Serious horror movie fans know that many of the genre’s classics were the result of the fine work that was done in decades past by London-based Hammer Film Productions. Hammer has produced over 200 feature films since the company’s inception in 1934, so narrowing down their catalog to a list of the five best Hammer efforts was a challenge. This compilation was created using a number of highly credible resources in an attempt to arrive at a consensus opinion.
What films ultimately represent the best of Hammer Horror? Let’s begin the countdown.
5. (Tie) The Mummy (1959)
This was certainly not the first mummy film ever made, but it was one of the best. American Movie Classics rates this as the third-best Hammer film, pointing toward the performances of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as the driving force behind the success of this 1959 release. The Mummy was one of the first Hammer films made in color, and it set a visual precedent that became a trademark of the Hammer film series.
5. (Tie) The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Before director George A. Romero made a name for himself with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, fans of Hammer Horror had already been introduced to the terror of the undead with the 1966 release of The Plague of the Zombies. This movie gets the No. 3 spot on the best of Hammer list from Gizmodo. The film is set in Victorian times and features an intriguing mixture of elements that includes voodoo and witchcraft.
4. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Gizmodo ranks this movie as the second-best Hammer production in the company’s long history, and it is not difficult to understand why. Leon, the title character, was played brilliantly by English actor Oliver Reed. Like many outstanding horror films, this is a character-driven tale (that is not full of blood and gore) that strikes terror into the audience via excellent storytelling and top-notch performances.
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3. The Gorgon (1964)
When you begin with the duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, you are already well on your way to making a fine horror film. Add in some Greek mythology and the directorial touch of Terence Fisher, and according to Horror-Movies.ca, you have one of the most highly regarded movies in the genre. Cushing is particularly impressive in this film as Doctor Namaroff, a man engaged in an inner struggle that equals the external one he faces battling the dreaded Gorgon.
2. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Hammer’s entry into the “Frankenstein’s monster” subgenre receives high marks from fans and critics alike, coming in at No. 1 on Cool Ass Cinema‘s list of top Hammer Horror productions. Cushing and Lee are at the heart of yet another top-shelf Hammer film, with Peter Cushing establishing himself as arguably the best Doctor Victor Frankenstein in the history of cinema. Cushing played the character with multi-faceted depth rarely seen in other Frankenstein films.
1. Horror of Dracula (1958)
Hammer’s 1958 version of the story of Count Dracula tops many lists of the company’s highest-rated releases. The Independent Film Channel shares that this is the performance that made the trio of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and director Terence Fisher legendary in the world of horror. Cushing was fabulous in his turn as Doctor Van Helsing, and Lee portrayed Count Dracula with a beastly ferocity that flew in the face of earlier, more subtle screen versions of the Prince of Darkness.
There are many more enjoyable films from Hammer Productions that could have made this list; frankly, it is difficult to separate one Hammer offering from another due to the consistent quality the company employed during their “golden era.” Which films would you have included in your Hammer top five? Which of the movies listed would you remove from these ratings? This could be argued ad infinitum, but one thing is for certain: Hammer Films has made a significant contribution to the horror movie genre that will continue to live on for generations.
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