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Happy National Frankenstein day, a day in which author Mary Shelley is acknowledged on her birthday for her beloved creation: the 1818 novel, Frankenstein. So it only feels appropriate that we here at SYFY WIRE have stitched together the best Frankenstein adaptations to watch in celebration of this monstrous day.
But what makes a good Frankenstein adaptation? Must it be so terrifying with pitchforks and fires that your eyes bulge? Or does humor elevate the sentimental tale of a misunderstood monster? Ultimately, just as Frankenstein’s creation is unique with a culmination of pieces, every Frankenstein adaptation stands out in its own way.
But we still caution you to beware of any horrifying looking creatures that happen to have bolts and stitches holding their own (or rather other’s) disjointed body parts together as you celebrate.
01. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
This horrifying tale executive produced by Michael Carreras is a must-watch for the day. Victor Frankenstein initially begins his experimentation by reviving a dog with the help of his best friend Paul, until he becomes obsessed with cooking up his own human-like creation from scratch. What begins as searching around town for those whose cords have already been cut becomes intensified when Victor takes matters into his own hands in search of the greatest mind for his creation. While the creature is oftentimes at a loss for words, leading one of his victims to question if the “cat got your tongue,” he could do some serious damage, even to the one keeping him from popping a stitch. In a town where many are blinded by the hidden affairs and death that follow Victor, his creation is just as broken, brutal, and ugly as the creator himself.
The Curse of Frankenstein is available for viewing on HBO Max.
(Photo Credit: Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
02. Young Frankenstein (1974)
In the words of Dr. Frankenstein, “It’s pronounced ‘Fronkensteen.’” This classic horror comedy in black and white directed by Mel Brooks has the perfect balance between horror and comedy that makes a pleasing experience for all viewers. Played by Gene Wilder, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein follows in his grandfather’s footsteps after his place in Transylvania is passed down to him. As a result, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein takes a stab at creating his own creature. There is more to the creature than looks, but can everyone listen long enough to overcome this hump? With a screenplay by Brooks and Wilder, this adaptation has received an immense amount of recognition for how the story is executed — and the hilarious heart at its center.
You can watch this classic on Hulu with a premium subscription.
(Photo Credit: Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)
03. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
Since today celebrates Mary Shelley, what better Frankenstein adaptation to watch than one with Shelley’s name in the title? As Viktor Frankenstein in the film, Kenneth Branagh not only brings the creature to life, but also aids in bringing this adaptation to life as director of the film. Well established actors Robert De Niro (Creature) and Helena Bonham Carter (Elizabeth) also make this adaptation breathtaking. After giving life to a creature made of corpses goes haywire, Viktor Frankenstein casts aside his dangerous experiment, only to face his own death at sea. In search of payback, the creature ultimately wishes for a bride who will love him. The creature's request for love, although demanding, shows his desire to find a spark greater than the one that jolted him to life.
You can rent or buy this film on Amazon Prime Video.
(Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
04. Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein (1999)
This children’s film directed by Kathi Castillo is sure to make your heart sing just as well as the Chipmunks, or rather squeal as loud as them upon encountering the stitched-up creature. Well known for their amazing vocals and talent as talking chipmunks, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore happen upon Frankenstein’s monster at a theme park where they are performing. The relatability of the creature shines through in this animated film after realizing that maybe he is not so terrifying after all. Not only do we all have scars, but we should not be judged by how our scars look.
You can rent or buy the film on Amazon Prime Video.
(Photo Credit: Bagdasarian Productions/courtesy Everett Collection)
05. Van Helsing (2004)
“Monster? Who’s a monster here?” The monster of Frankenstein in this film directed by Stephen Sommers is pleasantly surprising. Not only is the monster capable of saving others, but this film makes viewers aware of what it truly means to be alive. Being truly alive is one of the human-like attributes that the monster yearns for. Even the monster slayer known as Gabriel Van Helsing, who ironically is played by Wolverine’s Hugh Jackman, sympathizes with the monster for his pain over time. Through all the action, the importance of friendship shines through, making this an electrifying film.
This film is streaming on Peacock.
06. Frankenweenie (2012)
A dog truly is man’s best friend. Directed by Tim Burton, the film will warm your heart and have you wagging your own (metaphorical) tail. Although great for family viewing, the experiments of young Victor Frankenstein are no less horrifying in this Disney film, where a lonesome boy who feels misunderstood finds comfort in his experiments and right-hand dog, Sparky. When Sparky passes away, a science experiment pulls him out of dog heaven (even if his tail falls off every now and then), resulting in a very happy boy. When other students discover how his experiments work, it is no dog walk in the park, as the town begins crawling with terrifying giant turtles and a catbat roaming the sky. This film shows how families and communities can come together in an abnormal way.
Frankenweenie is streaming on Disney+.
07. Hotel Transylvania (2012)
While this may not be the most direct adaptation of Frankenstein and primarily focuses on the adventures of a budding young vampire growing into her fangs, Frankenstein’s monster in the film is a great example of how the creature’s portrayal in cinema has evolved over time. The creature’s fear of blazing fire has not changed, but he is a lot more lovable and less horrifying than how he is deemed in many of the classics. Not only do Dracula and “Frank” get along, but are best buds. The fourth film in the franchise, Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania, is expected to release in October, and based on the trailer, it involves the Van Helsing machine.
The first three films can be found on Hulu with a premium subscription.
08. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
This horror series created by John Logan spills the guts out of some of our world’s most terrifying tales, including that of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster(s). It is not uncommon for the characters in this bloody series to come into contact with pale, cold-blooded bodies.
The three seasons may be found on Netflix until Sept. 16, giving you enough time to binge this adaptation before the streaming platform puts it to rest. If the pressure of having to binge the series before it’s too late terrifies you, there’s no need to fear: Penny Dreadful is also available on Hulu with a premium subscription.
09. Victor Frankenstein (2015)
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, and more specifically actor Daniel Radcliffe, Victor Frankenstein will have you flying high. Directed by Paul McGuigan, this horror film highlights the power of friendship between Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) and a very intelligent man who was formerly a clown with a hunchback at a circus, Igor Strausman (Radcliffe). Known for his role in Split and the X-Men series, McAvoy is no stranger to non-human-like abilities such as bending steel bars. Although initially promising, Victor’s experimentation is playing with fire, and we all know the creature is not very fond of fire to begin with. It’ll take a miracle to survive what has come of the experiment, but luckily Radcliffe knows his way around magic, even if it’s not the kind of magic you’re thinking of.
You can rent or buy the film on Amazon Prime Video to see what becomes of Frankenstein and his creation in the end.
10. The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015-2017)
This series, although short-lived, delivers a unique and suspenseful exploration of the story of Frankenstein. When people begin disappearing and a body (clearly not made all of one person) resurfaces, an inspector known as John Marlott must put the pieces together. The viewer is enthralled in this world as they too are taken on an adventure to uncover what has happened. Mary Shelley is inserted as a character in this series, as well, and her novel acts as a handbook that may help cement the story. The two seasons are created by Benjamin Ross and Barry Langford.
The Frankenstein Chronicles can be found streaming on Netflix.