Any list of the best home invasion movies is going to reveal just how far-reaching this genre can get. There are few basic plots that can hit closer to real fears shared by many of us, as no one is too terribly concerned about actual zombies, ghosts, dream demons, or mask-wearing mass murder enthusiasts. We understand that even with locks and security measures, someone with enough ambition can probably work around our best defenses. Unless you’re exceptionally wealthy, your protections are only going to go but so far.
Home invasion movies as its own genre have been around for a lot longer than you might think. It’s fascinating to consider that for as long as human beings have been telling stories, there have been depictions of forces invading a home as a profound assault on personal safety. There are even comedic films about home invasions, such as Home Alone or arguably What About Bob, but we’re going to be sticking with horror and serious tension for this look at the best home invasion movies.
Some of these films are bleak, darkly humorous, or just a fantastic exercise in action and suspense filmmaking. All of them are worth a look for fans of this genre.
The Best Home Invasion Movies
15. Alone in the Dark (1982)
Director: Jack Sholder
Three fun-loving lunatics from the local asylum escape, go on a looting spree, and eventually torment some folks in their home.
The premise for Alone in the Dark is not in of itself all that interesting. The movie feels a little out-of-place when compared to the glut of slasher films that were beginning to dominate the horror genre at this time. Casting three middle-aged men (Donald Pleasence, Jack Palance, and Martin Landau) as the tormentors is another way this movie feels different from a lot of the stuff being released in the early 80s. The way the home invasion angle is explored is also quite bizarre.
Despite drawbacks, Alone in the Dark is genuinely tension-filled and frightening for the three off-kilter, character-driven performances of its three principles. Jack Sholder, who later directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, also gives the movie distinction for striking a balance between heavy character actor stuff, a very dark sense of humor, and good pacing.
14. The Trip (2021)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
The Trip can feel a bit like someone brought together two very different movies, and then managed to make them work together quite beautifully.
A wife (Noomi Rapace, always excellent in horror) and husband (Aksel Hennie) decide to spend a relaxing weekend in a cabin in the woods, reconnecting as each in their own way waits for the opportunity to murder the other. This is more than enough to sustain a single film.
However, The Trip takes a sharp turn when intruders suddenly descend upon the cabin. At no point does the film lose the thread of its original plot. That story runs frantically and not-too-quietly alongside what has now become a very unpredictable home invasion story.
Despite several characters and two very specific plots that eventually must completely merge, The Trip is an exercise in economically making all of these components click. The actors, editing, and cinematography all excel at escalating a brand of chaos that could very easily be described as intimate.
13. In Cold Blood (1967)
Director: Richard Brooks
Drawing from Truman Capote’s nonfiction book, itself based on the brutal Clutter family murders, In Cold Blood is one of the bleakest neo-noir films ever made.
Shot in black and white, and presented as a shockingly straightforward depiction of what likely happened on November 15th 1959, the film doesn’t need its story to be true to be as creepy as it is. In Cold Blood is unsettling from the start, as we watch Petty Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson) meet, and eventually plan the robbery of a family in rural Kansas.
The power of this movie as a believable presentation of a home invasion scenario is still there. In Cold Blood also draws further strength as one of the best home invasion movies ever for the performances of its two leads. With an on-screen chemistry that taps into the loneliness and discontent each man carries, Wilson and real-life-murderer Robert Blake create two men bound by their inability to function realistically. It drives the atmosphere of this classic as much as anything else.
12. Don’t Breathe (2016)
Director: Fede Álvarez
Don’t Breathe swaps the traditional roles of a home invasion movie. While this movie isn’t the first one to try this, it’s clear that everyone quite liked Don’t Breathe’s subversions of their expectations.
Three very silly young thieves decide to break into the home of a blind veteran who has supposedly come into quite a bit of money. The robbery goes about as well as it did for the guys in The People Under the Stairs, except they at least died right off.
Don’t Breathe sticks the landing on tension and intermittent flashes of extreme violence and even assault. It’s a savage thriller in this regard, with shades of something that may feel like a slasher movie. The movie uses its influences and original ideas in perfect harmony. Don’t Breathe benefits even further from its cast, particularly Jane Levy and Stephen Lang as The Blind Man. Lang’s performance proved so arresting and wounding, he was questionably turned into something of an antihero for the sequel.
11. Hider in the House (1989)
Director: Matthew Patrick
Hider in the House is a little on the convoluted side, as it involves a man (Gary Busey, who is surprisingly quite tragic) who decides after being let out of an institution to move into the attic of a new home. Step two is to just not ever tell anyone. You don’t have to be complicated to be one of the best home invasion movies.
If you can accept that this premise has at least some plausibility, you’re going to be surprised by how impactful this movie can be. While Hider in the House does sometimes fly a little too close to being unintentionally hilarious, the movie still hits some nice, unsettling notes. Busey — a very good actor whose reputation for being, well, Gary Busey — gives a committed, intense, and surprisingly sympathetic performance. While Michael McKean is wasted as the lackluster dad, Hider in the House also taps into a strong Mimi Rogers performance.
There’s a good ending that takes advantage of the film’s strongest points, although this is another example of Hider in the House going for something ambitious and deranged.
10. Panic Room (2002)
Director: David Fincher
The director of Se7en and The Game probably knows what he’s doing when it comes to suspense.
Panic Room builds and builds to a fever pitch in its story of a mother (Jodi Foster) and diabetic daughter (Kristen Stewart) fighting for their lives when three guys show up to claim $3 million worth of bearer bonds, but need to get into the panic room our protagonists have retreated to. Our three robbers (Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker, and Dwight Yoakam) have their own problems and chemistry going on.
With ample time to build on each group of characters, Panic Room isn’t just a stunning example of creating suspense that pays off repeatedly for the audience. What makes this movie such a wonder of genre and style is in how it maintains its suspense.
Without erasing anything that’s been developed in the name of being shocking, Panic Room is one of the definitive examples of how the greatest thrillers really don’t stop for much of anything.
9. The Purge (2013)
Director: James DeMonaco
The only film on this list to launch a lucrative franchise, The Purge was a surprise hit for the 2013 movie landscape.
The basic premise is that of a world so ravaged by crime, a questionable government authority allows for a window of time in which all crime will be allowed. There’s a lot of storytelling potential in that, as you might imagine, with this first and perhaps best entry going with the one that makes the most sense.
A wealthy family finds themselves forced to deal with home intruders on the most dangerous night of the year. With great editing, music, and plot twists that enhance rather than distract, The Purge is pulp entertainment done exceedingly well.
One of the ways in which Rosemary’s Baby maintains its status as one of the scariest movies of all time is in how it depicts a home invasion.
While not a home invasion movie in the same sense as something like The Purge, Rosemary’s Baby possesses all the same essential considerations. The main difference here is that many of the home invasion movies featured in this article involve a deliberate attack by outsiders.
Only one true outsider presents themselves in this film. The rest of the people involved in this adaptation of an Ira Levin novel are friends, neighbors, and even the husband of young Rosemary (Mia Farrow). The attack is quiet to the point that Rosemary knows something is wrong, but naturally can’t quite sort it all out.
By the time she gets even part of the way to an answer, it’s too late. The assault and takeover are complete. Rosemary is going to be a mother, and the child is going to be the Antichrist. The inevitably of it all is terrifying.
7. Deadly Games (1989)
Director: René Manzor
Have you ever watched the family holiday favorite Home Alone, and thought the movie would be so much better if it was profoundly weirder and considerably more violent? Deadly Games, a 1989 French horror film that precedes Home Alone by a decent stretch, is going to be a dream viewing experience.
A brilliant young boy named Thomas lives in a bizarre high-tech wonderland with his mother, partially blind grandfather, and dog. A killer dressed as Santa invades his secluded, carefully constructed home, and Thomas has no choice but to defend himself.
Sound familiar? The comparisons have been made before, but Deadly Games, also known by the much cooler name Dial Code Santa Claus) is ultimately its own truly unique breed. Patrick Floershiem is particularly effective as the killer, with Alain Lalanne offering a sympathetic and complex child actor performance. Deadly Games is as surprisingly scary as it is surreal in its plot twists, set design, and character motivations.
6. Funny Games (2007)
Director: Michael Haneke
With the simple act of allowing its evilest character (Michael Pitt) to occasionally break the fourth wall to let us become a tangible part of his cruelty, Funny Games becomes the most disturbing entry on any list of home invasion movies.
A shot-for-shot remake of the director’s just-as-grim 1997 psychological horror film, Funny Games is a descent into something darker than most of us are used to. Whereas other movies in which a group of intruders capture, torture, and eventually eradicate a family for no significant reason might be an exercise in gritty excess, Funny Games speaks a very plain and straight cinematic language. We don’t get to breathe during this nightmare in terms of pacing, but at no point does the movie suddenly roar into a tense cat-and-mouse in a more traditional tradition.
Funny Games just doesn’t let up. We watch the beginning, middle, and end of characters motivated by something we can scarcely comprehend.
5. Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
One of the films responsible for starting the slasher craze, which didn’t really get rolling until the 1980s, Black Christmas is a maddening experience.
Through performances and masterful and gradual building upon the idea that something truly horrible is going on, the film gives us a likable lead in Olivia Hussey, relatively complex female characters in her friends, and the red herring trope explored in a truly compelling way. The twisted obsessions of whomever is stalking and murdering these sorority girls becomes something that exists in the DNA of the film beyond the actual character.
As things become increasingly unsettled and dangerous, this atmosphere of something wholly unfamiliar to the girls and those around them becomes a promise that something devastating and disturbing is going to happen.
Several decades on, Black Christmas doesn’t disappoint the expectations of those who continue to discover one of the best slasher movies ever. Two admirable remakes have been produced in its wake, but neither of them comes close to intrigue and sheer terror.
Two young girls making their way to the city are targeted by a group of psychopaths. The girls are subjected to rape and violence presented with such a dedicated eye, a lot of people to this day call the film disgusting. It’s certainly as wretched in its depictions as ever, which is why some viewers should keep in mind what they’re about to watch before starting. That’s a hell of a reputation for a movie that came out nearly 50 years ago.
Naturalistic, unappealing, and pitiable performances dominate a movie that often feels like a documentary. This was certainly Craven’s intention with this loose remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Is there justice? Well, for those who haven’t seen it, you’re going to get to explore that concept when the murderers happen upon the home of the parents of one of the girls.
3. Wait Until Dark (1967)
Director: Terence Young
Few films on this list can induce and nurture anxiety as Wait Until Dark can. In a plot that’s at least partially similar to Don’t Breathe, three burglars come to the conclusion that the heroin they’re trying to get their hands on is inside a doll, and that the doll is in the home of a blind woman. What should be a very simple endeavor proves to be considerably more frustrating than the men ever imagined. By the same token, the woman in the apartment (Audrey Hepburn, getting a rare opportunity to play against type) finds herself alone, threatened by a completely unknown presence.
It helps Wait Until Dark that the element of the threat isn’t one-sided. While the criminals, led by one of Alan Arkin’s most impactful performances, are definitely the more dangerous, Hepburn’s protagonist fights back every step of the way.
This is one of the prime examples of the cat-and-mouse element to this genre. Some of the best home invasion movies show us the slow development of a relationship between captor and captive. Other examples create a chase in tight, almost unbreathable conditions. Wait Until Dark is an incredible example of the second mode.
2. When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Director: Fred Walton
When a Stranger Calls brilliantly brings to life the urban legend of The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs. The first twenty minutes of this movie, one of the best home invasion movies ever made, are among the best ever filmed. That would probably be enough for this story, which is more about what happens when the killer who tormented a babysitter years earlier is released from an asylum, to be included on any list.
But there’s so much more to When a Stranger Calls than its still-potent opening 20 minutes. Backed by great work from Carol Kane, Tony Beckley, and Charles Durning in the cast, the writing and progression of this story in the aftermath of something as horrific as the murder of children continue to impress by building on the ongoing investigation into an immediate and all-encompassing intruder.
Despite setting up its premise plainly, the movie is a guessing game that can even make you feel a little like you’re losing your grip, as well.
1. Parasite (2019)
Director: Bong Joo-ho
Winner of several 2020 Academy Awards, Parasite isn’t technically a horror movie. Yet it has repeatedly been discussed as one for presenting its story of a family that ingrains itself in the home of another, exponentially wealthier family in the most harrowing terms possible.
There is some incisive social commentary in this story, as well as some of the most infuriating (by design) instances of dark comedy in recent memory, but the movie still relies heavily on creating a nightmare situation. What the movie builds to by its second half is very much in the tradition of the relationship between home invasion movies and the horror genre.
While home invasion films are not always horror movies, films like Parasite make it impossible to ignore just how powerfully these movies can tap into our anxieties. Parasite strives to create the most complex variation of a home invasion in a movie yet, and they have succeeded. This film also gets a sizable amount of its horror from claustrophobic settings and circumstances. Not to mention the frightening opportunity to see just how far people can be pushed.
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