Best 50s horror movies from around the world

In the 1950s, horror cinema held up a mirror to the public’s fears and reflected the unease of the time. Cold War paranoia and fears of nuclear war were widespread, and horror movies around the world tapped into these anxieties. In the United States, films used audiences’ fear of communism and science gone wrong to create suspense, but international horror brought new fears to Western audiences. From nuclear disasters to monster invasions and vengeful ghosts, these are the best 50s horror films from around the world.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) US

Don Siegel’s sci-fi masterpiece Invasion of the Body Thieves follows a small-town doctor (Kevin McCarthy) as he uncovers a terrifying plot. Aliens infiltrate the city, taking over the bodies of the inhabitants and obliterating their personalities. The buildup, suspense, and pacing are expertly done, making Invasion of the Body Snatchers a true classic.


Related: Best American Horror Movies of the 1950s

With many Invasion remakes and homages over the years, Invasion of the Body Thieves had a lasting impact on science fiction and horror. The film’s themes of conformity and paranoia still hold true today despite the simple special effects.

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1951) UK

Mother Riley meets the Vampirealso called vampire over london and My son, the vampireis a British comedy horror film starring Arthur Lucan as Mrs. Riley, a working-class woman who becomes entangled with a vampire played by the iconic Bela Lugosi.

The last production of Old mother Riley silly movie series, Mother Riley meets the vampire, is also one of the most original. Despite its low budget, the film is a hilarious sendoff of the British working class and government during this period. There are few films quite like this, and Lucan and Lugosi’s comedic timing is perfect.

The Diaboliques (1955) France

Tense and intense film, Henri-Georges Clouzot Devilishsometimes referenced as Diabolical, is a French thriller about a vengeful wife (Vera Clouzot) and her aggressive husband (Paul Meurisse) who own a boarding school. When the woman and her former mistress conspire to murder him, they think they’ve pulled off the perfect crime. But as the body goes missing and strange happenings start happening around the school, it becomes clear that something is wrong.

With its unpredictable plot and masterful staging, Devilish is a classic thriller genre. The final moments are particularly chilling and contain some of horror’s most iconic imagery, with the mystery only deepening by the end of the film.

The Head (1959) West Germany

One of West Germany’s first horror films, The head, is an eerie, atmospheric take on the mad scientist trope. Professor Abel (Michel Simon) creates a serum that allows the heads to live without a body after experimenting with a severed dog’s head. After the professor dies, his unhinged assistant Dr. Ood (Horst Frank) uses the serum to keep Abel’s head alive in order to get a new body for his nurse.

The film combines gothic horror and sci-fi elements and is an interesting predecessor to later films like The brain that wouldn’t die. There are horrible scenes, but the real strength of the film is its atmosphere and its ideas.

I Vampiri (1957) Italy

I vampirealso known as The vampires Where Vampire’s Lust, is an Italian horror film about a series of murders committed by vampire-like creatures. When journalist Pierre (Dario Michaelis) begins to investigate the brutal murders of these four young women, he uncovers a far more sinister plot.

With its atmospheric cinematography and gothic setting, I vampire is an elegant and chilling film that helped set the stage for the Italian Giallo genre. The themes of the film are still relevant today, focusing on eternal youth and beauty.

La Casa Del Terror (1959) Mexico

A Mexican horror movie that many viewers seem to love or hate, The House of Terror touches on many genres, including comedy, drama, and horror. The classic monster trope is in full swing with mummies, werewolves, and a real wax house. In its time, the film managed to captivate Spanish audiences, but many viewers wondered if it was really a good movie.

Although not everyone’s cup of tea, The House of Terror is a fun and campy movie worth watching for monster movie fans. Only Spanish versions of the movie are available, but it’s still an enjoyable watch for everyone.

The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959) Japan

A Japanese horror classic, Yotsuya’s Ghostis based on a kabuki play by Nanboku Tsuruya which was first performed in 1825. Titled Yotsuya Kaidanthe original story tells of a woman who is murdered by her husband and comes back to haunt him like a ghost. Yotsuya’s Ghost is the first color adaptation of the play and highlights the Gothic elements of the story.

Related: J-Horror: Japan’s Best Horror Movies, Ranked

Director Nobuo Nakagawa is an icon of Japanese cinema, producing nine horror films in four years. Yotsuya’s Ghost is an essential piece of Japanese horror history and an excellent example of Nakagawa’s work.

Godzilla (1954) Japan

Who could forget the monster that started it all? Godzilla is a Japanese icon and one of the most famous monsters in cinematic history. The original film, directed by Ishiro Honda, follows a giant dinosaur-like creature that awakens from nuclear testing and terrorizes the city of Tokyo.

Although the effects may not last today, Godzilla is always an entertaining watch and a must-have for any movie fan. The film’s success led to a whole franchise of sequels, spin-offs and remakes. The last installment Godzilla: King of the Monsterswas released in 2019, while an untitled film is currently in production for 2024.

The Seventh Seal (1957) Sweden

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, The seventh seal is perhaps not a “horror” film in the most explicit way (unlike Bergman’s last masterpiece wolf hour), but this Swedish film focuses on the Black Death and presents a hypnotic and unsettling manifestation of death itself. Set in the 14th century, the film follows a knight who returns from the Crusades to find his country ravaged by plague. Desperate, he makes a deal with the Grim Reaper in the form of a game of chess. The winner will have his life.

The seventh seal is one of Bergman’s most famous films and is considered a classic throughout cinema. It’s a thought-provoking film that deals with themes of faith, death and the meaning of life. With 10 awards and multiple nominations, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.

The White Reindeer (1952) Finland

A Finnish horror film based on a Scandinavian folk tale, The white reindeer tells the story of a lonely woman who visits a shaman for help but ends up being transformed into a vampiric white reindeer. She must hunt and kill every midnight sun to quench her bloodlust.

The white reindeer is a unique and atmospheric film unlike anything else on this list. Often compared to a silent film due to the minimal dialogue and emphasis on visuals and haunting scenery, it is one of the few Finnish films to have won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

These are just a few of the best horror films of the 1950s. Although each country has its unique take on the genre, these films are essential for any classic horror fan.

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