Check out our list of recommendations for the best 20 horror films about creepy dolls that you must watch.
For probably longer than you think, horror fans have been obsessed with all manner of creepy and supernatural dolls. Perhaps it stems from a childhood memory of a doll that would sit in the corner of your room and take on an eerie life of its own at lights out, or perhaps it’s just the uncanny valley feeling of a doll so lifelike that it becomes sinister, but whatever our reasons, creepy dolls seem to have always had a special place in the hearts of lovers of the unknown. Here are our suggestions for a look at creepy doll movies, with some you will expect, and hopefully some you won’t.
The Best 20 Horror Films About Creepy Dolls
Dead of Night (1945)
This early anthology film from British film company Ealing has a selection of supernatural stories presented with a wraparound story, a format that would be continually copied through the decades with films such as Creepshow. However, most people may only really recall the final story, and its depiction of a ventriloquist and his doll. in the story, written by John Baines, and directed by Alberto Cavelcanti, we meet Hugo, an impossibly creepy ventriloquist doll, that continually threatens to quit working with his current operator, in favor of working with a rival. Perhaps the earliest film version of this story, it immediately caught the imagination of filmgoers, and even today, Dead of Night still manages to be disturbing.
Devil Doll (1964)
Another ventriloquist doll, and another Hugo, possibly inspired by Dead of Night, this weird, unsettling tale of a ventriloquist and possession is little known, but still worth a view if you are a fan of creepy dolls. Doll Hugo and his operator the Great Vorelli, have obvious on-stage tension. In between shows, the doll is kept locked up in a cage. Not a good sign. American reporter Mark is in London to cover the show and offers up his girlfriend Marieann to go on stage with the creepy duo. The doll seems to possess the volunteer, making her dance, and Hugo himself seems to stand on his own, walk about and at one point grabs a knife and tries to stab his operator. Things progress with a strange plot about Verelli trying to marry Marieann, but the real star here is Hugo. Perhaps not enough horror and a slow pace relegates Devil Doll, but ideal for a rainy Sunday night.
Another anthology here and another early shocker. With stories supplied by Psycho author Robert Bloch, the wraparound story sees Robert Powell arriving at the titular asylum for a job interview. When he arrives, he is told that he must visit various inmates of the hospital, listen to their stories then decide which one of them is really Dr. Star, the previous manager of the place. The wraparound concludes with tiny handmade dolls, complete with internal organs, made by one of the inmates, who discovers he can transfer his mind into the clay-like doll, and bring it to life. There is a wonderful, twisted ending to the tale for Asylum, and the story was so good it was re-made for the classic anthology TV show Monsters.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
This is a made-for-TV movie that had three stories all featuring Karen Black. The slow-paced first two entries are nothing special, however, the final segment of Trilogy of Terror provided some nightmare fuel for a whole generation of viewers that were exposed to the horror of the Zuni Fetish Doll. Amelia buys the wooden doll, a kind of Aboriginal hunter with a spear and spiked teeth, named He Who Kills. The spirit of the doll is kept inert by the gold chain it wears, but when it accidentally falls off, Amelia is mercilessly chased through every room of her apartment by the crazed killing machine. Surprisingly violent, this tense game of hide and seek is a tour de force that culminates with a shocking ending.
Now here we have a real must-see movie with a stellar cast, a stunning screenplay, and direction to die for. Written for the screen based on his book, William Goldman turns in a tight character-driven piece that never wastes a scene. Directed by Richard Attenborough, and starring Burgess Meredith, Anthony Perkins, and Ann Margret this is a classy and atmospheric thriller that once again has a terrifying ventriloquist doll at its center. Although often thought of as a twisted love story, there are still some shockingly scary moments here, and Perkins as a failed magician and ventriloquist, on the wave of stardom but descending into madness, is just perfect. Don’t skip Magic.
This one may be a bit of a cheat as the main focus of the Tobe Hooper classic is more about ghosts than creepy dolls, however, one of the film’s most memorable scenes does involve a particularly scary clown doll that sits in young Robbie’s room. Despite everything else going on, including ghostly television kidnappings, the clown doll, which is foreshadowed early in Poltergeist finally gets a chance to shine when it attacks Robbie during particularly violent poltergeist activity. It’s a great scene, in a great film, and is worth a mention in our list.
When Curtains was released, this slasher flick did not prove popular with film fans, but in the years that followed, it has slowly built a cult following that eventually got the film a DVD release. Our creepy doll has an early shock appearance, with one of our hapless victims finding it lying in the middle of the road on the way to an audition for a movie. When she stops to move the doll, it grabs her wrist, then a hidden killer runs her over with her own car, however, she awakens and realizes it was a nightmare before she is then murdered by a hideous hag-faced killer who then steals the doll from her. With the doll perhaps not as relevant as some of our other entries, it still has a bit of a presence in this shlock nasty from the 1980s.
Directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Ed Naha, Dolls finds 6 people stranded in a storm and finding the mansion of a weird puppet maker and his wife. A collection of creepy dolls is on hand though, and before long we realize that these monstrous creations house the souls of terrible criminals that are intent on wreaking havoc with the new arrivals. here is another one that falls towards cult status, largely for the design of the dolls themselves. The strange story behind the dolls and their motives is odd, but there’s enough going on in the short 77-minute runtime to entertain.
Child’s Play (1988)
The film that launched a franchise including a slew of sequels, comic books, a reboot, and more memorabilia than you can throw a Funko Pop at, also courted various controversies, Child’s Play was a bit of a surprise hit when released. Directed by Tom Holland (not that one), the film mixed some very dark comedy and horror, and although the tone was often off, the film succeeded due to the performance of the doll Chuck, and actor Brad Dourif who voiced the character. I have no doubt that this is the one film on this list you have definitely watched.
Puppet Master (1989)
The cult production company Full Moon Features mined the Puppet Master franchise for everything that they could, and it all began with Puppet Master in 1989. Each of the puppets in this B movie outing has a different gimmick, resulting in a motley group of disturbing puppets like a weird puppet version of The X-Men. They have gained their supernatural powers from an Egyptian spell. In this first offering, a team of psychics is gathered together by former colleague Neil Gallagher, who has since died and left instructions for the group upon their arrival.
The group starts having strange visions, and by the third act, the puppets have gathered and the real reason for the gathering is revealed. This franchise varies wildly in quality, but it does have its fans. The 10-film series also saw crossovers with Demonic Toys, as well as an absolute hoard of other material including comic books and even a video game. Possibly the most well-loved puppet is Blade, a spy-like puppet with weapons for hands and the leader of the team, Silly patchy schlocky outings that revel in their own B movie heritage.
Dolly Dearest (1992)
Another one from the vaults, this little-seen horror is often cited as the inspiration for the 2014 Annabelle film we will cover later, but for now, this slasher starring none other than Rip Torn follows the mysterious story of the Dolly Dearest factory in Mexico. Eliot Wade becomes the owner of the place, but an archaeological dig nearby releases an evil spirit that finds a home in the porcelain creation Dolly Dearest which resides in the abandoned factory. Elliot finds a collection of dolls and lets his daughter pick one to take away with her, it is of course the possessed item, and the usual mayhem ensues. Pretty much a Child’s Play clone, the film didn’t do too well and is probably one for completists only.
Trilogy of Terror 2 (1996)
You can’t keep a good Zuni fetish doll down, and He Who Kills gets another outing in this ’90s sequel. Oddly, the third segment of this sequel picks right up from the happenings of the first story, and the doll is found in Amelia’s apartment and taken to the surgery of Dr. Simpson who tries to find anything that will help explain the events of the first story. However, when she leaves the doll for a quick bite to eat, he’s off again, wreaking havoc and screaming like a banshee as he stalks his prey. Pretty much a retread of the original story, this is perhaps too similar to the first appearance, but if you liked his first performance, you should probably give Trilogy of Terror 2 a shot too, even if it’s just to see He Who Kills have one more go at stardom.
Written and directed by Lucky McKee, May falls into the psychological horror genre, not so much supernatural but more relying on the weird and unsettling. As a child, socially awkward May has a lot to contend with. As she grows up, she gets a job at the local vets, and develops a crush on mechanic Adam. May has a doll, gifted to her by her mother on her birthday, that she keeps in a glass case, but when May’s love life becomes complicated and her beloved childhood doll is broken, things start to unravel,
Doll Master (2004)
Doll Master is a South Korean horror movie directed by Jeong Yong-ki. 60 years ago, we learn the story of a doll maker and his lover in a red kimono. The doll maker makes a doll in her likeness, but tragedy strikes when the woman is found murdered. the doll maker is blamed, but there is no evidence. He is then killed by vigilantes, but the doll of his murdered love is left on his grave forever. We cut to the present day, and we meet sculptor Hae-mi, Tae-seong, an actor, Young-ha who speaks to her doll as if it is alive, Jung-ki, a photographer, and Sung-young, a student, find they have been invited to a doll museum, where they have been told that dolls will be made for them, in their image. Things soon go wrong though for the group as supernatural events begin to spiral out of control as the red kimono doll exacts her revenge. An oddity for the creepy doll sub-genre, but this has a lot of truly scary moments that fans will love.
James Wan would hit the ground running with Saw, a franchise that would capture the zeitgeist of the horror world and become a multimillion-dollar franchise with 9 sequels and a possible 10th coming in 2023. As the saga of Jigsaw would unfurl, we would be treated to one of the creepiest dolls ever put to screen. The Billy Puppet that shows up over the course of the franchise is a deeply devilish creation that delivers information and communicates with his victims. Billy is a mix of puppet and ventriloquist doll and must be one of the most recognizable dolls in movie history.
Based on the novella by Sandman creator Neil Gaiman, Coraline is a stop frame animation movie, written and directed by Henry Selick that was highly acclaimed on its 2009 release. The creepy tone and style of the film has an air of childlike innocence surrounded by a dark and disturbing underbelly, as Coraline discovers a parallel universe that threatens to swallow her forever. The doppelgangers of the other world have buttons for eyes and are deeply creepy and unnerving. The weird design of the Other Mother and dwellers in the alternate world make for some super creepy doll-like creatures that will haunt you long after the film ends. If you are a fan of kidult fantasy and creepy dolls, this is made for you.
This prequel to The Conjuring was directed by John R Leonetti and written by Gary Dauberman and was the second film in the Conjuring franchise. Inspired by the story from famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle follows the porcelain doll Annabelle, part of a collection that Doctor John Form has assembled for his first daughter. Horrifically though, a home invasion next door to the Form’s house leads to a pair of ruthless killers attacking the couple. As the police arrive, they shoot the male attacker, and the female murderer slits her own throat while holding the porcelain doll. The female killer is identified as Annabelle, a cult member, and the estranged daughter of the Forms’ next-door neighbors. The birth of the Forms’ daughter brings a series of supernatural events, and the true nature of the cult’s ultimate plan leads to plenty of scary moments from the now iconic creepy doll.
This British horror flick written and directed by Andrew Jones seems to have flown under the radar, so it will probably surprise you to find that it also spawned four sequels. The story, allegedly based on true events, follows a family terrorized by supernatural events when their son is given a doll called Robert by an angry nanny, recently fired by parents Paul and Jenny. As the terror increases, the family believes their house to be haunted, but it is, of course, the doll that is cursed. Not highly regarded, the Robert series included The Curse of Robert, The Revenge of Robert, The Toymaker, and Robert Reborn. Quality-wise, these are not the best offerings out there, but there must be an audience for them so why not give it a go?
The Boy (2016)
There is a great premise to The Boy, directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear, that follows the story of nanny Greta who arrives in the UK from America, to work for the elderly Heelshires. However, the twist here is revealed as Greta has to look after a life-sized porcelain doll of Brahms, that they consider, and treat, like a real son. There are various rules and regulations for Greta to follow, including reading loudly to Brahms and playing loud music to him on an evening. Greta decides to look further into Brahms though and discovers that the real version was killed in a fire 20 years ago when he was only 8. Things escalate for Greta as the job becomes more and more unsettling until a third act reveal that will leave you chilled.
Annabelle Creation (2017)
A sequel to Annabelle was always going to happen as the Conjuring universe continued to grow a fan base. I suppose it is the horror genre’s answer to the MCU, with recurring characters and events that all relate to each other and sometimes cross over too. This is a concept that Universal would try to come to grips with, by developing a “Dark Universe” of their most famous monsters, however, the disastrous first outing The Mummy flopped so badly that the plans to continue were scrapped. However The Conjuring universe would slowly fill that gap. In Annabelle Creation, we explore the origin of the haunted doll, and this outing was well received with many critics saying it was superior to the original film. Incredible box office would of course mean that this would not be the last we would see of Annabelle.
And that finishes our list for The Best 20 Horror Films About Creepy Dolls. Also, check out our Best Horror Movies of 2022 list.
Do you have any other recommendations for creepy doll movies? Let us know and comment below.