Don’t be too stunned if you don’t spot your favorite home invasion tale on this list. There are a wealth of these sub-genre films, and given the 15-pick cap I’ve placed on this article, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to tell you we may miss one of your personal home invasion favorites. But we’re trying!
We believe that the following 15 films all serve as diverse and paralyzing home invasion features. Don’t expect every pick to focus on a story that sees a masked madman lurking about a house. No, we’re highlighting a few films that essentially operate under the same core concept, though a number have been wrapped in intricate and atypical packages that don’t necessarily scream HOME INVASION!
Cape Fear (1991)
Why We Love It: Not only does Martin Scorsese’s remake outshine its predecessor, it also features one of the most terrifying bad guys to ever grace the screen in Max Cady, played by the brilliant Robert De Niro.
Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte)is a small-town corporate attorney/”Leave It to Beaver” type family-man. Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender assigned to Max Cady’s rape trial, and he made a serious error: he hid a document from his illiterate client that could have gotten him acquitted. Now, the cagey, bibliophile Cady has been released, and he intends to teach Sam Bowden and his family a thing or two about loss.
Why We Love It: This isn’t your typical home invasion film simply because the psychopathic Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) is actually welcomed with warm smiles. Shortly thereafter the mask cracks and we witness the explosion of one truly insane individual.
A family-values man named Jerry Blake marries widows and divorcées with children in search of the perfect family. As soon as his new family members show signs of being human and not robots who will march unquestioningly to his tune, his dreams of domestic bliss begin to crumble, and he kills them. Then he alters his appearance, assumes a new identity, and skips to another town to begin the deadly ritual all over again. He marries Susan Maine, who sees him as the ideal surrogate father for her teenage daughter Stephanie, and he is soon up to his old tricks when she proves to be too much of a troublesome teen to handle.
Why We Love It: Michael Keaton’s got that chameleon quality about him in the sense that he can play any role, good or bad. In this case he steals the show as the deranged Carter Hayes.
A yuppie couple buy a large house in an exclusive San Fransisco neighborhood. They renovate it and plan to rent two apartments on the first floor to cover the costs. A prosperous looking man moves in but is not the ideal tenant. He never pays any rent, drives the other tenants away and systematically ruins the lives of his landlords.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Why We Love It: Because still to this day, this film reminds us that it’s absolutely mandatory to not only look into the background of a potential nanny, but to spend countless hours digging up any hint of suspect behavior. The last thing any young parent wants to deal with is a Peyton Flanders.
Peyton Flanders seemed to be the perfect nanny, but secretly she was out to wreck the lives of the family she was supposed to be helping. Before becoming the nanny, Peyton had a miscarriage, and blamed it on Claire (the mother). Claire suspects nothing, having never met Peyton before.
Why We Love It: It’s hilarious, features an awesome setting and hits us with a plethora of surprises as the flick wears on. A masterful home invasion flick, right here!
Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. Her punishment is made all the more unbearable by the fact she has to live there with her mother Miriam – a well-intentioned blabbermouth who’s convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie dismisses Miriam’s superstitions as nothing more than a distraction from a life occupied by boiled vegetables & small-town gossip. However, when she too becomes privy to unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, she begins to wonder whether she’s inherited her overactive imagination, or if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who’s less than happy about the new living arrangement.
Why We Love It: It’s obvious we don’t love this one because of the horrifying real-life history surrounding the film. Nope, we love it because it’s ridiculously creepy, sports the scariest clowns you’ll find this side of Pennywise and acted as one the very first home invasion pictures that could be deemed genuinely frightening.
Just before Halloween, three kid brothers who are alone in a big house are menaced by three escaped mental patients who have murdered some traveling circus clowns and taken their identities.
Why We Love It: Although this one isn’t a horror film, it’s loaded with all the makings of a horror film. The tension is insane and viewers are able to actually feel a sliver of the terror that Meg Altman is forced to experience.
Recently divorced Meg Altman and her daughter Sarah have bought a new home in New York. On their tour around the mansion, they come across the panic room. A room so secure, that no one can get in. When three burglars break in, Meg makes a move to the panic room. But all her troubles don’t stop there. The criminals know where she is, and what they require the most in the house is in that very room.
Straw Dogs (1971)
Why We Love It: Because it’s always a blast to see the nerdy weakling topple imposing forces. It isn’t often that the bullied becomes the bully, but to an extent, that’s exactly what we see from Straw Dogs.
Upon moving to Britain to get away from American violence, astrophysicist David Sumner and his wife Amy are bullied and taken advantage of by the locals hired to do construction. When David finally takes a stand it escalates quickly into a bloody battle as the locals assault his house.
Why We Love It: This is no doubt the most disturbing film on this list. It’s ultra-violent and astoundingly taboo. One viewing and you’ll never forget Inside, guaranteed!
Four months before Christmas, Sarah and Matthieu Scarangelo were in a car crash, of which Sarah and her unborn baby were the only survivors. On Christmas Eve, Sarah stays home alone, where she grieves her husband and prepares to go to the hospital the next morning for the delivery. As night falls, a woman knocks on Sarah’s door asking to use the phone. When she refuses, the woman reveals that she knows Sarah and tries to force her way in. Sarah calls the police; they inspect the home and determine the woman has left, but promise to keep watch over Sarah through the night. The woman returns and tries to take Sarah’s unborn child, but Sarah locks herself in the bathroom. The strange woman torments Sarah through the night and kills all who try help her.
Black Christmas (1974)
Why We Love It: Although John Carpenter is recognized as the man who created the slasher, Bob Clark clearly did it first. Not only that, but he managed to blend a slasher story with a stunning home invasion element. The pic is brilliant.
It’s time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don’t express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?
Them AKA Ils
Why We Love It: Them is one of those rarities that leaves you sitting in stunned silence after the credits begin to roll. The pointless brutality of it all is something to behold, and the performances are absolutely mystifying.
Clémentine, a teacher in a French School in Bucharest, lives with her husband, Lucas, in a remote real estate in Snagow. During the night, Clémentine is woken by weird noises outside their house, and Lucas sees their car being stolen. The lights are turned off, the phones are disconnected and they see that they are no longer alone. When weird lights appear outside, they hide in the cellar and try to ask for help from what could be a dreadful night of pure terror.
Funny Games (1997)
Why We Love It: Anytime a fresh-faced kid with an upbeat attitude flips the switch and turns into a snotty terror determined to tear apart a family, you know you’re on to something special. There are also some technical maneuvers employed by director Michael Haneke that are genuinely impressive.
Two seemingly well-educated young men, who call each other Paul and Peter among other names, approach a family on vacation. They are, apparently, friends of the neighbors, and, at the beginning, their true intentions are not known, but soon, the family is imprisoned and tortured in its own house violently, which the viewers are forced mostly to imagine and to share a certain complicity with the criminals. It might be some kind of game with the lives of husband, wife, son, and dog, but why are they doing it?
Why We Love It: Because it’s the first real commercial home invasion film to frighten the socks off of viewers. For such basic execution, it’s absolutely magnetic and very, very successful.
After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.
Why We Love It: It does some really unique things, but the most unique aspect has to be the fact that the picture’s protagonist is deaf, and that opens all sorts of vile actions the pic’s antagonist can uncork.
A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.
Why We Love It: This intense home invasion movie is just flat out insane. You never know who is going to die, or how. There’s an internal mystery, and you likely won’t catch it until the film’s final act. And, come on, Ti West catches an arrow to the face. How cool is that?!
Aubrey and Paul Davison welcome his family for a reunion in their isolated vacation house. Their sons Crispian comes with his girlfriend Erin; Felix with his girlfriend Zee; Drake with his wife Kelly; and their daughter Aimee comes with her boyfriend Tariq. When they are ready to have dinner, they are attacked by a stranger with a crossbow, and Drake is wounded by an arrow and Tariq dies. They discover that their cell phones are jammed and they are trapped in the house. Erin tries to protect the house, closing doors and windows, but the masked killers murder the members of the family. Are the killers lunatic? What is the motive for slaughtering the Davison family?
Got any favorite home invasion films we may have missed? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comment section!