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The Best '40s Horror Movies 

Ranker Film
1.1k votes 361 voters 4.2k views 50 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite horror films that were released in the 1940s

The horror films of the 1940s are replete with classic horror characters; terrifying figures that have embedded themselves firmly in the cultural consciousness. In a climate of growing international tension, it’s no surprise that countless horror films were produced in the ‘40s, giving voice to the undefined fears and anxiety gripping the world’s population.


So what are the best 1940s horror movies? Dracula, Frankenstein, and zombies, some of the most famous movie monsters ever, appear in numerous films in the decade. On this list you will find
I Walked with a Zombie, starring Boris Karloff, the legendary horror actor. Karloff also stars in The Body Catcher, and he reprises his role as the original silver screen Frankenstein in House of Frankenstein. Another iconic horror actor can also be found on this list of the greatest 1940s horror moves: Bela Lugosi. Lugosi played Dracula in the first movie version of the classic tale, and in the ‘40s he appeared in horror classics such as The Wolf Man.


On this list you’ll find a dash of horror comedy.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein pit the famous comedy duo against formidable actors Lugosi as well as Lon Chaney, Jr. Vote up the best horror films of the 1940s, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
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1
The Wolf Man is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Lon Chaney

Released: 1941

Directed by: George Waggner

The Wolf Man is a 1941 American drama horror film written by Curt Siodmak and produced and directed by George Waggner. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as a werewolf named "The Wolf Man" ...more

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2
Abbott and Costello Meet... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Lou Costello

Released: 1948

Directed by: Charles Barton

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein —although the film is usually referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—is a 1948 ...more

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3
Cat People is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Alan Napier, Simone Simon, Tom Conway

Released: 1942

Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Cat People is a 1942 horror film produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur. DeWitt Bodeen wrote the original screenplay which was based on Val Lewton's short story The Bagheeta ...more

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#225 of 816 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #12 of 15 Horror Movies That Should Have Won The Oscar For Best Picture

4
The Body Snatcher is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Bill Williams

Released: 1945

Directed by: Robert Wise

The Body Snatcher is a 1945 horror film directed by Robert Wise based on the short story The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson. The film's producer Val Lewton helped adapt the story for ...more
5
Frankenstein Meets the W... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1943

Directed by: Roy William Neill

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, released in 1943, is an American monster horror film produced by Universal Studios starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's ...more
6
The Ghost of Frankenstei... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1942

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

The Ghost of Frankenstein, is an American monster horror film released in 1942. The movie is the fourth in a series of films produced by Universal Studios based upon characters in Mary Shelley's ...more
7
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy

Released: 1941

Directed by: Victor Fleming

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1941 horror film starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. Rather than being a new film version of the novel, it is a direct remake of the 1931 film of ...more
8
I Walked with a Zombie ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Frances Dee, Tom Conway

Released: 1943

Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

I Walked with a Zombie is a 1943 horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur. It was the second horror film from producer Val Lewton for RKO Pictures.

More I Walked with a Zombie 

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9
House of Dracula is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine

Released: 1945

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

House of Dracula is an American horror film released by Universal Pictures Company in 1945. It was a direct sequel to House of Frankenstein and continued the theme of combining Universal's three ...more

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10
The Picture of Dorian Gr... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, George Sanders

Released: 1945

Directed by: Albert Lewin

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a 1945 American horror-drama film based on Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel of the same name. Released in March 1945 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film is directed by Albert ...more

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11
Phantom of the Opera is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Claude Rains, Hume Cronyn, Nelson Eddy

Released: 1943

Directed by: Arthur Lubin

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial David and Jade, a young couple, are consumed by their feelings for each other.  With the toll its taking on her schoolwork, Jade's father eventually bans David from seeing her.  This ...more

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12
The Uninvited is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Ray Milland, Gail Russell, Donald Crisp

Released: 1944

Directed by: Lewis Allen

The Uninvited is a 1944 American supernatural mystery/romance directed by Lewis Allen in his feature film debut. It is based on the Dorothy Macardle novel Uneasy Freehold. The film stars Ray ...more

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13
House of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1944

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

House of Frankenstein is an American monster horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced in 1944 by Universal ...more

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#11 of 20 What Are The Best Universal Monster Films? #91 of 178 The Best Monster Movies

14
The Black Cat is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '40s 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 816 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #127 of 147 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #33 of 52 The Best Gothic Horror Movies

15
Dead of Night is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns

Released: 1945

Directed by: Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton, Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer

This film is a British portmanteau horror film made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. The film ...more

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#150 of 204 The Best Zombie Horror Films #35 of 43 The Best Movies About Magic

16
The Mummy's Hand is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Eduardo Ciannelli, Cecil Kellaway

Released: 1940

Directed by: Christy Cabanne

The Mummy's Hand is a 1940 black-and-white horror film, produced by Ben Pivar for Universal Studios. Although it is sometimes claimed by fans as a sequel or follow-up to The Mummy, it does not ...more
17
The Invisible Man Return... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Vincent Price, Cedric Hardwicke, Nan Grey

Released: 1940

Directed by: Joe May

The Invisible Man Returns is a 1940 American horror science fiction film from Universal. It was written as a sequel to the 1933 film The Invisible Man, which was based on the novel The Invisible ...more
18
The Mummy's Tomb is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., Elyse Knox

Released: 1942

Directed by: Harold Young

The Mummy's Tomb is the 1942 horror film sequel to The Mummy's Hand. Lon Chaney, Jr. disliked the role of Kharis the mummy. Make-up artist Jack Pierce spent up to eight hours to wrap Chaney. A ...more
19
The Lodger is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
George Sanders, Merle Oberon, Cedric Hardwicke

Released: 1944

Directed by: John Brahm

The Lodger is a 1944 horror film about Jack the Ripper, based on the novel of the same name by Marie Belloc Lowndes. It stars Merle Oberon, George Sanders and Laird Cregar, features Sir Cedric ...more

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20
Son of Dracula is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine

Released: 1943

Directed by: Robert Siodmak, Erle C. Kenton

Son of Dracula is a 1943 American horror film directed by Robert Siodmak – his first film for Universal studios – with a screenplay based on an original story by his brother Curt. The film stars ...more
21
The Return of the Vampir... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Bela Lugosi, Nina Foch, Billy Bevan

Released: 1944

Directed by: Lew Landers

The Return of the Vampire is a horror film released in 1944 by Columbia Pictures. It is in black and white, and describes an Englishwoman's two encounters with a vampire. The first encounter ...more
22
The Mummy's Ghost is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine

Released: 1944

Directed by: Reginald Le Borg

The Mummy's Ghost is the 1944 Universal Pictures sequel to The Mummy's Tomb. Lon Chaney, Jr. again takes on the role of Kharis the mummy.
23
Black Friday is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Stanley Ridges

Released: 1940

Directed by: Arthur Lubin

Black Friday is a 1940 American science fiction film starring Boris Karloff. Béla Lugosi, although second-billed, has only a small part in the film and does not appear with Karloff. ...more
24
Isle of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Boris Karloff, Alan Napier, Anna Lee

Released: 1945

Directed by: Mark Robson

Isle of the Dead is a horror film made for RKO Radio Pictures by producer Val Lewton. The movie had a script inspired by the painting Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin, which appears ...more
25
The Curse of the Cat Peo... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '40s Horror Movies
Simone Simon, Jane Randolph, Sarah Selby

Released: 1944

Directed by: Gunther von Fritsch, Robert Wise

The Curse of the Cat People is a 1944 film directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise, and produced by Val Lewton. This film, which was then-film editor Robert Wise's first directing ...more