Italian Gothic Movies Not to be Missed

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The first prototype of Italian gothic movies was Frankenstein’s Monster (1920) by Eugenio Testa. Long considered lost, it is commonly regarded as the first Italian horror film and the last until Riccardo Freda’s Vampires (1956) 3 1/2 decades later. Throughout the Fascist period, middle-class “telefono bianco” comedies were all the rage in Italy, while strict censorship kept horror movies in check. In the years that followed, Italy made up for lost time; and the 1960s saw a wave of dark and violent Italian gothic movies.

Italian gothic movies were born almost as a game: Riccardo Freda bet with producers Ermanno Donati and Luigi Carpentieri that a film supernatural horror could also be shot in Italy. The two, not entirely persuaded, accept and give a small budget to Freda, known for his ability to shoot movies in a short time. The production is problematic and Freda leaves the set in the middle of filming asking Mario Bava, director of photography, to finish the job. It’s about Vampires, the first horror movies of the then fertile Italian film market. In ’57 the film lays the foundations of the category and integrates components of traditional horror such as the disturbing castle with components of pure modernity: the abominable murders are not in fact an ancient curse however the Duchess Du Grand is consumed by the fountain of youth and he injects the girls’ blood into his body. The film’s receipts are modest, 124 million lire, but the Italian gothic film genre is inaugurated.


Freda’s film was the first but it took the worldwide success of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday to start this new era of Italian gothic movies. Adapted from Nikolai Gogol’s The Viy, Bava’s film follows the resurrection of a witch 17th-centuryA master of light, setting, and significant camera movement, from the outset Bava displayed a visual style that set him apart from American and British gothic filmmakers. The film’s monochrome photography has a dark, celestial allure, underlined by minutes of haunting surrealism.


Vampires (1957)

Paris. The girls are discovered dead, drained of their blood. A reporter looks into these murders as the gorgeous Gisele, from an aristocratic family, attempts to seduce him. Directors: Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava. Starring: Gianna Maria Canale, Carlo D’Angelo, Dario Michaelis, Wandisa Guida. A shocking Italian gothic film that deals with various subjects of the genre, from drug addiction to crypts, but only a few minutes are truly gruesome. Perfect for fans of the gothic movie.

Black Sunday (1960)

A cruel witch and her diabolical servant return from the grave and start a bloody plan to recover the body of the beautiful witch’s double descendant. Director: Mario Bava. Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani. Critics of modern Italian cinema criticized the film negatively, although some noted the cinematography. The film has beautiful camera movements, and Bava’s aesthetic design produces poetry and emotion as well as sensational. Bava is an author of pictorial movies and this is one of his best works.


Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

In 19th-century Holland, an art teacher and an unlicensed cosmetic surgeon run a secret laboratory where the teacher’s sick daughter receives blood transfusions from kidnapped women that end up being turned into macabre works of art. Director: Giorgio Ferroni. Starring: Pierre Brice, Scilla Gabel, Wolfgang Preiss, Dany Carrel. Ferroni directed the film with skill and method: the flat countryside of Holland, with its windmills, offers some unusual settings never used in gothic horror cinema. Aside from the packaging the language is quite theatrical and the pace is slow.

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962)

In 19th century London, a lady marries a doctor with necrophilic propensities, and whose first wife died in strange circumstances, and may return from the grave to torture her ex-husband. Director: Riccardo Freda. Starring: Barbara Steele, Robert Flemyng, Silvano Tranquilli, Maria Teresa Vianello. An Italian gothic film about necrophilia with remarkable cinematography. Pleasant and always addictive it leans too much on great classics like Vampyr, Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Colors, lights, editing and effects are aesthetically stunning.

Black Sabbath (1963) 

Boris Karloff stars in a trio of frightening stories involving a persecuted call girl, a vampire taking advantage of her home and a nurse who is being stalked by the rightful owner of her ring. Director: Mario Bava. Starring: Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Boris Karloff, Mark Damon. The most disturbing aspect of the film is its style, especially the heavy and dirty interiors of The Drop of Water, while the acting is less convincing. Even the optical and sound forcings seem too excessive at times: greater rigor would have benefited the film.


The Ghost (1963)

A woman and her lover kill her husband, a doctor. Quickly. Soon after strange things start happening and they wonder if they really killed him or if he is coming back from the dead to haunt them. Director: Riccardo Freda. Starring: Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta, Harriet Medin. Pictorially extraordinary the film has dialogues that fail to be on the same level. The director manages to create gothic atmospheres with a story that is not very original and has already been seen.

The Whip and the Body (1963)

The ghost of a treacherous nobleman who struggles to rekindle his love with his former masochistic mistress, who is reluctantly engaged to his brother. Director: Mario Bava. Starring: Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, Tony Kendall, Evelyn Stewart. Slow and at times repetitive film with censorship cuts that make up a large part of this ghost movie incomprehensible, has been called by some critics an imitation of the British horror film. The cinematography is remarkable but the gothic setting often generates more laughs than scares, with a long line of gothic film clichés.

Danse Macabre (1964)

A reporter bets that he can spend the night in a haunted castle on All Saints’ Eve. During his stay, he meets the creepy former castle inhabitant who falls in love with a charming ghost of a woman. Directors: Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Corbucci. Starring: Barbara Steele, Georges Rivière, Margrete Robsahm, Arturo Dominici. Unpredictably scripted, clumsily shot, the film has interesting scenes and deserves to be seen for its gothic atmosphere. Excellent performances by Halina Zalewska and Barbara Steele.


The Long Hair of Death (1965)

A woman is suspected of witchcraft and is burned alive. Her curse brings her back from the dead for vengeance. Barbara Steele has hardly ever looked so stunning. Humorous and atmospheric thriller horror. Director: Antonio Margheriti. Starring: Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho.

An Angel for Satan (1966)

At the end of the 19th century, an ancient statue was recovered in an Italian village by the lake. A series of murders quickly begins and the superstitious of the town think that the statue carries an ancient curse. Director: Camillo Mastrocinque. Starring: Barbara Steele, Anthony Steffen, Claudio Gora, Mario Brega.

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)

A town in the Carpathians is haunted by the ghost of a murderous woman, who prompts a coroner and a medical intern to discover her tricks while a witch tries to keep the villagers safe. Director: Mario Bava. Protagonists: Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dalì, Piero Lulli. It’s a story in which setting is everything, and the aesthetic result is far more superb than Six Women for the Assassin. Every aspect of the photography is expertly handled by Bava to achieve a striking and seductive impact. The story is cleverly written and achieves the frightening results that the audience has come to expect. There are the same gothic clichés as always but treated in such a masterful way as to renew the genre. The film won applause from director Luchino Visconti at its premiere in Rome.

The Witch in Love (1966)

A philandering writer is lured into a house by an old woman under the pretext of working as a curator. His daughter, Aura, appears out of nowhere and starts seducing him. The writer is increasingly confused: does Aura really exist? Director: Damiano Damiani. Starring: Richard Johnson, Rosanna Schiaffino, Gian Maria Volontè, Sarah Ferrati.

A Quiet Place in the Country (1968)

A skilled painter rents a shabby house for the holidays and finds himself caught up in the dark past that still permeates the house, most notably the murder of a sex-obsessed countess who died there years earlier. Director: Elio Petri. Starring: Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Georges Géret, Gabriella Boccardo. A carefully crafted more intellectual horror film, which is inspired by the madness-themed works of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a creepy horror film and the performances of Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave are captivating.


Spirits of the Dead (1968)

A trio of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that tell of a vicious countess haunted by a ghostly horse, a ferocious soldier haunted by his doppelgänger and an alcoholic movie star haunted by the Devil. Directors: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, Roger Vadim. Starring: Jane Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Terence Stamp. Fellini’s episode is considered the best of the 3. Toby Dammit is a new Fellini after Giulietta degli Spiriti of 1965. Vadim’s episode is less effective but quite entertaining, and Malle’s, based on one of Poe’s best stories , it’s quite contrived.

The Doll of Satan (1969)

A couple takes a trip to a castle for the reading of the will of the lady’s recently deceased rich uncle and discovers that he has left her the castle and its premises. Director: Ferruccio Casapinta. Starring: Erna Schurer, Roland Carey, Aurora Bautista, Ettore Ribotta. The film is rooted in the gothic genre of early Italian scary movies, but the nudity and black gloves clearly position the film in the new era of Italian horror film. It all sounds a bit over the top, but Italian horror fans don’t care for the details.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon, 1970

A wedding dress designer armed with a cleaver kills several young brides in an attempt to uncover a youthful trauma hidden in his unconscious. Director: Mario Bava. Starring: Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, Jesús Puente. Bava very consciously develops the film with the potential of the camera and produces sophisticated results, elegant shadows, distortions and use of bizarre angles.

They Have Changed Their Face, 1971

In this allegory on industrialism, the director of a well-known car company welcomes an employee to his vacation home in the countryside for offer him a promotion. The old man is not what he seems and the promotion has a price to pay. Director: Corrado Farina. Starring: Adolfo Celi, Geraldine Hooper, Giuliano Esperati, Francesca Modigliani. The film won the Pardo d’oro for best first film at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1971. At times, the story falls apart along the way and gets stuck with predictable political and social discourses. Had it been made on a larger budget it could have been fascinating.

The Red Lady Kills Seven Times (1972)

2 sisters acquire their family castle, which is said to be haunted by their bloodthirsty ancestor, a dark-haired woman in a red robe called the Red Queen, said to take 7 lives every century. Director: Emilio Miraglia. Starring: Barbara Bouchet, Ugo Pagliai, Marina Malfatti, Marino Masé.

The Night of the Devils (1972)

The patriarch of a wealthy family fears that one day he will appear in the form of a vampire. If that happens, he warns his family not to let him go back to his house no matter how much he begs them. Director: Giorgio Ferroni. Protagonists: Gianni Garko, Agostina Belli, Roberto Maldera, Cinzia De Carolis. Despite the surrealism of the opening scenes the film has the problems of a hasty and low-budget horror production: imperfect direction, mechanical acting, some scenes with an implausible night effect.


Lisa and the Devil (1974)

A traveler spends the night in a dilapidated Spanish holiday home held in the supernatural grip of an eccentric butler, who seems a representation of the Devil he had seen on an old fresco. Director: Mario Bava. Starring: Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Alessio Orano. Showcasing dreamlike imagery and a lyrical story, it may not be a very easy film to watch – its story leaves audiences wondering long after the film is over. Magical, frightening and captivating, Lisa and the Devil is a treat for gothic horror fans.

Footprints on the Moon (1975)

Alice Cespi, who lives alone in Rome, is tortured by frequent headaches from a film she saw as a young woman called “Footprints on the Moon on the Moon”, in which an astronaut is sentenced to die on the moon by an evil man. She is fired from her job and back in her apartment she discovers a postcard showing an old hotel in a place called Garma. He decides to go to Garma, a Turkish island, and books an almost empty hotel. Locals say they saw her a few days earlier, but she had long red hair. Directors: Luigi Bazzoni, Mario Fanelli. Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Peter McEnery, Nicoletta Elmi, Caterina Boratto.

The house with laughing windows (1976)

Stefano, a young conservator, is commissioned to preserve a questionable mural located in the church of a remote village. Director: Pupi Avati. Protagonists: Lino Capolicchio, Francesca Marciano, Gianni Cavina, Giulio Pizzirani. Fans of classic Italian horror movies may find this gothic film different from the many titles in this film genre, but in this very reason it surpasses its contemporaries: a persistent and frustrating sense of dread expands almost intolerably.

The Forbidden Room (1977)

Unusual occasions keep happening in an old Venetian estate, and it’s quickly apparent that something strange is in the attic. Director: Dino Risi. Protagonists: Vittorio Gassman, Catherine Deneuve, Danilo Mattei, Anicée Alvina.

Seven notes in black (1977)

A clairvoyant finds a skeleton in a wall of her partner’s house and tries to discover the reality of what happened to the victim. Director: Lucio Fulci. Starring: Jennifer O’Neill, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marc Porel, Gianni Garko. An extremely effective little thriller, expertly directed and gripping. The final scenes are really scary. This is an experimental horror film, much more interesting than many modern horror movies.

Schock (1977)

A couple is frightened in their new house haunted by the cruel ghost of the lady’s former spouse, who has their child. Directors: Mario Bava, Lamberto Bava. Starring: Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr., Ivan Rassimov. A fast-paced story about a haunted house, it uses fewer visual and sound effects than Bava’s other movies, and is also less scary and somewhat predictable. Perhaps one of the least successful movies of the Italian master of gothic film.

Suspiria (1977)

An American newbie from a distinguished German ballet academy realizes the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders. Director: Dario Argento. Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé. Dario Argento is a director who knows exactly how to make a thriller. The film nails you to your chair, keeps you tense, puts doubts in your head. It is a captivating work, classy, ​​strange and very bold, with a splendid photography by Vittorio Storaro. Dramatic and enthralling, if undermined by stilted arguments, Suspiria is mostly blood and fear. The plot is kept to a minimum and compared to his previous movies the director prefers to focus on aesthetics.

Hotel Fear (1978)

A mother and her son run a hotel during the last stages of World War II. The mother suddenly dies and the little girl is left alone with her seedy visitors. Director: Francesco Barilli. Starring: Luc Merenda, Leonora Fani, Francisco Rabal, Jole Fierro.

Beyond the Darkness (1979)

A distraught young taxidermist exhumes his recently deceased wife, takes her body to his family’s rented house and continues to embalm her remains, with the help of her strange maid. His fits of madness are just beginning. Director: Joe D’Amato. Starring: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi, Sam Modesto. One of D’Amato’s best movies in the gothic horror genre, even if it still remains in the trash low budget cinema basket. The director approaches the subject with a specific amount of flair not found in comparable work.

Le Strelle nel Fosso (1979)

A beautiful lady is revered by the peasants of a province in northern Italy. Men tell each other stories of birth, death, love and the cycle of life to have fun together. Director: Pupi Avati. Protagonists: Lino Capolicchio, Gianni Cavina, Carlo Delle Piane, Roberta Paladini. Pupi Avati returns to the horror and fantasy inspiration of his first movies but along the way he loses the genuineness of his previous works and makes an often manneristic film.

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New movies every week. Watch on any device, without any ads. Cancel at any time.