A Monster Timeline of
Horror and Sci-fi Media
This list isn't about births or deaths;
I'm only addressing works that constitute a contribution to the
genre(s). In many cases, multiple events result from one another
(e.g., a book is adapted into a movie, a movie spawns sequels or a tv
series). In those cases, I sometimes only note the more
event (e.g., the Kubrick adaptation vs. King's novel The Shining),
though other times both are remarked upon.
1308-1321: A Vision of
Hell (aka Dante's Inferno)
scenes (and growing ever worse as Dante descends to the lowest circle),
it was the inspiration for much artwork including (most famously) the
illustrations by Gustave Doré.
1819: The short story The Vampyre by John William Polidori
is published. It is the first work that successfully synthesizes
many mythic elements into what we would recognize as the modern vampire.
1820: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by
Irving is published. The original telling of the story of the
Horseman that goes on to feature in film and on tv for the next two
hundred years and counting.
1823: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary
published. Regarded as the first science fiction novel, it has
numerous adaptations (plays, films) both before and after the iconic
version starring Boris Karloff as well as a great many unofficial
that use the premise as their inspiration.
1831: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by
Victor Hugo is published. The
story is adapted numerous times (even in animated form and as a
1843: Three of Edgar Allan
Poe's most famous stories are published: The Black
Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Tell-Tale Heart, which set a
inspires countless other authors including, most famously, H.P.
Lovecraft. These stores follow only a couple years after the
of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" which is noteworthy as both a tale
and a detective story, and in fact the latter genre is generally
have begun with this work.
1886: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson
is published. This mix of multiple personalities and science
makes for a
classic premise that is copied in many, many forms, and the story
been adapted countless times in every medium.
1891: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar
Wilde is published.
Though it is one of the least-adapted of the classic horror novels, the
is an original blend of themes found in Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
1895: Edvard Munch creates his
most famous version The Scream,
art in the world. The "ghost face" mask in the
movies by Wes Craven drew inspiration
from the painting.
1896: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G.
Wells is published. It
is adapted for film several times, including the classic Island of Lost Souls
(1932) with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.
1897: Dracula by Bram Stoker is
published. It pulls together the
many disparate facets of vampiric folklore into one unforgettable
character. It serves as the basis of the Nosferatu (1922) and is adapted
for the stage as well. Bela Lugosi reprises his role when the
version (1931) of the play is directed by Tod Browning.
1897: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is
published. It is later
adapted into a film by Universal. The premise to the story is
countless forms over the next century and change. It is inducted
the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2008.
1898: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is
published. Its adaptation
(1938) as a radio drama by Orson Welles has such realism that many
believe the events depicted are breaking news broadcasts.
1902: The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs is
published. It is one of the most widely
printed stories in short story anthologies and includes an ironic
punishment, a technique mastered in Rod Serling's scripts for tv
1909-1911: Le Fantôme de
l'Opéra (The Phantom of the
Gaston Leroux is published. The story is subsequently adapted to
many, many times and even as several musicals.
1915: Franz Kafka's "Die
Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis")
all the author's works in
bibliography already filled with paranoia and depair.
1920: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is
released. The expressionist style of
this silent film influences the direction and production design of the
henceforth, perhaps mostly recognizably in the work of Tim Burton, for
1922: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des
Grauens is released. Stoker's widow sued
for this unauthorized adaptation of her late husband's novel, but
copy survives of this most horrific of vampires.
1923: The Hunchback of Notre Dame is
released. Perhaps the most famous
cinematic depiction of the title character remains this one by Lon
in the role.
1925: The Phantom of the Opera is
released. Lon Chaney demonstrates the
versatility of stage makeup in realizing the disfigured title character
onscreen. Universal remakes the film in 1943 with Claude Rains in
role. Many other remakes follow. It was inducted into the
of Congress National Film Registry in 1998.
1927: H.P. Lovecraft publishes
his essay Supernatural Horror in
which surveys the history of the genre and examines the elements within
it. It continues to be a highly-regarded overview of the field up
1927: Fritz Lang's Metropolis is released. It is
undeniably epic in scale
and advances a dystopian vision of the future and, most notably, an
a robot woman which later inspires the appearance of C-3PO in Star Wars.
1928: The short story The Call of Cthulhu by H.P.
Lovecraft is published.
It is his most famous work and contains the most dramatic appearance of
titular creation in all the author's works. The story becomes the
centerpiece in Lovecraft's mythology of inter-connected stories, and it
inspires tales from many, many others, including modern authors such as
Gaimen as well as role-playing games and countless films (most of them
1931: Dracula is released staring Bela
Lugosi, who originated the title role in
the stage production. He is forever associated with the role, and
ultimately burried in one of the capes he wore in the film. It
inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2000.
1931: Frankenstein is released.
Though other adaptations have been filmed
or performed on stage, this one, directed by James Whale, becomes
blockbuster. The relatively unknown Boris Karloff is catapulted
stardom. Jack Pierce's makeup becomes an iconic image synonymous
monster, and the character becomes a cornerstone of the Universal
starring in at least a half-dozen sequels and spin-offs. It was
into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991.
1932: The Mummy is released. The
film confirms Karloff's stardom and
cements his place in the emerging Universal monster pantheon for a
1933: King Kong is released. Its use
of stop-motion animation with
miniatures is ground-breaking (and ultimately Oscar-winning).
overlooked is the volume of optical printing employed to combine
the same frame, a technique that would come to overshadow effects to a
greater extent than stop-motion. It was inducted into the Library
Congress National Film Registry in 1991.
1933: The Invisible Man directed by James
Whale is released starring Claude
Rains in the title role. Several sequels/spin-offs follow.
1935: Bride of Frankenstein directed by
James Whale is released, a rare case
where a sequel is on par with the original, and it introduces (albeit
but unforgettably) virtually the only female Universal monster.
It was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in
1936: The novella At the Mountains of Madness by HP
published. It is arguably the best and most famous of the
works and gives a lengthy chronology of prehistoric events in the
1936: The first Flash Gordon movie serial is
released, based on the popular
comic strip (1934). Two more serials follow. George Lucas
inspired by the tone and style of these to make Star Wars (1977) (originally
planned as a straight remake, only to be abandoned due to insufficient
afford the rights), the success of which ironically leads to a modern
remake of the serials (1980). It was inducted into the Library of
Congress National Film Registry in 1996.
1937: War Of The Worlds is adapted for
radio by Orson Wells (no relation to the
source novel's author H.G. Wells). The radio episode is broadcast
Halloween episode of "The Mercury Theatre on the Air," confusing some
listeners into believing that Earth was actually being invaded.
1939: Arkham House is founded by August
Derleth and Donald Wandrei to keep
author HP Lovecraft's works in print (after having no luck generating
interest by other publishing houses). The publisher keeps
stories in the public consciousness and becomes a cornerstone of
around the author and related works (i.e., by other authors within the
1941: The Wolf Man is released. Jack
Pierce's make-up (originally rejected
from Werewolf in London,
1935) and the transformation scenes are like
an any audience has seen up to this point. Additionally, many
the werewolf mythos are invented for this picture and carry though to
as though they were hundreds of years old. The film boosts Lon
Jr. to stardom, and he becomes a staple of monster movies in general,
to play Dracula (or a least the "Son of"), Frankenstein, and the
Mummy in several sequels.
1948: Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein
is released, kicking off a string of
"meetings" with classic monsters. This is an early contributor to
eventual monster craze of the '50s and '60s. Followed by (among
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer,
Boris Karloff (1949), Abbott
Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Abbott
(1953), and Abbott and Costello Meet
the Mummy (1955). It was inducted
into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2001.
1949: George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is
published. Though it is
political commentary, the novel's bleak tone and its ability to instill
unrelenting sense of paranoia (and ubiquitous watchers) inform many
re-tellings, most notably Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985).
1950: EC Comics begins publishing several
influential classic horror titles including
Tales from the Crypt, The Vault
of Horror, and The Haunt of
The titles are canceled within five years after pressure from censors
Senate hearings. However, the works have been reprinted numerous
over the years, and the Tales from
the Crypt comic was later spun off
HBO series of the same name and a couple of theatrical films.
1951: The Day The Earth Stood Still is
released. The robot Gort is widely
remembered in his confrontation with the military. The film holds
surprisingly well and is among the best-regarded of its kind from this
even inspiring a big-budget (though mediocre-quality) remake
is the #5 film in the AFI's Top 10 science fiction movies and was
the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1995.
1953: Arthur Miller's play The Crucible premiers.
Ostensibly a story about
the Salem witch trials, it is usually read as an allegory of
1953: War of the Worlds is released, an
adaptation of the H.G. Wells
novel. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, and is now in
Library of Congress National Film Registry. Forrest J Ackerman
one of the model Martian spacecraft used in the film.
1954: The Creature from the Black Lagoon
is released (in 3D no less!). The
title creature's costume(s; there were two used in the filming) are
considered among the best ever to appear on film. Two sequels
1954: Them! is released. Regarded as
one of the best of the '50s
"giant monster" movies (among others such as Tarantula, The Giant Gila Monster,
etc.), its action sequences still hold up fairly well.
1954: Godzilla is released. More
than two-dozen sequels (and re-boots)
follow, plus several tv series, comic books, toys and models,
idea of an epic/giant monster is copied countless times on film.
1954: The Vampira Show premiers. It
is the first horror host series, and
it sets the standard most others have since followed (albeit usually
of a comedic slant). Many see a direct lineage to Elvira's Movie Macabre
(1981), although Elvira has said she never saw the series (which is
true, considering it was only broadcast around the LA area and has
never been re-run).
1955: The Quatermass Experiment is
released. The success of this Hammer
Films production helps edge the company toward the sci-fi and horror
was to become known for.
1955: This Island Earth is released.
Produced in full color with
breath-taking effects for its day, it also features the infamous
Mutants, which influenced the design of a number of aliens in later
1955: Alfred Hitchcock Presents
premiers. The series returns in 1985.
1956: King Kong was sold to television
after the conclusion of the 1956
re-release. One channel in New York showed the film seventeen
single week, with each showing topping the ratings. It is likely
unexpected popularity either inspired or at least fueled the Shock
Theater package of
monster movies for tv the following year.
1956: Forbidden Planet is released.
A science fiction retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, it is also vaguely
reminiscent of Lovecraft's
"Dunwich Horror" set in space. It is a visual masterpiece.
The character/prop Robby the Robot and other elements of the production
will go on to appear elsewhere, especially in episodes of The Twilight Zone.
1956: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is
released, serving as an allegory for the
Red Menace of communism. Several remakes follow over the years,
a well-regarded one in 1978. The original is the #9 film in the
10 science fiction movies and was inducted into the Library of Congress
National Film Registry in 1994.
1957: Curse of Frankenstein is
released. Starring Peter Cushing and
Christopher Lee, it is the first of the Hammer Films to revisit the
monsters pioneered by Universal. Later films (many featuring one
of these actors) explore Dracula (1958), the Mummy (1959), and the Wolf Man (1961).
1957: Invasion of the Saucer Men is
released. Though by no means a
"classic" or a great film, it demonstrates that sci-fi/horror can
also be humorous at the same time. The title aliens are also
more iconic creatures of this era.
1957: Shock Theater premiers on tv showing
classic Universal monster
movies. A whole new generation sees these films for the first
kicking off a "monster craze" over the coming decade. This also
ushers in the golden era of horror hosts such as Zacherley (originally known as
Roland... accent on the 2nd syllable).
1958: Famous Monsters of Filmland, the
original monster magazine started by the
legendary Forrest J Ackerman publishes its first issue. The witty
and fun images help introduce kids to classic monster movies and
to explore costumes and make-up effects through costume contests and
promotions. The publication runs until 1983, but has been
a couple times since then and continues to this day.
1958: The Blob is released.
1958: The single "Dinner With Drac" by Zacherley is
The novelty single spawns a series of horror-themed albums and
singles by the horror host, as well as a couple anthologies of horror
1958: The Fly is released. A sequel
follows. Years later a remake updates the classic.
1959: House on Haunted Hill directed by
William Castle and starring Vincent
Price is released. The theatrical release was accompanied by one
first trademark Castle gimmicks
called "Emergo" in which, when the
skeleton rises from the acid vat in the film, a lighted plastic
skeleton on a
wire appeared from a black box next to the screen to swoop over the
1959: On the Beach is released.
Based on the end-of-the-world novel by
Nevil Shute, it tells of the aftermath of a nuclear war.
1959: Plan 9 From Outer Space is finally
released. Starring Vampira and
wrestler Tor Johnson, and almost starring Bela Lugosi. Directed
so-called "world's worst director" Ed Wood, the film is often cited
as the "world's worst film." Tim Burton's biopic (1994) of the
director extensively features the making of this film.
1959: The Twilight Zone premiers on
television. Rod Serling writes the
majority of the episodes and hosts the series, now considered a
It goes on to be revived several times (1985, 2002) as well as
feature film (1983).
1960: Psycho is released, Hitchcock's
adaptation of the novel by Robert
Bloch. The film was inducted into the Library of Congress
Registry in 1992. It is a critical success and remains in the
250 (#30 as of this writing).
1960: House of Usher is released, the
first of a series of loose adaptations of Poe
stories directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price.
include Pit and the Pendulum
(1961), The Raven (1963), The Tomb of Ligeia
(1964), and Masque of the Red Death
1960: The Time Machine is released, an
adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells novel.
1960: Village Of The Damned is
1961: Aurora Models creates the first of
its monster model kits:
Frankenstein. Over the next five years, a whole series of monster
followed: Dracula and The Wolf Man in 1962; The Mummy, The Creature,
Phantom of the Opera in 1963; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll
Hyde, King Kong, and Godzilla plus The Salem Witch and Bride of
1964; then The Forgotten Prisoner in 1966. The box artwork itself
classic, and the kits are still sought after and re-issued today.
informative overview can be found here:
1962: Something Wicked This Way Comes by
Ray Bradbury is published. It is
among his most famous works and was adapted as a film in 1983.
1962: The Day of the Triffids is
1962: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is
1962: The Monster Mash by Bobby "Boris"
Pickett is released. It
goes on to become the unofficial anthem of Halloween. Over the
several other Halloween/monster-themed versions/sequels to this song
though none experience the same success.
1963: Don Post Masks becomes the first
Universal Monsters licensee with its
Frankenstein mask. These were often advertised in Famous Monsters of
Filmland magazine and are frequently remembered in conjunction
publication. Post is dubbed by many as "The Godfather of
Halloween." In addition to the obvious connection to the holiday,
is also the fact that his William Shatner mask became the infamous
Myers mask in Halloween
1963: The Birds, another Hitchcock horror
thriller is released.
1963: The Haunting is released. It
is later remade as a big-budget (though
unsatisfying) film in 1999.
1963: Doctor Who premiers. The
long-running series (later resurrected to
continue a little after the original left off) features scores of
aliens throughout space and time.
1963: The Outer Limits premiers on
television. The anthology series is
often compared to The Twilight Zone,
but has a very different style and
emphasizing the role of technology and our place in the universe,
featuring interesting aliens and/or mutations in the process.
1964: The first issue of the
horror magazine Creepy is
Warren. It runs until 1983, but is resurrected in 2009. Its
publication, Eerie, is begun a
couple years later in 1966.
1964: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to
Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is
released at nearly the same time as the similarly-themed (though purely
Congress National Film Registry in 1989.
1964: Addams Family premiers on tv.
Charles Addams' comic characters come
to life very memorably. The series runs for two seasons (and
syndicated to this day) plus a one-shot special years later. The
goes on to produce cartoons, theatrical movies, a rebooted series, and
even a Broadway musical. There
been cross-overs with Scooby Doo.
work on yet another incarnation of the characters.
1964: Bewitched premiers on
television. I Dream of Jeannie
(a show with
parallel themes) premiers the following year.
1964: The animated series Johnny Quest premiers on
television. It blends
science fiction and action in a way unprecedented in the cartoon medium.
1964: The Munsters premiers on tv.
The characters are a reflection of the
resurgence in popularity of the classic Universal Monsters. The
lasts only two seasons (though at 70 episodes, it feels like a lot
was later appeared as a couple movies with the original cast (well, not
or Marilyn in the latter case) and even was resurrected as The Munsters Today
from 1988 to 1991, and as Mockingbird
Lane (2012; see below).
1965: Frank Herbert's novel Dune is published. It begins a
an entire saga (which continues running long after the author's death,
by his son). The film is eventually adapted by David Lynch, but
earlier (1973) attempt to adapt it brought together many talents
Giger) which led in part to the production of the film Alien (1979) and the
comic book series The Incal
(by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius).
1966: Fantastic Voyage is released.
1966: Star Trek premiers. Gene
Roddenberry's optimistic vision of the
future only lasts three seasons, but fan interest snowballs after its
What follows are six television series (including an animated
the original), a dozen movies, countless novels and comic books, and an
influence on the genre of science fiction and fact (even having a space
named by fans of the series).
1966: The Peanuts' It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
premiers. It is shown annually from that date to the present,
Halloween tradition unto itself.
1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey is released,
featuring amazing prosthetic makeup
work and special effects throughout, imagining mankind's future in
space and his place in the universe. It is the #1 film in the
10 science fiction movies and was inducted into the Library of Congress
National Film Registry in 1991.
1968: Night of the Living Dead directed by
George Romero is released.
Informed by the attrocities of the Vietnam War, it reimagines the
zombies in a form that continues to reverberate into all subsequent
depictions. It was inducted
Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1999.
1968: Planet of the Apes is
released. Rod Serling writes a signature twist
at the end. It leads to a number of sequels, a re-boot, and even
prequel. The original film is inducted into the Library of
National Film Registry in 2001.
1968: Rosemary's Baby is released.
1969: Disney's Haunted Mansion opens at
Disney Land after years of planning and
development to get the right combination of scares and humor
all ages. It features the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts (The
Song)" sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. The Disney World version of the
attraction opens two years later.
1969: The original Vampirella series staring the iconic
sexy anti-hero begins
publication. The magazine runs until 1983 but the character is
ressurected from 1991-onward in comics.
1969: Rod Serling's series Night Gallery premiers, an
his earlier Twilight Zone.
1969: Scooby Doo, Where Are You? premiers
on tv. Various incarnations of
the series have been produced almost continuously ever since, including
1971: General Mills' monster
cereals debut first with Count Chocula
followed by Boo Berry (1973),
all based on impressions of Lugosi, Karloff, and
Peter Lore, respectively. They are joined temporarily by Fruit Brute
(1975-84) and Fruity Yummy Mummy
(1987-93). All five were released at the
same time (for the first time ever) in 2013.
1971: A Clockwork Orange is
released. It is the #4 film in the AFI's Top
10 science fiction movies.
1972: Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show musical
premiers, which references parodies elements of several sci-fi and
In a short time the production gains such popularity that it is
several hip celebs and moves to ever-larger venues.
1973: Soylent Green is released based on
the novel Make Room! Make Room!
Harry Harrison. Along with Planet
Apes and Omega Man,
represents a trilogy of Charlton Heston-in-the-frightening-future
1973: The Exorcist is released and is
still considered "the scariest movie
of all time" by most. Quite a few films about the devil and
possession follow. It was inducted into the Library of
National Film Registry in 2010.
1973: The Wicker Man is released.
The cult film is among star Christopher
Lee's favorites and was remade (badly) in 2006.
1974: The original Dungeons & Dragons role-playing
game is published. It not only
invents and establishes role-playing games as a genre, it also
the envelop beyond the Tolkien-influence and ren-faire atmosphere to
a great many monsters and mythologies, both traditional and
Many, many editions and expansions of the original game follow, and
variants including in the realms that are exclusively horror (e.g.,
Lovecraft-based games) or sci-fi.
1974: Carrie, Stephen King's first novel,
is published. It is adapted in
1976 as a critically-praised film famous for its climax and the
young star Sissy Spacek.
1974: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is
released. One of the most
influential and ground-breaking horror films. Sequels and remakes
naturally follow over the years, but more importantly other elements
notably the low-budget independent spirit which drove the filmmakers.
1974: Young Frankenstein is
released. This Mel Brooks parody of classic
Universal monster movies is proof-of-concept that horror can be blended
comedy. It is later adapted into a musical (2007). The film
into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2003.
1974: Kolchak: The Night Stalker premiers,
following two made-for-tv movies
establishing the character. The premise of a true-believer
solves supernatural mysteries is revisited in later ideas such as The X-Files
(1993) and the comic book Hellblazer
(1988, later adapted as Constantine
1974: Dr. Demento's radio show is
syndicated nationally, spotlighting novelty
songs and has kept many obscure tracks in the public consciousness,
many Halloween-related cuts.
1975: Jaws is released. Its
accidental approach of "never show the
monster" turns out to be the best suspense-building device, and
establishes Steven Spielberg as a blockbuster director. It was
into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2001.
1975: Rocky Horror Picture Show is
released, an adaptation of the musical.
Though bombing in its original release, the film becomes a cult
incorporates audience participation that still gets audiences into (and
their seats at regular midnight showings. It was inducted into
Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2005.
1975: The Stepford Wives is released, one
of a string of paranoia-inducing
horror films of the era.
1975: Alice Cooper's concept album Welcome to My Nightmare is
It is his first solo record (though he had several hits on his previous
albums with his band) and features Vincent Price providing the
monologue on the song "The Black Widow." The album also gives
rise to a tv special.
1976: Interview with the Vampire by Anne
Rice is published, the first of her
Vampire Chronicles. The
novels are highly influential, and elements in
many subsequent vampire stories can be traced back to this
series. The novels are later adapted for film.
1976: The Omen is released.
1976: The band The Cramps forms. They invent
the term psychobilly and
play in a style that subsequent bands develop into a sub-genre.
songs draw heavily from B-movie themes throughout their career.
1977: The novel Amityville by Jay Anson is
published. Presented as a
factual account of a real haunted house, the story is adapted as a film
followed by a series of loosely-connected sequels, and the original has
been remade (2005).
1977: Heavy Metal magazine is launched in
the United States featuring some of
the best cutting-edge comics art of its day, including a number of
1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
is released. Considered one
of the best science fiction films ever thanks in part to special
Douglas Trumbull, it was inducted into the Library of Congress National
Registry in 2003.
1977: Star Wars is released. This
leads to a whole new crop of big-budget
sci-fi films drawing on similar style and approach such as Battlestar
Galactica, Buck Rogers, The Black Hole, Flash Gordon, and
changes the movie
industry forever, including the way and scale with which films are
merchandise. It is the #2 film in the AFI's Top 10 science
fiction movies and was inducted into the Library of Congress National
Film Registry in
1977: Suspiria is released. Easily
the best known film by director Dario
Argento, it lacks much in the way of a plot, but makes up for it with
atmospheric lighting and its equally over-the-top musical score.
1977: The Hills Have Eyes is
1977: The Misfits band forms. Within
a short time, they become synonymous
with the "horror punk" sub-genre they created. Their songs have
consistently used horror and sci-fi movies for their inspiration, and
associated imagery (i.e., logo, album covers, instruments, costumes,
follow suit to the exclusion of all other influences.
1978: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is
produced as a radio series. It
blends comedy into sci-fi in ways no one had every done as successfully
or since. Author Douglas Adams goes on to novelize his scripts
significant differences from the source material), which then becomes a
of five novels (nearly six), a tv series adapting the first three
novels, and a
1978: The Stand by Stephen King is
published. Other, longer (aka uncut)
editions are published in 1990. The novel is later adapted for
and as a lengthy graphic novel. A feature film version has been
works for years.
1978: Dawn of the Dead directed by George
Romero is released, the second of his
"Dead" movies. This one cleverly parodies consumer culture
while still serving up scares. Tom Savini does the makeup, and
in the remake of the film (2004) by Zach Snyder.
1978: Halloween is released. It is
directed by John Carpenter who also
composed its theme music, among the most recognizable movie themes in
and a permanent staple of Halloween. It spawned many sequels and
imitators, being the first of what would come to be known as the
"slasher" movies. It was inducted into the Library of Congress
National Film Registry in 2006.
1978: I Spit on Your Grave is
released. It is vehemently disliked by
critics, most famously by Roger Ebert. The message of its
continues to be debated to this day, but few will deny it is powerfully
1979: The first issue of Fangoria is published. This
magazine is probably the best-known publication about horror movies,
up where Famous Monsters was
beginning to trail off.
1979: Alien is released, one of the best
attempts to blend horror and
sci-fi. H.R. Giger wins the Academy Award for Best Achievement
Effects for his design work on the film. Many low-budget copycat
follow throughout the '80s, then the sequel revisits and expands the
in 1986. Its influence continues, and films like Pitch Black (2000) can
trace their lineage back to the original Alien film. It is the #7
the AFI's Top 10 science fiction movies and was inducted into the
Congress National Film Registry in 2002.
1979: Phantasm is released. The
low-budget film is very effective in
giving an unexpected sci-fi twist to a gothic horror story. It
becomes a cult favorite and leads to
several sequels many years down the line.
1979: Svengoolie begins what
is probably the longest-running horror hosting career (albeit
with a lengthy hiatus) in Chicago. He later goes national.
1980: Dean Koontz's novel Whispers is published. It is
later adapted as a
film, but its popularity launches his writing career into the
territory, which results in several more film adaptations.
1980: Epic Illustrated begins
publication. The anthology magazine is
along the lines of Heavy Metal,
its end in 1986, Epic had become an imprint of Marvel which was
explore more adult content including series based on Clive Barker's Hellraiser and
1980: Friday the 13th is released.
The story of a serial killer massacring
teens at a summer camp launches dozens of cheap imitation slasher
including nearly a dozen sequels (and a remake). Halloween is
already taken, but countless
exploit the entire calendar's range of holidays as their premise (e.g.,
Bloody Valentine (1981), April
Day (1986), etc.).
1980: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes
Back is released. Arguably
the best of the series, the story has several great twists and
well as considerably advancing special effects of the day. It was
inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2010.
1980: The Changeling starring George C.
Scott is released. Though largely
overlooked today, this very dramatic "haunted house" story does not
rely much on special effects to get its scares across, yet it is
effective. Movies like The Ring
(2002) borrow from its imagery many years
1980: The Shining is released, somewhat
loosely based on Stephen King's novel
and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Its iconic image of Jack
know the one) is a standard reference to horror to this day, and the
cited as among the all-time greatest in the horror genre.
1981: An American Werewolf in London
reinvents the werewolf film with the
biggest leap forward since The Wolf
Man (1941). Rick Baker's amazing
practical effects in depicting the transformation hold up even in the
1981: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is
published. The novel introduces the
character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The book is adapted as the film
Manhunter (1986), then remade
(2002) when after The Silence of the
is published then the film (1991) becomes a blockbuster. Other
1981: Elvira begins hosting Movie Macabre. It is in
the country and grows in popularity. Even after the series ends,
continues to be a highly-visible media personality, appearing on
albums, in commercials, on tv shows (even a pilot for her own sitcom),
staring in several movies: Mistress
of the Dark (1988) and Elvira's
Hills (2001). She began hosting a new set of movies for a
Macabre in 2010.
1982: Blade Runner is released, very
loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick novel
and directed by Ridley Scott. It is stylistically one of the most
influential films of all time, thanks in part to special effects by
Trumbull and a small army of designers including Syd
Mead and Moebius
(Note: the latter's designs were an influence, though he didn't work on
the film directly). It
is the #6 film in the AFI's Top 10 science fiction movies and was
the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2003.
1982: E.T. is released. Steven
Spielberg's tale of a friendly alien cared
for by children is a reversal of Close
Encounters (1977) in many ways, but it
continues themes begun in that film. The film goes on to be the
grossing in history (for a time), and its story is copied quite
the next decade. It is the #3 film in the AFI's Top 10 science
fiction movies and was inducted into the Library of Congress National
Film Registry in
1982: Poltergeist is released, directed by
Tobe Hooper and/or Steven
Spielberg. It is one of the stand-out stories in a long line of
house movies for its special effects and grounded story-telling.
1982: Star Trek II is released. It
proves that Trek can be exciting and
not simply awe-inspiring as a vision for the future, informing even the
re-booted film series decades later.
1982: The Evil Dead is released. The
low-budget early film by Sam Raimi
goes on to be a cult classic, launching a trilogy and remake, and makes
Campbell a B-movie legend.
1982: The Thing is released. This
remake of The Thing from Another
(1951) takes it far, far beyond the original in terms of tension and
and the special effects are frequently cited as some of the most
intense in the
history of cinema.
1982: Tron is released. It blends
early CGI with live action, anticipating
what will become the norm by the next decade. A big-budget sequel
in 2010 taking advantage of the maturation of the technology (including
electronica score) in the interim.
1982: The Swamp Thing is released.
Wes Craven directs. The film is
considered decent, and it leads to a tremendous chain of events:
interest in the character leads to a new comic book. When Alan
takes a stab at the character, he reinvents it rather
success leads to management giving him free-reign to write more
material, leading to his greatest and best-known work such as The Watchmen
(1987) and V For Vendetta
1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie is
released, though it is unfortunately
remembered more for the on-set tragedy than continuing the
story-telling traditions of the original series while updating the role
of special effects in those stories.
1983: Michael Jackson's Thriller is
released. The title track
features a "rap" by Vincent Price, and an elaborate music video is
directed by John Landis and featuring makeup by Rick Baker. The
remains the highest-selling of all time, and the video goes on to be
"most successful music video" of all time according to Guinness World
Records. It was inducted into the Library of Congress National
Registry in 2009.
1983: Tales from the Darkside
premiers. The anthology series is produced
by George Romero and features many adaptations of horror and fantasy
notable authors, including an early piece by Clive Barker. It
four full seasons, followed by a number of movies.
1983: V premiers first as a mini-series
before leading into a full series the
following year. The allegorical retelling of the rise of the
modern-day alien "visitors" earns a cult following. The series
is rebooted in 2009, but the original remains far superior by every
1984: Volume One of Clive Barker's Books of Blood is
first of a total of six collections. They make Barker an
success with Stephen King famously calling the author "the future of
horror." Several stories within the series are adapted as films
in other media including on tv and in comic books.
1984: Children of the Corn is released, an
adaptation of a Stephen King story.
1984: David Lynch's adaptation
of Dune is released.
Though too dense to
ever find a popular audience, it gains cult status, likely in part due
increased focus on the horrifying Harkonnen family compared to the
1984: Nightmare on Elm Street is
released. The surprise hit by Wes Craven
introduces Freddy Kruger, a new supernatural monster that elevates the
above merely a slasher picture. Six sequels and a tv series
follow as well as a remake.
1984: The Terminator is released.
Stan Winston's effects help realize
unforgettable scenes of a cyborg killer plucking out his damaged eye
operating on his flesh-covered robotic arm that help make the film an
unexpected success, leading to a series of sequels and a tv
series. It was inducted into the Library of Congress
Film Registry in 2008.
1984: Ghostbusters is released. It
turns out to be a blockbuster that
skillfully balances comedy and horror elements, actually becoming the
highest-grossing comedy up to that time. The movie leads to a
sequel and cartoon series.
1985: Back to the Future is
released. It updates H.G. Wells with
undeniably the coolest time machine ever (No, a police box cannot
a Delorian) while exploring (however humorously) issues of identity not
addressed as powerfully since Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966). It is the
#10 film in the AFI's Top 10 science fiction movies and was inducted
Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2007.
1985: Brazil is released after months of
campaigning/protesting the studio by
director Terry Gilliam. This bizarre re-telling of Orwell's Nineteen
Eighty-Four explores fantasy territory alongside his take on the
core story of
isolated rebellion against an oppressive government.
1985: Re-Animator is released. This
tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the
Lovecraft story brilliantly updates the tale in every way, particularly
over-the-top tone. Expertly directed by Stuart Gordon. A
1985: Return of the Living Dead is
released. It revisits George Romero's
zombie apocalypse with a sense of humor, long before films such as Zombieland
(2009) or Shaun of the Dead
(2004) are conceived.
1985: Danny Elfman scores Tim
Burton's film Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
two artists, and Elfman goes on to score
Burton's subsequent films.
1986: Aliens is released. The sequel
takes the original concept and both
multiplies and magnifies it by introducing the heroine to both swarms
queen. Further, it successfully adds action to the horror/sci-fi
genre-balancing achievement of the original.
1986: The Fly remake by director David
Cronenberg is released. It handily
surpasses the original by updating it with gruesome specificity and a
solid scientific premise, and is considered the director's masterpiece
career of many notable works in overlapping horror and sci-fi genres.
1986: Morgus the Magnificent returns to
the airwaves hosting new films as he
once did beginning in the late '50s. These new episodes are
years, even re-edited so that he is hosting a different set of films
1987: Communion by Whitley Strieber is
published. Though he had
previously published other horror novels, he manages to make aliens
date rapists rather than the friendly-but-aloof musicians from
1987: Misery by Stephen King is
published. It leads to one of the most
successful and best-remembered adaptations of the author's works,
Bates an Academy Award for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes, who placed
#17 on the
AFI's list of the Top Villains.
1987: Hellraiser is
released. To date it is the most successful and compelling
adaptation of a Clive
Barker work, directed by Barker himself, based on his novella The Hellbound
Heart (1986). It introduces the iconic character Pinhead,
and spawns a string of
sequels (many having little to do with the original premise,
admittedly) as well as
merchandising (e.g., action figures, comics, Halloween costumes, and of
course the iconic puzzle box).
1987: Max Headroom premiers. Set in
a post-apocalyptic dystopian (20
minutes into the) future, the series blended early CGI with steampunk
either were widely employed.
1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation
premiers. This greatly expands the
scope of the Trek universe,
leading to additional tv series and eventually
transitioning into movies that continue the cinematic series.
1988: Cabal by Clive Barker is published,
a collection of shorter works.
The title story is later adapted as the film Nightbreed (1990) which Barker
1988: Akira is released, an adaptation of
the lengthy graphic novel.
1988: Child's Play is released. The
film about a doll possessed by a
killer leads to several sequels.
1988: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (aka MST3K) premiers. The show
successfully brings viewers around to watching a lot of forgotten films
updating the viewing experience into the post-modern era. Instead
merely hosting the films as past horror hosts had done, the characters
continuously comment on the feature as it plays, almost like Zacherley
permanently inserted into the film with Elvira's classic snark.
The series runs
years and even had its own feature film ridiculing This Island Earth.
1989: The Abyss is released. The
story of underwater
features what most cite as the first effective use of CG
1990: Twin Peaks premiers. David
Lynch's drama centers on the murder of an
ostensibly wholesome teen girl in a small town. Its cast of
and suggestions of underlying supernatural elements in their lives
number of tv shows and movies that follow.
1990: The Simpsons present their first
"Treehouse of Horror" special, a series of
three short horror/sci-fi stories. The tradition continues for
since the show has been on.
1990: An adaptation of Stephen King's It premiers.
performance as Pennywise ensures adults will never find clowns anything
1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day is
released. Stan Winston receives two
Oscars for the ground-breaking effects that push CGI into new territory
photorealism. It is the #8 film in the AFI's Top 10 science
1991: The Silence of the Lambs is
released. The film introduces Anthony
Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and sweeps the major categories at the
Awards, leading to remakes and sequels featuring the character.
The film is inducted into the Library of Congress National Film
Registry in 2011.
1992: R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series of
kids books begins. He ultimately
goes on to out-sell Stephen King, at least in terms of the number of
print. In addition to this series, he also pens several other
novels, such as Horrorland
and the Fear Street books
(aimed at older kids) as well as his stories being adapted as a tv
series and later a theatrical movie.
1992: Army of Darkness is released.
It is the third Evil Dead
expands outward far beyond the original premise. Bruce Campbell's
in horror history is cemented by some of the most quotable lines ever
1992: White Zombie's album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1
is their first to
get heavy notation on the radio and Mtv. The band's music focuses
primarily on horror movie subjects and even samples bits of dialog (or
screams) from the films themselves. Lead singer Rob Zombie
goes solo, but continues in the same direction as well as moving into
writing and directing horror
1993: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K.
Hamilton is published, the first book in
the series of Anita Blake
novels about "a professional zombie raiser,
vampire executioner and supernatural consultant for the police."
The first Doom game is
released. The premise seamlessly incorporates combat, sci-fi, and
horror/supernatural elements into a hugely-influential first-person 3D
shooter. Two sequels follow (as well as many spin-offs), and the
game is later adapted as a film.
1993: Jurassic Park is released.
Though CGI is nothing new at this point,
the level of what can be achieved photo-realistically is raised
The film takes advantage of this to elicit awe and terror.
scares in Jaws (1975) were
enhanced by not showing the shark, the opposite
effect is acheived by realized with velociraptors.
1993: The Nightmare Before Christmas is
released. It becomes a new
Halloween/Xmas classic and is subsequently re-released in 3D.
Skellington becomes as recognizable a character as Rudolph the
reindeer and the Grinch. Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is modified
annually to incorporate characters, music, and other elements from the
into the attraction.
1993: The X-Files premiers. The show
exploits urban legends about monsters
and aliens. A couple movies follow, neither of them very
good. The series was ressurected briefly in 2015.
1995: Se7en is released. It
establishes David Fincher as an A-list
director, and the film serves as the inspiration for many of the
"torture porn" genre of gruesome ironic punishment films that follow,
such as Hostel (2005) and the
Saw series (2004-2010).
1995: The Outer Limits series is re-booted
for cable. The show
occasionally revisits stories from the original series, but it also
the pool of established sci-fi authors to create a body of work that
the original show several times over.
1996: From Dusk Till Dawn is
released. Written by Quentin Tarantino and
directed by Robert Rodriguez, it is something of a schlock B-movie in
of films from the '70s that the two creators grew up watching.
produce two pre/sequels to the original film, and eventually go on to
Grindhouse (2007) which
continues the thread begun here.
The first Resident Evil game
is released in a franchise that consists (as of this writing) of two
dozen games and seven films.
1997: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
premiers. The little-noticed movie (1992)
is adapted for tv to rave reviews. It develops an enthusiastic
runs for seven seasons, and even gets a spin-off series.
1998: Blade is released, an adaptation of
the Marvel comic book character.
Most importantly, it reinvents vampires in a modern context as well as
the arsenal a vampire hunter should be packing.
1999: The Blair Witch Project is
released. The extremely low-budget film
is inventively developed out of improvisation and goes on to be one of
profitable movies in history. Its POV cinematography influences
subsequent projects in the horror and sci-fi genres especially,
normalizing the "found footage" gimmick.
The first Silent Hill video
game debuts. Numerous installments follow as well as two feature
films based on the game.
1999: The Matrix is released. The
blend of comic book aesthetics and
virtual reality plus inventive new photography techniques like
"bullet-time" make for a very cool movie. Two sequels round out a
trilogy, plus the universe is expanded through spin-off projects,
including a massive on-line game and comics. The original film is
the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2012.
1999: The Sixth Sense is released.
Even though M. Night Shyamalan's track
record grew ever worse from there (though I think Signs (2002) is
worst movie ever made), the premise and desire for a "twist" is a
pervasive influence for years afterward.
1999: Farscape premiers. The look of
the series informs many other sci-fi
projects, as the effects and creatures are developed by Jim Henson's
workshop. On a personal note, it remains one of my all-time
series and one of the most satisfying endings.
2001: Dead Until Dark (the first book in The Southern Vampire Mysteries,
known as The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)
later serve as the source material (well, loosely) for the
television series True Blood
2002: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk is
published. It is his first foray into
supernatural fiction, and it becomes the first novel of his so-called
"horror trilogy," which are actually unrelated novels within the
genre (Diary (2003) and Haunted (2005) follow).
2002: 28 Days Later is released. It
presents a cohesive reinvention of the
zombie mythology from shambling supernatural creatures to raging
hoards disseminating a rapidly-spread virus. Many subsequent
stories pick up on both these points.
2002: The Ring is released, an adaptation
of a Japanese horror film. This
prompts a string of remakes from Japan.
2002: Firefly premiers. It only
lasts a season but develops a cult
following and is resurrected as the movie Serenity (2005).
2003: The Walking Dead by writer Robert
Kirkman and artist Tony Moore is first
published. The comic book series serves as the basis of a
critically-acclaimed but actually mediocre tv series (2010) of the same
2004: Dawn of the Dead (remake) is
released, ushering in many more zombie films
on a respectable budget. Zack Snyder directs, then goes on to
of mostly mediocre super hero movies.
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
is released. Director Michel
Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman's exploration of memory and identity
on the surreal. It is a critical success and remains in the
250 (#84 as of this writing).
2004: Saw is released. It kicks off
lengthy series of sequels, plus continues the string of copycat
"torture porn" horror films. Its Jigsaw villain
can be seen in some form somewhere every Halloween ever since.
2004: Shaun of the Dead is released.
It is the first really self-aware
comedy that dissects (so to speak) the zombie genre, spawning similar
such as Zombieland (2009).
2004: Battlestar Galactica (re-boot)
premiers. The series proves
(especially when contrasted with the source material) that sci-fi has
potential to tell gritty, adult stories rather than simply to showcase
2005: Doctor Who (re-boot) premiers,
revitalizing the brand. It also leads
to several spin-off series, most notably Torchwood (2006).
2005: Supernatural premiers. What
begins as a monster-of-the-week show
along the lines of X-Files
eventually grows into an expansive story about the
fate of the world, followed regularly by a huge fanbase.
2006: Dexter premiers. An adaptation
of the series of novels by Jeff
Lindsay, the story of a serial killer using his instinct/addiction as a
2007: Grindhouse (a double-feature of Planet Terror and Deathproof) is
released. Tarantino and Rodriguez team up again to blatantly pay
to B-movie cinema right down to fake exploitation trailers. One
is later spun off into its own B-movie: Machete (2010; and then sequel,
2007: Paranormal Activity is
released. Much like The Blair
(1999), the low-budget approach combined with atmosphere and suspense
astronomic profit ratio. More POV handicam films follow,
2008: True Blood premiers on HBO, part of
a wave of vampire series.
2009: Avatar is released. It makes
extensive use of motion capture and is
rendered in 3D. It goes on to be the top-grossing film of all
2009: District 9 is released. The
richly plotted sci-fi story is nominated
for Best Picture.
2009: Slender Man becomes an internet
phenomenon that eventually works its way into movies and video games.
2009: Star Trek is released, a reboot of
the series from before the point where
the tv series began.
2010: Inception is released, Christopher
Nolan's mind-bending thriller. It
ranks among virtually all best-of lists from that point forward.
2010: The Walking Dead premiers, adapted
from the comic book series of the same
name. The show is tremendously popular, even though later seasons
from poor pacing and a decent into soap opera melodrama.
2011: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk is
published. It is a comic blend of Judy
Blume meets Dante Alighieri. The sequel Doomed (2013) follows.
2011: Svengoolie goes national on
Me-TV. He is one of only a handful of
horror hosts to have done so with the show available to 89% of the
2012: Prometheus is released. The
"prequel" explains some of the
mystery surrounding the events depicted in the first Alien film, but it
many more questions to be answered at a later juncture.
The Mockingbird Lane pilot is
broadcast. It is an attempt to reboot
The Munsters. Written by
Bryan Fuller and directed by Bryan
starring Jerry O'Connell, Portia de Rossi, and Eddie Izzard. It
brilliant and clever, so naturally last-place NBC fails to see the
and thus passes on the pilot.
Plenty of horror and sci-fi films and tv series and literature were
intentionally left off this chronology. Those titles that remain
ones that were deemed influential or noteworthy, and even some I would
have liked to include were cut to keep this page of reasonable
length. However, check out these lists:
Ale[x]orcist. Some additions/edits 2017.