The Best Horror Movies of the 1920s and Earlier

by jessemobile1021 | created - 25 Sep 2014 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

The twenty-four best, most successful, and/or most influential movies of horror's first decades. I analyze reviews from horror critics, fans, and filmmakers to determine the "must-see" films for hardcore horror buffs.

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1. The House of the Devil (1896)

Not Rated | 3 min | Short, Horror

With the help of a magic cauldron, Mephistopheles conjures up a variety of supernatural characters.

Director: Georges Méliès | Stars: Jehanne d'Alcy, Jules-Eugène Legris, Georges Méliès

Votes: 2,195

2. Frankenstein (1910)

Unrated | 16 min | Short, Horror, Sci-Fi

Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée ... See full summary »

Director: J. Searle Dawley | Stars: Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle, Augustus Phillips

Votes: 3,036

3. The Student of Prague (1913)

Approved | 85 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Balduin, a student of Prague, leaves his roystering companions in the beer garden, when he finds he has reached the end of his resources. He is scarcely seated in a quiet corner when a ... See full summary »

Directors: Paul Wegener, Stellan Rye | Stars: Paul Wegener, Grete Berger, Lyda Salmonova, John Gottowt

Votes: 1,498

4. Les vampires (1915)

Not Rated | 421 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

An intrepid reporter and his loyal friend battle a bizarre secret society of criminals known as The Vampires.

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: Musidora, Édouard Mathé, Marcel Lévesque, Jean Aymé

Votes: 3,699

5. Der Januskopf (1920)

107 min | Horror

See everything in the book "Conrad Veidt on Screen" by John T. Soister (McFarland 2002), pages 109-113.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: Conrad Veidt, Magnus Stifter, Margarete Schlegel, Willy Kaiser-Heyl

Votes: 78

6. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (I) (1920)

Unrated | 82 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.

Director: John S. Robertson | Stars: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst, Charles Lane

Votes: 4,184

7. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Not Rated | 67 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.

Director: Robert Wiene | Stars: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover

Votes: 47,932

8. The Golem (1920)

Unrated | 91 min | Fantasy, Horror

In 16th-century Prague, a rabbi creates the Golem - a giant creature made of clay. Using sorcery, he brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution.

Directors: Carl Boese, Paul Wegener | Stars: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Ernst Deutsch, Lyda Salmonova

Votes: 5,556

9. The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.

Director: Victor Sjöström | Stars: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm

Votes: 8,441

10. Häxan (1922)

Not Rated | 91 min | Documentary, Fantasy, Horror

Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe.

Director: Benjamin Christensen | Stars: Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen, Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan

Votes: 9,739

11. Nosferatu (1922)

Not Rated | 81 min | Fantasy, Horror

Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder

Votes: 78,514

12. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I) (1923)

Unrated | 133 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

In fifteenth century Paris, the brother of the archdeacon plots with the gypsy king to foment a peasant revolt. Meanwhile, a freakish hunchback falls in love with the gypsy queen.

Director: Wallace Worsley | Stars: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Kate Lester

Votes: 4,147 | Gross: $2.22M

13. The Hands of Orlac (1924)

Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Horror, Mystery

A world-famous pianist loses both hands in an accident. When new hands are grafted on, he doesn't know they once belonged to a murderer.

Director: Robert Wiene | Stars: Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Strassny, Paul Askonas

Votes: 1,755

14. Waxworks (1924)

Not Rated | 65 min | Fantasy, Horror

A wax museum hires a writer to give the sculptures stories. The writer imagines himself and the museum owner's daughter in the stories.

Directors: Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni | Stars: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle

Votes: 1,414

15. The Monster (1925)

Passed | 86 min | Comedy, Horror, Mystery

A meek clerk who doubles as an amateur detective investigates some very strange goings-on at a remote mental sanitarium.

Director: Roland West | Stars: Lon Chaney, Gertrude Olmstead, Hallam Cooley, Johnny Arthur

Votes: 822

16. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Not Rated | 93 min | Horror

A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.

Directors: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle, Edward Sedgwick | Stars: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe

Votes: 14,532 | Gross: $0.72M

17. Kurutta ippêji (1926)

70 min | Drama, Horror

A man takes a job at an asylum with hopes of freeing his imprisoned wife.

Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa | Stars: Masuo Inoue, Ayako Iijima, Yoshie Nakagawa, Hiroshi Nemoto

Votes: 2,099

18. Faust (1926)

Not Rated | 85 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man's soul.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard

Votes: 12,242

19. The Bat (1926)

86 min | Mystery, Thriller

A masked criminal who dresses like a giant bat terrorizes the guests at an old house rented by a mystery writer.

Director: Roland West | Stars: George Beranger, Charles Herzinger, Emily Fitzroy, Louise Fazenda

Votes: 621

20. The Unknown (1927)

Unrated | 63 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

A criminal on the run hides in a circus and seeks to possess the daughter of the ringmaster at any cost.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford, Nick De Ruiz

Votes: 6,225 | Gross: $0.41M

21. The Cat and the Canary (1927)

Unrated | 108 min | Comedy, Horror, Mystery

Relatives of an eccentric millionaire gather in his spooky mansion on the 20th anniversary of his death for the reading of his will.

Director: Paul Leni | Stars: Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Forrest Stanley, Tully Marshall

Votes: 2,350

22. La chute de la maison Usher (1928)

Not Rated | 63 min | Horror

Allan visits the sinister Usher family mansion, where his friend Roderick is painting a portrait of his sickly wife Madeline. The portrait seems to be draining the life out of Madeline, slowly leading to her death.

Director: Jean Epstein | Stars: Jean Debucourt, Marguerite Gance, Charles Lamy, Fournez-Goffard

Votes: 2,924

23. The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)

Unrated | 13 min | Short, Horror

A traveller arrives at the Usher mansion to find that the sibling inhabitants, Roderick and Madeline Usher, are living under a mysterious family curse: Roderick's senses have become ... See full summary »

Directors: James Sibley Watson, Melville Webber | Stars: Herbert Stern, Hildegarde Watson, Melville Webber, Friedrich Haak

Votes: 1,068

24. The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

When a proud noble refuses to kiss the hand of the despotic King James in 1690, he is cruelly executed and his son surgically disfigured.

Director: Paul Leni | Stars: Mary Philbin, Conrad Veidt, Julius Molnar, Olga Baclanova

Votes: 4,553



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