If you’ve ever wondered which are the best films based on the story of Frankenstein or featuring Frankenstein’s Monster, I hope this article, Frankenstein in the Movies, will give you a good grasp of all of the main titles about this legendary horror character.
The Character of “Frankenstein’s Monster” (Dr. Victor Frankenstein being it’s creator) was first envisioned by English novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1818.
The story goes that during a fierce lightening storm, raging outside their villa, the poet Lord Byron suggested to Mary, her fiancé, Percy Shelley and other friends present that they should spend the gloomy evening writing ghost stories…
Two eternal classics were created that night. The first was John Polidori’s The Vampire. And the second? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!
Polidori’s short work was the first of it’s kind and would influence Dracula written 80 years later. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus as it was called, went on to become a huge success and soon led to many adaptations for the stage. The very first of these occurred in 1823.
One of the World’s First Films!
Then, in 1910, Thomas Edison, inventor and pioneer of early cinema created the worlds first film version of the story which ran for around 16 minutes. Frankenstein 1910.
Below is the movie in full:
In 1915 came the world’s second Frankenstein film, Life Without Soul. It tells the tale of a young doctor who produces a soulless man but realizes he has dreamed the whole event after falling asleep reading Mary Shelley’s gothic Novel. This film is unfortunately now considered lost.
Another lost film is the third feature produced. This was an Italian adaptation called, The Monster of Frankenstein from 1920.
Then came the movie which truly bought The Monster to life. Universal Studio’s Frankenstein from 1931. It is for this film that The Creature is best remembered. A groundbreaking film in it’s time, it was a huge success with audiences and critics alike.
Director James Whale managed to combine elements of horror, science fiction and comedy in a very unique way. Actor Boris Karloff was a virtual unknown when he was spotted by the director in the studio cafeteria and considered for the main role. Interestingly, Bela Lugosi was the first choice to play The Monster after his performance as Dracula.
Enormous credit must go to makeup artist Jack Pierce who’s vision it was that gave us such a powerful representation of a deep primal horror character.
Bride of Frankenstein quickly followed in 1935. Again directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff. This film continued with the successful mix of horror, comedy and sympathy for The Monster. Many fans and critics feel that Bride of Frankenstein is the superior film.
1939 saw the release of Son of Frankenstein. The third in the series from Universal and starring Karloff as The Monster and Bela Lugosi as the scheming Igor. I personally feel that this film is the best of the three.
The Ghost of Frankenstein was next in 1942. This time Lon Chaney Jr.(The Wolfman) played the part of The Monster giving him more of a slow, hulking appearance. Lugosi was back for his role as Igor.
Next up? Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman! (1943). This time Bela Lugosi stepped up to play The Monster after relinquishing the original role in the 1930’s. Lon Chaney Jr. played the role which he was now famous for, The Wolfman.
House of Frankenstein (1944) featured Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster. He was joined by Dracula (John Carradine), The Wolfman (Lon Chaney) a hunchback and a mad scientist! (Boris Karloff).
This would be the first of several “monster ensembles” by Universal Studios, attempting to give dwindling audiences more bang for their buck.
Made directly after this was House of Dracula in 1945. Glenn Strange was back in his second of four appearances as The Creature. Carradine was also back as Dracula, as was Lon Chaney as Wolfman.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is a fantastic blending of horror/comedy and is a huge success with fans and critics to this day. Glenn Strange plays Frankenstein’s Monster.
Then in 1957 came Hammer Studios’ lavish color update, The Curse of Frankenstein starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as his creation. The first in a series from Hammer, it gave us a new interpretation of The Monster, departing from the universally known image created by Jack Pierce.
Also that year was I Was a Teenage Frankenstein by AIP Studios.
Hammer followed up ‘Curse of…’ with Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). A great sequel to their first hit. Stars Peter Cushing.The same year also saw Frankenstein 1970 starring Boris Karloff, the original Frankenstein’s Monster. This time however, he plays Baron Victor von Frankenstein. This film has no ties with the earlier Universal classics.
The next film in the Hammer line is The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). Stars Peter
Cushing and a New Zealand Wrestler named Kiwi Kingston. The film is noted for the Monster’s resemblance to the classic, familiar image created by Jack Pierce for Boris Karloff in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Frankenstein Conquers the World is a Japanese release from 1965. Here, The Monster is depicted as a giant! War of the Gargantuas was the sequel. Released in Japan as Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda versus Gaira and featuring giant hairy humanoids!
Mad Monster Party ( 1967) is a stop-motion animated comedy. Boris Karloff provides the voice of Baron Boris von Frankenstein.
The Horror of Frankenstein from 1970 is another film by Hammer. David Prowse who later played the physical role of Darth Vader, here plays The Monster in the first of two appearances. His second stint was in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974).
Some Serious Takes and Some Serious Shockers!
Lady Frankenstein came in 1971 being an Italian horror film production. There are some similarities between this film and those made by Hammer Studios and comparisons are often made between each.
Several films were made in 1973 about our titular monster. Andy Worhol’s Frankenstein aka, Flesh for Frankenstein is a gory but blackly humorous Italian-French horror film. While Blackenstein is a “Blaxploitation” horror movie made following the relative success of Blacula the year before.
Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) is a fantastic made-for-tv retelling of the story which offers a great cast and production. The Creature here looks fine to start with but gradually becomes more horrible as the movie progresses.
Young Frankenstein (1974) is a comedy directed by Mel Brooks, starring Gene Wilder. Partly a homage to the old Universal classics, it’s shot in black and white and made to resemble the original Frankenstein films. Pretty funny!
The Bride in 1985 came next and starred singer/songwriter Sting and Jennifer Beals.
The Monster Squad is a horror/comedy/adventure film from 1987 featuring the classic Universal Monsters of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Mummy. A little bit like The Goonies from the same era with a group of kids battling the old monsters.
Frankenhooker is a very loose adaptation of the Frankenstein tale from 1990, with the ever-so-stylish tag: “A terrifying tale of sluts and bolts..!”
Frankenstein Unbound also from 1990 was directed by famous low budget horror director Roger Corman. It starred John Hurt, Raúl Juliá and Bridget Fonda and has a brief appearance by INXS star, Michael Hutchence.
Next in 1994 came Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. With an all star cast including Kenneth Branagh (also directing), Robert De Niro, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm and John Cleese!
A fairly faithful period drama and adaptation of the original novel, many find this film highly stylized and emotionally powerful.
Van Helsing was the next to present Frankenstein’s Monster. A fantasy/action/horror film Starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale and featuring a beefed up but classical looking Creature.
Recent Animated Versions
Frankenweenie (2012) is a black and white, stop-motion animated film by Tim Burton which pays homage to the traditional Frankenstein story. The role of The Monster however is replaced by a boys best friend, his dog.
Hotel Transylvania, also 2012, is a computer animated comedy featuring Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula etc. The Monster is voiced by Kevin James.
The following year, Frankenstein’s Army was released. This version is an American/Dutch found-footage horror film about a Nazi scientist who’s a descendent of Victor Frankenstein, creating undead, stitched-together soldiers from the body parts of fallen comrades.
Yet another version came in 2014. I, Frankenstein is a fantasy, action film starring Aaron Eckhart as The Monster. He finds himself caught up in the middle of a battle between Demons and Gargoyles. Similar in style to the Underworld series.
Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (2015) Is a fairly low budget affair bringing together Two classic Universal Monsters for a very brief confrontation toward the end of the film.
…And finally, the last film for this list of Frankenstein in the Movies is Victor Frankenstein from 2015. Told from the perspective of Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant. Stars Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.
With so many titles and variations of the original theme, it makes you wonder what the author Mary Shelley would think of her novel’s influence.
Could she have ever possibly conceived of giving life to such an enduring creature on that dark, fertile night almost two hundred years ago!!
Thanks for checking this list out. I hope you’ve found what you were looking for. Any questions or comments, please place them in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading,