The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1920) Review


The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1920) (German: Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari)

Directed by Robert Wiene

Werner Krauss
Conrad Veidt
Friedrich Fehér
Lil Dagover
Hans Twardowski

Running time: 71 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a 1920 German silent horror film. The story centers around Dr Caligari and his somnambulist Cesare, whom the doctor keeps asleep in a coffin-like cabinet and controls hypnotically.


My Opinion:

Well. This movie is pretty freaking awesome. I’m so glad I finally watched it and would highly recommend it to all horror movie fans to see a silent movie from 1920 that kicks the ARSE of most modern day films.


You can read lots of excellent reviews of this film elsewhere. I don’t have the knowledge to discuss German Expressionism or silent film, really, as I haven’t explored much beyond Charlie Chaplin. For my Halloween Horror Fest last year, I watched another silent horror (Nosferatu – review HERE). I’ll compare the two as they’re of the same time period and genre.


Both these films rightly deserve their status as horror classics. I can’t quite decide which one I liked more. I think The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari is better in many ways. It has a great story that works just as well today and doesn’t feel “dated”. Plus… My god I loved those sets! (I guess they’d be that “German Expressionism” style I won’t pretend I know much of anything about). The look of a film is very important to me and, although I may know next to nothing about art, I know what I like the look of and I LOVED the style of this film. I’m assuming Tim Burton is a huge fan of this film. The somnambulist is an awesome cross between Edward Scissorhands and Robert Smith (of The Cure, Cara). 😉 Check him out!


Should I pretend I didn’t have to look up the word “somnambulist” when I watched this? Okay, I had to – it’s a sleepwalker. Dr Caligari goes around “displaying” his somnambulist at carnivals, who can tell people their futures whenever Caligari awakens him from his slumber. I won’t say any more so as to not ruin the story for those who may want to watch this but the story feels very ahead of its time, especially the ending. I didn’t realize how much modern horror films owe to The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.


As for the “horror”, I’d have to say The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari is really not going to be very scary or creepy to anyone watching this today. I’m sure this wasn’t the case at the time but Nosferatu certainly has the edge on it now when it comes to the “creepy factor”. Nosferatu has SUCH an iconic look that I think most everyone immediately knows if the name is mentioned. I have to admit I’d not seen any of the images from The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari before watching it whereas I’d seen plenty of Nosferatu. Caligari is more “arty” and the look and story feel very modern for its time while Nosferatu is a much more old-fashioned take on the timeless vampire tale. They feel years apart yet Nosferatu was actually two years after Caligari. I loved them both in different ways but, if you go for a more classic horror story, you may prefer Nosferatu. It feels more like a “horror” film overall than Caligari does.



Whether you’re a fan of horror or just a fan of “film” (as in, like, not just the stuff made by Michael Bay which will be the case amongst movie bloggers anyway I’m sure), you should really give The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari a watch. Nosferatu as well! They’re true classics in both the silent film and horror movie genre but they’re also both very different. I’d be interested to know which one more people prefer. If you’ve never watched a silent film before, though, I’d definitely say to go with Caligari first as it looks and feels like it was made years later than Nosferatu and is an “easier” film to watch.

My Rating: 8/10


42 thoughts on “The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1920) Review

    • Thanks Cindy! 🙂 I felt silly talking about it as I certainly can’t say I really know anything about German Expressionism. Lol. But I loved it in this movie! Great film. I’d of course heard of it but think it must not quite get the attention it deserves.

  1. Excellent post, as well as choice, for a film review. I think the more horror fans, and movie lovers in general, that get exposed to this masterpiece of the German expressionist movement, which I rate on par with Nosferatu, the better.

    I mean, for the time period that it was filmed, in my opinion, I consider it almost to be a work of art, more than just a movie. I don’t mean to engage in hyperbole, but there are several reasons for my feelings. For starters, silent films, usually don’t hold my interest, with the exception of Nosferatu and a select few others. Secondly, when I am browsing the DVD selections at my local library, or scanning through the offerings on Netflix, I never purposely seek them out. I just feel the way that the director, Robert Wiene, is able to captivate a viewer with the imagery he is showing, along with having to read text, for over an hour’s worth of screen time, is an amazing accomplishment.

    I can’t write, in all honesty, that modern audiences wouldn’t have the tolerance for a film like that today, because “The Artist” did collect not only numerous accolades, but several prestigious awards, but I think, its uniqueness was the rare exception to the rule in this day and age.

    • Thanks for the comment! I love seeing someone’s love for a film. 🙂 I’m glad you feel this way about this. I agree this feels like a work of art. It really is awesome to just LOOK at. I did love The Artist as well – I’m still a little shocked that did so well as I think the majority don’t have the patience for silent film, which is a shame. Do you like Charlie Chaplin?

  2. Sounds great! I need to watch more silent films. I have seen regrettably few of them. Nice work, Mutant! Oh, and gee thanks for calling me out. 😛 I’m quite positive I’m not the ONLY person who didn’t know who that was…

    • Hehe. I don’t know, Cara… I think I’m gonna come over to your house and play you LOTS of music someday. 🙂 You should give this film a try! It really is good. And PLEASE watch some Charlie Chaplin if you haven’t! These really old films tend to be on YouTube. 🙂

      • Oh gees. I just had this kind of terrifying mental image of being duct-taped to a chair, but no one can hear my screams because you’re blaring music and crazily grinning at me like “Isn’t this great, Cara? DON’T YOU FREAKING LOVE THIS, CARA???” …Maybe I’ve been watching too many scary movies. Lol. And yes of course I’ve seen Chaplin! I took a film course where we watched a few of his things, and I love him! Buster Keaton, too!

      • Hehehe! I missed this comment where I fell behind on replies again. Don’t be silly, Cara – I wouldn’t duct-tape you to a chair! I’m not Eric or something. 🙂 I still need to check out some Buster Keaton. One of his films is in the Top 250 so I’ll at least be seeing that.

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  4. Well, since you don’t have any working knowledge of German expressionism I guess I’m just going to have to hit that Unfollow button. .. . lol *juuuuuuuuust kidding.* *Click*

    Seriously, though, silent movies are kind of like the last domain of movies I have yet to step into. I need to make the transition! I may very well start with this on your recommendation. 😀

    • Tom! Make the transition!!! This one is probably a very good place to start, although I’m also a very big fan of Chaplin. I’d also very much recommend Modern Times & City Lights! 🙂 I’ll happily wait a year & a half like I did with your Elephant Man, so long as you give one of these silent films a try. 😉

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