Top 10 Gothic Horror Movies, Ranked
In 1765, Horace Walpole published The castle of Otranto, instantly creating the horror genre and marking gothic as the oldest form of the horror novel. Mocked for its melodrama, salaciousness and depravity over the following centuries, gothic horror has only grown in popularity and significance, establishing itself as a solid mainstay of dark, lonely and honest storytelling.
Gothic horror, unafraid to acknowledge societal taboos such as rape, incest, and perversity, is perhaps the only genre to properly encapsulate fears of the unknown or unspeakable. While gothic horror novels have grown in popularity since the genre’s birth, gothic horror films have become modern audiences’ first association with this style of storytelling. Filled with death and decay, corruption and disparity, gothic horror films have embodied the domestic fears of viewers since 1910.
ten Vincent Price is a gothic icon (House Of Usher)
Usher House is not known to be entirely faithful to its source material; The short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of House Usher. However, its atmosphere, earnestness, and use of gothic icon Vincent Price make this film a brilliant addition to cinematic history.
Surrounded by a literal green haze, the film introduces the Ushers, an aristocratic family convinced of their own cursed lineage. Because of this belief, Roderick Usher refuses to let his sister marry and propagate their family line. Eventually, things turn dark and depraved, providing audiences with disturbing events they can’t look away from.
9 Lestat is both terrifying and loving (interview with the vampire)
Interview with the Vampire is a mash-up of the horror and romance movie genres, a common recipe for gothic horror. The film follows Louis, a Louisiana plantation owner in 1791, and his transformation into a vampire at the hands of Lestat. Love, loss, blood and violence follow the couple wherever they go, but above all passion follows them.
This adaptation was made right after the AIDS epidemic, and the story of an incurable blood disease, two men in love and rejection by society is not a subtle metaphor. Due to its gothic horror stance, Interview with the Vampire was able to address these social taboos without the backlash that another genre might have had.
8 Haunted houses are disgusting (The Haunting)
The haunting is a 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House, a classic horror novel that’s been adapted a plethora of times. Despite the number of films based on it, however, it is The haunting who managed to best capture the meaning and essence of the original novel.
The film is about Hill House, its dark history and an unsuspecting group of people who have been invited to stay there. Filled with eerie voices, loud noises and unexplained touches, Hill House is a sinister force. Eleanor, the protagonist, says it best when she sees the house for the first time: “He looks at me. Vile! Vile!”
seven Dr. Faraday is untouched by ghosts from the past (The Little Stranger)
The little stranger, a 2018 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Sarah Waters, features a stiff and dull protagonist named Dr. Faraday, who doesn’t have much tolerance for belief in the supernatural. However, when Faraday becomes involved with an aristocratic family and their dilapidated mansion, unsettling things begin to happen.
Set in post-war England, the upheaval of the British class structure plagues every aspect of this film. The Ayres, a wealthy family, are isolated, haunted and decrepit. Faraday, a commoner, remains untouched by supernatural events at Hundreds Hall. His obsession with the mansion and the family’s hatred of him make for an interesting discussion of the death of the British aristocracy.
6 Gothic horror balanced with comedy (The Old Dark House)
The dark old house is a pre-coded film about a group of three travelers who are swept away in the rain and into a strange, archaic mansion that is home to a frighteningly strange family. Parodying the common tropes of the haunted house subgenre, the film remains charming and funny nearly a century after its release.
Despite his ironic humor, The dark old house does not hold back truly frightening fears. The house is disturbing, its inhabitants are aggressive and foreign, and the insular nature and estrangement of family serves as a mockery of the secretive and incestuous British upper class. Filled with beautiful cinematography and delightful performances, The dark old house is a must-watch that viewers won’t want to miss.
5 Paranoia and death define Bly Manor (The Innocents)
Innocents is a 1961 black-and-white horror film based on Henry James The turn of the screw, a 19th-century Gothic short story. The film follows a young housekeeper and her new charges, Flora and Miles, as they go through the traumatic effects of the previous housekeeper’s sudden death. It doesn’t take long for Miss Giddens to begin to suspect something supernatural is afoot.
Innocents perfectly encapsulates the unsettling nature of the original narrative, unafraid to confront the subtextual sexual repression, sexual abuse and extreme isolation of Miss Giddens and the children. Although The Haunting of Bly Manor may be a more recent and popular adaptation, Innocents remains much more faithful to the novel’s darker and more complex themes.
4 Rebecca haunts the halls of Manderley (Rebecca)
Rebecca is Alfred Hitchcock’s first American release, and its success is largely due to the popularity of Daphne du Maurier’s novel. As one of Hitchcock’s most popular films and starring stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, the film instantly established itself as a timeless classic.
Rebecca features an unnamed protagonist and follows her whirlwind marriage to the mysterious Maxim de Winter and her transition through the halls of Manderley, her ancestral home. There is a catch, however: not only is the protagonist stalked by a malevolent governess, but the house seems haunted by the presence of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife. Filled with homoeroticism, secrets and repression, Rebecca is a gripping example of gothic psychological horror.
3 World War II is the cause of many ghosts (the others)
Others is a 2001 gothic horror film starring Nicole Kidman. The film, filled with fog, light and darkness, follows a neurotic mother trying to raise her two children just after the end of World War II. The story begins when Grace hires a trio of housekeepers to help her run the mansion and raise her photosensitive children. When strange things start happening, Grace begins to suspect that her house is haunted.
Others succeeds in atmosphere, performance and writing, managing to disturb and frighten audiences with very few special effects. The film brilliantly captures the loneliness and trauma of the post-war period, and viewers would be remiss not to watch it.
2 A Crime More Troubling Than Ghosts (The Changeling)
The changing is a relatively underrated horror film despite its incredible critical acclaim. The film follows a recent widower as he moves into a historic home to escape his past, only to find the house isn’t as peaceful as originally advertised.
The changing is essentially gothic, not only in its use of tropes such as the haunted house or aristocratic secrets, but where its horror comes from. While the haunting is scary, the truly terrifying aspects reside in the house’s past. An essential element of gothic horror is the idea that humanity can be genuinely disturbing, and The changing is not at all afraid to face this idea.
1 Incest, Love and Murder (Crimson Peak)
Crimson Peak is director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to the Gothic Horror genre. Filled with black lace, Victorian corsets and decrepit and rotting houses, Crimson Peak the aesthetic fits perfectly into the Gothic canon. The aesthetic doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of this film’s gothic vibe, however.
The film follows Edith Cushing, a budding young writer, and her whirlwind romance with aristocrat Thomas Sharpe. After her father’s mysterious murder, Edith and Thomas move into Allerdale Hall with Thomas’ strange sister. Shortly after arriving, Edith begins to uncover secrets best kept hidden. The film, filled with ghosts, incest and murder, is not one gothic horror lovers will want to miss.
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