Best Public Domain Horror Movies for Halloween

This Halloween why not treat yourself to one of the many public domain horror movies out there? While I cannot check each and every one of these, they are all listed by the Internet Archive as being public domain, which means nobody owns the anymore and they are free to watch! Mostly this is because are simply so old the copyright has expired. But sometimes, as with Gorge A Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, there was an error in the copyright registration which means they were never in copyright in the first place!

So if you want a classic horror movie to add a little old school charm and terror to your Halloween, check out this list of awesome movies below!

Nosferatu (1922)

The most famous silent movie ever breached copyright when it was made. Bram Stoker’s widow sued the filmmakers over this one. Instead of Count Dracula we have Graf Orlock played by the hideously made up Max Schrek (whose name means “fear” in German). Still has the power to unnerve!

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

A hypnotist uses a sleepwalking zombie to commit murders. This film is noteworthy for its incredible set design, which looks like an Expressionistic nightmare. One of the most influential horror movies ever!

Haxan (1922)

This dreamlike masterpiece is a “documentary” about witchcraft but also features some amazing creature designs for the devils the witches summon.  A favourite at many midnight movie screenings.

Vampyr (1932)

Carl Theodore Dreyer’s surreal masterpiece tells the story of a young woman who is slowly becoming a vampire, while a young man imagines himself returning from death. Incredible cinematography and some astonishing imagery makes this an eerie classic. 

The Devil Bat (1940)

Bela Lugosi (Dracula) plays a scientist who sends a gigantic bat to kill his enemies. Accomplished B-movie fare that is a bit creaky but still a lot of fun.

I Bury The Living (1958)

A major influence on Stephen King, this shocker sees Richard Booone take over a cemetery only to discover that he can cause people’s deaths by switching the status of the graves from empty to occupied.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Vincent Price is terrific in this accomplished B-movie shocker from legendary director William Castle. A millionaire offers his guests $10,000 to stay overnight in his haunted mansion. But things are rarely what they seem!

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

A man is hailed as an artist when he covers up killing a cat by covering it with plaster. But his fame means he must go on creating ever more lifelike works… great film with Dick Miller of Gremlins fame!

The Killer Shrews (1959)

Yes, they are only dogs with fur coats on, but don’t let that put you off this nifty, atmospheric little B-movie. Proof that science, remote islands and hurricanes don’t mix!

The Bat (1959)

No actual bats this time but Vincent Price (again) who stars in this murder mystery about a psychopath called “The Bat”. Who knows when he will strike? Enjoyable hokum.

13 Ghosts (1960)

Another William Castle chiller yet again remade by Hollywood not so long ago. A family inhertis a haunted house, but gets to see the ghosts thanks to special spectacles. One of the first 3D movie sensations!

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Terrific and atmospheric supernatural thriller from Herk Harvey, a banker who decided to make films using his friends and family. This eerie masterpiece has some excellent set pieces and a famously spooky ending!

Dementia-13 (1963)

Francis Ford Coppola’s first movie is a twisty mystery that prefigures the slasher craze. A scheming widow plans to claim her husband’s inheritance, but an axe-wielding killer is on the loose!

The Last Man On Earth (1964)

Vincent Price (him again) stars in the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s apocalyptic vampire story “I Am Legend”. Atmospheric zombie/vampire film that cannot make up its mind but is  a lot of fun to watch.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A Romero’s most famous film sees the walking dead take over the Earth in this unsettling apocalyptic horror movie that spawned a million look-a-like zombie movies!

Horror Express (1972)

Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas star in this terrific tale of a prehistoric ape man fossil that suddenly starts to come alive while being transported on a train through Siberia. As a result of an error in copyright registration it became public domain in the USA.

The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

A DC reporter is bitten by a werewolf… the inevitable happens. Enjoyable B-movie that has a darkly satirical bite. Stars Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell.

Snowbeast (1977)

Legendary made for TV movie about an angry yeti attacking a Colorado skiing resort. This is pretty typical 19700s television fare, and has more than a few similarities to Jaws. But it remains cracking good fun!

So there you have it! Enough horror treats to fill anyone’s Halloween. Happy viewing, and remember, don’t have nightmares!

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