There are many horror sub-genres, such as supernatural, slasher flick, psychological horror, zombie horror, and so on. One of the most chilling of the horror sub-genres is, however, the home invasion thriller. It is one of the most frightening as it is based in reality. It’s hard to imagine anything more terrifying than the violation of our most rudimentary sanctuary. The basic principles of a home invasion thriller are simple: a person breaks into someone’s home without their consent and often with malicious intent. The home then sets the scene for an intense battle of survival and outwitting of the intruders. The motive of home invasion thrillers can run the gamut from revenge, obsession, robbery, or even the most disturbing of all, random acts of violence with no motive whatsoever.
If you like the thrill of an intense, adrenaline-pumping, game of cat and mouse, then you are in luck. Lock all the windows and doors and turn on all the lights because we have compiled a list of the best home invasion movies of all time.
Fear stars Mark Wahlberg as David McCall in one of his first feature films. David becomes obsessed with his girlfriend Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) despite her father’s (William Petersen) disapproval. David’s obsession grows until he eventually brings a group of delinquents to break into Nicole’s home and eliminate her father as an obstacle in their relationship. The gripping home invasion scene keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat until the final credits roll. According to a 1996 episode of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies, Roger Ebert claimed the movie “generates genuine psychological interest, with an effective and suspenseful portrait of a family under siege.” Universal Pictures plans to reboot the 1996 movie with original producer Brian Grazer.
9 The Strangers
The Strangers stars Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler as a young couple who fall victim to a trio of deranged masked assailants who terrorize them in their vacation home. Brian Bertino, the writer and director, states the film’s premise was inspired by two real-life crimes: string of break-ins from his childhood, and the gruesome Manson Family murders. The film is terrifying because there is no apparent motive for the crimes. During the tense final scenes of the movie, Kristen (Tyler) asks the masked killers why they are targeting them. The response, simply: “Because you were home.” The Strangers also spawned a sequel titled Strangers Prey at Night starring Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson.
8 The Last House on the Left
The Last House on the Left is a remake of the 1972 Wes Craven film of the same name. It features a family vacationing at their lake house. When their teenage daughter Mari goes out with a friend for the evening, things take a terrifying turn. The girls cross paths with a group of sadistic criminals and end up fighting for their lives. Mari eventually escapes and finds her way home, but not before the criminals themselves end up on her doorstep. Seeking refuge from the severe weather the group unwittingly descends upon the family home and are taken in. Shortly thereafter Mari is discovered by her parents (Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn), and it doesn’t take them long to find out that their unexpected house guests are responsible for harming their daughter. The evening turns into a blood bath as the couple fights for survival while simultaneously seeking vengeance for Mari.
As if a home invasion isn’t scary enough, in Hush the protagonist Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a deaf-mute who is being stalked in her home by a masked killer with a crossbow. The killer toys with Maddie, by sending her pictures of herself. When Katie realizes she is being stalked, she tries to contact the police, but her assailant cuts the power and slashes her tires. Hush does an excellent job of emulating Maddie’s experience as a deaf person, which makes the film even more creepy. According to Indiewire, Siegel did extensive research into the portrayal of a deaf person in preparation for her role, however, the film was still met with criticism from the deaf community including deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of A Quiet Place.
6 The Hand that Rocks the Cradle
When a successful obstetrician commits suicide after accusations of sexual assault, his wife (Rebecca De Mornay) takes revenge on the first victim to have come forward, Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra). Mrs. Mott miscarries upon hearing the news of her husband’s suicide and blames Bartel for losing her baby. She subsequently poses as nanny “Peyton Flanders” and attempts to move in on Claire’s family. In the suspenseful climax, Peyton breaks into the home intending to kill Claire and take her place as the matriarch of her family.
5 Panic Room
Panic Room recounts the tale of a recently divorced mother (Jodie Foster) and daughter (Kristen Stewart) settling into their new home, which is soon invaded by a group of thieves. Mom and daughter take refuge in the panic room. Little do they know, the prize the thieves seek is contained within the same room. The stakes are raised when the group of burglars attempt to break into the panic room harbouring the mother and daughter.
In Jordan Peele’s Us, protagonist Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) revisits her childhood home with her husband and children. She soon begins to have a strange feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Her fears soon materialize when four masked strangers break into the beach home and force the family into survival mode. The plot thickens, when the intruders remove their masks and they each resemble one of the four family members. Like Peele’s horror debut Get Out, Us uses political and social metaphors as the backbone for his film.
3 Cape Fear (1991)
Cape Fear is a remake of the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. It tells the tale of disgruntled ex-convict Max Cady (Robert De Niro) seeking revenge on his lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), who he suspects betrayed him. He begins stalking Bowden’s family and even breaks into their home. When the family retreat to their houseboat for safety, Cady soon follows and intends to reign hell upon the family.
2 Funny Games
Funny Games is an Austrian psychological thriller about a pair of young men who entertain themselves by torturing a family through sadistic “games”. It is incredibly violent and disturbing. In 2007 an English version of the film was made shot for shot, starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt who give amazing performances. Audiences seem to be divided on which version they prefer but you can’t go wrong with either.
1 Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn earned an academy award nomination for her performance in the 1967 home invasion thriller Wait Until Dark. Hepburn plays Susy Hendrix a blind woman whose husband mistakenly intercepts a doll full of heroin. Three men later come for the doll after Sam Hendrix has left for work. The ruthless criminals use Susy’s blindness against her to terrorize her while in pursuit of the drugs. Once Susy realizes she is in danger she tries to level the playing field by destroying all the lights in the home.
An upcoming limited series about the making of The Godfather will arrive on Paramount+ in April.
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