12 Best Found Footage Movies of All Time

The Taking of Deborah Logan

Cannibal Holocaust is generally considered to be the first found footage horror movie. It deserves a place among the best found footage movies, but for many, this subgenre didn’t really enter popular culture until 1999. That would mark the release of The Blair Witch Project, which Roger Ebert later called one of the 10 most influential films of the century. Success gave way to imitation, and it wasn’t long before a slew of found footage films left many feeling as though the genre was a limited field at best.

That simply isn’t true. As the past 15 years in particular have shown us, found footage horror is far more powerful and flexible as a concept than its detractors would care to admit. As we make our way through the scariest, most innovative examples of all time, we’re going to find ourselves with a dozen movies that could easily be placed among the best horror films period.

 

The Best Found Footage Movies

12. Host (2020)

Shudder Host
Shudder Host

Director: Rob Savage

In the early stages of the ongoing COVID pandemic, Host proved that you could craft compelling cinema with the severe limitations placed by such measures as social distancing.

The setup for Host is pretty straightforward, with six friends summoning a violent, unknown presence during an online séance (guys, seriously, no, not even once). Where things get interesting for this movie is when it stays with this Zoom call for its duration. Very little changes, except the plot of the movie as it becomes increasingly apparent that these kids have summoned something demonic, powerful, and cruel.

Host sustains itself with almost masterful building of its tension, with the performances by the young cast helping to keep that momentum going. Host doesn’t overstay its welcome or get dull for even a moment. This film is a good example of a unique premise being brought to stunningly impressive life. Host utilizes COVID inconveniences yet has a timeless appeal.

 

11. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

The Rise of Leslie Vernon
The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Director: Scott Glosserman

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon came along at a time when there wasn’t quite as much support for comedy and horror as a hybrid genre. There were outliers, but it was still widely believed that horror and comedy couldn’t mix without sacrificing one of those elements.

Behind the Mask proves this theory wrong. Not only is it a unique mockumentary approach with the essentials of the best found footage movies, but it’s also a surprisingly suspenseful horror film that manages to be funny more often than not.

Behind the Mask gets its humor from a variety of places. One example is in casting legends like Robert Englund and Zelda Rubenstein as a Dr. Loomis-like psychiatrist and eccentric librarian respectively. There’s lots and lots of well-made jokes about slashers and horror tropes in this effectively character-driven story of a young man whose serial killer ambitions embrace the slasher movie genre.

 

10. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Is Cannibal Holocaust the first found footage movie? No, that would be Shirley Clarke’s 1961 experimental film The Connection. It is, however, the first true found footage horror film, as well as the first movie to utilize the concept in a fashion that would be familiar to audiences today. Does that fact alone make this film concerning a group of filmmakers who leave behind grisly evidence of their visit to the Amazon jungle worth watching? That depends.

Cannibal Holocaust has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most disturbing horror movies of all time. The fate of the filmmakers alone is nasty business, with rape and brutal death occurring relentlessly in the movie’s unforgettable second half. There’s also some fairly notorious footage of actual animals being killed on camera.

Keeping all of this in mind, Cannibal Holocaust does possess a brutal power to genuinely disturb, and it goes about with an eye towards technical excellence.

 

9. The Last Broadcast (1998)

The Last Broadcast film
The Last Broadcast

Directors: Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler

Just one year before The Blair Witch Project made the scene, The Last Broadcast took mockumentaries and found-footage horror to interesting extremes.

A documentary filmmaker (David Beard) immerses himself in the hideous and mysterious murders of the crew behind a TV show called Fact or Fiction. The mockumentary element dominates this story, but we do eventually also experience the footage that our filmmaker is investigating. The cleverness of this film doesn’t detract from its tension, genuinely effective ending, or the performances of the cast.

In fact, the cleverness of The Last Broadcast remains apparent to this day. The movie may prove to be a little too bleak for some, or for those who expect a higher level of what they perceive to be sophistication with an idea like this. Everyone else who witnesses The Last Broadcast is likely to find this movie compelling and disturbing in equal amounts.

 

8. WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

WNUF Halloween Special (2013)
WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

Director: Chris LaMartina

WNUF Halloween Special is a true gem. One of the most enjoyable and well-rounded entries on this list, the film establishes itself as a VHS copy of a local TV network’s Halloween celebration. This includes several commercials (directed by such names as James Branscome and Lonnie Martin), seemingly unrelated news segments, and a live séance in a famously haunted home in suburbia. That last part is naturally the strongest, funniest, and at times even scariest piece of this expertly-crafted nostalgia experience.

The word “nostalgic” applies here, but WNUF is more than just a extremely well-constructed artificial artifact. It’s a novel approach to the haunted house story, particularly in the characters we meet and in the way this movie approaches humor.

The comedic bits never create a tonal issue for the eventual nightmare faced by a local newscaster, a married, dubious psychic couple, and the other unfortunates who try to connect to the other side.

 

7. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

The Taking of Deborah Logan
The Taking of Deborah Logan

Director: Adam Robitel

The Taking of Deborah Logan is a good example of the ever-evolving versatility of found footage as a horror genre.

Rather than simply drop us into this tale of an elderly woman who invites a documentary film crew to document her ongoing Alzheimer’s condition, The Taking of Deborah Logan takes all the time it needs to establish this world and characters. The journey to realizing that something far more sinister and even otherworldly is behind Deborah’s Alzheimer’s is a gradual one. The movie gives us just little bits and pieces of the notion that something else is going on here.

Of course, we all know something else is happening with poor Deborah, with a truly empathetic performance by Jill Larson. The Taking of Deborah Logan still works brilliantly as a satisfying mystery, and the film’s brutal climax works to beautiful, terrifying design because everything leading up to it has been perfect.

 

6. V/H/S (2012)

VHS
VHS

Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence

Some of the best found footage movies in horror have spawned their own franchises. There’s Paranormal Activity, which certainly has its fans, but you’ve also got stuff like the incredible world-building and subgenre variety to be found in the V/H/S series. Starting with this first entry, which is set up as a series of VHS tapes with an underlying shared theme, V/H/S has grown into one of the most engaging horror franchises of the past 15 years.

If you’re starting out with this series, and you’re opting for the first movie, you’re in good shape to become a serious fan yourself. Operating simultaneously as an anthology horror movie, there isn’t a single weak entry in the bunch. “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98” are particularly strong, but every segment has something to offer, both in of itself and in service to the larger, utterly horrifying narrative.

No surprise that some of the directors of these stories are some of the biggest current names in horror.

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5. Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Noroi The Curse
Noroi: The Curse

Director: Koji Shiraishi

Despite being a bit convoluted at times, Noroi: The Curse is one of the most suspenseful found footage movies ever made.

We meet a paranormal investigator named Masafumi (a harrowing and complex performance by Jin Muraki), whose work soon finds himself under the twisted thumb of a demonic curse. There’s a little more to this, with a ton of characters and several smaller narrative threads going on around Masafumi’s increasingly dire circumstances, but The Curse never really goes off the rails. Noroi: The Curse keeps the bulk of its focus on Masafumi and his desperate bid to learn more about the Kagutaba.

The compulsory appeal of this film is felt best in its quieter moments. Several potent jump scares occur, but when Noroi tries to lure us into a false sense of peace by suggesting the absolute worst has passed, it becomes easy to see why this Japanese movie is still a hit after 15+ years.

 

4. REC (2007)

REC 2007
REC 2007

Directors: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

For a few years, The Blair Witch Project only inspired a handful of similar films. That began to change as the 2000s took shape, with the 2007 Spanish horror hit REC being a highlight of a decade that would eventually give way to even more found footage shockers.

A reporter (Manuela Velasco, who gives one of the best performances of any film covered here) and her cameraman try to report on firefighters responding to an emergency at an apartment building. It doesn’t take long for them to realize they are in over their heads with full exposure to a powerful contagion that may or may not have demonic implications.

REC is a fast-paced assault on the senses. The zombie vibes you’re no doubt picking up from this story alone might be enough to warrant a look, but there’s much more going on here than your initial impressions.

 

3. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project

Directors: Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick

With clever (although obvious) marketing, a unique approach to horror, and the promise of something with a newly discovered sense of realism, The Blair Witch Project made an immediate impact on film. Presented sincerely as a documentary about a group of student filmmakers who find something ancient and wholly evil in the woods during a project, Blair Witch has all the elements in place for a good horror movie.

The first half of the movie can feel as though nothing of interest is even happening. It’s not unreasonable to feel as though very little is actually occurring, as we meet the students, watch them set off, and begin to feel uncomfortable as their situation becomes more and more desperate.

Getting lost in a patch of forest that is seemingly sending them in circles, things go from bad to worse almost gently. Then the real threat emerges, and The Blair Witch Project satisfies its promise.

 

2. Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo (2008)

Director: Joel Anderson

Lake Mungo isn’t just a pitch perfect example of the found footage genre — it’s also an emotional story of a family trying to make sense of a sudden and profoundly tragic death.

These people eventually find themselves contending with the likelihood that she did not move on to the afterlife. Lake Mungo puts a focus on subjects like closure and the rage imbued from loss, and as a result features tremendous performances from a strong cast working from a great script.

Through all of this, Lake Mungo also hits every necessary note for not only found footage horror, but for the vitals of a good haunted house tale. Lake Mungo is also another entry on this list that takes our expectations for everything that’s going to happen to some genuinely surprising places. This is a very intimate story in an equally intimate universe, giving Lake Mungo a singular style among the best found footage movies in horror.

 

1. Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC
Hell House LLC

Director: Stephen Cognetti

A group of haunted house creators document their process at their newest found location. It’s the perfect house in a perfectly rural area to give its audience something atmospheric, memorable, and scary as hell. It’s also unfortunately a gateway to the actual Hell.

Hell House LLC tricks us into believing we’re watching a simple found footage horror film about a haunted house. That’s true to a point, and this still would have been a very good movie if it had stayed that particular course. However, Hell House LLC soon transforms into a very different type of story from what you normally find in this field. The implications that the Abaddon Hotel is more than just another haunted dwelling are realized to perfection and works tirelessly alongside the imagination of the viewer.

With a stunning conclusion and two pretty good sequels, Hell House LLC is one of the best horror movies of the 2010s.

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