9 Best Cannibal Horror Movies, Ranked

The following horror movies involving crazed cannibals certainly aren’t for the squeamish…

Highlights

  • Cannibal films push the limits of taste and acceptability in cinema, shocking audiences with primal acts of savagery on-screen.
  • Cannibal movies are often a creative debut for talented auteurs, confronting viewers with the darkest nature of humanity’s capabilities.
  • From brutal violence to dark humor, cannibal horror movies like Cannibal Holocaust and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre leave a lasting impact.

One of the most controversial subgenres of horror movies is the cannibal film. Movies depicting the act of humans eating other humans have been a regular part of the horror landscape since the 70s. These films have shocked audiences and censors alike, pushing the notions of taste and acceptability in cinema. They were a big part of the video-nasty craze in the 70s and 80s, with many titles leading to long-running franchises that have terrified audiences since.

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Far from being simple shock films, cannibal movies have been the chosen subject for some of cinema’s most creative auteurs, often being their film debut that announces their arrival as artists. Cannibal horror movies’ depiction of such primal acts of savagery on-screen forces viewers to consider their inner animal instincts and confront the darkest nature of what humanity is capable of.

9

Cannibal Ferox

IMDb Rating: 5.1

Man caught by cannibals

  • Directed: Umberto Lenzi
  • Released: 1981
  • Runtime: 1h 33m

Cannibal Ferox falls into the short-lived, yet controversial Italian cannibal movie subgenre. The film follows a group of friends who decide to travel to the Amazon jungle to disprove that cannibals ever existed. Reaching the jungles, they are soon confronted with the exploitation of the jungle’s indigenous population and the ruthless actions of Westerners.

Many of these movies follow similar lines, with city-living Westerners falling foul of the cannibal tribes and then getting brutally murdered and eaten. Cannibal Ferox is one of the better movies in this genre, but it is not for the faint-hearted. The film is ultra-violent, sexist, and depicts real-life animal cruelty.

8

Cannibal Holocaust

IMDb Rating: 5.8

Man in jungle

  • Directed: Ruggero Deodato
  • Released: 1980
  • Runtime: 1h 35m

Banned in many countries to this day, Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most controversial films ever made. It is also one of the earliest examples of the found-footage subgenre of horror movies. The film follows a professor who, when traveling in the Amazon jungle, finds the lost footage of a missing film crew. Watching the footage back, he discovers their horrific actions toward the local tribes and their ultimate violent ends.

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On release, Cannibal Holocaust caused quite a stir, with many scenes depicting explicit and life-like violence, including real-life animal cruelty. It even resulted in the arrest of the director, with people truly believing the actors had been murdered in the jungle. For all its bloody and sometimes insensitive depictions of the native people, the film is also a scathing political commentary on the West’s exploitation of the Amazon, with some of the most disturbing scenes being committed by the ill-fated film crew.

7

Wrong Turn

IMDb Rating: 6.1

Man with woman looking serious

  • Directed: Rob Schmidt
  • Released: 2003
  • Runtime: 1h 24m

Starring Eliza Dushku, known for her role in the hit TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wrong Turn is a solid addition to the cannibal horror movie genre. It may not be the most original story, but it offers plenty of scares and creepy antagonists.

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The film follows a group of friends who are stranded in the middle of the woods and are then hunted by a family of crazed cannibals, intent on turning them into dinner. Although the film features many common horror clichés, fans of this type of movie will still love the blood and gore it offers. Wrong Turn spawned five sequels and a remake in 2021.

6

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

IMDb Rating: 6.3

Cannibal man

  • Directed: Wes Craven
  • Released: 1977
  • Runtime: 1h 30m

The 1970s was a decade that saw some of cinema’s most controversial films being made. The Hills Have Eyes is Wes Craven’s third feature film, and one that would cement his standing as one of horror’s best directors. The Hills Have Eyes follows a familiar plot, where a normal suburban family, lost in the desert of Nevada, is hunted by a family of mutated cannibals.

The bleak backdrop of the desert is the perfect setting for the movie. Its dark humor and political satirization of the traditional American family add another layer to this cult classic. The film spawned a long-running franchise and has become one of the true classics of Western horror movies.

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5

Bones And All

IMDb Rating: 6.8

Two young lovers

  • Directed: Luca Guadagnino
  • Released: 2022
  • Runtime: 2h 11m

This recent coming-of-age story tells the tale of a girl’s journey of self-discovery across America. In her odyssey, she meets a drifter, played by Timothée Chalamet, who she discovers has the same craving for human meat as she does. As the two young travelers connect and grow closer, they discover more people much like themselves.

The film is a mix of young love and cannibalism, which on paper makes for a strange set-up. However, the film is held together by its strong direction, excellent cast, and stunning cinematography. The film’s dark subject matter is the perfect metaphor for misunderstood youth and makes for an ideal connection between the movie’s two central lost souls.

4

Ravenous

IMDb Rating: 6.9

Man with cross on forehead

  • Directed: Antonia Bird
  • Released: 1999
  • Runtime: 1h 41m

Starring Guy Pierce and Robert Carlyle, Ravenous is a horror-comedy movie set in the 19th century. A group of soldiers, stationed in a remote base on the frontier, are set upon by a rogue soldier named Colqhoun, who has discovered the healing powers of consuming human flesh.

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The film is a blend of genres, with its pitch-black humor and gore effects, it depicts the extremes men will go to when faced with death. Ravenous features an excellent cast, with Pierce and Carlyle holding the film together with their solid performances. The film is very well-made, using the location to its fullest, creating a bleak atmosphere and cult addition to the cannibal genre.

3

Raw

IMDb Rating: 7.0

Girl with bleeding nose

  • Directed: Julia Ducournau
  • Released: 2016
  • Runtime: 1h 39m

The French language movie, Raw, is a beautifully shot and bloody coming-of-age tale. The movie follows Justine, a strict vegan who starts her education at veterinary school, but soon struggles to fit in with the crowd. After undergoing the brutal hazing and relentless partying, her true spiral begins as she begins to crave raw human flesh.

The true horror of Raw is the fight against one’s own nature, as Justine is helpless against her cannibalistic urges. Following in the footsteps of other coming-of-age horror movies, such as Ginger Snaps, and It Follows, Raw depicts a girl’s transformation into womanhood, navigating both the personal and societal pressures this brings.

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2

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

IMDb Rating: 7.4

Leatherface

  • Directed: Tobe Hooper
  • Released: 1974
  • Runtime: 1h 23m

One of the most notorious movies ever released, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was banned in several countries around the world for its brutal depictions of violence. The film revolves around a group of friends who fall victim to the Sawyer family, a group of cannibals and serial killers, who hunt and eat people who stray too close to their land.

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The film has spawned several sequels and has gone down as a benchmark for slasher movies. Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding killer, has become one of the most iconic villains in cinema history. The film is raw and brutal, and even by today’s standards is a tough watch, with its stark and unflinching depiction of a psychotic family.

1

Delicatessen

IMDb Rating: 7.5

Man with big knife is happy

  • Directed: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Released: 1991
  • Runtime: 1h 39m

This surrealist black comedy is set within a post-apocalyptic world, where food has become scarce and now works as a currency. In the film, the residents of an apartment block are treated by the local landlord/butcher to special meals. The story of a cook murdering people to use as meat is not a new one, maybe most notably used in Sweeney Todd. But Delicatessen has enough indie charm and offbeat humor to stand apart from any comparisons.

With a striking visual palette, comedic tone, and dark subject matter, few dystopian films have this much charm. Delicatessen stands as a classic of world cinema. The film was well received by critics and went on to be a hit at film festivals, winning several awards in the process. The director would go on to make further classics, The City of Lost Children and the international hit Amélie.

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