Top 15 Found Footage Films: (Ch)Op-Ed #18

Found footage is a genre that caught fire in the late 90s with Blair Witch, having numerous ups and downs, perhaps peaking with the Paranormal Activity franchise. With so many sequels, each with diminishing returns, the format began to die off. Now and then, a film will pop up and make us re-think whether the genre is dead or not, only for it to fall back into the darkness.  

Found footage works best in horror, but other films can utilize it as well. Examples include District 9 (Sci-Fi), Cloverfield (Gaiju), Troll Hunter (Horror), Chronicle (Superhero), Project X (Teen Comedy), End of Watch (Action), A Haunted House (Spoof), and so many more, spanning every genre imaginable, with dozens more being made every year. They can be made incredibly cheap, so it will never officially die out. Do you enjoy this genre? What is your favorite? What follows are the best of the best, my top 15 found footage horror films of all time. Feel free to discuss.

15. Diary of the Dead (2008)


“A group of young film students run into real-life zombies while filming a horror movie of their own.” 

IMDb: 5.5 

Rotten Tomatoes: 61% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 2M vs. 5.3M 

Romero’s Zombie franchise had begun to lose its luster by the time the fifth film in his Dead franchise came out. It was released on home video in May of 2008, against The Zombie Diaries, a similar British found footage zombie film released in America on DVD in November 2008. It’s debatable which one is better, with many ideas, as well as execution, handled very comparatively. For my money, I’ll take Diary, just for the Romero connection.

14. Dashcam (2021)


Two friends embark on a horror-fueled road trip and livestream the most terrifying night of their lives.” 

IMDb: 4.6 

Rotten Tomatoes: 48% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 100K vs. 70K 

Filmed on an iPhone, this film can be a little hard on the eyes, but the scares are pretty incredible. The unlikeable lead character hampers the film but considering it’s his second film on this list (Host), he must be doing something right. 

13. Grave Encounters (2011-2012)


“For their ghost hunting reality show, a production crew locks themselves inside an abandoned mental hospital that’s supposedly haunted – and it might prove to be all too true.” 

IMDb: 6.1 

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 120K vs. 5.4M 

With some pretty good scares, this is one of the better films to use the “ghost hunter” film trope. As is the case in these films, the host is a sham and must face the real deal. The sequel is also worth watching, but not anywhere near as original or scary as the first one. Who hasn’t wanted to explore an abandoned insane asylum?

12. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)


“During a rescue mission into the Amazon rain forest, a professor stumbles across lost film shot by a missing documentary crew.” 

IMDb: 5.8

Rotten Tomatoes:  67%

Budget vs. Box Office:  10ok vs. 200k

Let’s face it. Blair Witch ripped this one off. People disappear and their cameras are found some time later. This is what happened. Sound familiar? There really are only two cannibal films of merit in the history of cinema, the other being Cannibal Ferox, but due to the found footage innovation of this one, I tend to like Holocaust a bit more. It’s gross. It’s nasty. It’s vile. It’s mean-spirited. It’s worth watching. 

11. As Above, So Below (2014)


“When a team of explorers venture into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead.” 

IMDb: 6.2 

Rotten Tomatoes: 28% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 5M vs. 41.9M 

A pretty scary trip down into the catacombs of France, there are plenty of tight spaces and scares to truly leave you with a sense of dread. It tends to stray from an incredibly scary premise and end a little uneven, but overall, it’s a solid entry into the genre.

10. Creep (2014-2017)


A young videographer answers an online ad for a one-day job in a remote town to record the last messages of a dying man. When he notices the man’s odd behavior, he starts to question his intentions.” 

IMDb: 6.3 

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% 

Budget vs. Box Office: reportedly 5K vs. NA 

That ending! That bad guy! It has an equally great sequel, but the less said about this disturbing the film, the better it is to not spoil it for you. Just go see it.

9. V/H/S (2012-Current)


“When a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.” 

IMDb: 5.8 

Rotten Tomatoes: 56% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 242K vs. 1.9M 

If you could take the best segments from each of the entries and combine them, you would have one hell of an anthology. But due to the nature of these films, there are weak stories and strong ones. In the case of the original, the first (“Amateur Night,” made into the 2016 film, Siren) and final (“10/31/98”) segment are strong, and the wraparound is the best in the series, but there are segments in further sequels that I prefer. But the original is a classic. And overall, I feel it’s the strongest.

8. The Last Exorcism (2010-2013)


“A troubled evangelical minister agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew.” 

IMDb: 5.7 

Rotten Tomatoes: 72% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 1.8M vs. 67.7M 

I love this film. Per the usual setup, we have a priest who is a scam artist who meets his match with a presumable real possessed girl. This scam facing the truth plot device is so common in these films, and here it works tenfold. Some truly terrifying scenes and setups and a phenomenal ending put this film not only towards the top of THIS list, but it also belongs in the top 5 of possession/exorcism films. Skip the sequel.

7. Deadstream (2022)


“A disgraced internet personality attempts to win back his followers by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. But when he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life.” 

IMDb: 6.1 

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% 

Budget vs. Box Office: N/A vs. N/A 

What a surprise this film was for me. It has an obnoxious lead character, for sure, but I still was thoroughly frightened in several spots of the film. It can be a bit goofy, but I loved it. It’s hard to see it be so low on this list, but there are some great ones ahead.

6. The Visit (2015)


“Two siblings become increasingly frightened by their grandparents’ disturbing behavior while visiting them on vacation.”

IMDb: 6.2

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

Budget vs. Box Office: 5M vs. 98.5M

Night Shymalan is a guilty pleasure of mine. Dude swings for the fences on every film, and he hits some massive homeruns (Sixth Sense, Knock at the Cabin, Signs) but strikes out a lot, as well (The Happening, Lady in the Water, After Earth). This movie is his only foray into found footage, and I think he nails it. The lead characters are kids, which adds to the scares. Their naivete is one of the reasons it gets so scary, and per the usual, the twist ending is fantastic. There are a few unintentionally funny moments, but there are so many other ones that more than make up for it.

5. Host (2020)


“Six friends hire a medium to hold a seance via Zoom during lockdown, but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong.” 

IMDb: 6.5 

Rotten Tomatoes: 99% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 100K vs. 443K 

This was the perfect COVID era horror film. While we were all working on Zoom calls, this film showed us how scary things can get on such a call. Truly frightening, this is a shade under an hour, clocking in at a mere 56 minutes. A personal favorite. Rob Savage would helm Dashcam next and parlay these two films’ success into directing Stephen King’s The Boogeyman.

4. REC (2007-2014)


“A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.”

IMDb: 7.4

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Budget vs. Box Office: 2M vs. 32.5M

The first and second entry of this Spanish film series are the best, with both of them going neck and neck for supremacy. However, the introduction of religion into the second one takes me out a bit. I don’t know if it’s necessary. The American remake Quarantine is decent enough, but the scares and breakneck pace of the film, as well as its relentless nature just bombard you for the full runtime of the film. 

3. Hell House, LLC (2015-2023)



“Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.” 

IMDb: 6.4 

Rotten Tomatoes: 75% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 25K vs. “8 figures” 

Each of the films in this series is excellent, but the first is the one that introduced us to the terrifying clowns, as well as that hideously scary basement. The dread that continues to permeate the film keeps you on the edge of your seat, and constantly checking the background for scary images of potential danger. 

2. The Blair Witch Project (1999-2016)


“Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.” 

IMDb: 6.5 

Rotten Tomatoes: 86% 

Budget vs. Box Office: Between 200K and 750K vs. 248.6M 

Not the FIRST found footage film, but perhaps the first mainstream one, and the most important one in the genre. Made pre-internet craze, the hysteria surrounding the release of this film sent fans into a tizzy, afraid that this was a real snuff film. It can’t be done again, so this is a mere time capsule of a time gone by. Truth be told, it’s not as scary as it was 20 years ago. The quality of the shaky cam is also questionable when compared to today’s standards, but it’s still worth a watch, if for no other reason than enjoying film history.

1. Paranormal Activity (2007-2021)


“After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.” 

IMDb: 6.3 

Rotten Tomatoes: 83% 

Budget vs. Box Office: 15K vs. 194M 

This one still scares me, despite the repeated viewings. The lead character, Micah, is an ass. Katie is a bit whiny. But damn, they catch hell in this film. Micah continues to antagonize this demon to the point that you just know this thing is gonna get him. The intensity continues to build until the ending, which is a bit of a letdown, considering how much I hate that dumbass digital mouth open ghost jump scare that is overused in not only this film, but Grave Encounters as well. It re-ignited interest in the genre, which was mostly dead since Blair Witch, some 8 years prior. The sequels are hit or miss, but the original is amazing. 


How does my list stack up against your list? Do you even like found footage?  

About RetRo(n) 60 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.