In myth, folklore, and horror cinema, there's always been a dark and macabre interest in cannibalism.
Cannibalism isn't mere fiction. This heinous act has been committed in several landmark cases—such as the Donner Party in California, the Sawney Bean clan in Scotland, and Alferd Packer in Colorado—and these cases always inspire our morbid curiosity.
Numerous movies with cannbals have broached the subject over the decades, often bouncing between the horror and comedy genres. Here are my picks for the best cannibalism movies.
10. Desperate Living (1977)
John Waters has established a massive cult following over the years and that's largely due to films like Desperate Living.
The plot follows a woman who murders her husband, then moves to a magical city ruled by an evil queen. However, the townspeople revolt and overthrow her—then cannibalize her. Yikes.
The third installment in Waters's self-proclaimed "Trash Trilogy," Desperate Living certainly lives up to the title. The film is a surreal mess of a thing, but it's also a unique work of art.
9. Ravenous (1999)
Ravenous is peak 90s cult material. Half vampire flick, half cannibal horror, it manages to play both genres equally well.
The story is set in Sierra Nevada in the late 19th century, where Captain John (Guy Pearce) encounters a bloody man who staggers into camp and begins to recount his experience of surviving a cannibal attack.
Captain John fears this is only the beginning of something much graver... and he's right about that. Ravenous isn't just a cannibalism movie—it encapsulates what it means to survive out on the Western trail.
8. Bones and All (2022)
Timotheé Chalamet and Taylor Russell both shine in Bones and All, a doomed romance drama where they both play characters who harbor an insatiable desire for human flesh.
When they murder and cannibalize a booth worker, it leaves them with food—at least for a little while. Together, they determine that the best course of action is for them to travel across the country for as long as they can before their options run out.
With performances that will haunt you, Bones and All is a surprisingly compelling romance movie about cannibals—which isn't a virtue that many films can boast.
7. Spider Baby (1967)
One of the first cannibal comedy movies, Spider Baby is an important piece of cinema history.
The story tracks the members of the Merrye family, all of whom suffer from a deadly genetic disease that makes its victims revert back to a state of animalistic behavior once they reach puberty—and some behaviors are more violent than others.
This black comedy horror was made on a shoestring budget of only $65,000, but you can hardly tell. With hilarious performances in a wild setting, Spider Baby works on multiple levels to this day.
6. Eating Raoul (1982)
Eating Raoul was undoubtedly inspired by Spider Baby, at least partially. Another black comedy horror film, the story here follows a prudish, sexually-repressed married couple who are forced to live in an apartment building with swingers. How unfortunate.
However, they realize they can use this situation to their advantage—by killing the sexually-liberated couples who frequent their building and stealing the cash they have on them, all in the hopes of opening up their own restaurant together.
But what will they serve at their new eatery? Well, I'll leave you to guess the answer to that one.
5. Raw (2016)
One of the most compelling horror movies of recent years comes from new horror sensation and French auteur Julia Ducournau. Raw isn't just a startling film—it was, impressively, her feature film debut.
The plot of Raw follows the young vegetarian Justine, who's trying to fit in at her university. However, when the college engages in a bloodthirsty meat-eating festival, her carnivorous impulses are awakened... to horrifying results.
A film that looks at the hereditary implications of such an impulse, Raw is a breathtaking horror movie worth watching.
4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
No doubt one of the most controversial films ever made, Cannibal Holocaust almost ruined Ruggero Deodata's career—and, more than that, it almost landed him in prison.
Why? Because it was so realistic that the authorities suspected he had murdered his own crew and created a snuff film, while also potentially having eaten their bodies after the fact.
Of course, he didn't do any of that, but Cannibal Holocaust's story about cannibalistic tribes in the Amazonian rainforest was so disturbing that the rumors didn't seem too far-fetched.
And the cherry on top? Cannibal Holocaust's use of the found footage framing device was so successful at inducing realistic terror that birthed a whole subgenre of horror. Without Cannibal Holocaust, we wouldn't have The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield.
3. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Famed horror director Wes Craven created one of his most enduring masterpieces when he made The Hills Have Eyes.
The plot follows the Carter family as they travel to California on a holiday road trip. However, when their motor home breaks down, they're forced to stop in the desert just outside California—and it's clear that they aren't alone out there.
With such an evocative title, The Hills Have Eyes is scary from the get-go. Mix in terrified performances from the lead cast and you have a classic cannibalism movie dripping with terror.
2. Soylent Green (1973)
Soylent Green is a must-watch movie about cannibalism, if only because it's so horrifyingly prescient.
The story focuses on Detective Robert Thorn, a man who's lucky enough to have basic housing, food, and water in New York City, 2022. Everyone else eats what the country provides: Soylent Yellow, Soylent Red, and the most recent (and most nutritious) Soylent Green.
However, when Thorn makes a startling discovery, he will have to survive long enough to make it known publicly before it's too late.
Part socio-political allegory, part sci-fi dystopia, part cannibal horror movie, Soylent Green is a film that defies categorization—although it definitely fits on this list here, right at number two.
1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper's classic horror film has been referred to by Quentin Tarantino as a "perfect movie." High praise and not hyperbole!
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is about a group of adolescents who find themselves in an inexplicably surreal hell. It's a chilling film that stems from the madness of a family left untreated, an insanity that festers and spreads indiscriminately.
The plot was partly inspired by real-life grave robber Ed Gein. The film is an absolute classic and damn near perfect. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is top of the best movies with cannibals ever made.