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Top 15 Found Footage Horror Movies Of All Time

8 years, 3 months ago
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Those of us here in the Ghost Diaries’ underground cave are avid fans of the found footage horror genre, so much so that we’ve seen virtually every offering put out there–the good, the bad and the ugly. We decided to put out our own list of the best found footage horror movies ever made. Keep in mind, these are ‘pure’ found footage movies, meaning the entire movie was filmed by a character(s). This eliminates otherwise excellent horror films like Peeping Tom and Sinister, which use found footage scenes within larger narratives.

Without further ado, here are the best found footage horror films of all time:

15 – Grave encounters

We didn’t want to like this movie. It had all the earmarks of a very cliched horror movie. But lo and behold, it won us over through sheer audacity. Grave Encounters is about a paranormal TV show crew that descends upon a boarded up haunted apartment building for their final episode. About halfway through you realize the film’s not pulling any punches and from there on out you can expect nerve-shattering jumps and screams.

14 – Man Bites Dog

This 1992 Belgian mockumentary is a cult favorite now so you’ve likely heard its praises sung before. What’s notable about this film is that came out a full seven years before mainstream found footage movies were reborn from the sordid ashes of Cannibal Holocaust with The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Man Bites Dog, a dark black comedy about a snuff film crew that follows around a serial killer, therefore gets major props for being truly original for its time.

13 – Cloverfield

When Cloverfield came out it reinvigorated the found footage genre and provided a good template for mixing horror and science fiction, a formula that’s been used extensively in the years since. Though we’re still not quite sure if the payoff was the worth the elaborate hype, this movie has a such a good buildup it deserves a solid place on this list.

12 – Chronicle

That melding of horror and science fiction we just referred to is rampant in Chronicle, a movie about three boys who discover a mysterious artifact and absorb psychokinetic powers from it. Besides how refreshing it is to have a movie in the genre that’s not about ghosts, demons, or serial killers, Chronicle also deserves credit for the most creative use of camera work in the genre. Who can forget the scenes where protagonist/antagonist Andrew makes the camera spiral around the room? The entire film is a veritable Harry Potter of found footage techniques, which is why we selected it as one of the best horror movies of 2012.

11 – Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo is a slow, methodical descent into the very nature of what paranormal activity means. Sure, it features a ghost, and a haunted family, but the film centers far more on how the passing of a loved one influences your life in creepy ways that are hard to articulate. This movie is impressive for its nuanced approach to a paranormal investigation and clairvoyance in documentary form and leaves you with a very strange feeling afterward. Lake Mungo is about as close as you can get to a completely realistic ghost visitation, and if you pay attention towards the end, this film’s payoff is incredibly rewarding.

10 – Long Pigs

You would hardly even know that Long Pigs is a horror movie from the first half hour or so, and even then it’s not especially frightening, though it is very graphic. Long Pigs is about a friendly, no-nonsense cannibal who shares his life and trade cooking secrets with a pair of reluctant filmmakers who get in over their heads. The cannibal, played brilliantly by Anthony Alviano, slowly becomes more and more uncomfortable with the inner details of his magnificently concealed madness being on display and eventually puts an end to the project. Watch the trailer and tell us it doesn’t make you want to watch the hell out of this movie. We promise you won’t be disappointed, though you may be a little nauseous.

9 – Paranormal Activity

You knew it was going to be on here and, sure enough, here it is–the Matthew Mcconaughey of found footage horror films. Paranormal Activity is like a roller coaster ride. Once you get off it’s really hard to recall exactly what makes it so great, but you just know that it was, and is. One of the reasons the Ghost Diaries appreciates the Paranormal Activity franchise is the fairly complicated story of demonic possession that ends up arising from the sequels. But the first one could stand on its own as a masterpiece of cheap scares.

8 – Noroi: The curse

This Japanese gem is weird, horrifying, and undoubtedly brilliant. Weaving together a complex tale of a paranormal investigator who tries to piece together the psychic abilities of a schoolgirl with an ancient demonic ritual, Noroi: The Curse has a few of the most disturbing images we’ve ever seen in a movie. There is one in particular that you will never forget and is alone worth the price of downloading.

7 – The Conspiracy

This movie is sheer brilliance and tackles one of our favorite subjects: conspiracy theories. It ties together virtually every known conspiracy theory, including the New World Order, chemtrails, 9/11, etc., and does so in such an underhanded, subtle manner that the creepiness builds masterfully. The story follows a lifelong conspiracy theorist, Terrence, who draws the main characters into an underworld of geopolitical collusion and terror. By the time this film’s shockingly unnerving Act 3 has unfolded, the viewer is left with a gut feeling that something is terribly wrong with the reality that has been constructed around us.

For PART TWO of this post and the epic countdown of the top six found footage horror movies of all time, CLICK HERE!

Also, Check out our Best Horror Movies of 2013 list!

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  • Rob

    I remember all the hype surrounding Cloverfield.

    Trying to figure out what the monster would be. Some thought maybe it’d be Voltron (seriously), or even that the movie was a tie-in to the old arcade game Rampage, what with Slusho and all that…fun times.

    The Slusho! website is still around, in fact: http://www.slusho.jp/

    In the end, the monster didn’t really matter all that much, though. But I really enjoyed the movie.

    Great list.

    • Thanks, yeah Abrams created a great viral hype surrounding the backstory, which definitely made that release extra exciting. Remember that part where the video fragments to a past video clip and we see something splash in the water?! We certainly thing online campaigns will meld well with the future of found footage movies. Working on a few ourselves.

      Thanks for reading, Rob

  • Rob

    You can add “UNAWARE” to the list as it is being released on DVD on March 12th 2013. Pre-Orders at amazon.com and bestbuy.com being taken now. If you aren’t familiar with it, “UNAWARE” is a Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller that deals with Aliens (Roswell incident) and what happened to those recovered bodies from the 1947 wreckage. “UNAWARE” won many Film Festival awards and is without a doubt one of the BEST “Found Footage” movies ever to be released! It will either change your belief in Alien life forms or strengthen your already existing belief.

    • Yes actually we looked for UNAWARE, eager to see it!

      • anon

        Unaware was actually really awful.

  • Meg’s

    This is what I get for googling creepy movies at midnight.
    Thanks for giving me nightmares!!!!

  • John

    Okay, first things first. Did you actually watch grave encounters? If you did, you would know it takes place in an abandoned insane asylum, not a apartment building, I mean why do you think there were hospital beds everywhere, and the ghosts of doctors, oh and the whole thing where they wind up in hospital gowns while going crazy. Or maybe the biggest clue of all where they frigging say it a dozen times over at the start of the movie… maybe Im just being picky, but you kind of sound like you didn’t pay attention at all during the film. Secondly, Lake Mungo is in no way a found footage film, nor a horror, its more along the lines of a mockumentary/drama with some lame paranormal themes tossed into the mix. “Keep in mind, these are ‘pure’ found footage movies, meaning the entire movie was filmed by a character(s). ” I dont know how a faux documentary falls into that category, unless you meant the minute and a half they show cellphone footage at the end… Poor list guy, very poor list.

    • You are correct about the insane asylum in Grave Encounters. All the points made about the movie remain valid. Our apologies.

      Secondly, I think we have different definitions of found footage. We consider found footage to be footage that is purported to originate from the diegetic world of the narrative. In this case, the documentary footage that comprises the Lake Mungo narrative certainly qualifies, just as much as the footage ‘found’ from the Cloverfield narrative. And yes, while it’s not a horror movie in the traditional sense, it has a completely serious tone and is about a ghost. Definitely not a mockumentary!

      Sorry you didn’t like the list. Perhaps you could put together your own and show us where we went wrong.

      • John

        Well found footage is defined by the footage was found, a documentary style film isn’t really found, its filmed and then distributed. I mean, grave encounters, the film was found years after the incident had happened, same with blair witch, rec, cloverfield, paranormal activity, and my new favorite The Bay.

        Which if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend giving the bay a watch, sets a good almost realistic tone, while not paranormal still bone chilling.

        • The Bay was good, but definitely lacking in terms of solid scares. It gave off an overall creepy vibe and the atmosphere was tremendous. Ultimately, the payoff–while good on a sociological (eco-awareness) level–isn’t on par with the others.

    • Na-aem

      I would say the best found footage movies would be V/H/S & POUCHKEEPSIE TAPES everything else sucks donkey balls

    • Varun Sharma

      You should include “the tunnel” – it certainly deserves to be here

  • John

    ****Spoiler alert!*******

    There are some others that could make the top 15 like V.H.S for example, but for the most part it’s a good list. And I have to agree about Lake Mungo. The first time I saw it, I really didn’t catch the clairvoyance displayed in the interviews with the mother and daughter. The second time, it really hit me. The movie was definitely one of a kind and does set a rather dread atmosphere, especially at the end when it’s obvious the daughter is with them in the house.

    • John

      OOps didn’t realize V.H.S was on part 2.

  • gef the talking mongoose

    I second (or, I suppose, third … maybe even fourth or fifth — it’s not like I’m taking notes!) the love for Lake Mungo, though I suppose (pace John) that it’s borderline found footage at most. One of my top films of … whatever year it was. 2011?

  • erh

  • ChiliCheese

    watch “occult” or “cult” both asian movies found footage style. first one has a great storyline.
    don’t read any spoilers about it though. it all builds up to the end. same thing with many movies. you don’t know if they’re good unless you’ve seen all of it.

    • backyard44

      thanks chillicheese,watched them both,really cool,check out shirome aka white eyes its from the same director

  • ماجـ ـد


  • backyard44

    hey guys,just wanna say i really like your list,very very much,i totally agree with it,thank you and please keep on

  • backyard44

    another one for your list”afflicted”,its not 100% found footage but nearly

  • denta

    min kalo film yang pemainnya itu ngerekam sendiri itu nama nya apa sih min

  • Sojan

    Also watch spanish version of “REC” movie which can be on the top list.

  • Debeezy

    Guys, how come nobody mentions The Cornell Case? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFTGKKwsSHENEj1OEi9uYJw