There are a countless "Best Of" posts on the 'net these days, and I'd have to say that I don't agree with a lot of them, this one included. The list is comprised from the "classic" era of horror films through 1935 and over half of them are from the silent era. While not clearly framed in the context of the times when they were first released, the assumption is that this is from a contemporary viewpoint.
So what do I disagree with? To wit: I wouldn't include THE INVISIBLE MAN or THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN -- replacements I can think of off the top is ISLE OF LOST SOULS, and I'd put THE MUMMY or DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE over BRIDE. While there are a few frightening images in THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE and FAUST, I wouldn't consider either of them to be necessarily "scary". But the biggest head-scratcher of the list is the addition of THE UNKNOWN. It's Chaney, to be sure, but where the hell is THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA?
What do you think should be added or subtracted from this decidedly scattershot of so-called scares?
10 Scariest Movies Ever from Classical Hollywood Cinema
By Alyssa Gawaran | September 27, 2022 | Movieweb.com
Just in time for spooky season: here are the scariest movies from classical Hollywood cinema that are sure to give you a fright.
The weather is getting cooler, the wind is getting stronger, the days are getting darker, and the monsters are on the loose. We are quickly approaching the season of horror, and we could not be more excited. Movies are designed to take us to new places and have us experience things that we never thought we would. For a good horror movie, fans of the genre are always looking for the best films to get that heart racing and those palms sweating.
Modern horror movies tend to rely heavily on shock value, with loud noises and jump scares donating to the movie-watching experience. However, in the realm of old and Classical Hollywood, and we’re talking about the early days of cinema, ambiance and visuals are the tools that drive us to cover our eyes and scream in fear. Let’s take a step back and reminisce on some of the scariest movies from classical Hollywood cinema that are sure to give you the fright you need this spooky season.
Horror movies these days do not leave too much for the imagination. There is something about a classic black and white horror movie that gives it that perfect old-school feeling that has us crawling in our boots. The 1932 horror drama film Freaks was directed by Tod Browning. The film follows the interconnected relationships of some of the most recognizable acts in a circus. This turns into an aggressive story of revenge, and if you want to dip your feet into classic Hollywood horror, Freaks is one to watch. The contrast between the traditional brightness and joy that comes from a circus mixed with the dark realities that come with the horror genre is perfect for this season.
The Invisible Man (Universal Pictures Corp.)
The mixture of science fiction and horror is a match made in heaven. The Invisible Man is a classic Hollywood horror film that came out in 1933. The movie starred Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin as he stumbles upon a potion that gives him the ability to become invisible. However, it is slowly revealed that he cannot get out of this unscathed and Griffin finds himself slowly going insane. This film has since been remade into a modern horror flick with the same title, but there is still something that has us coming back to the original.
Faust is a 1926 horror fantasy silent film that stars Emil Jannings as the demon Mephisto and Gösta Ekman as an alchemist named Faust. Mephisto makes a bet that he can corrupt any living soul and Faust becomes his main target. There is a certain charm that accompanies a silent film and when mixed with horror, it is easy to get sucked into the world they create where breathtaking and exaggerated acting can fill in the gaps where spoken dialogue is not present.
Nosferatu (Prana Film)
Nosferatu is one of the most known movies on this list. If you are a horror fan or even just a fan of the film industry in general, you have definitely heard of Nosferatu. One of the most iconic movie monsters to date is the vampire. From successful movie franchises to TV shows and standalone stories about the bloodsuckers, vampires have been the subject of horror entertainment for longer than we can remember. Nosferatu remains one of the most simple yet effective vampire movies in film history.
The Bride of Frankenstein (Universal Pictures}
The story of a human-made monster coming to life under the hands of a madman is a tale as old as time. The Frankenstein story is classic Hollywood horror cinema, and when The Bride of Frankenstein came out in 1935, it became an instant classic. The Bride of Frankenstein shows Dr. Frankenstein back at it again and creating new life after he had already created the Monster. Although the Bride of Frankenstein falls under the radar behind the original Frankenstein movie from 1931, it should not be overlooked on your movie monster list.
The Unknown (MGM}
The contrast between two traditionally different genres in film works way better than you think. 1927's The Unknown fuses horror and romance in a haunting tale of a man on the run going undercover at a circus and a performer as they cross paths and fall in love. However, the dark secrets of their reality unfold in this eerie horror film. With an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie continues to receive praise from movie lovers and if you have yet to see it, consider this your sign.
Frankenstein (Universal Pictures}
Frankenstein, often the name used to identify this iconic movie monster is next on the list. Frankenstein came out in 1931 and has since inspired the premise of many horror and thriller movies in the industry. We are all familiar with Dr. Frankenstein's story of creating life from scratch, resulting in the birth of the Monster. However, if you have yet to see the original installment of this tale, the Halloween season is the time to finally give it a watch.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Decla-Bioscop)
Regarded as one of the best movies of all time, across all genres, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari infuses abstract styles of art in its imagery to create a movie-watching experience that stood out in its time. This silent film is the perfect representation of what movies were like back then. From admiring its style to fully succumbing to its creepy aesthetic, this classic horror film makes scaring an audience look easy.
The Phantom Carriage (AB Svensk Filmindustri)
The Phantom Carriage from 1921 utilizes paranormal aspects of the horror genre to create this masterpiece. The film was directed by Victor Sjöström and the story is based on a novel called Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! by Selma Lagerlöf. The horror flick mixes extreme emotion incorporated into the creepy premise of a ghost carriage driver and a man who has wasted his life. The themes in this movie stand relevant even today.
The Man Who Laughs (Universal Pictures)
Any good horror movie is out there to make sure you are sent home with a sleepless night ahead of you. The fright instilled in each movie-goer should be relentless, and your nightmares should be fueled with horrific images, sounds, and plots that will have you regret every decision you have made. Well, The Man Who Laughs does just that. In 1928, this silent film broke the horror genre and follows an abused man who becomes a performer in a freak show. From the startling scenes to the disturbing taste left in your mouth after watching it, The Man Who Laughs does not hold back in delivering the terror horror lovers crave.