The 25 Greatest Figures in Horror Movie History

Every film genre that has ever entertained film fans has had a group of people behind it driving that genre. Gangster films had James Cagney and Robert DeNiro; Westerns had John Ford, John Wayne, and Tom Mix. But horror is a genre which is full of pioneers in front of and behind the camera, whom due to the type of fans that exist for horror are all loved by a devoted cult following which is unheard for many other types of film. Though a list detailing EVERYONE who has served as a key figure in horror filmdom would take forever there are those who are forever linked to the genre they worked in; so here they are the 25 most influential people in horror movie history.

25. Carl Laemmle Jr.: Believe it or not there was a time when making movies with any sort of supernatural element was frowned upon in Hollywood. That all changed when the head of Universal Studios, Carl Laemmle promoted his son to a position of power. Carl Laemmle Jr. had grown up on scary stories from literary origins and starting with Dracula and Frankenstein he single-handedly changed  the system and proved that horror was worth investing in.

24. Basil Rathbone: Every horror story needs a dashing hero and this famed British actor was the dashiniest of the time. In Son of Frankenstein he broke the family curse and defeated the monster his father created. His claim to fame though is defining Sherlock Holmes for an entire generation.

23. Dwight Frye: Anyone who knows horror recognizes the lasting impact the Universal Horror films had on the genre, a common factor many of these films had was a scene stealing performance from the great, Dwight Frye. Already established as one of the greatest theatre actors of all time, Frye moved to Hollywood in order to create a film career. In roles such as Renfield in Dracula, his theatrical style of acting served him well as he devoured every scene he was in.

22. Terence Fisher: During the Cold War American filmmakers began to shy away from gothic settings and monsters to focus on menaces of atomic origins. Fortunately British studio, Hammer kept the horror ball rolling with their adaptations of classic horror tales and characters. The most prominent director by far for these movies was Terence Fisher who set the standard for this wonderful time in horror history.

21. Lon Chaney Jr. : Discouraged from acting from his famous father, Lon Chaney Jr. had to wait longer than he would have liked to make the leap to the silver screen. Lacking his father’s subtly and expressiveness he found that his greatest  traits as an actor was his everyman qualities which made him the ideal candidate to play hulking yet sympathetic monsters such as, The Wolf Man.

20. Tom Savini: One of the key elements to a good horror flick is the ability to shock the audience and one of the ways to do so is with copious amounts of blood and gore. And no make-up artist has done gore better than Savini, whether the scene calls for a zombie to get chopped up or for a coed to be impaled with a pitchfork Savini has delivered work that never fails to impress. Though not active in Hollywood anymore, he now trains the next generation make-up experts to take the reigns of the industry and shock audiences.

19. Robert Englund: After the fall of Hammer Studios and the aging of the past generation of horror stars, new blood was needed and that new blood wore a razor glove and black fedora hat. Robert Englund emerged as the biggest horror icon of his generation, with his charisma and ability to be theatrical in his performances he has endeared himself to genre fans on film and on television.

18.  Forrest J. Ackerman: One magazine was responsible for creating the sense of community among horror fans have with each other and that magazine was, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Every issue of this highly influential magazine oozed with the personal touch of it’s founder, Forrest J. Ackerman, who played the role of an anti-parent and encouraged kids to watch as many scary flicks as they could. Outside of the magazine, Ackerman was known for his massive collection of film memorabilia which he proudly displayed for anyone who wanted to see it.

17. Bruce Campbell: The horror star you can’t help but love. Bringing a charming camp value to even the bleakest of horror films you would be hard pressed to go to a gathering of horror fans and not hear his lines quoted.

16. Tod Browning: During the Silent Age of film films were either bland tales of good and evil or stylized works of art, but former carnival worker, Tod Browning changed all that. With the help of his frequent collaborator, Lon Chaney he made films about grotesque and frightening people that shocked an audience that had never seen anything like it before.

15. Elsa Lanchester: While not the most prolific actress in horror history her turn as the Bride in, The Bride of Frankenstein, guarantees her name on this list.  Turning in double duty on the classic movie as both the Bride and Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley,  Lanchester’s presence made her limited time in the movie ingrained in the memory of all who have seen it.

14. Roger Corman: Corman paved the way for so many future filmmakers that it’s almost ridiculous. By creating countless horror movies not only did he expand the fanbase for the genre he provided the training ground for future filmmakers like; Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Jonathan Demme. He also showed that horror movies could be made cheaply as long as those making it had the creativity needed to do it.

13. Rick Baker: A lot of make-up artists during the 1980’s left their impression on the horror genre; from Rob Bottin to Tom Savini, one man stood above them all. Rick Baker did not stop at just gore effects but he brought new life and new looks to classic monsters and unlike many others of the time, he is still going strong in the business today.

12. Peter Lorre: The pefrect actor for playing scheming and creepy characters giving one of the greatest performances in film history in M as a terrifying child predator.

11. John Carpenter: The top filmmaker of his generation of horror directors. Say what you will of his most recent works but movies like; Halloween, They Live, and his take on The Thing still hold up today as much as they did when they were released.

10. Alfred Hitchcock: The man who proved that just because a movie was scary did not mean it could not be a prestige film. The Master of Suspense terrified audiences with movies that were of a quality very rarely seen before or since.

9. Jack Pierce: If you close your eyes and picture Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Mummy or any number of classic movie monsters, chances are the image you have are of his creations. As the head of make-up at Universal during their horror boom, he was responsible for designing the looks for all of the iconic creatures. Though his career came to an abrupt and unceremonious end his legacy lasts with make-up artists to this day.

8. Val Lewton: During the 1940’s while horror movies were typified by monsters lurking around in the shadows. Lewton is responsible for a completely new style of horror, focusing instead on psychological horror and the clever filmmaking.

7.  Stephen King: The Shining, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and many other classic horror films sprang from the imagination of one oif the best selling authors of all time. Despite never having starred in or made a single movie is impact on films that terrify people is without question.

6. Peter Cushing: The Karloff to Lee’s Lugosi widely known for his kindness and politness (he would offer to get crew members tea and coffee on the set) and thios genial spirit came threw in his heroic potrayal as the definitive Van Helsing but this did not stop him from being a sinister Dr. Frankenstein.

5. Christopher Lee: The Hammer star who brought gothic horror back to cinemas with his menacing portrayal of Dracula and other monsters. Despite now being close to 90 years old he can still terrify audiences with his intimidating presence.

4. Lon Chaney Sr.: The silent film star and make-up artist who grew tired of the standard film and brought horror and the macabre to Hollywood.  The monsters he created with his make up abilities and his unparalleled acting talents still strike a chord with fans today.

3. Bela Lugosi: Vampires and horror have always been inseparable and one man defined the vampire for the cinemas. The orginal Count Dracula with his foreign mystique and general creepiness he brought a sense of menace and dark mystery to every scene he was in.

2. Boris Karloff: Monsters are without a doubt, scary and ugly; yet one man made the audience sympathize with them. Karloff had the innate ability to find the humanity in the most inhuman of monsters.

1. Vincent Price: The man who did more to make horror accessible to the mainstream than any other.  His sense of black humor  as well as his iconic voice made him instantly recognizable to audiences. Until his unfortunate passing he not only spread his love of horror but his love of life, making an instant impact on all those lucky enough to meet him.