The film starts off with Francis (Friedrich Feher) sitting on bench talking to an old man. A woman walks by seemingly in a daze and Francis announces that she is his fiancee and that they’ve been through hell together. He then proceeds to tell the old man his strange story.
The film flashes back to a time when Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) were both trying to woo Jane (Lil Dagover). The three of them go to a carnival where they discover Dr. Caligari, (Werner Krauss) a hypnotist who has a sleeping lackey named Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who he keeps in a cabinet. Caligari hypnotizes Cesare into predicting people’s futures. Alan gets his future foretold and Cesare announces that he will die before dawn. A horrifying prediction that comes true. It seems that there is a killer on the loose and it’s starting to look like Dr. Caligari might be behind it.
Director Robert Wiene and writers Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz have crafted a nightmarish film with stark photography and sinister shadows, bizarre sets and a very cool twist ending. The movie has influenced hundreds of films and it was loosely remade in 1962 by writer Robert Bloch and director Roger Kay with mediocre results and again in 2005 but the original is a masterpiece.