The home intruder…one of the most well-known of horror villains, but the concept of a home invasion goes well beyond just the horror genre. For some movies it’s a minor plot device, for others it’s the basis of the entire film. Those are the movies I’ll be looking at today. With “Death Wish” incorporating a home invasion into its plot and the anticipated sequel “The Strangers: Prey At Night” being released this weekend I thought it was the perfect time to explore those movies that best captured the claustrophobia, fear, dangers, and even humor of home invasion. These are my picks for the Top 10 Home Invasion Films.
For this list I looked at any movie incorporating a home invasion into the story, and it happens quite a lot. I focused on movies where the home invasion is the main plot giving special consideration to films where this act make up the entire film. Movies that work up to a home invasion in the climax were also considered.
Also these films didn’t have to be horror movies, but let’s face it this list will be mostly horror movies by nature, not by requirement. What is your favorite home invasion movie? Let me know in the comments below and look for my review of “The Strangers: Prey at Night” coming soon.
10. “The Purge”
Starting the list is a film that gets a prequel later this year, “The Purge”. Set in an odd future in America, “The Purge” sees society celebrating a single night every year where all crime is legal, including murder. After a family’s son allows a black man to seek refuge in their fortified home the once protected residents find themselves the target of a group of resourceful racists who only want to purge. When the family is unable to find the black man in their home the purgers break in forcing the family to partake in the Purge they wanted to avoid. Satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful, “The Purge” mixes violence with a claustrophobic atmosphere and a sense of dread as the family has to come to grips with their morals before their unwelcome guests forced their way in. The end gives us an added twist I won’t spoil here, showing that these racists weren’t the only one to fear, but this franchise starter shows that even with safety measures in place no one is safe during the Purge and no home is out of bounds.
9. “Home Alone”
A Christmas classic and the only comedy on this list, “Home Alone” remains the quintessential children-friendly home invasion movie as young Kevin McCallister has to protect his home from a pair of dimwitted thieves after he is unintentionally left, you guessed it, home alone. While the actual home invasion doesn’t take place until late in the film, Kevin plays a cat and mouse game with the robbers the entire movie setting up scenes and scenarios to make them assume his parents are around. When the robbers realize the truth however they go forward with their plan and Kevin sets up even more creative booby traps to stop them. Another franchise starter, “Home Alone” ignores the obvious dangers and fear associate with home invasions and puts a more lighthearted and comedic spin on the concept for audiences to enjoy. While many entries on this list are violent and thrilling, this is a great option for someone looking for a story that takes itself a little less seriously and remains one of the most iconic home invasion movies ever put to film in any genre.
8. “Straw Dogs”
Like “Home Alone”, the home invasion in “Straw Dogs” doesn’t happen until late in the movie, but the film spends a lot of time hinting at it and building up to it. A controversial film for its time, “Straw Dogs” was a trendsetter helping usher in a new age of violent horror and thriller films that showed the darkest sides of humanity. The movie sees an American move into a small English village with his wife in order to be away from the politics and dangers of America. While there however, he finds himself associated with a different kind of human evil as members of a local construction crew mock him, rape his wife, and eventually try to break into his home when they shelter a man thought to be a killer. This awakens an animalistic side of the movie’s protagonist who stops at nothing to keep the assailants from entering the home. A striking commentary on human nature and the lengths one will go to defend their territory “Straw Dogs” was ahead of its time, evident by it being the oldest film (released in 1971) on this list.
7. “You’re Next”
A pretty cut and dry home invasion film, “You’re Next” was a 2011 slasher movie that saw a family subjected to a home invasion during the celebration of a wedding anniversary. The film’s main protagonist is the girlfriend of one of the family members and after a fun night together each person in the household becomes a target of a mass murder by masked men breaking into the home. What the assailants don’t know however is that our heroine is an expert survivalist prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. Filled with creative booby traps and deaths with a genuinely spooky premise, “You’re Next” not only utilizes and plays off of the tropes of the genre, it redefines them giving us a horror flick that feels both original and self-aware at the same time. Seeing the hero turn the tables on the bad guys is just as fun and satisfying as it is in “Home Alone”, but seeing it happen in a more violent way with higher stakes and an ever-present sense of dread adds to the experience in all the right ways. For many this is a film that took the most basic of home invasion concepts and made it more than what it probably should have been which is enough to put it here on this list.
6. “Panic Room”
Inspired by the real life concept it was named after, “Panic Room” is a 2002 classic that sees Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart as a mother and daughter confined to a reinforced room in their new house when a trio of thieves break in. However, what they don’t realize is what these men are looking for is actually inside the panic room itself although whether that’s the women or something else is not revealed until later in the story. With no communication to the outside world and the designer of the panic room being one of the thieves the mother-daughter pair must outsmart the robbers as they try to seek help from an small room with minimal supplies and no way to escape other than the one and only door. With the entire film confined to a single home and the concept of a panic room brilliantly worked into the plot of the film, this is a home invasion movie with a spectacular modern twist that still holds up well today. Over the years “Panic Room” has become even more respected for its themes as well as its suspenseful story making it a modern classic thriller worthy of several viewings if you get the chance.
Released in 2016, “Hush” takes the home invasion premise and adds a new element to it. How would a person react to a home invasion if they couldn’t hear the assailant and they literally couldn’t scream for help? This fantastic Netflix original puts that possibility to the test as a mute and deaf writer finds herself the target of a solo masked invader who decides to play games with his target before killing her. Unable to hear or speak, the heroine uses everything at her disposal, including specialized features in her home, to combat her opponent while he tries to take advantage of her handicaps to add to his list of victims. Like most of the films on this list, “Hush” is a spectacular cat-and-mouse game between two people forced to use everything in their pool of skills to outsmart each other. With the killer’s motives left a secret, “Hush” focuses more on the battle for survival making its home invasion premise all the more creepy and frightening especially when it seems like the invader is only in it for the fun.
4. “Don’t Breathe”
One of the best horror movies of the last five years, “Don’t Breathe” took the home invasion concept and turned it upside down as audiences followed the thieves rather than the victim. When a trio of young robbers break into a blind old man’s home hoping to recover money they end up the targets of the vengeful man who, despite his blindness, proves to be a skilled marksman. Trapped in the blind man’s home with limited ways to escape the thieves eventually comes across a dark secret of their target making him more dangerous than they had ever previously imagined. This was a rare film where we got to see the tables turned on the people we were supposed to follow leaving viewers no real defined line between right and wrong to conform to. Once the horror of the situation kicks in “Don’t Breathe” turns into a gripping and unapologetically brutal story that immediately made it a modern must-see. It’s inventive, unique, and proves that this kind of premise can still leave a mark even in 2016.
3. “The Strangers”
For a lot of people this is THE home invasion horror film. It’s one of the most popular films of its kind in the mainstream which is why it’s getting a sequel this weekend. There’s a reason it has earned this honor though. “The Strangers”, based on director and writer Bryan Bertino’s childhood fear of break-ins as well as the Manson murders, focuses on a couple stalked and terrorized by three masked figures whose motives and reasons for the attack are never revealed…only that they did it because the couple was home. The mystery behind the on-screen attacks as well as the cinematography and use of silence and background action to drive the suspense made this one of 2008’s most talked about horror experiences and in the years since its release “The Strangers” has been seen as a criticism of stranger-on-stranger violence and isolation from the outside world. Some have also seen the film as a prime example of the animalistic tactics of murderers who see their victims as prey to play with and hunt for sport. Regardless of whether you see “The Strangers” as a quintessential home invasion thriller or a horror film with deeper elements commenting on the nature of humanity, there’s no denying it has become one of the most notable movies in history to utilize the home invasion premise and few have ever done it so perfectly.
A French film from 2007, “Inside” is often considered among not only one of the most terrifying home invasion movies of all time, but one of the scariest films conceptually to come out of France in the new millennium. It’s also one of the few films of this type, and the only one on this list, that focuses specifically on female versus female interaction between the invader and resident. The story focuses on a soon-to-be mother whose husband dies in a car accident, leaving her alone. When a strange woman arrives at her door some time later and begins to stalk her the mother becomes concerned and things get worse when she awakens to the same strange woman attempting to cut the baby out of her body. What unravels is a story about an uninvited guest with menacing motives that should strike fear into every self-respecting parent. This relentless movie is built around shock value and unimaginable fear and depicts one of the scariest home invasions ever put to film. “Inside” is not only a fascinating example of the potential of home invasion movies in terms of storytelling, but a frightening depiction of one of the most unimaginable situations that, in all honesty, could very well occur in the real world if someone was psychotic enough to take things that far.
1. “Funny Games”
Whether it’s the 1997 Austrian thriller of the 2007 American remake, I’m considering both of them at the top spot here. Both “Funny Games” films are classics. The plots of both films revolve around two men who hold a family hostage, torturing them through a series of games. Stated by writer and director Michael Haneke, who led production of both versions of the film, to be a striking criticism of violence in the media, “Funny Games” surely lives up to this label portraying brutal treatment of the victims and sadistic and unapologetic villains who find joy in the torture they produce. In fact, no motive other than playing a game is even given in either film. The antagonists are just men who have fun performing their wicked deeds and want to win a bet with their victim’s lives as the prizes. A lot of films on this list have represented worst case scenarios when it comes to a break in, but the “Funny Games” movies give us probably the most fear-inducing home invasion of them all. If you’re looking for a movie that’s not only brutal and frightening but also believable and hauntingly grounded in the reality of the violent world we live in this is the movie to turn to and it’s because of all this that both versions of “Funny Games” take the top spot on this list.