The 13th Floor

The 10 Scariest Horror Movies of the 1950s

It’s October, and everyone is on the quest to find some highly scary viewing for the Halloween holiday. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working my way through the decades, highlighting the absolute scariest horror films from each.

The 1950s are usually associated with cheezy b-grade monsters, campy mad scientists, and stiff-walking aliens bringing some deeper message about our society. But the 1950s also had some downright terrifying flicks! These titles may not be as well known as their atomic and interplanetary counterparts, but they are each chilling, ranging from taut nail-biting thrillers to trippy nightmares.

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

Shot in 3D, the legendary Vincent Price plays a sculptor who is horribly disfigured in a fire which also destroys his prized wax figure collection. Needing to repopulate his art displays quickly, he turns to using real corpses covered in wax. Both Vincent Price and wax dummies are pretty much timelessly terrifying.

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DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954)

Directed by the iconic Alfred Hitchcock, a retired tennis pro discovers his wife has been cheating on him, so he blackmails a former college friend turned petty criminal into killing both her and her new lover. But then things get really complicated. This is a tremendously tense movie, where you never really know which character has the upper hand at any time.

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THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955) aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN

Three astronauts are launched into space. After being feared lost, only one astronaut returns, and he is slowly turning into something otherworldly. This wonderful film spawned an entire series of equally awesome science-based terrors.

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DEMENTIA (1955)(COVER PHOTO)

This John Parker movie is highly trippy, never really letting you know what is real or what is just hallucinations. Filled with nightmarish sequences, a woman thinks she has murdered her father and possibly another stranger, but it could also just be visions from her very tormented mind.

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CAST A DARK SHADOW (1955)

A swindling crook murders his wife in hopes of getting a big insurance pay-out. Too bad she didn’t have life insurance. So he sets his sights on a new woman, but she proves to be much more difficult to kill.

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DIABOLIQUE (1955)

The wife of a miserable boarding school head master and his equally scorned mistress plot to kill him. But then the body disappears, and things get really bizarre!

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THE BAD SEED (1956)

Colonel Penmark and his wife have the most delightful daughter complete with darling blonde braids. But after her parents discover sweet Rhoda has a penchant for thievery and may also be involved in the death of one of her classmates, they realize their sweet angel is something far more sinister.

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CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957)

Well that’s something you didn’t get a lot of in the 1950’s – Satanic cults! Directed by the fantastic Jacques Torneur, a professor, who believes only in science, investigates the death of a colleague while visiting London. He realizes the colleague was following a supposed Satanic cult, and the further he explores, the more signs point to a supernatural evil.

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I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

A town’s cemetery employee discovers that people die after he plots out where their future graves will be located. Directed by Albert Band (father of the Full Moon Film’s Charlie Band), this movie is a gripping thriller with some gorgeous cinematography.

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HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

Another Vincent Price classic, and this one is directed by horror showman William Castle. A weird and wealthy Price dares five people to stay the night in a supposedly haunted house. The doors lock at midnight, and each person will get $10,000 the following morning.

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