The Phantom of the Opera (1925)


The movie The Phantom of the Opera (1925) is a silent horror film that has captivated audiences for nearly a century with its haunting tale of obsession, love, and terror beneath the Paris Opera House. Directed by Rupert Julian, the film stars Lon Chaney as the Phantom, whose ghastly, self-devised makeup was kept a studio secret until the film’s premiere [1]. The story unfolds as the Opera House is rumored to be haunted by a disfigured musical genius, known as the Phantom, who resides in the catacombs below.

In the grandeur of the Paris Opera House, the aristocratic brothers Comte Philippe de Chagny and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny are present for a performance of “Faust.” Raoul, enamored with the chorus singer Christine Daaé, yearns for her to abandon her burgeoning operatic career and marry him. However, Christine is resolute, placing her aspirations above their romance.

Concurrently, the Opera’s management is in transition. The departing leaders warn their successors of the enigmatic Opera Ghost, who claims dominion over box No. 5.

The prima donna, Mme. Carlotta, receives an ominous missive from “The Phantom,” insisting that Christine take her place the subsequent evening, with grave repercussions should his demand be ignored. In her dressing room, Christine hears a disembodied voice, urging her to supplant Carlotta and devote herself to her vocation and her unseen mentor.

The next day, Christine confides in Raoul about her ethereal tutor, the “Spirit of Music,” which has become integral to her life. Skeptical, Raoul suggests it’s a ruse, provoking Christine’s ire.

That night, Christine triumphantly performs in Carlotta’s stead. Meanwhile, the new managers are perturbed by the sight of a spectral figure in Box 5, and the stagehand Simon Buquet discovers his brother Joseph’s lifeless body, vowing retribution. Another note from the Phantom arrives, reiterating his ultimatum: Carlotta must feign illness to allow Christine’s performance, or they will face a cursed production.

Defiantly, Carlotta takes the stage the following evening, only for the Phantom to unleash chaos by causing the chandelier to plummet into the audience. In the aftermath, Christine is lured through a hidden portal in her dressing room mirror, descending into the Opera’s shadowy depths. There, she encounters the Phantom, who reveals himself as Erik and professes his love. Overwhelmed, Christine loses consciousness, and upon awakening, finds a directive from Erik: she must never seek to unmask him. Yet, in a moment of impish curiosity, she unveils his disfigured visage, inciting his wrath and her imprisonment. Despite this, she implores him to let her perform once more, and he acquiesces, on the condition that she severs ties with Raoul.

Freed temporarily, Christine rendezvous with Raoul at the Opera’s masked ball, where the Phantom materializes as the “Red Death.” Unseen, he eavesdrops on their rooftop conversation, where Christine recounts her ordeal. Raoul vows to spirit her away post-performance, but their plan is overheard.

On the night of her abduction, Raoul, joined by Inspector Ledoux—who has been tracking Erik since his escape from Devil’s Island—ventures into the Phantom’s sanctum. They are ensnared in a diabolical chamber, while Philippe, in search of his brother, meets a watery demise at Erik’s hands.

As Raoul and Ledoux face peril, Christine bargains for Raoul’s life, offering herself to Erik. Moved by her plea, the Phantom rescues them.

However, their ordeal is far from over. A mob, led by Simon Buquet, descends upon Erik’s lair. Amidst the chaos, the Phantom attempts an escape with Christine, but Raoul intervenes. The mob ultimately exacts its vengeance, casting Erik into the Seine. In the aftermath, Raoul and Christine embark on a new chapter, setting sail for their honeymoon in Viroflay.


  • Lon Chaney as The Phantom
  • Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé
  • Norman Kerry as Vicomte Raoul de Chagny
  • Arthur Edmund Carewe as Ledoux
  • Gibson Gowland as Simon Buquet
  • John St. Polis as Comte Philippe de Chagny
  • Snitz Edwards as Florine Papillon
  • Mary Fabian as Carlotta
  • Virginia Pearson as Carlotta’s Mother


The film is known for Chaney’s remarkable makeup, which he applied himself, creating one of the most iconic images in cinematic history. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) entered the public domain in the United States in 1953 because the copyright registration was not renewed in the 28th year after publication [1].

Additionally, during the climactic chase through the streets of Paris, the Cathedral from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) can be seen [2].

Scholar Studies

'While The Phantom of the Opera is regularly included as a canonical text in the history of the horror film genre, it predated the term 'horror film.'
“For Geraghty and Jancovich, it is important that, while The Phantom of the Opera is regularly included as a canonical text in the history of the horror film genre, it predated the term ‘horror film,’ which, as they note, ‘did not enter common usage until almost a decade later—at some point in the cycle of films that followed the success of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931).’

To label a film retroactively, they argue, “can do violence to our sense of history by abstracting it from its original contexts or “emphasize some details and ignore others.'” – [5]  “Horror Film: How the Term Came to Be”, MONSTRUM 1, no. 1 (April 2018) | ISSN 2561-5629


“The Phantom of the Opera is not a great film if you are concerned with art and subtlety, depth and message; Nosferatu is a world beyond it. But in its fevered melodrama and images of cadaverous romance, it finds a kind of show-biz majesty. And it has two elements of genius: It creates beneath the opera one of the most grotesque places in the cinema, and Chaney’s performance transforms an absurd character into a haunting one.” – [3]

“Although a bit hokey, the story has a fairy tale quality that is endearing as well as frightening, and Erick is a compelling screen villain — an evil genius who years from love and acceptance from a beautiful woman, an ambiguous character who incites both repugnance and pathos.” – [4]


[1] Wikipedia – The Phantom of the Opera (1925 film)

[2] IMDb – The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

[3] Roger Ebert

[4] Hollywood Gothique

[5]  “Horror Film: How the Term Came to Be”, MONSTRUM 1, no. 1 (April 2018) | ISSN 2561-5629

Last updated byCody Meirick on December 2, 2023