Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

Gothic horror and romance tales feed on our darkest fears and desires, and conjure the creatures of the night into being.

The sensational tales of 18th and 19th century writers like Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and the Brontës, have defined popular culture, inspiring some of film and television’s most memorable characters, from Dracula and Frankenstein to Cathy and Heathcliff. The technology of film always did fulfil a deep-rooted Gothic fantasy, by capturing the spirits of the living, conjuring ghostly and disembodied forms, and re-animating the dead. Now the undead creatures of the Gothic imagination return to our screens again and again, shape-shifting and breeding new genres. In 2013 the BFI’s spellbinding season lifted the lid on this dark storehouse of the imagination, which found its heart in Britain, and came to life on film. Delve into a dark heart of film here.

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The Elephant ManThe Elephant Man

Biopic1980124 minsDirector: David Lynch

David Lynch's moving true-life tale of the severely deformed Joseph Merrick and his rescue from the hell of a Victorian circus sideshow.

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The Limehouse GolemThe Limehouse Golem

Thriller2017109 minsDirector: Juan Carlos Medina

Bill Nighy plays the arch detective investigating a series of grisly murders around the music halls of Victorian London, in this pungent Gothic mystery.

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Horror201885 minsDirector: Matthew Holness

"Can you spy him deep within? Little Possum. Black as sin." The reliably deranged Sean Harris is plagued by an evil puppet in this dark, brooding fable from Matthew Holness.

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Dracula (1958)Dracula (1958)

Horror195882 minsDirector: Terence Fisher

Hammer's 1958 version of Stoker's Gothic novel was the most exciting to date, boasting lavish costumes and sets, a vibrant score and red, red blood.

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The MummyThe Mummy

Horror195988 minsDirector: Terence Fisher

Classic Hammer horror of a reanimated ancient Egyptian mummy, who returns from his tomb to seek vengeance on its desecrators.

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The Curse of FrankensteinThe Curse of Frankenstein

Horror195783 minsDirector: Terence Fisher

Meddling with nature has devastating consequences in Hammer's first Gothic horror, a visceral take on Mary Shelley's novel.

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A Ghost StoryA Ghost Story

Drama201792 minsDirector: David Lowery

David Lowery's haunting exploration of love and loss, with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck is a high-point of recent independent American cinema.

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Witchfinder GeneralWitchfinder General

Horror196887 minsDirector: Michael Reeves

A witchfinder traverses 17th-century England executing those he suspects of witchcraft.

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The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

Horror2018111 minsDirector: Lenny Abrahamson

Lenny Abrahamson (Room, Frank) directs this Gothic mystery, with Domhnall Gleeson as a doctor helping the heir of a haunted stately home (Ruth Wilson).

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The Company of WolvesThe Company of Wolves

Fantasy198495 minsDirector: Neil Jordan

Angela Carter and Neil Jordan's magical, radical take on Little Red Riding Hood.

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The WitchesThe Witches

98 minsDirector: Cyril Frankel

Joan Fontaine stars as an ex-missionary drawn to investigate the sinister undercurrents beneath the surface of English village life.

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Ghost StoriesGhost Stories

Horror201898 minsDirector: Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Being scared has never been this much fun, as Martin Freeman, Andy Nyman and Paul Whitehouse bring the chilling London stage play to the screen.

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Dead of NightDead of Night

Anthology194599 minsDirector: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer

A group of guests assembled at a country house swap uncanny and supernatural stories in this classic Ealing chiller from 1945.

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The GhoulThe Ghoul

Horror193380 minsDirector: T. Hayes Hunter

The occupants of an old house are menaced by a dead - and very angry - Egyptologist.

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The Pendulum, The Pit and HopeThe Pendulum, The Pit and Hope

Animation & Artists Moving Image198315 minsDirector: Jan Svankmajer

Švankmajer's second adaptation of the work of Edgar Allan Poe, in which a prisoner is forced to undergo trials of torture.

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Night of the Living DeadNight of the Living Dead

Horror196896 minsDirector: George A. Romero

Landmark film from 'zombie godfather' Romero, whose makeshift heroes fight for their lives against a new and terrifying enemy.

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Horror197391 minsDirector: Don Sharp

The greatest zombie-biker, toad-worshipping-Satanists horror in British cinema is an undisputed cult classic brimming with exciting action and fantastical mayhem.

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The Body BeneathThe Body Beneath

Horror197082 minsDirector: Andy Milligan

Vampires rampage around Hampstead in a strange, bloody cult horror by low-budget sex-gore auteur Andy Milligan.

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The Devil Rides OutThe Devil Rides Out

Horror196895 minsDirector: Terence Fisher

Dennis Wheatley's occult tale is given the Hammer treatment.

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The Phantom LightThe Phantom Light

Comedy193572 minsDirector: Michael Powell

Michael Powell’s gothic mystery of a haunted lighthouse where insanity thrives.

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Hands of the RipperHands of the Ripper

Horror197185 minsDirector: Peter Sasdy

In Edwardian London, a series of gruesome murders match those of the Whitechapel Ripper, revealing an unlikely suspect.

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Fantasy198989 minsDirector: Bernard Rose

Bernard Rose’s cult adult fantasy follows a young girl who discovers an increasingly dark and dangerous dream world.

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Seance on a Wet AfternoonSeance on a Wet Afternoon

Crime1964111 minsDirector: Bryan Forbes

Bryan Forbes’ stylish psychological thriller about a medium who plans to kidnap a child and help the police solve the crime to bolster her reputation as a clairvoyant.

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Out of the DarknessOut of the Darkness

Children's198568 minsDirector: John Krish

A ghostly drama of the Derbyshire plague village of Eyam, as unquiet spirits of the long dead make contact with the living.

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Blanche FuryBlanche Fury

Period drama194894 minsDirector: Marc Allégret

Valerie Hobson stars as the scheming governess with designs on taking over the Fury estate, in this atmospheric Gothic melodrama

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Uncle SilasUncle Silas

Drama194798 minsDirector: Charles Frank

Gothic chiller based on the novel by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Jean Simmons stars as an heiress pursued by her unbalanced uncle and his perverted son.

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The Man in GreyThe Man in Grey

Melodrama1943116 minsDirector: Leslie Arliss

James Mason, Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger star in the first of the fantastically successful Gainsborough melodramas.

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The UncannyThe Uncanny

Horror197785 minsDirector: Denis Héroux

An author becomes convinced he's unearthed a feline conspiracy to control mankind.

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The Fall of the House of UsherThe Fall of the House of Usher

Horror195071 minsDirector: Ivan Barnett

An eerie British version of the classic Poe chiller, strong enough for a rare 'H' (for Horrific) certificate.

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The Fall of the House of UsherThe Fall of the House of Usher

Animation & Artists Moving Image198216 minsDirector: Jan Svankmajer

The first of Švankmajer's 'tactile experiments', chosen partly because the title was on an official list of 'approved' texts. In this version there are no humans, just a glimpse of a live raven as the camera roams around an eerie derelict house.

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The Tell-Tale HeartThe Tell-Tale Heart

Drama195321 minsDirector: J.B. Williams

Stanley Baker enacts the classic Edgar Allan Poe story in this chilling short film, only recently rediscovered after being lost for 50 years.

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The Tell-Tale HeartThe Tell-Tale Heart

Horror200411 minsDirector: Stephanie Sinclaire

What's under those floorboards? A man is driven to murder in a modern retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's ghoulish story shot by the legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff.

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The Tell-Tale HeartThe Tell-Tale Heart

Horror193450 minsDirector: Brian Desmond Hurst

A madman harbours murderous thoughts about an old relative with an evil eye in this chilling Edgar Allan Poe adaptation

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The Man from NowhereThe Man from Nowhere

Children's197659 minsDirector: James Hill

Victorian orphan Alice Harvey - arriving to live at her great uncle's spooky house - is frightened by a mysterious, dark-clad intruder.

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One of the MissingOne of the Missing

War196827 minsDirector: Tony Scott

A nightmarish, Gothic American tale directed by a 24-year-old Tony Scott.

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To Have and to HoldTo Have and to Hold

Drama200013 minsDirector: John Hardwick

A woman finds that death will not part her from her deceased lover.

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Where Has Poor Mickey GoneWhere Has Poor Mickey Gone

56 minsDirector: Gerry Levy

A fairground showman (Warren Mitchell) exacts a terrible revenge upon the hooligans who terrorise him in this haunting tale of mystery and magic

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Hands of DestinyHands of Destiny

Drama195452 minsDirector: Tony Young

The strange prophesies of Dr Josef Ranald, palm reader of choice to Nazi war leaders.

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