(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

All 43 Universal Classic Monster Movies Ranked

Before your cinematic universes and extended galaxies and interconnected constellations, there were the Universal Classic Monster movies. A loose confederation of sequels and spinoffs, they were the biggest motion picture events in the early life of cinema. The 1920s kicked things off with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera before the franchise moved into its 1930s golden era. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Invisible Man all released between 1931 and 1933, and they remain masterpiece staples of the horror genre.

In the 1940s, Universal ramped up production, frequently outpacing quality control. Among the sequels was the introduction of The Wolf Man in 1941, as well as Universal’s turn to self-parody with the arrival of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The comedy duo would Meet Frankenstein in 1948, carrying well into the mid-’50s. Creature from the Black Lagoon was the final hurrah for the original line of Universal monster movies.

In 1999, The Mummy was revived in the summer blockbuster era, bringing in enough fans young and old to encourage two sequels. Van Helsing and The Wolfman also arrived in the decade or so after the Mummy relaunch, though the lackluster returns on those meant Universal was ready to try something new (read: what Marvel was doing).

2014’s Dracula Untold was to be the start of a so-called Dark Universe of connected monster movies. After that movie failed to draw much blood out of the box office, 2017’s The Mummy was going to be the “new” new start of the Dark Universe. Until that movie also bombed spectacularly.

And so we arrive at 2020’s The Invisible Man, which reportedly cost 30 times less than The Mummy to make, and with no aspirations to be tied to any larger universe. Now, we rank all Universal Classic Monster movies by Tomatometer!

#43
Adjusted Score: 19458%
Critics Consensus: With middling CG effects and a distinct lack of fun, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor finds the series past its prime.
Synopsis: Cursed by a devious sorceress, China's ruthless Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) and his vast army lie buried in clay for... [More]
Directed By: Rob Cohen

#42
#42
Adjusted Score: 12188%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Florida aquarium workers (John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield) communicate by cattle prod with a captured gill-man.... [More]
Directed By: Jack Arnold

#41

The Mummy (2017)
16%

#41
Adjusted Score: 30519%
Critics Consensus: Lacking the campy fun of the franchise's most recent entries and failing to deliver many monster-movie thrills, The Mummy suggests a speedy unraveling for the Dark Universe.
Synopsis: Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest... [More]
Directed By: Alex Kurtzman

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 14581%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Grisly murders convince a turn-of-the-century Londoner that she is the latest in a long line of werewolves.... [More]
Directed By: Jean Yarbrough

#39

Van Helsing (2004)
24%

#39
Adjusted Score: 30303%
Critics Consensus: A hollow creature feature that suffers from CGI overload.
Synopsis: Famed monster slayer Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is dispatched to Transylvania to assist the last of the Valerious bloodline... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Sommers

#38
Adjusted Score: 25751%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two guys (Bud Abbott, Lou Costello) stuck in Egypt follow a medallion to the crypt of Kharis.... [More]
Directed By: Charles Lamont

#37
Adjusted Score: 26615%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Lawrence Stewart Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is plagued by a physical oddity that turns him into a crazed werewolf after... [More]
Directed By: Roy William Neill

#36

Dracula Untold (2014)
25%

#36
Adjusted Score: 31317%
Critics Consensus: Neither awful enough to suck nor sharp enough to bite, Dracula Untold misses the point of its iconic character's deathless appeal.
Synopsis: In 15th-century Transylvania, Vlad III (Luke Evans), prince of Wallachia, is known as a just ruler. With his beloved wife,... [More]
Directed By: Gary Shore

#35

The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
29%

#35
Adjusted Score: 28229%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An old archaeologist (Dick Foran) recalls the mummy Kharis (Lon Chaney), now at large in New England.... [More]
Directed By: Harold Young

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 33065%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A 3000-year-old limping mummy (Lon Chaney) seeks his reincarnated princess (Ramsay Ames) in a Midwestern college town.... [More]
Directed By: Reginald LeBorg

#33

The Wolfman (2010)
34%

#33
Adjusted Score: 40867%
Critics Consensus: Suitably grand and special effects-laden, The Wolfman suffers from a suspense-deficient script and a surprising lack of genuine chills.
Synopsis: Though absent from his ancestral home of Blackmoor for many years, aristocrat Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to find... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#32
Adjusted Score: 35801%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A criminal (Jon Hall) haunts his enemies' mansion after a mad scientist (John Carradine) makes him invisible.... [More]
Directed By: Ford Beebe

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 40774%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Shipped to Louisiana, mummy Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) and his princess (Virginia Christine) roam the bayou.... [More]
Directed By: Leslie Goodwins

#30
Adjusted Score: 42023%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scientists (Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason) capture the creature from the black lagoon and turn him into an air breather.... [More]
Directed By: John Sherwood

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 51369%
Critics Consensus: In The Mummy Returns, the special effects are impressive, but the characters seem secondary to the computer generated imagery.
Synopsis: Ten years after the events of the first film, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) O'Connell are settled in... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Sommers

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 54952%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After escaping from prison, the evil Dr. Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked assistant, Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), plot their... [More]
Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

#27

House of Dracula (1945)
56%

#27
Adjusted Score: 55631%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This monster movie focuses on the iconic vampire, Count Dracula (John Carradine), and Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney), better known as... [More]
Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 63806%
Critics Consensus: Dracula's Daughter extends the Universal horror myth in an interesting direction, but the talky script and mild atmosphere undermine its ambition.
Synopsis: Although Count Dracula was destroyed by Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), who is now being tried for his murder, Dracula's... [More]
Directed By: Lambert Hillyer

#25

Dracula (1979)
59%

#25
Adjusted Score: 59036%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man washes ashore in England after a shipwreck and is found by Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis). The man... [More]
Directed By: John Badham

#24

Son of Dracula (1943)
60%

#24
Adjusted Score: 62268%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Count Alucard (Lon Chaney) comes out of a lake in his coffin and makes a Southern belle (Louise Allbritton) his... [More]
Directed By: Robert Siodmak

#23

The Mummy (1999)
61%

#23
Adjusted Score: 65805%
Critics Consensus: It's difficult to make a persuasive argument for The Mummy as any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement, but it's undeniably fun to watch.
Synopsis: The Mummy is a rousing, suspenseful and horrifying epic about an expedition of treasure-seeking explorers in the Sahara Desert in... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Sommers

#22
Adjusted Score: 62308%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Policemen Slim (Bud Abbott) and Tubby (Lou Costello) go to London and meet a doctor (Boris Karloff) and his evil... [More]
Directed By: Charles Lamont

#21

Invisible Agent (1942)
67%

#21
Adjusted Score: 66047%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An Allied spy (Jon Hall) made invisible by chemistry outwits Axis agents with his blond-braided lover (Ilona Massey).... [More]
Directed By: Edwin L. Marin

#20

The Mummy's Hand (1940)
67%

#20
Adjusted Score: 66385%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In Cairo, archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) unearths a vase that he believes could lead him to the ancient tomb... [More]
Directed By: Christy Cabanne

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 66386%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A screwy professor's experiments with a gorgeous model attract the attentions of a gangster and a handsome millionaire.... [More]
Directed By: A. Edward Sutherland

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 76094%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Shepherd Ygor (Bela Lugosi) rescues the monster (Lon Chaney) from a sulfur pit and brings him to Dr. Frankenstein's other... [More]
Directed By: Erle C. Kenton

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 79576%
Critics Consensus: Though it lives beneath the 1925 version, Claude Rains plays title character well in this landmark color version of the classic tragedy.
Synopsis: Talented Christine (Susanna Foster) is unaware that her singing lessons are being funded by a secret admirer, Enrique (Claude Rains),... [More]
Directed By: Arthur Lubin

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 77944%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While in Tibet researching a mysterious flower that purportedly takes its strength from the moon, botanist Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull)... [More]
Directed By: Stuart Walker

#15
Adjusted Score: 84055%
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

#14
Adjusted Score: 80899%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two detective-school graduates (Bud Abbott, Lou Costello) help a framed boxer who can make himself disappear.... [More]
Directed By: Charles Lamont

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 89617%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Wrongly accused of murdering his brother, Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) is found guilty and sentenced to die. But when sympathetic... [More]
Directed By: Joe May

#12

The Mummy (1932)
88%

#12
Adjusted Score: 94136%
Critics Consensus: Relying more on mood and atmosphere than the thrills typical of modern horror fare, Universal's The Mummy sets a masterful template for mummy-themed films to follow.
Synopsis: A team of British archaeologists led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) discover the mummified remains of the ancient Egyptian... [More]
Directed By: Karl Freund

#11
Adjusted Score: 93494%
Critics Consensus: A zany horror spoof that plays up and then plays into the best of Universal horror cliches.
Synopsis: In the first of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's horror vehicles for Universal Pictures, the inimitable comic duo star as... [More]
Directed By: Charles Barton

#10

The Wolf Man (1941)
90%

#10
Adjusted Score: 96236%
Critics Consensus: A handsomely told tale with an affecting performance from Lon Chaney, Jr., The Wolf Man remains one of the classics of the Universal horror stable.
Synopsis: When his brother dies, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney) returns to Wales and reconciles with his father (Claude Rains). While there,... [More]
Directed By: George Waggner

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 98136%
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: In this silent horror classic, aspiring young opera singer Christine Daaé (Mary Philbin) discovers that she has a mysterious admirer... [More]
Directed By: Rupert Julian

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 119882%
Critics Consensus: Smart, well-acted, and above all scary, The Invisible Man proves that sometimes, the classic source material for a fresh reboot can be hiding in plain sight.
Synopsis: After staging his own suicide, a crazed scientist uses his power to become invisible to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend.... [More]
Directed By: Leigh Whannell

#7
Adjusted Score: 96106%
Critics Consensus: A heart-rending take on the classic book, with a legendary performance by Lon Chaney.
Synopsis: In 15th-century Paris, Jehan (Brandon Hurst), the evil brother of the archdeacon, lusts after a Gypsy named Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth... [More]
Directed By: Wallace Worsley

#6

Dracula (1931)
94%

#6
Adjusted Score: 99088%
Critics Consensus: Bela Lugosi's timeless portrayal of Dracula in this creepy and atmospheric 1931 film has set the standard for major vampiric roles since.
Synopsis: The dashing, mysterious Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), after hypnotizing a British soldier, Renfield (Dwight Frye), into his mindless slave, travels... [More]
Directed By: Tod Browning

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 103257%
Critics Consensus: James Whale's classic The Invisible Man features still-sharp special effects, loads of tension, a goofy sense of humor, and a memorable debut from Claude Rains.
Synopsis: While researching a new drug, Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) stumbles on a potion that can make him invisible. When... [More]
Directed By: James Whale

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 98474%
Critics Consensus: Boris Karloff's final appearance as the Monster is a fitting farewell before the series descended into self-parody.
Synopsis: Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) is determined to prove the legitimacy of his father's scientific work, thus rescuing the... [More]
Directed By: Rowland V. Lee

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 106600%
Critics Consensus: An eccentric, campy, technically impressive, and frightening picture, James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein has aged remarkably well.
Synopsis: After recovering from injuries sustained in the mob attack upon himself and his creation, Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) falls under... [More]
Directed By: James Whale

#2

Dracula (1931)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 95851%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Soon after beginning work for Conde Dracula (Carlos Villarias), the clerk Renfield (Pablo Alvarez Rubio) learns that his employer is,... [More]
Directed By: George Melford

#1

Frankenstein (1931)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 106979%
Critics Consensus: Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff's legendary, frightening performance as the monster.
Synopsis: This iconic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as he attempts to create life by... [More]
Directed By: James Whale

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