Best Horror Movies by Year Since 1920

Look, we know that it’s the time of year when everyone and their sister has a list of the best horror movies of all time. This time out, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to take a slightly different tack. Using our weighted formula, we compiled a list of the best-reviewed fright fests from each year since 1920 — the year The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which created the template for horror cinema, was released. This wasn’t an easy assignment — there were several years, like 1932 and 1960, that boasted a slate of classic films (and a few others, like 1937 and 1938, in which we had trouble finding any solid contenders). What was the best horror flick the year you were born? Check out our list — if you dare.

 

#1920
Adjusted Score: 111.338%
Critics Consensus: Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set a brilliantly high bar for the genre -- and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.
Synopsis: In one of the most influential films of the silent era, Werner Krauss plays the title character, a sinister hypnotist... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wiene

#1921
#1921
Adjusted Score: 102.309%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) is the abusive husband who finds his wife (Hilda Borgstrom) has left him after he is... [More]
Directed By: Victor Sjöström

#1922
Adjusted Score: 109.404%
Critics Consensus: One of the silent era's most influential masterpieces, Nosferatu's eerie, gothic feel -- and a chilling performance from Max Schreck as the vampire -- set the template for the horror films that followed.
Synopsis: F. W. Murnau's landmark vampire film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter has arrived to close... [More]
Directed By: F.W. Murnau

#1923
#1923
Adjusted Score: 93.426%
Critics Consensus: A heart-rending take on the classic book, with a legendary performance by Lon Chaney.
Synopsis: This second film version of the Victor Hugo novel Notre Dame de Paris (the first was a Theda Bara vehicle,... [More]

#1924
Adjusted Score: 86.423%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Silent version of Renard's classic about a concert pianist who loses his hands in an accident. When a murderer's hands... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wiene

#1925
#1925
Adjusted Score: 96.323%
Critics Consensus: Decades later, it still retains its ability to scare -- and Lon Chaney's performance remains one of the benchmarks of the horror genre.
Synopsis: Lon Chaney stars as Erik, the Phantom, in what is probably his most famous and certainly his most horrifying role.... [More]

#1926

Faust (1926)
94%

#1926
Adjusted Score: 98.667%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this German film, Emil Jannings glowers his way through the role of Mephistopholes, who offers the aging Faust an... [More]
Directed By: F.W. Murnau

#1927
#1927
Adjusted Score: 93.592%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Creaky, but enduring expressionistic suspenser is the classic "old dark house" movie as sundry characters converge at an ominous mansion... [More]
Directed By: Paul Leni

#1928

The Man Who Laughs (1928)
100%

#1928
Adjusted Score: 101.495%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The second of German director Paul Leni's American films (Cat and the Canary was the first), The Man Who Laughs... [More]
Directed By: Paul Leni

#1929
Adjusted Score: 89.944%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen's obsession with bizarre lighting effects reached its apotheosis with his 1922 masterpiece Häxan. Beginning in a... [More]
Directed By: Benjamin Christensen

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