Scary Movies for Halloween
I’m celebrating Halloween once again by offering an alphabetical listing of the best classic scary films ever made, along with links to help you purchase them if they’re available. In keeping with the theme of this site, I’ve listed very few films made after the 80s, but it’s hard to avoid the breakthrough sci-fi and horror films made during the late 70s and early 80s. There are also some special horror/sci-fi sites listed in the Classic Films Horror/Sci-Fi Movies list. I’ve added many new ones to the list this year. Your suggestions, of course, are always appreciated — just don’t ask me to include anything made in the past 20 years! We are trying to update some of the links on this list, but a number of these films are now only available as part of collections.
- Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
First on the list alphabetically, but shouldn’t be the first one you see, because much of the humor is in knowing something about the various monsters and watching how the boys play off them. Very funny, and even scary.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Before “Seven,” there was “nine” — the nine biblical plagues, which Dr. Phibes visits upon his victim in one of the best of the Vincent Price horror movies.
- Alien (1979)
In my opinion, this movie has one of the most frightening alien monsters ever created. Sigourney Weaver is a great heroine, smashing the mold of the helpless damsals in distress of the traditional gothic horror films.
- The Birds (1963)
Leave it to The Master to turn a flock of birds into malevolent monsters.
- The Black Cat (1934)
A psychological horror film based on a Poe story, the first joint effort for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Read the review by Tim Dirks of The Greatest Films site.
- The Blob (1958)
Steve McQueen stars in this campy teen horror flick about the oozing mass of gelatinous extraterrestrial goo that took over the movie theatre!
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Considered even better than the original, the movie boasts a great campy performance by Elsa Lanchester.
Review by Tim Dirks.
- Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
A very nice little low budget, black and white horror film based on Fritz Leiber’s novel Conjure Wife. Known as Night of the Eagle in the UK.
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
A stunning experiment in cinematic surrealism and psychological horror that set the tone for many later works. Werner Krauss stars as the hypnotist/showman who travels through a weirdly distorted German countryside and unleashes Cesare, his somnambulist slave, on the townspeople.
- Carnival Of Souls (1962)
A car plunges off a bridge, and a young woman emerges, apparently unscathed. Wandering off, her odyssey takes her to a strange small town and a carnival pavilion whose patrons walk the line between the living and the dead. Director Herk Harvey’s atmospheric low-budget chiller has achieved a cult following. (Includes both the original black-and-white and the newly colorized versions.)
- Curse Of The Demon (1956)
A psychologist and occult “debunker” played by Dana Andrews finds himself up against a centuries-old blood cult attempting to bring a demon to Earth, and must use lots of skills to pass the runes. Directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People). (Includes both the American version and the complete, restored British version, alternately titled Night of the Demon.)
- Dawn of the Dead (1978)
George Romero’s popular follow-up to his seminal 1968 zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead.
- The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
This breakthrough film set the tone for many sci-fi flics which followed. Its intelligence and theory that humans are more of a threat to the universe than vice-versa were refreshing for the times. The remake is okay, but not nearly as clean and clear.
- Dead of Night (1945)
This British film consists of five interwoven stories, all of which have been ripped off more than once, particularly the one about the ventriloquist dummy.
- The Devil Doll (1936)
Todd Browning’s classic stars Barrymore as a prison escapee who sends unique assassins after the men who wronged him…human beings shrunken to 12 inches high! With Maureen O’Sullivan. Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection.
- Doctor X (1932)
An early shock classic with Lionel Atwill as a Long Island scientist suspected to be behind a series of gruesome slayings. Fay Wray co-stars. Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection.
- Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi’s signature performance as the great vampire.
- Dracula (1979)
Frank Langella did such a great job in this film, based on his Broadway performance, that he was almost typecast in the role. Olivier’s in it, too, but the play was better, or so they say.
- The Exorcist (1973)
Recently chosen by TV Guide as the scariest movie of all time. The religious element made it a big draw in the mid-seventies.
- The Fly (1958)
Half man, half fly, with Vincent Price thrown into the mix. Pretty scary at the time.
- Forbidden Planet (1956)
This was the first great sci-fi movie I ever saw, and the ending still packs a punch, despite some of the “Lost in Space” aspects at the beginning.
- Frankenstein (1931)
The acknowledged king of horror films may look like a cliche today, but it created most of those cliches.
- Freaks (1932)
Tod Browning’s disturbing story of circus “freaks” and their special form of revenge on a “normal” woman was and is a cult favorite, banned in many places when it was first released.
- Halloween (1978)
This early John Carpenter effort set the tone for many slasher flicks to come. None of the sequels measured up. The debut of his Michael Myers character also created one of the most popular Halloween costume accessories on the market today.Find Classic Titles From the Warner Archive!
- The Haunting (1963)
One of the greatest of all haunted house movies makes its point without ever really showing us a ghost. Avoid the recent remake at all costs.
- Horror of Dracula (1958)
The first of the Hammer horror films, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together for the first time, is thought by some to be the best vampire movie of the classic era.
- Horror Hotel (1960)
A curious co-ed in pursuit of her history studies visits a ramshackle Massachusetts town that had been the site of witch burnings… and lands in the clutches of a coven that has risen from the ashes. Starring Christopher Lee. Sold in a collection of other horror classics.
- House On Haunted Hill (1959)
A sinister host, played by Vincent Price offers a group of people $10,000 each if they’ll spend the night in his macabre mansion, then does his best to see that no one collects. Directed by the legendary William Castle. (B&W and colorized versions)
- I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
The best of the “teenage” movies starred Michael Landon as the scary pubescent lycanthrope. VHS only.
- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Richard Matheson wrote the novel and the screenplay for this film in which common cats and spiders become frightening monsters, thanks to a man’s exposure to nuclear radiation.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
When I was a kid, this was the first horror/sci-fi film that I was forbidden to see (probably had something to do with the word “body” in the title). The 1978 remake wasn’t bad, either.
- Island of Lost Souls (1933)
The original version of H.G. Wells’ novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Charles Laughton makes a very creepy Dr. Moreau, and Bela Lugosi is equally creepy as The Sayer of the Law. If you’ve seen later versions, particularly the recent Brando remake, be sure to catch this one if you can. VHS only.
- The Invisible Man (1933)
Directed by the legendary James Whale (Frankenstein), this original version of the H.G. Wells tale stars Claude Rains, who is a scary character, even though he’s rarely seen in the flesh. The film also stars Gloria Stuart, of Titanicfame.
- It Came From Outer Space (1953)
Fifties sci-fi classic with Richard Carlson as an astronomer who can’t convince anyone of the UFO crash he sighted. And the aliens who have taken human form while repairing their ship aren’t making it any easier. Excellent adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s story.
- Jaws (1975)
Not to be outdone by Hitchcock, Spielberg managed to make people afraid of a fish. In a totally different class from the sequels. Widescreen version.
- King Kong (1933)
Excellent special effects for its day, a beautiful heroine, and a sympathetic monster make this one a keeper.
- The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Roddy McDowall and Pamela Franklin star in this haunted house film that’s a somewhat weaker version of “The Haunting,” though still plenty scary and entertaining.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1958)
One of the scariest Disney animations ever created. I still have childhood memories of the scene where the Headless Horseman threw his pumpkin head at poor Ichabod! It’s not Alien, but it’s not a Mickey Mouse cartoon, either.
- The Val Lewton Horror Collection
Along with Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, andBedlam, this five-disc boxed set also includes two exclusive double features. First, a remote New Mexico town is filled with fear when a killer jungle cat is on the loose and a series of savage murders follows in The Leopard Man (1943), with Dennis O’Keefe and Jean Brooks; and the new third mate of a ship discovers his captain is a sadistic maniac in The Ghost Ship(1943), starring Richard Dix and Russell Wade. Next, a young woman comes to New York City to look for her missing sister and uncovers a deadly devil-worshipping cult in The Seventh Victim, starring Kim Hunter, Tom Conway and Jean Brooks; followed by Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy, a documentary look at how the producer’s ’40s RKO tenure changed the face of screen horror.
- Mad Love (1935)
Peter Lorre as Dr. Gogol, who grafts the hands of a murderer onto the arms of a great pianist, whose wife Dr. Gogol happens to be in love with. Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection.
- The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
The infamous Asian mastermind (Boris Karloff) and his diabolical daughter (Myrna Loy) raid the tomb of Genghis Khan. Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection.
- Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Roger Corman and Vincent Price combined for this classy but low-budget version of the Edgar Allen Poe story.
- The Mummy (1932)
It may look a little creaky after more than 70 years, especially compared to the special effects in the 1999 remake, but Boris Karloff and the Mummy make a pretty scary combination, nevertheless.
DVD Legacy Collection
- Night of the Demon (1957)
Given the highest rating by voters in the Internet Movie Database poll among all English-language horror movies made before 1982. Starring Dana Andrews.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero’s seminal but low-budget 1968 zombie flick is still about as scary as they get, because in spite of the black and white, it looks real. The 1978 sequel was better, but this was the first. Available in many versions, including both color and B&W.
- Nosferatu (1922)
F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece is thought by many to be the greatest vampire movie of all time.
- The Old Dark House (1932)
Six travelers seek refuge from a storm in a decrepit mansion in Wales, inhabited by a creepy, eccentric family (especially hideously scarred butler Boris Karloff). A classic mix of thrills, scares and laughs from Frankenstein director James Whale. With Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Ernest Thesiger, Gloria Stuart.
- The Omen (1976)
Great stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star in this story of a little boy discovered by his father to be the Antichrist. Though the movie was actually listed in the book 50 Worst Movies Of All Time, many feel it is one of the best horror movies ever made, and almost Hitchcockian in some of its shots. Hollywood thought enough of it to remake it recently.
- The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
One of Vincent Price’s best classic horror vehicles, based loosely on the Poe story.
- Poltergeist (1982)
A very scary film, with an excruciating climactic final scene taking place in a muddy pit full of decomposed corpses. Read the review From The Greatest Films.
- Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock might not be happy to hear that he started the slasher flick craze, but this is still his most popular film, and one which influenced generations of filmmakers.
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
Humphrey Bogart’s first–and last–horror role was in the in-name-only sequel to Doctor X, as a reporter tries to link a medical researcher to a succession of corpses that have been drained of blood. With Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane. Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection.
- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski scared moviegoers in the late sixties with this tale of a woman, played by Mia Farrow, who gives birth to the Devil’s child.
- The Shining (1980)
We couldn’t forget this one by Stanley Kubrick, who teams up with Jack Nicholson for a gothic tale with a difference.
Reviewed by Tim Dirks.
- The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Dorothy McGuire is a servant left mute by a childhood trauma, caring for invalid Ethel Barrymore in a spooky Victorian New England mansion with a killer of handicapped women on the loose. “Don’t go down the cellar!”
- The Uninvited (1944)
Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey star in one of the classic haunted house films, set in an old house on the English coast that holds a terrible secret.
- The Wolf Man (1941)
One of a handful of the most remarkable horror films. Lon Chaney, Jr.’s best-known role. The rest of the cast is excellent, as well.
Other classic movie checklists that you’ll enjoy.