The 7 Best Roger Corman Movies To Honor A Horror Legend

Roger Corman recently passed away, but his legend lives on in his epic filmography.

Roger Corman was many things to many different people. A revolutionary voice in low-budget cinema, a guiding mentor to numerous up-and-coming Hollywood personalities, and a larger-than-life giant among diehard horror fans, Corman wore many different hats throughout his momentous 70-year-long career. Affectionately dubbed “The King of Cult” by long-time admirers of his work, Corman’s influential tenure in the horror genre speaks for itself, giving viewers around the world some of the most shocking horror films of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Within the realm of Hollywood, Corman also helped dozens of renowned talents get their start in the film industry, aiding everyone from Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper to Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola in the earliest days of their career.

With Corman recently passing away at the age of 98, we decided to look back at The Pope of Pop Cinema’s greatest films, ranking them in order from worst to best.

The Little Shop of Horrors

The Filmgroup

No, we’re not talking about the Off-Broadway musical that was later turned into a 1986 film by Muppets alumni, Frank Oz. Instead, we’re discussing the original 1960 version of The Little Shop of Horrors–a quirky horror comedy best known for an early supporting appearance from a young Jack Nicholson. More a spoof than an outright horror film, The Little Shop of Horrors’ unique comedic tone helped it stand apart from most other horror films of its era, winning audiences over with its unconventional dark humor and taut blend between horror and comedy.

The Tomb of Ligeia

Alta Vista Productions

The final entry in Corman’s famous series of Poe adaptations, The Tomb of Ligeia finds Corman once again partnering with his go-to creative collaborator, Vincent Price. As with their previous work in the Corman-Poe cycle, ‘64’s The Tomb of Ligeia featured a far more sensational interpretation of a Poe short story, allowing for an original adaptation the likes of which audiences will have a hard time forgetting. Building a palpable air of suspense through his mysterious central storyline, Corman climbs to the same heights as The Pit and the Pendulum or The Masque of the Red Death with his work here, effortlessly capturing the same eerie atmosphere as his previous Poe adaptations.

A Bucket of Blood

American International Pictures

A Bucket of Blood may not have been Corman’s first movie, but it’s one of the main films that helped put the fledgling director on the map. Working with a threadbare budget and using every cent to its fullest potential, Corman creates a wonderfully inventive dark comedy horror film with 1959’s A Bucket of Blood. Satirizing the pretentious world of the high-class artistic community, A Bucket of Blood induces just as many laughs as it does genuine scares from viewers, kicking off Corman’s first foray into the comedic genre with a loud and satisfying bang.

The St. Valentine Day’s Massacre

20th Century Fox

Breaking from his initial low-budget background, The St. Valentine Day’s Massacre marked one of the rare times Corman agreed to work within the confines of the mainstream studio system. Equipped with a larger budget and an impressive line-up of well-known character actors, Corman made a splash when it came to The St. Valentine Day’s Massacre’s production. Attempting to create one of the most accurate depictions of organized crime in ‘20s Chicago as possible, Corman’s unique docudrama approach to the largely factual story helped the final product stand out in Corman’s larger filmography, appealing to Corman’s dedicated fans and non-horror viewers alike.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

American International Pictures

Taking a momentary break from his famous Poe adaptations, Corman set his sights (pun intended) on the 1963 horror film, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. A cautionary sci-fi movie in the same mold as The Invisible Man or Frankenstein, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes explores the dangers of meddling in the unnatural sciences–something that Ray Milland’s lead character quickly comes to regret ever doing. Surprisingly dark for an early ‘60s horror movie, X: The Man with the X-Ray is guaranteed to leave you with a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, matching the taut suspense of Corman’s various other horror movies.

The Masque of the Red Death

American International Pictures

Quite possibly the most creative of Corman’s many horror films, The Masque of the Red Death benefits significantly from Corman’s willingness to reinvent his age-old source material (in this case, the famous Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name). Casting Vincent Price as the sadistic devil-worshiper Prince Prospero, Corman creates an eerily seductive supernatural horror movie that isn’t afraid of veering into hallucinogenic territory, unnerving viewers throughout its sparse 90-minute runtime.

The Pit and the Pendulum

American International Pictures

The second of Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, The Pit and the Pendulum also happens to take the cake for the best entry in Corman’s entire filmography. As shocking today as it was over six decades ago, The Pit and the Pendulum’s visceral imagery continues to hold up in the 60-odd years since the film’s original release, accounting for its ongoing popularity among avid horror fans. Dark, disturbing, and ending on a wonderfully grim final note, everything about The Pit and the Pendulum is pure Corman-esque entertainment at its finest.

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Fangoria, Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Sportskeeda, and MDLinx, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020.