Most readers of Bloody Disgusting already know about Val Lewton, the producer whose low-budget films for RKO practically invented the cinematic language of atmospheric horror. Working with directors Jacques Tournier, Mark Robson, and Robert Wise, Lewton created movies that used shadows and suggestions to tell tense stories of psychological despair and sexual repression.
An earlier article by Meagan Navarro beautifully explains Lewton’s contributions to horror cinema, along with four films that best represent his style. But now that Shudder has added to their collection seven of the nine horror movies that Lewton produced for RKO Pictures, now is the perfect time to look at his full oeuvre.
Although all nine films are worth seeking out (the two not on Shudder are in the public domain and can be easily found with a bit of internet sleuthing), I’ve ranked them here according to their overall effect. These films set the standard for psychological and atmospheric horror today, using budgetary and content limitations to create some of cinema’s most memorable images.