The best horror film of all decades in American film history

Accordingly New York Film Academy, the first Horror The film came from France and was titled Le Manoir Du Diable (The Devil’s House). Although this early film was a silent film and was only three minutes long, the short deserves some recognition. Before Universal’s monsters dominated the screen, a series of short films focused on works of Gothic literature were released in the 1910s.

Horror as a genre is constantly changing, especially in films whose plots are based on cultural and political commentary. Modern directors learn from those of the past and special effects are constantly evolving. Each decade can be defined by an iconic slasher villain or a specific film. Horror has come a long way since Universal’s classic monster films of the early 1930s. Here are the best horror films from every decade of American film history.

1930s: Dracula

Dracula 1931
Universal Studios

In 1931, Universal introduced the very first and one of the most iconic characters of all time. Dracula was based on the novel of the same name, which introduced the idea of ​​vampires to the horror genre. In the 1920s, Universal produced horror shorts based on literary works. However, in the 1930s the studio produced some of the greatest classic horror films of all time.

Like the early films, the horror films of the 1930s also focused on literary works such as that of Bram Stoker Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and films inspired by poems by poet Edgar Allan Poe. Despite the many films released this decade, Dracula inspired decades of filmmaking, particularly for vampires.

1940s: The Wolf Man

Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man.
Castle Films

Exactly 10 years after the release of Dracula, 1941s The Wolfman was released in theaters and became one of the best werewolf films of all time. Lon Chaney Jr.’s werewolf makeup reportedly took nearly six hours to apply and half that time to remove. However, it’s not just Chaney’s iconic transformation that wins The Wolfman the best film of the decade.

A closer look at the horror market of the 1940s revealed that Universal’s monster films gradually became spin-offs of already established characters. The WolfmanIn and of itself, it’s one of the unique films of the decade, one that hasn’t been explored in any previous expansion.

1950s: House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill
Allied artists

Vincent Price was a well-known television and film actor who was particularly popular in the horror genre. 1959s House on Haunted Hill invited a more intriguing plot than the usual literary exploration. Like so many others of its kind, the film uses standard props and animation to create the illusion of free-roaming ghouls. Despite how House on Haunted Hill would be viewed today, mentioning Price’s name to the project is enough to warrant at least one watch of the horror classic.

1960s: Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho (1960)
Universal images

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous horror directors of the 20th century. 1960s Psycho changed the perception of psychological thrillers and inspired films for generations. Aside from being one of the most important inspirations in the history of cinema, Psycho also influenced the way music is used in films and how it is scored.

One of the most famous scenes that demonstrates this is the shower scene in which Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) is killed by “Norman’s mother.” Norman Bates (played by Anthony Hopkins) claims he has an overly possessive mother who has a penchant for murder. In true Hitchcock style, the twist is that nothing is as it seems.

Related: Best Universal Monster Movies, Ranked

1970s: Halloween

Halloween (1978)
Compass International Pictures

John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween has been a must-have for the Halloween season for decades. The series’ big bad, Michael Meyers, is one of the most notorious slashers of all time and appears in all sequels except the third installment Season of the Witch.

carpentry budget for Halloween was relatively low and actors were encouraged to purchase their own clothing. In May 1978, after just four short weeks and a few false pages later, Halloween was supposed to hit theaters in October of the same year and change the horror genre forever.

1980s: The Thing

The Thing 1982
Universal images

When it comes to the 1980s, it’s difficult to choose just one definitive best answer. This is particularly true of the horror of the 80s, the generation of cult films and various subgenres. However, in 1982 The thing is arguably one of the best films of the decade. The film features all the important elements of the genre such as blood, gore, body horror and the idea of ​​body snatchers. But what sets? The thing Apart from the rest is his innate ability to create a general tone of unease and paranoia.

Related: 10 Horror Movies That Are Funnier Than People Think

1990s: Scream

Ghostface and a victim in Scream
AMC Theaters

Wes Craven is at the height of 90s nostalgia Scream. The ultra-meta classic is best known for subverting the genre while simultaneously following the exact tropes the film aims to highlight. In the 90s, horror was in a bit of a crisis. At this point, the genre was reduced to sequels and psychological thrillers.

Early waves of Screamcan be found in Craven’s meta reboot New nightmare, which introduces Freddy Krueger in a new element. The franchise has seen many ups and downs, but 2022 Scream 5 and 2023 Scream 6 have had significant success in attempting to revive Ghostface.

2000s: American Psycho

Bale in American Psycho
Lionsgate Films

2000s horror resembles a mixture of peanuts. Some focus heavily on CGI, while others are way too cheesy, but not in the right way. In the 2000s there was everything from feminist ideas ginger snaps, to absolute cult comedies that are in the making Shaun of the Dead.

Despite the many films from this decade that managed to achieve classic status at all, American psychois a cut above the rest. Overall, the film asks whether Patrick Bateman committed any crimes at all and comments on the elite status of the business class in the late 1980s.

2010s: The Conjuring

The incantation
Warner Bros.

Accordingly screen rant, The 2010s were rich in A24 horror films and “arthouse” interpretations. Although this is absolutely true, 2013 The incantation sparked a new take on a haunted house movie. James Wan’s main focus was the Warrens, a couple who went on a paranormal investigation quest. Although the real couple is nowhere near as picturesque as the couple portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, The incantation manages to diffuse the scares while still making you care about the characters.

2020s: X

X (2022)

With the 2020s still so fresh, taking a dip in the shallows is your best bet for this decade. There were two new releases in the first three (almost four) years of the 2020s Scream Franchise, a likeable “monster” in barbarian, and Ti West’s return to horror. X premiered in 2022 and is the first film in the trilogy, setting the stage while introducing the two main characters within the plot.

The second part, pearl was released almost six months after the first and was shot in Technicolor. Maxxine, The third film in the trilogy takes the story based on the character of Mia Goth to Hollywood in the 1980s.

Lindsay Lowe

Lindsay Lowe is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Lindsay Lowe joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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