A Timeline of the History of Hollywood Horror Movies

The Hills Have Eyes
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1890s to 1920s

Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in 'Phantom of the Opera'.
Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in "The Phantom of the Opera.".

It didn't take long after the advent of motion picture technology in the late 19th century for filmmakers to dabble in the horror genre, as witnessed by French director Georges Melies' 1896 short "The House of the Devil," often credited as being the first horror movie. Although America was home to the first Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde movie adaptations, the most influential horror films through the 1920s came from Germany's expressionist movement, with films like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Nosferatu" influencing the next generation of American cinema. Actor Lon Chaney, meanwhile, almost singlehandedly kept American horror afloat, with "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Monster," which set the stage for the Universal dominance of the '30s.

1896: "The House of the Devil"

1910: "Frankenstein"

1913: "The Student of Prague"

1920: "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"

1920: "The Golem: Or How He Came into the World"

1920: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

1922: "Haxan"

1922: "Nosferatu"

1923: "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

1924: "The Hands of Orlac"

1924: "Waxworks"

1925: "The Monster"

1925: "The Phantom of the Opera"

1926: "Faust"

1927: "The Cat and the Canary"

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Olga Baclanova and Harry Earles in 'Freaks'.
Olga Baclanova and Harry Earles in "Freaks.". © Warner Bros.

Building upon the success of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and ​"The Phantom of the Opera," Universal Studios entered a Golden Age of monster movies in the '30s, releasing a string of hit horror movies beginning with ​"Dracula and Frankenstein" in 1931 and including the controversial "Freaks" and a Spanish version of ​"Dracula" that is often thought to be superior to the English-language version. Germany continued its artistic streak in the early '30s, with ​"Vampyr" and the Fritz Lang thriller ​"M," but Nazi rule forced much of the filmmaking talent to emigrate. The '30s also witnessed the first American werewolf film (​"The Werewolf of London"), the first zombie movie (​"White Zombie") and the landmark special effects blockbuster ​"King Kong."

1931: ​​"Dracula"

1931: "Dracula" (Spanish version)

1931: "Frankenstein"

1931: "M"

1931: "Vampyr"

1932: "Freaks"

1932: "The Mask of Fu Manchu"

1932: "The Mummy"

1932: "The Old Dark House"

1932: "White Zombie"

1933: "The Invisible Man"

1933: "Island of Lost Souls"

1933: "King Kong"

1934: "The Black Cat"

1935: "The Bride of Frankenstein"

1935: "The Werewolf of London"

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Frances Dee in 'I Walked with a Zombie'.
Frances Dee in "I Walked With a Zombie.". © Warner Bros.

Despite the success of "The Wolf Man" early in the decade, by the 1940s, Universal's monster movie formula was growing stale, as evidenced by sequels like "The Ghost of Frankenstein" and desperate ensemble films with multiple monsters, beginning with "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man." Eventually, the studio even resorted to comedy-horror pairings, like "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," which met with some success. Other studios stepped in to fill the horror void with more serious-minded fare, including RKO's brooding Val Lewton productions, most notably "Cat People" and "I Walked With a Zombie." MGM, meanwhile, contributed "The Picture of Dorian Gray," which won an Academy Award for cinematography, and a remake of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," while Paramount released the highly regarded haunted house picture "The Uninvited." Notable international entry "Mahal" marked India's first foray into horror.

1941: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

1941: "King of the Zombies"

1941: "The Wolf Man"

1942: "Cat People"

1943: "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"

1943: "I Walked With a Zombie"

1944: "The Uninvited"

1945: "Dead of Night"

1945: "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

1948: "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"

1949: "Mahal"

1949: "Mighty Joe Young"

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'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms'
"The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms". © Warner Bros.

Various cultural forces helped shape horror movies in the '50s. The Cold War fed fears of invasion ( "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Thing from Another World," "The Blob"), nuclear proliferation fed visions of rampaging mutants ( "Them!," "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, " "Godzilla"), and scientific breakthroughs led to mad scientist plots ("The Fly"). Competition for increasingly jaded audiences led filmmakers to resort to either gimmicks like 3-D ( " House of Wax," "The Creature From the Black Lagoon") and the various stunts of William Castle productions ( "House on Haunted Hill," "The Tingler") or, in the case of Great Britain's Hammer Films, explicit, vividly colored violence. International efforts include the first full-length Japanese horror movie ( "Ugetsu"), the first Italian horror movie in the sound era ( "I Vampiri") and the acclaimed French thriller "Diabolique."

1951: " The Thing From Another World"

1953: "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms"

1953: "House of Wax"

1953: "Ugetsu"

1954: "The Creature From the Black Lagoon"

1954: "Godzilla"

1954: "Them!"

1955: "Diabolique"

1955: "The Night of the Hunter"

1956: "The Bad Seed"

1956: "I Vampiri"

1956: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

1957: "The Curse of Frankenstein"

1957: "I Was a Teenage Werewolf"

1957: "The Incredible Shrinking Man"

1958: "The Blob"

1958: "The Fly"

1958: "Horror of Dracula"

1959: "House on Haunted Hill"

1959: "Plan 9 From Outer Space"

1959: "The Tingler"

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'Night of the Living Dead'
"Night of the Living Dead".

Perhaps no decade had more seminal, acclaimed horror films than the '60s. Reflecting the social revolution of the era, the movies were edgier, featuring controversial levels of violence ("Blood Feast," "Witchfinder General") and sexuality ( "Repulsion"). Films like "Peeping Tom" and "Psycho" were precursors to the slasher movies of the coming decades, while George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" changed the face of zombie movies forever. Horror luminaries of the time included Alfred Hitchcock ( "Psycho," "The Birds"), Vincent Price ( "13 Ghosts, " "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Witchfinder General"), Herschell Gordon Lewis ( "Blood Feast," "Two Thousand Maniacs"), Roman Polanski ("Repulsion," "Rosemary's Baby") and Mario Bava ( "Black Sunday," "Black Sabbath").

1960: "13 Ghosts"

1960: "Black Sunday"

1960: "Eyes Without a Face"

1960: "The Fall of the House of Usher"

1960: "The Little Shop of Horrors"

1960: "Peeping Tom"

1960: "Psycho"

1960: "Village of the Damned"

1961: "The Innocents"

1962: "Carnival of Souls"

1962: "Mondo Cane"

1962: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"

1963: "The Birds"

1963: "Black Sabbath"

1963: "Blood Feast"

1963: "The Haunting"

1964: "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte"

1964: "Two Thousand Maniacs"

1965: "Repulsion"

1968: "Night of the Living Dead"

1968: "Rosemary's Baby"

1968: "Witchfinder General"

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'The Exorcist'
"The Exorcist". © Warner Bros.

The '70s pushed the envelope even further than the '60s, reflecting a nihilism born of the Vietnam era. Social issues of the day were tackled, from sexism ("The Stepford Wives") to consumerism ( "Dawn of the Dead") to religion ( "The Wicker Man") and war ( "Deathdream"). Exploitation movies hit their stride in the decade, boldly flouting moral conventions with graphic sex ( "I Spit on Your Grave," "Vampyros Lesbos") and violence ( "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Hills Have Eyes"), the latter reflected particularly in a spate of zombie movies ("Dawn of the Dead") and cannibal films ( "The Man From Deep River"). The shock factor even pushed films like "The Exorcist" and " Jaws" to blockbuster success. Amid the chaos, the modern slasher film was born in Canada's "Black Christmas" and America's "Halloween."

1971: " Vampyros Lesbos"

1972: "Blacula"

1973: "The Exorcist"

1972: "The Last House on the Left"

1972: "The Man From Deep River"

1973: "Sisters"

1973: "The Wicker Man"

1974: "Black Christmas"

1974: "Deathdream"

1974: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

1975: "Jaws"

1975: "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

1975: "Shivers"

1975: "The Stepford Wives"

1976: 'Carrie"

1976: ​"The Omen"

1977: "The Hills Have Eyes"

1977: "Suspiria"

1978: "Dawn of the Dead"

1978: "The Fury"

1978: ​"Halloween"

1978: "I Spit on Your Grave"

1979: "Alien"

1979: "The Amityville Horror"

1979: "Phantasm"

1979: "When a Stranger Calls"

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Helen Udy and Peter Cowper in 'My Bloody Valentine'.
Helen Udy and Peter Cowper in "My Bloody Valentine.". © Lionsgate

Horror in the the first half of the '80s was defined by slashers like "Friday the 13th," "Prom Night" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," while the latter half tended to take a more lighthearted look at the genre, mixing in comic elements in films like "The Return of the Living Dead," "Evil Dead 2," "Re-Animator" and "House." Throughout the '80s, Stephen King's fingerprints were apparent, as adaptations of his books littered the decade, from "The Shining" to ​"Pet Sematary.​" ​"Fatal Attraction," meanwhile, spawned a series of "stalker thrillers," but despite the efforts of newcomers like Sam Raimi (​"The Evil Dead"), Stuart Gordon (​"Re-Animator"), Joe Dante (​"The Howling," ​"Gremlins") and Tom Holland (​"Fright Night," "Child's Play"), horror's box office might had subsided by the end of the '80s.

1980: ​"Prom Night"

1980: "The Shining"

1980: ​"Friday the 13th"

1981: "An American Werewolf in London"

1981: "The Beyond"

1981: "My Bloody Valentine"

1981: "The Evil Dead"

1981: "The Howling"

1982: "Cat People"

1982: "Poltergeist"

1983: "The Hunger"

1984: "Ghostbusters"

1984: "Gremlins"

1984: ​"A Nightmare on Elm Street"

1984: "Silent Night, Deadly Night"

1985: "Demons"

1985: "Fright Night"

1985: "Re-Animator"

1985: "The Return of the Living Dead"

1986: "Aliens"

1986: "House"

1987: "Evil Dead 2"

1987: "Fatal Attraction"

1987: "The Lost Boys"

1987: "Near Dark"

1987: "Predator"

1988: ​"Child's Play"

1988: "Night of the Demons"

1988: "The Vanishing"

1989: "Pet Sematary"

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Still of Heather Donahue from "The Blair Witch Project". Getty Images / Getty Images

The early '90s brought unrivaled critical acclaim for the horror genre, with "The Silence of the Lambs" sweeping the major Academy Awards in 1992, a year after Kathy Bates won the Oscar for Best Lead Actress for "Misery" and Whoopi Goldberg won for Best Supporting Actress for ​"Ghost." Such success seemed to spur studios into funding large-scale horror-themed projects, such as "​Interview With the Vampire," "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and ​"Wolf." In 1996, ​"Scream's" runaway success reignited the slasher flame, spawning similar films, such as "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and ​"Urban Legend." At the end of the decade, ​"Blade" foreshadowed the coming flood of comic book adaptations, and Asian horror movies like ​"Ringu" and ​"Audition" signaled a new influence on American fright flicks. Meanwhile, 1999 witnessed two of the biggest surprise hits of the decade, regardless of genre, in ​"The Sixth Sense" and ​"​The Blair Witch Project."

1990: ​"Arachnophobia"

1990: "Ghost"

1990: "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"

1990: "Misery"

1991: "The Silence of the Lambs"

1992: "Bram Stoker's Dracula"

1992: "Candyman"

1992: "Dead Alive"

1993: "Cronos"

1993: "Jurassic Park"

1993: "Leprechaun"

1994: "Interview With the Vampire"

1994: "Wolf"

1995: "Se7en"

1996: "The Craft"

1996: "From Dusk Till Dawn"

1996: ​"Scream"

1997: "Funny Games"

1997: ​"I Know What You Did Last Summer"

1998: "Blade"

1998: "Fallen"

1998: "Ringu"

1998: "Urban Legend"

1999: "Audition"

1999: "The Blair Witch Project"

1999: "The Mummy"

1999: "The Sixth Sense"

1999: "Sleepy Hollow"

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2000s to '10s

Bree (Julianna Guill, left) and Jason (Derek Mears) in 'Friday the 13th'.
Julianna Guill and Derek Mears in "Friday the 13th.". Photo: John P. Johnson © Warner Bros.

Twenty-first century horror in the U.S. has been identified with remakes of both American ("Friday the 13th," "Halloween,​" "Dawn of the Dead") and foreign films (​"The Ring, The Grudge"), but there have been innovations within American horror — most notably the "torture porn" of ​"Saw" and ​"Hostel" fame. Outside of the U.S., there is as great a variety of edgy and innovative material as there has ever been in the genre, from Canada ("Ginger Snaps") to France (​"High Tension") to Spain (​"The Orphanage") to the U.K. ("28 Days Later") and, of course, Asia, from Hong Kong (​"The Eye") to Japan ("Ichi the Killer") to Korea (​"A Tale of Two Sisters") and Thailand ("Shutter"). The 2010s are relatively short on horror other than franchises; standouts include "Black Swan," "The Cabin in the Woods," "10 Cloverfield Lane" and "The Gift."

2000: ​​"Final Destination"

2000: "Ginger Snaps"

2000: "Scary Movie"

2001: "Ichi the Killer"

2001: "Joy Ride"

2001: "The Others"

2002: "28 Days Later"

2002: "The Eye"

2002: "Resident Evil"

2002: "The Ring"

2003: "A Tale of Two Sisters"

2003: "High Tension"

2003: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

2004: "Dawn of the Dead"

2004: "The Grudge"

2004: "Night Watch"

2004: "Saw"

2004: "Shutter"

2005: "Hostel"

2006: "The Host"

2007: ​"Halloween"

2007: ​"I Am Legend"

2007: ​"The Orphanage"

2007: ​"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

2008: ​"Cloverfield"

2008: ​"Let the Right One In"

2008:​ "Prom Night"

2008: "The Strangers"

2008: ​"Twilight"

2009: ​"Friday the 13th"

2009: ​"Paranormal Activity"

2009: ​"Zombieland"

2010: "Black Swan"

2012: "The Cabin in the Woods"

2015: "The Gift"

2016: "10 Cloverfield Lane"

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