Boris Karloff was a legendary British actor known for his iconic performances in horror movies during the golden age of Hollywood.

He was born in 1887 in London, England, and began his career on stage before transitioning to film in the 1920s.

Karloff is best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 film “Frankenstein,” which cemented his place in cinema history.

Best Boris Karloff Movies

Over the course of his career, he appeared in over 100 films and left an indelible mark on the horror genre.

We’ll explore some of the best Boris Karloff movies that showcase his talent and continue to captivate audiences today.

1. Frankenstein (1931)

“Frankenstein” is arguably Boris Karloff’s most famous movie and one of the most iconic horror films of all time.

Directed by James Whale, the film was released in 1931 and tells the story of a scientist named Dr. Henry Frankenstein (played by Colin Clive) who creates a monster (played by Karloff) out of dead body parts.

Karloff’s portrayal of the monster, with his lumbering gait, sunken eyes, and inarticulate speech, created an unforgettable image that has become a cultural touchstone.

The film was a box office success and remains a classic of the horror genre, thanks in large part to Karloff’s unforgettable performance.

Frankenstein
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke (Actors)
  • James Whale (Director) - Garrett Fort (Writer) - Carl Laemmle Jr. (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2.The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

“The Bride of Frankenstein” is the sequel to the original “Frankenstein” and was released in 1935.

Once again directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the monster, the film follows the monster’s search for companionship and the creation of a female mate (played by Elsa Lanchester).

Karloff’s performance in this film is considered by many to be even better than his work in the original. He imbues the monster with a poignant sense of longing and isolation, and his scenes with the blind hermit (played by O.P. Heggie) are particularly moving.

   

“The Bride of Frankenstein” is a masterpiece of horror filmmaking and a testament to Karloff’s talent as an actor.

Bride of Frankenstein
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Dwight Frye, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger (Actors)
  • James Whale (Director) - Mary Shelley (Writer) - Carl Laemmle Jr. (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3.The Old Dark House (1932)

“The Old Dark House” is a 1932 horror-comedy film directed by James Whale, which stars Boris Karloff as Morgan, the butler of a remote and creepy Welsh mansion.

The film follows a group of travelers who seek refuge in the mansion during a storm and encounter a variety of odd characters and unsettling situations.

Karloff’s performance as the menacing and mysterious butler is one of the highlights of the film, and he manages to be both creepy and humorous at the same time. “The Old Dark House” is an underrated gem of early horror cinema and a must-see for fans of the genre.

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The Old Dark House
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton (Actors)
  • James Whale (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

4.The Body Snatcher (1945)

“The Body Snatcher” is a 1945 horror film directed by Robert Wise and starring Boris Karloff as the titular character, a ruthless grave robber named John Gray who supplies corpses to a medical school.

The film is based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson and is considered one of Karloff’s best performances. He brings a chilling intensity to the role of Gray, who becomes increasingly unhinged as the story progresses.

The film also stars Bela Lugosi in a supporting role, and the two horror legends have several memorable scenes together. “The Body Snatcher” is a suspenseful and atmospheric film that showcases Karloff’s talent as an actor beyond his more famous monster roles.

The Body Snatcher
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Henry Daniell, Boris Karloff, Russell Wade (Actors)
  • Robert Wise (Director) - Philip MacDonald (Writer) - Val Lewton (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

5.Targets (1968)

“Targets” is a 1968 horror-thriller directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which stars Boris Karloff in his final on-screen role. In the film, Karloff plays Byron Orlok, an aging horror film star who becomes the target of a young sniper (played by Tim O’Kelly) on a killing spree.

“Targets” is a unique film that blends the old-fashioned horror of Karloff’s past with the new, more realistic violence of the late 1960s.

   

Karloff’s performance as Orlok is a reflection of his own career as an aging horror icon, and his scenes with O’Kelly are tense and gripping.

The film is a haunting meditation on the nature of violence and the changing face of horror cinema, and it serves as a fitting farewell to one of the genre’s most beloved actors.

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Targets [DVD]
  • Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Arthur Peterson (Actors)
  • Peter Bogdanovich (Director) - Peter Bogdanovich (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

6.The Black Cat (1934)

“The Black Cat” is a 1934 horror film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, which stars Boris Karloff as Hjalmar Poelzig, a sinister architect and devil worshiper. The film is loosely based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe and features Karloff in one of his most sinister roles.

He is magnetic on screen as Poelzig, a man with a dark past who seeks revenge on his former comrade (played by Bela Lugosi) in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Karloff’s performance is chilling, and his scenes with Lugosi are some of the highlights of the film.

“The Black Cat” is a moody and atmospheric film that showcases Karloff’s ability to play complex and disturbing characters.

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The Black Cat (1934)
  • Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi (Actors)
  • Edgar G. Ulmer (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

7.The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

“The Mask of Fu Manchu” is a 1932 adventure film directed by Charles Brabin, which stars Boris Karloff as the infamous villain Fu Manchu. The film follows Fu Manchu as he searches for the sword and mask of Genghis Khan, which he believes will grant him ultimate power.

Karloff’s performance as Fu Manchu is a masterclass in villainy, as he brings a sinister charm to the character and imbues him with a sense of otherworldly power.

   

The film also features Myrna Loy in a supporting role as Fu Manchu’s daughter, and the two actors have a palpable chemistry on screen. “The Mask of Fu Manchu” is a thrilling and entertaining adventure film that highlights Karloff’s versatility as an actor.

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Karen Morley (Actors)
  • Charles Brabin (Director) - Irene Kuhn (Writer) - Irving Thalberg (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8.Son of Frankenstein (1939)

“Son of Frankenstein” is a 1939 horror film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Boris Karloff as the monster, in his final portrayal of the iconic character.

The film follows the son of Dr. Frankenstein (played by Basil Rathbone) as he returns to his father’s castle and becomes embroiled in a battle with the vengeful Igor (played by Bela Lugosi) and the resurrected monster.

Karloff’s performance as the monster is both haunting and sympathetic, and he brings a sense of humanity to the character that is often overlooked in other portrayals.

The film also features impressive sets and a gothic atmosphere that captures the spirit of the original “Frankenstein.” “Son of Frankenstein” is a fitting end to Karloff’s tenure as the monster and a classic of the horror genre.

Son of Frankenstein
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi (Actors)
  • Rowland V. Lee (Director) - Rowland V. Lee (Writer) - Rowland V. Lee (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

9.The Raven (1935)

“The Raven” is a 1935 horror-comedy film directed by Lew Landers, which stars Boris Karloff as Dr. Richard Vollin, a mad surgeon who becomes obsessed with a young dancer (played by Irene Ware). The film also features Bela Lugosi as a rival surgeon who seeks to discredit Vollin.

Karloff’s performance as Vollin is a tour-de-force, as he brings a manic energy to the role and delivers some of the film’s most memorable lines.

The film is notable for its blend of horror and humor, and for its iconic use of the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. “The Raven” is a fun and entertaining film that showcases Karloff’s versatility as an actor.

The Raven
  • Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Samuel S. Hinds (Actors)
  • Louis Friedlander (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

10.The Mummy (1932)

“The Mummy” is a 1932 horror film directed by Karl Freund, which stars Boris Karloff as Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian priest who is resurrected after being buried alive.

The film follows Imhotep as he seeks to reunite with his lost love, who he believes has been reincarnated as a young woman (played by Zita Johann).

Karloff’s performance as Imhotep is mesmerizing, as he brings a sense of tragedy and longing to the character.

The film also features impressive makeup and special effects that make Karloff’s transformation from a decrepit mummy to a powerful and menacing figure all the more impressive. “The Mummy” is a classic of the horror genre and a testament to Karloff’s talent as an actor.

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The Mummy (1932) [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Boris Karloff, David Manners, Zita Johann (Actors)
  • Karl Freund (Director) - John L. Balderston (Writer) - Carl Laemmle, Jr. (Producer)
  • French (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

3 Reasons To Watch Boris Karloff Movies

Boris Karloff was a master of his craft: Boris Karloff was a talented actor with a unique presence and an ability to bring depth and nuance to his performances.

His work in horror movies, in particular, stands out for its memorable characters and iconic moments. Watching his films allows viewers to witness a true master at work, and appreciate the skill and dedication that Karloff brought to each role.

Karloff helped define the horror genre: Boris Karloff’s performances in films like “Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” helped define the horror genre and established many of the conventions that are still in use today.

Watching these films allows viewers to see the roots of modern horror cinema and to understand the impact that Karloff had on the genre.

Karloff’s films are timeless classics: Many of Boris Karloff’s films are now considered timeless classics, and continue to captivate and terrify audiences today.

These films represent some of the best examples of early horror cinema and are a must-see for fans of the genre. Watching Karloff’s films is a way to connect with the history of horror cinema and to appreciate the enduring appeal of these timeless classics.

Best Boris Karloff Movies – Wrap Up

Boris Karloff’s career spanned several decades, and his impact on the horror genre continues to be felt today.

From his iconic portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster to his more nuanced performances in films like “The Body Snatcher” and “Targets,” Karloff left an indelible mark on cinema history.

His unique presence and ability to imbue his characters with a sense of humanity and depth helped establish many of the conventions of the horror genre, and his films remain popular with audiences today.

Whether you’re a horror fan or a lover of classic cinema, watching Boris Karloff’s films is a must.