Today is Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday! Happy birthday! To celebrate, here are the 13 best British (UK) horror films from 1953 (the year of her coronation) to present, in order of their release. There are a lot of films to choose from, so I went with those that I felt were the most UK in feeling, and certain films, like “An American Werewolf in London,” weren’t counted because its writer/director, John Landis, is American. There are also so many films I can’t include them all – here are my top 13.
1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Nothing says English horror like Hammer Films. This was their first color film, and marked the beginning of their series of classic (Universal classics-like) adaptations. Christopher Lee’s Creature was disturbingly realistic-looking, and Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein poetic.
2. The Mummy (1959) – Another Hammer classic adaptation starring Cushing/Lee, this movie hold a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which shows how awesome it is.
3. Peeping Tom (1960) – This psychological thriller was revolutionary at the time, and deemed a little too vulgar by critics because of its subject matter: a photographer makes a film about fear, focusing on his victims as he records their murders.
4. Village of the Damned (1960) – The original creepy kid horror film.
5. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) – Vincent Price is a legend, and his Dr. Phibes has become a horror classic. The film follows the title character, Phibes, as he exacts revenge upon the medical team that attended to his wife at her death four years prior. Phibes’ murder spree is inspired by the Ten Plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament.
6. Frenzy (1972) – Alfred Hitchcock is certainly a British treasure, as well as one of horror’s greatest pioneers. As his career progressed his films got grittier and more provocative, and this movie, about a serial killer who murders with a necktie, is no exception.
7. The Wicker Man (1973) – The British cult film (literally about a cult) to end all cult films.
8. Dracula (1979) – I know Hammer had a string of wonderful Dracula adaptations starring Sir Christopher Lee. But this version has always been my favorite, and I stand by it. Dark, atmospheric, beautiful, and featuring the handsome Frank Langella and the incomparable Sir Laurence Olivier, this movie is an underrated classic. I have loved it since I was five years-old, and I always will.
9. Hellraiser (1987) – Clive Barker, I am glad you now call L.A. home. But back when he was still a young writer in England, he adapted his novella “The Hellbound Heart” into the masterpiece we have before us, which spawned a whole legion of Cenobite sequels (only the second film is really any good).
10. Dog Soldiers (2002) – We have a big jump between “Hellraiser” and this film, but it took a long time for someone to reimagine the werewolf into something badass again.
11. 28 Days Later (2002) – Cillian Murphy, you are so awesome. Danny Boyle, you are so awesome. Zombies are awesome. Put all three together and you get a really good film. (I know they aren’t technically zombies, but let’s not get too in-depth here.) The main reason this film reinvigorated the zombie film was because it seems altogether too real – these seem like real people, not actors, and it seems like this movie could actually happen.
12. The Last Horror Movie (2003) – My favorite film ever.
13. Eden Lake (2008) – Not many people have seen this little gem, but Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly are fantastic. British hoodlums are always a popular characterization, and the kids in this movie are no exception. They are well-played (though their deeds are very bad) and the action leaves you breathless.