What was the first horror movie ever made?

Watch the World’s First Horror Movie From 1896

The world’s first horror movie doesn’t seem particularly scary these days, but in 1896, Le Manoir du Diable (released in the U.S. as The Haunted Castle) had the most cutting-edge special effects of its day. Made by famed French filmmaker Georges Méliès, whose films include the influential A Trip to the Moon, the short revolves around a bat that turns into the demon Mephistopheles.

The soundtrack sounds like a weird little lullaby, somewhat taking away from the horror of it all—it actually makes pretty good work music, if I’m being honest. But there are some fun 19th century special effects, some of the first ever to appear on film. People appear and disappear in clouds of smoke, and bats suddenly take human forms! On the less frightening side, there are quite a few men in funny hats, and the demon pokes people in the butt—which is what really makes the film come together. (After all, nothing says “Happy Halloween!” like a pitchfork to the rear end.)

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Entering the Kingdom of Shadows

The first horror movies appear during the very earliest days of cinema, in the 1890s. Indeed, some of the very first moving pictures, simple street scenes, or a train pulling into a station, caused feelings of horror in audiences. There was something distinctly supernatural about the way people were captured on film, flickering through the same few seconds in time for all eternity.

Here’s how Maxim Gorky describes seeing the Lumière Brothers’ “A Street In Paris” 1896:

Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows.

If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world without sound, without colour. Everything there — the earth, the trees, the people, the water and the air — is dipped in monotonous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces, and the leaves of the trees are ashen grey. It is not life but its shadow, it is not motion but its soundless spectre. Here I shall try to explain myself, lest I be suspected of madness or indulgence in symbolism. I was at Aumont’s and saw Lumière’s cinematograph — moving photography.

Gorky’s review of the Lumière program at the Nizhni-Novgorod Fair1

For Gorky, and for many others, the cinematograph was a form of dark sorcery. It triggered the imagination in wild, new ways. It captured the everyday and mundane and transformed it into something other-worldly. Gorky found the “eternal silence” of the images disturbing. He was also haunted by his emotional response to early cinema.

It is terrifying to see but it is the movement of shadows, only of shadows. Curses and ghosts, the evil spirits that have cast entire cities come to mind…

This mute, grey life finally begins to disturb and depress you. It seems as though it carries a warning, fraught with a vague but sinister meaning that makes your heart grow faint. You are forgetting where you are. Strange imaginings invade your mind and your consciousness begins to wane and grow dim…


Initially, the simple moving images of a street scene described by Gorky were enough to thrill an audience. However, the novelty of watching a straightforward representation of reality wore thin. People wanted stories, with recognizable beginnings, middles, and ends. The new medium of cinema, depicting “the movement of shadows”, seemed perfect for darker narratives with supernatural themes.

So, pioneers like the Lumière Brothers and George Méliès learned how to tweak and manipulate images on film. They created special effects on screen, such as spirits, dancing skeletons, giant creatures, and sudden appearances and disappearances. The supernatural could now appear in the same frame as the natural – and entertain an audience like nothing before.

Capturing Ghosts

These early horror films don’t simply appear out of nowhere. They blend many different art forms of the nineteenth century into the new medium of cinema. The visual aesthetic comes, in many cases, from Expressionist painters. The narrative style comes from the special effects laden-phantasmagoria horror theatre of the 18th and 19th centuries (which utilized sounds, smells and magic lantern projections) and the melodramatic plays of the Grand Guignol Theatre Company. These stage productions were, in turn, adapted from the dark imaginings of Gothic literature.

The first horror filmmakers also adopted some of the tricks used by spirit photographers in the 1860s. Spirit photography – the practice of using double exposures or superimpositions to depict ghosts within a frame of film – was discovered by accident by a Boston photographer, William Mumler in 1861. These photographs were valued by Spiritualists (who may have believed the images were real, vindicating their belief in the afterlife). They were also popular with stage magicians and their audiences, who delighted in fakery as entertainment. Harry Houdini and P.T. Barnum both took delight in exposing(!) the fraudulent images created by their rivals.

19th-century spirit photography

At the time, the first horror movies were known as spook tales. The label ‘horror’ isn’t applied to movies until the 1930s. Unfortunately, the fragility of early film stock means that many of the first horror movies have been lost forever. Some, however, survived and are available online.

The Very First Horror Movies (1890s)

The first horror movies were extremely short, a novelty sequence designed to impress an audience rather than tell a story. One of the very first is titled Le Squelette Joyeux. This fragment was created by the Lumière brothers in the mid 1890s (dates vary):

The first horror narrative on record is Le Manoir du Diable (1896), created by the visionary Georges Méliès. Although it has a running time of a little over three minutes, this supernatural story still manages to pack in the genre paradigms. Bats, devils, witches, cauldrons, ghosts, trolls all appear and disappear in puffs of smoke.

Horror Movies of the 1900s

Georges Méliès continued to dominate as undisputed master of the spook tale through the 1900s. In his specially constructed glass studio in Paris, he invented many camera modifications and devices to help bring his fantastical visions to the screen. He’s believed to be responsible for many special effects firsts: split screen, double exposure, overlapping dissolves, fades in and out, and stop motion photography. He also used storyboards and color extensively.

The Monster (1903) mixes Egyptology with necromancy. An Egyptian prince hires a magician to bring his dead wife to life so he can gaze upon her one more time. Against an elaborately painted backdrop showing the Sphinx, her skeleton dances to life, turns into a ghoul, then a beautiful woman, before disintegrating into a pile of bones again.

Faust et Méphistophélès (1903) is quite possibly the first horror movie directed by a woman, Alice Guy.

As the 1900s went on, new developments in projection technology made it possible to tell (slightly) longer stories. This led to the (now, sadly lost) first movie adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, made by the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope Film Company in 1908.

The first movie version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was made by Edison Studios in New York, in 1910. Thomas Edison and the director, J. Searle Dawley, condensed the novel into a run-time of just 14 minutes. Their press release2 shows that, already, there were certain groups who felt there was something morally wrong with spook tales as entertainment.

To those familiar with Mrs. Shelly’s story it will be evident that we have carefully omitted anything which might be any possibility shock any portion of the audience. In making the film the Edison Co. has carefully tried to eliminate all actual repulsive situations and to concentrate its endeavors upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale. Wherever, therefore, the film differs from the original story it is purely with the idea of eliminating what would be repulsive to a moving picture audience.

Then came the Great War, which changed everything, redefining the visual and psychological language of horror the world over.

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What makes scary films so, well, scary? Like all things, you’ve gotta start somewhere. Psycho, Sinister and The Exorcist didn’t come out of nowhere, you know!

Even if you’re a horror movie fanatic, the first-ever documented horror film might come as a surprise. It was George Mellies’s Le Manoir du Diable, a three-minute silent film produced in 1896, featuring vampires, devils, witches and dancing ghosts trolls, all of whom appear and disappear in puffs of smoke.

That’s Not Scary Though…

Well, for the time period, it was. The world’s original horror films were disturbing pieces of art, calling on expressionist paintings and spirit photographers of the 1860s. Using narrative style and themes from Gothic literature, these movies fused reality, mythical folklore and legends of monsters.

Spirit photography — using double exposure to depict blurred movement within a single frame — was popular not only among photographers who believed the ghost-like imagery was real, but also among musicians, and magicians who used the pictures as entertainment. This was especially used in motion picture animation videos, to show “ghosts” meandering through one scene to the next.

The Evolution of Horror

The silent film era stirred several technological advances, and every step from then on helped lead us to where we are today.

During the First World War, Germany banned foreign films, giving way to the nation’s own film industry. The country went from producing just over 20 films in 1914 to over 100 in 1918. Filmmakers developed their own style, heavily influenced by the Expressionist movement and other fine arts of that time period. Over the years, movie-makers started to apply photographic elements into theatre and stage setting.

Between 1900 and 1920, countless supernatural-themed films were made, many of which were influenced by literature. Perhaps the most iconic is Frankenstein. Edison Studios released the first adaptation in 1910.

From then until now, horror has gone through phases, from gimmicky and fake-feeling spooks to evil-centered dramas. In the 70s and 80s, houses and people were generally depicted as being possessed with the Devil. Around that same time, “slasher” films took speed, such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984.

Whether you’re hitting the box office for this year’s latest Halloween thriller, or digging up Mom’s original version of Dracula, you’ll now have a greater appreciation of the evolution of what makes your favorite scary films so, well, scary.

The First Horror Film, George Méliès’ The Haunted Castle (1896)

In literature, graphic descriptions of menace and dismemberment by monsters are as old as Beowulf and much, much older still, though it wasn’t until Horace Walpole’s 18th century novel The Castle of Otranto inspired the gothic romance novel that horror-qua-horror came into fashion. Without Walpole, and better-known gothic innovators like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, we’d likely never have had Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, or Stephen King. But nowadays when we think of horror, we usually think of film—and all of its various contemporary subgenres, including creepy psychological twists on good-old-fashion monster movies, like The Babadook.

But from whence came the horror film? Was it 1931, a banner horror year in which audiences saw both Boris Karloff in James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning’s Dracula? Certainly classic films by masters of the genre, but they did not originate the horror movie. There is, of course, F.W. Murnau’s terrifying silent Nosferatu from 1922 (and the real life horror of its deceased director’s missing head).

And what about German expressionism? “A case can be made,” argued Roger Ebert, that Robert Weine’s 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari “was the first true horror film”—a “subjective psychological fantasy” in which “unspeakable horror becomes possible.” Perhaps. But even before Weine’s still-effectively-disorienting cinematic work disturbed audiences worldwide, there was Paul Wegener’s first, 1915 version of The Golem, a character, writes Penn State’s Kevin Jack Hagopian, that served as “one of the most significant ancestors to the cinematic Frankenstein of James Whale and Boris Karloff.“ Even earlier, in 1910, Thomas Edison produced an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s monster story.

So how far back do we have to go to find the first horror movie? Almost as far back as the very origins of film, it seems—to 1896, when French special-effects genius Georges Méliès made the three plus minute short above, Le Manoir du Diable (The Haunted Castle, or the Manor of the Devil). Méliès, known for his silent sci-fi fantasy A Trip to the Moon—and for the tribute paid to him in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo—used his innovative methods to tell a story, writes Maurice Babbis at Emerson University journal Latent Image, of “a large bat that flies into a room and transforms into Mephistopheles. He then stands over a cauldron and conjures up a girl along with some phantoms and skeletons and witches, but then one of them pulls out a crucifix and the demon disappears.” Not much of a story, granted, and it’s not particularly scary, but it is an excellent example of a technique Méliès supposedly discovered that very year. According to Earlycinema.com,

In the Autumn of 1896, an event occurred which has since passed into film folklore and changed the way Méliès looked at filmmaking. Whilst filming a simple street scene, Méliès camera jammed and it took him a few seconds to rectify the problem. Thinking no more about the incident, Méliès processed the film and was struck by the effect such a incident had on the scene – objects suddenly appeared, disappeared or were transformed into other objects.

Thus was born The Haunted Castle, technically the first horror film, and one of the first movies—likely the very first—to deliberately use special effects to frighten its viewers.

The Haunted Castle has been added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

During the early days of filmmaking, it was French directors who constantly tested the capabilities of the early cameras as they discovered new ways to tell stories. Le Manoir du Diable is a film from 1896 that often slips through the cracks during general film studies courses, but cinephiles know it as the world’s first horror film.

While fans might skip this film on account of more modern horror classics like The Shining or Twin Peaks, Le Manoir du Diable definitely deserves a viewing from every horror movie junkie.


10 The First Vampire Film?

While it’s widely been attributed as the first horror film, many viewers have disagreed with this claim, given that its intent was to amuse people rather than traumatize them. When the Devil makes his first appearance in this film, he transforms from a bat to a man, a trope that has more to do with vampires than it does devils and demons. This has led other viewers to attribute Le Manoir du Diable as the first vampire film.

9 Features Established Horror Motifs

A good horror film contains many recognizable horror motifs, borrowed from the films that came before it. But considering the fact that Le Manoir du Diable is the world’s first horror film, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it has played a huge role in establishing many of these motifs in the first place.

Fans of horror will immediately recognize many common tropes, such as a damsel in distress, devious illusions, ghosts, impish figures, magic, and a spooky castle, not to mention the devil himself. While giving this film a watch, you won’t believe just how many horror motifs have been crammed into such a tiny package.


8 Hold The Nightmares

While many moviegoers avoid horror films altogether due to the possibility of experiencing nightmares after sitting through an entire viewing, this 1896 film was actually made to engross audiences into a narrative, and the director had no intention of inducing paranoia on the viewer. In fact, Le Manoir du Diable may even appear somewhat comical rather than scary to audiences of today.

7 It Isn’t Long At All

The most common excuse for not watching critically acclaimed films is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get the job done. Fortunately, Le Manoir du Diable is no The Irishman. This film is just over three and a half minutes, meaning you could watch literally watch the entire thing twice and still make it to work on time.


6 It Was Different For Its Time

During the early days of cinema, anything beyond a simple video clip that wasn’t just a few seconds long was considered truly innovative due to how difficult it was to shoot and edit film in the first place.

Not only did Le Manoir du Diable attempt to tell an actual narrative rather than just showing real people going about their daily lives while being recorded, but this marked an attempt to truly bewilder the audience, depicting a world that differed from their own. Audiences were given a clear antagonist, protagonists, a beginning, and an end, and although this is pretty much standard for today’s films, back in 1896, this was truly revolutionary.

5 Creative Special Effects

It wasn’t only the length and subject matter of Le Manoir du Diable that were truly inventive, but also the special effects that were used in the film. They’re nowhere close to the CGI that is used today, but for a movie made in 1896, we’re amazed that Georges Méliès was able to cut between clips so close that it looks like characters are not only changing form (most notably a bat changes into the Devil and a young beautiful woman turns into an old hag in an instant), but ghosts and other figures constantly appear and disappear.

Not only were these effects innovative for their time, but it truly makes one appreciate just how far the art of cinematography has come.


4 A Chance To See Foreign Styles Of Dress From Over A Century Ago

Today, North Americans probably won’t be shocked to find out that French people don’t dress all that different from them. While Le Manoir du Diable isn’t exactly a fashion show, its characters do adorn some truly memorable garb, from the Devil and his tights and dark-colored cape, to the uniforms worn by the two cavaliers who arrive to put a stop to his antics.

While these outfits might look silly, even to people in 1896, it is pretty cool to see just what kinds of costumes were deemed appropriate for this kind of film over a century ago. These early films can even serve as a reference point when filmmakers are choosing how to dress their heroes and villains for their latest historical dramas.

3 Made By Georges Méliès

Georges Méliès was a French film director who’s played a vital role in the development of cinematography as an art form. His 1902 film A Trip to the Moon is one of early cinema’s most venerated titles. It was even named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by the Village Voice. After watching this film, along with Le Manoir du Diable, it’s clear that Méliès has a passion for narrative storytelling that not only draws viewers into a fictional world, but reminds audiences of the best (and worst) parts of the world they live in.

Le Manoir du Diable was filmed when Méliès himself didn’t have access to a studio, so he had to film it in his garden with painted canvas used for the background. Many fans have also made several efforts to make it known that the woman in the film, Jehanne d’Alcy, was a successful theatre actress who later became Méliès’ second wife.


2 It Was Almost Gone For Good

It’s always amazing when films from cinema’s humble beginnings have survived the test of time so that audiences of today can still appreciate them. Given that it’s such an old film, it’s understandable that Le Manoir du Diable could get lost, destroyed, or even forgotten about.

It was actually considered lost until 1988, when a single copy was found in a junk shop in Christchurch, New Zealand. While this film will definitely be around for years to come, cinephiles everywhere should watch it in honor of those who couldn’t for the century it was deemed missing.

1 A Happy Ending…

Many people steer clear of horror films for a variety of reasons, with one being that these films never really have happy endings. Even if the monster is defeated, the demon is exorcised, or the scary dancing clown is finally destroyed, the amount of terror and devastation that occurred from beginning to end usually cannot be undone, leaving the surviving characters with a darker reality.

Viewers can rest easy knowing that despite being considered a horror film, Le Manoir du Diable’s ending, while it might feel incomplete, showcases good triumphing over evil. The cavaliers successfully fend off the Devil, with the added bonus that none of them die in the process.

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About The Author

Lavell Nero is a lover of good films and stories that seek to challenge how we view the world around us. His goal is to go the extra mile and write articles that include extra tidbits of information that other sites often gloss over. When he’s not watching his favorite TV shows and movies, he’s either working as an active member of New York’s TV scene, or playing the latest PS4 release.

More About Lavell Nero

Cinema has a long history of reflecting the cultural mores of a given decade within its frames, and the horror genre is no different. The 1950s saw the rise of atomic horrors following World War II; the 60s featured more personal and social horrors from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and George Romero; the 70s capitalized on stories from modern horror gurus like Stephen King and delved further into sci-fi/horror territory; the 80s focused on big-money franchises and low-budget slasher films, while the 90s took everything to the extreme, and the 00s put modern technology to work in the lucrative found-footage genre. But before any of the modern horror films made their mark, there were decades of early cinematic pioneers paving the way for everything that would come later.

The earliest of these films were experimental by design and by necessity. Georges Méliès‘ 1896 short Le Manoir du Diable or his 1898 short La Caverne Maudite are two of the oldest known films, as are the Japanese horrors Bake Jizo and Shinin no Sosei, both from 1898. It’s in the first 20 years of the 20th century that we see cinematic representations of Edgar Allan Poe‘s work like D.W. Griffith‘s The Sealed Room in 1909, the 1912 Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Thomas Edison‘s production of Frankenstein in 1910, among others. It wasn’t until the 1920s that films reached significant runtimes, although the films with macabre elements weren’t dubbed as “horror” films until the genre’s boom in the 1930s.

So it’s back to the bygone era of silent film and black-and-white pictures that we go in this list, selecting the finest examples of horror cinema from Pre-Code Hollywood. We include the soundless horrors of early German Expressionism and their reactionary World War I themes, many more adaptations of classic stories by Poe and other literary giants, the hugely influential monster universe of Universal Pictures, and taboo films that found themselves heavily censored and even banned after release. Get to know some old favorites alongside some horror icons that might be new to you in our list of the Best Horror Films from 1900 to the 1950s below:

Ever since the first one was released in 2000, the Scary Movie films have been labeled spoofs. Reference films would be more accurate. Sure, they occasionally send up a horror trope or two, but most of the “spoofing” done in the franchise really involves re-creating scenes from other movies and then maybe adding a fart sound. They’re less about mocking movies than lazily mentioning them. Here’s our best attempt at a comprehensive list of each movie referenced in the Scary Movie franchise.


* Scream: Most of the plot is a Scream parody. The main characters mirror Scream’s and the film centers on figuring out who’s killing people while wearing a Ghostface mask. There are also a few direct references to Scream, including one character saying it didn’t have a plot and another saying their lives are just like Scream, “same dialogue and everything.”

* I Know What You Did Last Summer: The other major plot points mock IKWYDLS. Cindy (Anna Farris) and her crew hit a guy on a dark road with their car and throw him off a pier even though he’s not dead. When Ghostface starts killing, they suspect their accident victim. There are also a couple of direct references to the movie including one character saying it didn’t make any sense and Cindy saying that in a horror movie version of her life, she would be portrayed by “Jennifer Love Huge-Tits.”

* The Exorcist: Cindy mentions puking green slime and masturbating with a crucifix at her first keg party.

* Kazaam: Drew (Carmen Electra) says it’s her favorite horror movie because Shaq’s acting is so scary.

* Election: The annoyingly plucky Heather (Andrea Nemeth) passes out election fliers in the school hall and is hated by her teacher.

* The Shining: Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth) is alone in the girls’ locker room and Ghostface whispers “redrum” before going in for the kill.

* The Blair Witch Project: Ghostface chases attention-hungry TV reporter Gail Hailstorm (Cheri Oteri) into the woods, where she turns the camera on her face (and her snot faucet of a nose) to record her last words.

* Shakespeare in Love, Amistad, and Titanic: Ray (Shawn Wayans) and Brenda (Regina Hall) go to the movies to see Shakespeare, but first have to watch a trailer for Amistad 2, which includes a slave standing on a ship yelling, “I’m the king of the world.”

* Thelma & Louise, The Fugitive, Jackie Chan movies, Schindler’s List, Boogie Nights, Big Momma’s House: Brenda is killed in the theater by pissed-off moviegoers for whom she’s ruined all of these movies by talking too loud.

* American Pie: Cindy and Bobby (Jon Abrahams) go to her bed to have sex for the first time like Michelle and Jim did in American Pie. It ends with Bobby pinning Cindy to the ceiling with a geyser of ejaculate.

* The Sixth Sense: Smoky (Marlon Wayans) gets baked and says, “I see dead people.”

* I Still Know What You Did Last Summer: Bobby mentions how much it sucks, especially the “fat white Jamaican kid” played by Jack Black.

* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix: The final fight scene uses visual tricks from the big fights in these two movies. The effects aren’t quite up to the originals.

* The Usual Suspects: Cindy drops her coffee cup as she realizes Doofy is the murderer. The bottom of the cup says Doofus, à la Keyser Soze.

* Halloween: Cindy throws Ghostface through a window, and when she goes outside, he’s gone. The same thing happened with Michael Myers.

SCARY MOVIE 2 (2001)

* The Haunting: The main target of mockery here, the plot of this 1999 remake involved a scientist who told people he was conducting an insomnia study but really wanted to see how they’d react to fear. Same deal here. Cindy, Ray, Smoky, and Brenda are among those chosen to be a part of the purported study. There’s also a female character named Theo, as there is in The Haunting. The ghost in SM2 is named Hugh Kane; in The Haunting, it’s Hugh Crain.

* The Exorcist: A young girl named Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is possessed just like Regan in The Exorcist. Her mom calls an earnest priest (Andy Richter) and a pedophilic one (James Woods) to rid her of the evil spirit. They just end up puking all over each other until the pervy priest shoots her.

* Friday the 13th: Megan’s last name is Vorhees, like Jason’s.

* The Amityville Horror: Pervy priest blesses the house while pooping, and flies cover his face, as happens to the priest in The Amityville Horror.

* Dude, Where’s My Car?: Ray and a friend get tattoos on their upper backs. Ray’s says “Ray,” and the other guy’s says “Fucked Me.”

* The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Hanson (Chris Elliot) is a creepy house servant based off of Riff Raff. Also, Tim Curry plays a scientist.

* Urban Legend: Cindy drives alone and sings along to Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever).” The singing is bad and Vitamin C interrupts to tell Cindy to shut up. The whole thing mocks the death of the first character in this awful horror movie from 1998.

* Paulie: There’s a talking bird that curses a lot.

* Save the Last Dance: Shorty gives Cindy lessons on how to be cool, which leads her to punch a girl and steal her coat.

* Harry Potter: Cindy is reading a book called Harry Pothead.

* The Changeling: A ball ominously bounces down the stairs just like it does in this George C. Scott haunted-house film.

* A Nightmare on Elm Street: Alex (Tori Spelling) has sex with a ghost in bed, on the walls, and on the ceiling of her room while wearing a football jersey, à la the scene where Tina is murdered in the Wes Craven original.

* Poltergeist: A clown pulls Ray under a bed to attack him, but Ray rapes the clown instead.

* Pet Sematary: A black cat attacks Cindy in a fight that looks more like a boxing match by the time it ends. It’s a more ridiculous version of the moment where dead cat Church attacks Louis in Pet Sematary.

* What Lies Beneath: Cindy is temporarily possessed and seduces Professor Oldman (Tim Curry) while wearing a red dress in a scene that mocks one from this Robert Zemeckis movie.

* Little Shop of Horrors: Shorty waters a weed plant with bong water, causing it to grow into a giant monster that rolls him in a sheet and smokes him like a joint.

* The House on Haunted Hill: There’s a lot here. For starters, its a big haunted house with a basement full of dusty rooms. The skeletons from the 1959 version are also referenced when Brenda laughs at one before popping its skull off.

* Hollow Man: The crew uses goggles that allow them to see ghosts and guns that kill them. The professor’s assistant Dwight (David Cross) says all the money was spent on that stuff, though, so they have to use paper cups connected by string to communicate. Also, Cindy and Buddy get locked in a freezer from which they escape by building a bulldozer out of packing tape and foil, “spoofing” the easy construction of an electromagnet in the Kevin Bacon/invisible-man film.

* Titanic: Cindy gives Buddy a hand job in the frozen room and recites the lines Jack says to Rose as she’s floating on the door near the end.

* Mission: Impossible II: The motorcycle battle between Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott is re-created with Dwight and the ghost of Hugh Kane, who are both on wheelchairs instead of motorcycles. John Woo’s signature dove shot is also referenced, with the doves crapping on Dwight’s bald head.

* Dirty Harry: In the middle of the fight, Dwight pulls a gun on the ghost and asks if he “feels lucky, punk.”

* Hannibal: Hanson cuts open Shorty’s head so he can cook his brain, as Hannibal Lecter did to Ray Liotta. But when he peels back the scalp the only thing there is Howard Stern Wack Pack member Beetlejuice.

* Charlie’s Angels: Cindy, Brenda, and Theo change into angel outfits and adopt angel poses as they battle Hanson.

* Twister: Cindy’s intense twisting jump creates a tornado in the basement that somehow sucks up a picket fence and a cow.

* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: In Cindy’s final fight with Hanson, she performs some special moves called things like Crouching Tiger, the Drunken Monkey, and the Camel Toe.

* Thirteen Ghosts: In order to get rid of Hugh Kane, Cindy must lure him to stand on a ghost-destroying platform like the one from Thirteen Ghosts.

SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003)

* The Ring: This is the movie’s main target. Katy (Jenny McCarthy) and Becka (Pamela Anderson) first mention it before getting into a pillow fight. For the rest of the movie Cindy tries to solve the mystery of the scary girl in the video, which kills Brenda, is shown on the evening news, and eventually brings a bunch of aliens to Earth so they can kill the girl in the video themselves.

* Lord of the Rings: There’s a creepy voice on the other end of the phone that says, “I’m coming for you, my precious,” in a decent Gollum impersonation. It’s Becka’s mom.

* Signs: Much of the plot also mocks M. Night Shyamalan’s movie. It starts with Tom (Charlie Sheen) and George (Simon Rex) as brothers who live together on a farm. They discover a crop circle that says “Attack Here” with an arrow pointing at their house. That makes them think aliens are after them, but it turns out the well in which creepy video girl lives is under their house.

* 8 Mile: George wants to be a rapper, so he travels to “Da Hood” to try to win a rap battle. Surprisingly, George holds his own with Fat Joe. He abandons his hip-hop dreams before long but hangs out with his black friends Mahalik (Anthony Anderson) and CJ (Kevin Hart).

* The Sixth Sense and Minority Report: Cindy’s nephew Cody is a Haley Joel Osment–size precog who tells every random stranger what lies in their future.

* The Matrix: CJ’s Aunt Shaneequa (Queen Latifah) plays a version of the Oracle. She reveals info to Cindy about the tape and then gets into a fight with the woman in the video. Her husband Orpheus (Eddie Griffin) helps her.

* The Others: Tom walks into his daughter’s room and finds someone sitting under a sheet pretending to be her. It’s Michael Jackson.

* The Matrix Reloaded: The Architect (George Carlin), or the creator of the Matrix, reveals that he’s been watching Cindy for years. Also, creepy video girl is his daughter who his wife threw down a well.

* Pootie Tang: The Architect accidentally returned the evil tape his daughter made to Blockbuster in the case for Pootie Tang. Like the deadly tape, he says Pootie Tang has been circulating and killing ever since.

* Air Force One: President Baxter (Leslie Neilsen) wonders at one point what President Ford would have done and glances up at a painting of Harrison Ford.

* BASEketball: There are a couple things that mirror this movie, which was also directed by David Zucker. First, the scene at Brenda’s wake where George and Mahalik are trying to bring her back to life happens at a hospital in BASEketball. Second, when the president is running from aliens he quotes Bob Costas and says, “You’re excited? You should see my nipples.”

* Airplane!: President Baxter opens the door to the basement where Cindy and George are fighting creepy video girl and says, “Good luck, we’re all counting on you,” as he does many times in Airplane!

SCARY MOVIE 4 (2006)

* Saw: The movie opens with Shaq and Dr. Phil chained in a basement and Billy the puppet telling them they have 90 seconds to live. A foot is possibly cut off.

* War of the Worlds: Most of the plot is taken from the 2005 Tom Cruise film. Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) works on a loading dock, is crappy to his kids, and eventually wins them over as the world nears certain destruction at the hands of triPods.

* Brokeback Mountain: In a flashback to a cowboy camping trip, Mahalik and CJ are seen singing to each other and having sex in a tent.

* Dark Water: Cindy takes a job as a home health-care aid in a creepy house, similar to the apartment in Dark Water. As the landlord takes her through the place he’s constantly a step ahead of her so he can hide the weirdness, also similar to Dark Water.

* The Grudge: Much of the weirdness in the house stems from the dead little ghost boy who lives there. Solving the mystery of the cursed little freak occupies much of Cindy’s time in the movie.

* The Amityville Horror: A quick shot of Tom chopping Dura Flame logs in his yard probably refers to the dad in The Amityville Horror.

* Hustle & Flow: There’s a flashback of Cindy’s first marriage, and she looks like Taryn Manning’s character Nola. She’s arguing with her fat black husband.

* Million Dollar Baby: In a flashback, Cindy is a boxer and her husband George is her trainer. Near the end of her fight with a woman played by Mike Tyson, George falls on a stool, breaking his neck. The ref breaks his neck on the ropes, another trainer breaks his neck on the side of the ring, and a fan breaks his neck on the back of a chair.

* The Village: Cindy and Brenda happen upon a pseudo-Amish village, where they’re nabbed for trespassing. Village leader Henry Hale (Bill Pullman) decides to take them in, then reveals to them on his deathbed that he’s the creepy ghost boy’s stepdad.

* Saw 2: After being sucked into the triPod’s butt, Cindy, Brenda, and Tom find themselves in traps similar to those in Saw 2. Then the puppet Billy deploys devices that kick Tom in the balls and give him purple nurples and wet willies.

SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013)

* Paranormal Activity: The surveillance camera gimmick and creepy nighttime occurrences in PA are heavily parodied. In the opening scene, George is filming a sex tape with Lindsay Lohan and has a few dozen cameras trained on the bed. Later, Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and Dan (Simon Rex) toss and turn to an absurd degree, mocking the less absurd but still pretty impressive tossing and turning in PA.

* Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead: These two are simultaneously mocked with a cabin, which is in the woods, and a haunted book of ancient spells in the cabin’s basement. Cabin in the Woods gets name-checked by Mac Miller while a few shots from Evil Dead are visually referenced.

* Mama: A surprising amount from this movie, which came out in January, shows up in Scary Movie 5. There are the feral little girls, their punk-rock caretaker, and the presence of the ominous “Mama.” The whole climax is based on Mama, with Judy fighting the ghostly matriarch of the creepy kid clan as she tries to throw them off a cliff.

* Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Dan works at a primate research facility where he’s trying to make apes smarter. It’s working with one ape named Caesar, who Dan takes home. This Caesar is smarter than the one in the real Apes, but less intent on freedom.

* Black Swan: Judy is a ballerina and she tries out for a local production of Swan Lake, which leads to a big parody of Black Swan. Her rival is black, which means she dances like a stripper and a girl in a rap video. The aging ballerina played by Winona Ryder in the Aronofsky film is here played by Molly Shannon.

* Diary of a Mad Black Woman: Madea is briefly seen in the audience watching Swan Lake. She disapproves of the black black swan’s suggestive dance moves.

* Royal Wedding: At one point during ballet practice, someone mentions the janitor dancing. Cut to janitor Ira (Usher) dancing with his mop like he’s Fred Astaire.

* Inception: After one of the little girls mentions that she sees Mama in her dreams, Judy calls in a DiCaprio look-alike to perform an inception. The café scene is mocked (a cell phone is making everything vibrate instead of a train), Judy has a dream about Fifty Shades of Grey, and the dog hooks himself up to the inception machine to reveal his dream about humping poodles.