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The 1960s is a decade chalk full of terrifying horrors that not just make your skin crawl, or even send you leaping in fright. These few titles stick with you, long after even the credits have finished rolling. Not that they're too scary to watch, it's just that these must see horror movies from the 1960s have some of the most frightening stories attached, in addition to some of the most horrifying characters built for evil and malice like never before.
Designed more to be pieces of artistic wonder and insight into the ways of our most fearful introspections, these must see horror movies from the 1960s have given us thrills, style, and above all terror. They will not only mess with the mind, but ensnare the senses, making you somehow believe in the monster that dwells deep in the unknown darkness under your bed, even see him lying there in wait. Don't go to sleep after seeing any of the following horror films, or you may just find yourself in a nightmare of your own...
The quintessential name among all horror movies from the 1960s for which sparked a phenomena in horror and birthed the illustrious character of Norman Bates. More terrifying, in my opinion, is his lair whereupon most of his life has been holed up inside of a hotel (The Bates Motel, to be exact).
It is here where an unsuspecting Marion Crane meets the taxidermy-crazed Bates in a standoff of the decade. Well, "standoff" might be pushing it, since Bates does all the terrorizing (not to mention mommy), but it's still among the scariest horror movies set in hotels and remains a classic still to this day. The infamous shower scene; who can forget that?
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Though it might not be as popular as others among most terrifying horror movies from the 1960s, yet Masque of the Red Death still has its catching glare, especially for the fact that it's based on Edgar Allen Poe's 1842 short story "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy."
Coined "the Red Death," a deadly and all-murderous plague begins ravaging the area of Prince Pospero's. The story follows his quest in eluding the plague, but as all horrors tend to go, the Prince's seven different rooms within a secure abbey become a living hell of epic proportions as his planned masquerade falls into deadly hands.
Black Sunday (1960)
An interesting dive into the Italian gothic trope, Black Sunday is most iconic and unique for being an unbelievable ride down the unknown. Though it is somewhat (and by somewhat, I mean very little) based on the short story "Vy" by Nikolai Gogoi, Black Sunday still seems to encapsulate audiences with its heartbreaking story and spellbinding performances. The narrative of the short and film plot basically deal with a witch who is put to death by her brother only to return 200 years later in the seeking of revenge on her ancestry.
As you can guess by any of the best horror movies from the 1960s, Black Sunday was highly detested for its utter gruesome display of carnage and blood, but that made no matter. It scored big with critical and box office acclaim, sailing into the 2004 "100 Scariest Movie Moments" with one highly remarked-upon scene that made it to 40th on the list.
This Japanese anthology is actually based on a number of parallels to both folklore and historical Japanese fairy tales, like those from Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Haem.
This Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi, involves four different stories that are seemingly separate and unrelated, for which the title interprets: taken from the transliteration of Kaidan, "ghost story." Kwaidan was so popular and among the most fearful horror movies from the 1960s that it even won Special Jury Prize in the 1965 Cannes Film Festival upon its release.
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe short of the same name, The Pit and the Pendulum is a tale of woe, sorrow, and the 16th century. It follows Francis Barnard as he traverses to Spain in order to explain his sister's rather eerie and otherwise strange death.
Even eerier is the fact that Barnard's sister had just been married to the son of the Spanish Inquisitor, a well-known cruel individual whose ruthlessness has not gone unnoticed. As Barnard digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding his sister's passing, the more chilling his presence feels to him grows, and he realizes his stay was a mistake.
Yes, we all watch the classics, but none of you have even heard of Jigoku (and for good reason). The original Japanese name may not sound as demonic and as terrifying as its translation (The Sinners of Hell), but it's still among terrifying horror movies from the 1960s.
Other than being an extremely terrifying tale in of itself, the story is actually a rather original and interesting depiction of various sinners who meet at the Gates of Hell to discuss their interconnected stories of revenge, deceit, murder, and adultery.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Carnival of Souls utilizes a vast array of techniques horror movies use to scare you, which is reason alone for it being a Criterion Collection classic. At the time of its release, the movie was an independent horror film based on a woman whose car accident takes a turn for the worse.
It's among the most frightening horror movies from the 1960s, for it depicts an unlikely story of one woman's attempt to assimilate back into a world that has seemingly already pushed her far, far away. In this push from society, she finds herself in the company of a ghoulish mystery man, who is the director of an abandoned carnival. From there, things spiral into uncertainty, confusion, and most of all extreme terror.
Blood Feast (1963)
Somewhat similar to Eyes Without a Face, the 1963-released Blood Feast is a showing of blood, gore, and absolute death that many tend to do their very best in ridding this film from their mind. Why do you think it's among the most horrifying horror movies from the 1960s?
In an attempt to bring back an Egyptian goddess from the dead, a caterer goes about systematically killing off innocent woman within a small suburb of Miami. As he continues his feats of blood, a bereft detective attempts to both find and stop him at all costs. This film will not only keep you on the edge of your seat, it will probably gross the shit out of you.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Before even The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later kicked off their zombie craze, there was the classic and all-too terrifying Night of the Living Dead. Released way back in 1968, the film is a black and white rendition of the dead rising, upon which death is reborn anew and terrorizes a Western Pennsylvania farm.
Interestingly, and among reasons why it's one of the most terrifying horror movies from the 1960s, Night of the Living Dead was produced on only $114,000 dollar budget and grossed around $18 million internationally ($12 million domestically). For a movie in the 1960s, that's staggering, to say the least (if not terrifying most of all). Since then it has spawned five different sequel renditions, all directed by George Romeo.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Rosemary's Baby is and will always remain a Roman Polanski essential, along with being among the most terrifyingly psychological horror movies from the 1960s. Unlike most, it's a display of one woman's protective nature in keeping her baby safe as she suspects an evil cult is out to get her child.
The movie is riddled with psychological ideologies and a plethora of twists that keep you guessing right up until the very end. I'm still kind of unsure as to who is really insane; the mother or the ritualistic cultists. Rosemary's Baby has been so well-received it was preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry as of 2014 and remains a cultural icon of both fear and psychological horror.
Peeping Tom (1960)
This British psychological thriller and horror undergoes a crude examination of a "peeping tom" who actually isn't sexually driven, but is more so outrageously insane. Mark Lewis is, after all, a serial killer who likes to video tape his victims in the act of extreme terror.
It's no surprise that Peeping Tom is among the best horror movies from the 1960s in that he showcases one man's (who isn't really a man, after all) hidden layers of evil and malignancy. Lewis is a monster, but can he be humanized in some way? That's what Peeping Tom can afford to extrapolate with its cunning portrayal of fear and thrills as we take part in Lewis' gradual fall from grace.