Classic Movie Serials

by Cinemageddon | created - 15 Sep 2013 | updated - 21 Oct 2018 | Public

Serials, more specifically known as Movie serials, Film serials or Chapter plays, are short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film.

They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction.

Also known as "chapter plays", they were extended motion pictures broken into a number of segments called "chapters" or "episodes". Each chapter was screened at the same theater for one week and ended with a cliffhanger in which the hero and heroine found themselves in a perilous situation with little apparent chance of escape.

Viewers had to return each week to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story.

Serials were especially popular with children and for many youths in the first half of the 20th century a typical Saturday at the movies included a chapter of at least one serial along with animated cartoons, newsreels, and two feature films.

(Info taken from wikipedia)

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1. The Shadow (1940)

Passed | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is trying to take over the world with his death ray.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Victor Jory, Veda Ann Borg, Roger Moore, Robert Fiske

Votes: 233

2. Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)

Passed | 269 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and ... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Henry Brandon, William Royle, Robert Kellard, Gloria Franklin

Votes: 256

3. Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939)

Approved | 211 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Using a diabolical disguise, Harry Crowel embarks on a vengeful career of destruction...opposed by three heroic daredevils.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Charles Quigley, Bruce Bennett, David Sharpe, Carole Landis

Votes: 182

4. The Spider's Web (1938)

Passed | 300 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A crime fighter known as The Spider battles a villain called The Octopus, who is out to sabotage America and install his own government.

Directors: James W. Horne, Ray Taylor | Stars: Warren Hull, Iris Meredith, Richard Fiske, Kenne Duncan

Votes: 106

5. Red Barry (1938)

Passed | 256 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A famous detective sets out to discover who stole $2 million in bonds.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Alan James | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Frances Robinson, Edna Sedgewick, Cyril Delevanti

Votes: 83

6. The Return of Chandu (I) (1934)

Approved | 208 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Horror

The Black Magic cult of Ubasti, based on the isle of Lemuria, believes that Nadji, a princess of Egypt, is a reincarnation of their long-dead goddess, Ossana, and intend to sacrifice Nadji ... See full summary »

Director: Ray Taylor | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Maria Alba, Clara Kimball Young, Lucien Prival

Votes: 243

7. The Three Musketeers (1933)

Passed | 210 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Tom Wayne rescues Clancy, Renard and Schmidt in the Arabian desert and they join him in going after El Shaitan, a bad guy who is never seen as he tries to wipe out the Foreign Legion.

Directors: Colbert Clark, Armand Schaefer | Stars: Jack Mulhall, Raymond Hatton, Francis X. Bushman Jr., John Wayne

Votes: 346

8. The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (I) (1936)

Passed | 305 min | Action, Crime, Mystery

A scientist discovers a formula for making synthetic gold.

Director: Albert Herman | Stars: Jack Mulhall, Rex Lease, Mae Busch, Ruth Mix

Votes: 79

9. Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island (1936)

Approved | 256 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A 14-episode serial in which Mala, a Polynesian in the employ of U.S. Intelligence investigates sabotage on Clipper Island. A gang of spies causes the eruption of a volcano, for which our ... See full summary »

Directors: Ray Taylor, Mack V. Wright | Stars: Mala, Rex, Buck the Dog, Mamo Clark

Votes: 89

10. The Fighting Marines (1935)

Approved | 216 min | Action, Adventure

Corporal Larry Grant and Sergeant "Mac" McGowan, of the United States Marine Corps, are rival for the love of Frances Schiller, but team up to hunt down "The Tiger Shark," a mad, scientific... See full summary »

Directors: B. Reeves Eason, Joseph Kane | Stars: Grant Withers, Adrian Morris, Ann Rutherford, Robert Warwick

Votes: 57

11. Young Eagles (1934)

Approved | 228 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Two Boy Scouts win an around-the-world trip with a crack aviator, and find themselves crash-landed in the South American jungles after the ace forgets to refuel in Ecuador.

Directors: Edward Laurier, Vin Moore, Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Bobby Cox, Jim Vance, Carter Dixon, Iron Eyes Cody

Votes: 38

12. The Shadow of the Eagle (1932)

Passed | 218 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The Eagle uses sky writing to make threats against a corporation. Nathan Gregory owns a traveling fairground and is thought to be the Eagle. Craig McCoy is a pilot who goes looking for the Eagle when Gregory turns up missing.

Directors: Ford Beebe, B. Reeves Eason | Stars: John Wayne, Dorothy Gulliver, Walter Miller, Kenneth Harlan

Votes: 317

13. The Hurricane Express (1932)

Passed | 227 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

When his father is killed in a train wreck, Larry Baker vows to unmask a mysterious criminal called "The Wrecker," who has targeted the L&M Railroad for deadly" accidents."

Directors: J.P. McGowan, Armand Schaefer | Stars: John Wayne, Shirley Grey, Conway Tearle, Tully Marshall

Votes: 484

14. Jungle Jim (1937)

Approved | 232 min | Adventure

Two safaris enter the African jungle intent on finding a white girl who is the heiress to a fortune. One tries to help her and the other one wants to kill her.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Clifford Smith | Stars: Grant Withers, Betty Jane Rhodes, Raymond Hatton, Evelyn Brent

Votes: 87

15. The Galloping Ghost (1931)

Passed | 226 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A gambling ring run out of the Mogul Taxi company is intent on fixing college football games. Football star Harold "Red" Grange is a target for the gamblers, whose thugs try to eliminate ... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Harold 'Red' Grange, Dorothy Gulliver, Walter Miller, Francis X. Bushman Jr.

Votes: 127

16. Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)

Approved | 213 min | Adventure

An expedition arrives on an uncharted jungle island to rescue the local natives, led by a jungle boy, from a volcano that is about to erupt.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Bruce Bennett, Mala, Monte Blue, Harley Wood

Votes: 62

17. Darkest Africa (1936)

Approved | 269 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

A 15-episode serial in which Beatty goes to darkest Africa to rescue the Goddess of Joba, who is being held by the high priest.

Directors: B. Reeves Eason, Joseph Kane | Stars: Clyde Beatty, Manuel King, Elaine Shepard, Lucien Prival

Votes: 99

18. The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)

Approved | 204 min | Adventure

The US marine corps must battle a would-be world conqueror who uses electricity as a weapon.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Lee Powell, Bruce Bennett, Eleanor Stewart, Montagu Love

Votes: 95

19. Perils of Pauline (1933)

Passed | 231 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

A famous scientist and his beautiful daughter travel to Indochina to find an ivory disc that has the formula for a deadly gas engraved on it. An evil doctor and his gang are also looking for it.

Director: Ray Taylor | Stars: Evalyn Knapp, Craig Reynolds, James Durkin, John Davidson

Votes: 107

20. The Last of the Mohicans (1932)

Approved | 231 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Natty Bumppo, known as Hawk-Eye, is a frontiersman in the American wilderness. Together with his Indian friends Chingachgook and Uncas, he fights battles against nefarious white soldiers as... See full summary »

Directors: Ford Beebe, B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Harry Carey, Hobart Bosworth, Frank Coghlan Jr., Edwina Booth

Votes: 117

21. Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)

Passed | 212 min | Action, Adventure, History

The masked hero leads a fighting force to fight a villian who plots the conquest of The Republic of Mexico.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Reed Hadley, Sheila Darcy, William Corson, Leander De Cordova

Votes: 362

22. Zorro Rides Again (1937)

Approved | 212 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

The California-Yucatan Railroad, being built for the good of Mexico, is under siege by a gang of terrorists hoping to force its sale; no one can prove their connection to profiteer Marsden.... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: John Carroll, Noah Beery, Richard Alexander, Reed Howes

Votes: 245

23. Tailspin Tommy in The Great Air Mystery (1935)

Passed | 236 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

A 12-episode serial in which Tailspin Tommy evades volcanoes, anti-aircraft shells, and time bombs as he foils a plan by corrupt profiteers to steal an island's oil reserves.

Director: Ray Taylor | Stars: Clark Williams, Jean Rogers, Delphine Drew, Noah Beery Jr.

Votes: 74

24. Secret Agent X-9 (1937)

Approved | 294 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

A secret agent goes after the gang that stole the crown jewels of a European monarchy.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Clifford Smith | Stars: Scott Kolk, Jean Rogers, David Oliver, Monte Blue

Votes: 67

25. The Adventures of Frank Merriwell (1936)

Passed | 219 min | Action, Adventure, Mystery

A 12-episode serial in which scholastic sports star Frank Merriwell leaves school to search for his missing father. His adventures involve a mysterious inscription on a ring, buried ... See full summary »

Directors: Clifford Smith, Lew Landers | Stars: Donald Briggs, Jean Rogers, John 'Dusty' King, Carla Laemmle

Votes: 36

26. Ace Drummond (1936)

Approved | 255 min | Action, Adventure

This 13 chapter serial is based on the comic strip character Ace Drummond created by Eddie Rickenbacker. Ace is a 'G-Man of the sky' working out of Washington D.C. He is sent to Mongolia to... See full summary »

Directors: Ford Beebe, Clifford Smith | Stars: John 'Dusty' King, Jean Rogers, Noah Beery Jr., Guy Bates Post

Votes: 365

27. The Adventures of Rex and Rinty (1935)

Approved | 229 min | Action, Adventure

A 12 episode serial starring Rex, the King of the Wild Horses and Rin-Tin-Tin, Jr. Rex is brought from the island of Sujan, where he is worshiped as a God-Horse, to the U.S. to be trained ... See full summary »

Directors: Ford Beebe, B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Rex, Rin Tin Tin Jr., Kane Richmond, Norma Taylor

Votes: 72

28. Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)

Passed | 302 min | Action, Mystery, Crime

A mad doctor named Zanoff uses a drug to bring himself back from the dead after his execution in prison. Dick Tracy sets out to capture Zanoff before he can put his criminal gang back together again.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Irving Pichel, Ted Pearson, Jennifer Jones

Votes: 291

29. The Phantom (1943)

Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Ernie Adams, John Bagni

Votes: 350

30. Dick Tracy Returns (1938)

Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Dick Tracy battles spies and saboteurs in his efforts to bring to justice the Stark gang, a criminal family led by the vicious Pa Stark.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Lynne Roberts, Charles Middleton, Jerry Tucker

Votes: 359

31. Burn 'Em Up Barnes (I) (1934)

Passed | 210 min | Action, Adventure

Marjorie Temple, owner of a bus line and an apparently worthless plot of land, is set upon by rich oil speculators who know her land actually is worth millions. When they try to put her out... See full summary »

Directors: Colbert Clark, Armand Schaefer | Stars: Jack Mulhall, Frankie Darro, Lola Lane, Julian Rivero

Votes: 62

32. Dick Tracy (1937)

Approved | 290 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

A master criminal called The Spider puts the famous detective's brother under a hypnotic spell and turns him against Dick.

Directors: Alan James, Ray Taylor | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Kay Hughes, Smiley Burnette, Lee Van Atta

Votes: 532

33. The Lost Jungle (I) (1934)

243 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

Animal trainer Clyde Beatty heads a rescue party in search of his girl, Ruth, and her father who get lost looking for an uncharted island. His dirigible crashes into the jungles of the ... See full summary »

Directors: David Howard, Armand Schaefer | Stars: Clyde Beatty, Syd Saylor, Cecilia Parker, Edward LeSaint

Votes: 191

34. Shadow of Chinatown (I) (1936)

Passed | 281 min | Adventure, Crime, Horror

A madman sets out to destroy a group of Chinatown merchants.

Director: Robert F. Hill | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Bruce Bennett, Joan Barclay, Luana Walters

Votes: 201

35. The Phantom Empire (1935)

Approved | 245 min | Action, Adventure, Music

When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried ... See full summary »

Directors: Otto Brower, B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Gene Autry, Frankie Darro, Betsy King Ross, Dorothy Christy

Votes: 393

36. The Phantom Creeps (1939)

Approved | 265 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

A military intelligence officer and a pretty reporter try to find a scientist whose inventions can destroy the world.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley

Votes: 792

37. Buck Rogers (1939)

Approved | 237 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

A 20th Century pilot named Buck Rogers and his young friend Buddy Wade awake from 500 years in suspended animation to find that the world has been taken over by the outlaw army of Killer Kane.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Constance Moore, Jackie Moran, Jack Mulhall

Votes: 725

38. Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938)

Approved | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

When a deadly Nitron ray strikes Earth, Flash Gordon and his friends travel to Mars to battle Ming the Merciless and his new ally Queen Azura.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Robert F. Hill, Frederick Stephani | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Frank Shannon

Votes: 828

39. The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939)

Approved | 263 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Homesteaders are moving into the valley settled many years ago by rancher Craig Dolan. He wants to keep them out by legal means but his nephew Bart brings in outlaws to drive them out. The ... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Robert Livingston, Chief Thundercloud, Silver Chief, Duncan Renaldo

Votes: 97

40. The Vigilantes Are Coming (1936)

Approved | 229 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

A masked hero called "The Eagle" leads California ranchers in a struggle against Russian Cossacks who are plotting to take over California and turn it into a Russian colony.

Directors: Ray Taylor, Mack V. Wright | Stars: Robert Livingston, Kay Hughes, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Raymond Hatton

Votes: 64

41. The Painted Stallion (1937)

Approved | 212 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

The period is the 1820's and the first wagon train leaves Independence heading west to Santa Fe. In order to maintain his power, the ruthless Official at Santa Fe must not let them arrive ... See full summary »

Directors: Alan James, Ray Taylor, William Witney | Stars: Ray Corrigan, Hoot Gibson, LeRoy Mason, Duncan Renaldo

Votes: 146

42. The Oregon Trail (1939)

Passed | 320 min | Action, Adventure, Western

Frontier scout Jeff Scott (Johnny Mack Brown) and his pal, Deadwood Hawkins (Fuzzy Knight), are hired by Washington officials to stop outlaw and Indian raids on pioneer wagon trains ... See full summary »

Directors: Ford Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind | Stars: Johnny Mack Brown, Louise Stanley, Fuzzy Knight, Bill Cody Jr.

Votes: 45

43. Law of the Wild (1934)

Approved | 225 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Rex, a wild stallion, and Rinty, a police dog, are pals. Their master , John Sheldon, is framed for murder, and Alice Ingram plans to race Rex for money to pay for John's legal defense. ... See full summary »

Directors: B. Reeves Eason, Armand Schaefer | Stars: Rex, Rin Tin Tin Jr., Ben Turpin, Bob Custer

Votes: 59

44. The Devil Horse (1932)

Passed | 216 min | Western