Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1920)




Critic Consensus: Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set a brilliantly high bar for the genre -- and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.

Movie Info

A landmark of cinematic artistry, this classic silent horror film has vivid expressionistic imagery which brilliantly reflects the nightmarish emotional states of the characters. Francis' investigation of his friend's murder leads him to suspect that the killer was a zombie-like sleepwalker under the hypnotic control of the diabolical Dr. Caligari.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Horror, Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Cult Movies
Directed By:
Written By: David Lee Fisher & Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 15, 1997
Rialto Pictures


as Dr. Caligari

as Cesare

as A Criminal
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Critic Reviews for Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (4)

A case can be made that Caligari was the first true horror film.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

This is more than just a textbook classic; the narrative frame creates ambiguities that hold certain elements of the story in disturbing suspension. A one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Full Review… | August 13, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Robert Wiene has made perfect use of settings designed by Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Roehrig, settings that squeeze and turn and adjust the eye and through the eye the mentality.

Full Review… | October 25, 2006
Top Critic

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting and inspired horror movies ever made.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari illustrates something more eternal: about great manipulators, and the underlying anxiety that either society has gone mad, or we have.

Full Review… | November 17, 2014
The Dissolve

"Caligari" is an almost flawless picture.

Full Review… | November 3, 2014

Audience Reviews for Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)


An unforgettable masterpiece of German Expressionism.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

Beyond being an iconic milestone in the evolution of cinema, Robert Wiene's masterpiece is still as entertaining as ever. The truly great films never go out of style.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Probably the best silent film I have ever seen, Caligari has a clear emphasis on German Expressionism while also being a methodically psychological horror film about the supernatural and the surreal imagination of the insane. Silent films started off as filmed plays, and in that vein this film constructed all its sets by hand, painting them in odd patterns, and showing interesting angles and vacant shots of this small village. Besides the interesting set design for the walls and floors, the stairs and windows were strange as well. The slanting light (possibly natural) barely illuminated the creeping corners and mororse faces of the townspeople. The town itself is romanticized in the loose culture of the times, being small and simple, without the benefits of electricity or modern technology. Much of this was candlelit which lent to an atmosphere where monsters and creepy crawlies could be behind the next wall just waiting to murder you. Not such a stretch since a string of murders mysteriously starts after the appearance of the gypsy centric fair and a tent advertising a coma creep controlled by a large eyebrowed crone named Dr. Caligari. The somnambulist, or coma patient, is a vampiric man who lays within a box and predicts the future based on some unnamed psychic abilities. The look of it and the intricate storyline lends to a very creepy vibe. The characters all express their emotions in a wide and overdramatic way, as this is a German Expressionist film. Everything is bigger, darker, more hurried and vague, and you never quite know who the villain is. Beside that you are always theorizing whether there is any true magic, or it's medicine, or frankly a dream of an insane person. Nothing is ever clear or true, and that leads to feeling unsettled and uneasy over what is on the screen. True, it's silent, and true the characters are at times bland, but it's the storytelling and the fact that it's a horror film that keeps the suspense and the intensity alive. It's a horror film that will have staying power through the decades to come.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) Quotes

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