It’s October and there are few things I love more than watching scary movies or just Autumn movies in general. There are so many great horror movies out there,but if you are looking for horror films you haven’t watched yet, classic is the way to go.
I’m not talking about 70’s classics like, Halloween or The Exorcist, which are great, but for this we are going even further back. I love classic movies of all genres, but horror has a special place in my heart. The likes of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price drew me in from a young age and the genre has felt like coming home ever since. If classic horror is something that you would be interested in, here are a few recommendations to get you started. There are many other great horror movies that are worth watching and the more you watch the better your appreciation of new horror will be.
Most of these movies are available to stream on Criterion Channel, HBO Max, and Peacock, but if you don’t have access to those services keep an eye on TCM. They have these and so many other great horror classics programmed this month!
Silent Horror Classics
I’ll admit it seems a little unfair to lump all these must see silent films into one category, but I feel like if you’re watching one you should watch them all. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), both German, are responsible for so much of the horror movies we watch today. We see one of the first vampire films with Nosferatu. The murder and madness represented in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has influenced many horror films. Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera (1925) has one of my favorite horror reveals.
Universal Monster Movies
Universal Studio monster movies are must watch films for any horror fan. Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932) The Wolf Man (1941), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) are the defining versions of these creatures. Stories about vampires and werewolves existed long before Universal turned them into movies, but the many of the modern conventions of these tropes were cemented by Universal. All of these movies are available to stream on Peacock.
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Wax figures have alway made my skin crawl. I roll up my windows when we get to the mannequin portion of the drive-thru Christmas lights. I seriously considered going to Madame Tussauds in London, until I remembered how skeeved out I would be. For those reasons, Mystery of the Wax Museum creeps me out. If you’ve seen any version of House of Wax, then you get the gist of this movie. A mysterious man running a museum of wax figures that are a little too life like.
Cat People (1942)
Of all the movies on this list I think Cat People is my favorite. This is a story of curses, love, jealousy, lust and the dangers of not believing someone when they tell you exactly who they are. This movie is equal parts haunting and tragic. The first time I watched it, I was struck by the ethereally otherworldly quality of this movie, it’s suspenseful and glamorous. Cat People is unsettling, and it’s best to go into this movie without much information.
Is more sci-fi than horror, but giant ants are scary enough to warrant horror movie classification-and who’s to say a movie can’t be horror and sci-fi. Giant ants could be corny, but by using them sparingly and focusing on the investigation into the ants makes the story more realistic-or at least as realistic as giant ants can be.
Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve heard references to pod-people. This movie is about a town whose residents are slowly being replaced by aliens, unbeknownst to them. The creep factor is turned up here by the knowledge that anyone around you may be an alien. It’s a story that’s been remade and retold several times, but the original is my favorite.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
To be honest you can’t go wrong with any Vincent Price film, even ones that aren’t good in the technical sense are entertaining. My favorite of his films is House on Haunted Hill. This movie is ridiculous in the best, possible way. The plot twists are nonsensical and honestly the movie isn’t scary, but it is camp. House on Haunted Hill is campy horror at its finest. Several strangers are offered $10,000 if they last the night in this haunted house.
I’m a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan and though Psycho may not be my favorite of his movies (that would be Rope or Rear Window depending on the day), it is responsible for the slasher genre as we know it. Without Psycho we don’t get Halloween or Friday the 13th. Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense for a reason. He spent his career redefining what tension, horror, and plot twists could be and none of his movies combine these elements better than Psycho. Peacock has the most complete library of Hitchcock movies, including Psycho.
The Haunting (1963)
If you loved Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House then you should watch this movie adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel. You never see what’s haunting the inhabitants of the house, but the reactions and descent into madness is scary enough on its own. Are the ghosts the characters see real or not? This tense horror movie is much more faithful to the book so if you are expecting all the characters to be siblings then you will be disappointed.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Zombie stories have been traced back to the 17th century, but before George Romero got a hold of this subgenre it was basically dead. He breathed new life into the once dead story and created the modern zombie genre. Just think without this movie, The Walking Dead or iZombie probably wouldn’t exist. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”, still gives me chills.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Look I’ve only seen this movie once and I will never watch it again. If you’ve never seen it then prepare yourself, it’s seriously chilling. In this movie a woman gives birth to Satan’s child. Honestly, I’ve blocked most of the movie from my memory. It freaks me out too much, and not in the way that you can laugh about it later. Watch if you dare.
What are your favorite classic horror movies? Share them with us in the comments below!