Halloween: The 10 Best Universal Classic Monster Movies According To IMDb
Universal’s classic movie monsters are some of the most iconic in cinema, but which do IMDb rank among the best?
Long before Robert Downey Jr. took on the role of Iron Man and kicked off the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe, Universal Studios created the first interconnected universe of films. It was a messily put together universe, with characters popping in and out from different time periods with no explanation, but all the same, the Universal Classic Monsters Universe was born.
With 1923’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Universal Studios jumped into the horror genre, but it wouldn’t be until 1931 that their series of now-classic interconnected monster films would start. These movies, filled with now-iconic versions of historic literary characters and a few newly created monsters for audiences to fall in love with captured the minds of children and adults alike for generations. While the age of the Universal Classic Monster movies ended in the 1950s, those versions of these creatures live on today in remakes, toys, costumes, and all forms of merchandise.
10 Creature From The Black Lagoon (7.0)
Released in 1954, The Creature From the Black Lagoon came at the end of the Universal Classic Monsters era. The Creature, called Gill-Man by his fans, was the first and only creature fully invented by Universal. Based on an idea by producer William Alland and designed by Milicent Patrick, the Creature still stands out as one of the coolest looking movie monsters of all time. Directed by Jack Arnold the film also stands out as being the only one of the Universal Classic Monsters movies to be filmed in 3-D, a choice made after the success of House of Wax, which Arnold had also directed.
9 The Mummy (7.1)
Released in 1932, The Mummy was the first Universal Classic Monsters movie that wasn’t based on a book. For this story, writers John L. Balderston, Nina Wilcox Putnam, and Richard Schayer took their inspiration from real-life events; namely the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and the supposed “Curse of the Pharaohs”.
Starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian mummy who is discovered and accidentally brought back to life by archeologists, The Mummy was rebooted in 1940 as The Mummy’s Hand, which had four sequels of its own. To this day, the bandaged version of Karloff is what many people think of when they imagine the Mummy.
8 Son Of Frankenstein (7.1)
While Karloff may have played the Mummy, it is his work as the Monster in the Frankenstein movies that he is best remembered for. Son of Frankenstein, the third Frankenstein movie, sees the son of Doctor Frankenstein return to the castle where the Monster was created in the hopes of saving his family name.
Son of Frankenstein is best known for introducing the character Ygor to the Frankenstein mythos. In the original Frankenstein, the Doctor’s assistant is named Fritz. It is in this film where Bela Lugosi, better known for a different Universal Classic Monsters film, played the character who would become a classic monster in his own right.
7 Dracula: The Spanish-Language Version (7.2)
As was common for the era Universal Studios decided to film two versions of Dracula at the same time. While the English-language version of the movie was filmed during the day, the sets would be used at night to film a Spanish-language version of the same story. Using Garrett Fort’s script, this version of the story was directed by George Melford and starred Carlos Villarías as Conde Drácula.
Melford and his crew would watch the dailies from the English version of the movie and try to one-up that production with more interesting lighting and camera angles. More than a few film-lovers believe that Melford succeeded in his goal and claim that the Spanish version of Dracula is better than the English version.
6 The Wolf Man (7.3)
While The Wolf Man is the best-known werewolf movie of the Universal Classic Monsters, it is actually the second one the studio made. The first one, Werewolf in London, is well-liked but has not left the same mark on pop culture as The Wolf Man has.
Directed by George Waggner, The Wolf Man stars Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the black sheep of the Talbot family, who gets attacked by a wolf one night only to discover that he now turns into a wolf when the moon is full. Chaney’s weary and frightened Talbot was a clear inspiration for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when they created Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
5 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (7.4)
While the Universal Monsters first started to cross over with 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and 1944’s House of Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the height of the Universal Classic Monsters movies. Along with comedic icons Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the movie features Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster – a role he took over in House of Frankenstein – and Béla Lugosi’s final performance as Count Dracula.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein sees all the monsters coming together in Florida when Dracula has the Monster’s body shipped there from London. Abbott and Costello, who are tasked with delivering the crate that contains the Monster, get mixed up in the crazy monster fights that follow.
4 Dracula (7.5)
While The Hunchback of Notre Dame may have started the Universal Classic Monsters movies in 1923, it was 1931’s Dracula that started the connected universe. Based on the novel and play by Bram Stoker, Dracula stars Bela Lugosi as the titular character, which he had previously played on Broadway. The studio wasn’t sure that they wanted to cast the actor in the role, but Lugosi was finally hired when he agreed to do it for just $3,500.
Director Todd Browning, who had made the 1927 vampire movie London After Midnight, was uninterested in the film and often did not show up to set, leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to actually direct much of the movie. Despite the behind-the-scenes problems, Dracula was a massive success at the box office and launched what would become the Universal Classic Monsters Universe.
3 The Invisible Man (7.7)
Based on the book by HG Wells, directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains as the titular character, The Invisible Man was a special effects extravaganza the likes of which theater-goers had never seen before. The effects, created by John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams, were unlike anything seen before and they still work to this day.
The movie follows the sad story of Dr. Jack Griffin, a chemist who has discovered the secret of invisibility but can’t figure out how to reverse the effect. As he struggles to find a cure, he goes mad and becomes a vicious killer. The Invisible Man spawned a number of sequels – including The Invisible Agent, where the grandson of Dr. Griffin uses the drug to turn invisible and fight Nazis. A remake, released in 2020, was met with acclaim and box office success.
2 Frankenstein (7.8)
The second movie in the Universal Classic Monsters Universe and based on Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein stars the most beloved of the monsters. While the Monster was played by Boris Karloff, no actor is listed in the credits – instead, there is just a “?”, done to make audiences wonder if the Monster was real or not. This was the first of three Universal Classic Monsters movies that James Whale directed, with The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein being the other two.
In total, the Universal version of Frankenstein appeared in eight movies, more than any of the other monsters. The part was also played by three actors. Karloff is the best known, but he was followed up by Bela Lugosi – best known for playing Dracula – and Glenn Strange.
1 The Bride Of Frankenstein (7.8)
The most beloved of the Universal Classic Monsters movies, The Bride of Frankenstein takes the tragic tale of the first film and mixes in some camp for fun. Somehow, director James Whale is able to ride the line between comedy, horror, and tragedy, often in the same scene.
The Bride of Frankenstein picks up just moments after the end of Frankenstein and follows Dr. Frankenstein as he works with the mad Doctor Pretorius to create the Bride. At the same time, the Monster travels the countryside looking for peace but only finding danger.