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Top 20+1 Scariest Horror Films from the 1950s

Best horror movies of the 1950s

Welcome to the Spooky world of the Frightful Fifties

So you are one of those keen horror fans, who like to travel back in time to experience the frights and terrors of earlier cinematic eras. So are we!

The spooky stuff of the 1950s may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.

Whenever you miss those good old days and feel like you want to shiver and scream, all you have to do, is sit tight, bite on your nails, and enjoy the thrills that only a 1950s horror movie can give you.

It will be a pleasure to drag you kicking and screaming through the blood-chilling frames of each horror film featured here, so let’s proceed to the terrifying collection where you’ll be chased by demons, mummies and vampires, bloodthirsty alien organisms and parasitic creatures, disfigured sculptors and mad millionaires, prehistoric amphibian beasts and giant man-eating ant-like monsters.

This is not your average horror film list featuring only the scariest and goriest films. We treat horror as the broad genre it actually is. Thus, we tried to diversify this collection as much as possible.

We picked science fiction- and fantasy horror films, kaiju- and monster horrors, Period- and Gothic mystery horror films, psychological horror thrillers, adventure- and crime horror films and even dark comic satire horrors.

Ready to jump and scream in front of the screen? Buckle up then, and let the best horror films of the 1950s scare the living heck out of you!

This collection is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Horror Movies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the spookiest films of each cinematic era, chronologically. It starts with the Horrors of the Silent Era and wanders ahead decade-by-decade, all the way to our ever moving present.


Presenting the 20+1 Best Horror Movies of the 1950s

Chronologically

The ‘+1’ is a Bonus Movie. Wait for it!


The Thing from Another World (1951)

The Thing from Another World (1951), Christian Nyby, Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Best horror films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Black-and-white science fiction-horror film directed by Christian Nyby, starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey and Robert Cornthwaite.

Story: Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost. (IMDB)

As flying saucer movies go, The Thing From Another World is better than most, thanks to well-drawn characters and concise, tense plotting.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Thing from Another World among the best horror movies from the 1950s?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Considered to be one of the best films of 1951 and one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.


House of Wax (1953)

House of Wax (1953), Andre DeToth, Vincent Price, Top horror movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Period mystery-horror film directed by Andre DeToth and starring Vincent Price.

Story: A disfigured sculptor repopulates his destroyed wax museum by murdering people and using their wax-coated remains as displays.

House of Wax is a 3-D horror delight that combines the atmospheric eerieness of the wax museum with the always chilling presence of Vincent Price.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is House of Wax among the top horror films from the 1950s?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ One of the first 3D features ever, a huge box office hit and one of the most popular movies of the 1950s.


Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla (1954), Ishirō Honda, Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Greatest horror movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Japanese sci-fi horror kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, starring Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura.

Story: American nuclear-weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast. (IMDB)

More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Godzilla among the greatest horror films from the 1950s?
✓ The character Godzilla has become an international pop culture icon and the movie pioneered a form of special effects called suitmation, in which a stunt performer wearing a suit interacts with miniature sets.
✓ Widely regarded as a significant cinematic achievement and one of the best monster films ever made.


Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Jack Arnold, Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Most famous horror movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Black-and-white 3D monster horror film directed by Jack Arnold, starring Richard Carlson, Julia Adams and Richard Denning.

Story: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study. (IMDB)

A solid, atmospheric creature feature that entertains without attempting to be deeper than it needs.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Creature from the Black Lagoon among the most famous horror films from the 1950s?
✓ One of the most popular horror movies of its time, today considered a true classic.
✓ It created an iconic movie monster and had a significant influence on popular culture and future monster movies.


Them! (1954)

Them! (1954), Gordon Douglas, James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, Most popular horror films from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Black-and-white science fiction monster horror film directed by Gordon Douglas, starring James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon.

Story: The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The flamethrowers used in the movie were standard World War II weapons and were loaned by the U.S. Army. The actors handling the weapons were World War II combat veterans, who had used them in battle.
✪ This is the film that set the often used scene of the chief scientist showing a documentary film outlining the scientific basis for the sci-fi menace.

One of the best creature features of the early atomic age, Them! features effectively menacing special effects and avoids the self-parody that would taint later monster movies.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Them! among the scary horror movies of the 1950s?
✓ One of the first of the 1950s “nuclear monster” films, and the first “big bug” feature film to use insects as the monster.
✓ Generally regarded as one of the best science fiction horror films of the 1950s with a significant influence on popular culture.


Diabolique (1955)

Diabolique (1955), Henri-Georges Clouzot, Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Scary horror films from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Psychological horror thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot and Paul Meurisse.

Story: The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal plan to murder him with what they believe is the perfect alibi. (IMDB)

Cruel, dark, but undeniably effective, Diabolique is a suspense thriller as effective as Hitchcock’s best work and with a brilliant twist ending.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Diabolique among the best horror movies of the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected as the Best Foreign Film of the Year by the The New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the Edgar Allan Poe Awards. Also winner of the Louis Delluc Prize.
✓ The film created a sensation upon its original release, and was a success at the box office.


The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Val Guest, Brian Donlevy, Richard Wordsworth, Best horror films from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror film directed by Val Guest, starring Brian Donlevy and Richard Wordsworth.

Story: Professor Bernard Quatermass’ manned rocket ship returns to Earth, but two of the astronauts are missing and the survivor seems ill and unable to communicate. (IMDB)

An extravagant piece of science fiction. Despite its obvious horror angles, production is crammed with incident and suspense.

Variety

Why is The Quatermass Xperiment among the top horror films of the 1950s?
✓ It was a major success upon release and proved to become a pioneering science fiction horror film with a long lasting influence on future cinema.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Don Siegel, Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Scariest horror movies of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror film directed by Don Siegel, starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.

Story: A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. (IMDB)

One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Invasion of the Body Snatchers among the scariest horror films from the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it one of the scariest films ever made.


The Bad Seed (1956)

The Bad Seed (1956), Mervyn LeRoy, Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Top horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Psychological horror thriller film directed by Mervyn LeRoy, starring Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack.

Story: Rhoda Penmark seems like your average, sweet eight-year-old girl. When her rival at school dies in mysterious circumstances at the school picnic her mother starts to suspect that Rhoda was responsible. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Patty McCormack confessed that it was fun for her to play a killer child. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.

Why is The Bad Seed among the greatest horror films of the 1950s?
✓ It was one of the bigger hits of its time and received favorable reviews from critics and it was even nominated for 4 Oscars.


The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Jack Arnold, Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, Scariest horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror film directed by Jack Arnold, starring Grant Williams and Randy Stuart.

Story: When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The special effects technicians were able to create giant drops of water by filling up condoms and dropping them.

A curiously sensitive and spiritual addition to the Universal Monsters line-up, tacking on deep questions about a story who is shrinking to death.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Incredible Shrinking Man among the most popular horror movies from the 1950s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ It is among the highest-grossing science fiction horror films of the 1950s.


Night of the Demon (1957)

Night of the Demon (1957), Jacques Tourneur, Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Most popular horror films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Fantasy horror mystery film directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis.

Story: American professor John Holden arrives in London for a parapsychology conference, only to find himself investigating the mysterious actions of Devil-worshiper Julian Karswell. (IMDB)

It’s a beguiling and enveloping tale of the power of the occult and the susceptibility of the human mind to suggestion.

Rob Aldam – Backseat Mafia

Why is Night of the Demon among the scariest horror films of the 1950s?
✓ Time Out poll of several authors, directors, actors and critics included Night of the Demon in their “Top 100 Horror Films” list and Director Martin Scorsese also put it on his “Scariest Horror Films of All Time” list.
✓ Regarded as one of the most influential horror films of the 1950s. The image of the demon from this film became an iconic image for the 1950s horrors.


The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Scary horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror thriller film directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Story: While awaiting execution for murder, Baron Victor Frankenstein tells the story of a creature he built and brought to life – only for it to behave not as he intended. (IMDB)

It manages to be shocking without being especially frightening, and its virtues of performance and style remain striking.

Kim Newman – Empire Magazine

Why is The Curse of Frankenstein among the scary horror films of the 1950s?
✓ Its tremendous worldwide financial success led to several sequels, and it helped to establish “Hammer Horror” as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema.
✓ Praised by critics for it’s dark atmosphere, acting, art direction, camera work, film score and color.
✓ Many film historians credit this movie’s success with resurrecting the horror genre, which had very much declined in popularity from its heyday of the 1930s and early 1940s.
✓ Later directors such as Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro have paid tribute to it as an influence on their work.


The Blob (1958)

The Blob (1958), Irvin Yeaworth, Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Most famous horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror film directed by Irvin Yeaworth, starring Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut.

Story: An alien lifeform consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The Blob was created with a modified weather balloon in the early shots, and in the later shots with colored silicone gel.
✪ They added dye to the Blob to make it increasingly redder after it had consumed successive victims.

In spite of its chortle-worthy premise and dated special effects, The Blob remains a prime example of how satisfying cheesy B-movie monster thrills can be.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Blob among the most famous horror films of the 1950s?
✓ A major box office hit and one of the most popular movies of the 1950s, with a notable influence on pop culture and future sci-fi horrors.


Horror of Dracula (1958)

Horror of Dracula (1958), Terence Fisher, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Greatest horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Gothic horror film directed by Terence Fisher, starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing.

Story: Jonathan Harker rouses the ire of Count Dracula after he accepts a job at the vampire’s castle under false pretenses. Harker’s friend, Dr. Van Helsing, then embarks on a hunt for the predatory villain when he targets Harker’s loved ones. (IMDB)

Trading gore for grandeur, Horror of Dracula marks an impressive turn for inveterate Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, and a typical Hammer mood that makes aristocracy quite sexy.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Horror of Dracula among the best horror films of the 1950s?
✓ A poll of actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw Dracula ranked the 65th best British film ever.
✓ As Count Dracula, Lee introduced a dark, brooding sexuality to the character and fixed the image of the fanged vampire in popular culture.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Schneider.


The Fly (1958)

The Fly (1958), Kurt Neumann, David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Best horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Science fiction horror film produced and directed by Kurt Neumann, starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens and Vincent Price.

Story: A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device. (IMDB)

Deliciouly funny to some and eerily presicient to others, The Fly walks a fine line between shlocky fun and unnerving nature parable.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Fly among the best horror movies of the 1950s?
✓ One of the most successful and popular movies of the 1950s with a notable influence on future sci-fi horror films.
✓ Recognized by critics for its macabre effects, unusual believability, suspense, script and performances.


House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill (1959), William Castle, Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Best horror films from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Crime horror mystery film produced and directed by William Castle, starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart and Richard Long.

Story: A millionaire offers $10,000 to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The film uses many props used in carnival haunted houses to generate fear and terror.
✪ The skeleton that rises from the vat of acid is a real human skeleton. Like most movies, it was simply faster and cheaper to buy a real human skeleton from a biological supply house than having one created by the special effects department.

Campy by modern standards but spooky and atmospheric, House on Haunted Hill is a fun, well-executed cult classic featuring a memorable performance from genre icon Vincent Price.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is House on Haunted Hill among the top horror movies of the 1950s?
✓ Although it was a low budget production, it became a box office hit and proved to become a popular horror film of its time. Today it is widely considered a true classic of horror cinema.


The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Sir Christopher Lee, André Morell, Greatest horror films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Gothic-mystery horror film directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing, Sir Christopher Lee and André Morell.

Story: When a nobleman is threatened by a family curse on his newly inherited estate, detective Sherlock Holmes is hired to investigate. (IMDB)

Why is The Hound of the Baskervilles among the most famous horror movies from the 1950s?
✓ Widely considered one of the best movie adaptations of the 1902 novel of the same title by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
✓ Peter Cushing and André Morell received critical praise for their portrayals of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively.


The Mummy (1959)

The Mummy (1959), Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Most popular horror films from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Adventure horror film directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Story: In 1895, British archaeologists find and open the tomb of Egyptian Princess Ananka with nefarious consequences. (IMDB)

Why is The Mummy among the scary horror movies of the 1950s?
✓ Praised by critics for its atmosphere, direction and Christopher Lee’s performance as the mummy.


The Tingler (1959)

The Tingler (1959), William Castle, Vincent Price, Scariest horror films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Sci-fi horror film produced and directed by William Castle and starring Vincent Price.

Story: An obsessed pathologist discovers and captures a parasitic creature that grows when fear grips its host. (IMDB)

The movie is well-made, and anyone with an appreciation for the fright flicks of yesteryear will certainly recognize it as a work of significant note, especially given Vincent Price’s strong performance.

Mike McGranaghan – The Aisle Seat

Why is The Tingler among the top horror films from the 1950s?
✓ Generally considered an influential camp cult film.


A Bucket of Blood (1959)

A Bucket of Blood (1959), Roger Corman, Dick Miller, Greatest horror movies from the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Dark comic satire horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Dick Miller.

Story: A dim-witted busboy finds acclaim as an artist for a plaster-covered dead cat that is mistaken as a skillful statuette. The desire for more praise soon leads to an increasingly deadly series of works. (IMDB)

It’s a low budget masterwork that skewers the fad of its era while lambasting the ever-fickle art world.

Sean Mulvihill – FanboyNation.com

Why is A Bucket of Blood among the most famous horror films of the 1950s?
✓ Praised as an honest, undiscriminating portrayal of the many facets of beatnik culture, including poetry, dance, and a minimalist style of life.
✓ One of the first slasher movies ever made. (Albeit a comedic, not very serious Slasher).


…and as promised: The BONUS Movie!

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957), Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi, Maila Nurmi, Lyle Talbot, Most popular horror films of the 1950s
Where to Watch?   More info

Independent science fiction-horror film produced, written, directed, and edited by Ed Wood, starring Bela Lugosi, Maila Nurmi and Lyle Talbot.

Story: Evil aliens attack Earth and set their terrible “Plan 9” into action. As the aliens resurrect the dead of the Earth, the lives of the living are in danger. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Contrary to popular belief, the detective who points his gun at himself several times did it deliberately. The actor wanted to see if Edward D. Wood Jr. would notice. He didn’t.
✪ The “tombstones” in the cemetery were styrofoam and cardboard props. A couple of times during the film they can be seen bouncing or falling over when brushed by the passing actors.

The epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi “thriller” from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Plan 9 from Outer Space the Bonus movie of our “best horror films from the 1950s” collection?
✓ Despite the fact that its a truly terrible films, it gained popularity and a large cult following over the years. Many critics stated that the film is simply too amusing to be considered unwatchable, claiming that its ineptitude added to its charm. Some even consider it a quintessential cult classic.


…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 20+1 Greatest Horror films of the 1950s

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Top 20+1 Horror Movies of the 1950s
Chronologically
The Thing from Another World 1951
The Thing from Another World
House of Wax 1953
House of Wax
Godzilla 1954
Godzilla
Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954
Creature from the Black Lagoon
*Part of the Collection: Creature from the Black Lagoon Trilogy
Them! 1954
Them!
Diabolique 1955
Diabolique
The Quatermass Xperiment 1955
The Quatermass Xperiment
Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Bad Seed 1956
The Bad Seed
The Incredible Shrinking Man 1957
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Night of the Demon 1957
Night of the Demon
The Curse of Frankenstein 1957
The Curse of Frankenstein
The Blob 1958
The Blob
Horror of Dracula 1958
Horror of Dracula
*Part of the Collection: Christopher Lee’s Dracula Franchise
The Fly 1958
The Fly
*Part of the Collection: The Original Fly Trilogy
House on Haunted Hill 1959
House on Haunted Hill
The Hound of the Baskervilles 1959
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Mummy 1959
The Mummy
The Tingler 1959
The Tingler
A Bucket of Blood 1959
A Bucket of Blood
Plan 9 from Outer Space 1959
Bonus: Plan 9 from Outer Space
*Click any Title for more Info and for Streaming / Disc Buying options.

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