“It’s alive… alive!” Are there any words more immortal in the canon of movies than Frankenstein’s triumphant cry at first witnessing the stirrings of the creature he created, all the way back in James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel?
And yet, even Whale’s adaptation wasn’t the first time the story had found its way onto film—and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
More than two centuries ago, Mary Shelley’s novel was first published anonymously. It would take nearly a hundred years for the invention of cinema to come along so that the monster could make his way onto screens. Since then, however, he has done so more than a hundred additional times.
So, how can you find the best movies about Frankenstein (the man and his monster) to watch on a dark and stormy night? Not to worry. We've toiled in our lab and created a list of 10 Frankenstein movies to scare and compel you.
Frankenstein (1931) & The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
While none other than Thomas Edison is credited with helping to usher the very first adaptation of Frankenstein to the screen in 1910, it was Universal’s classic Frankenstein—released in 1931 and starring Boris Karloff as the creature—that truly changed the way the world would see the story forever.
While the various early Universal sequels are mostly quite good as well, the 1931 original and its first sequel, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, are truly the high-water marks when it comes to Frankenstein on film.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
James Whale’s 1931 original gave us perhaps the screen’s most definitive interpretation of the monster. But there has never been a better Victor Frankenstein in movies than Peter Cushing, who kicked off a string of Frankenstein films for Britain’s Hammer Studios with this 1957 shocker, co-starring Christopher Lee as the monster.
While the Universal sequels followed the creature, the Hammer flicks are all about the man who made the monster, bringing life to a different creature in each of the many movies in their Frankenstein saga.
Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
Not to be outdone by our neighbors across the pond, American studios brought their share of Frankensteins to the drive-in screens of the ‘50s, too.
One oft-overlooked gem of this era was this oddity, released in 1958 but set in 1970, which sees Boris Karloff once again in a Frankenstein film, only this time playing a descendant of the original Baron Frankenstein who is continuing the work of his ancestor in a suitably spooky castle.
Meanwhile, a documentary film crew has descended on the place to celebrate the anniversary of the original Frankenstein’s experiments and, well, things go about as you might expect from there.
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of different takes on the story of Frankenstein, but perhaps none are stranger than this one, in which Frankenstein's monster grows to giant size and fights kaiju in Japan. Wait, what?
That’s right. It turns out that Willis O’Brien, the original special effects genius behind King Kong, had pitched a King Kong vs. Frankenstein story years before, shopping it around until it finally landed at Toho, where it became 1962’s King Kong Vs. Godzilla instead.
But that giant Frankenstein monster idea was too good to leave behind, so it made its way into this film, where the eponymous giant goes toe-to-to with a kaiju named Baragon.
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
What if Guillermo del Toro had been making movies in 1973, and made a film about a little girl in Franco’s Spain who becomes obsessed with James Whale’s 1931 version of Frankenstein?
You’d get Spirit of the Beehive, which the Oscar-winning del Toro has said is one of his favorite films and a major influence on his own work. Sure, it isn’t an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel in any direct way, and yet it probably has more in common with the spirit of the source text than many of the other films on this list.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Since at least as early as 1948, when Abbott and Costello met the monster, Frankenstein has been as much a subject of satire as a producer of shudders.
And when it comes to satires of Frankenstein, they don’t come much more beloved than Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, which the American Film Institute named one of their 100 Greatest Comedies of the first 100 years of cinematic history.
Starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle, the flick is home to plenty of gags and skits as immortal as Frankenstein’s monster himself.
The Bride (1985)
The Bride stars Sting (yes, that Sting) as Baron Frankenstein and Jennifer Beals as the “perfect woman” he has created. Do we really need to say more?
How about that the supporting cast includes the likes of Clancy Brown (as the monster), Princess Bride's Cary Elwes, and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies)?
It’s an unusual and arguably feminist retelling of the classic story, taking elements from both Mary Shelley’s novels and Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein and remixing them into something, well…very different.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
Buoyed by the success of 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, studios took a similar swipe at Frankenstein just a few years later.
Kenneth Branagh does double-duty both behind and in front of the camera, directing the film and playing Victor Frankenstein, alongside a cast that includes John Cleese, Ian Holm, and Helena Bonham Carter.
The real star power—in 1994 terms, at least—was reserved for the creature, however, who was played by Robert De Niro. Widely considered the most faithful screen adaptation of Mary Shelley’s original novel, it’s also worth noting that the screenplay was co-written by none other than The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont.
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Frankenstein’s Army (2013)
In this found footage horror film set during the closing days of the second World War, a descendant of the original Victor Frankenstein has been hard at work for the Nazis creating the eponymous army of “zombots,” abominations combining human corpses with mechanical parts.
While the early parts of the film feature plenty of atmosphere, the “zombots” are the real stars of the show, boasting a dazzling array of practical effects to bring them to life, from “zombots” with propellers for heads to ones that travel on giant stilts.
Over the years, Larry Fessenden has made a name for himself as both an actor and director, working behind and in front of the camera in a wide range of indie horror hits.
In 2019, he set his sights on tackling the story of Frankenstein, though he updated the action to a Brooklyn loft and his Dr. Frankenstein (simply named Henry) to an army field surgeon suffering from PTSD.
The result is a lo-fi and often grisly take on the material that is also poignant and potent.