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The Typography of Classic Monster Movies

Lesley Yarbrough March 15, 2024 · 3 min read

There’s just something about a good monster movie. Something both fantastic and iconic that resonates with us as viewers. Personally, I have an affinity for the classic Universal Horror monster movies of yesteryear. This is the moniker given to a series of horror films produced by Universal Studios from the mid 1920s through the beginning of the 1960s, and many of the entries in this series are some of the most recognizable horror films ever made. From Dracula to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, for almost four decades Universal produced a slew of gruesome and ghoulish characters that would populate our nightmares for even more decades to come.
Like the monsters themselves, the typography of these classic films is fascinating. They come from an era when title cards felt more like book covers or playbills, and they favor more of a traditional elegance over stylization. In each of the cases highlighted below, the title helps set the tone for the horror you’re about to experience.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The oldest film of the group is also the first cinematic adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s famous novel. The subtle touches of script combined with the bold, serif type project that classic theatrical feeling.

Dracula (1931)

Arguably the most iconic movie monster of them all, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula has been synonymous with Hollywood horror for over 80 years. The type for this title card is as delicate and refined as the count himself. (Stream it on Netflix)

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein is the only title to feature lower case letters and it feels much softer than the others — a gentler typeface for a gentler, misunderstood monster.

The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy features 3D lettering, 1930s style, as the bold, blocky type is fixed on the side of a pyramid — setting the stage for the Egyptian adventure you’re about to experience. (Stream it on Netflix)

The Invisible Man (1933)

Plain, yet unstable. Not unlike a scientist turned invisible killer. (Stream it on Netflix)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Bride of Frankenstein utilizes a much more ominous typeface than its predecessor, almost like the frantic brush strokes of a crazed artist. Perfect for a sequel about a mad scientist creating a bride for his famed monstrocity.

The Wolf Man (1941)

Erratic and animalistic, the hand-painted title card of The Wolf Man creates a furry illusion and sets the stage perfectly for its horrific tale. (Stream it on Netflix)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Much like the Hollywood of today, they had no problem milking popular characters for a few extra bucks back in the 1940s. This particular film features a fun opening animation sequence and the title is equally cartoony and fun. (Stream it on Netflix)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

The harsh, sharp edges of this typeface make you feel uneasy from the very first moments of Creature from the Black Lagoon. (Stream it on Netflix)
Now if you’re feeling inspired to work on your own horror-themed creation, we’ve got a great selection of fonts to help get you started.
Cheers and Happy Halloween!

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About the Author
Lesley Yarbrough

Tinkerer. Maker of quirky fonts with a sprouty disposition.

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