 1886 by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Doctor Jekyll is a kind man loved by everyone. A mixture he prepares brings out the evil in him, and Doctor Jekyll cannot stop himself from drinking this mixture.

The film was directed by Rouben Mamoulian. The role of Doctor Jekyll was played by Fredric March.

Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert…

Faust: Eine Deutsche Symphonie (1926)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A fantastic/gothic horror film shot in Germany in 1926. As the name suggests, it is adapted from the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s book Faust. It was nfluenced by German Expressionism.

The film begins with Faust selling his soul to a demon named Mephisto.

The film was directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. The character of Faust was played by Gösta Ekman and the character of Mephisto was played by Emil Jannings.

Starring: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, William Dieterle…

The Invisible Man (1933)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror/sci-fi film shot in the USA in 1933. It was dapted from the novel “The Invisible Man” by Herbert George Wells, published in 1897.

The Invisible Man tells the story of a scientist who finds a way to become invisible.

The movie was directed by James Whale. The role of Doctor Jack Griffin was played by Claude Rains.

Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers…

The Mummy (1932)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror movie shot in the USA in 1932. It was adapted from a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam.

The movie was shot in a desert in California. Boris Karloff, whom we know from Frankenstein, played Imhotep as a mummy. The film was directed by Karl Freund.

Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron…

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari (1920)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror/thriller film shot in Germany in 1920. The screenplay was written by Carl Mater and Hans Janowitz.

Due to the economic conditions, many of the decors on the movie set were made of cardboard. The film, in which even the light-shadow effects are depicted with paints, is considered the first example of German expressionism.

The film was directed by Robert Wiene. Doctor Caligari was played by Werner Krause.

Starring: Werner Krause, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover…

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

history of cinema, horror film, classic,

A horror movie shot in the USA in 1943. It is more about black magic and voodoo rituals than the current zombie model.

The film was directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Starring: Frances Der, Tom Conway, James Ellison, Edith Barrett…



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