In honor of Halloween, my favorite holiday, I've compiled a list of thirteen of my favorite classic (pre-70s) horror, monster, cult, sci-fi and B films. This list was a bit difficult to come up with, or rather, difficult to limit. There are so many wonderful classic films made in these genres. Some are legitimately good films and others are so bad they're good. So here's some great films to keep you entertained during the season, and please, don't be afraid to share your own favorite Halloween classics in the comments below!
A Bucket of Blood, 1959 (dir. Roger Corman)
  • I haven't seen as many Corman films as I'd like, but of the one's I've seen this is my favorite. It's such a great black comedy and it stars one of my all time favorite character actors - Dick Miller. Miller plays a busboy at a beatnik cafe who desperately wants to be taken seriously by the artists who patronize the cafe. In his attempts to become a serious sculptor, a little murder happens, murder that makes for some really unique artwork. What I like about Corman's films is the murderers aren't psychopaths, they're just ordinary guys who get in over their heads. Also, despite its title, this films does not contain a lot of blood, but rather tells its story through comical mishaps. Definitely a must watch for anyone who loves cult classics.
The Blob, 1958 (dir. Irvin Yeaworth)
  • This was one of Steve McQueen's first starring roles, and although the film is very much B-movie quality, McQueen's talent is already palpable. This was one of my favorite films to watch as a kid, but I hadn't watched it for years until a few months ago, when it was shown on TCM. I am very pleased to say it was just as awesomely bad and entertaining as it was when I was a child. There are two other films in the franchise, a 1972 comedy "sequel" and a 1988 proper remake. Both films are also awesomely bad, but only the original remains a must-see classic.
Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 (dir. James Whale)
  • This is one of Universal Pictures great original horror films and definitely one of their best. It's actually a direct sequel of the 1931 film Frankenstein (also directed by Whale). Boris Karloff gives one of the greatest performances in a horror film as Frankenstein's monster (he speaks in this film, unlike in the first one), the last scene alone is so heartbreakingly beautiful. When Elsa Lanchester finally appears as the titular bride, Whale films her from what seems like every angle possible, and although she only appears for about five minutes, what a glorious five minutes it is indeed.
Carnival of Souls, 1962 (dir. Herk Harvey)
  • This film is a fine example of how a perfectly great film can be made at a B-movie budget. Yes, it was made on a very limited budget and utilized local residents from where it was filmed instead of professional actors, but it is no B-movie. Lee Strasberg-trained Candace Hilligoss gives a truly engrossing performance as Mary, a church organist who mysteriously survives a car accident and then spends the rest of the film being haunted by spectres. Though the film is available as public domain, there is a Criterion Collection edition available that contains both the theatrical cut and the director's cut. It's thrilling and at times downright terrifying; definitely a film best watched in a dark room.
Dracula, 1931 (dir. Tod Browning)
  • This is probably the most famous of the Universal horror films and Béla Lugosi's Dracula perhaps the most famous incarnation of the titular Count Dracula (though, I'll admit I'll always have a soft spot of the 1979 Frank Langella version). Lugosi's otherworldly stare in this film is positively mesmerizing. I also really love Dwight Frye's crazed performance as Dracula's right-hand man Renfield. This is not only a must-see horror film, it's a must-see for film lovers of all kinds.
The Haunting, 1963 (dir. Robert Wise)
  • Wise, a two-time Academy Award winner for Best Director, West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), shifts gears a little and crafts a completely chilling haunted house film. Martin Scorsese called this film the most terrifying film of all time. I would have to agree with him there. I watched this film in the middle of a sunny afternoon and I was freaking out like I'd never had before. What's so great about the film is, unlike most horror films today, there is no blood, the actors are never harmed and there are few shocks. The terror is all is all on the actor's faces, created by their own paranoia and highlight be eerie camera angles and sound effects. This is definitely the best haunted house film I've ever seen.
The Most Dangerous Game, 1932 (dir. Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack)
  • This film is one of my favorite psychological thrillers of all time and Leslie Banks' Count Zaroff is one of the greatest psychopaths ever to grace the silver screen. The film centers around Zaroff, a big game hunter who causes ships to get stranded on his private island so he can hunt their passengers because, as the title suggests, man is the most dangerous game. At only 63 minutes, this film packs more action, romance and thrills into an hour than most films manage to do these days in two.
The Mummy, 1932 (dir. Karl Freund)
  • Another of Karloff's greatest monster performances, Universal Pictures' 1932 film was the first film to feature a mummy as a monster, having been inspired by the 1922  discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and its supposed curse. I particularly like Zita Johann's performance as Helen, the reincarnation of Karloff's Imhotep's long-lost love Ankh-es-en-amon. If you're a fan of the 1999 action remake starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, I think you;ll enjoy seeing the original as well.
Night of the Living Dead, 1968 (dir. George A. Romero)
  • The ultimate zombie flick, George A. Romero and friends originally tried to make this film on a budget of $6,000. Eventually they had to raise about $114,000 to get the film made. However, once they did the film made $42 million (which is almost $700 milion when adjusted for inflation). This film is often marked as a game changer for horror genre, as well as redefining the term zombie, which originally meant living people enslaved by a Voodoo witch doctor. Pretty much all undead zombie movies trace their roots back to this groundbreaking film, and the world has been a better place ever since.
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, 1922 (dir. F. W. Murnau)
  • Not only is this film one of the most influential early horror films, it's one of the most influential  and revolutionary films period. It was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, with most of the names and slight details changed. I think in doing so the film inadvertently allowed itself to stand apart from the countless Dracula films that were to come later. Max Schreck's Count Orlok is definitely one of the creepiest, if not the creepiest, characters of all time. There's a really great fictionalized account of the making of this film called Shadow of the Vampire that stars Willem Dafoe as Schreck and John Malkovich as Murnau. Watching the two together might make for a great double feature.
Plan 9 From Outer Space, 1959 (dir. Edward D. Wood, Jr.)
  • Often billed as "the worst movie ever made" this film is a real treat. Some bad movies are so bad they're unwatchable; others are so bad they're good. Plan 9 is so delightfully bad that it's fun, just as long as you go along with how bad it really is. It's been referenced everywhere from an episode of Seinfeld to the Tim Burton biopic Ed Wood and I don't think this film will be going away any time soon.
War of the Worlds, 1953 (dir. Byron Haskin)
  • H.G. Wells's novel was first published in 1898, but it was the 1938 Orson Welles radio broadcast, which caused mass panic as people thought it was real, that made this story positively timeless. While I enjoy the cinematography and tense tone of Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation, the 1953 film will always be my favorite. I'm still in awe of its special effects. I'm always more impressed by classic special effects that still look amazing over modern-day computer effects, always. I think this is the best alien invasion film, it set the bar so high that few films have reached it since.
Werewolf of London, 1935 (dir. Stuart Walker)
  • This film was the first mainstream Hollywood film to feature a werewolf and I prefer it to Universal Pictures' other, and more popular, werewolf film - 1941's The Wolf Man. Although, Lon Chaney Jr.'s werewolf is more iconic, I think Henry Hull's tortured performance is far superior, as is the film as a whole. The characters are more fully developed, the story has a background that makes more sense than the other and it's full of some really wonderful comic moments. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two, as one was clearly made at a time when horror films were taken just as seriously as any other film and the other was made specifically for the burgeoning B-movie market. I just wish more people had seen or at least heard of this film as well.