50 Must-See French Horror Movies

50 Must-See French Horror Movies

The French invented the horror movie in 1896. Since that time, French horror movies have covered all the territory that American horror has: from making film versions of classic literature and experimental arthouse horror to erotic horror films and the cutting edge of shock horror movies. For those who really love horror movies and want to try out a full sampling of the horrors France has to offer the world, here are (in no particular order) 50 Must-See French Horror Movies.

French Supernatural Horror Movies

The following French horror movies incorporate some element of the supernatural in their tales. Often, the horror movies below combine elements of other film genres, giving film buffs a glimpse of something familiar before veering off into the world of the occult.

1. Les Louves (Demoniac / She Wolves) - 1957 - An escapee from a concentration camp moves in with a woman that another dead camp prisoner had conducted a letter romance with, while that woman's occultist sister mysteriously refuses to reveal his lies. Stars Jeanne Moreau in her late twenties.
2. Cache - 2005 - A married couple starts to receive videotapes of their private life, apparently shot from the street while they are unaware. When the tapes become increasingly more obtrusive and contain increasingly disturbing drawings along with them, the couple become desperate to learn the truth about their stalker.
3. Malefique - 2003 - Four prisoners sharing the same cell find an arcane book hidden in the wall by a prisoner of the 1920's. This assorted group of crooks decide to use black magic to escape prison.
4. Saint Ange (House of Voices) - 2004 - The setting is an abandoned orphanage in the Alps in 1958 and a cleaning lady learns that one child remains. Saint Ange is a ghost tale predating Juan Antonio Bayona's similar Orphanage.
5. Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups) - 2001 - This film is more action movie than horror movie, but The Brotherhood of the Wolf is a werewolf tale based on the French legend called the "Beast of Gevaudan". Imagine a kick-ass action-thriller involving indians and werewolves in pre-Revolutionary France and this is what you'll get.
6. Eden Log (2007) - Bizarre movie about a man who wakes up in a cave and his attempt to return to the surface through a place abandoned by an organization called "Eden Log" while monsters pursue him.
7. Baby Blood (The Evil Within) - 1990 - Okay, an alien ensconces itself in a French woman's vagina and forces her to go on a murderous rampage. I'm not kidding you.
8. The Pack - 2009 - This one has yet to arrive to theaters, but this 2009 release is already getting a lot of buzz. Charlotte and Max go into a diner run by "Spack", who collects prisoners to feed to her children: who happen to be bloodthirsty ghouls.
9. Un Jeu d'Enfants - 2001 - A woman starts having visions of being raped. Her husband starts hallucinating about being physically harmed. So when their two children start acting out violent acts, you've gotta know that something supernatural is at work.

French Zombie Movies - Must See French Horror Movies

Given the horde of zombie movies that have come out in the last few years, I wanted to include a section of French zombie movies, for those people who can't get their fix of zombie horror from American film makers. These French zombie horror films tend to take one of two paths: the zombie movie making a social statement and the zombie movie that's all about gore.

10. They Came Back (Les Revenants) - 2003 - 70 million people come back to life as zombies, but they don't want to eat your brains. When all the zombies want to do is return to their old life, what do you do?
11. The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante) - 1982 - The Jean Rollin movie which inspired the Rob Zombie song by the same name. Two years after a young woman dies, she is revived and turned into a virtual zombie by illegally dumped toxic waste.
12. J'accuse! (I Accuse) - 1919 - Actually two films: the original and its remake, both directed by Abel Gance. After spending the latter parts of World War I in the French Army (cinema division), Gance made this anti-war film where the French soldiers crawl out of their graves to confront their loved ones back in the villages of France. You'll note that the final sequences are all that qualify this as a horror film, though the subject is the much greater carnage and horror that was World War I.
13. J'accuse! (I Accuse) - 1938 - The original silent film is considered the master work, though lovers of French horror will probably want to watch the director's remake, too. In fact, this isn't so much a remake as a sequel, given that it continues the story of the French war dead of World War I. Abel Gance revisited his earlier theme in 1938 as commentary on the impending new war that he saw on the horizon.
14. Zombie Lake (Le Lac Des Morts Vivants) - 1981 - Alright, you have to be a complete zombie freak to think this is a great movie, but if you ever wanted to see a film about Nazi soldier zombies, rent Zombie Lake.
15. The Grapes of Death - Jean Rollin's 1978 film about a zombie apocalypse took French gore films to a whole other level. The movie also contains a message about the potential dangers of pesticide.
16. Oasis of the Zombies (L'Abime des Morts-Vivants) - 1981 - Jesus Franco originally filmed this as the Spanish movie "La Tumba De Los Muertoes Vivientes", but added different scenes and a different score for his French version. When treasure hunters find a lost stash of Nazi gold deep in the desert, they also find a nasty secret waiting for them. The Nazi soldiers sent to guard the treasure died in their duties, but came back from the dead as zombies. This is another treat for those "Nazi zombie" film lovers.

Classic French Horror Movies

The following French horror movies helped establish the horror genre in French film. Some of these are little more than experiments in film involving supernatural or horror elements, while others are classic films that have inspired generations of French horror directors.

17. The House of the Devil (Le Manoir du diable) - 1896 - This 19th century (yes, 19th Century!) film by George Méliès only lasts two minutes long, but if you want to see the first horror film ever made, it's a must-see. The silent film uses pantomine and is really more amusing than frightening. You might also have heard of this film by the names "The Manor of the Devil", "The Haunted Castle" and "The Devil's Manor". The House of the Devil has bats, skeletons, ghosts and witches, as well as the first depiction of Satan (Mephistopheles) on film.
18. Eyes Without a Face - 1960 - Directed by Georges Franju and based on the novel by Jean Redon, this film revolves around the attempts of a mad doctor to give his disfigured daughter face transplants by luring pretty young women to his lair. Generally gets praise from critics for its beauty and poetry, and is said to have been an influence on John Carpenter and Jesus Franco.
19. Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et le Bete) - 1946 - As much a romantic fantasy as a horror film, this movie is nevertheless worth the watch. Jean Cocteau directed the production, so you can expect a surreal quality to certain scenes. Has inspired many other films and often on "best of" lists.
20. Carnival of Sinners (La Main du diable) - 1943 - When a man buys a lucky charm that gives him fame, fortune and a beautiful woman, you know it's going to be trouble. A year later, the Devil arrives, wanting his due. A cross between Faust and the Monkey's Paw.
21. Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) - 1929 - I'm not sure if anyone would consider this classic French horror, but it's old enough to have achieved a degree of respectability. Produced in France by two Spaniards (Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali), this film might bewilder some viewers, since it uses dream logic and free association techniques to tell a circular story about a husband, wife, her "lover" and two confused priests. You're likely to identify with the priests as much as the other characters.
22. Les Diabolique (The Devils) - 1954 - When the overbearing head of a boarding school offends both his wife and mistress with his abuse, the two decide to join forces and murder him. But when his dead body goes missing, the women begin to realize that everything is not what it seems. Don't hold it against this great film that there was a lousy American remake.

French Horror Movies Based on Literature

The French are a cultured people, so they appreciate horror tales taken from literature. The following list of horror films based on books involve stories from both the 19th century and the 20th century and involve some of the most recognized horror literature in the western world.

23. Frankenstein 90 - 1984 - A horror-comedy retelling the story of the Frankenstein Monster in a twisted future Earth-1990. The monster is played by French singer-turned-actor Eddy Mitchell.
24. The Fall of the House of Usher (Le Chute de la maison Usher) - 1928 - Jean Epstein worked with Luis Bunuel on this film. The main actors in the film based on one of Edgar Allen Poe's most famous stories were Charles Lamy, Jean Debucourt, Marguerite Gance and Fournez-Goffard.
25. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 1956 - Anthony Quinn stars as Quasimodo, playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida as Esmerelda. A word of warning to the faint of heart. Only two actors speak their lines in English in this film. The rest speak French and have their lines dubbed.
26. Histores Extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead) - 1968 - A horror anthology inspired by three Edgar Allen Poe stories. Stars included Peter Fonda, Jane Fonda, Terence Stamp and Brigitte Bardot, whole the directors were Louis Malle, Roger Vadim and Federico Fellini.
27. The Tenant - 1976 - Roman Polanski filmed this movie in Paris based on a book by Roland Topor, anothor Pole living in France. Polanski plays the lead role of a man who moves into an apartment, only to find that his strange neighbors are trying to turn him into the suicidal previous tenant of his flat.
28. The Doctor's Horrible Experiment (Le Testament du Docter) - 1959 - Jean Renoir's version of the "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". A made-for-television movie that was released in theaters two years later.

French Horror Movies Involving Mad Science

You don't always need magic to produce horror. Sometimes, you need a crazy scientist whose technological devices and processes are just as twisted and effective as magic. In the following French horror films, science tries to solve one of the timeless problems mankind faces, with tragic and often ghastly results.

29. La vie amoureuse de l'homme invisible - 1971 - Combination French/Spanish film by Jesus Franco that was a sequel of his popular Dr. Orloff film of 1961. Also known as "Orloff et l'homme invisible". A mad scientist creates an invisible ape that causes mayhem.
30. Shock Treatment (Traitement De Choc) - 1973 - Some might find this combination horror/science fiction "thriller" by Alain Jessua a little slow in the first half, but this film, not to be confused with the 1981 American film of the same name, involves a compelling enough story about a middle-aged woman seeking a cure for aging through shock therapy.
31. The Man With The Transplanted Brain (L'homme au cerveau greffé) - 1971 - A man dying of fatal head wounds is given a brain transplant, with terrifying results.
32. The Hands of Orlac (Les main d'Orlac) - 1964 - A concert pianist loses his hands in an accident and has them replaced by the hands of a murdered. Suddenly, he's a concert pianist who likes to strangle people. Stars Mel Ferrar and Christopher Lee and includes an appearance by Donald Pleasence.
33. Faceless - 1988 - A slasher film that starts Helmut Berger and Brigitte Lahaie, but also includes an aging Telly Savalas. This one includes plastic surgery victims, Nazi doctors and power tool slashers. Another French effort by Spanish director Jesus Franco, who also has made Italian, German, Swiss and (of course) Spanish-language movies.

French Mundane Horror Movies

Sometimes, horrible things happen to average people. These people don't encounter vampires, werewolves, magicians or mad scientists. They encounter somebody who's just an everyday kind of crazy, and that person often ends up killing them. Similar in many ways to the movies of the New French Extreme, except less gross, here are several horror movies that are grounded in mundane life.

34. With a Friend Like Harry - 1998 - Michel, a man on a family vacation, meets a man he knew 20 years ago (Harry). When Harry decides to help Michel's heretofore non-existent literary career through a string of murders, gallows humor ensues.
35. Ils (Them) - 2006 - When a couple hears someone trying to steal their car and a call to the police proves no help, Ils turns into a savage battle between a double-murderer (of two unassociated Romanians) and the couple.
36. Calvaire (The Ordeal) - 2004-2005 - When a traveling performer's car breaks down in the middle of the night, we learn that France has its own version of the crazy hillbillies that seem to populate American films.
37. À l'intérieur (Inside) - 2007 - A 9-month pregnant widow battles with a strange woman who shows up at her doorstep trying to take her unborn child with her own crude version of a cesarean. This horror movie veers into the extreme gore, so watch out. Also, it looks like the Weinstein Brothers might do an American remake.
38. Deep In The Woods (Promenons-nous dans les bois) - 2000 - When young entertainers are hired to perform in a local castle, those entertainers should beware. But when the police tell them that a rapist is murdering people in the woods around the castle, entertainers should flee immediately. They don't.

Erotic French Horror Movies

Horror and eroticism go hand-in-hand, especially these days, when vampires and even werewolves are portrayed in the culture as tragic and romantic beings with healty (and often unhealthy) sex drives. Vampire romance and vampire eroticism are experiencing a golden age. While French producers have lagged behind in the erotic horror field in recent years, there was a time when French film producers were setting the table for the vampire horror of today. Let's take a look at those times.

39. Las Comtesse Noir (The Dark Countess) - 1973 - Jesus Franco film where the Countess Karnstein needs sex to stay alive, but drains the blood of men while giving them oral sex. This title has been released under many names, so you might look for it under "Female Vampire", "The Bare Breasted Countess", "Les Avaleuses" or "The Swallowers".
40. Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (Morgane et ses nymphes) - 1971 - Erotic horror circa 1971 as two women come across Morgana Le Fay in her modern pleasure castle, and must choose between dying in a dungeon or becoming part of Morgana's perpetual sex circus. Guess which they choose?
41. Blood and Roses - 1960 - Retelling of the Victorian-era lesbian vampire tale, Carmilla, written by Irish author, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Carmilla would influence Bram Stoker's Dracula, so just imagine a Dracula if he were a countess.   
42. Rape of the Vampire (Le Viol du Vampire) - 1968 - An early film by Jean Rollin, this movie got the ball rolling on Rollin's brand of sexual and violent French horror films. Rape of the Vampire includes lesbian vampires in an avante garde B-movie format - just what you're looking for on a long winter's night.

New French Extremism - Horror Movies

In the last ten years or so, French film makers have shown the world that they can depict violence and rape more brutally than any film makers on Earth. This has caused an army of critics to decry the "New French Extremity", while causing more than one government to censor or ban showings of these movies in their countries. Even the French Ministry of Culture has gotten involved, in at least one case.

The following French movies with horror scenes have either been placed in the New French Extremity category, or have been described as having a "similar sensibility" as the New French Extremity films. The bottom line is, if you watch any of the following movies, you need to know that you're going to be encountering graphic violence and sometimes (but not in every case) graphic sexual depictions. You've been warned.

43. High Tension (Haute Tension) - 2003 - Two college women are spending the weekend in the country with family when a man comes in the farm house and murders the family. The two women then must fight for their life.
44. Sheitan (Satan) - 2006 - A trip to the night club for a group of friends leads to a meeting with an insane gardener who's got Satanic ideas in his mind. Vincent Cassel is completely over-the-top as the psychotic groundskeeper in this horror film known for its black comedy.
45. In My Skin (Dans ma peau) - 2002 - A thirty-year old woman gets a gash in her leg at a party and suddenly becomes obsessed with her own wounds and self-mutilation. Whether this disturbing movie is horror or just horrifying, you can decide.
46. Martyrs - 2008 - From the maker of Saint Ange (Paul Laugier), this movie revolves around women being tortured until they "transcend" pain and become martyrs. The violence in this movie is so graphic that the French Ministry of Culture got involved in the ratings process.
47. Trouble Every Day - 2001 - Described by one critic as part of the "New French Extremity", Trouble Every Day involves an American couple honeymooning in Paris, a mysterious clinic that studies the human libido and a woman who becomes a cannibal when she's aroused.
48. Irreversible - 2002 - Gasper Noe's story of a woman brutally raped and her boyfriend's desperate attempts to get revenge. Irreversible goes in reverse chronological order, so the first 20 minutes are absolutely insane. The most walked-out movie of 2002.
49. Frontier (Frontiers) - 2007 - Frontiers is a violent tour de force, described as a horrible nightmare by one enthusiastic reviewer. If you like to see blood flowing, Frontiers might be your type of horror movie.
50. Six-Pack - 2000 - Many would consider this film more of a thriller or noir film than a horror film, but it has an American serial killer disemboweling French women in Paris, which makes it as much of a horror film as some of the "New French Extremism". People who enjoy the one might enjoy the other. This movie takes its cues from American cop-chasing-serial-killer movies like Silence of the Lambs and Seven.
50. Baise-moi (Rape Me) - 2000 - Imagine a nihilistic Thelma & Louise type road movie which starts with a 9-minute rape scene and that starts to describe Baise-moi, based on Virginie Despentes' 1999 book of the same name. When Manu is raped and Nadine sees her best friend shot before her eyes, they meet up and go on a road trip of destruction: taking out their aggression on the men they meet. This movie got a lot of criticism at the time and is still banned in Australia.

34 thoughts on “50 Must-See French Horror Movies

  1. Pingback: Top 100 Slasher Horror Movies

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  3. Fareler

    I have watched several french horror movies, but none of the movies was super. I remember 2007 made “Inside” tt was one of the most bloody movies that I have seen.

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  5. Aaron Darrow

    the one about the killer collecting pieces of his victims to make a puzzle is “pieces ” i belive it was a 1981 release

  6. Kim

    Correct me if i’m wrong (maybe i watched another version of martyrs, if there’s one?) but “à l’intérieurs” was much more violent than “Martyrs”. Martyrs was unoriginal.

    —spoiler—

    a group of old psychopatic maniacs searchs afterlife / tries to stay young and beautiful / make their life longer, etc etc. they’re all the same sh!t, and just plain boring

    —spoiler—

  7. alex

    I recently got into French horror, must watch some of these! I recommend Class De Neige aka Class Trip, not on the list.

  8. Ader

    The French are definitely the way to go for superior horror movies. I see them only getting better in years to come. If you want to see these movies on this list take a look at stonedfox uploads on Demonoid. He has most of these

  9. Imad

    Hi all,please i need help to know the name of a horror french movie i saw it 8 years ago,i dont remember the name but just i remember the name of the hero in this film,his name is Fedoskio or Vedoskio (i am not sure),the story of the film takes place before 1900 AC (may be between 1800-1900),Fedoskio is a famous detector asked to to solve the mystery of murders done by a criminal called (the Alchemist) who was at the end a journalist.

    thank you all

  10. kikyz1313

    excelent article, i think there’s a horror movie-gore reborn on french movies, since german ultragore i have not seen any movie that i really enjoy, but when i started to see a’l interieur, martyrs, haute tension for example i notice an excelente tendence of french movies of excelent quality, pretty good effects i was really happy!!! my new homework is to see almost all movies here!!!!
    im very pleased about finding this little gore guide lol!!!

    :)

  11. i wanna learn more french

    Watched In My Skin (Dans ma peau) and Baise Moi (Rape Me), great acting probaly wouldn’t watch again(too fucked up for me) especially in my skin that movie has the biggest WTF tag on that ever!

  12. Max

    I would also recommend the 2007 released french Horror movie “a l’interieur”(Inside) wich is also an example for New French Extremism.

  13. meta3frik

    Hi! I am looking for a French horror-like movie produced ~2005-08 whose name I don’t know….. The plot is about a group of people lost in the ocean, they suddenly find an empty boat, which appears to be full of tiny robots out of control, making experiments on any humans found :] Any ideas, please? Dr.m

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  15. Kirsty

    Martyrs and High Tension are my two favorite movies on this planet. I have seen each of them over 200 times.

    Martyrs makes you feel bad for the girls. Amazing story.

    High Tension is brutal. Loved the ending. LOVED.

    Inside is really disturbing. A great one too.

    As well as ‘Frontier’s’

  16. nicole

    I agree Andi, Vidoq is a fantastic movie. I’m surprised that Crimson Rivers isn’t on this list…creepy as hell, and I’m not one to get freaked out by movies. this one reminds me a little bit of Seven in the way its darkly filmed, out was so good I watched it twice in a row! Out came out in 2000 and stars Vincent Cassell and Jean Reno, both fabulous. Its not too hard to find, I think its on Netflix as well as OnDemand, the version I watched was dubbed. There was a sequel made in 2004, I’m planning on watching it tonight…can’t wait! The first one follows two story lines that seem unconnected but turn out to be one in the same. Takes place in a remote college town and follows a series of grizzly murders and an insidious history of inbreeding and genetic supremacy. I highly recommend it!

  17. anon

    I saw part of a french movie on tv around 2006 involving a guy in a modern apartment brushing his teeth and then returning and his toothbrush was broken in the sink or something like that, and it was getting really spooky. It was done like a horror film, but I have no idea what it was? Any help?

  18. Looking for a film

    Does anyone know of a horror film that was filmed in the Antigone District of Montpellier? I had a conversation years ago with someone and they recommended a French horror film that they said was filmed in a “modern development” in Montpellier. They couldn’t remember the name of the development and now I can’t remember the name of the film or find any info online. I know its a stretch, but I’m really trying to find the name of the film.

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  20. Zika

    I have watched a movie, a couple in a motel in the woods, and then they hear some noise at ground floor (tv) and than something starts chasing them. It turns out that those were some kids, and at the epilogue of the movie it says: When they asked them at the court why they killed them, they all said: We just wanted to play! Please help me!

  21. Anastasia

    About 25 years ago or more, I saw the start of a French movie that frightened me so much, I ran out of the theater after only seeing about 15 minutes of it!

    All I can tell you is that it started with beautiful shots of a family living in a beautiful old home, with lots lush foliage seen outside on a beautiful day.

    The plot, from what I saw, did not really have to do with a ghost story per se, rather as the family was doing their daily thing, there were shots of ghosts standing in the room just watching the people.

    For some reason, it looked so real to me at that young age, it terrified me. I know this is not a lot to go on, but I just have to at least try to ask someone…

    I do thank you in advance if you could throw any suggestions out to me!

  22. Melissa

    What was the name of the French film, black & white, possibly 1960’s, a young woman works in a day spa, comes back to her apartment she shares with her sister who leaves on a trip. The young woman slowly goes insane, killing her landlord. I think The Black Swan was loosely based on this movie.

  23. Randy Ray Post author

    You’re thinking of Repulsion, I think. It’s actually a British film, directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Catherine Deneuve. Good movie.

  24. KT

    Question for all – you’re my last hope.

    I saw a film in 2009, a girl (model) comes home, takes a bath. When she wakes up, she’s barricaded in – her tormentor has kidnapped her girlfriend and threatens to torture her (the gf) unless the model performs different acts.

    Does this film ring a bell for anyone?

  25. Scott Ripley

    I came here looking for the title of a movie I had once watched and it is here that I found that someone asked about a movie title and described the exact movie I’m looking to the find the title of.The question was asked by “Zika” in January of 2012.The movie was a French movie, based on true events,about a couple in a motel in the woods hearing noises in the house only to find it was children and the children were terrorizing them then eventually killed them and in the epilogue it had said that when the children were asked why they did what they had, they answered that they wanted someone to play with.Please help me find the title.thank you

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