Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens
(1922, Dir. by F.W. Murnau.)
Why It's Here:
NINETY YEARS after its release, the first infamous vampire thriller stands as more of a template for horror than anything else. An unsubtle adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula (the book, not the one with Gary Oldman...DUH!) from the silent era, F.W. Murnau's film represents just what filmmakers like himself and Fritz Lang were working to do in the early years of cinema. Through all the wonderful images in the film, it's the everlasting visage of Max Schreck as the Count that stands out. It might be the definitive image of a vampire on film.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
Pretty much anything to do with Schrek's sinister hands, which are captured in shadow form countless times by Murnau and crew. The scene in which we see the shadow creeping up a stairway is still effective, as is the Count's rise from his coffin, which is a pretty stunning special effect for its time.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
Though most remakes don't belong in the same sentence as their predecessors, Werner Herzog's 1979 version, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, is an artistic and engrossing retelling of the story with an equally creepy Count played by the ever-villainous Klaus Kinski. The remake runs a little long, but it's worth the time and was a serious contender for this Top 50 list.
If you want to be a completist, you might follow up both films with Shadow of The Vampire, which tells the (fictional) tale of the 1922 production. It features John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe in an Oscar nominated turn as Schreck.
What It Means To Me:
I will always give an edge to classic horror. I'm very much of the "We'll never get where we're going if we forget where we have been" mindset when it comes to movies. But Nosferatu is a visual powerhouse that still packs some shivers, and it's a lot more than just an "honorary" member of this list. Murnau and Schreck might be the ultimate power duo in expressionist horror - I mean, really, they basically invented it - and I'm going to give them respect on any day of the week.