Looking back at Hollywood’s best monster movies


Universal Studios is more than just an amusement park in California and Florida. To this day, it is still a working film studio. They have produced some of Hollywood’s greatest films, including some that are perfect for the spooky season. What better time to kick back with popcorn and a few jump scares than during October?

What many people might have forgotten is that Universal Studios made its name back in the 1930s with their monster movies. Based on the works of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly, Universal Studios created some of the most memorable horror films of all time. 

Ryan Oestreich, the general manager of the Music Box Theater inLakeview, said his favorite movie is “Dracula,” which Universal Studios produced. 

“The original Dracula,” he said. “Tod Browning is an excellent filmmaker, and more people need to go back and watch his films. Also, Bela is one of the best Draculas to ever grace the silver screen.” 

The Music Box showed Universal monster movies in 2018, Oestreich said. 

“We did a Universal Horror series back in October of 2018,” he said. “We partnered with DePaul who put a film class around it and provided some intros and a talk backs for every film. People came out and really enjoyed the programs, [which] makes me think we should play some more soon.”

The Universal monsters have aged well as time went on. Thanks to the local television show Svengoolie, the monsters can be shown to a local audience. Also, with advancements in technology, the monster movies have been remastered in HD and can be purchased on Blu-Ray. Besides being remastered some of the classic monsters have been given the remake/reboot treatment. 

In the late ‘90s,  “The Mummy” was remade and spawned two sequels and a spinoff series. There has also been a remake of “The Wolf Man” in 2010 and a Dracula origin film in 2014. There was an announcement of a reboot of the entire monster legacy. As reported by IGN in 2017, Universal Studios planned  to reboot the classic monster films and create the Dark Universe. It would kick off with a second reboot of “The Mummy.” Several other films were announced, including a “Bride of Frankenstein” remake and “The Invisible Man,” with actors like Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem. After “The Mummy” failed at the box office. the Dark Universe plan was scrapped. 

Blumhouse Productions, known for “The Conjuring” and “Insidious” franchises, partnered with Universal Studios to produce a remake of “The Invisible Man,” set to be released in 2020. The film will star Elisabeth Moss from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Here are a few of the best monster movies from Universal Studios.

5. Dracula

This film loosely based on Bram Stoker’s book makes the list due to its cast and the set design. There is something mesmerizing about watching Renfield slowly walk towards the castle entrance that is buried amongst cobwebs. Bela Lugosi is also a legend for his role as the Count himself. He was not the first choice as the lead, but after frontman Lon Chaney died, Lugosi was given his chance. Lugosi would also make Dracula by only playing the character in one other film. There is also a huge debate that the Spanish version of Dracula is better than the English one. 

4. Abbott and Costello Meet 


This is a very special entry on this list. It is the only horror comedy on the list. This is also the only other film Bela Lugosi played Dracula in. What makes this film so special is how it can be related to an Avengers film. The Avengers consist of multiple Marvel superheroes, and this movie had multiple monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man all give Abbott and Costello enough scares  to give the audience enough laughs. Also, horror icon Vincent Price makes a cameo as the Invisible Man. 

3. The Creature from the Black Lagoon

“Creature” is one of the most recognizable Universal Monsters, but hasn’t received as much love as its predecessors. “Creature” was made towards the end of the monster craze in cinema, but before the wave of giant creature movies. Another aspect that made “Creature” special is that it is the only 3-D Universal Monster movie.  The film also used two different actors to play the creature, one on land and the other in water. Some of the underwater scenes are visually beautiful and hold up to today’s standards. “Creature” is also the only monster to have a trilogy, and although nothing has been announced, filmmaker and rock legend Rob Zombie has been rumored to tackle a remake of “Creature.” 

2. The Wolf Man

What makes “The Wolf Man” the runner up is how well the movie has aged. It can be watched at any time and still captivate an audience. There is also something special about the man behind the monster, Lon Chaney Jr. His father was a legend in horror, having played the Phantom of the Opera and creating his own makeup for his characters. Lon Chaney Sr. did not want his son to go into acting, and you get a sense that Jr. is trying to make his father proud in this role. It is also beautifully shot with some great set designs. One set in particular that stands out is the marsh where the Wolf Man lurks for his next victim. 

1. Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein.

These two films are James Whale’s greatest achievements. Everything about these two films is amazing, from the acting by Boris Karloff as the monster and Colin Clive as the doctor. One of the reasons why these two are tired for number one is the set design, especially the laboratories. All the lights and gadgets and gizmos light up any screen they appear on. There is also something special about how the identity of the monster and his bride are kept secret until the end. Author Ray Bradbury said in a documentary about the Universal monster movies, “The first time I saw Frankenstein I hid under the seat.” There is something eerie seeing Karloff in the makeup as the monster, and even though it was green, the black and white film make it look horrifying. 

If you want to create your own top five  of these movies, they are easily available online and sold on Amazon. Or check out a resale shop like Reckless Records. Either way, gather up some friends this Halloween and watch some of the most celebrated films of all time, and witness what is arguably the first cinematic universe: Universal Monsters.