Five of Vincent Price’s Best Movies

When it comes to the things I love, I don’t usually choose just one favorite. For example, instead of a favorite horror movie, I have a Mt. Rushmore of favorites (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Psycho, and The Shining). I’m like that with pretty much everything that’s important to me, but horror actors are one of the few exceptions. While there are a whole bunch of great genre performers I absolutely adore (like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Christopher Lee), there’s one name that stands above the rest in my eyes: Vincent Price.

To be fair, it’s not that I think Price was more talented than those other actors. In fact, if we’re just judging them by their two or three best performances, I might choose Lugosi instead. But if we broaden our scope and look at their entire careers, I have to go with Vincent Price. He just made more films that I really love, so in my book, he’s the greatest horror actor of all time.

That being said, Price’s vast filmography also comes with a bit of a dark side. While it’s great for people like me who already know his movies, it can be a bit intimidating for new fans. It’s just tough to know where to start, so to help remedy that, I’d like to give you a few recommendations. I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite Vincent Price films, so if you’re looking to explore the work of this genre legend, I suggest checking out these all-time classics.

The Fall of the House of Usher

Vincent Price looking intense

Directed by Roger Corman and based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, this film was the beginning of what is often called Corman’s Poe Cycle. See, from 1960-1964, Corman directed eight movies based on Poe’s works (seven of them with Vincent Price!), and The Fall of the House of Usher was the first. It’s about a man named Roderick Usher who believes his family is cursed, so he’ll stop at nothing to prevent his sister Madeline from marrying her fiance Philip and continuing their bloodline.

Pretty much right from the beginning, this film is saturated with an atmosphere of absolute dread. Corman’s fantastic direction and Price’s utterly haunting performance as Roderick make it clear that something is very wrong with this situation, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Most notably, you don’t know if Roderick is right that his bloodline is cursed or if he’s just gone totally mad, but one thing is certain: he genuinely believes it himself.

He gives a couple of brief monologues explaining the curse to Philip, and Vincent Price imbues these speeches with a fear and a conviction that make you hang on every word he says. Granted, you don’t know if he’s right, but you sure as hell believe that Roderick thinks he is, and his unflinching certainty is enough to send more than a few chills down your spine. 

On top of that, the house where Roderick and Madeline live also seems cursed, and that just adds another layer to the hair-raising mystery. Throughout the film, the characters experience a handful of Final Destination-esque brushes with death, but you’re not sure if they’re supernatural or just bad luck. The place is falling apart, so these frightening events aren’t entirely unexpected, but that could also be part of the curse. You simply don’t know, and that uncertainty adds to the atmosphere of madness and despair that hangs over this entire story.

It’s absolutely captivating, and that atmosphere helps make The Fall of the House of Usher one of the best entries in Vincent Price’s celebrated filmography. It’s creepy and bizarre, and it’ll keep you on your toes from beginning to end, so if you want to know what makes Price such a legend of the horror genre, you can’t go wrong starting with this classic Corman/Price collaboration.

The Pit and the Pendulum

Vincent Price looking crazy

The Pit and the Pendulum was the second film in Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Fall of the House of Usher, it’s still an excellent movie that every fan of classic horror needs to watch. It’s about a man named Francis who visits a creepy castle to investigate his sister’s death, and initially, the woman’s husband Nicholas (played by Vincent Price) and her doctor give different explanations of her untimely demise. However, after seeing some creepy, seemingly supernatural phenomena at the castle, we eventually learn that the truth is much more sinister than Francis could’ve imagined.

In a lot of ways, this movie is very similar to The Fall of the House of Usher. Both films take place in a creepy house (this one is technically a castle, but you get the idea), they’re both about a man who travels to the place because of a woman, and they both feature fantastically tortured performances by Vincent Price. Granted, those things are all a bit better in House of Usher, but The Pit and the Pendulum does them pretty well in its own right too.

That being said, this isn’t just an inferior rehash of Corman and Price’s previous collaboration. It tells its own unique story, and in my opinion, that’s where it really shines. At its core, this film is all about Nicholas’s descent into madness, and predictably, Vincent Price absolutely nails it. 

As the movie progresses, the character becomes more and more haunted by his wife’s death, and as he falls deeper into his insanity, Price’s performance becomes increasingly unhinged. It’s an absolute joy to watch, and unlike a lot of similar films, this one completely sticks the landing. It culminates in a demented finale that brings the story full circle, so The Pit and the Pendulum is hands down one of the most essential entries in Vincent Price’s legendary filmography.

The Haunted Palace

Three men talking

The Haunted Palace is the last Corman/Price collaboration we’ll look at in this article, and despite its Edgar Allan Poe-esque title (Poe wrote a poem with the same name), it’s actually based on an H. P. Lovecraft novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It’s about a man named Charles Dexter Ward who moves into a new home he just inherited, and soon afterwards, he becomes the victim of a malicious curse enacted by his great-great grandfather Joseph Curwen.

Once again, this story takes place in a creepy gothic setting, but beyond that, The Haunted Palace is very different from the first two films we examined. For starters, Vincent Price plays Charles and his great-great grandfather Joseph, and his performance here is nothing like his roles in those other movies. While Charles is a very tragic character, that’s not the film’s focus. For the most part, Price plays him as a fairly normal guy, so there’s nothing too memorable about him.

Instead, the real draw here is Price’s turn as Joseph Curwen. He’s so deliciously evil you can practically taste it every time he speaks, so this is about as far from the tortured soul motif as you can get. It’s classic Vincent Price villainy at its finest, and it shows a very different side of the actor than we see in The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum.

On top of that, the story here is a nearly perfect adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella, so fans of the author’s work are sure to get a real kick out of it. It features (or at least mentions) a whole bunch of Lovecraft mainstays like the Necronomicon, Cthulhu, and Yog-Sothoth, and it was the first major film to introduce cinema audiences to this beloved mythology.

It’s just really cool seeing this classic Lovecraftian story brought to life for the big screen, and when you combine that with Price’s excellent performance, The Haunted Palace more than earns its place in the upper echelon of the actor’s filmography. It’s one of the most delectably despicable roles of his entire career, so this movie is essential viewing for any budding Vincent Price fan.

Witchfinder General

A man pointing a gun at someone

Vincent Price is best known for his sci-fi and supernatural (or at least quasi-supernatural) horror movies, but Witchfinder General (also known as The Conqueror Worm) is a bit different. Instead of showcasing ghosts and ghouls and indescribable monsters, this film focuses on the evil we humans inflict on each other. It’s about Matthew Hopkins, a man charged with traveling the English countryside and finding secret witches living among the people, and as you can probably guess, this guy abuses his power in some pretty egregious ways.

He’s just an absolutely terrible human being, so naturally, he’s brought to life by the master of the macabre, Vincent Price. And as you can also probably guess, Price totally nails the role. He plays it with a palpable aura of hypocrisy and cold-heartedness, so you genuinely believe he’s this despicable witchfinder. In fact, he’s so good you can almost see his loathsomeness dripping from every word he says and every move he makes, so I just want to grab the guy and throttle him whenever he’s on screen.

There are a few other things I could praise about this film as well, like Matthew Hopkins’s almost equally detestable cronies and the beautiful British countryside, but for my money, Price’s great performance as the titular witchfinder is all you need to know. It’s worth the price of admission all by itself, so if you want to see just how heinous Vincent Price could be as a villain, you can’t do much better than Witchfinder General.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Vincent Price looking creepy

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is hands down the weirdest film on this list, and aside from its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again, it just might be the strangest movie in Vincent Price’s entire filmography. It’s about a man named Anton Phibes (played by Price) who lost his wife during surgery, and he blames her medical team for her death. To exact revenge, he constructs elaborate, almost comical ways to kill them all, and the murders absolutely baffle the police.

If you’re a fan of whacky slasher deaths, you’re probably going to like this movie. Phibes bases his scheme on the Ten Plagues from the story of Moses in the Bible (albeit a heavily adapted and changed version of them), and the kills get pretty outlandish. I won’t spoil them if you haven’t seen the film, but trust me, they’re all super fun.

On top of that, this movie also features one of the best and most unique performances of Vincent Price’s entire career. See, Phibes was horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he lost his ability to speak. He invented a weird contraption that mimics his voice and allows him to talk in a certain sense, but Price himself never says a word on screen. This is essentially a silent performance combined with voiceover work, and that makes his job here pretty difficult.

But as expected, he proves himself entirely up to the task. He manages to convey a sense of genuine pathos with just his facial expression and body language, and his voiceover dialogue matches his physical performance to a T. That blend makes Phibes surprisingly sympathetic and interesting, so even though he’s a sadistic serial killer, you can’t help but feel for the guy. 

And when you combine that great villain with the fun kills, it’s not hard to see why The Abominable Dr. Phibes is an absolute must-watch for Vincent Price fans. It’s the perfect fusion of silly fun and heartfelt emotion, so it showcases everything we love about the legendary actor.

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  1. You are a person after my own heart. I grew up watching all of the movies and actors that you mentioned plus all of the others of that time. I remember watching “Shock Theater” on Saturday mornings with my older brother and sisters as one of my earliest memories. The movies they call horror movies today are nothing compared to the suspense and anticipation that that the old ones gave us.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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