Best Found Footage Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

What makes a horror movie scary? The answer to that question is fairly subjective, but there are likely some commonalities across the board.. And while intense action sequences, shocking twists, chilling imagery, and startling jump scares all deserve a place on that list, one of the most important factors (in our opinion) is realism. The more believable a horror film is, the more genuinely terrifying it will be. This suspension of disbelief, the thing that pulls audiences into the story and envelops them in its horror, is a contributing factor to some of the scariest films ever made. The best found footage horror movies exemplify this.

This is why the found footage horror genre works so well in horror. Found footage movies are presumed to be recovered recordings of actual events. They’re shot with low quality cameras, cast with no name actors, and often created on a tight budget. And yet this obvious lack of “quality” is exactly what makes these films succeed. The handheld cameras and documentary-style narratives help shape movies that seem incredibly realistic – and when they’re in the horror genre this also makes them incredibly frightening. To give you a taste of what this wide-ranging sub genre has to offer, we’ve explored the history of found footage horror to give you some of the best found footage horror films!

Host (2020)

Host found footage horror movie poster

It’s July of 2020, and the United Kingdom is in the middle of a lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. A group of friends have decided to use weekly Zoom calls as a way to stay connected, and in this latest call they have invited a medium to host a seance. Things start off innocently enough, but when one of the friends feels the presence of their dead friend Zack, things start to go off the rails. It’s a frighteningly good time, blending real world circumstances with supernatural scares. The entire movie was shot on Zoom during Covid, so it works as effective found footage horror movie as well as a marker of life during the pandemic. In the realm of “movies shot on the Internet” this stands out above the rest.

Creep (2014)

Creep found footage horror movie poster

A young, burgeoning filmmaker named Aaron has found a new gig: recording a video diary for a new client. Josef, who wants to film his final moments for his family, invites Aaron to his cabin in the woods. But Josef’s behavior is increasingly erratic and strange, and by the time Aaron realizes the truth of what’s going on it may be too late. This psychological horror film has the found footage horror movie genre hallmarks of a low budget and stripped down story, but it goes a step further by removing many of the obvious horrors. Instead it’s a case study of two men – one whose madness is slowly revealed and the other whose life is in danger because of it. It’s a risky choice for the genre, but it’s pulled off incredibly well thanks to the magnetic energy and chemistry of its leads Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice.

What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows found footage horror movie poster

It may not be as scary or disturbing as the other entries on this list, but as a horror comedy hybrid What We Do in the Shadows excels. The movie fits into another sub genre known as mockumentary, and the premise concerns a documentary crew who are filming a group of vampires who share a flat in a suburb of New Zealand. These vampires have varying powers and personalities, and much of the film follows their nightly exploits as they search for humans to kill and live their best undead lives. Comedic duo Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement wrote, directed, and starred in the film that has also launched a television show and a cult following of loyal fans.

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army found footage horror movie poster

It’s towards the end of World War II and a Red Army team on the Eastern Front has received a Soviet distress call. The company traces the call to a seemingly abandoned church where one of their members is suddenly attacked and disembowled by a zombot – a murderous half man/half robot creation. It turns out that the church, as well as the catacombs beneath it, are teeming with zombots created by a mad scientist descended from Victor Frankenstein. The movie has its gory moments and the plot takes some interesting twists and turns, but the standout stars by far are the uncanny and unsettling monster designs and grisly practical effects. Altogether the film is a fun mix of grindhouse, sci-fi, and body horror.

The Conspiracy (2012)

The Conspiracy found footage horror movie poster

Two young documentary movie makers, Aaron and Jim, have decided to make a film about a local conspiracy theorist named Terrance. During the course of their movie, Terrance suddenly disappears, leading them further down the rabbit hole. Their search reveals a secret organization named the Tarsus Club, and soon they are wrapped up in its strange rituals and shadowy machinations. The film does a good job of striking a mysterious tone early on before shifting to mounting dread as the plot goes from faux documentary into straight horror. The final scenes are shocking, particularly one involving a bull’s head, and they will stay with you long after the movie ends.

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters found footage horror movie poster

Grave Encounters is about a reality tv show that focuses on the paranormal. Its crew consists of ghost hunters, occult specialists, and mediums who journey to various haunted locales. Each episode features a different spot, and their latest is an abandoned and presumably haunted insane asylum known as the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. Part of the hospital’s sordid history involves a mad doctor who conducted ghastly experiments on the residents. The crew decides to spend the night in the hospital and becomes inexplicably trapped inside, filming what may be their last episode. Not only is this movie a humorous parody of actual paranormal reality shows, but it is also one of the more genuinely frightening found footage horror movies.

Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo found footage horror movie poster

The Palmer family is grieving the loss of their sixteen-year-old daughter, Alice, after she drowns while swimming in a dam. Her younger brother, Mathew, sets up video cameras around their house to record what appear to be images of her ghost as more dark secrets begin to unravel. The film is shot in a docufiction/mockumentary style, where the main story is communicated through a series of interviews with the family and found footage. More than just a supernatural thriller, the movie is a tense and mournful exploration of grief and how families cope with loss. There was no dialogue written into the script, and the ad-libbing of lines lends to the “real” feel of the movie. Overall, it’s a masterclass in making a powerful movie on a shoestring budget.

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield found footage horror movie poster

Unlike most found footage horror movies, Cloverfield was created by a big name creator, backed by big name production companies, and funded with a moderate budget. J.J. Abrams was able to get the project secretly greenlit and utilized a viral marketing campaign of trailers, posters, websites, and merch tie-ins to build hype before the film’s release. The movie is about an enormous monster attacking New York City, and it’s all filmed cinema verite style through the camcorder of a character named Rob. The chaotic scenes of destruction, the incredible design of the creature, and the realistic shaky home video quality (which caused some moviegoers to fall ill) all work in tandem to create a tense and highly enjoyable found footage movie.

REC (2007)

Rec found footage horror movie poster

A reporter and her cameraman are covering the night shift of a local fire station for the television program While You’re Sleeping. A fire station gets a distress call from a nearby apartment building, and after they arrive the building ends up being sealed off due to the outbreak of a deadly virus. The virus, which presents like rabies, is causing the residents to attack and subsequently infect each other, spreading quickly throughout the building. Those who haven’t been infected, including the camera crew, must find a way to escape and survive. The Spanish film was an immediate critical and commercial success, even spawning a less-than-stellar American remake (Quarantine). 

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity found footage horror movie poster

Not many movies (except the next one on our list) are as closely associated with the found footage movement as the Paranormal Activity franchise. The first film centers on a couple named Katie and Micah who are trying to capture evidence of and communicate with the increasingly angry demon that haunts their house. The creation of one-man show Oren Peli, who did pretty much everything but act in the movie, Paranormal Activity was an unexpectedly massive success. It’s one of the most profitable films ever made and, because Peli decided to focus on believability instead of gore and action, it’s also one of the most genuinely terrifying films in the found footage horror movie genre. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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Paranormal Activity may have generated more sequels, prequels, and video game adaptations, but its success owes thanks to one of the first found footage horror films that pioneered the genre in America: The Blair Witch Project. The film, which follows doomed student filmmakers as they attempt to investigate and document the local legend of the Blair Witch, has all the classic tropes and markings of the found footage genre. It’s shot mockumentary style on handheld cameras, it features no name actors ad-libbing the script, it utilized a viral marketing campaign, and it grossed many times over its miniscule budget. It may not be the best found footage movie ever made, but it will always hold a special place in our hearts thanks to the groundbreaking work that paved the way for future films and enabled the genre to become a mainstay in pop culture.

Honorable Mentions

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Unfriended (2015)
Hell House LLC (2015)
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
As Above, So Below (2014)
Afflicted (2013)
The Borderlands (2013)
Trollhunter (2010)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Best Sci-Fi Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured

Though the sci-fi horror genre has been around for century, it’s really in the last few decades that it has hit it’s stride. Nowhere has that jump in popularity more prevalent or evident than in the world of film. The 70’s and 80’s represent a golden era in sci-fi horror movies, with the rise of such giants in the industry as John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Ridley Scott. But even from the 90’s onward sci-fi horror shows no signs of slowing down, and some really incredible entries have come out in just the last couple of years.

There are so many excellent sci-fi horror movies out there that it was very hard to narrow this down to a manageable list. Even with an “Honorable Mentions” section at the end, we know we missed plenty of viable candidates. Let us know some of the better films we left off down in the comments below!

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space 2019 poster with sci-fi horror background

Did you know colors could be scary? H.P. Lovecraft certainly thought they could be, and he wrote a deeply unsettling story to prove it. Color Out of Space is a cosmic horror film based on that titular story, and it’s about the Gardner family who find that a meteorite has crash-landed on their farm. Suddenly, their once peaceful life in the country is shattered as the family finds themselves fighting an alien being that can infect and mutate their bodies and minds. Come for the Nicolas Cage performance, stay for the grotesque practical effects. With a slow build in the first half and a wild spree of body horror in the second half, Color Out of Space is a rare example of a Lovecraft adaptation done right. 

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation horror movie poster with scary sci-fi landscape

Criminally underrated and suffering from a shoddy release, Annihilation is a film that deserves your attention and awe. Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, it’s a story about a group of scientists who venture into a mysterious zone called “the Shimmer” to collect data and locate the early explorers who have vanished inside. The movie shares some similarities with the book, but writer/director Alex Garland also made some significant changes and it’s best to view them as alternate entries in a shared universe. It’s notoriously difficult to translate cosmic horror to the big screen, but Annihilation manages to do it and do it well. Full of mind boggling images and a deep unfurling dread, this is a movie that really translates a sense of hopelessness and unfathomable fear.

Timecrimes (2007)

Timecrimes horror movie poster with creepy killer

Though perhaps more of a sci-fi thriller than horror, there are enough shocking scenes and gut-twisting suspense to earn the Spanish language film Timecrimes a spot on this list. The film opens with a man named Hector spying on a beautiful woman. His moment of voyeurism is suddenly disrupted when he is attacked by a man whose head is wrapped in bandages. Fleeing the scene, Hector is able to find refuge in a remote lab where a scientist convinces him to hide in what turns out to be a time machine. To say more would be to spoil critical scenes, but just know this movie, though saddled with a low budget and amatuer actors, is a wonderfully confounding and deeply disquieting.example of sci-fi horror.

Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon sci-fi horror movie poster with space ship and planet

Sure it flopped on its initial release (as did several other films on this list). Sure it’s been panned by critics and holds a highly debated place in film fandom. But whether you hate or, in our case, love it, there’s no denying that Event Horizon is fully ingrained in pop culture and space horror sensibilities. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a spaceship that stumbles across a portal to hell. As this infernal dimension begins to assert it’s dark influence the crew is slowly driven into a violent madness. Full of existential dread and shots of pure horror, Event Horizon is a film not to be missed. Just hope you return from the experience in a better state than the crew.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly horror movie poster with a fly and black background

We’re big fans of both body horror and practical effects over here at Puzzle Box, and one of the movies that best combines those two elements is David Cronenburg’s The Fly. Really there are many great choices in the Cronenburg cannon, but picked this one for its engaging premise and delightfully gross effects. Jeff Goldbloom, who gives a particularly captivating performance, plays a scientist whose failed experiment in teleportation transforms him into a gigantic insect. It’s a disgusting and nightmarish riff on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but it’s also a surprisingly poignant look into the complexity of human relationships. 

Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator horror movie poster featuring a severed head and a creepy scientist

Herbert West, a slightly off-kilter scientist, has discovered a secret formula that can reanimate dead tissue and ultimately bring the deceased back to life. After a successful trial run on a fellow student’s cat, West takes his extraordinary elixir to the morgue and from there all havoc breaks loose. Though the movie is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, there were some major changes made and a lack of overall otherworldly dread. Instead we get a gloriously violent and darkly comedic romp full of gore and humor, all centered around the delightfully cheesy performance of actor Stewart Gordan. And really, what more could you want?

The Thing (1982)

The Thing 1982 sci-fi horror movie poster featuring a man in an arctic suit with beams of light coming through his head

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of paranoia and gorey practical effects. Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell Jr, Carpenter’s version is actually the third adaptation of the story and by far the most famous. In an isolated arctic setting, a team of scientists uncover an ancient alien being. Despite their best intentions, the creature is revived and begins to take them out one by one. What makes this plot particularly terrifying is the alien’s ability to mimic other lifeforms.The frenzy of shapeshifting that ensues, from the normal humanoid forms to the outrageously bizarre spectacles, keeps the scientists (and the audience) guessing on who is friend or foe. For the staff at Puzzle Box Horror, this is easily one of our favorite sci-fi horror films.

Scanners (1981)

Scanners horror movie poster from 1981 featuring a man whose head is exploding

Ok we swear this isn’t cheating, but we’re double-dipping in the Carpenter oeuvre. His movie Scanners, essentially about a group of telepathics seeking world domination and the counter-group fighting to subvert them, is what we consider essential viewing when it comes to the sci-fi horror genre. Yes it has the infamous head-exploding scene, and yes it’s as entertaining and memorable as you’d assume from a Carpenter film. But it also features some fine character acting and touches on some intriguing sociopolitical themes. Overall it’s a satisfying blend of cerebral commentary and visceral chaos. 

Alien (1979)

Alien 1979 horror movie poster featuring an alien egg

It’s impossible to talk about sci-fi horror without the angular, toothy distorted image of a xenomorph coming to mind. The whole alien franchise is fantastic (yes, even that one), but we have to give credit to the one that started it all. Ridley Scott’s Alien is dark, tense, and claustrophobic; a slow-burn of mounting dread and unseen foes until about the halfway mark when it explodes (literally) with stomach-churning horror. Featuring the unforgettable designs by H.R. Giger and inspiring decades of filmmakers after it, Alien stands as a shining example of the “horror in space” genre.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 movie poster featuring aliens and a person in a cocoon

It’s not often that a remake is better than the original, but the 70’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is arguably superior to its predecessor. The enthralling performances of the leads, the creepy practical effects, the unnerving musical score, and the harrowing ending all work in perfect unison to make this a shockingly scary film. The cold war paranoia of the first movie has also been updated to showcase more relevant social metaphors, such as the loss of self and breakdown of community. Body possession movies have always been terrifying, and this one, about an alien plant that consumes its sleeping host and assumes their form, is a must-watch entry in the sci-fi horror genre.

Honorable Mentions

Possessor (2020)

The Invisible Man (2020)

Life (2017)

Ex Machina (2014)

Europa Report (2013)

Sunshine (2007)

Slither (2006)

28 Days Later (2002)

Donnie Darko (2001)

The Faculty (1998)

Demon Seed (1997)

Mimic (1997)

Cube (1997)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Aliens (1986)

From Beyond (1986)

Altered States (1980)

The Fury (1978)

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