The previous decade of film history is rife with found footage films. Because for some reason, a first-person mockumentary of something is a more effective way to immerse your viewers. What made found footage so popular in the first place is also what made it become unpopular again, and that is the oversaturation of the format. By now, the found footage format has already been done to death. It mostly resulted in crappy horror movies. However, there are some diamonds in the rough, and we have compiled the best of found footage movies for you.
These are not your usual low-budget student or indie found footage movies made with wmv mp4 convertor (except maybe for one masterpiece). Now, while those can also be quite fruitful, more often than not, they do not hold a candle to directors who know how to utilize the genre to its full effect.
Keep in mind that some films in this list might be better suited for a Halloween horror marathon. After all, one of the most effective uses for found footage movies is in the horror genre, for like, more personal scares. Still, this list has you geeks and nerds in mind, meaning some of the best that sci-fi has to offer, all in glorious first-person.
WWII is full of colorful stories, and some of them are worthy of fictional spin-offs. Frankenstein’s Army is just that… if the spin-off was written by Creepypasta.
So the plot basically takes inspiration from WWII and it involves Russia, the country with the most casualties during WWII. Apparently, some remote East German village is planning to resurrect fallen WWII soldiers. Now, a squad of Russian soldiers has discovered the plot while it was ongoing and have become a target of the cobbled together WWII monsters. You did Nazi that coming, did you?
Space has often been one of the most promising locales ever in film, but lately, it sci-fi in space has been done a lot. We do need something new, even if just an amalgam of old ideas. So when sci-fi in space meets found footage, you get Europa Report.
The story takes place in Jupiter or rather, one of its moons, Europa. One of the unmanned planetary probes that humanity has sent there sent back some data suggesting that life exists on Europa via hidden ocean, Earth had a bit of a field day and sent astronauts there. This is Alien meets found footage for you, which is all the more reason to watch it.
The supposed pinnacle of found footage or first person POV films. This time around, it is not horror or sci-fi, it is action. It seems the creators of this got a little too tired with the usual action film set pieces and wanted a different perspective, no pun intended. Hardcore Henry is the hardcore result of that.
Think John Wick but with Bond movie villains and his wife was still alive and being held hostage by them. Henry, the protagonist and the “camera” of the movie as well, died and was brought back to life as a cyborg. This is as close to first-person shooter video games as you can get without any interactivity.
Here we go, the film which made found footage horror blow up to a misproportioned bloat in Hollywood. Despite the future titles being formulaic to a fault, the very first Paranormal Activity is actually quite a fresh take on the exorcism and possession formula. That is if you have the patience for it.
It did make utilize the found footage format quite well. The movie often made it seem that viewers are just reviewing an initially happy couple’s life up until an invisible demon ruined and took their lives. This one’s a classic.
Of course, when someone does a found footage exorcism horror, zombie/infection fans also wanted a melding of formats. Hence, the very first zombie/infection movie title featuring a shitty camcorder with night vision arrives, [REC] (Spanish version) or the American version, Quarantine.
What initially started off as a usual nightly gig covering firefighters turns violent and gritty for a reporter and her cameraman. The two got stuck in a building full of infected and rabid people killing one another like animals. Of course, they might as well record everything while fighting for their survival, so there.
The Dark Tapes
This is perhaps one of the most low-budget of all the found footage movies in here. The Dark Tapes is not one film, it is actually a collection of four horror short films, an anthology, what have you.
All of them do require your patience as the said anthology films each slowly build up their tension and scares. Don’t expect Hollywood levels of special effects or props, though.
One of the best found footage horror films to ever take advantage of a mockumentary concept. In a sense, this gritty horror film makes fun of those mystery reality shows where the host is an annoying faker. Except in this movie, the haunted asylum they visited resulted in their deaths and disappearance.
Grave Encounters takes every opportunity to utilize its found footage in both jump scares and horrific imagery/scenarios. There is also a sequel, though it is nowhere near as good or decent.
Blair Witch Project
The granddaddy of all found footage horror films. Seriously, even Paranormal Activity owes much of its success and style to Blair Witch Project. Its age is starting to show, however, but it still is one of the most iconic horror films of all time, not just in the found footage format.
The story revolves around three film students who braved the woods of a small town for footage to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, a local urban legend. The three got more than they bargained for and got lost and eventually disappeared, all caught on tape.
The year 2000 and beyond is chock full of alien invasion films. So, as usual, someone had to step in and invent something out of found footage and alien invasion. Along came Cloverfield and made everyone dizzy-- er, I mean, surprised. But seriously, people actually vomited in the theater because of motion sickness from this movie.
Nevertheless, Cloverfield is a film worthy in the annals of alien invasion films. It follows the tragic story of two exes who broke up without closure. They would have gotten back together again… if not for a huge apocalyptic alien who is immune to the strongest bombs the army could fire.
If you thought J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield was the best sci-fi found footage film ever, wait till you see District 9. This film is more interesting and more relevant because the story revolves around actual extraterrestrial aliens who received the “apartheid” treatment when they got stranded on Earth. See the juxtaposition here? It’s hauntingly recognizable.
One weapons company agent was unfortunate enough to get involved with the aliens, nicknamed “prawns” because of their appearance. However, he ended up having to fight the oppressively racist human authorities and helping the aliens themselves, all with a dramatic twist. Go watch this if you haven’t seen it already, and if you have, well, watch it again.