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The Best '40s Horror Movies

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List RulesVote 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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    The Wolf Man

    Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains

    Released1941

    Directed byGeorge 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" and features...  more

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    The Lodger

    George Sanders, Merle Oberon

    Released1944

    Directed byJohn 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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    Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

    Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi

    Released1948

    Directed byCharles 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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    9

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner

    Released1941

    Directed byVictor 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 the...  more
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    Black Friday

    Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi

    Released1940

    Directed byArthur 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. Writer Curt...  more
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    41
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    The Curse of the Cat People

    Simone Simon, Jane Randolph

    Released1944

    Directed byGunther 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 credit, is...  more
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    Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

    Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney

    Released1943

    Directed byRoy 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 monster....  more
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    41
    17

    Cat People

    Alan Napier, Simone Simon

    Released1942

    Directed byJacques 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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    The Ghost of Frankenstein

    Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney

    Released1942

    Directed byErle 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
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    14

    I Walked with a Zombie

    Boris Karloff, Frances Dee

    Released1943

    Directed byJacques 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
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    12

    The Uninvited

    Ray Milland, Gail Russell

    Released1944

    Directed byLewis 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 Milland,...  more

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    The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed

    Released1945

    Directed byAlbert 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 Lewin...  more

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    Phantom of the Opera

    Claude Rains, Hume Cronyn

    Released1943

    Directed byArthur Lubin

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    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 devastates David...  more

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    The Body Snatcher

    Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi

    Released1945

    Directed byRobert 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 the...  more
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    9

    House of Dracula

    Lon Chaney, Jr.

    Released1945

    Directed byErle 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 most...  more
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    27
    10

    Dr. Cyclops

    Albert Dekker, Paul Fix

    Released1940

    Directed byErnest B. Schoedsack

    Dr. Cyclops is a 1940 American science fiction horror film directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, starring Thomas Coley, Victor Kilian, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Frank Yaconelli, and Albert Dekker,...  more
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    25
    8

    The Ghost Breakers

    Bob Hope, Anthony Quinn

    Released1940

    Directed byGeorge Marshall

    The Ghost Breakers 1940 is a comedy film directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. The film was adapted by Walter DeLeon from the play The Ghost Breaker by Paul Dickey...  more
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    25
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    The Black Cat

    Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi

    Released1934

    Directed byEdgar 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 first...  more
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    11

    Invisible Ghost

    Bela Lugosi, Clarence Muse

    Released1941

    Directed byJoseph H. Lewis

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    Invisible Ghost is a horror film starring Bela Lugosi, shot in black and white, and directed by Joseph H. Lewis....  more
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    The Devil Bat

    Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren

    Released1940

    Directed byJean Yarbrough

    Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial
    The Devil Bat is a black-and-white comedy-horror movie produced by Producers Releasing Corporation and directed by Jean Yarbrough. The film stars horror actor Bela Lugosi, along with Suzanne Kaaren,...  more
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    12

    Dead of Night

    Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers

    Released1945

    Directed byBasil 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 stars...  more

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    House of Frankenstein

    Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney

    Released1944

    Directed byErle 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 Studios as...  more
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    7

    The Mummy's Tomb

    Lon Chaney Jr., Elyse Knox

    Released1942

    Directed byHarold 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 rubber...  more
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    The Spider Woman

    Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard

    Released1944

    Directed byRoy William Neill, Victor Fleming

    The Spider Woman is a 1944 mystery film starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, the seventh of fourteen such films the pair were involved in. As with all of the...  more
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    The Beast with Five Fingers

    Peter Lorre, Robert Alda

    Released1946

    Directed byRobert Florey

    The Beast with Five Fingers is a horror film directed by Robert Florey and with a screenplay by Curt Siodmak, based on a short story by W. F. Harvey first published in the New Decameron. The original...  more