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List of Some Great Halloween Movies

Updated on October 8, 2012
Bela Lugosi in Dracula
Bela Lugosi in Dracula | Source

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Horror movie are great entertainment around Halloween or those Friday or Saturday night movie marathons.

What the most famous or “best” of the horror movies are always up for debate depending on who you talk to or what they see as “horror” movies. Many people I know who love horror movies tend to enjoy the Slasher flicks (blood and guts gory-fest types of films): “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Dawn of the Dead”, any of the 1980’s Jason and Freddy movies, “Saw”, and even the horror porn “Hostile” films.

Personally, I don’t find those movies, truly “horror” movies. I find them to be more disturbing and made for shock values more than anything else. I personally love the more psychological horror films; many of which are in the classic pre-gore era. The lack of seeing the gore allows the viewer to imagine what happens and can be more frightening. Also, many of these classic horror films have an eerie mood and artistic quality that the Blood-and-Guts ones lack.

In recent years movies like “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” has injected a sense of the “realism”/ “voyeurism”/ “caught on film” reality TV aspect to the genre. They have done well at the box office and have many viewers finding them well made and very scary.

The following list is often movies that are my personal favorite horror that range from the classic black and white silent era to the more modern suspenseful ones.

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1. Incubus (1966)

Starring William Shatner and Milos Milos

This is actually one of the weirdest and obscure movies of the genre. Feared lost in a flood in Paris for forty years, it was rediscovered and released on DVD as a cult classic movie by Leslie Stevens (known for his work on the1960’s television show “The Outer Limits”).

The movie is about two succubae (Allyson Ames and Eloise Hardt) conjuring up an incubus (Milos Milos) to exact revenge against a mortal (William Shatner) for shunning their advances.

The wonderful thing about the movie is that (1) it stars a pre-“Star Trek” William Shatner as the hero of the film, and (2) the film is in entirely in Esperanto, (an actual language created in the late 19th century; which was designed to incorporate all western languages into one so it would be used as the “universal” language).

This low budget, black and white movie (filmed in Big Sur, California) mixing together an awkward language and medieval demons, creates a surreal, unearthly feel that gives the audience the sensation of watching a twisted nightmare.

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2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Starring Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt

One of the first “official” horror movies ever made, “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”is an eerie, dreamlike tale-within-a-tale film that incorporates set pieces similar to a stage play.

It tells the story of an evil doctor who uses a somnambulist (a sleepwalker) to commit murders.

There are actual shadows painted on the sets to increase the nightmarish sense of terror through surrealist artwork.

Although this is a silent film, there is actually a creeper sense of foreboding when it is viewed without sound because of the odd settings (a carnival and mental institution); it’s just like a bad dream.

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3. Nosferatu; A Symphony of Horror (1921)

Starring Max Schreck and Greta Schroder

Made by F. W. Murnau around 1921 (the actually date is not known, 1919--1922) is an unofficial and unlicensed adaption of the famous Bram Stoker 1897 novel “Dracula”.

Although the names of the main characters were changed and some story elements were altered, but Stoker’s widow successfully sued to have all the prints of the movie destroyed on account of copyright infringement.

However; a few prints still survived through the decades.

This movie hauntingly used heavy make-up on actor Max Schreck and the use of altered shadows to showcase the horror of the vampire, Graf Orlok.

Rumors abound throughout the century that since no one ever saw Max Schreck before or after the filming of the movie, that he was a real vampire (the movie “Shadow of the Vampire” tells a fictionalized version of the production of the film with this scenario as the plot).

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4. Nosferatu; The Vampyre (1979)

Starring Klaus Kinski

A remake / retelling of the original F.W. Murnau film starring Klaus Kinski as the vampire. It has a more graphic depiction of the vampire uses some trick camera elements such as mirrors with no reflection of the Count.

This movie, made by Werner Herzog, was in both German and English and filmed simultaneously.

Both versions are equally good, however I found that the German language version is far creepier than the English one.

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5. Se7en (Seven) (1995)

Starring Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman

This sleeper hit about a new detective (Pitt) and his retiring partner (Freeman) chasing down a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) as he enacts religous revenge against symbolic perpetrators of the Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth, Lust, Wrath, Avarice, Gluttony, Pride and Envy.

His murders mix together gruesome medieval brutality with gothic imagery from ancient texts such as William Blake, Dante’s "Divine Comedy" and "Paradise Lost".

The creepiness factor for this film is extremely high because of the twisted creativity of the attacks, but also the realism of it: Unlike many horror movies, this kind of thing could actually happen.

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6. Dracula (1931)

Starring Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler

The landmark of Dracula performances, Bela Lugosi’s take on the Transylvanian undead count is timeless and unforgettable. Although copied, spoofed and parodied throughout the decades, his performance is one of the most iconic of all time.

This version of the Dracula novel was actually based on the current stage version as compared to the novel (this was because of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression), to save money and production costs.

Although the film is considered “slow and boring” by today’s high-octane style movies, this low key, moody, black and white talkie is scarier and more dramatic than many of the other vampire film that have proceeded it.

On an interesting side note, there was a simultaneously made Spanish-language version of the movie by Universal Studios (Starring Carlos Villarias as Count Dracula). Made on the same sets and with a different director and actors, it is actually visually more fluid and dynamic compared to the studio's English language static one.

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7. Frankenstein (1931)

Starring Colin Clive and Boris Karloff

Made by the same Universal Studio team as Dracula, this version of Mary Shelley’s monster masterpiece was based on the stage version instead of the novel to save money.

It starred Boris Karloff as the creature instead of the original choice of Bela Lugosi (the story goes that Lugosi didn’t like the make-up)

Instead of the novel’s intelligent and verbose Creation, Karloff’s monster was mute and almost primitive.

Like Dracula before it, this version of the classic monster is the most recognizable and has been mimicked and spoofed as well.

The classic line, "It's Alive! It's Alive!" was actually edited by the studio from it's orginal, "It's Alive! It's Alive; By God, now I know what it's like to be God!"

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8. The Ninth Gate (1999)

Starring Johnny Depp and Frank Langella

This movie is a bit an odd one; it was a box office failure, and it was rumored that the movie ran out of money, leading to the awkward, aburpt ending.

It was based on the book by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte, "El Club Dumas". The book was about a “book detective” looking for lost chapters of books by Alexander Dumas who stumbles upon the infamous De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis (The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows).

The film's director, Roman Polanski, took certain plot points and elements of the novel and used them very actually, but also removed or mixed together others (For example; two antagonists in the book are mixed together into one in the film) to make a pure horror story about unlocking the gates of hell.

The book’s author felt that the movie adaptation was weird: "Polanski's film isn't bad, except maybe the last half hour. Evidently it is not my novel."

Despites it’s jaded story adaption, it is an extremely entertaining film and wonderful acting. The imagery and mood created around the search for the satanic book is fantastic. It is a mix between "Indiana Jones" and "The Exorcist".

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9. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Starring Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins

Many purists will point out the many flaws in this film (primarily, Keanu Reeves' attempted British performance--which makes Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood look brilliant) but out of all the previous Dracula movies this one is the closest to the actually novel and still extremely entertaining.

There have been other attempts at a "true" adaptation, but anyone who's read the novel knows there is a lot of talking, and talking and more talking. Victorian English writers were very wordy (three pages of dialog when two paragraphs would have been fine).

Gary Oldman's performance as a heartbroken Undead 15th century nobleman was great. Although it is inaccurate compared to the novel, it is very endearing.

Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing was dead-on to the novel’s “crazy teacher” version. All other performances (saves Reeves') were perfect.

The imagery and direction by renowned director Francis Ford Coppola (the Godfather trilogy) makes this film a beautiful horror romance.

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10. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Starring Vincent Price and Carl Ohmart

"House on Haunted Hill" is one of the oddest horror movies around because no one is murdered in the film.

One of cinema’s best showmen, William Castle’s brainchild movie that utilized gimmicks in the theater to heighten the movie-going experience: (“Emergo” the skeleton on the wire flown around the theater.)

Despite the theatrics, the film’s story in itself is one of the better Castle productions (see “13 Ghosts” or “The Tingler” for reference).

Vincent Price was always a ham on stage and gave very dramatic performances. In this film, he gives a truly memorable performance as Fredrick Loren, a millionaire who decides to hold a haunted house party for his 4th wife’s birthday. He invites stranger to take part in a bet: survive the haunted house for 12 hour and receive a huge paycheck.

Throughout the film there are many shocking and frightening moments that turn out to be tricks played on the guests and in the end an attempt on Loren’s life actually kills the perpetrator.

What makes the movie so good is that it is a 1950’s horror movie that mixes the old classic Universal horror movies mood with the shock value of new movie techniques.

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11. Horror of Dracula (1958)

Starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing

This is Christopher Lee’s first outing as Count Dracula for the famous Hammer Film Studios. Along with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, this movie mixed together cutting edge makeup effects and professional stage acting to deliver a truly brilliant film that spawned some half a dozen sequels.

Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula was a far cry from Lugosi’s. However; where Lugosi brought a foreign elegance, a thick Slavic accent and a mystical charm to the character, Lee’s performance brought a proper, upper-crust royalty to the Count (which, oddly enough, was how the original character was written in the 1897 novel).

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12. The Thing (1982)

Starring Kurt Russell

A remake of the 1951 film, “The Thing From Another World” which in turn was based on the story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr.

Isolated in the frozen artic a group of Americans must protect themselves from a shape-shifting alien that could consume and mimic whoever it encountered.

This film used the most advanced visual special effects at the time (1980’s) to create one of the most frightening horror movies ever made.

Although the special effect are top-notch and creature is extremely frightening, the most disturbing parts of the movie happen when the crew begins to accuse each other of being the monster, and they start to turn on each other in the throes of paranoia.

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13. The Haunted Palace (1963)

Starring Vincent Price

In the 1960’s Vincent Price and director Roger Corman teamed together to make moody and chilling movies adaption of Edgar Allan Poe stories such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Mask of the Red Death”.

“The Haunted Palace” is one of these Poe adaptations with the exception that it is not based on the Poe poem, “The Haunted Palace”,but based on a H.P. Lovecraft story (“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”).

The reason it is still named after Edgar Allan Poe’s poem is because more people were familiar with Poe than Lovecraft.

The story is still great and one of the few adaptions of a story by the Master of Science Fiction Horror (Lovecraft) that is watchable.

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14. Frality (2001)

Starring Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey

The "God’s Hand Killer” is killing demons released from hell in 1979; they are disguising themselves as human, and Bill Paxton’s character, "Dad" is given a set of work gloves and an axe (named "Otis") by God to help him find and destroy the demons. Thirty years later, one of his sons has continued his father’s work. The other son (McConaughey) reports the whole story of his father's murders to the cops.

One reviewer referred to this movie as the” best Stephen King story not written by Stephen King”.

This movie is not one of McConaughey's standard romantic comedies, which is great since his acting in this film is fantastic.

This film is beautifully filmed, is strikingly suspenseful and very scary. “Frailty”, much like “Seven” is freaky because it could really happen, and there is just has enough “supernatural” stuff in the film to make you wonder if they really are demon being killed, not innocent victims.

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    • Edgar Arkham profile image
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      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading.

      McConaughey can be creepy, but in this movie it works very well.

      The interaction between him and Powers Booth is great.

      Another great McConaughey movie is U-571 (it's not a horror movie, but it is great acting on his part and a good story).

      Thanks again for reading!

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 5 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Good list. I've seen all but Frailty. McConaughey gives me the creeps. I might have to give it a try, anyway - this is the second time I've seen it on a list like this in the past couple of days.

      Thanks for the info.

      I'm the 1st voter in your poll, so far. It's hard to beat the black and whites. Ninth Gate tries pretty hard, though. It's one of my all time favorites.