Caught on Tape: The Best Found-Footage Horror Movies

This Horror Sub-Genre Makes It All Intensely Real

Retro Style Movie Camera
Irakli Abashidze / EyeEm / Getty Images

The "found-footage" format ingrained itself as a staple of horror movies during the 2000s, but a glut of such films has flooded the marketplace with inferior examples of the immersive style. To help you sort through the mounds of mediocrity, here is a rundown of the best found-footage fright flicks, in descending order. These are strict "found footage" films and not faux documentaries, thus excluding excellent films like ​"Lake Mungo," "Behind the Mask" and ​"Ghostwatch."

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'Exhibit A' (2010)

Exhibit A
© IndiePix

This woefully overlooked but well-acted, frighteningly realistic British feature takes the form of a videotape found in camcorder at a ​murder scene, revealing the secrets of a seemingly normal middle-class family that implodes over the course of a few short weeks.

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'The Den' (2014)

The Den DVD

"The Den" is a powerful "cyber home invasion" film that taps into the same sense of vulnerability that made traditional home invasion fright flicks like "The Strangers," "You're Next" and  "Funny Games" so powerful. The feeling of helplessness is palpable -- viewers can readily place themselves in the role of a victim of identity theft or hacking taken to the extreme.

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'The Last Broadcast' (1998)

The Last Broadcast
© Heretic

With its similar "documentarians in the woods" setup, there's some speculation that "The Blair Witch Project" was influenced by "The Last Broadcast," but that doesn't take away from the effectiveness of the fascinating mystery in this early found-footage fare about cable access hosts searching for the Jersey Devil.

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'Troll Hunter' (2011)

Troll Hunter
© Magnet

Hailing from Norway, "The Troll Hunter" is a fascinating adaptation of traditional Scandinavian folklore into the modern format of the "found footage" phenomenon, although viewers expecting scares might be disappointed by the PG-13 fantasy approach.

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'The Sacrament' (2014)

'The Sacrament' movie poster
© Magnet Releasing

Even if you're familiar with the events of the Jonestown Massacre, seeing it played out as vividly on screen as it is in this thinly veiled re-creation highlights the dramatic, larger-than-life nature of the tragedy. It's an atmospheric film whose ominous score and straightforward plot channel the growing sense of dread.

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'The Hunted' (2014)

The Hunted
© Entertainment One

What "The Hunted" lacks in originality it makes up for in execution. The story of a pair of wannabe TV hosts shooting the pilot episode of what they hope will be picked up as a hunting/nature series -- only to encounter a supernatural entity in the woods instead of the deer they're targeting -- comes close to capturing the sense of paranoid tension that propelled "The Blair Witch Project" to such success in 1999, similarly utilizing the ambient sound of a forest setting to generate nerve-jangling terror.

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'The Conspiracy' (2013)

The Conspiracy
© XLrator

Not quite as realistic as some in the genre, this found footage/faux documentary thriller about journalists delving into the truth behind conspiracy theories is intelligent, well-written and builds paranoid tension nicely up to the gripping climax.

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'Cannibal Holocaust' (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust
© Grindhouse Releasing

A grotesque offspring of the exploitive (and often partially faked) "mondo" documentaries of the '60s and '70s, this fictional film similarly exploits the rituals of indigenous "savages" in exotic locations (in this case, the Amazon), topping it off with numerous sexual assaults and real-life animal killings, making it one of the most controversial films of all time. Reprehensible and ugly yet unforgettable and groundbreaking in its use of hyper-realistic footage shot by documentary filmmakers who went missing in the Amazonian jungles. It's so realistic, in fact, director Ruggero Deodato was actually charged with murder and had to prove that the deaths in the film -- well, the human deaths -- were actually fake.

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'Home Movie' (2009)

Home Movie

Insightful and darkly humorous, this killer kid flick skewers the traditional nuclear American family, overzealous religion and the overprescribing of medications.

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'The Last Exorcism' (2010)

The Last Exorcism
© Lionsgate

"​The Last Exorcism" takes found footage into exorcism territory with a steady dose of thrills, chills and a surprisingly wry sense of humor. If only the awful sequel did the same.

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'REC 1-2'/'Quarantine' (2007-2009)

© Filmax

Although it didn't hit the U.S. until 2009, Spain's "REC" pre-dated the release of the game-changing "Paranormal Activity," making its exhilarating zombie-esque tale all the more impressive. Less original but almost as entertaining is the American remake "." The "REC" franchise abandoned the found-footage format for the third and fourth films.

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'The Visit' (2015)

'The Visit' movie poster
© Universal

"The Visit" is a welcome change of pace not only for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan but also for the increasingly stale found-footage format. It's a remarkably well-balanced blend of scares and humor with strong performances and a delicious twist ending.

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'Paranormal Activity 1-3' (2009-2011)

Paranormal Activity ghost movies
© Paramount

The chilling smash hit that helped usher in the current boom in both found-footage and micro-budget horror, "Paranormal Activity" breathed life into a format that had become stagnant, thanks in part to the haunted house setting and the innovation of stationary security camera footage. Even though each film in the franchise was worse than the one before it, the first three at least were solidly entertaining before it became stale.

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'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

The Blair Witch Project ghost movie
© Artisan

A terrifyingly realistic ghost story, ​"The Blair Witch Project" is the standard by which modern found-footage horror movies are judged. Terrifyingly real. No need to say more.

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'Cloverfield' (2008)

Cloverfield alien movie
© Paramount

Like stepping into the middle of a blockbuster monster movie, "Cloverfield"  takes the typically intimate found-footage format and expands it to larger-than-life, Godzilla-esque scale, creating the sort of immersive, adrenaline-fueled virtual reality that's portrayed in science-fiction stories alongside flying cars and Spandex pantsuits.