One of the few living actors who truly deserves the title Horror Legend is Sir Christopher Lee, who turned ninety years of age yesterday. The man's filmography boats far more than ninety entries, so it's not easy to pick favorites. But after the jump, check out my choices for the the top five Christopher Lee horror films.
My top five Christopher Lee horror films are...
Horror of Dracula (1958)
A no-brainer really, but essential nonetheless. Known in the UK simply as Dracula, Hammer's groundbreaking hit made Lee an icon in the role (one he sometimes regretted for its typecasting). He's not on screen all that much (which only adds to the mystique), but when he is -- from his subdued introduction to the reveal of his feral nature to his unforgettable demise before Peter Cushing as Van Helsing -- he makes Horror of Dracula quite possibly the best Dracula movie ever.
The Whip and the Body (1963)
Lee's voice is dubbed in the US release of this Mario Bava classic, but his performance is still solid. Here he plays a ruthless nobleman who returns to the castle in which he was raised, and seduces his brother's wife with his penchant for sadomasochist sex.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Dennis Wheatley's classic novel (adapted by screenwriter Richard Matheson) affords Lee his best good-guy role in this Hammer film. Lee plays Duc de Richleau, an occult expert who battles satanist Charles Gray for the souls of the innocent. Had The Devil Rides Out been a hit, Lee, so suave and commanding here, would have returned to the role in adaptations of Wheatley's subsequent novels.
Horror Express (1972)
Paired with his friend and frequent on-screen sparring partner Peter Cushing, Horror Express sees Lee as Professor Alexander Saxton, an anthropologist who finds the missing link between man and beast in the frozen tundra of Manchuria. After thawing out on board the trans-Siberian express, the creature goes on a killing spree, requiring the combined might of Lee, Cushing and Telly Savalas.
The Wicker Man (1973)
What more can be written about Lee's chilling portrayal of Lord Summerisle, the diabolical pagan leader who plays poor old chaste Edward Woodward like a piano? Lee's sincerity in the role is what makes it, and the film, so memorable, proving that truth is an actor's greatest weapon, whether playing a hero or a villain.