Happy Halloween to all! Three years ago, I did a little top 20 of my favourite films to watch on October 31st. I thought it would be fun to do another list because I have discovered more films in the past three years. Instead of doing a top list, I’m going to present these films in chronological order.
In this list, you’ll find some very well-known films that you might have seen before and more obscure stuff. I didn’t only choose horror movies but also sci-fi, thrillers, and fantasy comedies. I warn you, I’m not a fan of extremely scary movies so you might be surprised not to see certain obvious titles on my list, but then, I think what scares you can be very subjective. And some of these titles are eery enough! Anyway enjoy and, if you’re looking for a film to watch tonight for Halloween, I hope this list will help you make a choice!
Ok, here we go!
The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni, 1927)
I discovered this film last Halloween under the recommendation of a Facebook friend. The film stars Laura La Plante, whom I think is a very intriguing actress, as well as Forrest Stanley, and Creighton Hale. The films has so many special moments such as the beginning where you have the feeling that you are the person crossing the castle where the action takes place, as well as the “screaming scene” that I loved so much I had to started it again three times, not to mention the visual effect on the intertitles, etc. I know there was a talking remake made in 1939 with Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope. Maybe watching the two films could make a good double feature!
Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) & Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
Talking of double features, this would pretty much be the perfect one, no? Classic Universal Monsters films, a creature everybody has heard about, and many iconic moments!
The Most Dangerous Game (Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel, 1932)
I watched this film after reading Fay Wray and Robert Riskin written by their daughter Victoria Riskin. Oh, if you want a story with a character that has creepy hobbies, then it’s the one for you. The film stars Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Leslie Banks.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Victor Flemming, 1941)
Of course, this was not the only adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, but it’s the one I saw so far. Just for Ingrid Bergman’s performance alone, the film is pretty worth seeing. Spencer Tracy does a convincing job as well!
The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941)
I actually watched this film yesterday! It’s this article written by Carol from The Old Hollywood Garden that convinced me to see it. Needless to say that I loved it. I thought there was a true quality to it, both visually and narratively. The black and white cinematography (especially the scenes in the smoky forest) was just perfect. The film includes a sensitive performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and a brilliant supporting cast (Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Ralph Bellamy, Warren Williams, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers, and Patrick Knowles). I haven’t seen all the Iniversal Monster films (far from it), but I feel this might be the most tragic of them all.
I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)
This was Bewitched before Bewitched! French movie director René Clair made the perfect Halloween comedy film with Veronica Lake as the lovely and mischievous witch and Fredric March as the Darrin Stephens type!
The Uninvited (Lewis Allen, 1944)
Many great gothic horror movies were made in the golden age of Hollywood, and this one of the examples. I’ve got to confess that it is the only Gail Russell’s film I’ve seen so far, so I definitely need to explore more. The film also stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey
A Place of One’s Own (Bernard Knowles, 1945)
I saw this film a long time ago, so don’t remember it in detail but I know that it’s one that people who like ghost stories generally enjoy! The film was part of the Gainsborough Melodramas series but, narratively speaking, I feel it has really nothing to do with the more typical Gainsborough Melodramas like The Wicked Lady or The Man in Grey. Of course, the casting is composed of some regulars to the series such as Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Dennis Price, and Dulcie Gray
Blithe Spirit (David Lean, 1945)
This was David Lean before Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, or even before Great Expectations. If you weren’t aware that Lean was great at directing comedies, then you must see this one! Not only it is a fun ghost story, but it also has a stunning colour cinematography. It also made me like Rex Harrison a little bit more. It was adapted from a play by Noel Coward. You can read my full review here.
The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
Robert Siodmak’s classic is more a gothic noir than a horror film, but it provides enough visual moments to chill your spine, especially if you put yourself at the place of the characters. An excellent film that you ought to see if you haven’t!
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1947)
This is one of the true classics that I made way too much time to see, and then I turned out loving it. Of course, it’s not a horror film, but any ghost story is perfect for Halloween, no? 😉
Les Diaboliques (Henri-George Clouzot, 1955)
If you’d compare a French film to a Hitchcock film, it would be this one. As a matter of fact, the film was based on Celle qui n’étais plus (She Who Was No More) by Boileau-Narcejac, who also wrote D’entre les morts (The Living and the Dead) from which Vertigo was adapted. Les Diaboliques might have one of the best plot twists ever, but I won’t say more and let you watch it!
Les Yeux Sans Visage (Georges Franju, 1960)
This is another film that I saw pretty recently, although I was aware it existed even before I started watching horror films. I remember seeing an image of Édith Scob (Christine) with her white unexpressive mask in a book and being a bit traumatized by it. By the way, this masked was an inspiration for Michael Myers’s mask in Halloween! However, Christine is not the monster of the story! The film has an excellent score by Maurice Jarre!
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (Joseph Green, 1962)
This science-fiction guilty pleasure would make a good logical sequence to the following film as it also features a mad scientist. This time, it’s one that manages to keep the decapitated head of his fiancee alive with the help of crazy science! Virginia Leith, who plays the “head”, had made her debuts in the very first Kubrick film, Fear and Desire. I also loved the music in this film.
Experiment in Terror (Blake Edwards, 1962)
I hadn’t initially planned to put this film on my list, but I suddenly thought of it as I was writing about another film for this list! An excellent stressful film starring Lee Remick, Glenn Ford, and Stefanie Powers. This is another one of these stories where there seems to be no issue out for a person trapped by mental torture and wicked blackmail. It is not Blake Edwards’s most well-known film, but it’s an extremely worth watching one, so I hope you’ll give it a chance anytime soon!
The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)
The Haunting is the perfect proof that you don’t need gory monsters to scare someone. As a matter of fact, the feeling of fear is entirely built on the sound dimension, and that’s what makes this film truly clever.
Dead Ringer (Paul Henreid, 1964)
In this thriller directed by Paul Henreid, Bette David plays a dual role in a story that will keep you at the edge of your seat!
Fanatic (Silvio Narizzano, 1965)
This film produced by Hammer stars Tallulah Bankhead in her last appearance on the big screen (she made another film after, but only the voice of a character). It also stars Stefanie Powers and Donald Sutherland in one of his earliest roles. Fanatic is that story where a poor victim is kept captive by a crazy person, and it seems that there’s no way out for her. I discussed the film further in this article on Tallulah Bankhead.
The Witches (Cyril Frankel, 1966)
Another great classic film stars who ended her career on the big screen with a Hammer film was Joan Fontaine. The Witches and Fanatic are guilty pleasures for being a bit caricatural, but they remain good fun in their own ways. Notice the presence of Martin Stephens in this film, who also played in The Innocents and Village of the Damned.
Carry On Screaming (Gerald Thomas, 1966)
If you’d been reading my recent blog articles, this inclusion shouldn’t be a surprise to you! This parody of Hammer horror films would follow perfectly the two previously mentionned films. Kenneth Williams as the mad scientist, Fenella Fielding as the Vampira or Morticia Addams type, and Harry H. Corbett as the detective; it’s the perfect parody to watch for Halloween! You can read a more detailed review here.
Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967)
This thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin is another one that creates a lot of stress, but that is excellent! This is, as a matter of fact, the last Audrey Hepburn film I saw! Of course, 1967 had some of the best films.
Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
As I said on social media before, I found Rosemary’s Baby to be more weird and creepy than scary. Some also said that there are some comic elements to it because of Ruth Gordon’s character. Hum, it certainly is a film that leads to confusion but, overall, it’s excellent and remains a timeless classic of the horror genre.
Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976)
This was a pretty faithful adaptation to Stephen King’s first novel. What could I say about it? A pretty perfect example of a film about extreme revenge. By the way, I read that Piper Laurie, who plays Carrie (Sissi Spacek)’s religious fanatic mother, couldn’t stop laughing when they were shooting the film as she thought her character was way over the top!
The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976) & Damien: Omen II (Don Taylor, 1978)
Despite not being too much a fan of horror films, I decided to give a chance to The Omen as I was curious about it. Yes, it’s a film that is pretty horrifyng but more in the way that it makes you uncomfortable. It’s not scary enough to prevent you to sleep for weeks. Anyway, I loved it and watched the sequel next, which is kind of good for a sequel. The first stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as Damien’s parents and the sequel stars William Holden and Lee Grant as Damien’s uncle and aunt. Interestingly, the sequel was directed by Don Taylor, who also was an actor and starred alongside William Holden in Stalag 17 years before!
I’m once again going to brag about the music, but Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score is perhaps what people remember best about these films.
Close Encounter of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
This is also a film that I’ve been aware of its existence for ages but only watched it recently. This is not horror, but science fiction and those aliens aren’t even really mean. However, if there’s a scene that will mark you, it surely is the one where the little boy is kidnapped by the aliens. The way it is staged can remind us of this scene in The Birds when the characters are trapped inside the house and, only with the help of the sound, we guess this one is surrounded by birds. We indeed don’t see the aliens in this scene, but we know they are here!
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986)
A perfect family film to watch for Halloween featuring David Bowie as the iconic Goblin King and some memorable songs!
Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
If there’s a biopic I would recommend you to watch for Halloween, it’s certainly this one about the life of Ed Wood, who was known as the worst movie director of all times (although many would disagree). Excellent performances by Johnny Depp in the title role and Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi.
The Others (Alejandro Amenábar, 2001)
The Others is another one of these films that focuses more on the sound dimension rather than the visual to scare you. And just like Les Diaboliques, it has a memorable plot twist!
That’s it for now! Of course, these are not the only films suitable for a good Halloween movie night! You can see check more titles on my first list if you click here.
And, of course, I’m planning to watch another one today, perhaps Dead of Night or Cat People!