In the 1940s and 50s, it was Universal Pictures Hollywood that ruled horror cinema. In the 60s came the Italian horror wave, and, in the 1970s, with the exception of classics such as The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, and a few others, it was British studios that produced some of the finest bone-chilling horror films. While the Brits already had many classics from their Hammer efforts, the 1970s proved to be a boom for British made horror of all types.
From witch-hunting to devil worship to haunted mansions, a bevy of excellent fright films was gifted to American cinemas from our filmmaking brethren across the pond.
10 The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971)
In a 17th century village, the young are being drawn in by the devil to become a satanic cult and bring him back to the world of the living through violence and sex.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw is folk horror at its finest. The film is full of torture and murder, but it never becomes too over the top or gruesome. The horror comes about after the audience becomes enchanted by the film’s characters. The cast of mostly unknowns is solid, and director Piers Haggard directs with an artful eye and brings an energy to the film along with an effective creepiness.
9 The Vampire Lovers (1970)
The Vampire Lovers is a great 70s vampire film that finds genre icon Ingrid Pitt playing a seductive vampire who has come to a remote European village to get revenge on the townsfolk who wiped out her family. Another icon, Peter Cushing costars as the town’s General who led the attack on the vampire clan, and both give great performances.
Director Roy Ward baker keeps this Hammer Studios production entertaining, and, while the film shies away from the sexuality that Pitt uses to seduce people into her trap, the film does have a sensuous quality to it that comes with the vampire lore.
8 Death Line A.K.A. Raw Meat (1972)
People in London are going missing. When Scotland Yard steps up to investigate, it is discovered that there is a subhuman element living in the sewers beneath the city. Donald Pleasence plays the chief inspector on the case who laughs off the discovery until he sees the deadly reality the city is facing.
One of the great horror films about cannibals, Death Line was renamed Raw Meat in the states. Director Gary Sherman allows the film to be just creepy enough and just gruesome enough to create a fine balance for genre fans. Sherman’s extremely scary British horror film deserves to be better remembered.
7 The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a delightfully old fashioned horror film. Vincent Price does excellent work as the title character who takes macabre revenge—based on the plagues of ancient Egypt—on the team of doctors who couldn’t save his late wife.
Price gives the role everything he has and is a delight to watch while the strange early 70s art direction lends a psychedelic feel to this unique and entertaining horror film.
6 The Wicker Man (1973)
Robin Hardy’s classic The Wicker Man is one of the most bizarre and beloved cult films of them all. A Christian policeman searches for a missing girl which leads him to an island named Summersisle, a place of seemingly happy people who worship nature. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the policeman’s plight becomes increasingly dire with each scene.
Edward Woodward is the policeman, while Britt Eckland and Christopher Lee costar as citizens of Summersisle. Director Hardy brilliantly unspools the tension bit by bit until the film reaches its terrifying finale. The godfather of the folk horror film, it was butchered by the studio upon its initial release, but the film is now available in its full cut, the way the filmmakers intended.
5 To The Devil A Daughter (1976)
Richard Widmark is a writer who examines devil worship. He is called to England to save a young girl played by Nastassia Kinski, in her film debut, from the grips of the fantastic Christopher Lee’s devil-worshipping excommunicated priest.
Through eerie production design and superior acting To the Devil, a Daughter becomes a quite effective horror film and one of the best of the 70s devil worship craze. Peter Sykes’ film mixes well-filmed black magic rituals to bring out its devilish tale, adding extra nuance to the already creepy proceedings.
4 Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970)
In one of the best Dracula films, Christopher Lee takes his signature role into the 1970s with Taste the Blood of Dracula, the tale of four men who accidentally resurrect the vampire and murder his servant. Once returned, Dracula seeks revenge.
With censorship getting lighter at the beginning of the 70s, the filmmakers were allowed more chances to show blood. While they don’t overdo it, there are ample scenes where the blood flows. Peter Sasdy made this one of the scariest of the Lee Dracula films, choosing an old-style atmospheric quality while giving fans the horror jolts they expect. The film is special as it continued Christopher Lee’s reign as the longest-running actor to play Dracula, which he would do in three more films.
3 Twins Of Evil (1971)
Twins of Evil is a vicious, erotic, and scary Hammer horror film that finds a harsh and determined Peter Cushing as a witch and vampire hunter who must save his twin nieces from the spell of a devil-worshiping vampire.
This is a film that takes on the repression of the Catholic Church and makes a comment on the witch trials of the time. Director JohnHough keeps this film moving fast but never loses the message nor skimps on the terror. There isn’t a wasted moment to be found in this terrific example of British horror.
2 The Devils (1971)
In Ken Russell’s controversial film The Devils, the filmmaker takes on religious fanatics, sexual repression and perversity, the inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Catholic Church. The director does this through some of the most bizarre and grotesque imagery ever put to film.
Vanessa Redgrave stars as a deformed and sexually repressed nun who tries to stop the evil Cardinale Richelieu, while Oliver Reed plays a character who represents the antichrist. This is still a film that shocks, disgusts, and divides people to this day.
1 Don’t Look Now (1973)
Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is one of the most respected horror films of the 1970s. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are absolutely wonderful as the parents of a dead daughter who go to the city of Venice when they are warned by a psychic of impending doom. Sutherland also believes he sees the ghost of his dead daughter and follows her through the city’s labyrinthine streets and waterways.
The film is a shocking and quite serious tale of loss and fate. Roeg makes the film frightening, as he fills every scene with a sense of death and finality. This film is a rich and artful horror.
NEXT: 10 British Horror Movies You Need To Watch
How I Met Your Mother: 5 Most Likeable Characters (& 5 Fans Can’t Stand)