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Before shared universes became a thing, Universal was doing it in the classic Universal Monsters franchise. But which is the best?

Some of the best movies to watch during the Halloween season are the classic Universal Monsters movies. Those awesome black and white movies that were built around characters like Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, among others. So now that Halloween weekend is upon us, we here at Arrow in the Head have put together a list: Universal Monsters Franchises Ranked! Below you’ll find our rankings of the classic franchises, from least to favorite. Check it out, and let us know how you would rank these franchises by leaving a comment!

Honorable Mention: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO

The comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello certainly weren’t Universal monsters (or any other kind of monsters), but they earn an honorable mention on this list because they played an important role in the Universal Monsters saga. After making several straightforward horror movies with their monsters, Universal decided to pair them with Abbott and Costello for a series of horror comedies. The first was the monster mash Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which also features Dracula and the Wolf Man), which pays great respect to the monsters, who remain in character as we know them, while drawing humor from the reactions Abbott and Costello have to them. That was followed by Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff; Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man; Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (the only Jekyll and Hyde movie made by Universal during their classic Monsters era); and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

Ape Woman Universal Monsters


Introduced in the 1944 film Captive Wild Woman, the Ape Woman is the forgotten member of the Universal Monsters squad – which is a shame, because it would have been nice to have a female icon in the group. The result of an experiment in which a mad scientist transfused the glandular secretions of a human female into the body of the gorilla Cheela, the Ape Woman was given the name Paula Dupree – and she had a tendency to become obsessed with unobtainable men. Mononymous actress Acquanetta played Paula completely silently in Captive Wild Woman, then was given lines in the sequel Jungle Woman. But when Acquanetta’s contract with Universal ended and she was recast with Vicky Lane in the trilogy ender The Jungle Captive, the character became silent again. Universal had considered putting the Ape Woman in the crossover House of Frankenstein, and she’d probably be better remembered if they had. As it is, she got an entertaining first movie and a couple underwhelming sequels before disappearing.

Dracula Universal Monsters


1931’s Dracula is one of the greatest horror movies ever made (and the Spanish version is quite good as well), but we’re ranking the franchises here, not just the first films in those franchises. So the Dracula franchise lands near the bottom of this list. The problem is, Bela Lugosi only officially played Dracula in the first film and the crossover Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – for the other sequels, he was replaced by his offspring. Gloria Holden as Dracula’s Daughter Countess Marya Zaleska, and Lon Chaney Jr. as Count Alucard, the Son of Dracula. Their movies are decent enough, but they just can’t live up to Lugosi’s movie. Hammer got Christopher Lee to play Dracula seven times, but Universal couldn’t get Lugosi back for a sequel because they didn’t want to pay him. Lugosi wanted a raise from the $500 a week he earned on the first movie, and the studio considered that a deal breaker. Dracula did return in the lackluster crossovers House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, where he was played by John Carradine.


The Invisible Man had a shockingly long-lived franchise, especially considering the fact that each installment has a different title character. Movie-goers just kept turning up to see different people turn invisible. There is a fun variety of tones and genres to this series, which starts off in horror thriller territory. Claude Rains gives an incredible performance as the maniacal, homicidal Invisible Man in the first movie. The Invisible Man Returns is a murder mystery about an invisible escaped convict trying to prove his innocence, The Invisible Woman is a slapstick comedy, Invisible Agent is a World War II spy movie, the invisible person was a villain again in The Invisible Man’s Revenge, and then Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man is a comedic murder mystery. There is no consistency or continuity to this franchise at all, but it is entertaining to see so many different styles packed into one series.


The Wolf Man, known as Larry Talbot when he’s in human form, only had one solo film, but he did return for four crossover movies – and his franchise is boosted by the consistency of having Lon Chaney Jr. play the character every time. Talbot’s story doesn’t always make sense – he’s killed in one movie, returns for another, gets cured in a movie, is back to being a Wolf Man the next time we see him – but Chaney was always terrific in the role, giving an endearing performance that stirs up a lot of sympathy for his character. Larry Talbot doesn’t want to be a monster, he wants to be rid of this curse in any way possible, even if that means dying. But kept getting brought back for monster action. The Wolf Man was followed by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.


The Mummy stars Boris Karloff as Imhotep, a man who has been resurrected centuries after his death and uses ancient spells in an attempt to be reunited with his lost love. He’s a great character, and a powerful villain – and as the franchise continued, Universal decided not to bring his Imhotep back. Instead, he was replaced by the bandage-wrapped zombie Kharis, the mummy who fits most people’s vision of what a mummy should look like. Kharis shambled his way across the screen in four different films (and was played by Lon Chaney Jr.) in three of those, terrorizing people across the world and through the decades, trying to wipe out a bloodline, hoping to be reunited with a lost love, and disregarding any continuity issues. For viewers who want to see a shambling, bandaged mummy, The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Mummy’s Curse all provide good, simple fun. Kharis was replaced by Klaris for the goofball comedy Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.


Frankenstein is one of the greatest horror movies ever made – and it was followed by one of the greatest sequels ever made, Bride of Frankenstein. Those two movies reached a height that none of the other Frankenstein movies would reach again… but the movies are still fun to watch. Following Bride, Frankenstein’s Monster returned for a couple decent sequels that greatly benefited from the presence of the homicidal Ygor (Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein), then crossed paths with his fellow monsters in multiple crossovers: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The stories weren’t always great, the continuity was lacking, some of those crossovers didn’t live up to their potential, but Frankenstein’s Monster was always a great monster to watch – and was played by the likes of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, and Glenn Strange.

Creature from the Black Lagoon Universal Monsters


The Creature from the Black Lagoon was embraced as an equal to his fellow Universal Monsters despite the fact that he came along twenty years after his peers. He missed out on the crossovers, he didn’t get to star in a movie alongside Abbott and Costello… but he did get an excellent debut movie. That film tells the story of a scientific expedition to the edge of the Brazilian Amazon, where the scientists cross paths with a half-man / half-fish creature that takes an unhealthy interest in the female member of the ground. In Revenge of the Creature, the Gill Man is captured and taken to an oceanarium in Florida (where Clint Eastwood appears as an absent-minded lab worker), and in the disappointing-but-serviceable trilogy capper The Creature Walks Among Us his gills are damaged and he has to resort to breathing air with his lungs. With this change to the creature, the franchise actually brought about an ending there was no coming back from.

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