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Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover, Friedrich Feher, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ... see more see more... , Rudolf Lettinger , Henri Peters-Arnolds , Ludwig Rex , Elsa Wagner , Rudolf Klein-Rogge

In one of the most influential films of the silent era, Werner Krauss plays the title character, a sinister hypnotist who travels the carnival circuit displaying a somnambulist named Cesare (Conrad Ve... read more read more...idt). In one tiny German town, a series of murders coincides with Caligari's visit. When the best friend of hero Francis (Friedrich Feher) is killed, the deed seems to be the outgrowth of a romantic rivalry over the hand of the lovely Jane (Lil Dagover). Francis suspects Caligari, but he is ignored by the police. Investigating on his own, Francis seemingly discovers that Caligari has been ordering the somnambulist to commit the murders, but the story eventually takes a more surprising direction. Caligari's Expressionist style ultimately led to the dark shadows and sharp angles of the film noir urban crime dramas of the 1940s, many of which were directed by such German émigrés as Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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90% liked it

25,261 ratings


100% liked it

39 critics

Unrated, 52 min.

Directed by: Robert Wiene

Release Date: February 26, 1920

Keywords: horror, old, silent

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DVD Release Date: October 15, 1997

Stats: 1,781 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,781)

  • September 13, 2012
    An unforgettable masterpiece of German Expressionism.
  • March 23, 2012
    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.
  • February 16, 2012
    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 ... read morevein 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.
  • December 26, 2011
    An interesting and strange film that captures the imagination, then leaves you feeling like you've just had a smoke of weed. For it's time it's very current and shows how far cinema has come and what different styles were popular back then and has inspired many directors, art dir... read moreectors and films. A must watch even if you never see it ever again.
  • fb1664868775
    October 27, 2011
    Truly haunting images.
  • December 17, 2010
    this film has influenced so many others. the story is excellent, the art direction is unique, and the music sets the stage perfectly. without question one of the first and one of the best horror films ever made.
  • December 12, 2010
    I loved the stylised sets and the twist at the end. However at first I was a little unappriecative, as it builds quite slowly for such a short film. My copy also has rather confusingly designed dialogue cards/screens which can be difficult to read, but after a while you get used ... read moreto it.
  • December 5, 2010
    An icon of the German Expressionism, this is a radically anti-bourgeois work of art that influenced an entire post-war era and managed to express with its chilling stylized visuals the deepest feelings of a society in crisis and its search for artistic innovation.
  • October 25, 2010
    A fantasy crime/horror thriller, an icon of the silent era and cinema in general. You just have to see it at some point in your life.
  • October 24, 2010
    A lovely jumping point for learning about German Expressionism in the cinema - if not its FIRST example, perhaps, then certainly one of its best known, behind Metropolis. The dreamlike nonsensicality of the plot and the flat cardboard sets, so sharply and strikingly designed that... read more you forget their lack of actual dimension, create a totally bizarre cinematic world, quite unlike anything of its time or any other time. It meanders into territory that occasionally grows repetitive or uninteresting, but the ending is great, casting a shadow of irresolution and doubt that you don't often find in films of the 20s. The whole enterprise is surprisingly eerie, as befitting its position of arguably the first true horror movie, and the shadowy set design and Conrad Veidt's menacing somnambulist seem to slide perfectly into this sanguine world. Even the intertitles, dark and chaotic, are an excellent fit for the movie.

    You'll probably see this in a film class, if that's your academic pursuit of choice, but if you have even a remote interest in the history of the genre or film in general, Dr. Caligari is worth a visit.

Critic Reviews

Roger Ebert
October 7, 2011
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

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

Jonathan Rosenbaum
August 13, 2007
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

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

Variety Staff
October 25, 2006
Variety Staff, Variety

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

February 9, 2006
Time Out

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

John Bleasdale
August 1, 2014
John Bleasdale, Electric Sheep

This film has madness running all the way through it, a madness that seeps from story into reality and back again. Full Review

Fernando F. Croce
July 23, 2014
Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion

A foundational nightmare vision Full Review

October 8, 2012
Total Film

One of the first -- and still one of the greatest -- psychological horror movies. Full Review

Cole Smithey
October 3, 2011
Cole Smithey,

With its unusual look and neatly folding method of storytelling "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is an artistically uninhibited silent horror film that still sends chills. Full Review

Catherine Bray
August 26, 2010
Catherine Bray, Film4

Pre-dating even early genre landmarks Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1926) by some distance, Robert Wiene's silent film is both influential and one of a kind. Full Review

Donald J. Levit
February 7, 2010
Donald J. Levit, ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Even if taken as social or Freudian statement, Caligari's real star attraction is in the visuals. Full Review

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

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (Th... Trivia

  • The character "Cesare the Sleep Walker" is from what German Expressionist film?  Answer »
  • In which film does the somnambulist kill people on the doctors orders?  Answer »

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