Creature from the Black Lagoon

(Photo by courtesy Everett Collection)

The 35 Best 1950s Horror Movies

See! Atomic monsters, sinister science, and beasts from beyond the moon!

Watch! As society exposes their deep-seated anxieties and fears!

Discover! The best horror movies of the 1950s!

After a devastating World War, America entered into the protracted Cold War with the Soviet Union, racing against the other to reach and conquer space first, while cultivating a massive arsenal of nuclear weaponry. Contrasted with the United States’ prosperous post-War economy and the rise of consumerism and suburbia, 1950s horror films reflected the pervading invisible fear of death from above. Plenty of the monsters in creature features were nuclear in origin, from Them! to Godzilla to It Came from Beneath the Sea to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and beyond. The Space Age launched in this decade and with it a fear of what we’ll carry from our cosmic sojourns back to Earth, as played out in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Blob, and The Thing from Another World.

Other defining highlights of the decade include psychological dramas (The Night of the Hunter, Diabolique, The Bad Seed), gimmicks (a skeleton flew overhead audiences for House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler indeed electrically tingled seats), Hammer Films (Quatermass Xperiment, Horror of Dracula), and the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy.

To compile this list of ’50s horror, we took every Fresh and Certified Fresh movie and then sorted them using our ranking formula, which takes into account a movie’s number of reviews and its year of release. Now, ride the saucer into the best 1950s horror movies!

Best ’70s Horror Movies | Best ’80s Horror Movies | Best ’90s Horror Movies
Best 2000s Horror Movies | Best 2010s Horror Movies
200 Best Horror Movies of All Time | Best Horror Movies of 2021

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 12604%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After a volcano erupts south of the border, people and animals begin inexplicably dying. Earth scientists Hank (Richard Denning) and... [More]
Directed By: Edward Ludwig

#34

Dementia (1955)
67%

#34
Adjusted Score: 27038%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A tormented woman (Adrienne Barrett) murders her father (Ben Roseman) and a mysterious man, then thinks it was only a... [More]
Directed By: John Parker

#33

The Crawling Eye (1958)
63%

#33
Adjusted Score: 22278%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a small Swiss resort town, sisters Anne (Janet Munro) and Sarah Pilgrim (Jennifer Jayne) are worried by Anne's telepathic... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Lawrence

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 31763%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) inherits a familial post as the chairman of a small-town cemetery. The centerpiece of the cemetery... [More]
Directed By: Albert Band

#31

The Bad Seed (1956)
63%

#31
Adjusted Score: 64112%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Air Force Colonel Kenneth Penmark (William Hopper) and his wife, Christine (Nancy Kelly), dote on their pig-tailed daughter, Rhoda (Patty... [More]
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy

#30
Adjusted Score: 32111%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A bartender sends his wife (Yvette Vickers) and her lover (Michael Emmet) into a swamp where large smart leeches lurk.... [More]
Directed By: Bernard Kowalski

#29
Adjusted Score: 67943%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A team of scientists land on a tropical island to study the effects of radiation fallout. When the island begins... [More]
Directed By: Roger Corman

#28

The Blob (1958)
68%

#28
Adjusted Score: 70226%
Critics Consensus: In spite of its chortle-worthy premise and dated special effects, The Blob remains a prime example of how satisfying cheesy B-movie monster thrills can be.
Synopsis: A drive-in favorite, this sci-fi classic follows teenagers Steve (Steven McQueen) and his best girl, Jane (Aneta Corseaut), as they... [More]
Directed By: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 66926%
Critics Consensus: The epitome of so-bad-it's-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi "thriller" from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.
Synopsis: Residents of California's San Fernando Valley are under attack by flying saucers from outer space. The aliens, led by Eros... [More]
Directed By: Edward D. Wood Jr.

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 71494%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Nerdy Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), a maladroit busboy at a beatnik café who doesn't fit in with the cool scene... [More]
Directed By: Roger Corman

#25

Rodan (1957)
73%

#25
Adjusted Score: 38734%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A bug-eating pterodactyl flies out of a coal mine and wrecks Japan with sonic booms.... [More]
Directed By: Inoshiro Honda

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 72504%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A manned space flight from Venus crash lands in the Mediterranean, losing its most precious cargo: reptilian eggs from the... [More]
Directed By: Nathan Juran

#23
Adjusted Score: 75636%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Turned into a giantess by an alien, a woman (Allison Hayes) finds her husband (William Hudson) in a bar with... [More]
Directed By: Nathan Hertz

#22

The Tingler (1959)
76%

#22
Adjusted Score: 76816%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) has made a surprising discovery -- the spine-chilling sensation that people get when scared is... [More]
Directed By: William Castle

#21

Quatermass II (1957)
78%

#21
Adjusted Score: 32644%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy), in his attempts to convince the British government to colonize the moon, learns that thousands... [More]
Directed By: Val Guest

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 35174%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Curious adolescent boy David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt) confronts aliens who have set up base in his backyard. The extraterrestrials intend... [More]

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 79754%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is a brilliant scientist willing to stop at nothing in his quest to reanimate a deceased... [More]
Directed By: Terence Fisher

#18
Adjusted Score: 82889%
Critics Consensus: A solid, atmospheric creature feature that entertains without attempting to be deeper than it needs.
Synopsis: Remnants of a mysterious animal have come to light in a remote jungle, and a group of scientists intends to... [More]
Directed By: Jack Arnold

#17
Adjusted Score: 83139%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A U.S. newsman (Raymond Burr) in Tokyo recounts the story of a huge dinosaur roused from the sea by an... [More]

#16
Adjusted Score: 86699%
Critics Consensus: A curiously sensitive and spiritual addition to the Universal Monsters line-up, tacking on deep questions about a story who is shrinking to death.
Synopsis: While on a boating trip, Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is exposed to a radioactive cloud. Nothing seems amiss at first,... [More]
Directed By: Jack Arnold

#15

The Mummy (1959)
89%

#15
Adjusted Score: 36333%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: British archaeologists defile the tomb of an Egyptian princess (Yvonne Furneaux) and her buried-alive lover (Christopher Lee).... [More]
Directed By: Terence Fisher

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 89881%
Critics Consensus: Campy by modern standards but spooky and atmospheric, House on Haunted Hill is a fun, well-executed cult classic featuring a memorable performance from genre icon Vincent Price.
Synopsis: Rich oddball Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) has a proposal for five guests at a possibly haunted mansion: Show up, survive... [More]
Directed By: William Castle

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 66714%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A British rocket scientist (Brian Donlevy) hunts an astronaut monstrously enveloped by an alien fungus.... [More]
Directed By: Val Guest

#12

Tarantula (1955)
94%

#12
Adjusted Score: 70111%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Desert scientists (John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll) try to stop a fortified spider the size of a building.... [More]
Directed By: Jack Arnold

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 94590%
Critics Consensus: Trading gore for grandeur, Horror of Dracula marks an impressive turn for inveterate Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, and a typical Hammer mood that makes aristocracy quite sexy.
Synopsis: On a search for his missing friend Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is... [More]
Directed By: Terence Fisher

#10
Adjusted Score: 86586%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Near the Arctic Circle researchers detonate a nuclear device and unwittingly thaw a prehistoric beast frozen for millions of years.... [More]
Directed By: Eugene Lourie

#9

The Thing (1951)
86%

#9
Adjusted Score: 87773%
Critics Consensus: As flying saucer movies go, The Thing From Another World is better than most, thanks to well-drawn characters and concise, tense plotting.
Synopsis: When scientist Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) reports a UFO near his North Pole research base, the Air Force sends in... [More]
Directed By: Christian Nyby

#8

Them! (1954)
93%

#8
Adjusted Score: 97481%
Critics Consensus: One of the best creature features of the early atomic age, Them! features effectively menacing special effects and avoids the self-parody that would taint later monster movies.
Synopsis: While investigating a series of mysterious deaths, Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) finds a young girl (Sandy Descher) who is... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Douglas

#7

The Fly (1958)
95%

#7
Adjusted Score: 99586%
Critics Consensus: Deliciouly funny to some and eerily presicient to others, The Fly walks a fine line between shlocky fun and unnerving nature parable.
Synopsis: When scientist Andre Delambre (Al Hedison) tests his matter transporter on himself, an errant housefly makes its way into the... [More]
Directed By: Kurt Neumann

#6

House of Wax (1953)
93%

#6
Adjusted Score: 97405%
Critics Consensus: House of Wax is a 3-D horror delight that combines the atmospheric eerieness of the wax museum with the always chilling presence of Vincent Price.
Synopsis: Wax sculptor Henry (Vincent Price) is horrified to learn that his business partner, Matthew (Roy Roberts), plans on torching their... [More]
Directed By: Andre de Toth

#5

Curse of the Demon (1957)
100%

#5
Adjusted Score: 101181%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: American professor John Holden (Dana Andrews) arrives in London for a conference on parapsychology only to discover that the colleague... [More]
Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

#4

Diabolique (1955)
96%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101286%
Critics Consensus: Cruel, dark, but undeniably effective, Diabolique is a suspense thriller as effective as Hitchcock's best work and with a brilliant twist ending.
Synopsis: In this classic of French suspense, the cruel and abusive headmaster of a boarding school, Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse), becomes... [More]
Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot

#3

Godzilla (1954)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100414%
Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.
Synopsis: A fire-breathing behemoth terrorizes Japan after an atomic bomb awakens it from its centuries-old sleep.... [More]
Directed By: Ishirô Honda

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 102614%
Critics Consensus: Featuring Robert Mitchum's formidable performance as a child-hunting preacher, The Night of the Hunter is a disturbing look at good and evil.
Synopsis: The Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a religious fanatic and serial killer who targets women who use their sexuality... [More]
Directed By: Charles Laughton

#1
Adjusted Score: 103793%
Critics Consensus: One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror.
Synopsis: In Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is baffled when all his patients come to him with the... [More]
Directed By: Don Siegel

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