There is a certain charm to found footage films or “mockumentaries” that makes them a huge hit with certain movie buffs. Sure, the market for such movies is a bit niche, but every once in a while, there is a movie that breaks the glass ceiling and becomes a mainstream hit. The Blair Witch Project (1999) is the revolutionary entry that propelled the sub-genre into the mainstream audience’s attention.
While not the industry’s first “found footage” film, The Blair Witch Project became an absolute smash success thanks to its innovative marketing. Thus, planting seeds of doubt into the audience’s minds, some were so drawn into it, believing that the film was real. Such is the power of a well-directed, well-acted, and well-marketed faux documentary film.
Have you just finished The Blair Witch Project and are in the mood for some more outstanding “found footage” films? Then, you have come to the right place! Check out the list below of the best mockumentary movies of all time.
Best Found Footage Movies
1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Let us hit the ground running with what is considered the first “found footage” film, Cannibal Holocaust. If you have been around film buff circles, the chances are that you are already aware of this infamous film. This gory and brutal movie is currently banned in 50 countries. That pretty much gives you an idea of its reputation.
In fact, the movie is so authentic in its depiction of violence that the director Ruggero Deodato was called to court to prove that he didn’t actually kill one of the actresses. Furthermore, the entire jungle scenes were also shot in the Amazon rainforest.
Cannibal Holocaust is a game-changer in the genre, and without it, we might not even have a Blair Witch Project. Fair warning, though, that this movie is not for everyone. Besides the realistic depiction of violence and sexual assault, the film also has scenes of actual animals being butchered.
Duration: 1 h 35 min
2. Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield is probably the second “found footage” film that somewhat generated an almost similar hype to Blair Witch Project. But, again, the fantastic guerrilla-style marketing of this film helped create a lot of buzz around it, which translated into box office success. Cloverfield was the first movie of 2008 to surpass the $100 million in sales, and it ended its worldwide release with $170 million in its pocket.
This was also the film that propelled Matt Reeves as one of the more bankable directors in Hollywood. Reeves directed 2022’s box-office and critical success The Batman. The film also has a still fresh-faced T.J. Miller as Hud, the one holding the camera for most of the movie. The entire movie is set in a besieged New York City, and there is undoubtedly something eerie about seeing the Big Apple as a war zone.
Cloverfield has expanded into a franchise, but the following installments pretty much dropped the “found footage” formula of the first.
Duration: 1 h 25 min
3. Chronicle (2012)
Let us switch things up a bit here regarding the type of genres that can perfectly utilize the “found footage” style, shall we? While that type of style may sound like a perfect fit for horror, it can be incorporated into others. Specifically, the superhero genre, which the movie Chronicle has proven.
Chronicle has a pretty stellar cast with up-and-comers like Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan rounding off the main cast. The movie is about outcast teenager Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) who, along with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan), discovers a meteorite that gives them telekinetic powers.
Andrew shows the most potential with their newfound powers but becomes more unhinged due to his frustrations and the stress of caring for his ailing mother. Matt and Steve try to control a slowly mentally deteriorating Andrew, but can they stop their friend when push comes to shove?
Chronicle is a pretty cool movie if you are looking for a fresh change of pace from the market’s typical “found footage” films. The movie also takes huge inspirations and themes from the classic anime film Akira, another must-watch film for genre fans.
Duration: 1 h 24 min
4. The Visit (2015)
The Visit is a horror movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan and is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing entries on this list. However, the film has a pretty solid performance from all of the cast and a story that is one of the most nightmarishly riveting put onto celluloid.
This is a Shyamalan movie, so the less known about the plot, the better. The film centers around siblings Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), who goes to visit their grandparents. While the first couple of days were pretty typical, the siblings noticed something off with their grandparents. As the days go on, the grandparents start acting more and more erratic, and the brother and sister are in for a horrific and shocking revelation.
The grandparents are played perfectly by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie as they switch between menacing and sympathetic at the drop of a hat. It is also worth noting the hauntingly heart-wrenching monologue at the end. The Visit is one of those rare gems in the genre that tend to be overlooked, but make no mistake – this is a must-watch entry into the “found footage” library.
Duration: 1 h 34 min
5. Creep (2017)
One of the most underrated movies on this list is the 2014 psychological thriller, Creep. The film stars Patrick Brice (who is also the co-writer and director) and Mark Duplass (also the co-writer). The story revolves around Aaron, a videographer who gets hired by a somewhat eccentric client, Josef, played by Mark Duplass.
Josef states that he is terminally ill and would want to film a series of video messages for his unborn child. While the first couple of messages shot were quite unassuming, each video message gets darker and creepier afterward.
This “found footage” film hits all the unnerving chords, and the tension steadily builds up to an ear-shattering crescendo. Fun fact: the film was intended to be a black comedy of sorts, and all the lines in the film were improvised. After showing the footage to their friends, Brice and Duplass decided to shift the tone into a psychological horror instead, and what a compelling horror movie this was.
The movie also has an equally creepy and frightening sequel released in 2017. Both films are available on streaming platforms such as Netflix.
Duration: 1 h 17 min
6. Banshee Chapter (2013)
The Banshee Chapter is one of those hidden gems in the “found footage” genre. The film caters to the Lovecraftian cosmic horror side of things, so if you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, you are guaranteed to enjoy this movie.
The film stars Katia Winter, who plays reporter Anne Roland, searching for her missing friend, James (Michael McMillian), another reporter investigating the mysterious Project MKUltra. To those unaware, Project MKUltra is the code for an actual illegal human experimentation project conducted by the CIA on American citizens.
The trail of clues will lead Anna to an eccentric counter-culture writer Thomas Blackburn, who is impeccably played by Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill himself, Ted Levine. Levin brings a layer of unpredictability to the unbalanced Blackburn.
Together, both Anna and Blackburn will try to uncover the mysteries behind MKUltra and hopefully find her missing friend.
Duration: 1 h 27 min
7. Host (2020)
This horror movie about a Zoom group video call from hell landed right at the right time, which was during the period when everyone needed to stay indoors due to the pandemic. So the audiences got a highly personal horror experience that touched the right nerves to send chills down their spines.
Host is primarily presented in a video conference format and centers around a group of friends who hire a medium to do a séance online. But, as you would have guessed, things do not go entirely as planned as something sinister answered the call from the other side.
The format of video calls gives the movie an extremely claustrophobic vibe. Along with the characters’ invisible threat and their current solitary predicament, Host preys on the primal fears of isolation and the unknown.
8. Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo mainly falls in with mockumentary-style category than found footage, but this film is so well-crafted and paced that it is criminal not to include it in this list. The movie is also not technically scary in the traditional movie horror tropes, but its handling of real-life issues such as grief and mortality gives the film a taut edge.
Lake Mungo is a mockumentary or faux documentary that follows the lives of the Palmer family as they learn to come to grips with the loss of their daughter, Alice. Alice tragically died in a drowning accident, and as the film goes on, we learn that she already has premonitions of her impending death.
The acting from all cast members is riveting, and you will learn to feel and care for each of them. Lake Mungo is a bittersweet film that shows how people tend to cope with the loss of a loved one and, except for one particularly effective jump scare, is a compelling slow burn of a flick.
Duration: 1 h 27 min
9. The Borderlands (2013)
Also known as Final Prayer in the United States, The Borderlands is a British “found footage” horror movie that also scratches that Lovecraftian horror itch. The film centers around three investigators sent by the Vatican to verify the supernatural events surrounding a newly re-opened 13th-century church in the borderlands of South West England.
As their investigations slowly unravel the sinister history of the church, the three men’s faith will be tested. While the plot of The Borderlands may sound pretty typical in the genre, it is by far from being predictable. The harrowing revelation at the climax is worth the price of admission and the movie sets it up perfectly so that it will undoubtedly catch audiences unaware.
Duration: 1 h 29 min
10. The Medium (2021)
The Medium is a mockumentary-style horror film from two of Asia’s best horror minds. The film focuses on Thailand’s shamanism tradition and the supernatural, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter) and written by Na Hong-jin (The Wailing).
A Thai documentary crew visits the Northeast province of Isan, Thailand, where they follow a local shaman, Nim, and her daily life in the small quaint town. However, things take a dark turn when Nim is requested to treat Mink, who is said to be possessed by multiple evil spirits.
As Mink’s condition worsens, Nim’s faith is tested as she scrambles in a race against time to save the young woman. But unfortunately, Nim also starts to suspect a far direr and insidious force is at work behind these horrifying events. A force that she fears even she cannot overcome.
The Medium was a massive hit in Southeast Asia and is currently the highest-grossing horror film in South Korea. Also, the outstanding performance from the main cast is worth mentioning as you genuinely start to care and fear for the safety of the characters.
Duration: 2 h 10 min