erin holding an axe in You're Next

Oh No! The Ranking Is Coming From Inside the House! Here are the 8 Best Home Invasion Movies of All Time

In horror, there’s no shortage of exploration of our fears. Something scare you? You’re likely to find a slew of movies digging in right where it scares you the most. But, I’ll say, home invasion is one of those subgenres that almost never fails to scare the shit out of me. Maybe because it’s such intimate horror. Home invasion films play into the real fear that many folks have—someone breaking into your safest space with the intent to harm you. And the trauma experienced, if you lived through such an ordeal, would be immense.

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In home invasion horror, we watch the characters scramble to survive, often in tight, claustrophobic spaces. And we see them grapple with the question, who would do this? Maybe they have no idea who is trying to hurt them. Maybe whoever is breaking in has a specific intention—someone who they wronged or (more terrifyingly) thought they trusted. Either way, as we watch our protagonists struggle to stay alive in their own home, it’s a whopping plate of suspense every time.

Over the years, we’ve gotten many solid home invasion movies. Some scarier than others. The following are some of my personal favorites. And I hope there are some on here that’ll scare the pants and shirts off you. I’m ranking the following films by how likely the home invasion is in real-life as, for me, that really ups the terror level. (By the way, I’m giving an honorary mention to Hush (2016)—though it didn’t make the main list.)

Don’t Breathe (2016)

rocky hiding in Don't Breathe
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

Don’t get me wrong—Don’t Breathe (2016) is pretty scary. Norman (Stephen Lang) is absolutely a machine and the atmosphere is so on point. Plus, even though Rocky (Jane Levy) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) broke in, thinking a blind man wouldn’t be their match, they don’t deserve what happens to them—this film has some really disturbing shit in it.

In terms of whether this is likely to happen, though, probably not. Our characters thinking that robbing a Gulf War veteran was wise was ridiculous, and presuming that just because someone is blind that they don’t know their own house was also foolish. And in order to avoid similar fates, ultimately, we just need to not break into any houses. Easy enough.

Inside (2007)

la femme and sarah staring at each other in Inside
(La Fabrique de Films)

Everyone always talks about Martyrs (2008) or High Tension (2003) when discussing the New French Extremity films. But I think folks are just plain forgetting about Inside (2007) or maybe most people just don’t know about it. This movie is absolutely bonkers and so fucking bloody. Not to mention scary as all get out when you take into consideration how vulnerable this pregnant woman is.

My only problem is how unrealistic it is that La Femme (Béatrice Dalle) could break in undetected, be that lethal for most of the movie, and somehow survive all the events. Seems like some of that would take her down. Of course, most of the films in New French Extremity depict a lot of ultraviolence and wacky situations. But considering this is how I’m ranking the movies—it’s landing low on the list for a reason. However, you should still watch this batshit, French horror gem.

It’s pretty disturbing, though, so be prepared.

Angst (1983)

k. the psychopath in Angst
(Les Films Jacques Leitienne)

I’ve written about this film before, and I still stand by what I said. But what I didn’t mention is how this home invasion is shaky. The villain is was way too chaotic for it to believable that he could fully pull this off—and it seems like the targeted daughter could escape at multiple points. It doesn’t diminish the performances and overall disturbing atmosphere. But I can’t rank it higher because it just doesn’t seem like this is the way people react in a home invasion—like it’s just set up for him to do his serial killer thing.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

julia on the phone in When a Stranger Calls Back
(Universal Television)

This sequel has an iconic opening, just like the original. Which happens to be just as scary because of the intruder. The classic legend of the babysitter and man upstairs haunts people to this day. And this sequel is no different in terms of the tenseness. Poor Julia (Jill Marie Schoelen), who is changed forever, is stuck dealing with a complete weirdo over the phone. Until he reveals that he’s inside the house.

It’s a terrifying premise. Realistically, however, even with their explanation of how the killer does his chameleon act, I’m not buying that she wouldn’t hear him break in or abduct the children. Nevertheless, this opening will make you bite your nails down. It may not be a full-blown home invasion, but the opening sequence constitutes anyways.

You’re Next (2011)

erin holding an axe in You're Next
(Lionsgate)

Call me silly, but this is going high up on the list because I love wild rich people killing each other off. And You’re Next is effective in how its home invasion plays out. The intruders are actually smart and know what they’re doing. These aren’t your average folks breaking in to kill for no reason. Maybe I’m biased because Erin (Sharni Vinson) is one of my favorite final girls, but this happens to be one of my favorite modern slashers. And sure, most of us probably aren’t bathing in enough wealth to be targeted like this, but still, the way the invasion goes down feels so feasible, it gives you chills.

The Strangers (2008)

james and kristen being scared in The Strangers
(Universal Pictures)

“Because you were home” has to be one of the eeriest lines ever uttered in a horror movie. The concept of people breaking into your vacation home, to terrorize you all night, just for that reason is…fucking scary. This movie feels like our protagonists do everything they can to survive, they’re smart! But they’re also isolated and outnumbered. The Strangers (2008) feels so realistic too because serial killers sometimes kill for the thrill. And these two just happened to be home during their roaming of the neighborhood. Plus, people wearing masks and terrorizing people is something that’s happened time and time again. We all know this!

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

jill scared on the phone in When a Stranger Calls Back
(Columbia Pictures)

The cult status of that opening alone is incredible—even if you’ve never watched a horror movie in your life, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “have you checked on the children?” It certainly lives rent-free in my head. And this movie has me all in.

Part of the terror in When a Stranger Calls comes with the communication limitations of the time period. With the phone being the only mode of communication, it doesn’t leave a lot of hope—especially with the line being held up by some threatening stranger. Carol Kane absolutely kills it as Jill, too, she displays just how afraid a person would be in that position.

Black Christmas (1974)

jess staring out the window in Black Christmas
(Ambassador Film Distributors and Warner Bros.)

It bears repeating that Black Christmas (1974) is iconic. This is literally one of those films every slasher fan needs to watch. Not only does the home invasion aspect feel very real and possible, it’s also scary because nobody believes these women. The police literally act like it’s an overreaction, and slowly, but surely everyone is picked off because the people who are supposed to believe and help them, refuse. Even more terrifying, this movie was actually inspired by murders that happened in Quebec. Not to mention in the same year, the Chi Omega house attack happened. Not a house I’d like to be in, I’ll tell you that.

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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Author
Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.