There are few concepts more terrifying than being under attack in the safety of your own home. A great number of movies have explored the threat of the home invasion within a wide variety of genres, and many all-time classic movies and scenes have been built around the dramatic tension caused by the threat of dangerous, unwanted intruders.
Fede Alvarez presents his own thrilling twist on the genre with Don’t Breathe, his first movie since 2013’s surprisingly fantastic re-telling of Sam Raimi’s low budget 1983 splatter horror The Evil Dead.
Evil Dead‘s Jane Levy returns to star as teen delinquent Rocky. She, her boyfriend Money, and their friend Alex desperately want to start a new life away from their own dysfunctional families. They make the foolhardy decision to rob a blind veteran’s house for the $300,000 cash he keeps in his basement. Unfortunately for the gang, the ex-soldier is nowhere near as helpless as he first appears.
This list comprises our favourite 15 home invasion scenarios, and while many classic horror movies contain a home invasion element as a core part of their story, we feel these 15 have had the most significant overall impact on the cinematic landscape.
Presenting: 15 Of The Best Home Invasion Movies Of All Time.
15. You’re Next
Adam Wingard’s 2011 feature You’re Next was a modest hit, earning great reviews and $26.8 million from a $1 million budget. It functions as a slasher film, dark comedy, and a great whodunnit mystery. Defense contractor Paul Davison (Rob Moran) and his wife Aubrey’s (Barbara Crampton) vacation home plays host to a large reunion in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Davison’s wedding anniversary. It doesn’t take long for the reunited Davison siblings and their partners to begin squabbling over old family grudges and resentments.
This is quickly forgotten however, when a large gang of mask-wearing, crossbow, axe, and knife wielding marauders descend upon the property. They silently and ruthlessly go about their sole objective of murdering everybody in the house. Crispian, one of the Davison’s children has come to the party with his very resourceful girlfriend Erin, who has some ideas on how to repel the attackers. There’s an awesome moment involving garrote that’s not easy to forget once you’ve seen it.
14. Knock Knock
“NEVER HELP ANYONE, EVER” could be the tag-line to Eli Roth’s exploitative shocker remake of the little seen 1977 film Death Game. Knock Knock is the story of husband and father Evan, played by Keanu Reeves, who is left alone at home by his family for the weekend to work on his job as an architect. A torrential rain storm brings two beautiful young tourists, Genesis and Bel, to his door, seeking refuge. He agrees to help the stranded pair out of their predicament.
What follows is 90 minutes of intense psychological warfare after they convince Evan to sleep with them both. When they refuse to leave the next morning, the duo sadistically and mentally torture Evan, threatening to tell his wife about his fidelity as well as throwing some very extreme accusations his way. Despite the dark subject matter Knock Knock is both entertaining and very blackly comic as we watch Evan try to claw himself out of the hole he’s dug for himself
Many horror fans have been following the ascension of director/writer Mike Flanagan with great interest after his excellent debut Absentia and his superb second feature, the terrifying evil mirror movie hit Oculus. He’s been tapped to course correct the Ouija franchise next year after the first installment was savaged by critics. We can have faith that he’ll deliver an effective chiller since, like The Conjuring‘s James Wan, he has a masterful grasp of suspense and knows how to deliver real, earned jump scares.
Flanagan’s new film, the home invasion/cabin in the woods hybrid Hush, surprisingly went straight to our Netflix queues earlier this year and was met by very positive reviews.
Co-writer Kate Siegel plays Madison Young, a completely deaf author living a quiet, isolated life in her woodland cottage while she works on her next novel. At night her home comes under attack by a mysterious man in a white mask for reasons unknown. The twist that the heroine is unable to hear her assailant is played for maximum effect here, and the superb sound design in Hush is especially effective.
12. The Strangers
2008’s The Strangers stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as young couple Kristen and James, who are terrorized by three mysterious masked intruders. It was a modest box office hit, making a respectable $82 million on a $9 million budget. The film begins with the message, “What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the FBI, there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year. On the night of February 11, 2005, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt left a friend’s wedding reception and returned to the Hoyt summer home. The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known.”
Despite claiming to have been inspired by a particular incident, director Bryan Bertino has confessed that direct inspiration was taken from the book Helter Skelter and the Manson Family killings, though it has a plot somewhat similar to the 2006 French film Them. The Strangers is notable for its relentless, fearful atmosphere and imagery. The intruder with the dirty tweed sack on his head is especially creepy!
11. The Purge
Blumhouse’s ongoing hit dystopian franchise The Purge released its three-quel Election Year this summer. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey starred as suburban parents in 2013’s series kick-off, which has one of the great sci-fi high concepts. What if, for 24 hours, all crime (including murder) was legal?
The Purge sequels Anarchy and Election Year serve to expand this cool mythology by taking the action to the streets, in movies reminiscent of classics like Escape from New York and The Warriors. The first Purge was a surprise box office hit and is a pure home invasion thriller, with some nice allegorical nods to the disparity between the working and upper classes. A wounded homeless man is sheltered by an American family, safely sitting out purge night via some high tech home security. The local, masked social elite, who were hunting the homeless man, hold the family hostage under threat of death unless they surrender him to them.
The late, great Wes Craven’s love-letter to the slasher genre that he had a huge hand (or glove?) in creating was a real shot in the arm for horror movies in the ’90s. Kevin Williamson’s witty script and knowing dialogue poked gentle fun at the tropes of ’80s horror staples such as Friday the 13th and Halloween, as high school student Sidney Prescott and her pals are stalked by the masked killer Ghost Face.
We’re including Scream on this list instead of some other notable slashers, due to just how much of the action takes place indoors. The opening scene, where Drew Barrymore is home alone being harassed by a quite flirtatious killer, is a masterclass in mounting tension. Near the climax of the movie, Jamie Kennedy’s character offers a meta-deconstruction of the rules of the slasher genre, followed by the final kill-spree by Ghost Face at the teens house party. Rose McGowan suffers an especially wince-inducing fate via a garage door that ranks as one of horrors best ever kills.
9. High Tension
High Tension, known as Haute Tension in its native France and Switchblade Romance in the UK, is the debut of modern horror maestro Alexandre Aja, who was responsible for The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D and Horns. It was one of the first films associated with the New French Extremity movement, characterized by sexual decadence, bestial violence, and troubling psychosis.
It stars Cécile de France as Marie and Maïwenn as Alexia, two best friends visiting Alexia’s parents to study for the weekend. The burly Philippe Nahon plays a woman-torturing serial killer who is pursuing them both.
High Tension really fulfills the promise of its title and kicks into high gear almost immediately. It contains some twists and turns that are both genuinely surprising and nonsensical, but the ride itself is so consistently thrilling, you just roll with the weirdness the plot produces. At the beginning of the killer’s siege on Alex’s family home, there’s a beheading by bookcase that possibly ranks as cinema’s greatest ever decapitation.
The less said about this years gutless US remake the better, but the original French Martyrs, Pascal Lugier’s bleak, existential, torture-based horror really pushed the envelope with the sheer level of sadism shown on screen. Martyrs is easily the most difficult film to watch on this list, and not only because of the impressive gore and powerful violence, but due to its generally oppressive and upsetting atmosphere.
In a twist on the home invasion scenario, Lucie and Anna are two orphans paying a surprise visit to the Belfond family, who Lucie believes abused, imprisoned, and tortured her as a child. Lucie kills the entire family with a shotgun as Anna waits outside, oblivious. From this already crazy beginning, events take a turn for the bizarre, with monsters, religious cults, and flayings all becoming part of the story. The ambiguous ending, which we won’t spoil here, is something that will have you thinking for a long time after the credits roll.
If you or your partner is expecting, or are squeamish at all, we highly recommend that you give a Inside a swerve. For those with the stomach for it, Inside makes a fantastically grizzly double bill with the equally nihilistic Martyrs. As part of the so-called new wave of French extremity, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo really raised the bar for visceral onscreen violence, and broke some perceived taboos in the process.
Inside chiefly concerns Béatrice Dalle’s scissor wielding maniac desperately attempting to cut Alysson Paradis’s baby straight out of her womb. It’s a concept just as gnarly as you may expect and a giant amount of carnage is shown on screen during its 90 minute runtime. There’s a key scene with the terrified mom-to-be, trapped in the bathroom that’s akin to the “Here’s Johnny!” moment in The Shining. It’s paced terrifically and is extremely intense more or less from the get-go. The final scene will likely haunt your dreams forever.
6. Panic Room
Somewhat surprisingly at the time, director David Fincher followed up the complexity of Fight Club with the relatively simple popcorn thriller Panic Room. The film stars Jodie Foster (a last minute replacement for an injured Nicole Kidman), and features an early role for child actress Kristen Stewart. In Panic Room, they play a mother and daughter whose new home is invaded by robbers, played by Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam. They retreat to what they believe to be the safety of the house’s panic room.
Writer David Koepp, of Jurassic Park and Spider-Man fame, penned a taut, suspenseful script that takes place entirely in one location. It cranks up the tension by allowing the mother-daughter relationship to take center stage and the child’s failing health is a major component in making the events feel desperate, as if they’re occurring in real-time.
Of all the films in this list, Panic Room shares the most in common with Don’t Breathe, with its swooping internal camera giving the viewer spacial awareness of the house, and the similar overall premise.
5. Henry: Portrait of a serial killer
Most people know Michael Rooker as Star-Lord’s blue-skinned father-figure Yondu in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. As an actor, some would say he peaked early in his career with his chilling performance in John McNaughton’s 1986 Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Shot over a month on a very small budget of $110,000, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is in many ways a precursor to the mainstream acceptance of the found footage genre. Shot on grainy 16mm film and edited in a documentary style, Henry is powerfully disturbing in its commitment to realism.
The film follows the murderous crime spree of Henry, his prison pal Otis, and his oblivious sister Becky. It’s roughly based on the real life exploits of notorious killer Henry Lee Lucas.
The film’s most notorious scene involves Henry and Otis gleefully replaying a video that they had filmed the previous night, which consisted of a home invasion of a suburban family. Otis and Henry take the family hostage and slaughter them one by one on camera, finding perverse enjoyment in watching themselves commit their crimes on tape.
4. Funny Games
We’ve elected to include the American 2007 shot-for-shot remake of Funny Games as it’s the more widely seen version of the film. Director Michael Haneke had the rare opportunity to take control of the remake of his own Austrian-set Funny Games, made 10 years earlier. Funny Games US, like the original, is a meta-commentary on the effects of violence in the media and is Haneke’s own disgusted response to the torture porn film subgenre, which was gaining popularity in the late 2000s.
Naomi Watts and Tim Roth star as a wealthy, vacationing couple who are staying at their summer lake house with their young son and dog. Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet play the sinister duo of young, seemingly well-mannered local residents who charm their way into the couple’s home under the guise of borrowing some eggs. They play sadistic and humiliating games with the family and often break the fourth wall to directly address the audience. Haneke uses this device to ask: if we continue to watch and don’t react to the violence on screen by switching off the movie, are we an accomplice to the events taking place?
3. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel is widely considered one of the best films ever made. Though still it has the power to shock to this day, back when it was initially released it was met with an unprecedented level of controversy due to several shocking scenes. In the UK particularly, the film was subject to a self-imposed ban by Kubrick from release until after his death in 1997, after it was deemed responsible for inspiring copycat gang violence by the UK tabloids. At its heart, sensationalism aside, A Clockwork Orange is a morality tale about exactly what it means to be good. Are moral choices only made because of law and society’s conditioning?
Arguably, the most iconic scene would be Malcolm McDowell’s Alex and his cronies invading a countryside home for “a bit of good ultra-violence” and “the old in-out, in-out“. Alex memorably and disturbingly choreographs his assault to the steps and tune of Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain.
2. Home Alone
The Christopher Columbus-directed, John Hughes-written, festive classic Home Alone continues to delight families of all ages, 25 years after its 1990 release. The tale of young Kevin McCallister accidentally being left home alone for Christmas his large, vacationing family still wrings tears from the hardest of hearts. The thieving Wet Bandits have their greedy eyes on Kevin’s house as their next burglary target.
Under normal circumstances, if someone found that their home was suddenly under siege by violent criminal masterminds, they’d either panic and cower somewhere or go all John Rambo/Ellen Ripley on them (depending on what type of person they are). Nobody has ever been better prepared than the preteen, sleuth-like Kevin, who saw the bungling, burgling duo coming from miles away. The legendary third act is a wince-inducing festival of pain, with Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin utterly decimating his unwanted intruders with a series of painful traps that would put Saw‘s Jigsaw to shame.
1. Straw Dogs
Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was released in 1971 along with A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection, and Dirty Harry. It was a time in cinema history where the public was becoming increasingly concerned with the level of violence that was permitted to be shown on screens, and there was much controversy and debate surrounding these films at the time. Dustin Hoffman and Susan George star in a very violent (especially in its concluding scenes) take on Gordon M. Williams’s 1969 novel, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm.
Set in a small village in a remote part of England’s Cornwall, American David Sumner and his wife Amy come to live in her hometown. They immediately invoke the ire of Amy’s ex-boyfriend and his buddies, who resent Amy’s new husband for marrying one of their own. There are some very distressing scenes of rape in Straw Dogs that can make it a pretty tough watch, but ultimately it stands with Peckinpah’s best as a slow-burning and visceral cinematic experience. Just steer clear of Rod Lurie’s inferior 2011 remake starring James Marsden and Kate Bosworth.
Don’t Breathe is out in cinemas now.
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