The sixties was a great decade for horror. We were introduced to a monster with a friendly face (Norman Bates), Hammer Films established Britain’s place in horror, Vincent Price became the face of horror, the zombie sub-genre started, movies consistently pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, and films like Psycho and Night of the Living Dead inspired the gore-frenzy that would hit the ‘70s. To some, this is the best decade of horror. And you can’t really blame them for thinking that.
Without further ado, here are 25 of the best horror movies from the ‘60s.
25. The Sorcerers
A well-meaning inventor invents a machine that lets one completely control another person’s mind. He tests it on a volunteer and it works. His angry and jealous wife, however, takes over the volunteer and uses him to do her bidding. She grows increasingly crueler, and the inventor seeks a way to stop her.
The Sorcerers is an intelligent movie that questions what we would do if we could control someone else’s mind. It has led to tons of debates about the themes and what it really means. Whatever the director intended the main theme to be, The Sorcerers is still watchable and entertaining escapism.
24. Dracula has Risen from the Grave
A young girl is found murdered in the local church, hanging with punctures in her neck. Even though has been dead for some time, Dracula is the main suspect. The Monsignor exorcises the castle.
This causes a series of events which lead to Count Dracula reviving. Furious that he can no longer enter his own castle, Dracula promises to make the Monsignor’s niece his next victim.
It might not be as acclaimed as its predecessors, but Dracula has Risen from the Grave is still an entertaining Hammer movie. The visuals are astounding, Christopher Lee gives another killer performance as the Count, and the opening and closing scenes are unforgettable.
23. The Sadist
Three high school teachers are driving through Antelope Valley to a Dodgers game in LA. Their car breaks down and they are forced to stop at an abandoned gas station. There, they are captured by a sadistic psychopath and his girlfriend. The psychopath especially hates teachers. What follows is a lot of violence and torture sure to satiate any fans of exploitation films.
Arch Hall, Jr. is effective as the sadistic killer, though the performances are a little over-the-top. That said, The Sadist is still an effective horror that shows what happened when good people are forced to experience the worst of humanity.
A college student and his friend run over a respected yakuza member and leave him to die. The student’s conscience soon plagues him and his life becomes a series of tragedies. His only escape is Hell.
Unlike other Japanese horror movies at the time, Jigoku went all-out on gore. The third act, taking place in Hell, is what makes the movie stand out, even among other gory films. It might not have aged all that well, especially after films like Hellraiser came out, but it’s still a remarkably dark feature that every gore hound should watch.
21. Carnival of Souls
Mary Henry is riding in a car with her two friends. Some men come and challenge them to a drag race. They accept. When they reach a bridge, their car plunges into the river. The police look for them unsuccessfully. However, Mary miraculously emerges, unsure of how she survived.
Sometime later, she tries to put the incident behind her. She moves to Utah and works as a church organist. But she starts having visions of an evil man. As they become stronger, she realizes that an old, run-down carnival might have something to do with the visions and with the accident.
The movie is a little like The Twilight Zone, with a supernatural occurrence affecting regular people. It’s borderline campy, but still manages to shock and frighten.
20. The Haunting
Anthropology professor Dr John Markway invites two women to Hill House, a supposed haunted mansion, to determine if it is truly haunted. The women contrast each other, one bold and the other lonely, but they both share ESP. They are joined by the mansion’s heir, who is cynical about the whole paranormal aspect. Then strange things start to happen in the mansion.
This is the movie that perfected “less is more”. We never see any ghosts, but the scenes are so tense and the atmosphere is so unnerving that we might as well have. The Huanting is, without a doubt, one of the scariest haunted house movies that’s ever been made.
19. The Comedy of Terrors
Waldo Trumbull, an unscrupulous undertaker, tends to reuse the coffins of the people he’s supposed. Desperate for money after his landlord comes calling for rent, he decides to murder the landlord. However, his landlord has bouts of deathlike sleep, so this leads to a lot of hilarious situations where the seemingly dead landlord rises from beyond.
With some of the biggest acting names at the time, The Comedy of Terrors has elements of horror, but it’s mostly a comedy with large doses of slapstick humor.
18. Spider Baby
Bruno is a patient servant who watches over three siblings. All three siblings suffer from “Merrye Syndrome” a rare inherited disorder which reverses their mental age and makes them act between violent and docile.
Ralph is a vegetarian but he eats anything he can catch, and Virginia imagines she is a large spider; she catches people with a large net and kills them. Two distant cousins visit, hoping to lay claim to the mansion and any remaining money. However, they start to regret their decision as soon as they meet the siblings.
Before he made The Swinging Cheerleaders, Foxy Brown or Coffy, Jack Hill made this black horror comedy about a deranged family. It’s bizarre, shocking and a lot of fun if you like trashy horror movies.