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The Best '30s Horror Movies 

Ranker Film
1.6k votes 336 voters 4.1k views 45 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite horror films that were released in the 1930s

This list of the best 1930s horror movies features some truly terrifying tales of murder, monsters, and mayhem. Fans of the horror genre might scoff at horror films made over 70 years ago, but if you give these movies a chance, they will most assuredly leave your hair standing on end, and your knuckles white.


One of the most iconic horror movies ever made was released in the ‘30s: Tod Browning’s
Freaks. Revolutionary, and unlike any movie that came before or afterward, Freaks featured real sideshow performers with real deformities. The original version of the film was deemed too disturbing to be released. The film ruined Browning’s career. The two dominant horror actors of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, also appear on this list as Dracula and Frankenstein, respectively. The Black Cat was the first of eight films to pit the two on-screen legends against one another.


Also on this list, you’ll find the work of legendary German director Fritz Lang.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, a follow up to Lang’s earlier silent film about the mad doctor, is regarded as one of the finest horror films of the decade. Vote up the best '30s horror movies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
list ordered by
1
Dracula is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Carla Laemmle

Released: 1931

Directed by: Tod Browning, Karl Freund

Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by ...more

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2
Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, John Boles, Colin Clive

Released: 1931

Directed by: James Whale

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by ...more

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#89 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #42 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

3
King Kong is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
RonnyMerchant added Fay Wray, Merian C. Cooper, Bruce Cabot

Released: 1933

Directed by: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

King Kong is a 1933 American fantasy monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was from an ...more

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#7 of 116 The Scariest Giant Monster Movies #68 of 568 The Greatest Disaster Movies of All Time

4
Bride of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Walter Brennan, Billy Barty

Released: 1935

Directed by: James Whale

Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 American horror film, the first sequel to Frankenstein. Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester ...more

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#604 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #131 of 180 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

5
The Invisible Man is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, Una O'Connor

Released: 1933

Directed by: James Whale

The Invisible Man is a 1933 science fiction film based on H. G. Wells' science fiction novel The Invisible Man, published in 1897, as adapted by R. C. Sherriff, Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges, ...more

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6
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Fredric March, Wallace Beery, Miriam Hopkins

Released: 1931

Directed by: Rouben Mamoulian

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March. The film is an adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, ...more

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7
Freaks is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Roscoe Ates

Released: 1932

Directed by: Tod Browning

Freaks is a 1932 American horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was ...more

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8
The Mummy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Noble Johnson

Released: 1932

Directed by: Karl Freund

The Mummy is a 1932 horror film from Universal Studios directed by Karl Freund and stars Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features Zita Johann, David Manners ...more

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9
The Black Cat is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners

Released: 1934

Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer

Not to be confused with the 1941 version also featuring Bela Lugosi. The Black Cat is a 1934 horror film that became Universal Pictures' biggest box office hit of the year. The picture was the ...more

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#574 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #127 of 146 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #221 of 504 The Scariest Movies Ever Made

10
Son of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone

Released: 1939

Directed by: Rowland V. Lee

Son of Frankenstein is a horror monster film and is the third film in Universal Studios' Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster as well as the first to feature ...more
11
Island of Lost Souls is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott

Released: 1932

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

Island of Lost Souls is a 1932 American science fiction horror film starring Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi and Kathleen Burke as the Panther Woman. The film was ...more

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12
Mystery of the Wax Museu... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farrell

Released: 1933

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Mystery of the Wax Museum is a 1933 American mystery horror-thriller film released by Warner Bros. in two-color Technicolor and directed by Michael Curtiz. The film stars Lionel Atwill, Fay ...more
13
The Murders in the Rue M... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Val Kilmer, Ian McShane, Boris Karloff

Released: 1986

Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc, A. Edward Sutherland, Robert Florey, Edgar G. Ulmer

Murders in the Rue Morgue is a pre-Code 1932 horror film, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Bela Lugosi portrays a lunatic scientist who ...more
14
M is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
RonnyMerchant added Peter Lorre, Theo Lingen, Georg John

Released: 1931

Directed by: Fritz Lang

M is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. It was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director's first sound film. Now ...more

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#111 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #256 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

15
The Old Dark House is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart

Released: 1932

Directed by: James Whale

The Old Dark House is a 1932 American pre-Code comedy horror film directed by James Whale. It is based on the novel Benighted (1927) by J.B. Priestley. The ensemble cast includes Boris Karloff, ...more

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#524 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #17 of 26 The Best Horror Movies That Take Place in Castles #38 of 52 The Best Gothic Horror Movies

16
The Hound of the Baskerv... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Wendy Barrie

Released: 1939

Directed by: Sidney Lanfield

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1939 mystery film based on the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was directed by Sidney Lanfield and produced by 20th Century ...more
17
Werewolf of London is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Valerie Hobson, Spring Byington, J. M. Kerrigan

Released: 1935

Directed by: Stuart Walker

Werewolf of London is a 1935 Horror film starring Henry Hull and produced by Universal Pictures. Jack Pierce's eerie werewolf make-up was simpler than his version six years later for Lon Chaney, ...more
18
White Zombie is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Clarence Muse, Madge Bellamy

Released: 1932

Directed by: Victor Hugo Halperin

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial White Zombie is a 1932 American independent Pre-Code horror film directed and produced by brothers Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin. The screenplay by Garnett Weston, based on The Magic ...more

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19
Vampyr is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Sybille Schmitz, Nicolas de Gunzburg, Maurice Schutz

Released: 1932

Directed by: Carl Dreyer

Vampyr is a 1932 German–French horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's ...more

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20
The Raven is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Ian Wolfe

Released: 1935

Directed by: Lew Landers

The Raven is a 1935 American horror film directed by Lew Landers and starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi. The picture revolves around Edgar Allan Poe's famous homonymous poem, ...more
21
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Barton MacLane, Edmund Gwenn

Released: 1936

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

The Walking Dead is a 1936 American horror film distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Boris Karloff who played a wrongly executed man who is restored to ...more
22
Mad Love is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Sara Haden

Released: 1935

Directed by: Karl Freund

Mad Love is a 1935 American horror film, an adaptation of Maurice Renard's story The Hands of Orlac. It was directed by German-émigré film maker Karl Freund, and stars Peter Lorre ...more

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#367 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #80 of 115 The Best Old Horror Movies

23
Mark of the Vampire is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill

Released: 1935

Directed by: Tod Browning

Mark of the Vampire is a 1935 horror film, starring Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, and Jean Hersholt, and directed by Tod Browning. It is a talkie remake of ...more
24
Dracula's Daughter is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Hedda Hopper, Otto Kruger, Halliwell Hobbes

Released: 1936

Directed by: Lambert Hillyer

Dracula's Daughter is a 1936 American vampire horror film produced by Universal Studios, a sequel to the 1931 film Dracula. Directed by Lambert Hillyer from a screenplay by Garrett Fort, the ...more
25
The Testament of Dr. Mab... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '30s Horror Movies
Oscar Beregi, Sr., Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Released: 1932

Directed by: Fritz Lang

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a 1933 German crime film directed by Fritz Lang. The movie is a sequel to Lang's silent film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler and features many cast and crew members from ...more