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Halloween is nearly a week away, and there’s still time for interested viewers to shore up their end-of-month watch lists. Certainly there have been a number of great horror films released in recent years, from The Babadook and The Witch to Get Out, Hereditary, Midsommar, and Annihilation. We also have classic entries in the horror canon from the 1970’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween), 1980’s (Friday the 13th, The Thing, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Hellraiser, SO MANY) and beyond. With all these excellent films it is easy to forget the wealth of earlier horror classics, memorable entries from earlier eras that still hold up today.
With the wealth of streaming services we have, many of these classics from the 1920’s to the 1960’s are widely available for our Halloween viewing pleasure. Here are some streaming services with unmissable early horror classics.
Since its launch, HBO Max distinguished itself early on by carrying a much wider array of classics than most of its big-tent streaming service competitors, even hosting a rotating selection of classics from the Criterion Collection. This Halloween is no different, with a number of modern and classic selections that go deep into the history of horror.
If you want to build some serious horror credentials, check out the silent 1922 classic Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, a curiosity alternating between a documentary-style presentation with narrative horror sequences. Other early classics include the atmospheric vampire classic Vampyr (1932), American monster masterpiece King Kong (1933), the criminal thriller The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), 1959’s thriller Eyes Without A Face, the otherworldly Carnival of Souls (1962), and the early Asian horror anthology Kwaidan (1965).
The biggest early find on the service, however, is the new addition of several Hammer Horror classics: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1969). They star classic performers like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and really turned a new page for the horror genre.
Since the launch of the NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock, we now have streaming access to some of the most iconic horror classics of all time—the Universal Monster films, including:
Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Invisible Woman (1941), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), House of Dracula (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953), Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), and Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1957).
In addition to the Universal Monsters, Peacock has a number of other highly regarded classics, including Island of Lost Souls (1933), The Raven (1935), Doctor Cyclops (1940), Night Monster (1942), The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942), and Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).
Other important classics on Peacock include some Hitchcock entries—don’t miss Rope (1948), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963). The services also has a few Hammer Horror classics:
The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964).
As a service that specializes in horror, Shudder always has a deep bench of everything from classic films to horror docs to stellar modern scary films like Mandy or The Color Out of Space. If we’re talking classics, Shudder won’t let you down.
One of the coolest classics on the service is 1932’s The Old Dark House, a great thriller directed by James Whale (Bride of Frankenstein), as well as George A. Romero classic Night of the Living Dead (1968).
The biggest classic must-see on the service this year, however, is a brand new collection featuring horror icon Vincent Price, including The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Masque of the Red Death (1964), Tomb of Ligeia (1965), and Theater of Blood (1973).
No surprise here, but the Criterion Channel has some great classics that shouldn’t be overlooked. Classic genre-hopping early witchcraft classic Haxan (1922) is on the service, as is Nosferatu (1922), one of the most iconic vampire films of all time. They also have the moody and visually surreal Vampyr (1932), Jacques Tourneur’s novel masterpiece Cat People (1942), and other early classics like The Blob (1958), Eyes Without A Face (1960), Carnival of Souls (1962), and Ishiro Honda’s The War of the Gargantuas (1966).
On the topic of the brilliant Ishiro Honda, the service has the Kaiju maestro’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) (the version of the original re-edited for American audiences), Rodan (1956), Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965), Jun Fukuda’s Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) and Son of Godzilla (1967), and Honda’s Destroy All Monsters (1968) and All Monsters Attack (1969) (alongside the 1970’s classics Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)).
Amazon Prime has a wide array of horror films overall, and buried in its vast library are some truly iconic classics. These include early classics The Golem: How He Came Into The World and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), alongside the aforementioned Nosferatu (1922) and the classic silent film The Phantom of the Opera (1925).
The service has a number of great films from the 1950’s and 1960’s as well, like Henri-Georges Clouzot’s murderous Diabolique (1955), the haunting House on Haunted Hill (1959), the stalking nightmare Peeping Tom (1960), the surreal creep-fest Carnival of Souls (1962), and the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead.
If you have a subscription or access to the channel, it should be mentioned that Turner Classic Movies has a bunch of great horror classics from earlier periods that are often hard to find. These include the controversial Tod Browning picture Freaks (1932), The Devil-Doll (1936), the anthology Dead of Night from 1945 (featuring the notorious and often-imitated short horror entry about a dangerous ventriloquist’s dummy), Hammer classics The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958), and The Mummy (1959), and the 1963 Francis Coppola film Dementia 13, among others.
(You rarely see Freaks or Dead of Night anywhere—definitely check them out while you can).
There’s more than enough classics here to fill every day until Halloween’s over, realistically multiple times over, and every film in this list will give you serious horror fan credentials. To make things a little easier to sort through, here’s the absolute must-watch films by decade, each with three lesser-knowns in bold (you’ll get top-tier horror-elite status with these entries).
1920s – Winner: Amazon Prime, Second Place: Criterion
The Golem: How He Came Into The World (Amazon Prime) Haxan (HBO Max, Criterion) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Amazon Prime) Nosferatu (Amazon Prime, Criterion) The Phantom of the Opera (Amazon Prime)
1930s – Winner: Peacock, Second Place: HBO Max
Freaks (TCM) Dracula (Peacock) Frankenstein (Peacock) The Old Dark House (Shudder) Vampyr (HBO Max) The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (HBO Max) King Kong (HBO Max) The Invisible Man (Peacock) The Bride of Frankenstein (Peacock)
1940s: – Winner: Peacock, Second Place: HBO Max
The Wolf Man (Peacock) Cat People (HBO Max, Criterion) Dead of Night (TCM) Phantom of the Opera (Peacock) Rope (Peacock) House of Frankenstein (Peacock) House of Dracula (Peacock)
1950s – Winner: HBO Max, Second Place: Criterion
Diabolique (Amazon Prime) The Curse of Frankenstein (HBO Max, TCM) The Horror of Dracula (HBO Max, TCM) The Mummy (HBO Max, TCM) Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Criterion) The Blob (Criterion) House on Haunted Hill (Amazon Prime)
1960 – Tie: Shudder / Peacock
The Brides of Dracula (Peacock) The Curse of the Werewolf (Peacock) The Phantom of the Opera (Peacock) The Evil of Frankenstein (Peacock) Carnival of Souls (Criterion, HBO Max, Amazon Prime) The Fall of the House of Usher (Shudder) Masque of the Red Death (Shudder) Tomb of Ligeia (Shudder) Kwaidan (HBO Max)
Overall Winner: Peacock
Overall Second Place: HBO Max
Overall Third Place: Criterion