Take a bite out of these 10 best cannibal movies of all time
Why are humans so fascinated by cannibalism? Is it the unabashed violence, the psychological toll it takes on its victims, or is it the question, “Why in God’s name would someone eat another person?” Regardless of the answer, moviegoers seem to savor stories about people who eat other people as much as film studios and streaming services enjoy producing them.
Whether you personally enjoy nibbling on the occasional elbow or prefer to leave human flesh consumption to the experts, we had a feeling that you’d want to know what the 10 best cannibal movies of all time are. Be warned: gratuitous gore, grisly plot lines, and cannibals galore await in the films below, and if you watch any or all of them with another person and they start looking at your forearms like they’re chicken wings, do yourself a favor and RUN.
10. Hunger (2009)
Five individuals – Jordan, Grant, Luke, Anna, and Alex – wake up in darkness. Soon after, they realize that they’ve been abducted, placed at the bottom of an abandoned well, and given everything they need to survive except one thing – food. A clock on the wall indicates that they have 30 days in the hole, and a camera tells them that someone’s watching. They soon surmise that they’re part of a sick experiment to test the human resolve to stay alive. The film explores humanity and makes the audience ask themselves one question: would I eat someone to survive?
9. The Platform (2019)
The Platform is a Spanish social science fiction horror film that takes place in a large tower known as the “Vertical Self-Management Center.” Its residents are fed via a platform that descends every day through the tower’s levels. The lucky few at the top get to eat, and the ones at the bottom starve. This leads to conflict, suicide, murder, and, of course, cannibalism. The film follows Goreng, a good-hearted man who didn’t comprehend the horrors of the pit until he was confined there. It premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness. But be warned: it’s an intense, existential film that will cause you to question society, morality, and yourself.
8. Fresh (2022)
Fresh is a comedy thriller film that follows Noa, a young woman who starts dating a charming man named Steve. When Steve invites Noa on a weekend trip, she agrees, despite her better judgment. She soon wakes up in captivity and discovers Steve’s horrifying nature. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike.
7. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
This melodramatic musical slasher film was directed by Tim Burton and is graced with the likes of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. It tells the story of Sweeney Todd, an English barber in the Victorian Era on a search for vengeance. While his day job is as a barber, he moonlights as a serial killer who murders his victims with a straight razor. With the help of accomplice Mrs. Lovett, he processes the corpses into meat pies and feeds them to the general public. The film was praised for its catchy musical numbers, the cast’s stellar performances, and its faithfulness to the original 1979 Sweeney Todd musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, on which the film was based.
6. The Road (2009)
The Road is a post-apocalyptic survival film based on the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. The plot follows a father and son traveling across a post-apocalyptic wasteland after an unspecified occurrence causes the world to fall into ruin. The two struggle to survive as they gather scarce supplies and avoid the roaming gangs who are, you guessed it, cannibals. The film received praise from critics and multiple nominations, including a BAFTA nomination for Best Cinematography. It’s spine-chilling and riddled with despair, but the pain of watching it is accompanied by the pleasure of seeing the mesmerizing love between the father and son.
5. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The Hills Have Eyes is a remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 film by the same name. Originally it had an NC-17 rating, but it was later edited down to an R rating. If that doesn’t tell you what type of movie it is, this synopsis will. The film follows a family being targeted by a group of cannibalistic mutants after their car breaks down in the barren New Mexico desert near an abandoned atomic zone. After a hidden spike strip punctures their tires, they find evidence of other people who met the same fate, a mutilated dog corpse, and the disturbing group of people who orchestrate it all. The critical reviews were half-and-half, but the audience enjoyed the gruesome nature of the film and found its unrestrained carnage refreshing.
4. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Bone Tomahawk is a horror Western cannibal film that had a world premiere at Fantastic Fest. It follows a small-town sheriff who leads a group of men into a wild region to rescue three people who were kidnapped by a cannibalistic Native American tribe. The film received a positive response from critics and festival-goers for its gritty cinematic style, superb acting, the director’s creative vision, and the screenplay’s dialogue. It also received a Certified Fresh accolade on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning it has a 75% or higher Tomatometer, which is a notable feat.
3. The Green Inferno (2013)
The Green Inferno was inspired by the Italian cannibal films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, most notably Cannibal Holocaust, so you know it’s going to be a gory ride. The film follows Justine, a college freshman who joins a student activist group. The group embarks on a trip to the Amazon rainforest to prevent a petrochemical company from clearing the rainforest and displacing the natives who lived there. But when they crash in the middle of the rainforest, they must fight to survive after being taken captive by a cannibalistic tribe. The film was received poorly by critics, but the majority of the audience immensely enjoyed it, making it worthy of being considered one of the best cannibal movies.
2. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This Italian horror film is one of the most graphic movies in history. In it, an anthropologist from New York University embarks on a rescue mission into the Amazon rainforest to locate a crew of filmmakers who went missing while creating a documentary on the local cannibal tribes. While he doesn’t find the crew alive, he does see their footage, and it appalls him. The graphic violence created much controversy, causing the film to be banned in multiple countries and the director, Ruggero Deodato, to be arrested for obscenity charges. Although Deodato was acquitted and the bans lifted in some countries, it is still considered an exceedingly controversial film for its excessive violence, depiction of sexual assault, and real-life abuse against animals. While the critical reception was mixed at best, it received a cult following. The takeaway from this film, as well as The Green Inferno, is don’t go to the Amazon rainforest if you don’t want to be eaten.
1. Hannibal (2001)
Hannibal is a psychological crime film based on the 1999 novel by Thomas Harris. It’s the direct sequel to Silence of the Lambs, another first-rate thriller film, and follows disgraced FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling. Starling attempts to apprehend the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lector before one of his previous victims succeeds in finding and killing Lector by feeding him to hogs. It was a highly anticipated release and broke box office records in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Although it’s not viewed as favorably as Silence of the Lambs and was criticized for its violence, critics still praised the performance and visuals. However, the audience had generally positive reviews, deeming it a thrill to watch.