10 Best Christopher Lee Movies, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes

Legendary actor, Christopher Lee, would have celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year, and he left behind an impressive legacy as one of the film industry’s great renaissance men. Lee served in World War II as a Royal Air Force intelligence officer, recorded opera and metal albums, and, of course, brought some of the most iconic movie characters to life onscreen.

His career was so long that one can find plenty of films on his resume that one might never have heard of before, but big blockbusters or forgotten gems, many of his movies are beloved classics that are beloved by critics today. With Lee’s posthumous centennial underway, fans may want to look to Rotten Tomatoes to see which of his movies are the best. For the sake of accuracy, movies must have 20 or more reviews to qualify.


10 The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) – 81%

The movie that put Hammer Horror on the map, The Curse of Frankenstein not only defined a studios brand but brought horror fans one of the definitive screen Frankensteins in Christopher Lee. Lee’s take on the character is more malevolent and animalistic than usual, which makes for a great complement to the film’s dark tone and, for the time, bloody violence.

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Perhaps the most unique part of the movie is the fact that it portrays Victor Frankenstein as just as much a villain, if not more than, his creature. Peter Cushing plays Victor with a single-minded focus on his quest to create life, with a callous disregard for the lives of others that makes his ultimate fate richly deserved.

9 Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966) – 81%

Dracula: Prince of Darkness was Lee’s second appearance in Hammer’s flagship franchise, and it’s generally considered one of his best Dracula movies. A direct sequel to Horror of Draculathe film follows a group of English tourists who visit Dracula’s castle, only to fall prey to the newly resurrected vampire.

The film is notable for Dracula never speaking, and according to Lee, it was because the lines written for him were awful, with him telling Hammer executives “if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken.” Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster naturally disputed that narrative, but whatever the case, Dracula’s lack of dialogue only serves to make him more creepy.

8 Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) – 83%

Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is filled to the brim with his usual actors, so it’s only natural that he’d find a role for Christopher Lee. Willy Wonka’s father Wilbur is an invention for the film, and as usual, Lee delivers a fine performance as a stern, fantasy forbidding father who nevertheless loves his son dearly.

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Given its rather mixed reputation today, many fans would probably be shocked to find out that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory received such strong reviews upon release. While it doesn’t rise to the classic status of the 1971 film, it’s still a fun fantasy comedy with Burton’s signature visual flair in top form.

7 Corpse Bride (2005) – 84%

As if one Tim Burton/Christopher Lee pairing wasn’t enough, 2005 also saw the release of Corpse Bride, a stop-motion animated film that earned both critical and commercial success for the eccentric author. Lee lends his voice talents to Pastor Galswells, an ill-tempered clergyman brought in to officiate Victor and Victoria’s wedding.

Beyond his haunting design, Galswells is also a memorable character for being intimidating and fun to watch at the same time. Lee’s performance is wonderfully hammy, giving every line such an over-the-top sinister quality that audiences will remember his character even with limited screentime.

6 The Wicker Man (1973) – 88%

When audiences today hear the title The Wicker Man, they are likely to think of the hilariously bad remake starring Nicolas Cage, but the original is a critically acclaimed classic for all the right reasons. The story follows Neil Howie, a devoutly Christian police detective, as he searches for a missing girl on an island populated by neopagans.

A compelling mystery, as well as an examination of religious conflict, make The Wicker Man one of the great folk horror films, with a focus on cults and old-world religious practices that in many ways previewed films like Midsommar. Christopher Lee’s performance is another highlight, obviously having fun playing the fanatical Lord Summerisle.

5 The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970) – 89%

Sherlock Holmes has long been a favorite character for filmmakers to adapt to the screen, but The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is one of the great detective’s more underrated outings. Directed by the legendary Billy Wilder, the film is a slightly comedic take on Holmes’ mythos, taking him on a journey to Loch Ness in search of a missing person.

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Lee has a supporting role as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, whose aloof, dry wit makes him one of a particularly memorable rendition of the character. While the movie is largely forgotten today, it deserves another look from Holmes fans, especially since it had a profound influence on the Mark Gatiss/Stephen Moffat-penned TV series.

4 Horror Of Dracula (1958) – 90%

Christopher Lee portrayed Count Dracula in seven films for Hammer Film Productions (plus Jesús Franco’s non-Hammer Count Dracula), but his first appearance as the quintessential remains the most celebrated. Horror of Dracula isn’t a particularly accurate adaptation of Bram Stoker’s book, but it’s a lean, effective one, thanks in large part to the impeccable atmosphere and strong performances.

What makes Lee’s Dracula so iconic is that he perfectly captures what makes the character so appealing, being equal parts terrifying and oddly majestic. His introductory sequences, in which he tries to charm Jonathan Harker with his class before trapping him, are a great setup that makes for a great bait-and-switch, even when one knows what’s coming.

3 The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) – 91%

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is a triumph in epic storytelling and filmmaking, and one of its most memorable aspects is a beloved cast of characters. One of the best characters is Christopher Lee’s Saruman the White, a wizard who debuts seemingly as an ally of Gandalf, but quickly reveals more sinister motives.

A powerful, commanding presence, even nearing 80 years old, it’s hard to think of anyone better for Saruman than Lee, a lifelong Tolkien fan who knew the character inside and out. His performance goes a long way in making Saruman feel like a true threat, even when he’s doing little more than talking to himself.

2 Hugo (2011) – 93%

An adaptation of Brian Selznick’s popular novel as well as a love letter to film itself, Hugo was a big hit with critics, scoring spots on numerous top 10 lists and getting much awards consideration. Although it struggled at the box office, it’s also a favorite among many fans, especially those who appreciate Martin Scorsese doing something outside of his wheelhouse.

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Lee may only have a small role in the film, but Monsieur Labisse plays a pivotal role in leading Hugo and Isabelle to discover Papa Georges’ true identity as a cinematic pioneer. In a way, it makes sense that Lee, a decades-long veteran of the screen, would play a character whose purpose is to help rediscover one of the medium’s first authors.

1 The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – 95%

Although The Fellowship of the Ring was a great start to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, many would argue that it was The Two Towers that kicked things into high gear, with big improvements in the battle sequences and an overall grander scope and scale. Saruman, too, gets an even bigger role in the story, being the main antagonist to the Rohirrim in their struggle for survival.

It’s also The Two Towers where Saruman truly shows off his most villainous qualities. Doing Sauron’s bidding in pursuing the Fellowship was evil enough, but here, he attempts genocide against both the people of Rohan and the Ents, cementing his status as a power-hungry madman who will stop at nothing to rule Middle-earth at the Dark Lord’s side.

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