I grew up watching these older film--particularly classic horror and mystery movies--and they have inspired me to create my own stories from the time I was very young. I also realize now that many of the titles on this list have some sort of element that could be considered "cozy." It's no wonder I ended up loving to read and write cozy mysteries.
You'll also notice that many of these titles have an element of spookiness or the supernatural to them. I've always been fascinated by ghosts and the supernatural. When portrayed in a light hearted manner, these elements can really add a fun and interesting flavor to a story.
While there are countless other films I adore, these are the films that have most inspired me as a writer of supernatural mysteries.
While 1931's Dracula is one of the best film's of all time on its own, it is the version featuring Phillip Glass and Kronos Quartet which truly inspires me. It is the combination of Bram Stoker's story, Tod Browning's dark cinematography, and Phillip Glass's simplistic soundtrack that make Dracula an experience worth having.
Dracula has always been one of my favorite books and this is by far the best adaption of the story. Bela Lugosi is a truly suave yet purely evil Dracula.
The fear and mystery shown in this film are exquisite. Additionally, the movie came out in a time when talkies were still new--so much of the film still relies on imagery over dialogue. It is the atmosphere and literary quality of this film that inspire me.
4. The Uninvited
Despite being made in the 1940s, The Uninvited is still one of the only truly chilling films I have ever watched. It surpasses newer chillers and horror films in both atmosphere and storytelling.
Other film studios during this time period often relied solely on monster movies when making horror films, and when they did make a ghost movie it was always a comedy. The Uninvited breaks that mold. It takes the classic "Old Dark House" sub-genre and tells a truly chilling tale that is a must see for mystery and horror fans.
This movie both chills and inspires me. Many of the scenes I write involving ghosts and strange supernatural occurrences are inspired directly by the chilling scenes in this excellent mystery thriller.
3. House on Haunted Hill
While House on Haunted Hill is purposefully far more cheesy than The Uninvited it is still hard not to get spooked watching this movie. The opening scream of the film always gives me the chills.
House on Haunted Hill uses the classic set-up of a group of random strangers invited to a mysterious house party in a dark mansion.
Ultimately, the slightly cheesier atmosphere and chilling special effects are what draw me to this film. William Castle does an excellent job in creating a strange and mysterious murder mystery crossed with a ghost story. Sometimes, when the wind howls in one of my own stories, you'll find a little inspiration from House on Haunted Hill there.
2. Hold That Ghost
Now, we move into my favorite sub-genre of film: comedy horror/mystery. There were a plethora of these style of comedy films throughout the 40s and 50s. While I enjoy watching all the films in this genre, I have to say that Hold That Ghost is my favorite of that time period.
Abbott and Costello were a stellar comedy team that could instill comedy into any situation. In this movie they've inherited an old run-down tavern. It's on a rainy night when they arrive at the tavern. Little do they know that ghosts and gangsters await them.
The balance between mystery and comedy is spot on in this fun little film, and I often find inspiration in both the atmosphere, setting, and comedy sketches.
1. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is the only movie on my list that is in color and the only movie released after 1959. came after the golden era during the 60s, but still stands triumphant as one of the finest comedy ghost stories ever put to film.
Don Knotts is a comedy genius who combines the mystery, chills, and laughs all into one seamless whole. On top of it all he gives the story heart. In writing any supernatural cozy mystery it is important to have some laughs and some heart.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken will always inspire my creative process, thanks to its wit, humor, and gumption. I can only hope to distill some of its humor into my own work.