10 Essential Horror Movies: The 1960s

The best horror from 1960-1969

While the Golden Age of Horror focused on now classic monsters like Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man, the 1960s was a major turning point in the genre. Instead of focusing on a singular monster, the ’60s played on themes of suspense, paranoia, paranormal activity and phobias, helping to shape what would soon become the horror we know and love today. Within the top 10 most popular horror movies of the 1960s, two directors reigned supreme: Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski.

Hitchcock has been referred to as the Master of Suspense, building his name by directing murder mystery films throughout the 1950s. Then in the 1960s, he released two of his most popular films of all time: “Psycho” and “The Birds.” Each film was unique in it’s own right and helped to solidify Hitchcock as an icon for the ages. Polanski on the other hand got some traction in horror with his 1965 film “Repulsion.” But in 1968 he became the most talked about director in Hollywood with “Rosemary’s Baby.” Then, shortly after the film was released, Polanski entered a horror movie of his own after his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969.

If you’re looking to binge a horror movie or two this weekend, why not take it back to the swinging ’60s? Take a look at our top 10 horror movies of the 1960s in the gallery below and let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments section on social media.

Psycho (1960)

The decade began with Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological horror masterpiece, which kept audiences guessing until the very end. Based on the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch, “Psycho” changed horror forever.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Considered to be the world’s first zombie movie, this film was beloved by audiences and critics alike, often for the gratuitous use of gore. “Night of the Living Dead” capped off ’60s horror, moving audiences toward the gruesome and gory trends of the 1970s.

Eyes Without a Face (1962)

This film blends the mad scientist trope with modern medicine, terrifying audiences with the idea of a face graft. Well beyond it’s years, this film was something fresh and fantastic for the time.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Actress Mia Farrow was made an instant star in Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and for the time, it was a revolutionary portrayal of women’s liberation. This film is truly one for the ages and as a woman, it scares the crap out of me.

Repulsion (1965)

Prior to releasing “Rosemary’s Baby,” Polanski directed “Repulsion” and the portrayal of a female killer was rather unusual for the genre at the time. A trigger warning is in order though, as this film follows a woman who’s experienced sexual assault and it’s pretty disturbing.

The Birds (1963)

Inspired by the short story by Daphne du Marier, this natural horror flick plays on a phobia of birds and turns it up to 100. This is one of the most famous films to play on the theme of nature rebelling against mankind, inspiring other films such as 1977’s “Kingdom of the Spiders,” 1972’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” and 2006’s “Snakes on a Plane.”

The Innocents (1961)

Before “The Shining,” audiences were captivated by another story of ghosts and children in a large manor. 1961’s “The Innocents,” follows a governess in charge of two young children, only to find out that the home is haunted by ghosts and the children are possessed.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Iconic actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford star as sisters, the former being a forgotten child star and the latter an acclaimed Hollywood actress who was bound to a wheelchair after a mysterious car accident. This film amplifies themes of sibling rivalry and jealous to the extreme, showing that even family can be deadly.

Black Sunday (1960)

Gothic, dark and witchy, this film follows a two century year old witch who’s brought back to life by a drop of blood and stays alive by feeding off the souls of others. It’s a haunting portrayal of witches and a refreshing departure from the Salem Witch Trials.

The Haunting (1963)

If you’re a fan of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” you should check out 1963’s “The Haunting.” Based on the story by Shirley Jackson, this film showed paranormal activity and haunted houses in a brand new light—inspiring the genre for decades to come.