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10 Frightening Pre-Code Horror Movies You Need To Watch

The Production Code emerged in 1934, creating strict guidelines for films. However, movies made before the Code didn't abide by those rules. So, we got some pretty weird and freaky stuff.

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1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Paramount Pictures / Via

Why it's awesome: Fredric March won Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 1932 Academy Awards. (Or, should I say "Beast Actor" ba dum tsss.) The special effects were fantastic, especially for a 1930s film. Don't believe me? Watch the transformation scene below.

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Who needs CGI anyway?


3. Frankenstein (1931)

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Why it's awesome: Boris Karloff is scary good, giving 1930s audience members nightmares for weeks after seeing the film. Ironically, famous actor John Carradine wanted nothing to do with playing the monster because he thought he was too talented for that kind of thing. Wrong move, Carradine. This role turned Karloff into a star overnight.

Universal Pictures / Via

Fun fact: In the 1931 original version, Frankenstein's Monster accidentally drowns a child. However, after the Production Code developed in 1934, the part of her actually being thrown into the water was cut out. Instead, they ended the scene with him creepily smiling and lunging for her. Yeah, nothing skeevy about that...

4. Doctor X (1932)

First National Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures / Via

Why it's awesome: Some bro is going around killing people during a full moon and he's not even a werewolf. There's cannibalism and creating artificial limbs because, reasons. The film provides countless suspects and gives off a "Scooby-Doo" vibe by trying to figure out who's the monster and who's a red herring.


5. Freaks (1932)

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Why it's awesome: The characters are definitely one-of-a-kind. The film shows how the "normal" people are way crueler and freakier than the "side-show freaks." The ending is pretty out there, with fantastic makeup skills.

6. Island of Lost Souls (1932)

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Why it's awesome: It's based off an H.G. Wells story, for starters. Dr. Moreau decides to play God and combine humans with animals. These horrendous deeds occur in 'The House of Pain,' which is somewhere I never want to be.


7. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

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Why it's awesome: Fu Manchu desperately wants the sword and mask of Genghis Khan, and he'll stop at nothing to get it. With the items, he'll be able to fool the people of Asia and the Middle East, getting them to destroy the white race. There are torture scenes and some creepy almost-naked dudes. (Oh, and that's totally Boris Karloff who played Frankenstein's Monster a year earlier.)

8. The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

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Why it's awesome: A crazy man hunts humans for fun. Now, this plot is overused today, but back in the 1930s, it most certainly wasn't. This film depicts the monster as being human, not as a creature. Sometimes the thing you need to be afraid of really isn't too different from you.

9. The Invisible Man (1933)

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Why it's awesome: Again, the special effects are phenomenal for a 1930s film. Plus, actor Claude Rains' portrayal of the 'Invisible Man' is one of both sass and a try-and-get-on-my-level kind of attitude. It's also based on an H.G. Wells novel.


10. Murders in the Zoo (1933)

Paramount Pictures / Via

Why it's awesome: Zoologist Eric Gorman gets animals to kill people he doesn't like, including his unfaithful wife and her lover. However, the tactics he chooses are pretty graphic and messed up. For example, Gorman sews up this man's mouth because he kissed Gorman's wife, then lets vicious animals devour the unlucky bastard.

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