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Top 10 Gothic films

BY James Oliver

1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

Top 10 Gothic films

Our latest top ten casts an eye over a suitably spooky style of cinema. Grab a flickering candle and follow us into the world of the Gothic.

10. The House of Usher

Edgar Allen Poe didn't invent Gothic fiction but he's likely its most enduring champion, and this film is likely the most enduring adaptation of his work.

It's a film that features many Gothic hallmarks. There's doomed love, a disordered family and a house which might almost be alive. It still casts such a spell it will be enduring a good while longer yet.
Buy The House of Usher 


9. A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters  
Image via YouTube

Gothic style was first developed in Britain but the genre resonates in cultures throughout the world. Take this delicious Korean film, for example.

It’s a macabre tale of unnatural happenings in a gloomy house. Is it ghosts? Is it a wicked stepmother? Or is it something else entirely?

It might be half a world away from the traditional European castle, but it's still blooming scary.


8. Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow
GIF via Sleepy Hollow

Tim Burton has kept the Gothic flame burning away for many years now. Sleepy Hollow is his most successful excursion into the form, and maybe his best film.

It's set in a small Eighteenth century New York town that's having a spot of bother with a headless horseman.

Borrowing liberally from Hammer horror (there's even a cameo by the late, great Sir Christopher Lee) and other Gothic classics, it is the work of a true aficionado and someone who loves those old movies even more than you do.


7. Rebecca

Freshly arrived in Hollywood from Britain, Alfred Hitchcock recreated the old country in this slice of Cornish Gothic.

Adapted from Daphne du Maurier's best seller, it is a sort-of ghost story, as the memory of the dead title character echoes around the great mansion Manderlay.

There are no obvious supernatural occurrences, but the unseen Rebecca is one of the most vivid characters in the film…


6. The Uninvited

The success of Rebecca inspired a swathe of imitations, of which this is the best. Unlike Rebecca, there really is a ghost here, haunting the Cornish house where composer Ray Milland has set up shop.

Director Lewis Allen was not normally in the same class as Hitchcock but he concocts moments of suspense that the master himself would be proud of. (Oh, and if you're interested, the script was part-written by Dodie Smith of 101 Dalmatians fame!)


5. The Black Cat

The Black Cat
Image via Snip View

It was Universal Studios that first brought Gothic filmmaking to Hollywood with Dracula (1930) and Frankenstein (1931). Rather than pick one of those, let's go for the most intriguing of Universal's follow-ups.

Very loosely based on another Poe story, it sees Boris Karloff facing off against Bela Lugosi in a bizarre art-deco house. It’s a 'Gothic mansion' quite unlike any other.
Buy The Black Cat 


4. The Whip and the Body

The Whip and the Body
Image via The Whip and the Body

Italian filmmakers were always quick to rip-off other successful movies and when Hammer films started to pull the crowds, they duly broke out the fake cobwebs.

The thoroughly kinky The Whip and the Body is particularly good example of Italian Gothic. Christopher Lee rises from the grave to continue his sadomasochistic relationship with Daliah Lavi. It was directed by the genius Mario Bava, a master of light and colour.

This is one of his best and equally most disturbing works.
Buy The Whip and the Body


3. The Brides of Dracula

Since we've included so many of their imitators, we need at least one Hammer film on this list, and The Brides of Dracula will do just fine.

Despite the title, Dracula himself doesn't make an appearance (the vampire is instead the silky 'Baron Meinster') but you do get Peter Cushing on top crusading form as Van Helsing.

What makes the film is its lush, dreamy atmosphere. This is a true fairytale for grown-ups.


2. Queen of Spades

Queen of Spades
Image via Moviemail 

In the years of privation that followed The War, British people went to the movies for the excess they couldn't get elsewhere, and movies don't come more excessive than this.

Director Thorold Dickinson went all out on the visuals for this adaptation of Pushkin's supernatural story, with Anton Walbrook on imperious form as the man who would cheat death.

The results are a magnificent, over ripe masterpiece that's one of the best British films ever.


1. Great Expectations

At first glance, Great Expectations might seem an inappropriately respectable choice to top a list like this.

After all, it's a film derived from a great work of literature and the sort of folk who decide what constitutes great works of literature have always rather peered down their noses at the Gothic. Well, I say 'phooey' to 'em.

As we've already seen, 'Gothic' is distinct from 'horror', being more concerned with things like atmosphere and texture than simple scare, and this film has atmosphere and texture to burn.

The opening in the graveyard, the death masks on the lawyer's wall and, above all, Miss Haversham's decaying house. This, and its follow-up Oliver Twist, are the two best films director David Lean ever made. In fact, this, and its follow-up Oliver Twist, are two of the best films ANYONE has ever made.
Buy Great Expectations 



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