As we dove deep into the world of Edgar Allan Poe in Netflix’s newest mystery historical fiction, The Pale Blue Eye, we were inspired to go on a Poe-themed watching spree. In doing so, we had to find out about all the movies based on Edgar Allan Poe stories.
Until Stephen King came along, Poe was the most adapted horror author of all time. Since his death in October 1849 (a spooky month for a spooky death-a-versary), his tales of “mystery and macabre” have inspired countless pieces of literature, music, film, television, and even the fields of cosmology and cryptography (and no, that’s not the study of Bitcoin).
With iconic tales and poems, such as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” it’s no surprise that there are more than 30 films based on Poe stories.
Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films are probably the most iconic and well-known adaptations.
Perhaps some of the most iconic films based on Poe’s stories are those directed by Roger Corman in the mid-20th century. The already renowned director was working with both American International Pictures and his own film distribution company, Filmgroup. AIP asked Roger to make a budget black-and-white film with a 10-day shooting schedule in 1959 (which is almost unheard of now), but he had bigger ambitions.
He proposed a higher-budget film adaptation of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, shot over 15 days, and AIP agreed to it. Starring acclaimed horror actor Vincent Price, the 1960 film was both a critical and commercial hit. This led to a series of Roger Corman adaptations of Poe's stories, now called the “Poe Cycle.”
The next film in the Cycle was the 1961 adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum, which also starred Vincent, and is now considered a classic of the horror genre. Next came The Premature Burial (1962), which starred Ray Milland and Heather Angel.
The fourth film in the Cycle was the 1962 anthology, Tales of Terror. This film incorporated “Morella,” “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” and it brought Vincent back to the Poe films.
Roger’s 1963 The Raven was his fifth Poe film, and it was a comedic take on the classic poem, starring Vincent, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre. The Haunted Palace, also released in 1963, was actually based on H.P. Lovecraft’s novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, but took its name from Poe’s 1839 poem.
The 1964 Masque of the Red Death, adapted the poem of the same name and included Poe’s “Hop-Frog” as a subplot. And finally, The Tomb of Ligeia, also released in 1964, was based on Poe’s short story, “Ligeia.” All eight films are considered some of the best Poe adaptations in film history, but they’re not the only ones.
The earliest films based on Edgar Allan Poe stories were made in the 1910s.
Because Poe’s stories have such longevity, they were an easy inspiration for many of the earliest filmmakers. The first documented Poe film was The Student of Prague, a German silent horror film from 1913, based loosely on Poe’s “William Wilson.” It was later remade in 1926 by actor and filmmaker Henrik Galeen.
In the 1930s, Universal Studios adapted several of Poe’s works as part of their early Universal Monster films, including Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The Black Cat (1934), and The Raven (1935).
To compete with these, Republic Pictures released The Crime of Dr. Crespi in 1935 starring Erich von Stroheim, but couldn’t quite live up to Universal’s success. Another early success was Jean Epstein’s silent adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher in 1928, now considered a classic of French cinema.
We also can’t ignore Vincent Price’s other Poe films. His first big Poe hit was 1941's The Tell-Tale Heart, directed by Jules Dassin, as Vincent’s character is driven to murder by his obsession with an old man’s “evil eye.” Later in 1969, Vincent starred in The Oblong Box, directed by Gordon Hessler, which was loosely based on Poe’s story of the same name. Finally, he narrated several stories in a campy adaptation in 1970, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe.
Modern-day film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe haven’t been as successful as their predecessors.
We haven’t even gotten close to touching all of the film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, but many people might be looking for some more contemporary Poe films. Those looking might be disappointed, as they really reached their height in the 1960s. Even still, there have been a few notable modern-day Poe films. In 2003, Descendant starred Katherine Heigl and Jeremy London in an adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
The 2012 version of The Raven, which starred John Cusack and Brendan Gleeson among others, received mixed reviews. It's based partly on the Poe poem, but also incorporates elements of Poe’s mysterious death in this fictionalized account of Poe as he uncovers a mystery. 2014’s The Tell-Tale Heart stars Rose McGowan in a modern-day New Orleans setting.
James Franco’s short film, The Tell-Tale Heart came out four years later, and most recently, The Bloodhound was released in 2020. The latter is another adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” written and directed by Patrick Picard.
For any Poe aficionado, we have plenty of options on which films to explore next.