Classic Horror Movies

This is a list of some of the so-called "classic" horror movies in the Library's DVD collection.
If there is a streaming option, a link has been provided in the description. For even more free streaming options, check out the selection of horror movies at Kanopy and Hoopla (classics or not).


Compiled by:
Brandon R.
Alien

Ridley Scott
- Director
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Ali

"In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream". For those that think this is only a sci-fi movie, maybe re-read that tagline. This is a monster movie that is better for being set in space. Claustrophobic and tense, with groundbreaking special effects (including the designs by H.R. Giger). Recently, there was a nice documentary released for those that have seen this countless times already.


An American Werewolf in London
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Ame

This is the first movie to officially win an Oscar for the Best Makeup category. And Rick Baker's work is probably the best up to that point in time for horror. This is a surprisingly funny, yet very gory film. Also, the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" would not exist without this film having inspired it (director John Landis and many of the same crew members were used).


The Beyond

Lucio Fulci
- Director
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Bey

If you don't care much about a movie's plot or characters and just want to see some gross stuff happen, Fulci movies are for you. I saw this movie so long ago that I can barely remember what happens, but I still remember all those tarantulas walking over some guy's face. Lots of oozing happening also. This is also currently available on Kanopy.


Black Sunday
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Bla

Highly influential Italian gothic horror film starring horror legend Barbara Steele and directed by cinematographer Mario Bava. After saving several Italian pictures from incompetent directors, producers allowed him to choose this as his debut. Loosely based on Gogol's short story Viy, this was considered unusually gruesome for its time resulting in it being banned or cut in many places. Roger Corman's American International Pictures released this in the U.S. in a dubbed, cut form, with a completely different score (though it became its most profitable release up at the time). Filmmaker Tim Burton has said that this is his favorite horror film.


Carnival of Souls
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Car

This Kansas made low-budget, independent picture was filmed with a crew of only six people who had a day job making industrial and educational shorts. It slowly gained a cult following in its airings on late-night television over the years. One of its most iconic shots was filmed in an apartment complex swimming pool. This film is also available on Hoopla.


Carrie (1976)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Car

Based on Stephen King's first published novel (which his wife saved after he initially, literally threw it away in the trash), this might still be one of the best film adaptations of his work. Features early performances by Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Because Bernard Herrmann passed away before he could score this film, this is the first collaboration between director Brian De Palma and Pino Donaggio.


Cat People (1942)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Cat

This low budget Val Lewton produced picture is a masterpiece of psychological atmosphere. Not a lot is shown on the screen, but that makes it that much more impressive. The 'pool scene' is probably unrivaled as one of the best scenes of tension in classic horror. Deemed too 'subtle' for its time, by some, this made it retrospectively 'ahead of its time'.


Dead of Night
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Dea

This 1945 British anthology film is built around an ingenious framing story that gives us six supernatural short stories (the last, "The Ventriloquist's Dummy", is my personal favorite). In a time when Great Britain wasn't making many "horror" films (some studios purposely banned production on them during World War II), this film's critical success was highly influential on British horror in the coming years.


The Evil Dead
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Evi

A 20 year-old Sam Raimi made this movie out in the woods of Tennessee with his friends and colleagues (except for the cellar scenes filmed back in Michigan). A lot of the tracking shots were accomplished by the director and the lead actor running around with the camera mounted on a 2x4. It's this kind of DIY initiative that endears movie lovers to this genre. That and all the blood and evil stuff. While the sequel is arguably better made (with a lot more slapstick), and the third in the trilogy benefits from a much larger budget, this 'cabin in the woods' film has stood the test of time pretty well (even better than the unneeded 'reimagining' in 2013, or the television spin-off, or the musical).


The Exorcist
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Exo

This is still the highest grossing R-rated film of all-time (though the MPAA originally intended to give it an 'X' rating). Its cultural impact was huge (It was also the first, true horror film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards). Actress Mercedes McCambridge provided the voice of Pazuzu without credit (the revelation of which many thought contributed to Linda Blair not winning her own nomination).


Eyes Without a Face
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Eye

This oddly poetic French film, based on a novel by the original writers of Diabolique and Vertigo, was initially released to mixed reviews (and confusion in a heavily edited form in the U.S.). It has been highly influential since (perhaps most known as inspiring the minimalism of the Michael Myers mask in Halloween). Also features an early, memorable score by Maurice Jarre.


Frankenstein (1931)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Fra

There are several greats among the Universal Classic Monster films, but this one is my personal favorite. Based on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel, this isn't even the first of a variety of film adaptations. Bela Lugosi infamously turned down the role of the Monster, paving the way for Boris Karloff's indelible performance (with help from master makeup artist Jack Pierce).


Friday the 13th
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Fri

For those that have only casual watched from this series, many may not remember how this was not a parody of itself in the beginning (though it was a bit of a rip off of the Mario Bava film A Bay of Blood). This one is tame in comparison to the later entries in terms of onscreen violence, but it's hard to deny the memorableness of the concept. There is an incredibly long documentary on the series for die-hard fans.


Halloween (1978)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Hal

Seminal, independent horror film that started a franchise and solidified a set of ideas that expanded to many other future horror films (for example, the concept of the 'Final Girl'). Director/co-writer John Carpenter is known for doing the musical themes for his own films (with this one becoming iconic).


Hammer Horror
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Ham

'Across the pond' numerously memorable horror films were released by British company Hammer Film Productions. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing would star in a series of Dracula and Frankenstein based films (a few of which are included in this collection) among other topics. Hammer Horror is almost its own sub-genre.


The Innocents (1961)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Ino

This adaptation of William Archibald's play of the same name (which is an adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw) is a beautifully shot and edited psychological horror drama with a great performance by Deborah Kerr. A superbly, subliminally crafted piece of ambiguity.


Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Nig

One could argue that zombie films wouldn't exist (at least as they are) without this (though the z-word is never used in the film). This was one of the most successful independent films ever released in the U.S., but director George Romero made very little money off the Pittsburgh made film. The distribution of the film was mishandled so horribly that it defaulted to public domain which resulted in numerous, not-so-great-looking home video releases (the linked Criterion Collection release was made from a restored print). The film was noticeably, politically subversive for its time and its ending is still powerful. Also, many of the extras are munching on ham covered in chocolate syrup.


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Nig

My personal favorite of the 80s franchise horror films. 'There's an Elm Street in every town' and everyone has to fall asleep. Wes Craven takes a lot of disparate folklore and creates a monster for the ages. Sure, some of the characters are thin and perhaps annoying, but doesn't that make the monster all the more interesting?


Nosferatu
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Nos

Loosely based on Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula (many prints were destroyed as a result of a lawsuit against the film), this is widely considered the first vampire feature film. Max Schreck's portrayal of Count Orlok was so terrifying that legend rumored he was actually a vampire (his last name means "terror" in German). This is a classic example of German Expressionism in silent film.


Phantasm
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Pha

The Tall Man. The silver spheres. Those gates. It may not make much sense, but it sure is impressive for an independent film (where the director rented all the equipment on a Friday so the crew could use it all weekend and only have to pay for one day when they returned it on Monday).  This is also currently available on Hoopla.
.


Psycho (1960)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Psy

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho changed the game. For one thing he created a marketing campaign that forbade people from entering the theater after the film began. Influenced by work on his television show, Hitchcock made this for a relatively low budget, purposely in black-and-white, with store-bought clothing, when his stature would have normally given him leeway to make and spend on a much grander scale. He did this because studios did not like the subject matter. It may be difficult to see how radical a film like this was in the context of its release in 1960. One minor detail, that keeps from spoiling anything, is that this is said to be the first American film to show someone flushing a toilet.


The Shining (1980)
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Shi

Purposefully unfaithful adaptation of the Stephen King novel by Stanley Kubrick. This is a family drama disguised as a horror film (or vice versa) that is impeccably photographed with differently crazed performances by both Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. Interpretatively rich this blends a literary mentality with horror genre tropes that it is radically unconcerned with fitting into. While not the first film to use the Steadicam, its use here is inherently tied to the mood of the film.


Suspiria
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Sus

A visual masterpiece of horror filmmaking channeling the likes of Mario Bava and Alfred Hitchcock. The wonderful use of color and dream logic makes this a personal favorite. Dario Argento's style is unmistakable and the score by frequent collaborators Goblin is amazing. This is also currently available on Kanopy (the recent remake is both an inspired expansion and completely different).


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Tex

This notorious, independent horror film that actually contains much less violence than it implies. It claims to be a true story. While many believed this, adding to its atmosphere, it is actually completely fabricated (using true-crime figure Ed Gein as a loose inspiration). This spawned several sequels and remakes, none of which recapture the accomplished scariness of the original.


The Tingler
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Tin

Of the many so-called "schlock" horror filmmakers, William Castle was perhaps one of the most successful (he also released The House on Haunted Hill in the same year as this; my later, personal favorite, with Joan Crawford, is Strait-Jacket). For this film in particular, he hooked up buzzers to the theater seats to 'shock' the audience at particular points in the picture. Perhaps we are missing something of the experience, without those theater gimmicks, but these are still amusing even when not particularly well-made. And Vincent Price is always great. This is also currently available on Hoopla.


Videodrome
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Vid

This is a grimy, uncomfortable, and ambitious film that deals with technology, pornography, and political conspiracy (among other things). It is what would now be termed a "body horror" film. David Cronenberg made this so ugly and confounding, but there's really nothing else like it. Not recommended for anyone that would get mad at a movie for what it makes their eyeballs do.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Adult Audiovisual DVD - Wha

This dark, camp masterpiece stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as sisters, one a former child film star and the other paralyzed in a wheel chair. Long-time, real-life rivals for roles in Hollywood (often described as a real 'mutual hatred'), these two never starred in another picture before or after. This is an exemplar of films that knowingly relegated aging, Hollywood actresses to genre pictures. It is at times funny and horrifyingly awkward (in some moments simultaneously).


The Wicker Man

This is the type of film that one should see without knowing what happens (in the end), but it having been around for so long makes it difficult to keep from spoiling it. This isn't a horror film until it is. The pagan rituals depicted put this in the folk-horror subgenre, making it a huge influence on more recent films like Midsommar. Christopher Lee had said that his role here was one of his favorites.