A Peek Into The Evolution of Horror Movies Over the Last 100 Years

Horror movies have a dedicated fan following of their and even if you’re not a diehard lover of all things creepy, you can’t really say you don’t enjoy the thrills and chills of a well-made horror film. Whether it is the devil and its demons, or the possessed and the haunted, horror movies are great when you want to watch something that has you screaming for more. In-the-face scenes with blood and gore or behind-the-scenes thrillers with a mysterious storyline unraveling one secret after another, horror movies encompass a wide range of events that keep the audiences either strapped to their seats or jumping out of them! In this list, we dig deeper into the horror film industry to give you a glimpse into how the genre has evolved over the last 100 years. Oh, since the original list of movies is pretty long — testimony to just how much audiences love the genre — we’ve stuck to bringing you 5 movies from each decade. Take your time to watch the trailers and scenes we’ve gathered for you, and we promise they’ll show you just how the horror movie industry has evolved over the last century.

Warning: Although we’d love you to watch these trailers and then, the movies, in the middle of the night, so that you truly feel your hair standing on end or the dark playing tricks on your mind, we’d like to give fair warning to the fainthearted among you. There are some scary moments up ahead so be prepared! 

The 1920s

Although horror movies had been around for more than a quarter of a century now, the 1920s were a decade that truly saw the genre taking off in the international arena with quite a few titles doing the rounds. The previous decade had seen some classics like Frankenstein, L’Inferno, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Mask of Horror, The Spider’s Web, The Werewolf, The Crimson Stain Mystery, Das Phantom der Oper, The Plague of Florence, and The Student of Prague. So, it was obvious that the 1920s would do way better. And the decade did not disappoint!

A few titles from the 1920s that are worth a mention on our list:

Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde, A Blind Bargain, One Exciting Night, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, While Paris Sleeps, Wolfblood: A Take of the Forest, The Magician, The Cat and the Canary, London After Midnight, The Ape, The Man Who Laughs, and The Last Warning. 

Some of the trailers and glimpses below will give you a peek into how the sequences in these movies gave audiences some great horror moments. Oh, and don’t let the relative lack of horrifying moments and scenes from the older movies bog you down. A century later, audiences will be peeking into the movies we are watching now and wonder how we could’ve been fooled into screaming so easily too!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Penalty

The Headless Horseman

The Phantom of the Opera

The Fall of the House of Usher

The 1930s

Although the 1930s produced around the same volumes as far as horror movies were concerned, the US registered a slight rise in the production of movies from the genre. The advent of the Universal Horror film productions meant that this decade was the first true step that dedicatedly saw film production houses being dedicated to the genre. The decade also saw some great names in the genre making it to the front of the line, including Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. And even as the movies and the experimental scenes in them that were trying hard to push the envelope kept censor boards busy, the decade marked a new rush of blood in the genre.

A few titles from the 1930s that are worth a mention on our list:

Dracula, Island of Lost Souls, The Phantom, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Old Dark House, White Zombie, Mystery of the Wax Museum, House of Mystery, The Tell-Tale Heart, Dracula’s Daughter, The Man who Changed His Mind, The Dark Eyes of London, Torture Ship, The Face at the Window, and The Man They Could Not Hang.

Here are a few trailers and scenes to tell you how horror movies continue to evolve into the 1930s.

Dracula

Doctor X

Mystery of the Wax Museum

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

 

The Walking Dead 

 

The 1940s

The 1940s saw another barrage of films in the genre, although things slowed down in the second half of the decade. The onscreen characters of Dracula and Frankenstein were proving to be an inspiration for several plots and many movies produced during the decade had prevalent portrayals of these two monstrous yet endearing villains. The 1940s also saw films under the RKO banner explore horror in a novel way — by delving into the psychological factors rather than the otherwise popular ways of visual horror.

A few titles from the 1940s that are worth a mention on our list:

Black Friday, The Ghost Breakers, The Mummy’s Hand, The Devil Commands, King of the Zombies, The Mad Doctor of Market Street, Spooks Run Wild, The Boogie Man Will Get You, The Undying Monster, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, The Seventh Victim, The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Flying Serpent, Strangler of the Swamp, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

And a glimpse into some of the movies from the era of the 1940s!

The Mummy’s Hand

The Undying Monster

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Ghost Breakers

The Mad Doctor of Market Street

The 1950s

Although the decade began with Kim Newman’s now infamous and incorrect declaration that horror movies were out of fashion, the 1950s did not disappoint diehard horror fans. A significant recession in films exploring gothic horror meant that filmmakers were now exploring other ways of instilling fear in their audiences. The decade also witnessed a rise in an amalgamation of science fiction and horror and some filmmakers even began targeting a younger audience by working on storylines that would appeal to the senses of a young mind. As far as stars were concerned, the likes of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were now slowly receding into the past and younger horror movie leads such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were attracting new audiences.

A few titles from the 1950s that are worth a mention on our list:

The Thing From Another World, The Neanderthal Man,  Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Mad Magician, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The She Creature, The Black Scorpion, Cat Girl, Pharoah’s Curse, The Vampire, The Woman Eater, Corridors of Blood, Giant From the Unknown, My World Dies Screaming, The Thing That Couldn’t Die, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, Caltiki – The Immortal Monster, and Jack the Ripper.

Here are a few videos that give you a peek into what the decade was all about!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Corridors of Blood

The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake

The Thing That Couldn’t Die

Jack the Ripper

The 1960s

The 1960s saw a creative shift in which horror films were made, with more and more filmmakers going beyond the usual weapons of fear related to visual aspects and exploring new avenues in which they could play with the psyche of the audience. So, while the usual slash and gore continued to regale the crowds, there were forays into new storylines and filmmaking techniques too. Producers and directors also began working on several storylines mixes during this decade, combining with horror other genres such as science fiction, thrillers, and crime.

A few titles from the 1960s that are worth a mention on our list:

Atom Age Vampire, Blood and Roses, The Leech Woman, The Playgirls and the Vampire, Village of the Damned, The Cabinet of Caligari, The Premature Burial, Tales of Terror, Night of Bloody Horror, Satan’s Sadists, Scream Baby Scream, Horrors of Malformed Men, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, The Oblong Box, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, The Long Hair of Death, The Masque of the Red Death, and Pyro… The Thing Without the Face.

Check out these trailers and scenes to peek into horror movies from another movie generation!

The Leech Woman

Village of the Damned

The Oblong Box

Scream Baby Scream

The Premature Burial

The 1970s

The decade of the 1970s was a notable one for the horror film genre where filmmakers now decided it was time to compete with mainstream cinema. The decade saw several movies capture the attention of the audiences and even make it to awards platforms. The decade also witnessed the rise of movies where producers in the genre were raking in millions in revenue. Two movies that made the cut and are recognized as groundbreaking movies in the genre are The Exorcist and Jaws. Both movies broke all box-office records, giving other filmmakers in the genre enough inspiration to aim for the top prize too.

A few titles from the 1970s that are worth a mention on our list:

The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Daughters of Darkness, Don’t Look Now, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Night Stalker, The Legend of Hell House, Frankenstein: The True Story, The Hills Have Eyes, House of Dark Shadows, Deathdream, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, and The Last House on the Left.

A few trailers and scenes to give you an idea of what audiences experienced in the 1970s!

The Exorcist

Dawn of the Dead

The Hills Have Eyes

The Blood on Satan’s Claw

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The 1980s

The 1980s continued to experiment with the horror film genre and produced some classics such as The Shining, The Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play. The decade also saw mainstream actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger enter the realm with highly riveting movies like Predator. The added magic of special effects and new filming techniques added to the fear factor and soon enough, audiences were even choosing some horror movies over other mainstream films. The decade also gave rise to a few new series in the genre — the Friday the 13th series, and more in the Halloween series of movies.

A few titles from the 1980s that are worth a mention on our list:

The Shining, Friday the 13th series, Inferno, Maniac, Motel Hell, The Fog, Dressed to Kill, Altered States, The Evil Dead, Ghost Story, An American Werewolf in London, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Creepshow, Basket Case, The Dead Zone, The Hunger, The House on Sorority Row, Revenge of the Dead, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Company of Wolves, The Return of the Living Dead, Silver Bullet, Night of the Creeps, and The Doctor and the Devils.

If that list has already impressed you, here are a few trailers and glimpses to help you visualize the horror!

The Shining

The Evil Dead

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Night of the Creeps

An American Werewolf in London

The 1990s

If scaring the audience into screaming, frightening them into closing their eyes shut, or even making them turn their heads away in disgust, is what horror filmmakers aim for, the 1990s saw them do a pretty good job. The decade evolved into cinema that not just explored the horrors of the genre but also went ahead and experimented with movies that made audiences think. Several new experimental titles such as The Blair Witch Project, Species, The Silence of the Lambs, and I Know What You Did Last Summer made the decade a really interesting and horrifying one for audiences.

A few titles from the 1990s that are worth a mention on our list:

The Haunting, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project, The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, End of Days, The Relic, Poison, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Cube, Death Becomes Her, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sleepy Hollow, Scream, and the Species series.

Here are some snippets from the 1990s to give you a peek into all that went down!

I Know What You Did Last Summer

The Blair Witch Project

The Haunting

Species

Sleepy Hollow

The 2000s

The turn of the century proved to bring a great decade for the horror film genre and filmmakers experimented more and more with new shock factors to regale audiences. From spooky tales to downright torture, movies explored just about every existing sub-genre to try and sell new ideas to the crowds. Movies like Saw received mixed responses, while others like American Psycho and Zombieland proved to be a hit with the crowds.

A few titles from the 2000s that are worth a mention on our list:

Dance of the Dead, Doghouse, Land of the Dead, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Days of Terror, House of Fears, Wilderness, Infestation, Suck, Hatchet, 28 Weeks Later, the Resident Evil series, My Bloody Valentine, The Devil’s Rejects, Dawn of the Dead, Black Sheep, and Hatchet.

Here are a few trailers and glimpses to give you an idea of all that went down in the 20o0s!

Zombieland

My Bloody Valentine

Dawn of the Dead

Doghouse

28 Weeks Later

The 2010s

The 2010s continued to shock audiences and gave us some thrilling titles. Now an integral part of the mainstream movie industry, the horror film genre saw several top actors take on roles that aimed to shock and disgust. And a few movies from the genre even gave other mainstream movies a run for their money. Taking over the box office was now a thing even for horror movies! If the movies from the last decade were any indication, the coming one is set to be an even greater decade for the horror movie industry.

A few titles from the 2010s that are worth a mention on our list:

The Loved Ones, It Follows, Train to Busan, Stake Land, The Voices, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Berlin Syndrome, Nightmare Cinema, I Spit On Your Grave, The Crazies, Let Me In, Insidious, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Kidnapped, The Eyes of the Mother, The Cabin in the Woods, Mother’s Day, The Conjuring, You’re Next, The Babadook, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Odd Thomas, Timbuktu, Kill List, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Apostle,  and Anna and the Apocalypse. 

Here are some of our favorites from the lot!

The Conjuring

The Eyes of My Mother

Train To Busan

The Babadook

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Bonus Lists: 2020 & 2021

Already, 2020 and 2021 of the new decade have seen a slew of great movies in the horror genre. Check out some of the trailers below and see which ones you’d like to line up for some scary viewing!

2020

2020 saw a good start to the decade as far as horror films were concerned and although it wasn’t the best year in the industry, it sure produced some cool titles that are worthy enough for a mention here.

A few titles from 2020 that are worth a mention on our list:

The Hunt, Freaky, Fantasy Island, The Grudge, Antebellum, The Platform, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, His House, Possessor, Impetigore, The Wretched, Relic, Synchronic, Saint Maud, The Night House, and The Mortuary Collection.

Here are a few trailers to give you a glimpse into how the year of 2020 went by for horror movie fans!

The Hunt

His House

Alone

Anything for Jackson

The Dark and the Wicked

2021

2021 was equally scary with some edge-of-the-seat films. Here are a few to give you a taste of how the year went by for lovers of all things horror! Oh, and they sure set the tone for all that’s to come in 2022!

A few titles from 2021 that are worth a mention on this list:

A Quiet Place Part II, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Antlers, Last Night in Soho, Malignant, Cryptids, Don’t Breathe 2, Fear Street Part One: 1994, Till Death, The Reckoning, and Spiral.

We also have a few trailers that are sure to get you scrambling for a quiet evening that only the screams from these movies can pierce. Oh, and in all probability, your screams too!

Malignant

Last Night in Soho

Halloween Kills

Censor

Fear of Rain

Ready Yourself for More Shivers and Screams!

We’ve only just entered the 2020s, and going by what 2020 and 2021 have produced, we already know there’ll be plenty of movies in the horror genre to look forward to during the rest of the decade.

Some of the upcoming titles to watch out for in 2022:

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, Scream, which is really the latest in the Scream series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nope, The Black Phone, The Northman, Orphan: First Kill, Dark Harvest, Evil Dead Rises, The Banquet, Halloween Ends, They Hear It, and The Devil’s Light.

The list looks great, doesn’t it? Well, when the audiences cannot have enough, why would makers put a pause to creating great horror movies!

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