While The Phantom of the Opera isn't as popular as his Universal Horror peers, such as Dracula and Frankenstein, the character and franchise have had plenty of interesting adaptations since the original novel of the same name. The most celebrated of those adaptations is the stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which remains the longest running musical in Broadway history. While the Webber musical remains the definitive Phantom, there still have been film versions of the Opera Ghost from over the century that range from groundbreaking to downright strange. Based off ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, here's a ranking of every film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.
Honorable Mention: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Hammer Film Productions is legendary for its groundbreaking horror films, such as The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula, but in 1962 it also did an incarnation of The Phantom of the Opera. Like the other films from the studio, Hammer gives its signature gritty atmosphere while also delivering on the small spectacles it's now known for. Its Rotten Tomatoes page is confusing because it conflicts with the page of the 1925 film, and its own page lacks info about the cast, crew, title and more, only providing three middle-of-the-road reviews. Furthermore, it lacks a Metacritic score, so for it to be fairly weighed against these other adaptations, it will be an honorable mention.
6) The Phantom of the Opera (1998) - Average Score: 13
Dario Argento is a legendary Italian Horror director, and he directed a classic in the '80s called Terror at the Opera. which had a similar storyline to The Phantom of the Opera. Based on this, him doing a version of Phantom should've turned out well, but that wasn't the case. This movie's Phantom doesn't even wear a mask, nor is his face scary, departing greatly from the known image of the character. While The Phantom is always supposed to be creepy, this one depicted him as rapist with a rat fetish, removing much of the sympathy other versions try to illicit. Most critics were right in their reivers, with the film receiving 13 percent. Fans of Argento should simply watch Terror at the Opera instead.
5) The Phantom of the Opera (2004) - Average Score: 36.5
The long awaited movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical has its fans. Despite getting only 33 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 84 percent of audiences approve of Joel Schumacher's lavish film. The movie is bizarre to watch in retrospect since it features successful actors Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson. Butler was an inexperienced singer and tried his best, but he was miscast in a role that requires more raw talent and theatrical presence. It also didn't help that his "monstrous" appearance is actually underwhelming when the mask is removed.
4) The Phantom of the Opera (1989) - Average Score: 38
Robert Englund played another horror icon in the most slasher-like version of Phantom yet. This film came out during the heyday of both the Broadway musical and A Nightmare on Elm Street's franchise, so it tries to cash in on both. In this version, The Phantom sold his soul to the devil to become a great composer, but he paid the price by becoming a Freddy Krueger-like serial killer. The critics who were already tired of slasher tropes did not give favorable reviews for this, and reviewer Tim Brayton summed it up best by writing, "Doing a period piece on an '80s slasher budget was a doomed idea."
3) The Phantom of the Opera (1943) - Average Score: 69.5
Claude Rains will live on in cinema immortality for his performance as Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, not to mention he was also the original The Invisible Man. However, just after he did Casablanca, he starred in Universal's first Phantom of the Opera movie since the 1925 silent film. While it doesn't get the same acclaim as its predecessor, critics generally favor this Phantom thanks to its lavish sets, phenomenal costumes and Rains' intriguing performance. It currently has a solid 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a rating of a 63 percent on Metacritic.
2) Phantom of the Paradise - Average Score: 76
The most interesting and unique film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera by far is Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise. While Phantom is usually constricted to the Paris Opera House during the 1880s, De Palma manages to defy the conventions with one of the most visually stunning and bizarre movies of the '70s. Instead of the usual setting, Paradise takes place in an alternate modern day universe, with a hard rock club called "The Paradise" replacing the Opera House. This Phantom is a songwriter who sold his soul to get the woman he loves to sing his songs, only to have a record tycoon steal his music. The shocking visuals, as well as the satire of the music industry, make this arguably the most entertaining Phantom adaptation.
1) The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - Average Score: 90
If there's one adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera that's as well-known as the stage musical, it's this groundbreaking, silent film starring Lon Chaney. While The Phantom is known for his mask, the most iconic image of the character in cinema is of his unmasked face in this film. Chaney himself applied the make-up and prosthetics, which were ahead of their time, and it paid off greatly. Critics wrote about members of the audiences screaming upon the face reveal, with some patrons fainting in response. To this day, critics hail it as a classic in early cinema, with Roger Ebert writing, "in its fevered melodrama and images of cadaverous romance, it finds a kind of show-biz majesty."