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What was the First Horror Film Ever?

Updated on February 28, 2013
Georges Melies' 1896 film "Le Manoir Du Diable" or  "The House Of The Devil".
Georges Melies' 1896 film "Le Manoir Du Diable" or "The House Of The Devil".

The Answer To This Question Often Ends In Conflict

When asking the question, what was the first horror movie ever made, there are bound to be a number of different answers thrown your way. It really depends on what your definition of horror is, then once you have that figured out you have to ask your self, just what exactly qualifies as a movie?

Can a movie be only 20 seconds long? Does it have to be on actual film to be considered the first movie? Can it be a silent film and yet still be considered a movie? Everyone is going to have their own opinions on these question and seeing as how I'm not one to argue I'll just try to cover all the bases.


Recorded History

The idea of acting or performing for entertainment is not a new one though comparatively, filming it is. People have been entertaining in the public eye for nearly as long as civilization has existed, but it has only been during the last 115 years or so that we've had a way of recording it.

It was through the remarkable minds of men like Thomas Edison that we have the ability to capture the antics of humanity and nature, to enjoy whenever we feel the urge, despite the day or hour. The next time you pop in a DVD be sure to send the great inventors of the 19th and early 20th century a shout out for getting the ball rolling on what we now know as the movie industry.

The Execution Of Mary Stuart

The Very First Horror Film Was How Long?

The very first horror flick known to be recorded for viewing was "The Execution Of Mary Stuart", produced by a man named Thomas A. Edison, in 1895. The entire film consisted of Mary being beheaded and nothing more. The duration of the movie is actually only 18 seconds long so there wasn't much time to give any kind of plot, but none the less this was the first known attempt at visually recorded horror and a major start for the film industry.

The next big hit to hit the projector screen was from a French producer by the name of Georges Melies and was called "Le Manoir Du Diable" or "The House Of The Devil". This portrayal of horror lasted somewhere between 1-2 minutes but was still greatly lacking on a plot.

Thomas Edison's 1910 classic "Frankenstein"
Thomas Edison's 1910 classic "Frankenstein" | Source

Bring In The 20th Century.

When the 1900s rolled around the movie industry started to be born. Along with a new century came enlightened outlooks of the possibilities of the movie industry. Joining alongside Edison and Melies were an ever growing army of future film makers, all waiting to take their own personal slice of this brand new industry.

Depending on your definition of horror, the first of the longer length movies to be released would be either Alice Guy's 1906 full length production, "Esmeralda" featuring Quasimodo, though not everyone considers this horror, or Edison's 1910 thirteen minute production "Frankenstein". Also filmed in 1910 was German producer Paul Wegener's full length film "The Golem".

Frankenstein 1910

Dracula (1931 film)
Dracula (1931 film) | Source

In your opinion what was the best era for horror films?

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Can You Hear That?

In 1931 Universal Studios produced the first horror movie with sound, and simultaneously introduced the world to, the soon to be horror legend, Bela Lugosi in Dracula. Dracula was far from being top notch horror but its release opened the doors a wide assortment of movie monsters including the wolf man, the mummy and a redesigned Frankenstein monster.

It didn't take long for Universal Studios to become the number one producer of horror for that era. The original movies that first started that journey through sound are credited as the beginning of modern day Hollywood and are still shown in select theaters world wide.

I knew grass was really green!.

Bringing color to the big screen was not an easy or speedy task, it was developed and seemingly perfected over many decades, and in a many ways is still being improved today. The first horror film to sport the fancy new "two strip technicolor" was director Michael Curtis' 1932 film "Doctor X" and was followed the next year by the very similar "Mystery Of The Wax Museum" which was distributed on a much larger scale.


Color in movies didn't pick up on a grand scale until the 1950s but by the 1960s viewers could hardly remember what life was like without it. With every new advancement in filming technology came a surge of new movie goers intent on checking out the latest and greatest trends, convinced that it just can't get any better, and yet somehow it always does.

Doctor X (1932)
Doctor X (1932) | Source

Wow! I Didn't See That Coming

The first 3D horror film would most likely be a 1941 MGM short film called "Third Dimensional Murder". Not a huge success but it definitely spiked the viewers interest in this alternative filming style. The first horror film to make a big dent in the 3D world would be the 1953 Warner's Bros. picture "House Of Wax" not only was it a pioneer in 3D movie magic but it was also the first 3D film to be recorded in stereophonic sound.

The 3D boom would eventually fizzle out after only a few years, due to high production costs and a lack of interest on the producers part. It really wasn't until the 1980s that 3D began to make a recovery but by the new millennium it had grown into a class of it's very own. I'm sure there are at least a few first horror movies scenarios that I've forgotten to mention, feel free to leave a comment below if you think of any I missed

DS Duby.

Third Dimensional Murder

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Although I'm not a horror film/book fan, this was a bit interesting to know. Voted up for interesting!

    • Joseph Renne profile image

      Joseph Renne 4 years ago from Milton

      Nice Hub. I Got Some Great Info. The Execution Of Mary Stuart Is A Pretty Graphic Title. Following Now. Check Out My Hub When You Get A Chance Help A Brother Out, Leave Some Feed So I Can Become A Better Hubber

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you dwk52163, Gail641 and AudraLeigh. dwk you are off to a great start keep it up, Gail I like the 30s through 50s as well though I'm a fan of most horror in general. AudraLeigh you are way to kind but I appreciate your wonderful comments.

    • profile image

      AudraLeigh 5 years ago

      I really like what you created here! It is fascinating to know a horror movie existed before 1900! Also, I had no idea 3D went back to the 50s. I thought that was more recent. Scott, you did good here!

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Hi, I really liked watching the movies made by Thomas Edison-they were really great. I really liked the movies from the 30's through the 50's. They sure made a lot of great movies back then. Very interesting and fun to read.

    • dwk52163 profile image

      David King 5 years ago from Akron, Ohio

      Hey DS, This hub was really outstanding, interesting, educational, and funny. I also never knew about Thomas Edison. When I become an accomplished writer like yourself, I will be happy to have hubs half as good as yours. You gets my respects!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thanks loveofnight. It seems mankind has always sought to see the morbid and gruesome lol. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you for your kind words OldWitchcraft I agree Universal Studios gave the industry higher standards to follow. 1965-80 would be my vote too it was by far the most iconic period in horror movies. Thanks again for reading, voting and commenting.

    • loveofnight profile image

      loveofnight 5 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      We have come a long way, I didn't know that horror movies went back as far as it had. This is some fascinating stuff, a good share indeed.

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 5 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Very cool! I loved the execution of Mary Queen of Scots - she was an old troublemaker!

      All hail Universal Studios. They really took horror to its heights, IMO.

      Great job on this article! Lots of wonderfully informative details and what a great topic, especially right before Halloween!

      Accolades and a vote up!

      I voted in your poll, too - 1965 to 1980s - it must be the Satanic influences I love so much!

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Yes that is the same Edison, Peternehemia. He had his hands in many projects. Thank for reading and commenting.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thanks NateB11 ,Thomas Edison had his hands into just about everything. I think his only real interest in movies was to test out his invention the kinetoscope his peepshow movie machine.

    • DS Duby profile image
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      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Billybuc and Mhatter99 for reading and commenting it's always appreciated.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      Very fascinating stuff, interesting how there have been so many innovations in the movie industry. Like Billy, I wasn't aware that Edison made films, and that he was a pioneer of movie production. He was an all-around creative guy. Good stuff, thanks for the engrossing read.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You caught my attention with your title and your hub was excellent. Thank you

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating stuff my friend; I did not know about Edison's films, so thanks for the education.