The Best Movies About Cannibalism

By Chad Langen | Published

Despite any initial reservations, it’s surprisingly easy to stumble upon a feast of films focusing on the eerie practice of cannibalism. Regardless of whether you’re the ‘tender and juicy’ horror lover or more of an ‘al dente’ thriller fan, there’s a robust buffet of such movies ready to appease your peculiar appetite. Buckle up, grab your utensils, and prepare to consume nine of the best servings from this somewhat unnerving genre.

9. The Green Inferno (2013)

Directed by Eli Roth, The Green Inferno delves into the stomach-churning world of cannibalism, wrapped up in the controversial package of a survival horror film. The story follows a group of activists led by Justine (Lorenza Izzo), who, after a plan crash in the Amazon rainforest, become the captive guests of a tribe with a taste for human flesh.

Roth’s reputation for grisly gore is indisputable, and The Green Inferno lives up to this with scenes not for the faint-hearted. Filled with graphic violence and unsettling tension, the film delivers a brutal banquet of cannibalistic horror.

8. Parents (1989)

Released in 1989, Parents is a quirky horror comedy that delves into the unsettling world of cannibalism, albeit with a darkly comedic twist. The story follows a young boy, Michael (Bryan Madorsky), who becomes increasingly suspicious of his seemingly ordinary parents, played by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt, as he suspects they have a taste for human flesh.

Despite its low budget and poor initial reception, Parents has garnered a cult following for its offbeat charm and campy presentation. It embraces its so-bad-it’s-good status with exaggerated performances and an intentionally cheesy aesthetic, making it a delightfully bizarre and strangely endearing entry into the realm of cannibal-themed cinema.

7. Wrong Turn (2003)

Directed by Rob Schmidt, Wrong Turn is a gruesome horror film that draws inspiration from classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. The story follows a group of friends who take a wrong turn while on a road trip, leading them into the territory of a cannibalistic family in the backwoods of West Virginia.

The cast of Wrong Turn, including Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington, deliver solid performances that undoubtedly amplify the tension and fear in the movie. With its brutal portrayal of cannibalism, the film taps into primal fears and showcases the influence of its horror predecessors. While it may not have achieved the same iconic status as its inspirations, the film stands as a chilling entry in the cannibal horror subgenre.

6. Hannibal (2001)

This sequel to the acclaimed The Silence of the Lambs offers audiences another serving of the chilling cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The story sees Lecter, reprised by Anthony Hopkins, pursued by a disfigured victim while also being hunted by Clarice Starling, this time played by Julianne Moore.

While the cast change and the departure from the psychological mastery of its predecessor resulted in mixed reviews, Hannibal delves deeper into Lecter’s character, unearthing more layers of his monstrous psyche. Moreover, although lacking the tight tension of The Silence of the Lambs, the narrative continues to exploit the horrifying theme of cannibalism, with Lecter’s unsettling epicurean tastes even more prominently on display.

5. The Road (2009)

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Based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, The Road is a haunting post-apocalyptic film that examines the lengths one would go to survive in a desolate world. The story follows a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), as they navigate a barren landscape, facing starvation and constant danger. As they journey, they encounter a pervasive threat of cannibalism, with desperate survivors resorting to unimaginable acts to sustain themselves.

The film’s grim atmosphere and the exceptional performances of the cast bring to life the harrowing struggle for survival in a world where humanity’s moral boundaries have been shattered. The Road stands as a thought-provoking exploration of the darkest corners of human nature, where the subject of cannibalism serves as a chilling backdrop to a deeply emotional story.

4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Directed by Wes Craven and released in 1977, The Hills Have Eyes is a gritty horror film that takes viewers on a harrowing journey through a desolate desert landscape, where a stranded family must confront a clan of mutated cannibals in a battle for survival. Upon its release, the film thrilled audiences with its unflinching portrayal of primal instincts, delving into the unsettling concept of cannibalism and the depths of human savagery.

Not without controversy, The Hills Have Eyes pushed the boundaries of acceptability upon its release, thanks to its graphic violence and taboo themes. However, the film’s enduring cult status speaks to its lasting impact and enduring appeal. The success of the original led to a highly praised remake and a subsequent sequel, solidifying its place in horror movie history.

3. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust is a notorious film known for its extreme depiction of cannibalism and its controversial nature. The plot revolves around a group of documentary filmmakers who venture into the Amazon rainforest to study indigenous tribes, but their journey takes a horrifying turn as they become victims of the very tribes they sought to document.

The film’s graphic violence, including scenes of actual animal cruelty, sparked immense controversy upon its release. It faced widespread condemnation, leading to bans in several countries due to concerns over its exploitative nature and the treatment of both human and animal subjects. While Cannibal Holocaust remains a dark chapter in film history, its subject matter and notoriety have made it an object of fascination for those intrigued by the extremes of cinema.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Directed by Tobe Hooper and released in 1974, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre stands as a landmark horror film that shook audiences to their core with its visceral portrayal of terror and cannibalistic horrors. The gripping plot revolves around a group of friends who fall prey to a deranged family of cannibals, including the iconic chainsaw wielding Leatherface, played by Gunnar Hansen.

The film’s unrelenting horror and raw intensity sparked significant controversy upon its release. Nevertheless, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre birthed a franchise, giving rise to a series of sequels, prequels, and remakes, all attempting to capture the chilling magic of the original. Yet, it is the 1974 classic that remains an enduring masterpiece, etching its place in horror history with terrifying precision.

1. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

It’s hardly a shock that The Silence of the Lambs, featuring the legendary cannibal Hannibal Lecter, takes the cake as the best movie revolving around cannibalism. After all, when you think of cannibalism in film, it’s Lecter who often springs to mind first.

The plot of this masterfully woven psychological thriller follows a young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who seeks the assistance of the incarcerated, cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to catch another serial killer. Hopkins’ chilling portrayal of Lecter, a refined yet monstrous figure who eats his victims, is unforgettable and earned him an Academy Award.

The Silence of the Lambs is renowned for its exploration of cannibalism not just as physical horror but as an embodiment of psychological terror. By intertwining the themes of manipulation and cannibalism, the film remains one of the most iconic films in its genre, forever marking Hopkins as the quintessential Hannibal Lecter.