Meat Is Murder: 15 Greatest Cannibal Movies

Thomas Jefferson famously once said: “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.”

Well, today we are going to be expanding on that a little bit. Today we will be discussing cannibalism, and not in the metaphoric sense that Jefferson meant. Nope, we mean people literally eating other people (sometimes with “some fava beans and nice chianti”). More specially, we will be counting down the best cannibal films that the world of cinema has to offer. From the comedic to the horrific; we hope you have the stomach for it.

15. The Day (2011)

Ashley Bell The Day

Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Stars: Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon, Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Ashmore, Cory Hardrict, Michael Eklund

The Day follows A group of five people working to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic future. They think they find shelter and safety in an abandoned farmhouse, but they soon find themselves fighting to stay alive as a tribe of savage cannibals are hot on their trail.

Much has been made of The Day being just another generic post-apocalyptic movie, rehashing an old formula without bringing anything new to the table itself. However, the film indeed rises above a number of post-apocalyptic clichés and becomes instead a breath of fresh air in a genre film that shouldn’t be missed.

14. Eaten Alive! (1980)

Eaten Alive Movie Scene

Director: Umberto Lenzi
Stars: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Me Me Lai, Paola Senatore, Mel Ferrer, Ivan Rassimov

A young woman teams up with an adventurer to find her missing sister in the jungles of New Guinea. They ultimately stumble upon a religious cult led by a unhinged preacher whom has located his commune in an area inhabited by cannibals. The story is loosely based on the Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

Eaten Alive is probably the most notorious cannibal film on this list. The film features scenes of explicit nudity, castration, rape, animal abuse and graphic gore. While the whole genre is defined by these elements, this film goes considerably above and beyond the formula. In these politically-correct times, a film like this would never ever get made. With that said, if you love Italian splatter cinema, you won’t be disappointed.

13. Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Zora Kerova Cannibal Ferox

Director: Umberto Lenzi
Stars: John Morghen, Lorraine De Selle, Bryan Redford, Zora Kerowa, Walter Lloyd

As Umberto Lenzi’s follow-up to his cannibal “classic”, Eaten Alive, Cannibal Ferox (also known as Make Them Die Slowly) takes the madness up a few thousand notches. Upon its release, the film’s US distributor claimed it was “the most violent film ever made”. The film was also claimed to be “banned in 31 countries”, some of which lifted their bans only recently. The story follows three friends out to disprove cannibalism by proving that it is simply a myth. They ultimately meet two men on the run who tortured and enslaved a cannibal tribe to find emeralds. Murder and mayhem (and yes, cannibalism) ensue.

Degenerate, wicked and depraved; fainthearted individuals will surely turn away in utter disgust and revulsion. However, anybody who is able to throw their political correctness out the window will surely enjoy this sick symphony of sheer cruelty.

12. Cannibal! The Musical (1993)

Trey Parker Cannibal The Musical

Director: Trey Parker
Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Toddy Walters, Jason McHugh, John Hegel, Ian Hardin

Cannibal! The Musical (originally known as Alferd Packer: The Musical) is a horror comedy loosely based on a true story and the sordid details of a trip from Utah to Colorado that left five travelers dead and partially eaten. The film premiered in 1993 but was not released generally until 1996, when Troma Entertainment picked it up and renamed it Cannibal! The Musical.

If you enjoy well done b-movies, than this movie will quickly earn a place on your top ten b-list. If you have a tough time enjoying movies on a so-stupid-they’re-great level, than staying away from this may be a good idea.

11. Trouble Every Day (2001)

Béatrice Dalle Trouble Every Day

Director: Claire Denis
Stars: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas, Florence Loiret

Shane Brown and June have just married, and they’ve decided to go to Paris for their honeymoon. There, a beautiful but treacherous woman named Core has been leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake when she’s captured by Leo Semeneau, a scientist who spirits her away to his estate. As Core is placed under guard, Semeneau leaves to return to the city for an unnamed assignment. In time, we discover that Shane and Core have something rather unusual in common — both are murderers who regularly feast on the flesh of their victims.

Trouble Every Day is a haunting vision of desire gone haywire. Light on story and big on aesthetics, the film moves silently like a sensual yet terrible dream. This film is lovely to look at and the camera work is quite captivating. The two much talked about cannibalism scenes occur pretty late in the film and are without a doubt worthy of the fuss; they are indeed stunning and hard not to find strangely beautiful.

10. Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal Anthony Hopkins

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, Francesca Neri

In Jonathan Demme’s 1991 classic The Silence of the Lambs we simply heard about the cannibalistic ways of the infamous Hannibal Lecter, this time around we got to see the human flesh devourer in action. Anthony Hopkins reprises his iconic role as serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Julianne Moore co-stars, taking over for Jodie Foster in the role of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Clarice Starling. Set ten years after The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal follows Starling’s attempts to apprehend Lecter before his surviving victim, Mason Verger, captures him.

Many people were disappointed or flat-out disgusted by Ridley Scott’s follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs (and we can certainly understand why). However there are vast numbers of people who actually prefer this to its Oscar winning predecessor. Scott handles his directorial duties with care, creating an effectively creepy atmosphere. Julianne Moore is no Jodie Foster but she drew the short straw when she was even asked to be. And of course Hopkins always delivers an A+ performance. Overall, like Godfather III, this is a very unjustly-criticized and overlooked third installment of a famous film trilogy.

9. We’re Going to Eat You (1980)

We're Going To Eat You

Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Norman Chu, Eddy Ko, Melvin Wong, Mo-lin Cheung, Kwok Choi Hon

We’re Going to Eat You is definitely one of the more peculiar cannibal films on this list. It’s a very strange hybrid of kung-fu action, cannibal horror, and comedy – with some really off the wall scenes, and its fair amount of gore. The film follows a secret agent, Agent 999, who is attempting to capture a thief named Rolex. Agent 999’s hunt leads him to a village that is inhabited by cannibals.

Even with the occasional lull in the action, the loads of blood and guts, satisfactorily choreographed fights, and unforgettable characters ensure that We’re Going too Eat You is solid trashy entertainment from start to finish.

8. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd Johnny Depp

Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jayne Wisener, Sacha Baron Cohen

Resentful at having been mistakenly imprisoned and determined to seek retribution against his accusers due to the harsh fate that befell his wife and daughter while he was incarcerated, ex-convict Sweeny Todd (played by Johnny Depp) returns to his hometown and opens a barber shop. He goes on to murder his customers with a straight razor and, with the help of his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, processes their corpses into meat pies.

This is one of Tim Burton’s better films that he has released in recent history. It’s first and foremost a musical, with essentially all the characters singing throughout, but it’s also horrific and hilarious. Burton artfully meshes the powerful and beautiful music with stunning visuals. He successfully creates a much more intimate atmosphere than can be achieved on stage and he makes brilliant use of light/dark contrasts and color. All in all, this is a worthwhile film even if you have never heard of Stephen Sondheim (though you really should have, but that’s not the point).

7. Eating Raoul (1982)

Mary Woronov Eating Raoul

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Susan Saiger

Paul and Mary Bland have dreams of opening their own business one day. The problem being that they are flat broke. However, this problem is momentarily alleviated when a drunk man wonders into their apartment and tries to rape Mary. Paul kills the guy and they rob him for everything he’s got on him. A light bulb goes off in their head and they essentially decide to kill and rob “rich perverts” for a living. The couple soon goes into business for themselves selling the corpses to a dog food company.

Now, not only is this film quite hilarious but it is also makes a strong statement about everything from swingers, sadomasochism, rape, murder, and cannibalism without becoming tasteless. A surprisingly great satire about achieving the American dream.

6. Blood Diner (1987)

Blood Diner Deep Fried Head

Director: Jackie Kong
Stars: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette LaFrance, Roger Dauer, Lisa Guggenheim, Max Morris

In a nutshell; two cannibalistic brothers kill various young women to make their flesh part of their new special dish at their rundown restaurant while seeking blood sacrifices to awaken a dormant Egyptian goddess. Yeah, it’s not your run–of–the–mill story.

This horror comedy is one of those rare little-known gems that reminds you of what ’80s slasher movies were all about (in this case, a naked kung fu chick and deep frying a woman’s head and knocking it off with a broom). Blood Diner has no pretensions, a weak story-line, low budget written all over it, actors who aren’t that great at their profession, weird humor, and lots of blood. In other words, this is a must see for die hard fans of the genre.

5. Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous Guy Pearce

Director: Antonia Bird
Stars: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, Stephen Spinella

During the Spanish-American War, a soldier driven to extremes by hardship grapples with cannibalistic urges in himself while confronting a vicious serial killer who is blissfully living the cannibal lifestyle.

Ravenous is a brilliant mix of cannibalism, gruesome gore, sly black humor and quasi-philosophy. This film did poorly at the box office due to bad advertising, which is a shame because the film is actually quite exceptional. It’s well acted and well scripted with a cleverly insane soundtrack to boot. Robert Carlyle as the cannibal is the standout of the film; playing him as an unbalanced Charles Manson type one moment and a cultured, pleasing to the eye gentleman the next. If you have a strong stomach and a sick sense of humor, you won’t want to miss this film.

4. Parents (1989)

Parents 1989 Movie

Director: Bob Balaban
Stars: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Bryan Madorsky, Juno Mills-Cockell, Kathryn Grody

In this cult-classic horror comedy a young boy living in 1950s suburbia begins to wonder where his parents get their meat from. And take a guess where that is… take a wild guess.

Overall, Parents is quite intriguing, disturbing, and down-right funny at times. The direction is sharply done creating lots of inventive cinematography and compellingly creepy visuals (namely a shot where our young hero dives into his bed only to sink into an ocean of blood). An excellent music score by Angelo Badalamenti, nice sets, and an over-all atmosphere of trepidation and anonymity also help to make this film quite unforgettable. Be forewarned though, this is one of the most disturbing films you’re likely to see. There is absolutely no letup.

3. Alive (1993)

Ethan Hawke Alive Movie

Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, John Haymes Newton, Bruce Ramsay, David Kriegel, Jack Noseworthy

Alive is a film based upon Piers Paul Read’s 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which details the story of an Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. Subsequently they are forced to use desperate measures to survive.

Indeed, this is not an easy movie to watch at times. The injuries are graphically portrayed, the suffering of the injured is very realistic and the ultimate solution to the food problem (which you could probably guess) will upset some people but, in spite of what some will say, it isn’t the focus of the story. On the whole, Alive is an example of horrific acts that had to be done to survive in an impossible situation. Overall, it’s a film that really shows how strong the human spirit indeed is.

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Eyes

Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a landmark low-budget horror movie which must be considered a modern classic. The film can, and will, be reinterpreted by critics and theorists for decades to come. Though, the movie tells a fairly simple tale at heart. A group of five teenagers driving through rural Texas happen upon a deranged, cannibalistic family. Psychological terror and chainsaw mayhem ensue.

In the years since Texas Chain Saw first hit theaters, there have been countless imitators, sequels and reboots. Yet as loved and influential as the original classic has been, many who would seek to emulate its vision seem to overlook its true strengths. Oh, and Leatherface is still one of he greatest antagonists in horror history.

1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust Girl

Director: Ruggero Deodato
Stars: Robert Kerman, Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi

A New York anthropologist named Professor Harold Monroe travels to the wild, inhospitable jungles of South America to find out what happened to a documentary film crew that disappeared two months before while filming a documentary about primitive tribes deep in the rain forest. Well, not only does he discover what happened to them but it turns out they had a run-in with some natives who don’t mind indulging in rape, beheadings and some cannibalism.

Cannibal Holocaust is nasty, sometimes quite difficult to watch and is worthy of any depraved adjectives you could think of. It’s also a near masterpiece by its director Ruggero Deodato {who never came near the quality of this film again}. It’s a horror film in the most literal sense. It isn’t necessarily scary, though it doesn’t try to be. Despite its scenes of horrendous violence it’s not simply a gross out movie like the torture porn films of today (The Human Centipede, A Serbian Film, etc). What Deadato attempted with this film is to disturb the viewer, provoke a reaction and make that person think. Cannibal Holocaust truly stands in a league of its own.

What’s your all time favorite cannibal movie? Is there one you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

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