The 11 Best Found Footage Movies

Twenty years ago this summer, moviegoers everywhere were shaken to their core by a film about three film students who went into the woods with a couple of cameras and met a seemingly supernatural entity that wouldn’t let them leave. It was called The Blair Witch Project, and it proved to be a landmark film for horror cinema, indie cinema, and a particular filmmaking medium known as "found footage."

The idea behind found footage films is simple: Make a movie while acting like you’re not trying to make a movie. This all really happened, someone who was there filmed it, and then you just found the resulting video and cut it together. It’s a method that allows plenty of room for improvisation, often requires minimal budget, and can get a lot of mileage out of very few locations and characters. That makes it an attractive technique for many filmmakers, but it’s not as easy to pull off as it sounds. So, in tribute to The Blair Witch Project and its impact, here are the movies that got found footage right in the best way possible.

1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust is not a 100 percent "found footage" movie, but it didn’t have to be, because it paved the way for dozens, if not hundreds, of other films in the subgenre with its use of the found footage technique. The film is the story of an anthropologist who sets out to find a group of filmmakers who went missing while documenting indigenous tribes in South America, and discovers that only their film cans and their bones have survived.

The back half of the film is largely composed of this found footage, as the anthropologist reviews the cans of film and discovers the documentarians were often more savage than the tribes they set out to chronicle, as their bloodlust and exploitation reached fever pitch shortly before their deaths. The film is best known for the controversy it caused, including the rumor that several of the onscreen killings were real (Ruggero Deodato, the film's director, was forced to bring one of the actors into court with him—to prove he was alive), but it’s also a surprisingly complex look at appropriation, voyeurism, and our addiction to filmed spectacle.

2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Yes, The Blair Witch Project really does still work as a minimalist scarefest, but even if it didn’t it would still be held up as one of the most important works in the found footage subgenre. At a time when found footage wasn’t on the minds of moviegoers and the internet was still in its relative infancy, this film arrived like a dark gift and helped to shape what the looming 21st century would look like in terms of horror filmmaking. If you were paying attention to pop culture at the time, you probably remember the brilliant viral marketing campaign that made you believe, if only for a second, that this was a real lost film made by dead students. And even if the marketing didn’t get you, the children laughing in the dark did.

3. Cloverfield (2008)

Many found footage movies are, by their very nature, small scale affairs involving only a few characters and a story that can be told in a relatively confined way, which makes them great for low-budget filmmakers. If you’re producer J.J. Abrams, writer Drew Goddard, and director Matt Reeves, however, you look at the subgenre and you start to think about a kaiju movie. Cloverfield brilliantly combines the large-scale destruction of a giant monster ravaging a city with the intimate, immediate thrills of a found footage movie. Throw in some brilliant viral marketing and the idea that you’re watching a tape recovered by the government after a disaster, and you’ve got an addictive little movie that spawned a small franchise.

4. Chronicle (2012)

Given enough time, every film genre will be invaded in some way or another by found footage, because the method is just so adaptable. That meant superhero films would definitely get the treatment one day, and in 2012 we got it with Chronicle, Josh Trank’s tale of three friends whose lives change forever when they acquire superpowers. The film works right away because of course the first thing a certain kind of teenager would do if they got powers is film themselves goofing off. And as the plot picks up steam, the ways in which each young man deals with the fallout of their gifts propels it to compelling levels of intensity and fun.

5. [REC] (2007)

The best found footage films are often the ones that can make optimal use of a single location by establishing a sense of place and then just shredding your nerves as you watch the chosen location fall apart amid the terror. The Spanish film [REC], co-directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, is a masterclass in this technique, following a reporter and cameraman as they try to survive a night in a quarantined apartment building where everyone is slowly turning into a monster. The film just keeps finding ways to freak you out, from the silhouette of a motionless little girl at the end of a hallway to its iconic, absolutely terrifying final shot.

6. The Visit (2015)

In 2015, M. Night Shyamalan’s three most recent directorial credits were After Earth, The Last Airbender, and The Happening. The man who had once wowed Hollywood with The Sixth Sense needed another win, and he got one by stripping down his budget and his storytelling scope to create another intimate, taut, darkly funny thriller about two kids who go to stay with their grandparents and discover something awful. The found footage element of the story adds a sense of urgency to the detective work the kids have to do to figure out what’s going on, and the very idea of following the camera as it peers out of the kids’ room at night to see what the creepy people in the house are up to is enough to make you jump in your seat.

7. Creep (2015)

Creep is what happens when found footage horror meets a mumblecore hangout movie, as Mark Duplass (co-writer and star) and Patrick Brice (co-writer, director, and star) set out to tell a two-person story that will chill you to your core while also causing you to laugh at really odd times. The setup is simple: A creepy loner who lives in the woods hires a cameraman for the day under the pretense of making a video for his unborn. He has terminal brain cancer, you see, and wants to leave him some kind of remembrance. You can probably see where this is going just from the title of the film, but what you can’t see is how the film gets there. Creep packs a lot of scares, twists, and turns into its lean 77-minute runtime, and by the end it ensures you’ll be looking at that one guy you barely know who just has a “weird sense of humor” a little differently.

8. Trollhunter (2010)

Shows about weird guys who hang out in the woods and claim to hunt monsters have, like ghost hunting shows, become a staple of 21st-century cable television, and it was only a matter of time before someone decided to ask the question “What if that all turned out to be real?” Trollhunter, André Øvredal’s brilliant found footage fantasy film, does that with a sense of scale and wild fun that makes it an instantly watchable ride.

9. Paranormal Activity (2007)

Like The Blair Witch Project before it, Paranormal Activity came along at exactly the right time and injected new life into the found footage subgenre with a clever premise, a low budget, and a hook that kept driving people to the theaters. As ghost hunting shows began to spread all over basic cable, filmmaker Oren Peli had the idea to tell the story of a couple who wired up their own house with cameras in order to conduct a search for an evil presence in their home. It was a phenomenon that launched a franchise and dozens of ripoffs, and the scares still work pretty damn well.

10. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Ok, hear us out: Yes, Exit Through the Gift Shop is billed as a documentary, and is purportedly not a work of fiction. No one found this footage in the woods in the world of the story, so how can it be “found footage”? Because the legendary street artist Banksy found a movie in the midst of thousands of hours of random, often useless footage compiled by a Frenchman living in Los Angeles named Thierry Guetta (a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash), who became obsessed with street art and turned his constantly filming camera lens on it. Banksy didn’t set out to make this film, but as he became more intrigued by Thierry and his journey he turned to Guetta’s lifelong habit of compiling video of almost literally everything he did, and somewhere in there a truly great film emerged (the movie earned a Best Documentary Oscar nomination in 2011).

11. Unfriended (2014)

Unfriended is a film that unfolds almost entirely on a computer screen, as a group of friends slowly discover that the unknown user intruding on their evening chat might just be the ghost of a girl who was cyberbullied into suicide a year earlier and now wants to take her revenge. You’d think a film that unfolds through Skype chats and Facebook Messenger might drag a bit, but Unfriended actually has a healthy and horrific grasp of the way teens use these tools to construct their own compelling high school narratives, and it warps that understanding to its advantage. A film like this was bound to get made eventually, but Unfriended turns out to be more than another found footage gimmick.

Darth Vader’s Helmet and More Iconic Movie Props Are Hitting the Auction Block

Al Lampert, David Prowse, and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Al Lampert, David Prowse, and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Lucasfilm

Have you ever fantasized about owning Darth Vader’s helmet from The Empire Strikes Back, Dorothy's iconic dress from The Wizard of Oz, or James Bond's stolen Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever? Do you have a lot of money to spend? Then now is your chance to own a piece of Hollywood history. The Hollywood Reporter reports that on September 25 and 26, in Calabasas, California, Profiles in History will auction off more than 950 lots of entertainment memorabilia as part of The Icons and Legends of Hollywood sale.

The collection, which is valued at more than $10 million, includes legendary props and costumes from both classic and modern movies and TV shows including Citizen Kane, Ed Wood, Titanic, Dynasty, and Beverly Hills, 90210.

One of the most famous items for sale is Dorothy's screen-worn gingham pinafore dress from The Wizard of Oz. The dress—the only one that exists—was worn by Bobbie Koshay, Judy Garland's body double, and appears in the beginning of the movie (before Dorothy steps into the Technicolor Land of Oz). Profiles in History founder Joseph Maddalena estimates that the dress will sell for around $500,000.

Another big-ticket item on the auction block is the Sean Connery-driven Moon Buggy from the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever; the escape vehicle is also expected to sell for a cool $500,000. But its Star Wars obsessives who might be the most excited: The helmet Darth Vader actor David Prowse wore in The Empire Strikes Back, which Maddalena called “the holy grail of science fiction," is for up for grabs, too. "I said to one client, 'If you have that, you don’t have to have anything else,'" Maddalena told The Hollywood Reporter. "That’s your collection. There’s no up from there."

Titanic fans can put a bid on the outfits Jack and Rose were wearing when they first saw one another, each of which is expected to fetch north of $100,000. But wait, there are hundreds of more things for sale [PDF]: Tom Skerritt's Alien spacesuit; Charles Foster Kane’s coat from Citizen Kane; Luke Perry's "Dylan McKay" high school student ID from Beverly Hills, 90210; Blade’s 1968 Dodge Charger; Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter glasses from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; a promotional Marilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot thermometer; a Betty Draper cocktail shaker from Mad Men; and a Jesse Pinkman samurai T-shirt from Breaking Bad are just a few of the other items that can be yours. You can view the entire catalog here.

The 30 Highest-Grossing Actors in Hollywood

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Marvel Studios

Earlier this summer, Avengers: Endgame surpassed James Cameron's Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time worldwide. Which begs the question: Who are the highest-grossing actors? Of the A-listers with the highest box office grosses in America, 18 of them have been—and/or continue to be—part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But plenty of non-superhero stalwarts also made the cut.

The Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings franchises are also well-represented on this list, comprising a total of six spots ... with a little bit of crossover (Andy Serkis is in both franchises). But Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Woody Harrelson have all managed to do well outside comic book franchises. Unfortunately, the list is extremely male-dominated, with only three women landing in the top 30, but it's always changing. As of this moment, here are Hollywood's top-grossing actors.

1. Samuel L. Jackson

Box office total: $7,106,460,118 (totals are domestic grosses, not worldwide)

Biggest movie: The Avengers (2012)

Getting in on the ground floor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has paid off for Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s not the only major franchise that’s contributed to his top spot on this list: Star Wars, The Incredibles, and Jurassic Park helped secure his position, too. Not only is he the most bankable movie star ($13.3 billion worldwide), he’s also “the most influential actor of all time,” according to an algorithm-based study published in the journal Applied Network Science. Plus, Jackson has starred in more movies than anyone on the list—120 and counting.

2. Robert Downey Jr.

Box office total: $5,818,750,378

Biggest movie: The Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Downey Jr. has had one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history, going from indie actor to playing Iron Man in several Marvel films. He's also one of the highest paid actors on this list; Downey raked in $75 million for Avengers: Endgame alone.

3. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson and Danai Gurira in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Marvel Studios

Box office total: $5,244,119,075

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Four-time Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson is one of only two women to make it into one of the top 10 spots of this list. Like Jackson and Downey, her involvement in the MCU has helped her films gross billions of dollars worldwide. Next year she’ll headline a Black Widow film.

4. Harrison Ford

Box office total: $5,121,747,600

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Whereas the MCU folks are new to billion-dollar franchises, Harrison Ford has been acting in record-breaking films for decades, and in a variety of franchises: Blade Runner, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. However, The Force Awakens was the first time he starred in a film that grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.

5. Tom Hanks

Box office total: $5,038,685,542

Biggest movie: Toy Story 4 (2019)

Tom Hanks hasn’t starred in Star Wars or a superhero movie (unless you count Mr. Rogers as a superhero), yet he’s made Disney a lot of money by lending his voice to four Toy Story films, including this year’s Toy Story 4, which grossed $1 billion worldwide.

6. Bradley Cooper

Box office total: $4,803,758,514

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

It seems unlikely for Cooper to appear in the top 10, but voicing The Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon for the MCU; directing/acting/producing/composing A Star Is Born; and starring in the $300 million-grossing American Sniper increased the seven-time Oscar nominee's bankability.

7. Morgan Freeman

Box office total: $4,624,290,253

Biggest movie: The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight grossed a whooping $535 million domestically, making it the most profitable of the Christian Bale Batman series. Plus, Freeman has voiced God, which in itself is worthy.

8. Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle during the panel discussion at the FYC Red Carpet Event For Showtimes' "Black Monday" at Saban Media Center on May 14, 2019 in North Hollywood, California
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Box office total: $4,422,654,260

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Don Cheadle mostly benefits from being a part of the MCU, but he also starred in the lucrative Ocean’s franchise.

9. Andy Serkis

Box office total: $4,357,712,246

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Andy Serkis has been in some of the most successful movies of all time, including Black Panther, The Force Awakens, the rebooted Planet of the Apes films, and The Lord of Rings trilogy. Sometimes he appears in corporeal form, other times it’s only his voice and/or body movements that make it on to the screen. With appearances in four major franchises—and a hilarious role in 13 Going on 30—Serkis almost has Jackson beat.

10. Zoe Saldana

Box office total: $4,193,566,592

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Zoe Saldana benefits from being part of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek franchises, as well as Avatar, which used to be the highest-grossing film until Endgame unseated it.

11. Chris Pratt

Box office total: $4,145,406,026

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In 2014, Andy Dwyer/Star Lord broke out in a big way. Since starring in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt has made his bread and butter through the MCU, two Jurassic Worlds, and lending his voice to two LEGO movies.

12. Anthony Daniels

Box office total: $4,040,875,544

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Anthony Daniels owes his entire film career to playing C-3PO in every Star Wars movie, including 2017’s The Last Jedi and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker. Daniels has voiced C-3PO in The LEGO Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet, too.

13. Chris Evans

Box office total: $4,019,809,829

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Chris Evans, the second Chris on this list, is most famous for his role as Captain America—though playing the Human Torch in two Fantastic Four movies helped him secure a top spot on this list.

14. Chris Hemsworth


Disney/Marvel Studios

Box office total: $4,018,762,362

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth’s lucrative career has been been largely situated in the MCU.

15. Tom Cruise

Box office total: $3,997,627,920

Biggest movie: War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise has been a Hollywood A-lister since before some of the younger members of the MCU were even born. His movies range from the Mission: Impossible franchise to standalone hits like Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, The Firm, Rain Man, Top Gun, and War of the Worlds. It grossed $234,280,354—only $14 million more than 2018’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Next year, Cruise will try to move up the list with a Top Gun sequel.

16. Idris Elba

Box office total: $3,848,550,304

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

In addition to Idris Elba’s role in the MCU, he has increased his box office tally with hits like Hobbs and Shaw, and Star Trek Beyond as well as voice work in The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Zootopia.

17. Johnny Depp

Box office total: $3,846,802,966

Biggest movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Johnny Depp starred in all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies—including the $1 billion-worldwide grosser Dead Man’s Chest. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald have kept his star status afloat.

18. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy speaks onstage during the LA Tastemaker event for Comedians in Cars at The Paley Center for Media on July 17, 2019 in Beverly Hills City
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Box office total: $3,811,107,808

Biggest movie: Shrek 2 (2004)

Though Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a blockbuster his since voicing Donkey in 2010’s Shrek Forever After, he maintains a big box office draw from older fare like Beverly Hills Cop (1984); the Dr. Doolittle and The Nutty Professor movies; Dreamgirls (2006); and three more Shrek films. Next year’s Coming to America sequel should boost his box office totals, too.

19. Stanley Tucci

Box office total: $3,778,184,471

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Yes, Stanley Tucci had a tiny part in the MCU—he portrayed Abraham Erskine in Captain America: The First Avenger—but his most impressive box office grosses come from starring in a couple of Transformers movies, the live-action Beauty and the Beast, and The Hunger Games series, which has grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.

20. Mark Ruffalo

Box office total: $3,764,716,234

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Mark Ruffalo has earned three (and counting) Oscar nominations for smaller roles in The Kids Are All Right (2010), Foxcatcher (2014), and Spotlight (2015). But playing the Hulk has helped him smash the box office.

21. Ian McKellen

Box office total: $3,654,414,482

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Ian McKellen has been a franchise staple for nearly 20 years, beginning with 2000’s X-Men. A combination of X-Men films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy has made him one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. If that weren’t enough, two The Hobbit films, The Da Vinci Code, and 2017's Beauty and the Beast propelled him to big box office totals.

22. Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch of Marvel Studios' 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel in Hall H on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Box office total: $3,585,440,897

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit, voicing the titular character in 2018’s The Grinch, and playing Doctor Strange in the MCU have enabled Benedict Cumberbatch to make a dent in the worldwide box office.

23. Dwayne Johnson

Box office total: $3,564,845,910

Biggest movie: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

The Rock’s roles in the Fast and the Furious series—including 2019’s spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw—broke some box office records, but his parts in Jumanji (it almost grossed $1 billion worldwide) and voicing Maui in Moana have also contributed a lot of money to his worldwide box office total. In December, he’ll star in a Jumanji sequel—Jumanji: The Next Level.

24. Will Smith

Box office total: $3,559,520,435

Biggest movie: Aladdin (2019)

With early successes like Independence Day, the Bad Boys franchise (another is on the way), and three Men in Black movies, Will Smith became one of the biggest stars in the world. Though he’s been a movie star for more than 25 years, this year’s live-action Aladdin is his biggest hit to date.

25. Jeremy Renner

Box office total: $3,547,806,066

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Jeremy Renner has the MCU, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and American Hustle to thank for his place on this list. The Hurt Locker, which is one of his most acclaimed movies, is also one of his lowest-grossing films.

26. Josh Brolin

Box office total: $3,528,495,148

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In the past couple of years, veteran actor Josh Brolin has experienced a late-career resurgence. Not only did he play Thanos in three Avengers films, but he also appeared in Deadpool 2. In 2018 alone, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War grossed almost $3 billion total worldwide. Not a bad year.

27. Cate Blanchett

Actress Cate Blanchett attends The Austin Film Society and Australian International Screen Forum "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" private dinner at Lincoln Ristorante on August 11, 2019 in New York City
Lars Niki/Getty Images for Austin Film Society

Box office total: $3,497,073,561

Biggest movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

In the early aughts, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett proved that she could be a valuable franchise asset with her role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2017, she entered the MCU with Thor: Raganok. She made smart money choices with The Hobbit movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cinderella, and Ocean’s 8.

28. Vin Diesel

Box office total: $3,493,342,043

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Vin Diesel voiced Guardians of the Galaxy's Groot in the MCU, though the animated character barely had any dialogue except to say “I am Groot.” But his starring role in seven Fast and the Furious movies is what made his stardom balloon. More Fast and the Furious films are planned, and Diesel has a part in the upcoming Avatar sequels, too.

29. Woody Harrelson

Box office total: $3,479,339,743

Biggest movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

In 2012, Woody Harrelson starred in the first of four Hunger Games films. Their high grosses, especially 2013’s Catching Fire, solidified his place as a fantastic character actor who could also carry a major franchise. In 2018, he continued his blockbuster streak and starred in Star Wars spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Venom.

30. Anthony Mackie

Box office total: $3,451,128,814

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Anthony Mackie has the MCU to thank for his place on the 30th spot on this list.

Box office totals courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

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