New York Magazine

THE 100 SCARES THAT CHANGED HORROR

From Frankenstein to Freddy to the “sunken place”: 100 terrifying moments that shaped the genre (and our nightmares).

1896

THE HAUNTED CASTLE

It’s only about three minutes long, but Georges Méliès’s handmade cavalcade of creepy effects—skeletons materializing out of nowhere and turning into bats, etc.—offers one of the earliest examples of horror as a genre and the supernatural thrills that come with it. (BE)

1920

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

Robert Wiene’s pioneering German Expressionist classic threw down the gauntlet for subsequent entries in the emerging genre of horror, particularly with its unsettling scene of the haunted somnambulist Cesare attempting to stab the sleeping heroine. (be)

1922

HÄXAN

A hybrid narrative “documentary” about the evolution of witchcraft, this edgy demonstration of the evils of the occult was decades ahead of its time. It’s part history lesson, part exploitation flick; the reenactments and the wickedly effective visuals served to exhibit the genre’s flexibility. (kc)

1922

NOSFERATU

The slinking, demonic shadow of Max Schreck slowly making his way up the stairs in F. W. Murnau’s vampire masterpiece is a perfect, early, and iconic example of creeping dread. (BE)

1925

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

The unmasking of the Phantom’s misshapen face had viewers fainting in 1925, and it still works, thanks to Lon Chaney’s stunned expression and skull-like visage. Chaney did his own makeup; getting to see his handiwork was part of the fun for audiences. (be)

1926

FAUST

Mephistopheles’ enormous figure looms over an unsuspecting village, his cape consuming the town as people below are devastated by plague. One of the most indelible images of German Expressionism—and a showcase for the unsettling power of symbolism in horror. (be)

1927

THE CAT AND THE CANARY

Germany was a 1920s cinema powerhouse; some of its top talent would buoy Hollywood’s 1930s horror surge. Paul Leni’s movie is the archetypal Old Dark House film, and the monstrous hand reaching from the wall to Annabelle was a formative haunted-house fright. (jc)

1929

UN CHIEN ANDALOU

One of the most famous Surrealist artworks, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s short is the birthplace of cinematic body horror. From Lucio Fulci to Eli Roth, the influence of its opening scene of a razor gliding through a woman’s eyeball has spanned close to a century. (AHN)

1931

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

Fredric March won an Oscar for playing the title role in this literary adaptation, which established both the mad-scientist horror trope and the creature-transformation scene, expertly executed by director Rouben Mamoulian in a process that remained secret for decades. (mhh)

1931

DRACULA

In the instant Bela Lugosi’s Dracula told Dwight Frye’s Renfield “I bid you welcome,” he reinvented one of horror’s most enduring icons, making the vampire seductive and charming, and kicked off horror-film production as we know it today. (jc)

1931

FRANKENSTEIN

Frankenstein’s Monster coming to life (“It’s aliiiive!”) may be better known, but the moment when the danger of

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from New York Magazine

New York Magazine28 min read
The Invention of the Salvator Mundi
How AN art picker AND A gallerist, PLUS A COUPLE OF restoration experts, ALONGSIDE A HANDFUL OF SCHOLARS AND MUSEUM DIRECTORS, not to mention TWO AUCTION HOUSES, A RUSSIAN OLIGARCH, and the Saudi Crown Prince, TURNED A $1,000 BET INTO A $450 million
New York Magazine9 min read
Domestic Platforms
SO FAR, THERE are six women running for president of the United States in 2020, and many of the most prominent politicians of the moment are the women of the new congressional class. We are, for the first time in American history, talking about a sle
New York Magazine19 min read
Wonder Boy
Pete Buttigieg is a gay Harvard alum, an Oxford grad, and fluent in Gramsci, Joyce, and Norwegian. And he’s the Democrats’ folksiest heartland hope. Really!