Creep (2014)

32 of the Best Found Footage Horror & Thriller Movies Ever Made

Found footage has become one of my favorite horror tropes. This unique subgenre of horror films has carved a cult following for itself due to its distinctive style. Rather than relying on high-production values or special effects, these movies use handheld cameras, security footage, or other ‘accidentally discovered’ recordings to tell their stories. The found footage format puts you right in the center of the action – it’s as if you’re the one holding the camera.

One of my favorite things about these films is the emphasis on realistic performances. Actors in found footage movies often improv their dialogues and reactions to enhance their performance feel more real. This can result in scenes that seem so genuine they blur the line between acting and reality.

I’ve put together a list of some of my personal favorite found footage horror movies of all time. There are some obvious ones, of course, but I also included a few underrated gems. Have a look below. And if you’re interested in a subgenre of found footage, check out my list of the best Computer Screen POV horror movies.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

One of the most iconic films in the found footage subgenre, The Blair Witch Project (1999), forever changed the landscape of horror. The film is set in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, where three student filmmakers vanish while hiking to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The movie comprises recovered footage from the trio’s lost equipment.

The Blair Witch Project was far ahead of its time and essentially birthed the found footage horror genre. It brilliantly used suspense and imagination to create terror, relying heavily on the audience’s mind to fill in the unseen.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007), another gem in the realm of found footage horror movies, effectively employs a minimalist approach to create an atmosphere thick with dread. The plot is simple yet chilling, focusing on a young couple who begin to experience supernatural occurrences in their suburban home.

The film excellently uses its found footage style to document these eerie events, thus contributing towards the building of suspense. By choosing to show the movie from the characters’ perspective, it immerses the audience in a way traditional films don’t, making every bump in the night feel alarmingly real.

[Rec] (2007)

[Rec], a cult favorite Spanish film directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, stars Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, and Jorge-Yamam Serrano. The film follows a television reporter and her cameraman as they document the night shift of a Barcelona fire station. Their routine assignment takes a terrifying turn when they’re called to an apartment building where residents are displaying disturbing and violent behavior. As they follow the firefighters into the building, they find themselves trapped inside with something sinister lurking in the darkness.

Quarantine (2008)

Quarantine (2008) is another cult favorite among horror fans. This American remake of the Spanish film [Rec] (2007) takes the terror to Los Angeles, chronicling the nightmarish experiences of a television reporter and her cameraman who are trapped inside a building placed under quarantine due to a mysterious deadly virus. As chaos erupts and residents start exhibiting violent and bizarre behavior, the group realizes they’re not alone and must fight to survive.

As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above, So Below

A thrilling blend of horror and adventure, As Above, So Below (2014) utilizes the found footage style to take viewers on a terrifying journey deep into the unknown. Set in the catacombs beneath Paris, this film offers an interesting premise that revolves around a group of explorers who encounter unspeakable terrors as they search for a hidden treasure.

The film effectively employs the first-person perspective to create a claustrophobic atmosphere and immerse viewers in the explorers’ increasingly dire circumstances. It’s almost as if you’re right there with them, dodging falling rocks and navigating through narrow passages.

Unfriended (2014)

Unfriended (2014) is an innovative entry in the found footage horror genre. This film, directed by Levan Gabriadze, takes a modern twist on the style by setting its entire story on a computer screen.

The story revolves around a group of friends who gather online for a video chat session, only to be haunted by a mysterious figure claiming to be their friend who died a year prior. The movie showcases real-time desktop activities and webcam footage to create an eerie atmosphere and build tension.

Creep (2014)

Creep (2014)

Creep (2014) has a very simple premise: a videographer named Aaron responds to a Craigslist ad to document a day in the life of Josef, who claims to be dying and wishes to leave behind a video diary for his unborn son. But this setup spirals into an unsettling experience as Aaron slowly realizes that his new client’s intentions may not be as innocent as they seem.

Creep leverages the found footage format to its advantage, creating a sense of intimacy and immediacy that traditional filming techniques might struggle to emulate. Every laugh, awkward silence, and moment of doubt shared between the characters is magnified through the lens of Aaron’s camera, pulling viewers deeper into the unnerving atmosphere.

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters (2011) is a found footage horror film that follows the crew of a paranormal reality show as they explore an abandoned mental asylum. Directed by the Vicious Brothers, the movie stars Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, and Ashleigh Gryzko. As they navigate the eerie corridors, they soon realize that the asylum’s supernatural horrors are more than just a gimmick for their show.

As the crew becomes trapped inside the haunted asylum, they are subjected to escalating encounters with malevolent spirits. The tension mounts as they struggle to document their horrifying experiences while desperately searching for an escape route. With its chilling atmosphere and effective use of found footage, Grave Encounters offers a terrifying blend of suspense and supernatural horror that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats.

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield (2008) is one of my all-time favorite horror films. Directed by Matt Reeves, the movie stars Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller. The plot unfolds as a found footage recording, capturing the chaos in New York City during a monstrous attack by an unknown creature. What sets it apart is the intense realism achieved through shaky handheld camerawork, putting viewers right in the middle of the disaster. The mystery surrounding the monster’s origin and the personal perspective of the characters make it a compelling found footage experience. The tension, combined with the emotional investment in the characters, creates a thrilling and immersive horror movie. Cloverfield’s innovative use of the found footage style contributes to its lasting impact and solidifies its iconic status in the genre.

Host (2020)

Host (2020) is a gem directed by Rob Savage that truly surprised me. Starring Haley Bishop and a talented cast, the film unfolds entirely on a Zoom call during the pandemic. The story revolves around a group of friends who decide to conduct a virtual séance during lockdown, unintentionally inviting malevolent forces. The movie’s brilliance lies in its simplicity and clever use of modern technology, heightening the scares with a relatable setting. The tension builds organically as the characters navigate the eerie consequences of their actions. Host succeeds as a found footage movie by capturing the anxieties of our digital age while delivering genuine scares. The innovative approach to the format and effective storytelling make it a standout in the genre, and prove once again that big budgets are not always needed in order to make a good horror flick.

The Visit (2015)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Visit (2015) features a cast including Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould. This found footage thriller follows siblings Becca and Tyler, who visit their estranged grandparents for the first time. As they document their trip, the seemingly innocent visit takes a sinister turn, revealing disturbing secrets about their grandparents. The film stands out in the found footage genre for Shyamalan’s skillful blend of suspense, horror, and unexpected twists. The use of handheld cameras adds an intimate and immersive quality to the storytelling. What makes The Visit a good found footage movie is its ability to build tension gradually, keeping viewers on edge while delivering a chilling and satisfying narrative. Shyamalan’s signature storytelling style, combined with strong performances, makes this film a standout in the genre.

Searching (2018)

Searching (2018) is a captivating film that delves into the found footage sub-genre with a unique twist—it unfolds entirely through computer screens. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, the movie stars John Cho and Debra Messing. The plot revolves around a father’s desperate search for his missing daughter, using her online presence to uncover hidden secrets. While not a traditional horror film, its innovative use of the computer screen point of view and intense storytelling contribute to its status as one of the best found footage movies. The movie adeptly builds tension through its unconventional format, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. Even if you’re not a horror fan, the gripping narrative and technical creativity make Searching a must-watch. If you enjoy the computer screen POV, I recommend checking out my blog post for a list of some of the best computer screen POV horror & thriller movies to watch.

Missing (2023)

Missing, a sequel to Searching (2018), is a captivating thriller written and directed by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson. Starring Storm Reid, Ken Leung, Daniel Henney, and Nia Long, the plot centers on June’s quest for answers when her mother disappears in Colombia. Hindered by international red tape, June employs modern technology from Los Angeles to unravel the mystery. The film ingeniously utilizes found footage, computer screen POV, and social media to enhance the storytelling. With a gripping narrative, it masterfully builds tension, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats with lots of twists and turns.

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) serves as a sequel to Unfriended that I found it to be a big improvement over the original. Directed by Stephen Susco, the film stars Colin Woodell and Betty Gabriel. The plot follows a group of friends who stumble upon a dark web conspiracy during a video chat. Unlike its predecessor, this installment forgoes supernatural elements, grounding the narrative in a more realistic and unsettling scenario. The use of screen-sharing and webcam footage adds a layer of authenticity, making it an effective found footage movie. Dark Web‘s exploration of modern fears, coupled with its tense storytelling, enhances the viewing experience. I personally appreciated the film’s darker tone, and I think Unfriended: Dark Web a noteworthy entry in the found footage genre.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle, The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009) doesn’t feature widely known stars but captivates with its chilling narrative. The film is presented as a documentary about a serial killer who meticulously records his heinous acts. The plot delves into the investigation of the tapes and the disturbed mind behind the crimes. As a found footage movie, it stands out for its intense realism, using a faux documentary format to enhance the horror. While not for the faint of heart, the movie succeeds in creating a truly unsettling atmosphere. The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a good found footage film because it skillfully blurs the line between fiction and reality, immersing the audience in the terrifying story of a psychopathic killer and leaving a lasting impact.

The Pyramid (2014)

The Pyramid (2014) may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally enjoyed it. This movie was directed by Gregory Levasseur, and stars Ashley Hinshaw and Denis O’Hare. The plot follows a team of archaeologists exploring an ancient pyramid in Egypt, only to face deadly traps and unearth malevolent creatures. What drew me in was the film’s gripping setting, creating a tense atmosphere within the claustrophobic pyramid. The mysterious and deadly creatures added an extra layer of excitement. I’m a sucker for movies where the characters are trapped somewhere and die one by one, and in my opinion The Pyramid effectively delivers on this trope. While it might not be universally praised, the unique setting, atmospheric tension, and creature feature elements make it a worthwhile watch for those who appreciate the subgenre or liked As Above, So Below.

The Gallows (2015)

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, The Gallows (2015) features actors Reese Mishler and Pfeifer Brown. The plot revolves around a high school play gone wrong, leading to eerie events in the present day when students attempt to revive the ill-fated production. As a found footage movie, it draws viewers in with its immersive approach, creating a sense of realism through handheld cameras and raw footage. While not everyone might be a fan, I personally enjoyed the film’s unsettling atmosphere. The idea of characters trapped in a dark school with an ominous presence adds a layer of suspense and makes it a fun watch. The Gallows is not perfect, but for those who appreciate the found footage genre, it’s worth a watch.

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)

Directed by Jung Bum-shik, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) features a cast including Wi Ha-joon and Park Ji-hyun. The film revolves around a group of people who decide to explore the supposedly haunted Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, setting up cameras to document their experiences. As they venture deeper into the asylum, unsettling and supernatural events unfold, blurring the lines between reality and horror. The movie stands out as a compelling found footage entry due to its clever use of suspense, chilling atmosphere, and effective jump scares. The setting of an abandoned asylum adds an eerie touch, and the well-executed scares contribute to its success. Personally, I found Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum to be one of the scariest films on this entire list.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC (2015) is a cult classic in the horror genre, directed by Stephen Cognetti. The film stars a talented cast, including Gore Abrams and Alice Bahlke. The plot follows a group of friends who set up a haunted house attraction in an abandoned hotel with a dark history. As they prepare for opening night, eerie occurrences unfold, blurring the line between fiction and reality. The found footage style, skillful direction, and effective use of suspense make it a standout in the genre. Its success can be attributed to the gripping storyline, chilling atmosphere, and the way it taps into primal fears, earning it a well-deserved reputation as one of the best found footage horror movies.

Trollhunter (2010)

Directed by André Øvredal, Trollhunter (2010) features Otto Jespersen in the lead role. The film is presented as found footage, following a group of documentary filmmakers who embark on a journey to uncover the existence of trolls in rural Norway. As they follow Hans, a grizzled troll hunter, on his mission to control the troll population, they encounter immense creatures and unravel a government conspiracy. Trollhunter stands out as a good found footage movie due to its unique blend of fantasy and folklore within a mockumentary framework. The film’s impressive special effects, engaging storyline, and the protagonist’s deadpan humor contribute to its charm.

V/H/S (2012)

Directed by a collective of filmmakers including Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, and others, V/H/S (2012) is an anthology horror film featuring various directors and actors. The overarching plot centers around a group of individuals hired to retrieve a rare videotape from a seemingly abandoned house. As they search through the tapes, each one unveils a different and horrifying story. The strength of V/H/S lies in its diverse narratives, showcasing various styles of found footage horror. The film successfully blends different sub-genres, from supernatural occurrences to visceral violence, creating a chilling and unpredictable viewing experience. The variety of perspectives and creative storytelling contribute to its appeal as a found footage movie, offering a unique and engaging take on the horror anthology format. And although I didn’t list them here, there are several V.H.S. sequels to check out as well!

The Bay (2012)

Directed by Barry Levinson, The Bay (2012) features a cast including Kether Donohue and Kristen Connolly. The movie unfolds as a found footage thriller, portraying a chilling incident in a small Chesapeake Bay town. The plot revolves around a mysterious parasitic outbreak linked to environmental neglect. What makes it a standout found footage film is its realistic approach, blending news reports, interviews, and video recordings to craft a compelling narrative. The use of various sources creates a genuine and immersive experience, adding credibility to the unfolding horror. The Bay successfully taps into environmental and biological fears, making it a unique and effective entry in the found footage genre. Levinson’s direction, coupled with the cast’s convincing performances, contributes to the film’s unsettling atmosphere, solidifying its reputation as a noteworthy example of the found footage subgenre.

Lake Mungo (2008)

Directed by Joel Anderson, Lake Mungo (2008) features a cast including Rosie Traynor and David Pledger. The film unfolds as a faux documentary about the Palmer family coping with the drowning death of their daughter, Alice. However, as they grapple with grief, they discover unsettling secrets about Alice through mysterious photographs and videos. Lake Mungo is a standout in the found footage genre due to its unique narrative structure and emotional depth, making it feel so real. It transcends typical horror elements, delving into psychological and supernatural themes. The movie’s slow-burning tension and eerie atmosphere contribute to its effectiveness, creating a haunting experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

Willow Creek (2013)

Willow Creek (2013), directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and starring Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson, is about a couple, Jim and Kelly, exploring the woods to find Bigfoot. The film’s strength lies in its realistic feel and the way it slowly builds up suspense as strange things happen in the forest. It’s a good found footage movie because it focuses on the characters and gradually makes you feel uneasy. The director, Goldthwait, does a great job creating a sense of fear of the unknown. Willow Creek stands out in the genre by keeping it simple and offering a creepy and realistic movie-watching experience.

The Houses October Built (2014)

The Houses October Built” is a found footage horror film directed by Bobby Roe and stars Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, and Bobby Roe himself. The story follows a group of friends on a road trip in search of the most extreme haunted houses in America. As they delve deeper into the subculture of these haunts, they soon find themselves targeted by sinister characters. With its tense atmosphere and realistic scares, the movie keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Why it’s spine-tingling: Documenting the life of an Alzheimer’s patient, this film takes a chilling turn as the elderly woman becomes the vessel for something sinister. The blend of psychological horror and supernatural elements makes it a standout in the subgenre.

Chronicle (2012)

While not really a horror movie, I’m including this movie in the list because it definitely has horror elements. Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank, features an all-star young cast including Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan. The film follows three high school friends who gain superpowers after encountering a mysterious object. Initially using their newfound abilities for harmless fun, they soon realize their powers come with consequences as they struggle to control them. As their friendship is tested, one of them becomes consumed by darkness, leading to destructive consequences for the city and their relationships. Chronicle blends found footage style with superhero elements, making it a really fun watch.

The Possession of Michael King (2014)

The Possession of Michael King, directed by David Jung, stars Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, and Cara Pifko. The film centers on Michael King, a skeptical documentarian grieving the death of his wife. Determined to disprove the existence of the supernatural, he sets out to make a film about the occult. However, his quest leads him to participate in dark rituals, inviting demonic forces into his life. As he becomes increasingly possessed, his sanity and safety are jeopardized. The movie combines found footage elements with psychological horror, offering a chilling exploration of one man’s descent into darkness.

Apollo 18 (2011)

Apollo 18, directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, stars Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, and Ryan Robbins. The film presents itself as found footage from a secret lunar mission in the 1970s. It follows a fictional story of NASA astronauts who encounter sinister and inexplicable events on the moon. As they explore the lunar surface, they discover evidence of a Soviet presence and encounter terrifying creatures. The movie combines elements of science fiction, horror, and conspiracy theory, creating a suspenseful and eerie atmosphere. Though not without its flaws, the movie’s shaky camera work and tense moments make it a fun space thriller.

The Last Exorcism (2010)

The Last Exorcism, directed by Daniel Stamm, stars Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, and Iris Bahr. The film follows Reverend Cotton Marcus, a disillusioned minister who allows a documentary crew to film his final exorcism, intending to expose the ritual as a hoax. However, when he encounters Nell, a troubled young girl seemingly possessed by a demon, he begins to question his beliefs. As the exorcism unfolds, terrifying events occur, challenging Marcus’s skepticism and putting everyone’s lives at risk.

Blair Witch (2016)

The Blair Witch legend continues as a new group ventures into the woods to uncover the truth behind the original film. With modern technology and increased terror, this sequel pays homage to its predecessor while carving its own path. While this movie is nowhere near as good as the original, I recommend it if you’re a fan of the Blair Witch franchise.

Frogman (2023)

Frogman, directed by Anthony Cousins, looks like it was recorded entirely on VHS. Set in Loveland, Ohio, the movie centers on the legend of the Frogman. In 1999, 12-year-old Dallas Kyle recorded footage of this mythical creature, but no one believed him. Now an adult down-on-his-luck and desperate to prove himself, Dallas returns to Loveland with two of his friends, determined to capture the Frogman on video and finally prove its existence.

There’s no doubt that the found footage genre has had a lasting impact on the horror genre as a whole. Through raw and immersive storytelling, these films have redefined what it means to instill fear and unease in audiences by using realism. The best found footage horror movies create a chilling sense of reality, leaving us questioning the line between fiction and truth long after the credits roll.

What do you think of found footage horror movies? What are some of your favorites?

Discover more from Hollywood & Wine

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.