Hammer horror is inarguably important to horror film history. They had the sex and blood that the Universal horror films before it could not, and in many ways they are the bridge between classic and modern horror. Hammer produced many classic films and made stars out of many those who worked for them, in particular Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. For me, they were one of my earliest introductions into the genre, and as a kid I would watch them whenever they aired on TV. With the critical and commercial success of their latest releases, The Woman in Black and its sequel, it felt like now was the time to list the 10 Best Hammer Horror Movies.
The Brides of Dracula - The first of the Dracula sequels actually does not have the count, but instead the evil vampire in this one is Baron Meinster (David Peel). Van Helsing (Cushing) does battle with him in one of the most sumptuous vampire movies ever made. The dispatching of the lead villain ranks as one of the coolest in blood-sucker history.
The Mummy - Let me be honest here; To me the Universal Mummy movies were all a bore. Slow moving and not very interesting, much like their villain. Hammer had a great chance to redo the monster, and doing it the right way. And, that they did. The Mummy (Christopher Lee) in this movie is threatening and unstoppable, almost like the Terminator. Lee is so good as the monster that he shows pathos and emotion with just his eyes and not saying a single word. Cushing is great as the hero, and this the finest movie about a bandaged monster, ever.
The Devil Rides Out - This is tale of Satan worship is most definitely Hammer horror at its very best. It’s also a rare time were Lee managed to play the hero. The climax is unquestionably exciting. This is a great movie for Hammer novices to start with.
The Curse of Frankenstein - The one that started it all. While, it is not on the level of perfection of Universal’s Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, it is a great gothic horror movie that changed the whole genre. Infusing blood and cleavage into this classic story, this film changed the rules horror would never be the same. It also marked the first classic horror pairing of Lee and Cushing. Cushing is amazing as the evil Doctor.
The best of any Dracula film in history is also Hammer’s definitive classic, Horror of Dracula. Upping the blood and sex of their previous film (The Curse of Frankenstein), this is truly one of horror cinema’s most beloved classics. Lee is perfect as Dracula; in fact, to me he is the best in this role, and Cushing is the best Van Helsing. The movie is sumptuous and moves at a fast pace. I’ve seen it many times and it never fails to excite me. A true classic!
The Vampire Lovers - This sexy chiller with the gorgeous Ingrid Pitt in the role of vamp villainess Carmilla is the first of the lesbian vampire movies. Years later it is still one of the best. It definitely shows a change in the Hammer style as more sex and skin were added. Sure, it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, but it’s still sexy as hell. And, with Pitt along with Madeline Smith as the object of her affections, how can it not be?
Frankenstein Must be Destroyed - The best of the Frankenstein sequels is also the darkest. It has the evil, mad doctor (Peter Cushing) at his very worst, including a shocking moment where he rapes Veronica Carlson. In this one, Dr. Frankenstein ends up in a boarding house, as he tries to evade an inspector. He continues his experiments, of course, and Cushing delivers what might be his best acting in this role.
Taste the Blood of Dracula - The very best of the Dracula sequels sees a black magic ritual that brings Dracula back to life. It’s a dark and thrilling film with Lee in fine form. The black mass scene is a definite highlight of both the film and the series.
Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter - Way before Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Blade came this thrilling mix of adventure and horror, where in Captian Kronos (Horst Janson) battles evil vampires in a village. This one was not hit when it came out, as I do feel it was ahead of its time. But, it’s a bona fided classic now. Fans should also take note as the beautiful Caroline Munro plays a gypsy who is along with our hero and his companion for the ride.